China's socio-economic achievements are indivisible from the wise leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which on July 1, 2021 celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding. Therefore, any discussion of China’s achievements — its economic feats, eradication of extreme poverty, technological advances, modern infrastructure, and progressive development of an ecological society, among others — inevitably leads to the cognizance of the integral role of the country’s governance model in all of them.
Knowledge in Western countries about China’s governance is sketchy to say the least, based largely on stereotypes presented in prejudiced and distorted media reports. China is, in effect, hostage to a worldview whereby any socio-economic system that differs from the Western model carries negative connotations. The West would do well to divert from its current trajectory, seemingly directed towards a reversal of enlightenment conquests, and expand, without prejudice, its percept of China. It may then apprehend all the factors that have engendered the country’s phenomenal development. That, however, means acknowledging and highlighting the foremost undeniable truth — that the CPC is the vanguard party leading rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
China has greatly contributed to the global effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. 120,000 doses of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine arrive in São Paulo on November 19, 2020. São Paulo Governor Joao Doria receives the shipment at the airport.
In the economic sphere, China is still perceived as an economy dominated by state-owned enterprises bent on stifling the private sector. However, since the 1980s China has promoted reforms aimed at expanding the role of the market. That decade saw the appearance of Huawei — now the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment and leader of the 5G revolution — and Lenovo — the Chinese brand with the most outstanding global presence, according to the 2017 BrandZ Top 30 Chinese Global Brand Builders list. Private Chinese companies that became giants in the market in the late 1990s, meanwhile, include the Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Baidu. These three companies, along with Xiaomi, entered the list of the world’s 50 smartest companies, according to the MIT Technology Review 2015. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, China’s private sector has steadily gathered momentum sufficient to become the main driver of the country’s economic growth. It currently contributes more than 60 percent of Chinese GDP and more than 70 percent of technological innovation, and provides over 80 percent of urban employment.
To those who insist that China’s educational system does not encourage innovation, bear in mind that China was the top source of international patent applications in 2019, and maintained the lead in 2020. The country so toppled the United States from its place on the podium for more than 40 years, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. China’s patent applications that year showed a 16.1 percent increase over 2019, as compared to a 3 percent rise in those of the U.S. China now has 115 science parks at universities, and more than 1,600 incubators supporting new entrepreneurs, according to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. As for education itself, the country has made remarkable achievements. The 2020 QS World University Rankings include 12 Chinese universities among the world top 100, among which Tsinghua University, at 15th, was the best placed.
Another apocryphal view of China is one stating that it is a country secluded from the world. However, apart from the achievements mentioned above that clearly contradict such discourse, there are other noteworthy data. China, whose population now stands at 1.4 billion, has become the most significant contributor to world tourism. In 2018, Chinese people made around 150 million trips abroad, according to the World Tourism Organization, and surpassed Americans and Germans in terms of spending. Owing to the pandemic, tourism has understandably slowed, but should resume its former pace in a few years’ time. If we consider that barely 10 percent of the Chinese population has a passport, the potential for post-pandemic expansion is huge. This highlights another important demographic, namely, China’s 400 million middle-class population, which is expected to double by 2035. The resultant consumer market will have profound global impact. This, in turn, implies an increase in both Chinese imports and business opportunities within the country.
Citizens loiter around a commercial center in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province on April 8, 2021. Chengdu is a city renowned for the comfortable life enjoyed by people living there.
The Chinese government is currently engaged in a gradual and controlled opening-up of its financial system. Foreign investors are indeed eager to tap into China’s growing asset management market, valued last year at around RMB 121.6 trillion (US $18.9 trillion). Goldman Sachs recently partnered with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in a joint wealth management venture. BlackRock Inc, the French Amundi, and the British Schroders have followed a similar path of partnerships with Chinese banks. Since 2016, the yuan has been included, alongside the dollar, euro, British pound sterling, and Japanese yen, in the International Monetary Fund basket of reserve currencies. This is an essential step towards internationalization of the Chinese currency, and is now being tested in its digital version. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, believes that the digital yuan will be more competitive than the digital dollar. This equation doubtless takes into consideration that China is the largest trading partner of more than 100 countries, something that considerably expands the likelihood of China’s international financial transactions being denominated in yuan.
Looking to the future demands attention to the framework of the 14th Five-Year Plan, approved by the National People’s Congress in March 2021. The document’s clear orientation towards investment in technology and innovation opens up possibilities for multiple partnerships with overseas entrepreneurs. From the point of view of governance, there is concern about sustainability as regards quality as well as growth. At the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) convened in November 2018, President Xi Jinping declared that, “innovation is the premier engine for development” to overcome the global growth bottleneck. The Chinese president stated that his country would increase imports, facilitate access to the Chinese market, and promote a world-class business environment. He also affirmed China’s support for the World Trade Organization, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the G20, the BRICS, and — the most daring economic integration project of the 21st century — the Belt and Road Initiative.
In this centenary year of the founding of the CPC, China also celebrates the greatest civilizing achievement to which any country could aspire: the eradication of extreme poverty. Accomplishing this was possible mainly by virtue of its governance model. It is one that has evolved from the Party’s concrete historical experience and Chinese wisdom, including seeking solutions through learning from elsewhere things that can help the Chinese people. During the late 19th century, when China was still looking for ways to strengthen itself, there arose the maxim: “Chinese teachings as a basis, Western studies for practice.” Of course, this phrase must be contextualized in its time. But it nevertheless shows that, in contrast to the West’s rejection of Chinese teachings, China, despite the harrowing privations it had suffered, nevertheless sought to study and learn from the West. The CPC celebrates its 100th anniversary thanks to its capacity for resilience and patience in learning not only from its successes and failures but also from the world.
Contrary to Western claims, the CPC is more open to dialogue than one might suppose — more so, I dare to venture, than many Western political parties. Upon understanding this, the world will have broken down the last, definitive cognitive wall that separates the West from the Chinese people.
EVANDRO MENEZES DE CARVALHO is executive editor-in-chief of the Brazilian edition of China Today, a professor of international law, and coordinator of the Brazil-China Studies Center at Fundacao Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro.