The PRC celebrates 70 years since Mao announced its birth in 1949. Changes in the country have been breathtaking. Beijing has much to celebrate, but its biggest challenges waiting ahead
As Lu Xun wrote in “Hot Wind”: “What’s a road? A trodden path in a place where there was previously no road and a passage opened from a place where there were only thorns”. This sentence, quoted last year by Xi Jinping during a speech, perfectly describes Chinese history.
From the “factory of the world” to the world forerunner; from the “Great Leap Forward” to the Cultural Revolution, today China turns 70. The country has much to celebrate, watching behind and moving ahead. During the traditional parade in Beijing, the country has showcased its growing economic, technological and military power.
©Kevin Frayer/Getty Images. After decades of turmoil the country opened up and pulled nearly a billion people out of poverty.
Certainly, China’s impact on international diplomacy is bigger than ever, even more if compared with the Imperial era, a consequence of the four-decade economic boom ushered in by the Deng Xiaoping’s free market reforms and opening-up policy. During these years, China and its leadership have changed as no one expected.
From foreign eyes, the Middle Kingdom is unrecognizable from the country it used to be and it continues to change day after day in both its economic environment and city framework.
If Chairman Mao was the man who unified the country, PRC former leader Deng Xiaoping, is Chinese economy miracle main architect. “不管黑猫白猫,捉到老鼠就是好猫 – Doesn’t matter the colour of the cat if it catches mice” is maybe Deng’s main quotation. So called 改革开放政策 – Open Door Policy let China to become the superpower it used to be, while today the private sector produces more than 60% of the nation’s economic output, employs over 80% of workers in cities and towns, and generates 90% of new jobs. From foreign eyes, the Middle Kingdom is unrecognizable: from the country it used to be and it continues to change day after day in both its economic environment and city framework.
Nowadays, the PRC is the second world’s largest economy , hi-tech leader and the world’s biggest manufacturing country. After the end of Cultural Revolution, nobody could imagine that China could sit again on the same table of world’s superpowers. China is living it’s own “Chinese dream” and Millennials embody the future of the country as well as the tow of the economic reforms. China’s success is tangible, but in terms of technology still have a gap comparing with United States.
But the Chinese have taken a commanding lead in that most intangible but valuable of economic indicators: optimism.
Pollution and other contradictions seem like pretty good reasons to be down on a country, But PRC is actually brimming with optimism. According to a recent survey conducted across 15 nations, Chinese people have the most positive outlook on their country and the world. Today almost 92% of Chinese youth were optimistic about their own country’s future, compared with 64% of their American counterparts. In the adult group, 88% of Chinese were positive about the future of China, compared with 56% of those in the US.
At the same time, Beijing invested in education, expanding access to schools and universities, and all but eliminating illiteracy. Nevertheless many critics, China now produces more graduates in science and engineering every year than the United States, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan combined.
©123rf. Shenzhen was one of the first SEZ and it saw the rise of many hi-tech companies such as Huawei or DJI.
The real change came in late ’70s when the country authorized for the first time the creation of manufacture plants whose production was destined for export. Since then, many provinces took the opportunity to take the necessary measures to attract foreign capital and technology creating those areas also known as Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
By the slogan “enrich yourself”, the socialism-poverty equation was broken while brand-new free-market socialism was rising. After that, the day China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 changing the whole international game is now well-known history.
“The world thought it would change China, but China’s success has been so spectacular that it has changed the world,” wrote Philip P. Pan in The New York Times.
Today, China’s emerging middle-class society is more open towards foreign culture and optimistic about the country’s future. As The New York Times wrote, the former “American Dream” is now turned into a new “Chinese Dream”, where the government engaged in several investments in youth, research and education. Moreover, not only Beijing was able to build an educated middle class but it has also risen out of poverty over 800 million people.
Families’ daily life has changed together with the country. While people during the Cultural Revolution used to own just a bicycle and a manual sewing machine to make their own dresses, today urban households are used to spend on clothing 224 times more than 40 years ago.
©Unsplash. In 40 years, the People’s Republic has succeeded in getting about 800 million people out of poverty.
From coupons used to buy buy basic necessities at the end of the 70s, Chinese moved to the use of WeChat QR code and facial recognition building the first real cashless society. Moreover, with almost 900 million active users globally connected, China’s 80s telegrams and letters seem to come from another age.
The Chinese century is on the rise and the Made in China 2025 plan drives the economic boost. Although Chinese leadership have explicitly stopped mentioning it in public occasions, the country’s renewed power and interest in international affairs is the sign that the Dragon is now ready to resume its role and weight historically held in the Eastern region.
Not only the PRC was able to transform itself, but its model is now attracting the rest of the world. Made in China trends are leading the international market, and now it is the West that tries to keep up.
No one was able to imagine where the 80s reforms were bringing, but Deng Xiaoping’s vision was forward-looking. As Xi Jinping highlighted in his latest speeches, Chinese transformation is not concluded yet. Nevertheless, thanks to its developing projects, China hopes to complete the macroeconomic and structural changes very soon in order to leave behind the reputation of China as the low-cost “factory of the world”.
However, as President Xi remarked, to reach the country’s goal, many challenges are yet to come. It might be Trade War with the US, the recent consumption slowdown, or Hong Kong turmoils, what Xi made clear is that the country is ready to face any difficulties. By the way, one of greatest challenge for Chinese leadership is how combine Marxism ideology, PRC’s basis, and globalization. On the global stage, China is a real champion of economic globalization, moreover the country has long abandoned Marx’s basic principles, but German philosopher ideas are still used to explain Chinese “new era” as remarked in several speeches.
©Unsplash. China will continue to support its hi-tech sector.
Comparing with the past, China it has never been so far from that semi-agricultural country was before. It is still carrying around many contradictions such as pollution and social gap but the PRC is now more serious than ever in taking the appropriate steps to address the shortcomings.
From the SEZ to a technological leader, now China wants to export itself, its culture and its brands. Despite the Trade War started by Washington, the Dragon now aims to become the international player with which other players should confront. However, far from the “factory of the world” reputation, Beijing seems to enjoy public support while many think the Chinese age is just about to begin.
Although the international thinking, the country that was about to fail, has returned to be a superpower. After 70 years, and after worst and best times, how will China’s future be? And how will it affect us all?
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