To achieve high quality development, China must continue to open up

China Plus Published: 2018-12-20 23:12:52
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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]

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.

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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, 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.