China makes efforts to bring prosperity to the world alongside domestic growth
Published: Jun 10, 2024 07:26 PM
A view of Shanghai Photo: VCG

A view of Shanghai Photo: VCG

Editor's Note: 
In Beijing, the essay topic for the English test of this year's gaokao focuses on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Chinese middle school student Li Hua is asked to offer some suggestions to his foreign friend Jim, who wants to write a piece on this subject. To help enlighten Jim as well as those who are interested in China's development, Global Times invited several foreign experts and observers to share their insights on China's great achievements in various spheres over the past seven and half decades. This is the first piece of the series.

On October 1 this year, the People's Republic of China (PRC) will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its founding. At the risk of engaging in hyperbole, it is doubtful the global community in 1949 would have foreseen what the nation would become over time.

I begin with the obvious: The PRC, when it was officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) in 1971, was a long way from asserting itself on the global stage. But with reform and opening-up beginning seven years later, that's where the country has steadily earned its place. Through its growing diplomatic presence across the globe and its ever-expanding economy, China provides nations big and small with assurances that it is, and will remain, a proactive actor.

In 2018, the Brookings Institution reviewed the first four decades of reform and opening-up. It noted that China had been "profoundly transformed" with the Chinese people understanding the clear benefits of an improved standard of living. It added the following: "A clear majority of China's people (often an overwhelming majority) express satisfaction with the regime's policies, are optimistic about the direction of the country and indicate that they expect their children to have a better life than they do." The country eradicated extreme poverty almost four years ago, and the World Bank estimates that China's per capita GDP is now above $12,000. Keep in mind that it was less than $1,000 at the beginning of this century.

Chinese leader has affirmed China is now a moderately prosperous society. What's the next goal? "We are now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects," the Chinese president said.

Alongside domestic growth, efforts have been made to bring prosperity to other nations. Perhaps the most talked about program is the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which started over 10 years ago. Roughly 150 nations are involved. Major infrastructure projects were one defining example of the BRI's initial decade. According to one estimate, China invested more than $1 trillion in the projects. Meanwhile, because the geographical scope of the BRI is constantly expanding, Latin America might become a central player in subsequent years. 

Whether it will rival the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which since its creation according to another estimate has created "236,000 jobs and helped Pakistan add 510 kilometers of expressways and 8,000 megawatts of power supply," will become clearer over time.

It is disappointing to note that as the PRC soon celebrates its 75th anniversary, its relations with the US are nowhere near where they were 50 years ago. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, following president Richard Nixon's historic visit to Beijing in 1972, the two countries established diplomatic relations, commenced high-level exchanges, signed several cooperation agreements and worked together to ensure China's accession into the World Trade Organization. Those accomplishments are just a few examples of how positive bilateral relations between the world's two most powerful nations can foster goodwill.

Of course, the idea of a multipolar world, where nations need not see only one locus of international power, does not sit well in the West. That reality provides a significant cause of the fracture in the relationship. Yes, there are plenty of reasons for the US most especially to tout the world order created after World War II. However, the pressure applied to many countries during that time to adopt Western values was not positively received in many foreign capitals.

China's approach is different, and should the US and its closest allies continue to view the Global South with apprehension, if not disdain, then that part of the world will continue to be amenable to Beijing's message: The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, unveiled by late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1953, form the core of China's philosophy.

The global picture in 2024 remains unstable. Military conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, climate change and chronic economic inequality challenge world leaders to find the right solutions. As those efforts continue, China will be at the center of all the conversations. Its commitment to working with the UN to make the world a better place will continue. So, too, will the development of the Chinese nation.

The author is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn