Celebrating the work of friends from abroad toward reform and opening up

China Plus Published: 2018-12-19 22:13:38
Share this with Close
Messenger Messenger Pinterest LinkedIn

Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

At the celebration of the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up in Beijing, President Xi Jinping expressed his gratitude to China’s friends from around the world that have helped support China in its efforts to reform, open, grow, and modernize.

His kind words were matched with action, as 10 people from overseas were awarded with the China Reform Friendship Medal. Among them was French businessman Alain Mérieux, who helped China to cope with several major public health events, including SARS and the avian flu.

In the field of business, the recipients included Werner Gerich, who was the first director of a state-owned enterprise to come from overseas; Klaus Schwab, a German engineer and economist who helped China integrate into the world economy; and Japanese industrialist Konosuke Matsushita, who helped China's electronics industry to develop.

Other prominent recipients included Singpore’s former leader Lee Kuan Yew, who firmly supported China as it created its own model of development and whose country trained large numbers of China’s reform era civil servants. And Juan Antonio Samaranch was recognized for his role in promoting the Olympic movement in China and raising the country’s profile on the world stage.

The medal recipients come from different fields – medicine, manufacturing, electronics, sports, services, politics, finance – but they all have in common an enthiuasm to contribute to China’s reform and opening up.

A night-time scene of the China–Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park. [Photo: VCG]

A night-time scene of the China–Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park. [Photo: VCG]

When China started on this process 40 years ago, due to a decade of civil unrest, the national economy was on the verge of collapse. The country’s leaders recognized the necessity to learn from the exerience of others by bringing in human capital from outside that had the knowledge and skills needed to get the country back on the right track to development.

German business management expert Werner Gerich was the first factory manager from overseas to be hired after the reform and opening up began. After being appointed as the director of the Wuhan Diesel Engine Factory in 1984, he introduced management concepts on how to deliver high-quality products, and how to adapt to meet market needs. Thanks in no small part to his efforts, diesel engines manufactured by the factory were exported to seven countries in Southeast Asia, and the company provided an example of achieveable reforms for others in the state-owned sector.

Known as the “Father of Singapore”, Lee Kuan Yew, during his tenure as Singapore's prime minister, actively promoted the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park in the city of Suzhou in eastern China. His contribution helped to make it a demonstration zone for future international cooperation. And Singapore’s home ownership and public housing policies provided important reference points for China as it strived to solve its own housing problems.

The people mentioned here are just some of the many, many thousands of people who have come to China over the last four decades to make their own contribution. And China has also made its own contributions to the people of the world. It has accounted for more than 30 percent of world economic growth for many years. Between 2013 and 2017, the economic and trade cooperation zones built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative created local jobs for more than 200,000 people. China has waived debts worth billions of yuan to underdeveloped countries. And it has provided around 60 billion U.S. dollars in development funding to African countries, accompanied by training for hundreds of thousands of new professionals.

And so, as China moves past this major anniverary, it looks towards the future. These past 40 years have shown that a policy of reform and opening up is not something that can sit upon a bookshelf gathering dust, only to be opened on special occasions. It is a living expression of a complex and ongoing process that is set to continue for many years to come. When there are tough times ahead, China will again turn to its friends around the world to ask for their expertise. And just like we saw this week, there will be moments when the Chinese nation will pause to celebrate the hard work of its own people, and those who came from abroad to be a part of China’s future.

Related stories

Share this story on


LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.