Since taking office, president Xi Jinping’s government has granted massive funding to what has become China’s strongest poverty-reduction campaign ever. Based on the study of detailed budgets in eight rural counties, as well as ethnographic and interview data in a ninth county, Camille Boullenois explores how poverty alleviation programmes shape the distribution of power and resources in rural China. The data shows that poverty alleviation in rural China predominately focuses on infrastructure investment and support to the local economy, rather than on social insurance, education, and household subsidies. In addition, support to local companies entails co-opting established enterprises, rather than supporting new entrepreneurship among poor households. Overall, the Chinese approach to rural poverty alleviation highlights the emergence of a state-sponsored corporate paternalism that strengthens local hierarchies of wealth and power.