This is part of a series of opinion pieces paying tribute to the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.
Despite the trade war the U.S. forced on China and other adverse factors, China’s economy remains remarkably resilient and stable. Two recent events perfectly demonstrated China’s confidence and vitality that impress the rest of the world.
From Nov. 5 to 10, China successfully held the China International Import Expo (CIIE), the first of its kind both in China and the world, in Shanghai. It concluded with flying colors: US$57.8 billion worth of contracts were inked by businesses from China and the rest of the world.
On Nov. 11, one day after the end of CIIE, the huge buying clout of Chinese consumers once again stunned the world. A new record of 213.5 billion yuan (US$30.8 billion) in sales was made on the country’s annual buying frenzy — Single’s Day — shattering last year’s record of 168.2 billion yuan. This figure was just that on Alibaba’s online platforms of Taobao and Tmall. Another online business giant JD also registered a new record of 159.8 billion yuan. Other minor competitors were all jubilant at their unexpected records.
While the new generations born after the new millennium may take seeing a powerful and dynamic China for granted, people born before the 1980s know well what brought about the fundamental changes to this ancient nation that was once in shambles.
It is the policy of reform and opening up that completely transformed China. China embraced the policy 40 years ago.
Before the CPC began to rule China in 1949, China was a weakling despite its large population. Politically, economically and diplomatically feeble, old China was a constant victim of foreign aggression, occupation and humiliation.
The founding of the PRC won national independence and international respect, and China embarked on economic and social development. But it took Chinese leadership 30 years to find a correct and effective approach to giving full play to individual productivity and creativity. For a long time, the nation was entangled in endless ideological contention over capitalism versus socialism.
It was Deng Xiaoping who advocated the spirit of seeking truth from facts, stressing that the practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. His witty narrative of a good cat reflects his pragmatic attitude toward judging what is good and bad. “A cat that can catch mice is a good one, be it white or black,” he said.
With ideological shackles thrown off, the pent-up enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of the people were completely unleashed. Farmers became masters of their own fields, able to decide to grow and sell whatever brought them more profit. Workers earned much more with their nimble fingers and strong backs. Private enterprises mushroomed and flourished.
Many people attribute China’s economic and social miracle to its divorce from socialism and marriage with capitalism. They are wrong and their fallacy derived from their dichotomy between socialism and capitalism.
To some sense, China’s history of reform and opening up is a history of fighting against outdated and rigid thoughts of all sorts. In the early stages of reform and opening up, China had to get rid of ultra-left ideologies, characterized by practices of a planned economy, the State’s monopoly of all natural and social resources, and highly restricted freedom of the people.
At that time, a political catchphrase spoke for itself: “Preferring socialist weeds to capitalist seedlings.” It took tremendous political courage and wisdom to adopt “capitalist” theories and practices in China’s economic and social development.
After China successfully integrated free-market economic theories and practices into its organism, however, dogmatism has gone to the other extreme: a right-leaning movement, that is, calling for “wholesale Westernization.”
The so-called neoliberalism found its way into Chinese academia throughout the 1990s and up to recent years. Neoliberals argued that the Chinese model had come to an impasse and the only way out was to duplicate everything from the West, or the U.S., to be more exact.
Their proposals include privatization of the whole economy, completely eliminating State-run enterprises, maximally restricting the State’s role in economic and social affairs.
Meanwhile, ultra-left advocates have never ceased spreading erroneous ideas such as private enterprises giving way to State-run enterprises in economic sectors.
The good thing is that the Chinese leadership headed by President Xi Jinping has been sober-minded in maintaining the correct direction of reform and opening up. China’s drive to achieve its goal of national rejuvenation through reform and opening up is irreversible.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)