China’s rapidly evolving practice of poverty resettlement: Moving millions to eliminate poverty

Sarah Rogers, Jie Li, Tek Sheng Kevin LO, Hua Guo*, Cong Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Motivation: Unlike other places where resettlement is largely a by-product of large infrastructure projects, in China resettlement is used as a tool for poverty alleviation. With the introduction of Xi Jinping’s Targeted Poverty Alleviation, and the goal to end absolute poverty by 2020, resettlement has become central to China’s poverty-alleviation practice. Rather than investing in dispersed, remote villages, the Chinese government prefers to bring people to development by constructing high-density resettlement sites in small towns and peri-urban areas: up to 16 million people are being resettled between 2016 and 2020. Despite the scale of these interventions, the English-language literature on poverty resettlement is limited and has yet to detail rapidly evolving policies or how these are playing out on the ground. Purpose: In this article we examine how poverty resettlement projects are working under Targeted Poverty Alleviation, with a focus on the implementation and impacts of, as well as overlapping motives for, projects in Shaanxi and Gansu. Approach and Methods: Our analysis draws on semi-structured interviews and secondary data collected in multiple sites in two provinces. Findings: Our findings show that China’s intense focus on resettlement as a tool for poverty alleviation has resulted in reduced financial burdens on those resettled, but is also engendering new conflicts at the local level. Policy implications: Our analysis highlights the contested nature of state-driven resettlement for poverty alleviation and raises questions about the relevance of this practice for other developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • development policy
  • finance
  • poverty reduction
  • relocation


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