To achieve high quality development, China must continue to open up
Note: The following is an edited translation of an article from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."
China's intensive introduction of measures to expand and open up has prompted foreign companies to increase investment in China. [Photo: VCG]
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at a grand gathering to mark the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up process, summing up the valuable experience accumulated over the past 40 years and calling for the country to persist in expanding its openness and constantly promote the concept of a shared future for mankind. This valuable experience is of great guiding significance for the future high quality development of China's economy.
40 years ago, China was in a closed or semi-closed state, and its trade in goods ranked only 29th in the world. In the past 40 years, China has opened up special economic zones, and extended the openness to coastal areas, riversides and inland central cities. The country has also joined the World Trade Organization, is striving to collaboratively build the “Belt and Road” initiative, set up 12 free trade pilot zones, and is planning to establish free trade ports with Chinese characteristics. The whole country has formed a new pattern of opening up in every sense of the word. As a result, China has become the world's largest trading nation; in 2017, China's GDP increased by 33.5 times compared with 1978, with an average annual growth rate of 9.5 percent, much higher than the 2.9 percent in the global economy, creating a great miracle in the history of world economic growth.
Of course, economic growth is not the only indicator to measure the level of economic development of a country. A comprehensive consideration of multiple aspects is also needed. Take consumer electronics products as an example. In the 1980s, Chinese people took great pride in family-owned color TVs, refrigerators, and washing machines. Today, people are happy to add dishwashers, water purifiers, and even floor sweeping robots. The changes reflect the Chinese people's pursuit of a better life and the desire to continuously upgrade their consumption. The Chinese economy is shifting from high-speed growth to high-quality development.
President Xi Jinping has said that China's economic development has been achieved under the conditions of openness in the past 40 years. In the future, the realization of high-quality development of the Chinese economy must also be carried out under more open conditions.
"Opening up" has become a common theme among Chinese leaders. In the past few months, the total tariff level of China has dropped to 7.5 percent, and the fields of finance, automobiles, aircraft, and ships have been further opened to foreign investment. The turnover of the first China International Import Expo reached 57.8 billion US dollars. The ranking of China’s business environment in a World Bank report has increased by more than 30 places in a year.
Of course, while China is advancing on this open road, there will inevitably be both flowers and thorns. On the one hand for China, the latest round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation is accelerating and evolving. A large number of new technologies, new formats and new modes of development will undoubtedly provide an important impetus for China's economic transformation and upgrading. On the other hand, the rise of protectionism, unilateralism and global trade friction has brought more challenges and more uncertainty to China's development. This is the thorny way that China can't dodge. Faced with a new era of being open or closed, moving forwards or back, the answer from Chinese leaders and the Chinese people is clear and firm. Never go back! The door will not only remain open, it will also be opening wider.
In his speech, President Xi Jinping made it clear that the construction of “Belt and Road” will undoubtedly be an important platform for China to achieve high-quality development both internally and externally. At the core of “Belt and Road” construction is the principle of “achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration.” China will never force other countries to do things they do not wish to do. In the past five years, China’s trade in goods related to the “Belt and Road” project has surpassed an accumulated amount of 5 trillion US dollars, and foreign direct investment has exceeded 60 billion US dollars, creating more than 200,000 jobs in the regions along the route. So, China's joint construction of the “Belt and Road” platform with other countries has achieved a mutually beneficial ‘win-win’ effect, which is in line with the development needs of various countries.
In August of this year, President Xi Jinping pointed out that the “Belt and Road” should be coordinated with the development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, and the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and promote the formation of an open pattern of linkage between inland and coastal areas and between eastern and western regions. The "Belt and Road" initiative as a platform to promote high-quality development with a high level of internal and external openness perhaps best exemplifies China's new round of reform and opening up. It is also the focus of China's new contribution to the world.