Reflecting on China’s poverty reduction with Bill Bikales


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Bill Bikales, who recently returned to the U.S. after 15 years in China as a developmental economist with the United Nations. In June, Bill published a paper titled “Reflections on Poverty Reduction in China” for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), raising important questions about China’s claims about poverty reduction but giving due credit for its impressive successes. In the paper, Bill situates the Chinese leadership’s bold push for the eradication of extreme poverty in a historical context, questions Beijing’s use of 1978 as a benchmark for measuring progress in poverty reduction, and offers suggestions for what Beijing must do to make poverty reduction sustainable.

5:38: How the significance of poverty relief in China’s history has shaped the CCP’s priorities

22:15: The detriments of the hukou (户口 hùkǒu) system on reducing poverty sustainably 

46:00: Addressing the next set of poverty challenges and gaps in the current social protection system

51:30: Deducing lessons from China’s poverty reduction achievements 

A transcript of this episode is available on


Bill: Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard, and the car-sharing company Turo

Kaiser: The audiobook version of The Ill-Made Knight, by Christian Cameron, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.