China has made 'unprecedented' progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but many challenges still remain, the UN Resident Coordinator Khalid Malik said on Thursday.
'What China has done in the last two to three decades has been remarkable,' Malik said in an exclusive interview with China Daily website.
'It has lifted some five hundred million people out of poverty. It has made enormous progress on life expectancy, on education status,' he noted.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were announced in 2000, are eight international development goals that 192 nations have agreed to achieve by 2015, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting environment protection, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and improving education.
'[China] has made progress in some areas many years ahead of the target,' Malik said, especially in poverty reduction.
Since China's reforms began in 1978, the number of people living in poverty in the country has dropped from 250 million to 15 million, according to official Chinese government figures. China also met another MDG target, providing universal primary education, 13 years ahead of schedule.
Still, Malik said, 'There are, at the same time, many challenges, and there are also some additional challenges which are arising as a result of this fast growth.'
These include the environment, where Malik noted that seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities are in China, as well as HIV/AIDS, gender equality, and growing income disparities between the rich and poor.
'These are challenges which the Chinese leadership is very attentive to, very concerned about,' Malik said, adding that UN agencies also work closely with the Chinese government on these issues.
The Chinese government is currently working on a $124-billion reform of its healthcare system, with the goal of achieving universal coverage in three years. China has also set a goal of having one-fifth of all energy consumed in the country by 2010 come from renewable sources.
During a speech at a UN meeting on the MDGs last September, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed China would honor its commitments and speed up its efforts to meet all the Millennium Development Goals.
'This is also the most important international responsibility that the Chinese today should fulfill,' Wen said.