Leading the world toward peace, prosperity
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and the remarkable achievements China has made, especially during the four decades of reform and opening-up, are enough for the Chinese people to celebrate this historical occasion.
But the unprecedented challenges China faces today, from its slowing economic growth and trade frictions with the United States to the risks posed by rising populism in many Western economies, have left many people worried.
True, many of the challenges are unprecedented. But China has overcome many unprecedented challenges since 1949. For example, in 1979, China's per capita GDP was only $200 and 80 percent of its people lived in rural areas. The lack of food was a big problem in those days. Even when it hosted the Asian Games for the first time in 1990, China didn't have enough money to finance the event and had to seek donations from society.
However, by continuously deepening reform and opening-up, China achieved two-digit economic growth for decades, which in turn has made it a major country on the global stage. And now even a provincial-level Chinese city can host events such as the Asian Games on its own.
When the PRC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999, its biggest challenge was to become a member of the World Trade Organization, because that was needed to guide reform and opening-up in the right direction. Twenty years ago, many sectors of the economy, especially the banking sector, suffered huge losses and would have become bankrupt without the support of the State.
The situation was so volatile that the The Coming Collapse of China became a bestseller in the West, with many Westerners saying that a China with backward technologies and weak competitiveness would fail to meet the requirements of being a WTO member. But China not only met all the requirements of the WTO; it also used its WTO membership to boost its growth and overtake the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan to become the world's second-largest economy.
In 2009, when the PRC celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding, the subprime crisis that originated in the US had turned into a global financial crisis, and Europe was mired in the sovereign debt crisis. Those too were unprecedented challenges for China. Even at that time, Western mainstream media predicted the collapse of the Chinese economy because of its high dependence on the Western market.
Not only did their predictions prove wrong, but also China overtook the US to become the world's biggest car market and manufacturer. Plus, China now has the world's largest high-speed railway network－more than 60 percent of the world's total.
Besides, China's total GDP crossed 90 trillion yuan in 2018($13.18 trillion), which means China's per capita GDP has exceeded $10,000. This means China has successfully overcome the "middle-income trap".
Moreover, China helped establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and launched the Belt and Road Initiative to share with the rest of world the fruits and experiences of its reform and opening-up, which reflect China's self-confidence and open-mindedness.
Looking back on China's development over the past decades, we can safely conclude that it has faced many unprecedented challenges before and successfully met them every time while creating fresh opportunities for further development.
In the past, thanks to the help of Western capital, technologies and markets, and the West-established international systems, China could basically achieve its economic development through scientific planning, diligence and hard work. But if China wants to overcome today's challenges, it has to solve not only its own problems, but also the problems of other countries and regions.
The West, once the engine of China's development, has now become an obstacle. China will have to make tough strategic choices in the future between fixing and sustaining the system and helping build a new one.
The Chinese civilization can provide endless cultural treasures and spiritual resources for the world's social and economic transformation and future human society. So what people now expect China to do is not only to become more prosperous and powerful, but also to help lead the world toward peace and common prosperity.
The author is a researcher at the China Institute, Fudan University.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.