CELEBRATING 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHINA’S REFORM AND OPENING-UP August 8, 2018 by Stephen Ling, USA (China Daily printed an edited version)
On July 14 2001, China was awarded the 2008 Olympics.
I visited Beijing and toured the Olympic sites, February 2008. I said to my host, “Are you sure these will be ready for the games on 8.8.8.?” He simply smiled: “If we could build the Great Wall of China, we could do just anything.” On 8.8.8 (August 8, at 8 PM 2008), the world witnessed the staging of the most spectacular Olympic Games in Olympic history, drawing more than 2 billion global viewers because China was ready to show the world what it was capable of doing, showcasing its manpower, ingenuity, wealth, and technological know-how. The event was so impressive that England, when taking over the Olympic flag, humbly acknowledged “we will do it our way”! I doubt anybody in the world could replicate what China did at the 2008 Olympics!
Hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics secured Beijing’s place in history as the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, reflecting China’s international clout. In 2001, China was an unknown. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world since joining WTO (World Trade Organization) in 2001. And with the introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative backed by AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), China’s presence is everywhere in the world. And Deng Xiaoping is the man who is responsible for what China is today.
This year, 2018, marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up policy under the charismatic leadership of Deng Xiaoping.
Since Chairman Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, China has changed for the better, and now the envy of the world. During my 7 years in China as a visiting professor in an elite university in Fujian Province, 2008-2014, I had often asked my university students: “What would Chairman Mao think if he were to travel the busy highways, speed trains, cars and motorcycles crisscrossing today’s China with millions of workers contributing to the building of major cities and their flourishing businesses; the booming established cities and other emerging cities now encouraged by the central government to prosper by exploiting their local talents and abundant resources to specialize in what they do best; the bustling villages of farmers now equipped with modern machinery to sow, plant and harvest, and using drones to fertilize their crops with grain output more than doubled to 618 tons from 1978 to 2017; millions graduating from high schools, vocational schools and institutions of higher learning…the vital engines that drive China’s economic development? Would he sit down for a cup of tea with Jack Ma of Alibaba, one of many visionary entrepreneurs who is actively spreading China’s economic miracle to the rest of the world? What would he think of the many words of wisdom of Deng Xiaoping now on display in many parts of Shenzhen, once a fishing village now a prosperous metropolis? And would he approve of President Xi’s first travel outside Beijing as president to pay respect to once paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, the man responsible for China’s phenomenal rise to economic dominance and preeminence in the world today, whose statue stands proudly in Lianhuashan Park, overlooking Shenzhen?”
To fully understand what happened to China since Mao’s death, we need to travel back to 1977, when Deng Xiaoping was reinstated and appointed General Secretary of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) . The following year the CCP appointed him Chairman of the Committee in charge of economic reform. Though never the official head of China but through political influence he ruled China from 1978 through 1992.
Abandoning the economic disaster of the recent past, he believed China must compete with the west in technology and economic growth to reemerge as one of the world’s dominant powers, which would inextricably involve opening up the nation to industrialization and some free market competition. He initiated a plan based on the economic theories of his mentor, Zhou Enlai, and brilliantly introduced the Four Modernizations, targeting on economic and industrial modernization involving agriculture, industry, science and technology and the military.
This ambitious plan would require enormous startup capital and he invited European and American investments in Chinese industrial development in his Open Door Policy. They did respond and soon China, through the administrations of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and presently Xi Jinping, is on the way to becoming a global economic powerhouse with its ubiquitous “Made In China” in every corner of the world today. The rest is history! From a major country to a major superpower, on the way to the center stage in global affairs.
In 2017, China became the major trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. Also it is ranked first among “developing countries” regarding inbound foreign direct investment (FDI) for 26 consecutive years
GDP skyrocketed to 82.7 trillion yuan ($12.5 trillion) in 2017, 200 times beyond pre-reform era. China surpasses North America in attracting almost half of world’s venture capital investments, receiving $136.32 billion in FDI in 2017 compared to $46.88 billion in 2001 when it first entered the WTO. Its Belt and Road Initiative promotes international and regional cooperation and development of an open economy, “making economic globalization open, inclusive, balanced, win-win and beneficial to all”. Since 2012 President Xi and CPC (Communist Party of China) remain committed to realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and shouldering the historical responsibility to attain its “Two Centenary Goals” of building a moderately prosperous society by 2020, a year before CPC’s 100th anniversary in 2021 and, developing China, guided by Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, into a great modern socialist nation by the 100th anniversary of the nation in 2049.
And the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) is scheduled to open in November, 2018.
China has embarked on a plan called “Made in China 2025”, commercializing 10 strategic industries.
Most importantly, only by rooting out corruption can China make sure all the people benefit from the economic development.
A Soviet-style collapse or Japanese-style stagnation did not happen to China, in fact
the economy has continued to gallop ahead.
Long live China!
Stephen Ling, author and college professor, spent 7 years as a visiting professor in China. With his book THIS IS CHINA, he will be sharing his experiences in China with Americans to celebrate China’s emergence as a world superpower.