Case Study: China’s journey to the top position on the Global Hunger Index.

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Context: In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, China is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than 5. These countries are not assigned individual ranks, but rather are collectively ranked 1–17 out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. Differences between their scores are minimal. With a score under 5, China has a level of hunger that is low.

Relevance: Prelims-Current Affairs of National and International Importance.
Mains- Gs-2; Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

Case Study: China's journey to the top position on the Global Hunger Index.


  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at global, regional, and national levels. GHI scores are based on the values of four component indicators:
    • Undernourishment: the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake. 
    • Child stunting: the share of children under age five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
    • Child wasting: the share of children under age five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
    • Child mortality: the share of children who die before their fifth birthday, partly reflecting the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
  • The indicators included in the GHI formula reflect caloric deficiencies as well as poor nutrition.
  • The undernourishment indicator captures the food access situation of the population as a whole, while the indicators specific to children reflect the nutrition status within a particularly vulnerable subset of the population for whom a lack of dietary energy, protein, and/or micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) leads to a high risk of illness, poor physical and cognitive development, and death.
  • The inclusion of both child wasting and child stunting allows the GHI to document both acute and chronic undernutrition.
  • By combining multiple indicators, the index minimizes the effects of random measurement errors.
  • These four indicators are all part of the indicator set used to measure progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • GHI scores are calculated using a three-step process:
    • Values are determined for the four component indicators for each country, drawing on the latest published data available from internationally recognized sources.
    • Each of the four component indicators is given a standardized score based on thresholds set slightly above the highest country-level values observed worldwide for that indicator since 1988.
    • For example, the highest value for undernourishment estimated in this period is 76.5 percent, so the threshold for standardization is set a bit higher, at 80 percent. In a given year, if a country has an undernourishment prevalence of 40 percent, its standardized undernourishment score for that year is 50. The standardized scores are aggregated to calculate the GHI score for each country. 
  • Top performers in GHI 2022 – Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Chile, China, and Croatia are the top five countries in GHI 2022.
  • Worst Performers in GHI 2022 – Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, the Central African Republic, and Yemen are the countries ranked at the bottom of the index.
  • As per the data, there are 44 countries that currently have “serious” or “alarming” hunger levels.

China's Position in Global Hunger Index: 

  • In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, China is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than 5.
  • These countries are not assigned individual ranks, but rather are collectively ranked 1–17 out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores.
  • Differences between their scores are minimal.
  • With a score under 5, China has a level of hunger that is low.

Possible Reasons for China's Growth:

  • China is a challenging country to define.
  • The dominant narrative across much of the world is of China as a rising hegemon, the next great superpower, and a global economic powerhouse. 
  • China’s astonishing growth over the past 30 years, driven in large part by the government’s focus on agricultural development, is unprecedented in its scale and persistence; even as its economy slows, China can still boast growth that most other countries can only dream of.
  • The country’s leadership is relying on R&D to play an important part in helping China to transition to a service-based economy, placing innovation at the center of its plan for Chinese development over the next five years. Chinese R&D spending currently accounts for an impressive 15% of the world’s total and this is only likely to increase.
  •  There’s China, the development partner. With a truly remarkable track record, China is undoubtedly a world leader in poverty reduction and improving health outcomes and there is a lot the rest of the world can learn from its experience.
  • The government said it had invested 1.6 trillion yuan ($230 billion) between 2013 and 2021 to improve living standards — for example by building roads, houses, and infrastructure.
  • Millions of rural households have been relocated to villages with better economic opportunities.
  • A year after Xi became leader, 82 million Chinese people lived in extreme poverty, according to World Bank data. By 2019, the figure was six million.
  • The average disposable income per urban household surged 66 percent from 2013 to 2020, according to official statistics.
  • In rural households, it rose 82 percent in that same period.
  • Cars per urban dwelling doubled from 0.22 in 2012 to 0.45 in 2020, while the number of mobile phones grew from 2.17 to 2.49 per urban household in the same period.
  • Similarly, the length of the high-speed rail network has quadrupled, from about 9,300 kilometers in 2012 to 40,000 kilometers in 2021. 
  • China now has 250 civilian airports, with 82 built in the last decade, and air passenger traffic doubled between 2012 and 2019.
  • The infrastructure projects have boosted travel and tourism, stimulated the economy, and opened the less-developed west of the country.
  • However, the country still faces several political, economic, and social problems, and not all need to be emulated.

What India Can Learn and Bring into Practice?

  • The PRC has lifted 850 million people out of poverty in the past 70 years.
  • On average, China has been able to double the size of its economy in real terms every eight years.
  • In 1949, the average life expectancy was 35 years and has now doubled to 75.87.
  • Investment in labor-intensive industries :
    • China first focused on investment in labor-intensive industries to create jobs for its huge labor force—in textiles, garments, toys, light engineering and assembly, electronics, etc.
    • It created special economic zones, whole districts next to the coast with different laws for business.
    • The massive increase in employment created the resources from increased consumption and taxes to invest in infrastructure.
    • It enabled the growth of large firms which could invest.
    • Its banks lent freely to state-owned enterprises, too.
    • China had a decentralized economic model where the provinces made many economic decisions, granted incentives, marketed themselves, and nurtured industries with almost no red tape.
    • The key target was job creation.
  • Massive investment in skill development and universities:
    • China invested massively in skill development and in her universities.
    • It created very many new cities, promoted urbanization, and benefited immensely.
    • China soon attracted over $1.5 trillion of FDI, becoming the factory of the world and the largest global importer and exporter.
    • Through mercantilist policies, it created a foreign currency kitty of over $4 trillion and managed its currency to keep its advantage.
    • It used a sophisticated supply chain through Hong Kong to dominate global trade.
    • It shifted over 400 million people from the farm in villages to the city, into factories.
    • It now boasts some of the most sophisticated industries.
  • Need for an adaptive bureaucracy:
    • The Chinese bureaucracy is often arbitrary and rigid.
    • But, it has also proved adaptive to changes in technology.
    • Chinese efficiency is praised because the system does accommodate change.
  • Management of Public Enterprises:
    • China has converted its state-owned enterprises (SOE) into robust organizations.
    • Since 1993, China has reformed its SOEs from being bloated, inefficient, and outdated organizations to ones that can compete on the international stage.
    •  While the hand of the state is not going to assume a greater role in companies in India, the Chinese experience could still provide valuable lessons in terms of the management of public enterprises.
  • The opportunity cost of development:
    • If the Chinese experiences teach us anything, it is that policies do not take place in a vacuum but affect society and often cause externalities that can be problematic.
    • Statistics from the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution point to a demographic disaster.
    • Consider the impact on Chinese society – the impact of a “lost generation” for example that was denied access to education.
    • Public trust and the legitimacy of the government are unclear, despite the Party’s rhetoric.
    • The biggest toll could possibly lie in answers about the satisfaction of life and mental health of Chinese citizens, both of which have declined since the 1990s.
  • India is a democracy – and a messy one at that.
  • If we ever aspire to be a superpower, we will not only need innovative thinking but to avoid mistakes that other large countries have made. It will only be in our interests to understand the Chinese project, and to learn from its successes as well as from its mistakes.

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