Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of opinion pieces paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.
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This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up to the outside world.
Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China has made remarkable achievements in the past four decades to transform it from a poverty-stricken country into a prosperous one. Since introducing the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, many Chinese cities have taken opportunities to join the boom of export-oriented and foreign investment-driven economic expansion before successfully shifting into industrial upgrading after the traditional processing industries lost steam.
When we talk about China’s earthshaking changes, Shenzhen is a place that cannot be ignored. As the forefront of the country’s reform and opening up, Shenzhen is surely one of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy. The city’s GDP in 1978 was less than 200 million yuan (US$28.8 million in today’s term) and the figure is expected to exceed 2,400 billion yuan this year, meaning the current GDP is 12,000 times greater than 40 years ago.
After decades of robust development, China has become the second-largest economy in the world. It is said that the country may be at the nearest point to realize its dream of national rejuvenation in contemporary Chinese history since the First Opium War in 1840. There is no doubt that China is much stronger now. However, just as a famous Chinese saying goes, “It is still only half-way, even though one has traveled 90 miles out of a 100-mile journey.” While praising past achievements, the nation as a whole must be vigilant against complacency and be fully aware of its weak points. In other words, China is still far from its aspiration of national rejuvenation and has no reason to rest on its laurels.
Given China’s large population and the huge income gap between the poor and the rich, poverty alleviation is still one of the country’s major tasks. The Chinese Government has promised that by the end of 2020, there will be no Chinese living beneath the extreme poverty line (set in 2011 at 2,300 yuan or US$365 per person per year). It is estimated that there are still 30 million Chinese living below the poverty line, which means China will lift at least 10 million people out of poverty annually until the end of 2020. This is a tough challenge for the country since most of the remaining 30 million poor Chinese are minors, left-behind children, the elderly, and mentally disabled and ethnic minority people living in remote areas. They cannot get themselves out of poverty and they don’t have any resources to take advantage of during the process.
To gather momentum, further reform and opening up — especially political reform and administrative streamlining — remains the choice of China after 40 years of practice. China should continue to proactively attract foreign investment and safeguard the legitimate interests of foreign businesses. The World Bank recently ranked China 46th worldwide on “ease of doing business,” marking a giant step forward as China ranked 78th last year. This means that China’s business environment is becoming increasingly convenient for foreign investors. While attracting more foreign capital and reducing administrative costs, China has also been enlarging its imports from all over the globe. The First China International Import Expo, held last week in Shanghai, marks the country’s most recent round of high-level opening up as well as a significant step in opening its gigantic market to the rest of the world. It is predicted that China’s imports of goods and services will surpass US$30 trillion and US$10 trillion, respectively, in the next 15 years.
Meanwhile, after decades of expansion, the Chinese economy has been transitioning from rapid growth to high-quality development — a pivotal stage for changing the economic model. Under these circumstances, if China does not want to continue to be a cheap copycat, stepping up efforts to develop new high-technologies will inject a fresh driving force into further economic growth. The lessons from ZTE and other high-tech Chinese enterprises have also taught us that only by seizing the know-how and core technologies firmly in our own hands, can China control its own fate.
In Chinese philosophy, giving and taking are transformable and to give is even more important than to take. China has benefited a lot from the open and multilateral trading system during the past decades. As a major and responsible country in the world, it is now time for China to do more and shoulder more responsibilities. The country is sincere in its desire to share its experiences and lessons with other nations and organizations to help pursue better joint solutions to international issues. For example, China is ready to work with other parties to carry forward global poverty reduction, so as to achieve the poverty relief goal set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. These efforts will surely enhance the global influence and international profile of China in the coming years.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)