China has successfully alleviated poverty and is embarking on the road of rural revitalization, with the participation of multinational companies.
Since the implementation of reform and opening-up policies, China has lifted 770 million people out of poverty, meeting the goal of ending poverty, as established in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 10 years ahead of schedule.
On July 1, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping said that “we have brought about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China, and we are now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects.”
Among the goals, rural revitalization is the priority.
“We need to call on the international community to place the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the heart of international development cooperation,” said Xi, at the 12th BRICS Summit in November last year.
The completion of poverty alleviation is not an achievement of China alone but involved many efforts, including those by multinational companies.
To record their contributions and provide a guide for next-stage practice, the Shanghai Foreign Investment Association has collected many cases of Shanghai-based foreign-invested companies in the battle against poverty. It has published 57 accounts in a book to showcase the united power in the arduous exploration.
“Foreign-invested enterprises are important social forces involved in poverty alleviation,” said Huang Feng, chairman of the Shanghai Foreign Investment Association.
“They have played an active role in China’s poverty alleviation with the achievement of outstanding results through the engagement of targeted poverty alleviation projects.”
Shanghai, as home to the largest number of foreign-invested companies in China, has many examples of novel practices that demonstrate how foreign companies can become deeply involved in poverty alleviation, and how eastern and western areas can cooperate in poverty alleviation.
Huang He, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, said multinational companies are not only important powers in globalization but also represent the most advanced edge in many industries.
“What they can share in poverty alleviation is to show how technologies can shape the future, and give smarter and quicker solutions,” Huang said.
“It is also a tradition of many multinational companies to take part in local social responsibility programs, and become a member of the community.”
The book offers a perspective to learn valuable experiences. Targeted poverty alleviation is one to make the projects more applicable. It covers poverty alleviation through supporting local industries, health care, education, infrastructure and empowerment employment.
As an outstanding representative of supporting local industries, consumer goods company Unilever promoted the sustainable development of tea gardens in China’s Anhui, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. These have all obtained the certification of Rainforest Alliance that ensures tea quality at an international level.
Optical product producer Essilor has been offering basic eye screening, diagnosis, and treatment in remote areas of western China.
Bosch China’s “Kindergarten in mountainous villages” program has supported preschool children between three and six years old with daytime schools and set up bilingual kindergartens. It is a demonstration of education-initiated poverty reduction.
Lighting firm Signify has a series of projects related to “light” that help places get connected and stay bright.
As a case in point of employee empowerment, beauty company L’Oreal has helped many women gain work via its professional training in facial and hairdressing skills through its “Beauty for a Better Life” project.
“We sincerely thank all foreign-invested enterprises for their tremendous efforts and contributions to China’s poverty alleviation cause,” Huang Feng with the Shanghai Foreign Investment Association said. “We look forward to working with more foreign-invested enterprises, governmental and social organizations to jointly promote China’s public welfare cause.”
For the next phase actions, the focus will be shifted to rural revitalization.
Lu Jianzhong, president of general affairs with Essilor China, said his company would contribute its knowledge.
“The keywords are to expand, deepen, accelerate and strengthen all these projects, making them sustainable and thus more effective,” Lu said.
“Policies and government support are of great importance for the success of these projects, which require precise information and subtle support in the whole process, especially the ‘last kilometer of services.”
Huang He suggested rural revitalization should be shoulder by shoulder with the Belt and Road Initiative, which reaches the farthest of China’s west-most regions.
“They basically complement each other, and will benefit mutually,” Huang said.
Huang Feng, with the association, said better working and living environments in rural areas may create new opportunities for multinational companies. These could include locating research centers.