Q&A: Bill Gates on China's role in global poverty alleviation and development
Bill and Melinda Gates publish their 10th annual letter. Photo provided by Gates Foundation
By Liu Wei
Bill and Melinda Gates on Tuesday (Feb. 13) published their 10th annual letter. In an interview with Xinhua, Bill Gates talked about China's role in global poverty alleviation and development.
Q1: Given the collaboration between China and the Gates Foundation, how do you view the Chinese government's efforts on poverty reduction?
Gates: In terms of poverty work, China did a very strong job of poverty reduction, way before we were at all engaged in that. It's fairly recently that we've joined in a dialogue to help out on this ambitious goal of getting rid of extreme poverty. So we do think in terms of what we understand about health issues and perhaps even mobile money type payments, that we can be a partner of the Chinese government in that effort.
And I know that for China, the goal's not just extreme poverty, but even more broadly the equity agenda, so thinking about how the government takes all of those things - health, shelter, food - brings them together, maybe does some model work that other governments could learn from.
Q2: Are you optimistic about ending poverty in the world?
Gates: The progress that the world, especially China, has made on reducing extreme poverty is amazing. And so it's great that the government has its ambitious goal to get rid of extreme poverty in China.
Of course extreme poverty is just the beginning. Over time as we deal with poverty and inequity in general we'll need innovative government policies, and China, I think, in terms of progressive taxation or estate tax or things like that, will have an opportunity to pursue an equity agenda, starting with the reduction in extreme poverty.
Actually the definition of completely getting rid of poverty is fairly complex. Because if you have people who have mental illness or any type of alcohol or drug addiction, getting rid of poverty means to help those most in need.
Q3: China has done an amazing job in child care improvements over the past decade, while children in African countries face more dire situations. Why does the Gates Foundation still champion programs related to children in China?
Gates: Well, actually our big focus in China is some particular diseases. The HIV area helps more groups so that HIV infection will reduce and people that have HIV are getting access to medicines.
Tuberculosis is another big area where China still has high burden, but there has been progress. And the final disease area is in tobacco - to work with the government and see how we can help with policies that would reduce deaths from lung cancer and other cancers that you get from either first-hand or second-hand smoke.
China has done a good job on most areas of childhood health. We aim to help China domestically and also partner with China to help other countries.
Bill and Melinda Gates visited Zhou Haiting's family in Hainan Province. Photo provided by Gates Foundation
Q4: The Gates Foundation is committed to agriculture innovations that empower farmers, as part of your efforts to cope with climate change and ending poverty. What's China's role in such initiatives?
Gates: Most of the very poor people in the world are farmers, whose productivity determines whether they eat well, whether they can send their kids to school, whether their kids have nutrition.
And so, as you help them with better seeds, soil mapping, loans, they can get fertilizers, livestock with vaccines, and the cows can put out a lot more milk or the chickens can lay a lot more eggs.
The impact on the poor can be very dramatic. And so, after health, these improvements in agriculture have been our second-biggest area, and that is an area where China, for example in rice and other crops and animal vaccines, has expertise. China has done a very good job on that. So it's both a priority and an area for a growing partnership.
Q5: How do you view China-U.S. relationship in global development, especially in the field of intellectual property and technology transfer?
Gates: Well, the U.S.-China relationship is very complex and important, and I think Chinese leaders and U.S. leaders, including myself, who think that continued dialogue and picking some world problems to work on together, whether it's health or climate change, will show Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens that cooperation is very mutually beneficial.
I can't personally solve some of the tensions that will exist over different issues, including some of the economic discussions, but I'm very hopeful that these relationships will be strong.
Certainly, TerraPower is a company I'm involved with that's working in partnership with China to have a breakthrough in what's called "fourth generation nuclear power."
Every year, there will be challenges in the U.S.-China relationship, but I'm very hopeful that it will continue to be a good relationship.