Peaceful development engraved in Chinese people’s bones
Published: Feb 22, 2023 09:21 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

After the Chinese New Year, I went to South China's Guangdong, the largest province by GDP in China, and visited seven cities along the coast from Zhanjiang to Chaozhou. What attracted me most were the scenes of fireworks and incense. 

Night after night, the sound of firecrackers continued until the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The dim sum restaurants resumed their usual popularity, and the temple became more crowded with worshippers standing shoulder to shoulder.

Friends told me that in Guangdong, the temple's burning incense is an important "index" to predict the economic heat. It has gone beyond religious beliefs and become a cultural and social tradition. Through the incense, you can see the people's expectations for the coming year.

In Guangzhou, the neighborhood where I live was built on the site of the original Guangzhou Iron and Steel Factory, which represented the industrial system initially established in new China. In 2014, the New York Times published a story with the poignant tone of the headline: "As Steel Mill Closes, Guangzhou Loses a Piece of Its History." I wish the writer of this article would come back for a second look.  

Today a new residential town has been built here, with tall buildings and stores. The best high school in Guangzhou has also opened a branch here. Some of the old blast furnaces and plants of the steel mill have been preserved and will become a heritage park, while a museum is under construction next to it. A security guard told me that over the years, former workers of this factory kept coming here to visit.

An old steel mill closed, but China not only has the world's largest steel industry in terms of production, but also consumes the most steel products. 10 years ago when I interviewed Jose Carlos Martins, the executive president of Vale, the largest miner in Brazil, he proudly said that in many of the tall buildings in China, there are "Brazilian stones." The stone he was talking about was iron ore.

When I talked to the residents around me, there was never any talk about the "big issues" of the world, but only the "small issues" that are closely related to people's lives and their families, such as the adjustment of medical insurance, children's education and the price of vegetables.

Guangdong was the first region in China to open up. It also has very close people-to-people ties with the outside world. Guangdong's development has always been supported by overseas Chinese. If you talk to the local people in Guangdong today about the economy, they will tell you about things related to foreign cooperation.

Although the pursuit of wealth is still the main preoccupation of many ordinary people, they now don't have the same state of mind as when they or their fathers started their businesses. Times are different, but the Chinese people's pursuit of a better life has not changed, and the belief that life will become better, which has been unleashed since the reform and opening-up, has remained even more unchanged. And a happy future, in their view, can only be achieved through the peaceful development of the country.

In the past few days, China has released the Global Security Initiative Concept Paper. It would be an understatement to consider this constructive document to promote peaceful global development as a mere opinion of the Chinese government. 

This initiative is based on the Chinese people's practice of development and going global since reform and opening-up. It reflects the voice of the Chinese people, and moreover, the needs of the people in their daily life.

It tells the world what kind of world order the over 1.4 billion Chinese want. Looking back at the history of the rise of the global powers, we will see that the Chinese pursuit is unique. In the rise of old European colonial powers like Britain, development was always linked to global plunder and colonialism. There is no European power whose colonial expansion was not accompanied by bloody killings. 

Many ordinary people in Britain built their happiness and good life as well as the realization of their dreams of wealth and prosperity on overseas plundering. This passion for taking risks, killing and plundering has even been celebrated as the "spirit of the sea" necessary for the rise of any great nation.

The key to understanding the Chinese initiative lies in truly understanding what the Chinese people want and are seeking. Peaceful development for the Chinese is not just an idea, but an innate worldview engraved in their bones and blood.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina