News analysis: Chinese modernization will bring great benefits to the world
Published: Apr 26, 2023 09:02 PM
Guangzhou Port. Photo: Chen Tao/GT

Guangzhou Port. Photo: Chen Tao/GT

A recent trip brought me to the southernmost point of the city of Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province. Situated at the mouth of the Pearl River, surrounded by the wonders of modern China (the area is flanked on both sides by the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Link and the Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport), are gigantic warehouses built on what a few years ago was just marshland. Here, I had some thoughts about Chinese modernization and how it may look in the decades to come.

The southern province, long considered a pace-setter of the country's reform and opening-up that began in the late 1970s, has just been visited by China's top leader, who asked the province to be a trailblazer on the Chinese path to modernization.

I had several observations. First, China's modernization will be marked with a scale and efficiency unprecedented in history. At Guangzhou's Jiangnan fruit market, the largest such market in Asia, people are driving hundreds of reefer trucks directly into the market. 

This, according to a fruit industry veteran, is very rare in the rest of the world. In places like Thailand, business is done by smaller trucks. The other thing is how the market is managed to a jaw-dropping efficiency. For instance, when the huge market is closed at trading intervals, it's cleaned up to a spotless state. 

People who frequent a fresh market know what it takes. This amazed the agent, who saw first-hand how the market grew in the past decade. Then, at a mariculture company, I was personally impressed by how digitalization has helped put the industry on a better competitive footing. 

All the market information - lists of importers and exporters, supply and demand shown in real time, deals signed seconds ago or whatever shipments just arrived - are minutely and rigorously displayed on a panel on the wall and laid out right before the viewers' eyes. 

Second, Chinese modernization will be powered by Chinese people's pursuit toward higher-quality life. Let's come back to the fruit market. As a reefer is opened, dozens of sellers, traders and wholesalers crowd in and bend over a basket of fruit, exclaiming "hooray," to see, examine and taste the precious cargo, freshly arrived on China's shore after a trip of thousands of miles at sea. 

As it is the tradition of Guangdong, which I think also applies to people in all of China, the best food always gets the best reception. As the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative revs up global connectivity, China's vast market and Chinese people's steadily increasing demand are attracting more and more exotic and faraway types of fruits to the scene.

The third point follows the first. Even as China holds a leading position in many fields, there is still great potential to develop further. For instance, at the Port of Guangzhou, an executive told me that the multimodal sea-to-rail combined transport system is still at its emerging state. Multimodal sea-to-rail transport only accounts for 4 percent of all cargo transported in China in 2020, while in developed countries the ratio can be as high as 40 percent. Areas such as this offer brand-new scope for incremental growth.

Some Chinese economists believe that the Chinese economy has a fairly large chance to achieve its potential growth rate, at around 5 percent annually, in the next decade, if the country continues to push reform and opening-up. Sitting in the office in Beijing, I often doubt how true such a prediction can be. Here, such doubts are replaced by conviction.

Last but not least, Chinese modernization will be an internationalized one and it will benefit the whole world. The fruit agent told me that in 20 minutes, within a space of 4-5 square meters, one can see a wide range of fruits from up to six countries - a tribute to China's level of internationalization. 

It is safe to say the fruit market is just one example, as China's continued opening-up has and will bring unprecedented opportunities to its trade and investment partners with its participation in global trade pacts such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. An open, vast market growing at medium speed is a delight to the world.