JAKARTA (Xinhua) – China and ASEAN member states, despite their rapid growth after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, still faced the tremendous task of poverty alleviation, officials said here Wednesday.

At the three-day China-ASEAN Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction, officials and experts from China and ASEAN focus on the relationship between the quality of economic growth and poverty reduction, agreeing to lift more people out poverty by making economic growth sustainable and inclusive.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the forum, Li Jinhua, a senior Chinese political advisor, said poverty reduction was uneven in China and Southeast Asian countries, and high economic growth has not necessarily led to dramatic poverty reduction.

“Though sustained high economic growth trimmed the Chinese population in poverty by a large scale, it also brings unbalanced regional development and widening income gap, triggering a series of challenges to sustainable poverty reduction,” said Li, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

He said the Chinese government was transforming the economic growth pattern, making it more people-oriented, sustainable and environment-friendly.

He also called on China and ASEAN to share experiences and join hands to foster high quality growth and achieve better poverty reduction, as it was the common goal of the two sides.

According to a 2009 ADB report, despite Asia’s higher growth than industrialized countries, there are still 1.6 billion Asians living on less than $2 a day, and 20 percent of them living in extreme poverty below $1.25 dollars a day.

Sayakane Sisouvong, deputy secretary-general of ASEAN, admitted that it was “evident” that the macro-economic indicators show ASEAN has recovered from the global financial crisis, but the region still needs to “care about” economic growth.

“Economic growth is a key for poverty reduction. It is an important agenda for citizens, migrant workers and the governments alike,” he said, calling for sustained growth to bring well-being to billions of people.

China, with the poor population dropped from 94.22 million in 2001 to 26.88 million in 2010, in accordance with national poverty line, has achieved the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 threshold.

However, if put into the UN poverty standards, the Chinese poor population still stands as high as 150 million. The Chinese government issued the poverty alleviation program for 2011 to 2020, pledging to ensure their basic livelihood, education, medicare and housing.

Indonesia, with an annual growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent, tries to maintain economic growth, stabilize inflation rate and increase the purchasing power of the poor.

Indonesia will enjoy a demography bonus in the next 20 years for the working population around 25 to 39, but challenges arise too, an official attending the forum warned, from challenges to create new jobs to the competition in resources to the possible new poor.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of establishing dialogue between China and ASEAN and the forum, launched in 2007, has become an annual exchange mechanism to boost social development and poverty reduction.