Foreign Perspectives on the Chinese Path
When the world was watching the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to see the direction China is going to take in the future, which would impact the rest of the world as well, China Today spoke with three foreigners who have been promoting exchanges between China and the West. They gave their perspectives on the report President Xi Jinping tabled at the opening of the week-long congress in his capacity as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee. They also analyzed what has made the 101-year-old Party so successful in propelling China to historic growth.
Addressing Crises: From Climate to Communication
Alistair Michie, Secretary General of the British East Asia Council, is a public diplomacy expert. He is also an old friend of China and a recipient of the Chinese government’s Friendship Award, the highest state honor for foreigners. In 2012, when he was invited to attend a symposium, he became the first Briton to brief Xi Jinping, who was newly elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Since then, Michie has been a frequent visitor to China, committed to advancing exchanges and pragmatic cooperation between China and the U.K. and building a global understanding of China.
Michie has a warm anecdote to share. This summer, fourth graders from the Francis Holland School, an international school for girls in London, wrote to President Xi Jinping, telling him about their worries over climate change and how they felt leaders should take immediate action. To their joy, in April, Zheng Zeguang, Chinese ambassador to the U.K. brought them a reply from the Chinese president.
Xi had written that rivers and mountains are as important as, if not more than, silver and gold. “The world is a beautiful and precious place, full of resources that we must protect,” he wrote in the letter. “The children of the world must work together to ensure that the future is safe.”
Michie says China’s action in tackling climate change shows global leadership on an issue critical for sustainable development of future generations. The report to the 18th CPC National Congress had a new chapter on promoting an ecological civilization and creating a green China. “Many researchers noticed this change,” he said. The new chapter stood out as the structure of the reports to the Party’s national congresses usually follows a fixed pattern. It said China will develop solar and wind energy and electric vehicle technologies. Between the 18th and 19th CPC national congresses in 2012 and 2017, respectively, China emerged as a global leader in clean and renewable energy. The report to the 19th CPC National Congress highlighted building a “beautiful China” with strong policies to create a sustainable environment and tackle climate change.
This time, the report reiterates pursuing green development and promoting harmony between humanity and nature, and speeding up planning and developing new energy sources. Also, it says China will get actively involved in global governance in response to climate change.
Analyzing the report, he notes three major events of the past decade it mentions: the centenary of the CPC in 2021; ushering in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics; the completion of the First Centenary Goal, that is, the eradication of absolute poverty and completion of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the CPC’s centennial.
From the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, to the implementation of reform and opening-up policy in 1978, and the dramatic development of China over the past decade, the CPC has led the nation on an extraordinary journey of innovation. The new policies prove some changes that have taken place in the mindset of the Party, a testament to its capability to adapt and innovate. China has modernized at a speed and scale unprecedented in human history. And as it travels toward becoming the largest economy, its growth has had a positive impact on all.
History will judge the success of the CPC that has shown its outstanding capability to adapt and innovate and to lead the people to breakthroughs and achievements in different stages of development.
However, he has a caveat: China must tell its stories better. “President Xi has repeated his calls for China to better tell its story to the world on many occasions. It does provide an opportunity for China to undergo a mindset change toward international communication.” With the world moving in a very dangerous direction, toward conflicts and away from consensus, it is crucial to solve the communication crisis as fast as possible.
Understanding Chinese Democracy
Stephen Perry is chairman of both the London Export Corporation and the 48 Group Club in London that promotes trade between China and the U.K. He has inherited the mantle of his father Jack Perry, who founded the 48 Group Club and visited China with a group of like-minded people in the 1950s, a visit described as an “ice-breaking trip” by President Xi. Stephen Perry has witnessed the development of China from a poor and weak country to the world’s second largest economy.
What does he think of China’s political system and democracy? China and the West have very different political systems and forms of democracy. China follows a multi-party cooperation and political consultation system under the leadership of the CPC. It is different from the two-party or multi-party system in the West, and therefore, has been criticized by some Westerners. “China’s system of governance has taken a lot from Chinese history and is adapted to China’s own national situation,” said Perry. He thinks the report made it clear that the CPC will adhere to its path of socialist political development with Chinese characteristics and its whole-process people’s democracy.
These days, more and more people are talking about China’s success in eradicating absolute poverty, which has brought huge changes in people’s lives. “It is a transformation faster and deeper than anything else in the world. This comes from the leadership of the Party and the system that China uses,” Perry said.
He thinks if China did not have democracy, as some in the West allege, it would have been impossible to bring about such “earth-shaking changes in people’s lives.” When looking at democracy in China, we should not use the Western mindset but accept that China has its own unique form, “The CPC is adept at formulating phased development plans and leading the Chinese people to achieve national rejuvenation and social progress.”
Providing Solutions to Global Issues
The report also emphasizes that China remains committed to its fundamental national policy of opening up to the outside world. It will seek to create new opportunities for the world in its development process and contribute its share to building an open global economy that delivers greater benefits to all.
According to Perry, high-level opening-up, mutual benefit, and win-win results are all important for building a community with a shared future for humanity. The Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative have blazed a new trail for global development and the inclusiveness has encouraged emerging markets, developing countries and smaller nations to participate. “It is another innovation in global governance,” he said.
China is also providing innovative solutions to tackling climate change, food and energy crises. It led the world in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and shared the international community with lessons and experience it has gained.
“Some are worried by China’s proposals and thus oppose China’s solutions,” he said. These people need to study the policies of the CPC in a systematic manner. China is innovating not only in science and technology, but also in its administrative system. The CPC emphasizes “Party self-improvement” and this has enabled it to maintain its vitality in the face of challenges.
Under the leadership of the CPC, China never seeks to establish hegemony or impose its own will on others in the international community. The CPC is urging all countries to stay committed to shared values and meet today’s global challenges with solidarity. The report specifically says, “The Chinese people are ready to work hand in hand with people across the world.”
Toward More Balanced, High-Quality Development
Fabio Massimo Parenti, associate professor of international studies at the International Institute Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy, is also a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. He focuses his research on international politics and economy. He has studied the CPC’s pursuit of its own development path and China’s efforts in building a fairer and more equitable international order.
He says the CPC national congress is of great significance because “China remains the engine of the world economy and the global community hopes the new guidelines will present a continuity.” He mentions the Belt and Road Initiative as a driver of global growth. “It offers opportunities for real economic development of different world regions, centers on dialogue and mutual respect, and favors re-balancing geopolitics.” This re-balancing can effectively contain U.S. hegemonism and is particularly important for non-aligned countries, whose populations in aggregate account for the majority of the world’s total. “It is no coincidence that the number of countries applying to join the Belt and Road [Initiative] has grown steadily, despite attempts by the West to discredit it,” he said.
Parenti is impressed by the CPC’s success in leading China to finish the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, or the First Centenary Goal. Moreover, the CPC has put forward a new development philosophy, increasingly focusing on more balanced and sustainable development. He gives examples. China no longer puts growth rate first, but emphasizes more the quality of development. It has formulated a series of major strategies for overall development, such as more preferential policies for the less developed western provinces to catch up with the developed eastern provinces. The government has formulated the strategy of rural revitalization to bridge the gap between urban and rural development.
While seeking its own development, China is also participating in global governance, and promoting world peace and development. It is providing public goods for global governance and promoting coexistence of different civilizations through dialogue. “This is the opposite of what Western policies offer today, which ultimately pursue dominance at all costs,” Fabio said.
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