Xi Jinping has claimed 'victory' over extreme poverty in China, marking the end to a near four-decade mission for the ruling communist party.
The President gave an hour-long speech in Beijing on Thursday hailing the achievement, claiming it proves that China's communist system is 'the fundamental guarantee against risks, challenges and difficulties.'
But critics say the country is using a low benchmark for what it considers 'poverty', is failing to include data from its cities in the count, and has used harsh methods in its campaign including the forced resettlement of almost 10million poor Chinese.
Xi Jinping hailed China's 'victory' over rural poverty on Thursday with an hour-long speech in Beijing before giving out medals to officials who led the effort
Xi's announcement comes ahead of celebrations marking the CCP's 100th anniversary in July, which had led others to question whether China will remain committed to its poor when the celebrations are over.
Since the 1960, China's leaders claim to have lifted some 800million people out of extreme poverty, which they define as a daily income of less than $1.70.
Around 100million of those came under Xi's leadership, after he gave orders to his officials in 2015 to seek out every poor family left in China and end their poverty.
Xi boasted on Thursday that he had spent $250billion over the last eight years on the anti-poverty drive, a huge increase in funding since before he came to power.
Officials did this in two ways - according to analysis by The Economist - either by setting up businesses such as mushroom farms in rural villages and making villagers shareholders in them, or else forcibly relocating people were resources were greater.
Between 2016 and 2020, it is thought China forcibly relocated some 10million people this way, moving them closer to large towns.
One - 39-year-old labourer Liu Zhu'an - told the LA Times last year that while relocation had changed his living conditions but had little other effect.
China claims to have lifted some 100million people out over poverty in the last eight years, but that includes 10million who were forcibly relocated from villages to towns (file image)
Every day he had to travel back to his old village where land had been sold to a hotel developer in order to help build the new hotel.
'What could we do even if we didn't want to move? Do we have any choice?' he told the paper. 'My life is the same. I was a day laborer before, and I'm a day laborer now.'
Others who spoke to the newspaper said they had 'struggled with finding new jobs to afford higher costs of living in their new homes.
'They worried that the land they vacated would be repurposed to benefit government officials, private investors and developers more than the poor.'
Meanwhile US economists,. including those at the Brookings Institute, point out that China has set a low benchmark for defining 'poverty' - one typically used in developing countries - and should be aiming much higher.
Using the US definition of poverty in the 1960s when the country was about as wealthy as China is now, they say 75 per cent of Chinese would still count as 'poor' - meaning China is in fact 'years - if not decades - behind schedule.'
Others point out that China's statistics do not include data from cities, where it is assumed that welfare safeguards mean nobody is living in poverty.
Critics say China is using a low benchmark to define poverty and is only counting poor people in the countryside (pictured) and not in cities
And some question whether Xi's huge investment in eradicating poverty in time for the CCP's 100th anniversary will be maintained after the party is over.
In his speech, he trumpeted his past investments but said nothing about future funding for the initiative.
In a 'No. 1 policy document' released on Sunday, China vowed to stick with its poverty alleviation policies, while making some adjustments for a five-year transition towards what Beijing calls 'rural revitalisation'.
A new National Rural Revitalisation Bureau was set up in Beijing on Thursday, replacing an office for poverty alleviation and development that had been operating since 1993.
State media highlighted Xi's role in its publicity of the poverty alleviation milestone. The People's Daily, the Communist Party's main newspaper, mentioned Xi's name 139 times in a commentary of more than two pages lauding the 'historic leap'.