Consuls general in Shanghai share their opinions and understanding of China’s historic economic policy

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/4 19:53:40

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up policy that has brought about huge changes to the country as well as the world. The Global Times recently interviewed several consuls general in Shanghai about their knowledge and understanding of the policy and their opinions toward the influence that the policy has had on the world.

Global and ongoing

The consuls general were asked to describe their understanding of the reform and opening-up policy using three words. Quite a few showed their extensive knowledge of modern Chinese history.

Israeli Consul General in Shanghai Eyal Propper said "multilateralism, cooperation, integration" are the three key words to explain the direction China has moved toward since the policy was first rolled out.

Guergana Guermanoff, Consul General of New Zealand in Shanghai used "transformational, global and ongoing" to describe her understanding of the policy. "The first one is transformational because the opening-up policy has made real change to people's daily lives here in China. And it really enables China to grow very very rapidly economically and to become the second strongest economy in the world."

"The second word is global. China joined the WTO in 2001. New Zealand and China work internationally to support the multilateral rules-based order. And we very much support the Chinese leadership statement that they will continue to work for free trade on the global stage."

"And the third word that I would use to describe is ongoing. The Chinese leadership has said that China will remain open for business and that the Chinese economy will continue to liberalize trade, imports, foreign direct investment will continue to be important features of China's development," Guermanoff said.

Therese Healy, Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai, picked the three words "ambitious, comprehensive and far-reaching."

"I think certainly we can say that this policy has been far-reaching. And 40 years ago, when that important decision was taken, it wasn't clear, I think to that anybody, including the Chinese leaders, how far this would go, how it would affect every aspect of not only the economy, but also society and the way. China is perceived by the outside world. It really has opened up China at an enormous degree. And this policy is still being rolled out. A lot of progress and achievements have been accomplished over the past 40 years, but I know that the Chinese government has ambitions to go even deeper," Healy said.

Meanwhile, Rashed Matar Alqemzi, Consul General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Shanghai, chose the three words of "economy, develop and industrialization." Sabri Tunç Angılı, Turkish Consul General in Shanghai, used "power, progress and partnership." Siti Nugraha Mauludiah, Consul General of Indonesia in Shanghai, used "develop, commerce, prosperity."

Bojan Skoda, Consul General of Slovenia in Shanghai, chose "Chinese food, luxury goods and making photos" to describe his understanding of the policy. "There is a common belief that Chinese tourist in Europe are very loud, mostly interested in luxury goods and taking a lot of photos. But the times are changing and Chinese are more and more interested in culture, history and the countryside. In Slovenia we can say 'green, active, healthy,'" he said.

Beautiful and dynamic

The consuls general were also asked about their opinions toward the most obvious and impressive changes that China has received during the past 40 years.

"Before the beginning of the reform and opening-up, there were not so many ways of interaction between China and the world," said Propper, who further explained that China was very much remote from the world before the policy was implemented and there was not so much exchange between China and other countries.

"China until 1971 was not a member of the UN. During the reform, China became a very important partner with the United Nations and other regional international organizations. In this respect, I see a big big change in these Chinese norms and Chinese ways of cooperating with international field. It started slowly but then China was moving to a different way to deal with a lot of integration between China and international institutions," Propper said.

"China today is very important partner in a lot of international institutions, a lot of international organizations. And China also initiated different kinds of forums," Propper said.

On the other hand, Guermanoff thinks "the most obvious change is really in the people's daily lives."

"Anyone who has visited China over the last, maybe 20 years, can't deny the absolute change that has taken place in people's living standards. The access to goods and services has continued to improve, education standards have lifted. Of course the infrastructure development is absolutely amazing," Guermanoff said.

"And from my own example, when I came to Shanghai in 1998, and I stood on the Bund looking at Pudong, there really were no skyscrapers, there was very low rise and you could actually see fields into the background. Of course if you look at Pudong now, it has full of impressive skyscrapers such as the  Shanghai World Financial Center. And so in my own lifetime I have seen the most amazing development that has taken place," Guermanoff added.

Healy thinks the policy "really has allowed the country to improve economic performance of course and also build up the infrastructure in the cities and the links between the cities."

"And obviously, as I have traveled through China like so many people, I have experienced that very smooth network, particularly rail and road and air, so this has been a huge advance in connectivity," Healy added.

"The cities are more beautiful, more dynamic, but in a very practical human way, it also has transformed the lives of ordinary people across China, with the result that everybody here has a chance of success, and ensuring that their family can be taken care of. I think that is a very basic human wish. And it's something that really China has made a great stride in the past four decades," Healy commended.

Mauludiah said that she could mention actually a lot about the most obvious changes in China in the past 40 years. But the three most impressive things include infrastructure, manufacture industry and human development.

"The roads are very extensive. I travel mostly by road. And it is really impressive. Even the side-roads, they are very nice, they are very well-built and well-maintained. The high speed train is very convenient. Now whenever I go to Beijing, I take train rather than flying because five hours feels nothing. It's very comfortable to use the train."

"Basically, you produce a lot of premium items in high technology, not to mention e-commerce and e-payment. I don't take my purse when I go shopping, I just take my cellphone. Things are okay with just a cellphone. I pay everything with that," she said.

"I could see that the human development boost the innovation which brought along advancement at all aspects of lives. So  congratulations, China has been through a lot of development that are very impressive,"  Mauludiah said.

Angılı thinks the most impressive change is China itself. "Because in the modern history of mankind, we didn't see any society and country achieve so much progress in such a little period of time. And I think it's the collective success of all Chinese people," Angılı said.

Alqemzi listed some of the most important achievements that China has reached over the past 40 years.

"China has become the world's second largest economy, the largest industrial country, the largest trader of goods and the largest foreign exchange reserve country. In the past 40 years, more than 700 million poor people have been lifted out of poverty. From joining the World Trade Organization to the Belt and Road initiative, China has continually contributed more than 30 percent for the world economy growth for many years, and become the main stabilizer of world economic growth," Alqemzi said.

Skoda thinks the construction industry has changed the skyline of Chinese cities. According to him, this is the most impressive change that China has undergone during the past 40 years.

Diplomatic and visionary

When asked how the policy influenced their countries and the world as well as the relationship between China and their countries, all the consuls general replied that their countries benefited a lot from the policy.

A year after China opened up, Ireland established diplomatic relationship with China in 1979.

"And at that time, Ireland was undergoing some economic difficulties. But we still took that decision to open up an embassy in China. And bilateral trade at that time was just 1.3 million euros ($1.5 million) between the two countries. So we didn't do it for the immediate economic benefits, but we did see after that announcement, China was embarking on a new journey which we wanted to be part of. Small in population as we are, we felt we could offer something to China that would be useful,"  Healy said.

"So that [establishment of diplomatic relationship with China] was a good decision, a very visionary decision that our leadership took. This year, the estimated bilateral trade is 16 billion euros, so quite a big jump over the last 40 years," Healy added.

New Zealand was the first developed country to recognize China's market economy, and to support its entry into the WTO. New Zealand was also the very first country to start negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with China, the first developed country to do so. And the two countries concluded their free trade agreement negotiations in 2008.

"Since then, our relationship has really flourished, our economic trade relationship has become extremely successful, and our bilateral trade has grown almost three times from what it was in 2008 and its bilateral trade is now over NZ$26 billion ($17 billion). So New Zealand has very much benefited from China's open policy and China's commitment to liberalize its trade. Of course we look forward to continuing improvements," Guermanoff said.

According to Alqemzi, since 2016 China replaced India as the largest trader partner of the UAE, with a bilateral trade volume about $40.98 billion in 2017, of which about $3 billion with Shanghai. It is estimated that around 70 percent of Chinese exports are re-exported from the UAE to other markets in the GCC, India and North Africa. There are more than 300,000 Chinese living there and 4,000 Chinese companies operating in the UAE.

The recent decision to exempt UAE nationals from obtaining pre-entry visas to China starting January 2018 was a positive development. It followed a similar move by the UAE government in 2016 to grant visas on arrival for Chinese visitors to the country. DHS and renminbi can do direct exchanges.

"We see these moves as major steps forward that will usher in a new chapter of China-UAE relations and further strengthen economic cooperation," Alqemzi said.

Mauludiah thinks the relationship between Indonesia and China now is actually a very good shape and the development in China has also benefited Indonesia. The increasing purchasing power of Chinese people and the big size of China market enabled Indonesian products to enter and thrive in the local market. In the past few years, more and more commodities from Indonesia are available in China. This proves that Indonesia also benefited from the development of China, Mauludiah said.

Turkey started the reform process also in 1980s. Turkish government at that time decided to open up Turkish economy and started to follow a model of functioning market economy based on export.

"But I think infrastructure investment is key to improve and sustain the economic progress of the country. I think the biggest advantage of China is Chinese people as a whole save the money that they earn, and they put it into the investments. That's the biggest inspiration for Turkey," Angılı said.

"Israel is a very long-standing partner of China in many fields since we established relations 26 years ago in January 1992. Israel became a very close ally of China in economic field, in education, in science and technology. We have done a lot of partnerships between companies in different fields. Israel also takes a part in Chinese initiatives. We see this is a very important way in the way that China talks about integration between Asia and other part of the world," Propper said.

"I would say there are good and bad things. They're very competitive. European industries are facing strong competition. On the other side, our customers are benefiting from this," Skoda said.

Guergana Guermanoff Photo: Global Times


Rashed Matar Alqemzi Photo: Global Times


Therese Healy Photo: Global Times


Sabri Tunç Angili Photo: Global Times


Siti Nugraha Mauludiah Photo: Global Times


Eyal Propper Photo: Global Times


Bojan Skoda Photo: Global Times

Newspaper headline: 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up


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