To great fanfare, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday declared his country’s “complete victory” over extreme poverty. In an hour-long speech delivered from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi said the government under his leadership has waged and won “a massive people’s war against poverty,” lifting 100 million people out of destitution. The official news agency Xinhua called the achievement the “great leap of a millennium.”

“This is the glory and honor of the Chinese people,” he said, before presenting medals to local officials and residents deemed “model fighters” in the government campaign, which he called “a splendid miracle shining in history.” Xi’s claim of eradicating poverty comes as the coronavirus pandemic is set to push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty worldwide this year, according to the World Bank, underscoring how China has emerged from the global crisis relatively unscathed.

Over the last eight years since Xi became head of the ruling Communist Party, the government has spent as much as 1.6 trillion yuan ($248 billion) on poverty alleviation — as local officials went door to door to identify impoverished households, delivering assistance from loans to farm animals. Experts say the policy is key to Xi’s legacy as he works to cement his position as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, China’s paramount leader and founding father of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Xi Jinping claimed victory in the war against the coronavirus and now he is claiming victory in the war against poverty. This gives Xi the ability the claim victories in two major challenges facing China. This is crucial if you are trying to position yourself as a leader akin to Mao,” said Carl Minzner, a professor at Fordham Law School and author of “End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise.”

On Wednesday, the official People’s Daily included a three-page spread on Xi’s leadership in the fight that lifted “all rural people” and “all poor counties” out of poverty. The article declared, “The problem of absolute poverty that has plagued us for thousands of years has come to an end.”

But neither Xi nor state media explained how the figures were calculated and what threshold was used, prompting questions about the metrics. In 2019, China’s statistics bureau defined rural poverty as below per capita annual income of 2,300 yuan ($356). Previous officials have defined the poverty line as less than 4,000 yuan ($620) a year, or $1.69 a day — less than the World Bank’s threshold of $1.90 a day and well below the $5.50 a day that economists recommend for upper-middle-income countries.