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Foreign Policy

China’s Reform and Opening-Up Is an Example to the World

Jan 07, 2019
  • He Yafei

    Former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. On December 18, President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. Looking back at history and looking forward to the future, the Chinese people are full of excitement and are more confident about China’s future and the future of humankind.

Reform and opening-up is a historical initiative of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people. It has profoundly changed China and the world. China’s reform and opening-up has entered a new stage of development. Just as President Xi Jinping said, reform and opening up is always ongoing and will never end. This is good news for China and the world.

Here is what history and reality tell us.

Only by insisting on reform and opening-up can China achieve another economic take-off, political stability, and social harmony, overcome the “middle-income trap,” and realize the two strategic goals of making the country prosperous and strong; and only by adhering to the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China and to socialism with Chinese characteristics can reform and opening-up move along the right path. It is the historical experience and consensus of the Chinese nation from 1840 to the present to search for China’s development path and model.

Reform and opening-up has determined China’s destiny and a model for the close integration and elevation of Marxism with Chinese practice. China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion, has moved from a planned economy to a socialist market economy, from a closed and semi-closed country to a country that is wide open to the outside world. More than 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty and per capita GDP has risen from less than $200 to nearly $9,000. China’s total economic output has become the second highest in the world and the country has changed tremendously. The Chinese people have stood up, grown rich, and are becoming strong, and they have progressed step by step along a path that has become wider and wider. Reform and opening-up has led to economic development, political stability, and social harmony—all three of which complement each other. It can be said that reform and opening-up is the fundamental path and the only way for the Chinese people to stand in the forest of the world’s powerful countries.

Only by insisting on reform and opening-up can China promote the rebalancing of the global economy, adapt globalization to a changing world, resolve the deglobalizing trend of populism, and consolidate and strengthen rule-based global governance in order to achieve lasting peace and create a beautiful new world of harmony.

Globalization and global governance face enormous challenges in today’s world. The widening gap between the rich and poor, the shifting of global supply chains, and the impact of the technological revolution on employment have provided fertile ground for populism, isolationism, and protectionism. The spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 2016 U.S. general election, the double threat of the European migrant crisis and financial crisis, Britain’s Brexit referendum, and the rise of the Yellow Vest movement in France are all symptoms of populism. How to effectively address these global challenges at both the international and national levels has become a global problem. China’s reform and opening-up by considering economic development and social equity has proved successful in domestic governance, providing the world with valuable experience that promotes economic development while avoiding polarization. China’s development path and model clearly cannot be copied, but its rich and unique governance ideas and path are indeed the common wealth of the world.

President Xi Jinping has emphasized on many occasions that we must consolidate and adhere to rule-based global governance. As the saying goes, without rules, nothing can get done. Moreover, the rules of political economy and trade of the global governance system were summed up in the lessons of World War II and have stood the test of time for more than 70 years. There is no doubt that the international situation and global forces have been and are undergoing unprecedented changes. The existing global governance structures, rules, and systems need major reforms, but starting from scratch is not a solution. Only by maintaining the existing rule-based governance system and through appropriate consultations by all countries can we make proper and gradual reforms, including reform of the World Trade Organization.

Only by insisting on reform and opening-up can China stick to the path of peaceful development, gradually resolve the growing geopolitical struggles, ease the increasingly tense relations between the major powers, and promote dialogue among civilizations and oppose a clash of civilizations, in order to create a political foundation for lasting peace in the world and global economic development and to create the necessary conditions for a more just and fair world order.

Openness between China and the countries of the world has led to the formation of global value chains, production chains, and supply chains that are efficient and interdependent in the era of globalization, providing a powerful driving force for the steady development of the global economy. At the same time, greater interdependence among countries has created the fundamental conditions for avoiding war and striving for lasting peace. Although this is not absolute, there is a real and unquestionable relationship between economic relations and peace. As can be seen with the increased trade friction between China and the United States, some Americans who represent the other side of this argument want to decouple the American economy from the Chinese economy.

If geopolitical contradictions are not resolved or reduced, it is very likely that competitors will turn from imaginary enemies into real enemies. China’s promotion of a global partnership is the path to peace and prosperity. No matter how different historical traditions, ideologies, economic models, and cultural civilizations, the reality of the global village in the era of globalization cannot be changed. A competitor is not an enemy and does not have to be one. Competitive neutrality, which is an economic term, can also be used in the handling of geopolitical issues; that is, peaceful competition and win-win cooperation. The law of the jungle in which only the fittest survive has lost its meaning and foundation in the era of multi-polarization and economic globalization.

Countries should ask themselves, whose world is this? Europe has been at the center of modern and contemporary history since the Peace of Westphalia. However, the wheel of history is rolling forward. Today’s world is for people of all countries. It is not the world of one or two countries. The United States, China, Russia, the European Union, Japan, and India are all countries of the world. Basic global governance cannot be based on self-interest, a doctrine that puts one nation before all others, and pushing the world into more disorder and fragmentation.

President Xi Jinping recently declared that no matter how China develops, it will not threaten any country, will not subvert the existing international system, and will not seek its own sphere of influence. This is China’s worldview and view of the world. China’s 40 years of reform and opening-up experience in international relations and global governance is the correct answer to this philosophical issue.

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