As China gets ready to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, announced by Chairman Mao on October 1, 1949, at the historic Tien An Men Gate in Beijing, it is instructive to recall the key turning point in this journey to New China. This was the decision for Reform and Opening Up taken after due deliberations by the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China under the leadership of the visionary statesman, Deng Xiaoping, in November 1978.
To mark the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening up Policy, The New York Times started a series of articles on November 18, 2018, beginning with the title The Land that Failed to Fail. Since the Communist Party of China launched a unique experiment of ‘socialist market economy’ in 1978, The New York Times wrote: “The West was sure the Chinese approach would not work. It just had to wait. It’s still waiting”!
The importance of the 40th Anniversary of the Reform and Opening Up policies is in its transformative impact not just on China, but the world at large.
With China getting ready to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 2019, China’s worldview in the multipolar ‘Asian Century’ is based on the twin pillars of promoting economic connectivity (through the Belt & Road Initiative, BRI) driven by energy and ecology, ports and pipelines, roads and railways, and cultural cooperation (via the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations held last week in Beijing) through forging people-to-people connectivity, particularly amongst youth, media, academia, think tanks and tourism.
What is unique about China’s remarkable transformation in a relatively short span of 70 years, that makes it a ‘role model’ in the 21st Century?
Primarily, the success with alleviating poverty. Within a generation or so, China has lifted over 750 million people out of poverty, a feat without precedent in human history. Changing so many lives for the better in such a short span is indeed unique. This huge success in poverty alleviation on such a size, scale and speed is what has inspired and impressed the world about the ‘China Model’. Three vital ingredients of this success story in poverty alleviation are noteworthy: leadership with vision based on stability and continuity of policy, Opening up the economy to foreign investment by slashing bureaucratic red-tape and eliminating cumbersome rules and tedious procedures, and establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Industrial Parks. Neighbours and steadfast partners of China like Pakistan are hoping to learn from this Chinese ‘role model’ in poverty alleviation, a process on which this country of 210 million is already well embarked. Mutual learning is a key element of this development story. After all, it was Deng Xiaoping’s Visit to Singapore in 1978 that spawned the first Industrial Park at Suzhou.
Pakistan is fortunate that the launching of the BRI, undoubtedly the most important diplomatic and developmental initiative of the 21st Century, provided the opportunity to begin the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship and pilot project of the BRI. Within five years, CPEC has launched Pakistan on the trajectory to a better future, generating 70,000 jobs plus registering the highest growth in a decade (5.8%) in 2018, and, more important, instilling new hope, confidence and faith in the future for young Pakistanis who comprise 65% of the population. 9 of the 21 Early Harvest Projects are completed, dead projects like the Gwadar Port are revived and Pakistan has witnessed easing of its chronic energy shortages of the past three decades, all thanks to CPEC.
However, with the initiation of the second phase of CPEC, announced last month in Beijing at the 2nd Belt and Road Forum, the best of CPEC is yet to come. With a focus on socio-economic development, 6 areas have been identified for people-centric investment: health, education, agriculture, water and irrigation, poverty alleviation and vocational training. 27 projects will be initiated in these six sectors in the less developed and backward parts of the country for inclusive development, pushed by a generous Chinese grant of $ 1 billion, apart from the nearly $ 20 billion already invested in energy and infrastructure. Four SEZs are in the offing in different parts of the country, where relocation of Chinese small and medium sized enterprises, plus joint ventures in specific areas are planned. China has also offered 20,000 scholarships for Pakistanis in the next three years, on top of the 28,000 Pakistani students already studying in China. A key component of this growth strategy would be make it ecologically-friendly with ‘Green Development’ as its hallmark.
Pakistan feels that the most important implication of the ‘China Model’ is the manner in which China has helped transform the lives of millions of its citizens for the better and it this example that is helping to shape Pakistan’s quest for a better tomorrow through policies and initiatives beneficial for its people.