November 17, 2008

Report Shows Chinese People Living Longer Lives

China says the lives of its people have been vastly improved over the last three decades, according to a UN report.

The report said poverty has fallen, adult literacy has climbed and Chinese people are now living longer than ever.

However, new problems have emerged, such as the gap between rich and poor.

"These problems need urgent attention," said the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which published the report entitled "ËœBasic Public Services for 1.3 Billion People'.

The report comes just weeks before China celebrates 30 years of economic reforms.

The Chinese government has largely ditched central planning in favor of the free market during this period.

The report says these reforms, started by the late, former leader Deng Xiaoping, have brought spectacular results.

"The speed, scope and magnitude of the improvements"¦ rank among the most stunning achievements in the history of human development," said the UN's chief representative in China, Khalid Malik.

The UN said between 1978 and 2007, rural poverty fell from 30.7% to just 1.6%. But new problems have emerged, with not everyone benefiting equally from rapid economic expansion.

Rural areas lag behind urban areas, the east coast is richer that the western hinterland and there is a large wealth gap between different social groups.

The report said schoolchildren in the wealthy coastal city of Shanghai receive 10 times more funding than some rural pupils.

The UNDP said one problem is the Chinese system that requires all citizens to be registered in one particular place.

People usually receive welfare benefits in the area they are registered, which brings difficulties if they move, causing a particular problem for the tens of millions of rural people who move to the cities to find work.

However, Chinese leaders have already acknowledged the existence of some of these problems, and have launched programs to solve them.

The country now has the money to fix some of these problems, the report said.


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