This year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening up of China – a marvelous journey for the country and its people. The reforms launched by visionary leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978 have changed everything. It is story of millions of people virtually going from rags to riches.
Deng described the reform he unfolded at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as the "second revolution." He was right as the process he kick-started revolutionized China and turned it into an industrial power house.
Free Trade Zone in Shanghai [Photo/Xinhua]
After embarking on the path set by Deng, China has set new records in development. It continuously achieved over 10 percent economic growth up to 2010 – then slowing a bit after the global financial crisis to around 7 percent.
The per capita income also increased phenomenally from about US$156 in 1978 to over US$8,000 today. More than 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty in this period.
China has become the second biggest economy next only to the United States. Its US$3.12 trillion foreign reserves in 2017 were the largest in the world. It all happened after opening up the country to foreign investors.
While galloping on the path of development, China is poised to achieve the goal of a moderately prosperous society by 2021 – when it is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC.
China is reclaiming its place in the world economy and status as a global leader, which it enjoyed in the past but lost when it became a victim of foreign imperialist powers. Its rejuvenation is part of the national dream to make China great once again.
As China enters into a crucial phase to further deepen the reform, it has a leader like Xi Jinping who has not only the vision but also the determination to transform outlines into detailed plans and put plans into practice.
The reforms started in 1978 should be seen as a continuation. The first phase has been completed and the next phase has started. The next 30 years are important and will decide the fate and ultimate place of China in the community of nations.
This period will culminate in the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China through a popular revolution that was based on the struggle of common people, mostly peasants.
Like Deng, Xi has provided a philosophy for the next stage of fast-track development. His "Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" spells out the policy for the future. The Thought was first shared at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in October 2017 and subsequently incorporated into the constitution.
One of the objectives is the "continuation of comprehensive deepening of reforms" that Xi introduced during his first term in office. Xi's reforms not only aim to make structural adjustments to achieve a stable growth rate but to also rid the country of the menace of corruption and create a society based on the rule of law.
Xi's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a master plan to achieve growth and international prestige by building global linkages. Its strength lies in offering win-win cooperation. BRI is an innovative model of development to create a community with a shared future for mankind.
China's long term goal is to achieve a true socialist society by 2049. Xi believes it is possible to get this goal under the leadership of the CPC.
Deng's genius and out-of-the-box thinking put the country on a course that was unthinkable in a socialist country. He knew how to tame uncontrolled capitalism and exploit its "virtues" with centralized planning.
Xi's challenge is how to expedite growth and modernize the country by utilizing the existing capacities. He will achieve this if he can avoid external disputes. With the rise of China as a power, the risk of being drawn into conflicts in greater.
China's success story of the last 40 years is the best guide. It shows that a country should have the right set of policies and efficient implementation mechanisms to meet deadlines. But policies and plans only succeed when there is domestic political stability and a peaceful local environment.