An outsider’s view of China’s progress

  • 70 years and the story is not over


People’s Republic of China (PRC) has traversed a path akin to a roller coaster ride. Being one of the most ancient civilisations, it led the quest for development and progress. Invention of the Chinese characters several millennia ago, cerebral accomplishments in an era of great intellectual accomplishments, referred to as “the period of one hundred masters and schools of thought” and the advent of prominent thinkers such as Laozi, Confucius and Mozi, exploring a wide range of topics from the universe to the earth, and from man’s relations to nature propelled China to great heights of progress.

Despite the era of prosperity ushered by the ancient Silk Road, unfortunately, myopic feudal rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries closed the doors of China in boastful ignorance, leaving the country in the quagmire of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. Frequent foreign invasions brought great social turmoil, poverty and deprivation. Following centuries of strife, the Chinese people were prompted to take their destiny in their own hands and unshackle the bonds of slavery.

The long years of servitude left indelible scars on the minds of the Chinese, who cherish not only their own freedom but also pursue a policy of peace, non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and do not tolerate others interfering in their own affairs.

The PRC has achieved success as well as committed errors in its process of development. China’s “reform and opening-up” was launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, whose far-reaching futuristic economic policies blazed a new trail of establishing socialism with Chinese characteristics, focusing on building a socialist market economy, democracy, an advanced culture, a harmonious society and a sound ecosystem, upholding social equity and justice, promoting all-round development of the people, pursuing peaceful development, completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eventually achieving modernisation and ensuring prosperity for all.

These are noble goals but without grudging the rise of China, it is important to observe that the PRC has reached out to the Occident as well as the Orient to build bridges and taking them along on the road to development and prosperity.

The policy of the PRC towards its neighbours stems from the adage that one may choose one’s friends but has no choice of neighbours, Thus the PRC adheres to the ideas of “affinity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness” for its relations with neighbouring countries. This is the rationale behind China’s continued rise. I wish the PRC well on the 70th Anniversary of its inception

Each Chinese leader has carried the torch forward, building on the work of his predecessor, providing course correction where necessitated. Chairman Mao Zedong led the arduous journey to freedom and establishing modern China. Deng Xiaoping’s pecuniary design propelled the PRC on the rapid path of economic progress. Now President Xi Jinping, who is cognisant of the fact that China’s reform has entered a deep-water zone, where problems crying to be resolved are all difficult ones, but with firm resolve who has moved the reform forward. He has quoted a Chinese saying; we must “get ready to go into the mountain, being fully aware that there may be tigers to encounter”. This highlights the principle laid down for reform: to act with courage while moving forward with steady steps. With the deepening of reform, China will continue to undergo profound changes, which not only provide strong momentum for China’s modernisation drive, but also bring new development opportunities to the world.

Strategic decisions were made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to comprehensively deepen China’s reforms, and over 330 implementing steps covering 15 sectors were introduced. The 1.3 billion Chinese people are venturing to realise the Chinese Dream of great national renewal. While the PRC pursues its own dream, it is endeavouring to take the rest of the world along in the pursuit of their individual dreams, merging them where prudent and undertaking to rebuild the international economy, which took a battering in the near past.

At the 19th CPC National Congress, wide ranging revisions to the Constitution were made, which juxtapose Xi’s thought with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, The Theory of the Three Represents and Scientific Outlook on Development.

Xi has already inscribed his name in the annals of history by fulfilling his determination to steer the people of China out of poverty by the end of 2020. This is no mean achievement as this scribe, who first visited China in 1974 when the country was still struggling to survive, and has made numerous visits since, is witness to the progress achieved in leaps and bounds.

Despite the current trade conflict with the USA, China is bent upon moving forward. President Xi appears to be guided by the saying that “The wise man seeks common ground while the unwise one clings to differences”.

Multi-faceted development projects like the advent of establishing the BRICS and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the mega development project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), merit mention. These initiatives are based on the principle of “Towards a Community of Common Destiny”. There is an old Chinese saying that “a good neighbour is not to be traded for gold”. China has taken a strong liking to this proverb and is trying to inject new vitality into peripheral diplomacy by taking its neighbours along on its own path of development. This noble task is easier said than done because China has a very diverse neighbourhood ranging from the most impoverished to some of the most opulent states. Some which express open hostility while others have hidden agendas to pull China down.

The rise of China is guided by a cogent and practical top-level design complemented by a time-table and a road map, being executed with contemplation and deliberation. There has been criticism of China’s defence budget, but President Xi has elaborated that it conforms to the just demands of the national defence buildup of such a major country, but he reassures that China will never follow the path of big powers which seek hegemony once they grow strong, nor will the PRC repeat its historical tragedy of being enslaved and colonised under the threat of big powers’ strong weapons after the Opium Wars. Thus, China pursues a goal of developing a national defence strength that is sufficient to defend itself from external threats. Xinjiang’s miscreants are being dealt with a strong hand while social uplift is unaffected.

The trade war launched by the USA against China is being dealt with maturely by President Xi. Instead of retaliating in kind or responding with rhetoric, China is making progress at its own pace. The advent of smart cities, breakthroughs in quantum physics and artificial intelligence, the Chinese hypersonic passenger/cargo aircraft which will reduce flight time from Beijing to New York to two hours are major developments. The Occident is now approaching Chinese scientists to get hold of the technology. Accusations of hacking and stealing Western technology were perhaps true when the West had isolated the PRC for over 22 years, recognising tiny Taiwan as the Republic of China. Today the shoe is on the other foot. China had resolved that it would not take back its own territories like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau by force, but build itself up economically and technologically and these territories will return to the fold of the mainland of their own accord. The West may try to rock the boat by instigating protests in Hong Kong, but it is to no avail as such machinations have been exposed and the people will themselves sift through the chaff of propaganda and seek the grain of truth.

The policy of the PRC towards its neighbours stems from the adage that one may choose one’s friends but has no choice of neighbours, Thus the PRC adheres to the ideas of “affinity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness” for its relations with neighbouring countries. This is the rationale behind China’s continued rise. I wish the PRC well on the 70th Anniversary of its inception.