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China set to further boost global growth

By Zhu Feng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-08 07:35
Industrial robots move production material in a factory of Wenzhou Ruiming Industrial Co Ltd in Ruian. Companies in Wenzhou are putting money into automating their traditional assembly lines. [Photo/Xinhua]

The theory of international relations tells us that development helps reduce conflicts among states, mitigate domestic ethnic differences and eliminate the threats extremists and terrorists pose to society. The concept of "development" in world politics does not only indicate economic growth, rising employment and income augmentation, but also includes social justice, equality, and democracy and legality of governance.

In the 21st century, the emphasis of development is more on the harmony and mutual support between human beings and nature, and between the economic and natural environment. The United Nations' advocacy of "sustainable development" has made environmental and ecological protection a primary goal of economic development.

In addition, the concept of development now incorporates fields such as rationalization of demographic structure, enhancement of universal education level, new ways of resource conservation and environmental protection, and industrial policies aimed at promoting scientific and technological innovation. Sustainable development has increasingly become the endogenous driving force behind a new round of globalization, and the path toward national and regional prosperity and stability.

As far as the mega-trend of global development is concerned, 40 years of reform and opening-up tell a vivid "China story", the story of China making significant contributions to world development. And that was made possible because Chinese leaders have adhered to the doctrine of "concentration on construction and development" for four decades.

Latecomer but fast learner

Since China has the world's largest population and huge differences in its regional development levels, during its initial development stages it lacked advantages such as natural endowment and early modernization progress which India and some Southeast Asian and Latin American countries had. Still, over the past four decades, China has achieved outstanding results thanks to its policy of "concentration on construction and development".

In 2000, China's GDP accounted for only 10 percent that of the United States. But by 2017, the percentage had reached 60. In 2000, 40.8 percent of high school graduates in China enrolled in universities, but by 2017 that figure had risen to 58.2 percent. Also, by 2017 China had implemented the two-child policy compared with the strict "one-child policy" in 2000. And by last year the comprehensive ecological management had become the most crucial task for the government-in contrast to the environmental pollution and ecological damage in 2000.

Beijing, which used to be covered by thick smog especially in winter, now enjoys more blue skies and much cleaner air. As President Xi Jinping has said, "beautiful scenery is the gold and silver mines".

As an important part of social development, the Chinese government has implemented a policy of "targeted poverty reduction". Even in some backward and remote mountainous areas and central and western regions, supporting projects led by governments at all levels have helped a large number of people emerge out of poverty.

Historical change in domestic policies

Thanks to the driving force of "development", China's domestic and diplomatic policies have undergone historical changes. From 1949 to 1979, China was involved in a few wars and border clashes. But since then, it has not been involved in any large-scale foreign military conflicts. Although China has some territorial and maritime disputes with some of its neighbors, it has always used dialogue and pragmatic cooperation as the basic principle to address them. For example, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have started negotiations on the Code of Conduct, in order to build an order based on regulations in contentious areas of the South China Sea.

Moreover, a fast-developing China has been playing a significant role in the new global progress, which in turn is promoting global development, benefiting the international community and stimulating its own development.

In October 2013, Xi proposed the Belt and Road Initiative to improve infrastructure connectivity among China, Central Asia, Europe and Africa, so as to make trade more convenient. The initiative is aimed at developing a more close-knit economic, social and cultural "development circle", and will help China share its development experience and capability with other economies to build a high-quality platform for trade and cultural and other exchanges.

In fact, the Belt and Road Initiative reflects China's development potential and need for further development. By last year, China's GDP had reached more than $12 trillion. But a large amount of raw materials for the manufacturing industries, and agricultural and ancillary products depend on imports, while China's manufacturing production capacity needs more international markets. Given these facts, the Belt and Road Initiative can help boost China's development as it is designed to further integrate it with the world economy.

China an engine for global growth

Extending the internal impetus and demand of China's development across the world is a common need for global development and China's further economic growth, as well as an opportunity for the least developed countries and regions to boost development. For example, from 2008 to 2017, China's total amount of interest subsidies, low interest loans, and government assistance to African and Latin American countries surpassed that of the developed countries for the first time.

China announced-in 2015 and 2018-that it would provide combined $120 billion development assistance to African countries. The development assistance includes not only financial aid and soft loans from the government, but also project development loans and import-export financing loans offered by China's commercial banks. With the stimulation of China's increasing development capability, economic and trade ties between China and African countries are getting deeper. No wonder trade between China and Africa increased to $170 billion in 2017.

China's investment projects in Africa employ a large number of African workers, which not only boosts the employment rate and tax revenue of the local governments, but also promotes unprecedented economic growth in some African countries such as Ethiopia. As a World Bank report says, China's economic growth and development tendency have become a powerful engine motivating global economic growth.

China's economic assistance to developing countries supplements the international development funding and aid programs of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In particular, as the US has been refusing to advance the upper limit of the IMF's loan, China's development aid under the Belt and Road Initiative framework has been alleviating the capital shortage in countries such as Pakistan and invigorating the economic development of many African countries.

Some Western leaders and media outlets accuse China of pursuing "economic imperialism" in Africa and complain that it is forcing developing countries into a "debt trap". Such leaders and media outlets are simply prejudiced against China and its assistance programs for developing countries. The fact is, when it comes to development aid to and economic cooperation with other developing countries, China has always followed the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs and does not attach any political conditions to its aid.

Constructive plan in the true sense

As for the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has from the beginning followed the principle of "achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration". And the Belt and Road "construction plan" has never been China's "geopolitical expansionary strategy".

The world has been undergoing unprecedented changes since the end of the Cold War. Now, the Donald Trump administration has added a dangerous dimension to the changes by implementing reckless nationalist economic policies, imposing high tariffs on imports and severe sanctions on countries in the pursuit of his "America First" policy.

As such, the liberal global trade order is at stake, emerging economies are suffering from monetary and debt crises, and global economic prospects are getting bleak. But despite such severe tests, Beijing remains confident of deepening domestic reform and opening-up, as it continues to inject vitality into global economic growth and shoulder more global responsibilities.

And as an important engine for global development and the proponent of "a community with a shared future for mankind", China hopes more countries, regions and organizations would help build a better world so that all economies together could conquer new peaks of political, economic and social development in the 21st century.

The author is profess and director of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University. He is also executive director of the Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, Nanjing University.

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