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What can the Chinese path to modernization bring to globalization?

By Li Xiaoyu | Ecns.cn | Updated: 2023-06-05 15:59

A view of Beijing's CBD area on Aug 19, 2022. [Photo/VCG]

Modernization is a global social transition spanning several hundred years and involving the five continents. It covers such fields as the economy, science and technology, politics and culture and has brought earth-shaking changes to the world. China is undoubtedly a part of this historical process.

Through the century-long struggle, China's modernization is gaining a momentum right now. The report of the 20th CPC National Congress formally proposed the concept of “a Chinese path to modernization”. In a world undergoing profound changes, what new blood will it add to the world’s modernization models? Which kind of possibility can it provide for the modernization of late comers? The W.E. Talk column introduces a special topic of “understanding the Chinese path to modernization”, offering interpretation around “what influence beyond the geographical border does the Chinese path to modernization have”.

With the Ukraine crisis escalating, the economic globalization is facing unprecedented challenges. Many international organizations and institutes including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organization (WTO) caution that the global economy is going to split, and think this will bring a great impact on the prospect of growth for all countries.

The report of the 20th CPC National Congress proposed that we will pursue the Chinese path to modernization to advance Chinese nation's great rejuvenation in an all-round way. What are the trends and prospects of globalization? What influence will the Chinese path to modernization bring to globalization? W.E. Talk of CNS conducted an inclusive interview with Zheng Yongnian, professor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen) and president of The Institute for International Affairs in Qianhai, around this topic.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

CNS: What do you think of the current stage and state of economic globalization?

Zheng Yongnian: The current economic globalization is really very different from that during the period of 1980-2008. The economic globalization at that time should be called "super globalization" because such factors of production as the capital, technology and talent could flow freely in the world. And such freedom is of high degree, so great magnitude of social wealth was created. But now, due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and Ukraine crisis, the mobility of factors is dropping no matter in terms of scope or level. The so-called anti-globalization appears. Nevertheless, anti-globalization does not mean that there is no globalization, but only means “limited globalization”.

As for this kind of adjustment, it is unnecessary for us to be worried, in my opinion. First, history shows that globalization is not a linear process of development, but full of ups and downs. The period from 1875 to 1914 saw a high degree of economic globalization; yet globalization was at its nadir during the two world wars; but it developed rapidly after World War II, spread from America and Europe to Japan and then to the "Four Asian Tigers". However, due to the impact of the Cold War, the globalization at that period was not the real globalization, but only covering half of the globe. It was not until the end of the cold war that the world saw a real wave of "globalization" which covered the whole world and most countries deeply involved. Therefore, looking back in history, we know the "limited globalization" does not mean the termination of globalization.

Second, globalization does meet many problems at present. The main problems are the inequality in two aspects, namely the unfair distribution of wealth among different social strata within the same country and the widening gap between rich and poor countries. That’s to say, the enormous amount of wealth created by globalization was in the hands of a few countries and a small number of people. In this case, it was difficult for globalization to follow the previous model. So it is normal and necessary for it to make adjustment. Now western countries, especially those in America and Europe, are in urgent need of adjustment to ensure essential social fairness.

CNS: At present, a lot of organizations hold that the world may split into several different economic groups with the Ukraine crisis going on. What do you think of this?

Zheng Yongnian: This worry is reasonable. From the perspective of geopolitics, we see some anti-China forces in the West is deliberately creating a pattern of “two centers in one world”, namely a centre of power with the US at its core and another with China and Russia at its core. With the polarization of geopolitics, the world economic pattern will be polarized naturally as well. And it will develop into a market system centering on the US and another centering on China. Of course, it doesn’t go that far for now. But it is on the way.

But I am quite optimistic about this issue. First of all, if the US seeks to duplicate the pattern of “two centers in one world” in the period of the Cold War, it will not succeed. The US originally intended to realize unity among European countries as well as that between Europe and itself. But it seems that this scheme has fallen through now. Because of the energy crisis, Europe is moving towards division instead of unity. Moreover, European countries bear the most economic consequences caused by the Ukraine crisis while the US profits from the conflict. So the unity between Europe and the US comes to nothing either.

In addition, this polarization tactics used by the US is also not successful in the Indo-Pacific region. As a country valuing independence, India has been following the US with reservations. It has its own stance in dealing with Russia or China. In one word, it is never a vassal of the US. The ASEAN countries would not take sides in the contest of China and the United States likewise. They don’t like the idea of “two centers in one world” either. Without the cooperation and support from the ASEAN countries, the US cannot realize its polarization scheme in Asia.

Second, China is not the Soviet Union. In the past 40 plus years, China has developed in an open environment and Chinese economy is a part of the world economy by itself. Instead of a close system like that of the Soviet Union, Chinese economy is integrated in and linked with the world economy and the two are interdependent. Moreover, China will not contend for bipolar hegemony like the Soviet Union. So in this case, it is very difficult for the West to create “two markets in one world”.

Generally speaking, if the West plans to create “two centers in one world” in geopolitics and “two markets in one world” in economy, it is a task entailing strenuous effort and doomed to fail too.

CNS: You mentioned that we are now in a state of "limited globalization". What new characteristics does this kind of globalization have? Or what adjustment you think should be made for globalization to facilitate its development?

Zheng Yongnian: First, the "weak government" should transition to the "strong government". The reason why America and Europe meet so many problems in the tide of globalization is because the government is too weak to a great extent. It is unable to adjust the distribution of income for better social fairness. So, the role and function of the government in globalization should be strengthened to terminate the situation in which globalization is monopolized by a few multinational companies. The stronger the government's ability in the distribution of income and safeguarding the national economic sovereignty, the more sustainable globalization is.

Third, I would reiterate that we should perceive globalization not only from the perspective of the West, but should perceive it with a global vision. We should notice a new driving force for globalization. For example, the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment that Bank China has been pushing forward in recent years. These all aim to promote the development of developing countries and emerging economies. If the world takes this path, developing countries will become new major players in globalization, and globalization will have new driving forces.

CNS: China is a beneficiary of economic globalization. In your opinion, what should China do to better promote globalization?

Zheng Yongnian: I think China, as a major country, should attach more importance to inclusiveness and be committed to common development. If only one country is economically developed, but others lag behind in economic development, this world will be unstable. Only when most countries are fully developed, can China make more progress in its development and can globalization have a brighter prospect.

China needs to further open up. So long as China remains open, global capitals will keep flowing into its market. As a result, the attempts to create “two markets in one world” or decouple China from other countries will end up in smoke.

CNS: The report of the 20th CPC National Congress expounds the Chinese path to modernization in a systematic way. How do you think it will help with the solution of the problems met in the process of globalization?

Zheng Yongnian: I think pursuing Chinese modernization thoroughly requires the coordinated development in three dimensions—namely materials, people and institutions. Only pursuing modernization in an overarching and balanced way instead of the one-dimensional modernization can allow the human society to realize sustainable development.

The Chinese path to modernization is actually to deal with the problems faced by all countries in a Chinese style. For example, since the US didn’t follow a path of common prosperity, populism is produced in a situation where the gap between rich and poor widens day by day. Because of the unfair distribution of wealth between different social strata or groups within one country or between different countries leading to an increasingly wide gap between rich and poor, globalization needs adjustment badly. This is why we think the Chinese solution is of global significance since it is the combination of universality and particularity. If the Chinese path can solve the problems faced by the whole world, it will facilitate the building of a human community with a shared future.

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