Tuesday 6th November, 2012Printable Version
Xinhua/GNA, Nov 5,- China is arguably the most vibrant economy in the world today, providing very useful lessons for Africa and, indeed, most third world countries, especially with regard to its political, social and economic reforms.
The Communist Party of China (CPC), comprised some 2,270 deputies, was expected to hold its 18th National Congress on November 8, 2012. Over the past 30 years, China has gone through necessary reforms and emerged as the world's second largest economy.
Retrospecting and summarizing China’s economic miracle and democracy development, while looking squarely at the critical challenges, African elites may get some enlightenment from it.
China’s achievement in past 30 years
Since China adopted open and reform policy in 1978, it has accelerated the political, economic and social development, and now, it has established a social security net covering urban and rural residents, intensified reform of its education, healthcare systems, and continued to improve the scheme of providing affordable housing for low-income earners.
Economically, China has made the knowledge-based economy more salient and championed a more sustainable and environmentally friendly development mode.
The country was in the process of changing its economic strategy and has launched a 4-trillion-yuan (640 billion U.S. dollars) stimulus package after the global financial crisis in 2008 and moved handily from export dependency to development of a domestic market against the backdrop of a global decline in demand for Chinese goods.
Regarding foreign investment, China has reduced its bureaucratic regulations and state interventions that hampered investment from overseas, allowing the country to attain a level of openness that was rarely found among large and populous nations.
China is now the second-biggest recipients of foreign direct investment in the world, with competition from foreign products in almost every sector of the economy.
Socially, the Chinese government has adopted more egalitarian and populist policies but has abolished agricultural taxes, subsidized health care, expanded the social insurance network and made basic education more accessible aimed at enabling the public to benefit from economic prosperity.
Culturally, China is striving to strengthen its soft power while advocating creativity and reined in infringements on Intellectual Property Rights. The country has privatized cultural entities to increase their market competitiveness, sponsored the development of Chinese media and encouraged Chinese cultural products to "go global."
"The upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be a landmark moment," Dr Pierre Picquart, of the University of Paris-VIII, told Xinhua in an interview.
A large swath of regions across the country have been greatly developed and many Chinese enterprises started to invest overseas, he said, noting that China was transforming from a consumer goods producer into a world center of design and creation.
Such achievements, for a nation with a size equaling to a continent and a population of nearly 1.4 billion, were not easy to make, said Picquart.
However, democracy with Chinese characteristics is improving, both inside and outside the CPC.
During the fourth plenary session of its 16th Central Committee, the ruling government promised to improve its intra-party election system and expand the margin ratio for the elections.
In a report on the 17th National Congress in 2007, the CPC vowed to expand participation in the nomination of candidates for elections in community-level CPC organizations.
At the community level, public nominations and direct elections have been carried out more extensively since 2001. The system called for candidates to be selected via recommendations from CPC members, the public and CPC organizations. The CPC branch secretary, vice secretary and members of village CPC committees were all elected directly by village CPC conferences.
Political reforms are pressing in China. Late leader Deng Xiaoping once said that obstacles are unavoidable as reform develops, especially when the political system no longer fits the needs of economic development. The fruits of economic reform will be at stake if political reform stagnates.
Although achievements have been made in democracy, it is far from enough in China, a country that was ruled by feudalism for thousands of years. More efforts are still needed to prevent arbitrary decisions from being made by a few people, rein in abuses of power and keep public interests from being ignored.
Reform critical to China's decade of success
As China awaits future government policies with the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on the horizon, it can review the great progress in political, economic and cultural spheres over the past decade.
From the bottom-up approach when China began to try out reform in the agricultural sector in 1978, China has become more confident in its policy readjustments since 2002.
Mr Zhang Weiwei, a senior research fellow at the Center for Asian Studies in Geneva and a visiting professor at China's Fudan University, believed China's reform, which he described as "steady and gradual," is a key feature of the "Chinese model" to which he attributes the nation's success.
The reform that China adopted was different from that of the Soviet Union, where the chosen "shock therapy" led to economic collapse, he says.
“Such moderation, which focused on meeting the most pressing needs of the people and prioritizing economic reforms over political ones, is suited to China's national conditions although it is imperfect,” he added.
Success would follow for China's reform if it can successfully address social issues that include a wealth distribution imbalance and potential monopolies in the near future, according to experts.
Mr Zheng Yongnian, Director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore said consensus was the premise for the success of reforms, particularly in China now.
The ordinary people increased participation in public affairs, which would supplement the government's role in decision-making, would be one critical element for China to build consensus among all social strata and have success reform in the years ahead.
Income disparity is an imminent challenge for China
Although China accumulated wealth during its rapid economic development, it was crucial to narrow the widening earnings gap through income distribution reform.
Narrowing the income gap and balancing the efficiency and the equity in development will be a major task for the ruling CPC.
Last month, China’s State Council, or the Cabinet, decided to establish an overall income distribution plan by the end of the year, and observers have pinned high hopes on the upcoming 18th national congress of the CPC.
According to officials close to the reform, the plan would focus on improving earnings for low-income groups and capping high wages by breaking up monopolies through opening up state sectors to private investors. It will also regulate the sectors by levying higher tax rates on state-owned enterprises.
China has been working on income distribution reform since 2004, but people's expectations have not been met. State-run monopolized sectors have become a major target of public complaints.
However, the income gap is becoming ever wider along the road of development, as everyone in society can feel it. According to media reports, the number of China's super rich ranks second in the world, only after the United States.
Unfair income distribution has been seen by many economists as a major obstacle in deepening the country's economic reform and transformation of its mode of growth.
The widening income gap has resulted in increasing public complaints and sometimes social conflicts, and to some extent undermined the popularity of the government among the people.
China has successfully solved people's food and clothing problems but there is still a long way to go in building a well-off society in an all-round way. Making more people share the fruits of economic development will be a crucial step toward that goal.
What Africa can learn and benefit from China’s development
In this August, a two-day forum dubbed “When China Meets Africa” held in Accra, in which the elite from Ghana and China explored how Africa could benefit from China’s trade and investment policies that had helped develop the Chinese economy.
Former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor lauded the growing bilateral trade between Africa and China, as well as the support African countries had been receiving from their Asian partner.
Statistics show that around 18,000 Chinese companies have invested overseas, mainly in the developing world. By the end of 2011, China has built more than 2,200 projects for less-developed countries, greatly benefiting local people. With direct investment in Africa totaling nearly 15 billion dollars, China has exempted less-developed countries of some 30-billion-yuan (4.8 billion dollars) debts.
Just a decade ago, in 2000 the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation was established. The Forum is held every three years. Since then, there has been rapid development in the economic relations between China and Africa.
China was already playing an increasingly helpful role in Africa’s development process. This was indicated by President Hu Jintao’s pledge at the Beijing Forum on China-Africa cooperation in 2012 to offer 20 billion US dollars in new loans to Africa. The funds are to focus on supporting infrastructure, manufacturing and developing small businesses in Africa to boost the continent’s development agenda.
In June, this year, Ghana signed a 3 billion-dollar Chinese Master Facility Agreement with the China Development Bank to promote the West African country’s development.
Looking back, one could see that burgeoning development of China has brought huge vigor and vitality to world peace and development over the past decade, as a number of facts and statistics prove it.
African countries have embraced among developing countries in the world who are eager for poverty reduction, job creation and economic growth, while China who is the largest developing country in population offers some experience, what Africa elites can get from may be vital to solve the development puzzle.