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What Did the 40th-Anniversary Celebration Say about Reform and Opening Up?

Jan 22 , 2019
  • Yu Sui

    Professor, China Center for Contemporary World Studies

“China is a sleeping lion,” Napoléon Bonaparte reportedly said. “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” The prophecy has repeatedly been confirmed by the birth of the Communist Party of China, the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese miracle created in the 40 years of reform and opening up. President Xi Jinping’s speech at the commemoration actually endorsed the statement, because he said, “Reform and opening up is a great awakening of our party.”

The 40th-anniversary commemoration sent four messages to the rest of the world.

First, it told the world, the Chinese people have chosen the correct path.

In addition to the fact that the CPC has grasped the future and destiny of the country and been keenly aware of the people’s expectations and demands, two other points have been essential for China to make such a correct choice: it has learnt from the successes and failures since the founding of the Republic, and developed an insight into the basic trends of history.

In learning from history, for instance, it broke from longstanding leftist mistakes, and determinedly and put an end to the obsession with “class struggles.”

When it comes to mastering the trend of world history, it paid due attention to the achievements of human civilization at the capitalist stage, and learnt from the market economy instead of rejecting it. But the turn from a planned economy to a market one has been a complicated process, rather than a simple act of copying. This was another arduous process.

Whether or not we have chosen a correct path must be tested in practice, and endorsed by the Chinese people. Just like President Xi said five years ago, “Only feet know if shoes fit well, only the people of a country know what development path their country should take.”

Second, it told the world that tremendous achievements have been made possible by concerted endeavors of the entire nation.

The amazing achievements of China over 40 years of reform and opening up would not have been possible had the diligent and brave people of China not worked so hard. In order to continue succeeding, they will have to keep working hard.

Why have the Chinese striven so hard? Because, having been through humiliating foreign suppression in modern history, they know how important it is for a country of such vast territory, huge population. and weak economic foundations to change its own fate, and achieve common prosperity. The people-oriented policies the party and government adopted have brought people gain, happiness and security. The grand “twin centennial goals” have thus become common pursuits of this nation of 1.3 billion. The Chinese people are now striding forward on the road of “innovative, coordinated, green, open, shared development.”

The Chinese people will not forget friendly countries’ and international friends’ sympathy and support for China’s reform and opening up, and wish to continue cooperating closely with them.

Third, it told the world, the Chinese people will unswervingly follow this path in the future.

This path carries the Chinese people’s faith, belief, and confidence. The clear goal is their faith; the belief is that stability and development must go hand in hand; and they are confident reform and opening up will enter a new, higher stage.

Knowing there still is a long, tortuous way ahead, the Chinese people will never stop pressing ahead, as they always have.

There has been no lack of doubts and complaints about what China has achieved. Which is no surprise. As the popular Chinese saying goes, everyone is worth respect for what he or she chooses. Only facts can tell who has chosen a broad path of peaceful development and win-win cooperation, and who is on a single-plank bridge of unilateralism and protectionism.

Fourth, it told the world, the Chinese are trustworthy partners, and the peacefully rising China is nothing to fear.

The 40-year reform and opening up has proceeded in an atmosphere of peaceful development. The Chinese people are keenly aware China’s development can’t go on without the rest of the world, and the world’s prosperity also needs China. For 40 years, China has adhered to an independent policy of peaceful diplomacy, followed a path of peaceful development, adopted a strategy of openness featuring mutual benefits and win-win cooperation, and resolutely safeguarded the basic rules of international relations as well as international fairness and justice.

At the latest commemoration, President Xi reiterated that China’s development constitutes no threat to any country, China will never pursue hegemony no matter how strong it becomes. Such a solemn pledge will surely be matched byChinese diplomacy.

As Confucius said, one develops a mature view of the world by age 40. China, through its 40 years of reform and opening up, certainly has developed a better sense of what is right and wrong. With what it has learnt in the process, it will absolutely not hesitate to continue pressing ahead on the path.

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