Urban netizens gained a greater understanding of those who live in poverty by agreeing to spend only 6.3 yuan (one U.S. dollar) for the entirety of Wednesday, the International Day for Poverty Eradication, as part of a Chinese charity foundation's efforts to raise awareness of poverty.
The amount of money is roughly proportional to the Chinese poverty line, equivalent to an annual income of just 2,300 yuan, according to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA).
The foundation started an online campaign in late September calling on netizens to spend 6.3 yuan or less on Oct. 17 to help more people understand what it's like to live in poverty.
Ji Lingjun, an office worker from Shanghai, walked to work Wednesday morning to cut her transportation costs. She also brought her own meals from home to save money.
"It's hard to spend just 6.3 yuan daily in a big city like Shanghai, especially if you take rent into account," she said.
"Actually, China's poverty standard is more stringent than the World Bank's," said Professor Ren Yuan at Fudan University. "The World Bank's standard is based on consumption, not income."
Since most of China's poor live in rural areas, many netizens said it would be meaningless to compare consumption levels between cities and villages.
"With 6.3 yuan it is even not enough to buy a bowl of noodles here. I cannot imagine that there are still many people living under that standard," wrote netizen "huashengmis" from Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei province.
"It's like a paradox. We see that many people are trying to cut their daily costs, but more consumption is good for the economy," Ren said.
"What we should reduce is the amount of food we waste every day," wrote netizen "xiaotoubaiyan."
Research by Wu Weihua, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, indicated that the amount of food wasted in China each year is enough to feed 250 million people.
Xia Wenxing, director of Hunan's provincial grain bureau, joined in the campaign a day early by pledging to eat nothing but two pieces of cantaloupe on Tuesday.
"The status quo might not be changed through a specific campaign or gesture, but at least more people from different walks of live will gain a greater understanding of poverty," said Professor Gu Jun at Shanghai University.