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China and the world: 40 years of reform and opening up


Wang Xiaohui, editor-in-chief of

About this time 40 years ago, an important meeting in Chinese history, the third plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, was held in Beijing. The meeting adopted the reform and opening-up policy and set China on a road to growth and prosperity.

Today, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, it is important to reflect on this great adventure over the past four decades.

First reflection: Why did China carry out reform and open up to the outside world?

I think it was the result of interaction between external and internal factors. China reclaimed its United Nations membership in 1971 and realized normalization of relations with the United States and Japan in the following years, thus providing a favorable external environment for reform and opening up. As to the internal factors, various people may offer a very long list. However, to me, it's very simple -- Deng Xiaoping. I am not trying to exaggerate the role of one person in determining the fate of a country. However, Deng was not an ordinary person, his position in the Party, his vision, courage, and determination were vital to China at that time. I even doubt whether China would have set foot on the road of reform and opening up without Deng.

Second reflection: What are the changes brought about by the reform and opening up in the past 40 years to China and the world?

We were able to overcome the difficulty of providing adequate food and clothing for a huge population of 1.3 billion, and became manufacturer for the world. The average expenditure per capita in 2017 was 18,322 yuan. Taking changing price factors into account, the figure was 18 times greater than that in 1978. Such developments have enabled China, in a short time, to raise almost a billion people out of poverty.

In 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest economy, and in 2017, its GDP reached $12.3 trillion, or 15 percent of the world total.

With reform and opening up, China is getting more and more involved and integrated with the rest of the world. For examples, it has hosted two Asian Games and the 2008 Summer Olympics. In the meantime, the nation has come to play a leading role in promoting the international economic order and better global governance.

Through reform and opening up, China has not only been able to become the second largest economy, but also made a great contribution to the rest of the world. Many world-famous enterprises have taken root in China. KFC, for example, opened its first branch in China in Beijing in 1987; today, there are 8,000 such branches. In recent years, China's contribution to world economic growth has remained above 30 percent. More and more Chinese enterprises have gone abroad, and China's outward direct investment (ODI) in 2017 stood at $158.3 billion, about 55 times higher than the figure of 2003. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. At present, more than 100 countries and international organizations have joined in Belt and Road construction in various forms. Since 2000, China has hosted two APEC summits in Beijing, the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the annual Boao Asia Economic Forum, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the newly launched China International Import Expo, and established dozens of free trade zones with countries all over the world, offering China's solutions to global governance.

And most importantly, In the past 40 years, through reform and opening up, China has found a development road with Chinese characteristics that can provide a point of reference for other developing countries.

Third reflection: Risks and challenges.

The risks and challenges today increasingly extend across national borders. With its door open, China is no longer an "isolated island." Everything in the outside world, good or bad, is capable of being transferred to China, sometimes gradually, sometimes instantly. Financial risks, economic upheavals, stock prices and interest rate fluctuations, terrorism...

We have paid price for environmental deterioration and environmental protection should be a duty that we need to continue fulfill in economic development.

In the past 40 years, economic development has been the central task of the Party and the government. Deep and full-range involvement in economic affairs has helped cause serious corruption among some Party and government officials, and the task of fighting corruption and setting straight aberrant social behavior is huge.

Along with reform and opening up, China's international relations are getting more and more diversified and complicated. Major power relations (China-U.S., China-Russia), neighboring country relations (China-Japan, China-Vietnam, China-India) are clear examples. We all agree that peace and development are the general trend; we also admit that there are elements of competition, divergence, contradiction, and confrontation between and among countries. As China moves closer to the center of the world stage, it is more likely to be exposed to various contradictions, and how to handle these problems properly while keeping up its pace of growth remains a question that has to be answered.

And my conclusion is nothing new but very, very plain.

China's reform and opening up is a great adventure, benefiting the country and the rest of the world. There is no smooth road in the process of a country growing strong and prosperous. Inevitably, there must be challenges and difficulties. The only way out is to deepen reform and open wider to the outside world. At a time when many countries are becoming more polarized and more inward-looking and focused on conflicts and win-loss outcomes rather than cooperation and win-win results, it is important to reflect on China's tremendous achievements that are only possible when the people and the government have vision, take a long-term view, remain open to reform and work hard. In the past 40 years, China has made a difference, and in the future, it is determined to stick to its road of reform and opening up.

The author Wang Xiaohui is editor-in-chief of  Editor:Lucky

(Source_title:China and the world: 40 years of reform and opening up)