Octogenarian Frenchman Michel Herbert has been engaged in Sino-French and Sino-European investment in Yantai City, Shandong Province as a senior consultant of the local government for more than two decades since retirement. In his latest book, The Impressions of Asia, he described that at a Chinese wedding, he met a family of three generations – weather-beaten peasant grandparents, dark-skinned parents, and promising newcomers to the city. The three generations highlight the features of different eras, and also reflect the tremendous changes that China has undergone in the 40 years of reform and opening-up.
From 1978 to 2017, China’s GDP grew by 33.5 times, calculated at the constant price, with an average annual growth rate of 9.5 percent, which means doubling every eight years, much higher than the average annual growth rate of 2.9 percent of the world economy over the same period. Being the world’s second largest, China’s economy has increased its share in the world economy to 15.3 percent, and its contribution to world economic growth has reached 34 percent.
Through deepening reforms, China has not only achieved substantial economic growth, but also realized the transformation of economic structure and economic models. In 2017, the share of China’s primary, secondary, and tertiary industries in GDP was 7.9 percent, 40.5 percent, and 51.6 percent respectively. Tertiary industry has become the main force that drives China’s economic growth. The economic model has also evolved from extensive to green and sustainable development. According to China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (2017), China has reduced emissions of nearly 4.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the last decade.
In the process of economic transformation and upgrading, a huge consumer market has been formed. In the past four decades, more than 700 million people have shaken off poverty. With economic growth, investment and reconstruction has been made in sectors like energy, transportation, telecommunications, science, education, culture, and health, as well as infrastructure, and people’s quality of life has also been improved. The Chinese market has become an increasingly important force in global consumption growth. A report released by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in April 2018 about the global trade data and outlook pointed out that China’s economic structural reforms will have a positive impact on global trade growth. The WTO believes that the transformation of China’s economy from investment-driven to consumption-oriented will help strengthen China’s sustainable economic growth in the long run, thus supporting the continued growth of the global economy. Just as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said, through continuous reforms and industrial restructuring, the Chinese economy will be safer and more sustainable, benefitting the world. According to the statistics of the General Administration of Customs, in 2017, the total value of China’s imports and exports reached RMB 27.79 trillion, 782.82 times that of 1978.
In early November, more than 400,000 domestic and foreign purchasing agents attended the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) to negotiate deals, and the cumulative intended transaction volume was US $57.83 billion. In the future, the CIIE will be held annually and become a permanent open platform. As President Xi Jinping put it at the opening ceremony, “Openness has become a trademark of China. China has grown by embracing the world, and the world has also benefitted from China’s opening-up. China’s door will never be closed. It will only open still wider.”
Retracing China’s reform and opening-up, it can be concluded that the key to the success of China’s reform and opening-up is to realize institutional changes that are conducive to economic efficiency improvement, organically combine marketization, industrialization, and internationalization, while benefitting from the opportunity brought by economic transformation, huge domestic and foreign market demand, rapid development and application of technology, and effective transfer and utilization of labor, especially the formulation of government development strategies, and the implementation of relevant policies.
The achievements of China’s economic development over the past 40 years show that China is advancing on the correct development path, but this does not mean that this path is free of obstacles. In the future, China needs to resolve many structural problems that arise in the process of social and economic development, thereby making greater contributions to the sustainable development of the world economy.