U.S. experts identify main drivers behind China's historic transformation

2019-10-08 03:41:43 GMT2019-10-08 11:41:43(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- How did the People's Republic of China (PRC) transform itself from an impoverished country on the brink of economic collapse into the world's second largest economy in merely seven decades?

Many were asking themselves this question when the PRC celebrated its 70th founding anniversary on Oct. 1.

Hardworking people, political stability, reform and opening-up are among the top factors that enabled the "China miracle," said a group of veteran U.S. experts on the Asian country in recent interviews with Xinhua.

DRIVING PRINCIPLES

China has made two "equally important historic transformations" in the past 70 years alongside its remarkable economic development -- China's "pro-active engagement" with the world community and its "remarkable success in poverty alleviation," said Robert Kuhn, 75, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation.

As regards the remarkable economic development undergirding the two historic transformations, Kuhn said it can be attributed to a set of "driving principles."

Among them, he observed, are a people working long and hard to improve the lives of their families and the destiny of their country, and a system that enforces political stability and encourages economic freedom.

Also on Kuhn's list are a vision that sets long-term goals, mid-term objectives and short-term policies that are monitored and modified continuously, a way of thinking that emphasizes experimentation before implementation, and a willingness to admit and correct errors.

"The free trade zone in Shanghai was operated for three years before the free trade zones were opened in other cities, now more than a dozen, including all of Hainan Province," he said.

"Not just foreigners, I guess for most Chinese people themselves, they had never imagined their country could develop so fast," said Ezra Vogel, 89, a professor emeritus at Harvard University.

"I see Chinese people's livelihood get better year after year," said Vogel, who has been traveling to China "at least once a year" since the 1980s.

During his latest trip in November 2018, he took a bullet train from Beijing to eastern China's Shandong Province, and found the experience "very good."

In Vogel's opinion, China's economic take-off was a direct result of its reform and opening-up policy -- a "terrific decision" made by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978, as the country has since been growing by leaps and bounds.

Vogel spent 10 years studying Deng and turned this effort into a book titled "Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China." Published in 2011, the over 900-page tome has provided a window for Westerners to gain a better understanding of modern China.

Vogel believes education has played a vital part in China's success. "The students (who) got enrolled into college (in China) after 1978 were very brilliant," he said. "Their modern way of thinking has brought great changes to the country."

Unlike the former Soviet Union, Vogel said, China has never been afraid of sending tens of thousands of young people to study abroad, which is part of the capacity-building strategy spearheaded by Deng.

"The Communist Party of China (CPC) has done the right thing," said Henry Lee, 81, a forensic expert and professor at the University of New Haven.

"Uniting all the forces that can be united, concentrating on major tasks, pursuing economic development and leading the people to common prosperity is the only correct path for China," he said.

Praising the "flexibility amongst China's leaders," Sarwar Kashmeri, an adjunct professor of political science at Norwich University, said: "I cannot even imagine how difficult it must have been for a leader of China to (reform and open up) a completely inward looking economy."

"That must have taken so much courage and so much flexibility ... and to put all of that together into a strategy, which perhaps didn't all come together at one time. But block by block it came together," he said.

CHINESE PHILOSOPHY AND UNIFIED LEADERSHIP

Looking back at the PRC's history, two major events had changed the country's destiny, said James Hsiung, 84, a professor of politics and international law at New York University.

The successful test of its first atomic bomb in 1964 had made countries including the United States begin to "treat China differently," while the reform and opening-up in 1978 has enabled China's economy to develop "at an unprecedented speed," said Hsiung, who just came back from China in August.

"Much of China's success has been due to its ability to combine two 'opposing' systems -- socialism and market economy and make them mutually reinforcing. To put it simple, 'one plus one is more than two,'" he said.

"This original idea is originated from the Chinese culture and philosophy," he said. From a Western point of view, he said it was hard to believe that socialism and a market economy could be combined.

As "a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and culture," the two opposites of yin and yang "attract and complement each other," said the professor, who was born in China's central province of Henan. "The success of the socialist market economy is precisely a result of the wisdom of Chinese philosophy."

"It is undeniable that China's splendid success proves Western capitalism is by no means the only option for a country's development," he said.

Another important factor that led to the success of China's reform and opening-up is "the unified leadership" of the ruling CPC, Hsiung said.

The CPC is "both China's 'mind' and 'heart,'" and "its unified leadership" guarantees an effective implementation of national policies from the central government on local levels. "This is something totally different from how divided and weak China was before 1949," he said.

Apparently, China's remarkable achievements in the past 70 years also "made it clear" that Chinese culture and philosophy "got many advantages in national political and economic governance and the Chinese people have every reason to be confident and proud about their history and culture," Hsiung said.

"Without a strong economic foundation, China would not have an important position on the world stage today," said Lee. "China has its own national conditions and must have a political system suitable for China's development."

"Weak countries have no diplomacy, and there must be a strong backing for diplomacy. Therefore, China needs not to be afraid of being criticized by others and does its own things earnestly," he said. "Only by doing so can a strong China have a say in the world."

Kashmeri, also a Foreign Policy Association fellow, attributed China's unprecedented rapid development to its "own way of governing -- socialism with Chinese characteristics."

"I believe a lot of the (Western) theories that have been used to analyze China have been very self-serving," Kashmeri said.

"It should be understandable that China has its own way of governing," he said. "As far as I know, it (China) is not interested in taking its way and changing every country in the world."

"China now is a place that has gleaming infrastructure -- that's the envy of the world. It's a place that is dynamic. It's a place that's energetic," said James Heimowitz, president of the New York City-based China Institute, who has lived 45 years in China.

"It's a place that knows how to respect its history. But it's not trapped in living in the past. And it's still looking to the future," he said.

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