The Chinese Dream Revisited
By George N. Tzogopoulos
Five years ago President Xi Jinping started his leadership speaking about the ‘Chinese Dream’. In particular, he articulated a vision for the nation’s future integrating national and personal aspirations. The main objective was to reclaim national pride and achieve personal well-being. In 2017, during the time of the 19th National Congress of CPC he can feel vindicated. The ‘Chinese Dream’ is not any longer a theoretical or wishful thinking but has started to become a reality. Subsequently, Xi’s second term will start with appreciation for his work and certainty for its continuation in the next five years.
Xi Jinping addresses the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. [Photo: Xinhua]
The task of the President of China is hard. At the domestic level, the elimination of poverty remains his highest priority. From 1978 to 2016, approximately730 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty. Focusing on the last years, data demonstrate that 13.9 million found better living conditions from 2012 until 2016. The problem has not been solved yet but Xi is confident that the work could be completed by the end of 2020. Specifically, there were 43.35 million people in China living below the country’s poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($348.9 dollars) of annual income in the end 2016. This accounts for about 3 percent of the country’s population. The last phase of poverty eradication might be a difficult and complicated process as international experience suggests.
Under Xi’s governance China is making stable steps in the direction of transforming its growth model. In particular, the principal aim is to create better perspectives for the next generation drawing on the advancement of technology and innovation. China is changing and its visitors are impressed by the progress. Concepts such as smart cities and e-health, for instance, are developed in different Chinese cities rendering them to a model of that kind. Moreover, the need for the Chinese government to protect the environment is pushing towards investments in green energy. Benefits are double. On the one hand, pollution can be reduced in the medium and long-term. And on the other some Chinese companies, for example the ones producing electric and hybrid cars, find incentives to improve their performance and possibly rely on an export-oriented strategy in the future.
The first signs of the ‘New Normal’ are evident. In spite of some temporary turmoil – mainly reflected in the course of the stock market in 2015 – the Chinese economy is now stronger and has overcome initial problems. Growth rates are lower in comparison to the past but development is becoming sustainable and relatively immune to outside risks. On the same wavelength, some reforms have been implemented bringing liberalization to the economy and finance sectors. They are expected to be continued. Although critics still focus on some flows, the Chinese economy is now more open and its currency is more evaluated by markets. As a result the IMF accepted the renminbi in its Special Drawing Rights last year.
Moving to China’s international position, its citizens are experiencing the genesis of an economic and political colossus. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative is improving the country’s image in the world. China is not any longer a distant, obscure power but a friendly partner as well as a critical investor boosting interconnectivity, increasing trade and creating job positions. In parallel with this, it has acquired a strong voice in international affairs. In the era of uncertainty stemming from Donald Trump’s ambivalent foreign policy, Beijing is holding prudent positions, throwing its support behind Paris climate accord, globalization and the Iranian nuclear deal agreement. Multilateralism remains the basic principle of Chinese strategy as opposed to recent unilateral decisions made by Washington.
For all these reasons, Xi Jinping is widely popular in China. The 19th National Congress of CPC is endorsing the record of the previous five years having the conviction that the successful work will be complemented (?) continue and the new challenges will be addressed until 2022. Core values of harmony, benevolence, equality, courtesy, honesty, loyalty, virtue and wisdom will continue driving Chinese policies both home and abroad. The Chinese identity will thus be preserved, socialism with Chinese characteristics will be strengthened, and China’s international role will be empowered.
(Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is a senior research fellow and advisor for EU-China relations at the Centre international de formation européenne, Nice/Berlin.)