China: More progress, more ‘opening up’

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai argues that although China has, over the past 62 years, lifted more than 200 million Chinese out of poverty, the country, run by President Hu Jintao, above, is still considered a developing nation.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai argues that although China has, over the past 62 years, lifted more than 200 million Chinese out of poverty, the country, run by President Hu Jintao, above, is still considered a developing nation.

October 1 marked the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In those years, and especially over the past 33 years since its reform and opening up, China has awed the world with stunning development. China’s development has attracted increasing international attention.

How do we view China’s development?
In the past 62 years, more than 200 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. And 1.3 billion Chinese now have enough to eat. In the past 33 years, China’s annual economic growth reached 9.9 percent. China’s GDP totaled US$5.88 trillion in 2010, making us the world’s second largest economy. We top the world in the number of cars produced and sold, as well as in Internet and cell phone users.
Some believe that with the U.S. and Europe entrenched in the sovereign debt crisis and a lack of economic driving force, China will soon catch up with the West.
This view fails to see China as it is. As our reform and opening up deepens and our economy and society develop, China’s future is ever more interconnected with that of the world. The U.S. and European debt crisis have harmed their own economies. They also show that world economic recovery is still unstable and uncertain.
China is not an outsider in the volatile global economy. We also face a number of major challenges. With a population of 1.3 billion people, our GDP per capita is US$4,000, ranking 100th internationally, which is less than one-tenth that of Canada and even less than that of many African countries. Based on UN standards, 150 million Chinese — nearly five times Canada’s total population — still live in poverty on less than $1 a day. And 10 million Chinese have no access to electricity. China needs to provide 24 million jobs each year. China still suffers from a weak economic foundation, uneven rural, urban and regional development, unreasonable industrial mix and insufficient productivity. We may be a big country in terms of population but we are a small country in terms of economic size per capita. China’s reality matches our status as a developing country.
China’s economic and social challenges are perhaps the toughest nut to crack. We have no reason to be arrogant. It takes generations to achieve greater prosperity and to improve the Chinese people’s livelihood. Even when China’s GDP per capita approximates that of developed economies, our economy performance and quality of living will still be far behind.

Is China’s development sustainable?
The answer is yes. No country can avoid “growing pains.” Just as a train that had been running at high speed for 30 years would wear out, the problems in our fast development are natural. It is unwise to put China’s future path in doubt simply because of these challenges. China is still in the middle stage of industrialization and accelerating phase of urbanization. This means China is still in great need of infrastructural investment. In the next 20 years, we need to help more than 300 million rural migrants relocate in the cities; upgrade people’s consumption mix from food and clothing to moderate prosperity; and reduce the development gap between eastern and western China. Therefore, the Chinese economy does not lack power or potential. We have every reason to be optimistic.
China has formulated and is implementing its twelfth five-year plan, which calls for faster economic growth mode transformation. The plan features economic growth model innovation, social development and further reform and opening up. Our main goal is to maintain China’s stable and fast development over the long term to ensure that our progress is enjoyed by all Chinese. To meet this goal, we will focus on three priorities:

• Expanding domestic demand: We are working hard to adjust our national income distribution pattern — to match income growth with economic development, to increase urban and rural income, to enhance people’s buying power and tap into the world’s largest consumer market. We are actively promoting universal access to basic public services, including education, employment, housing, health care, senior care and building a social welfare safety net to ensure that the gains of our economic growth benefit all and boost our economy by stimulating domestic demand.

• Highlighting innovation and transformation: At present, the contribution of scientific and technological progress to China’s economy is 25 to 30 percent lower than that in developed countries. We will rely more on technological advancement and management innovation in boosting our economy. Meanwhile, we will accelerate the development of energy conservation, of next-generation InfoTech, of biotechnology, high-end equipment manufacturing, of new sources of energy, of new materials and new energy vehicles and other strategic emerging industries to support our present and future growth.

• Focusing on green development: China is trying to catch up with the West in terms of per-capita GDP. Our energy consumption per capita, however, should never exceed that of developed countries, since the global environment is already under huge pressure. We will not follow the old path of western industrialized countries. Instead, we will pay close attention to ecological costs and effects; develop clean, renewable energy and a circular economy; actively respond to climate change and transform our extensive economic growth pattern to a low carbon and green one.

What does China’s development mean to the world?
More than 2,000 years ago, China’s classical work Book of Songs noted that
“… people who are heavily burdened need a little ease. This shall preserve the kingdom and world peace.”
Today, a “moderately prosperous” life in China means having access to education, income, medical care, senior care and housing — a life more than just sufficient food and clothing. It also means national prosperity and well-being while at peace with neighbouring countries. These are China’s development goals today: building harmony within and around the world. China will be accountable to its 1.3 billion people. Meanwhile, we will not shrink from our responsibilities for world peace and development. In doing so, China’s development will benefit not only the Chinese, but people worldwide.
Ever since the beginning of our reform and opening up, China has made safeguarding world peace and promoting common development one of our three historic missions. In recent years, China has also proposed to facilitate the building of lasting peace, common prosperity and a harmonious world. We are closely following international and regional affairs. China has been active in responding to global issues such as energy, food, climate change, terrorism, natural disasters, infectious diseases, financial crisis and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran nuclear issues, Arab-Israel conflict and Darfur as well as other regional hotspots. Moreover, China has been a responsible player, builder and contributor in the building of international order.
The current international order is not perfect. It needs to be reformed to answer the call of the times and be fairer and more justified. China is ready to be more active in international rule-making and improvement and to continue to undertake international responsibilities and obligations in line with our national capacity. Finally, China has been consistently promoting domestic and world development. On one hand, we concentrate on solving our own development issues. As a major country, China’s continuous development can benefit the world at large. Over the past five years, China’s contribution to the world economy exceeded 20 percent, making us a crucial engine for global economic growth. Since China joined the WTO in 2001, our annual import averages $750 billion. We have created more than 14 million jobs worldwide. In the next five years, China’s total imports are expected to exceed $8 trillion, which will create more business opportunities for other countries.
On the other hand, China is an important player and champion in world development. We are willing to work together with other countries to advance the UN Millennium Development Agenda and jointly promote world prosperity and progress.
China’s achievements in the past few decades are unprecedented. To better understand China, where China is going and seizing the immense opportunities brought in by China’s development, the world needs to see China through our soaring growth and gigantic changes.
China is also willing to have open and candid dialogue and cooperation with other countries. The world will see China as it is — a country of good faith, sense of responsibility and respect for others but a country that shall never be bullied. It is a country that has been advocating socialist democratic politics in accordance with its national conditions and values and respects and protects human rights — a country facing numerous challenges, but which always keeps a fresh mind and sticks to reform and opening up, a country that learns from others, pursues equal treatment, harmonious co-existence, mutual benefit and common development with other countries. The world can feel comfortable and confident in dealing with China.

Zhang Junsai is China’s ambassador to Canada.

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