Impact of 4 decades of China’s reforms and opening
After the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, China initially focused on political reforms only. The goal was to unite the nation on a communist or socialist platform. Previously, Chinese society was addicted to opium and divided into factions and groups, lacked strong government, and languished under corrupt and incompetent political leadership.
Chairman Mao Zedong morally changed the nation and united the Chinese as one nation. It was first stage of modern Chinese history, from 1949-1978, an era of political reforms only.
However, China suffered from famine and other disasters. The economy was near to collapse, and the country suffered isolation. China was very conservative country during that period and closed to the rest of world. No one outside China knew exactly was happening inside China.
But in 1978, China launched a policy of reform and opening-up toward the rest of world, and has made remarkable achievements since then. From suffering food shortages, the country has turned into a food-exporting nation.
Today China is the second-largest economy in the world, just after the US. China has emerged as a global power. Around 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty.
In just four decades, the country has achieved much development. It is a unique example in the history of the world. During those 40 years, the West was in full support of developing China and extending all possible facilitation. China still enjoys an enabling international environment to develop rapidly.
However, in coming days, China may face an uphill task to maintain the same tempo of development. The West may create hurdles and try to curtail China.
President Xi Jinping in an address on December 18 said, “Bearing in mind China’s internal and international imperatives, we have stayed committed to the fundamental national policy of opening-up, followed a proactive approach to opening up, and entered a new stage of comprehensive, multi-level and wide-ranging opening-up, thus creating a sound international environment and broader development space for China.”
It is obvious that China is firmly committed to maintaining the continuation of its reform and opening-up policy. I was a student in China in 1980s and a witness to the initial stage of reforms and opening-up. I have seen the food coupons and rationing of daily consumer items. Queues for purchase of commodities was due to a gap between supply and demand.
I was also in China from 2010 to 2016 as a diplomat and witnessed the abundance of food and consumer goods. Not only locally made products, but the market was full of imported products from almost all over the world.
Smiling faces of common citizens reflect their satisfaction with their economic situation. People are traveling inside China and overseas during their vacations and festivals. Streets that were once full of bicycles have turned into traffic jams due to the large number of cars.
China has made huge progress in its educational sector too. More of its institutions have joined the prestigious club of “Top 500 Universities of the World” in the last 20 years and this number is growing rapidly. The quality of education is attracting foreign students from all corners of the world.
China has become a leader in high-speed trains and massive infrastructure. China’s achievements in information technology and telecommunication have surpassed many other countries. With the launch of 5G (fifth-generation wireless technology), China is expected to leave the world behind in this sector. China’s progress in health care is admirable. Agriculture was a main thrust area of reform and opening-up. Defense has also witnessed major advancements.
The judicial and legal systems have improved and been standardized. Human rights have improved. The entertainment industry is flourishing. China has built the world’s largest social-security system, with the basic old-age pension covering more than 900 million people and medical insurance covering more than 1.3 billion.
Above all, China has maintained its social stability over a long period, providing among the greatest senses of safety in the world, while much of the rest of the world is facing severe challenges of terrorism, extremism and instability.
In addition, hard work of the Chinese people and enabling reforms and opening-up policies have made China a geopolitical power. China is a balancing power in world affairs. There was a time when countries could unilaterally decide to destroy any country without any resistance from any other nation of the world, such as was seen in Iraq and Libya. But now the world has become multipolar.
China is a successful model for development and a role model for the rest of the world, especially for developing countries. Luckily, China is willing to share its experiences and willing to extend its support to others. In fact, China has offered bright prospects for other developing countries as they strive for modernization, representing a great contribution of the Chinese nation to the progress of human civilization.
China has launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a model for the world to promote connectivity, peace, harmony and prosperity in the future.
China has emerged as balancing power in the geopolitics and is bringing hope for many nations. China understands its global responsibilities and is fulfilling its obligations; whether concerning the environment, or the global economy, or global peace or politics, China’s positive role is always admired.
The world acknowledges China’s achievements and values them highly. Most developing countries are trying to follow the Chinese model of development. Pakistan, being the closest friend of China, and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being the flagship project of the BRI, must learn from Chinese experience and develop on a fast track. Chinese assistance is the catalyst for Pakistan in its journey to an economic takeoff.