China achieved much, with more to come
President Xi was one of the first world leaders to send New Year's greetings to the global community. He acknowledged that China had a challenging year, but the Chinese people had worked hard to overcome roadblocks that will continue – a true Long March of the new era. Despite the challenges, China has achieved much in this memorable year. It is a long list headed by the amazing celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
I had the pleasure of being in Beijing and Xi'an for the 60th anniversary and that was impressive. But the 70th truly reflected that the China Dream, introduced by President Xi in 2013, is year-on-year being achieved. The national pride was evident and justified.
Benchmarks on the way to a moderately prosperous nation are China's gross domestic product edging toward 100 trillion yuan and the GDP per capita reaching $10,000. The new normal of 6 percent to 6.5 percent annual economic growth is set to be achieved. A further and critical one is the raising of 800 million people in China out of poverty, according to World Bank definitions. A difficult 10 million of this was achieved in 2019, covering 340 impoverished counties. I would add that, in an increasingly violent world, China has also seen peace in the mainland, thus preserving the two most important human rights – the right to life and the right to reasonable living conditions.
In my current home of Shanghai, I witnessed the very successful second China International Import Expo. China continues to open up and improve opportunities for both imports and foreign investment. The free trade zone in Shanghai has been greatly expanded and six new FTZs added to bring the total to 18. The Belt and Road Initiative has significantly increased its reach, supported by a BRI members meeting hosted in Beijing. Within the nation, ever-increasing connectivity and coordination is evident in the enhancements within the Yangtze River Delta region led by Shanghai, with Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and in the development of the Greater Bay Area linking Hong Kong, Macao and nine mainland cities in a second economic powerhouse. A third one is the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Economic Circle and, fourth, the logistics and communications development in central China's Henan Province led by its capital Zhengzhou.
Specific feats of engineering include the completion of the huge and highly efficient Beijing Daxing International airport, the high-speed train link between Beijing and Zhangjiakou for the 2022 Winter Olympics and the launch of China's first fully homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong. There have been too many achievements in projects to list, but I would venture that no other country in the world is capable of so much on so many fronts in this timescale.
Looking ahead, President Xi encouraged the Chinese people to continue the struggle, as there will be some headwinds. He noted, "We are not afraid of storms and dangers and barriers". The goal of achieving a moderately prosperous society by the end of 2020 is within reach, as is the target of lifting the remaining 15 million Chinese out of absolute poverty – every effort must be made. China's investments in infrastructure and the increasing importance of household consumption (now accounting for 60 percent of GDP growth) will enable economic growth targets to be met despite some constraints from the USA. In the rest of the world China has many friends (diplomatic relations have now reached 180 countries) and China will continue to be a leading advocate for globalization in economics and multilateralism in international relations. There is a sense that 2020 will be a pivotal year and that China will continue to contribute in a positive way to global economic development and world peace.
Colin Speakman is an economist and an international educator with CAPA: The Global Education Network.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.