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Witnessing the dawn of a New Era in China

China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-02 16:15

Much of the outside world has yet to catch up the potential importance of China's New Era.

It was good therefore to have the opportunity to be one of the speakers at the inaugural Vision China event, which will be a series of public talks organized by China Daily.

It was titled, "New Era Through My Eyes", and I spoke alongside Robert Lawrence Kuhn, the public intellectual and internationally renowned China expert, and Liu Xin, the presenter of The Point on China Global Television Network and the first Chinese person to win the International Public Speaking Competition in 1997.

Apart from 500 in the audience at a newly dedicated theater at Beijing's University of International Business and Economics, 500,000 also watched the live broadcast.

I spoke about the global reaction and how New Era had been interpreted outside of China.

I was in the Great Hall of the People to witness General Secretary Xi Jinping's report to the CPC 19th National Congress in October.

In a now famous, almost three-and-a- half- hour speech he set out Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, which was subsequently enshrined in the Party's Constitution.

I highlighted in particular the perspective of the British journalist and academic Martin Jacques, whom I interviewed after the congress.

His 2009 book, When China Rules the World, suddenly seemed very prescient. It challenged the idea that Western modernity, which has dominated the world since the British industrial revolution, which began in the 18th century, was the final destination for humankind.

He believes the New Era represents an alternative Chinese vision of modernity.

"Western modernity is not an eternal and not a universal model. Although it is not certain, there has to be now a very strong possibility that China will become a global power, and people now need to think what this new Chinese modernity will be like," he said.

The New Era is also about moving on from the economic catch-up period of the 40 years since Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up, with China taking a more central role in the world with initiatives such as the Belt and Road.

As Rana Mitter, director of the Oxford University China Center, and others have pointed out, this will come with a whole new series of new responsibilities and challenges for China.

Xi set the goal for China to eradicate extreme poverty by 2020, which resonates in particular in Africa, where many governments have longer-term aims to do this.

The president draws upon the lessons of when he was Party chief in Ningde prefecture, Fujian province, in the 1980s to do this and stresses it is important to shake off what he calls the "poverty mentality", that is if you think you are destined to remain poor, you probably will remain poor.

In my talk I also conveyed how prominent politicians felt about the New Era.

One of those was former UK prime minister Tony Blair, whom I interviewed in London in January. He is someone who has always seen the bigger picture about China.

"It indicated that China has the ambition to go now to the next level of development and authority and this is of big significance to the world," he said of Xi's report.

What we all got from the evening at UIBE, however, was that we were witnessing the start of something that could be very significant indeed.

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