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Nation's modernization drive attracts global attention

By Cao Desheng | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-10 07:10
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Shanghai forum participants salute new model for human advancement

As China strives to advance its modernization, international attention is focusing on how the nation will fulfill its ambition to become a modern socialist country by the middle of this century and how that process will affect the rest of the world.

The Communist Party of China laid out the central task of advancing national rejuvenation through a Chinese path toward modernization at its 20th National Congress in October.

The Party views Chinese modernization as not being solely related to achieving material wealth or a higher level of efficiency than that offered by the capitalist system. Rather, it is about effectively maintaining a higher degree of social equity, providing 1.4 billion people with a prosperous and dignified life, and promoting harmony between humankind and nature.

More important, the CPC pledged that Chinese modernization will lay a path for peaceful development, and that China will not achieve modernization through colonization or invasion. Neither will it seek hegemony or expansion.

In a congratulatory message sent to the Lanting Forum on Chinese Modernization and the World, held in Shanghai on April 21, President Xi Jinping assured the world that China will provide new opportunities for global development with new accomplishments in Chinese modernization.

It will also give new impetus to humanity's search for paths toward modernization and better social systems.

Xi's comments were echoed by political leaders, business executives and think tank researchers from nearly 80 countries taking part in the forum. They said China's modernization not only matters to the well-being of the Chinese people, but also creates a new model for human advancement.

Dilma Rousseff, president of the New Development Bank, said: "As a former president of Brazil, I am fully aware of what different patterns of modernization can mean for the peoples of the Global South. Over the centuries, a false modernization was imposed on us, which initially took the form of colonialism, with its killings of the indigenous population, slavery and predatory extractivism."

Rousseff said that more recently, financial neo-liberalism has implied a brutal process of concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a few, and once again, millions of people have been left behind.

"The push for modernization proposed and promoted by China provides a new choice and demonstrates that another world is necessary and possible. This is crucial at this time of greater fragmentation caused by climate change, by the intensification of geopolitical conflicts, by the disruption of production chains, and by a movement of de-globalization," she said.

Rousseff commended the Chinese path toward modernization, particularly its principle of promoting common prosperity.

"The great effect of this modernization for countries of the Global South lies in building a community with a shared future for mankind. And this commitment made by China could help bridge the gap between the global North and South and help create a more inclusive multipolar international order," she said.

Tough journey

Modernization for China has been a journey of hardship and perseverance. In modern times, countless Chinese patriots have looked to the West for a modernization formula to save the nation, but all the formulas failed.

Under the leadership of the CPC, China has found a path to modernization through its own efforts. Over the past 100 years or so, the nation has transformed from being impoverished and backward into the world's second-largest economy, the top trader in goods, the biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves, and the biggest manufacturer.

China has put in place the world's largest compulsory education system, social security system, and medical and health system — achieving in just a few decades industrialization that took developed countries several centuries to realize.

Over the 40-plus years since reform and opening-up was launched, the Chinese government has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty and increased the middle-income group's population to over 400 million.

China is now the main trading partner of more than 140 countries and regions. It places $320 million in direct investment around the world each day, while attracting over 3,000 foreign businesses every month, Foreign Ministry data show. Over the past decade, China has contributed more to global growth than all the G7 countries combined.

Foreign investors cannot afford to ignore the immense commercial prospects created by the vast Chinese market that boasts a rapidly growing middle-income group. Due to uncertainty caused by mounting geopolitical competition between major countries, some observers may be skeptical about China's modernization process, but others consider it has enormous potential.

Martin Jacques, former senior fellow at Cambridge University's Department of Politics and International Studies, said that when it comes to the nature of modernization, people always think of it primarily in technological and economic terms.

"I think that is obviously important, but it's much too narrow, because fundamental to Western modernization was the division of the world. Fundamental to Chinese modernization are only the opportunities to the world, particularly to the developing world, to develop and to modernize," he said.

Jacques added that Western modernization started at a time when Western countries used the rest of the world as a way to enrich themselves. In an extraordinary shift, the developing world had its first opportunity to modernize in the second half of the 20th century, he said.

"Led ultimately by China, you get this incredible transformation where modernization is actually the possibility for all of humanity, not for a tiny minority of Western countries. So the arrival of the developing world and the arrival of China transform the whole global landscape."

Noting that China's growth is redefining the notion of modernization, Jacques said the nation's rise is going to change the world in a way the West can't cope with. "The West, in my view, is basically frozen. It has no strategy. It doesn't understand China. It's like a rabbit caught in the headlights," he said.

Strategic plan

To build itself into a great modern socialist country in all respects, China has adopted a two-step strategic plan — to basically realize socialist modernization from 2020 through 2035, and to become a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the 20th CPC National Congress: "In pursuing modernization, China will not tread the old path of war, colonization and plunder taken by some countries ... We will strive to safeguard world peace and development as we pursue our own development, and we will make greater contributions to world peace and development through our own development."

Observers said the Chinese path toward modernization abandons the old Western way of modernization, which is capital-centric and characterized by soaring materialism and external expansion. It also breaks the myth that modernization means Westernization, and expands choices for developing countries on their modernization journey.

Essam Sharaf, former Egyptian prime minister and a non-resident senior fellow at Renmin University of China's Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, said he sees four key pillars in Chinese modernization — cooperation, harmony, peace and development.

He said that by adopting these pillars, China passes on the benefits of its modernization to the world through the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, which are considered public goods offered by the nation to the international community.

Mamadou Tangara, Gambia's foreign minister, said China's modernization "addresses, in a resolute way, the global deficits of development, peace, governance and trust."

China's rapid economic growth and long-term social stability are widely viewed as a miracle in the history of human development, Tanggara said, and the nation has promoted poverty alleviation, common prosperity, ecological conservation and people-centered democracy as well as the rule of law.

"China has inspired many developing countries to seek their own formula to reduce poverty and to promote their respective economic development and prosperity," he said.

Tangara described the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, as an effective platform to promote a more integrated world where "positive collaboration between countries is not burdened by the complexities of ideological and cultural differences."

"Under the BRI, we are all galvanized under the common ambition of seeking mutually beneficial and sustainable socioeconomic transformative partnerships. It essentially bridges physical distance and shared interests and prosperity," he said.

Tangara also voiced his support for the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, saying they unwaveringly offer hope for a shared and better future for humankind.

Since China proposed the BRI in 2013, more than 3,000 cooperation projects have been launched, involving investment of nearly $1 trillion and creating 420,000 jobs for participating countries, the Foreign Ministry said. As a result, many nations have realized their dreams of building railways and large bridges, and also of alleviating poverty.

The Global Development Initiative has been widely welcomed by the international community. With the support of more than 100 countries and many international organizations, and with some 70 countries in the Group of Friends of the GDI, the initiative is giving a strong boost to the early attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

John Thornton, co-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Asia Society in the United States, said: "The concept of Chinese modernization, to me, is very compelling. It is enduring. It is inspiring. And I see it as kind of an aspiration and also a guide to behavior."

He suggests that the single most important thing for Chinese modernization is to figure out how to communicate the content in a compelling way through global communication channels so that everybody hears the same message.

"Who in the world is not in favor of peace? Who in the world is not in favor of common prosperity? Who in the world is not in favor of harmony between man and nature?" he said.

"And if at least in my country, if people understood that this is what China believes, this is what they stand for, this is where they see the future, then that will have a very positive impact on the relationship between the two countries."

Challenges ahead

While striving to advance Chinese modernization, the CPC is keeping a cool head about the risks and challenges that lie ahead. "Building a modern socialist country in all respects is a great and arduous endeavor," Xi said at the 20th CPC National Congress.

Analyzing the international situation, he said momentous changes unseen in a century are accelerating across the world, the once-in-a-century pandemic has had far-reaching effects, global economic recovery is sluggish, unilateralism and protectionism are mounting, regional conflicts and disturbances are frequent, and the world has entered a new period of turbulence and change.

At home, China faces many deep-seated problems regarding reform, development and stability. "In our efforts to strengthen the Party, and especially to improve conduct, build integrity, and combat corruption, we are confronted with many stubborn and recurrent problems. External attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time," Xi said.

Amid new challenges arising from domestic and international situations, the CPC launched an education campaign last month to study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, with a view to building consensus among all its members to make united efforts to advance Chinese modernization for national rejuvenation.

As part of the theoretical study program, the Party launched a research and fact-finding drive aimed at solving new practical problems and serving scientific decision-making.

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