By staff reporter ZHOU LIN
IN late 2018, a large exhibition opened in Beijing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up, attracting audiences from home and abroad. Meanwhile, in Chengdu, capital city of China’s Sichuan Province, the Global Think Tanks Forum 2018 was held with scholars and experts discussing the cooperation and development of think tanks and innovation in global governance. This reporter interviewed some of them who were enthusiastically interested in China’s accomplishments, and shared their observations on its significance and far-reaching impact on global governance.
Soaring economic growth and substantial livelihood improvements over the past 40 years won unanimous respect from foreign experts.
Indian professor Srikanth Kondapalli, chairman of the Center for East Asian Studies at the School of International Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, was intimately familiar with China’s achievements and enumerated them in the fields of agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense. “China’s crop yields are amazing, and its rapid development of industry has made it the world’s manufacturing hub. China’s economic growth has made great contributions to the world’s economy. With a clear mind and goals, the Chinese government promised to build a well-off society in an all-round way by 2020. China has also invested abundant capital into high-tech areas including aerospace, high-speed railways, and new-energy vehicles, which helps to keep a vibrant development trend in high-tech development.”
Attention was garnered not just from emerging countries, but also from developed countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., whose experts expounded on the value and significance of China’s experience from the perspective of historical comparison and development of human history.
Bruce Pickering, senior adviser of Asia Society in the U.S., said that the most impressive thing about China was uplifting 700 million people out of poverty. Chinese people has been lifted from a subsistence level of living, up and out of poverty, and then elevated to the middle class level. That, in his perspective, is something that took the United States a considerably greater amount of time, and is even more astonishing when compared to the rest of human history. “It took the U.S. 200 years but took China only 40 years. That’s remarkable.” Pickering remarked.
Former Director of Economic and Business Policy of London John Ross is now a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. Adept at economic analysis, he listed the achievements in details. “What China has created in a few words: it’s the greatest economic miracle in the whole of human history. When China started to grow in 1978, this was 22 percent of the world’s population. It has had the fastest growth of living standards of any country in human history, and is responsible for the elimination of 75 percent of the world’s population that lived in poverty.”
There is an old saying in China that “one should know the fact as well as its reason.” That reflects Chinese people’s serious attitude towards learning and their philosophy of life -- learning from life experience and discovering the fundamental reasons so that one can make continuous improvements.
When discussing about the reasons of the Chinese miracle, “an advantageous institution” was one of the causes the scholars cited.
“Because China is a one-party state, it has the ability to mobilize resources in a rapid way. The U.S. doesn’t have that ability because the two-party system has diversified opinions, and it is hard to chart a course,” said Pickering. [Editor’s note: China also has eight non-communist parties. China created "a new type of party system" of multiparty cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China (CPC).]
Another Indian professor, Swaran Singh Jaswal, from the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University expressed the same opinion. “I come from a country which has a very large number of political parties. We have a very important democratic system, but multiple voices are very strong. And sometimes it means the decisions are not easily reached as China does in an efficient and effective way.”
“Pooling resources to solve major problems” was mentioned by many foreign scholars and experts the reporter has interviewed. China’s economic aggregate ranks the second in the world, and its contribution to the world’s economic growth has surpassed 30 percent for consecutive years. In the past five years, 60 million people have been lifted up and out of poverty, lowering China’s poverty headcount ratio from 10.2 percent to less than four percent. Such progress is attributed to a scientific top-level design and a cohesive will. How to ensure the steady and continuous growth of economy while insisting on reform and innovation tests the wisdom of the ruling party as well as socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Practical and Proactive
“China’s economic development follows the universal law of the economy, and is implemented in every specific area.” John Ross commented, giving a comparison between the pragmatism in Western culture and Chinese people’s practical policies. “China is extremely practical. The famous philosophy is crossing the stream by feeling the stones. That is a different thing from pragmatism. Pragmatism implies having no theory. But China has a theory that is the social market economy, a very sophisticated economic theory.”
“Crossing the stream by feeling the stones” is known in every Chinese household. It was stated by China’s top leader Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s who encouraged the people to boldly emancipate the mind and push forward reform.
Talking about the role of Deng in the process of reform and opening-up, Kondapalli pointed out that the speeches Deng delivered during his southern inspection tour in 1992 played a crucial role in promoting China’s economic reform and social progress. He indicated that China’s neighbor – Japan, at that time was struggling with economic recession after years of rapid development. On the contrary, China’s policies to deepen reform and opening-up generated it an abundant amount of foreign direct investment, along with advanced technologies and ideas. Therefore, the Chinese created the miracle in the right place, at the right time, and with favorable conditions both at home and abroad.
The report Xi Jinping delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) declared that socialism with Chinese characteristics has stepped into the new era. In the eyes of foreign scholars, the Chinese government is constantly ushering in the new era of China.
Kondapalli found it admirable that the top Chinese leadership observed the situation and judged the occasion to take practical actions in different periods and towards different problems. What’s more, the Five-Year Plans of China were always implemented in an efficient and effective way.
Ronnie Lins, president of the Center China-Brazil: Research and Business, told this reporter, “China is now very important for the world. Because China has established more relationships with the world that are not focused on protectionism but the openness of your economy, ideas, and partnerships, for example the Belt and Road Initiative.”
China is more active and productive in the global governance system. “A community with a shared future for mankind” is regarded as an innovation, on which John Ross gave his own explanation from the economic perspective. He quoted Adam Smith’s theory, stating that “one plus one can be bigger than two,” which is the basis for economic growth. On politics and diplomatic relations, the U.S. government insists on “America first,” but the Chinese government believes “harmony without uniformity.” To build a harmonious and progressive world, the latter attitude contains more wisdom, and allows nations to seek common ground while reserving differences in accordance with each nation’s own unique circumstances.