Zhang Lirong: CHINA FORUM will help you know China better

  • ZHANG Lirong: Secretary-General of China Forum.

    We at CHINA FORUM (CF) are very happy that we had a successful virtual conference with IREE last June with support of the Chinese Embassy in Brasilia and then CF and IREE established formal partnership. The co-hosted conference focused on the responsibility of political parties in a changing world where chairpersons of seven Brazilian political parties, several Chinese political scientists and Chinese ambassador to Brazil took part. With the partnership between CF and IREE, we agreed to continue with conferences on various themes and organize articles introducing China and Brazil to each other’s readers.

    Launched in 2019, China Forum is a permanent platform of the Center for Security and Strategy (CISS), Tsinghua University. CF’s work includes recommending and supporting domestic outstanding scholars, former officials, entrepreneurs and media experts to attend high-end international forums, promoting experts’ articles to international and domestic media, producing and releasing video and podcast programs, with the aim to help the world know China better.

    When people want to understand China, you should have some ideas about China’s history. China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a history of about 3500 years with written record. During one of the most prosperous periods in history, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D), China’s GDP represented more than half of the world’s and still about world’s one third around 1820. China’s national strength declined in its modern history starting from the first Opium War in 1840. The last emperor was overthrown in 1911, the country was declared a republic but for many years it’s people still lived in dire straits because of warlords’ scuffle and the Japanese aggression against China from 1931 to 1945. After many years’ arduous struggle and fighting lead by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with Chairman Mao Zedong, a new China, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was found in 1949. New China ended the history of semi-colonial and semi-feudal society and the Chinese people stood up.

    In the first thirty years, PRC enjoyed a rapid economic recovery and social development but also suffered political and economic setbacks culminated during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). In 1978 China adopted a policy of reform and opening up and the country began to transform from planned economy to socialist market economy under the leadership of Mr. Deng Xiaoping. During the following thirty years or so China’s economy enjoyed a fascinating development.

    The reforms started from the rural areas with the implementation of the household contract system with the result of higher production and less labor input. The rise of township enterprises has enhanced the vitality of rural development. They greatly reduced costs and met the needs of the market. They not only became an important support for rural progress, but also became an important force of the national economy at that time.

    Driven by rural reform, urban reforms brought about higher autonomy of enterprise management and vitality of enterprises, expanding non-public economy and deepening the reform of state-owned enterprises, so as to make the market play a decisive role.

    On the external front, China made reforms of its foreign trade system, opened up for foreign technology, management experience and direct investment. China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, being an active participant in multilateral trade and a positive driving force of economic globalization.

    Ushering in the 21st century, China's economic and social development entered a fast lane, the economic growth rate was among the best in the world, its open economy reached a new level and people's living standard was significantly improved. China's GDP leaped year after year. China surpassed Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in 2010.


    In the recent ten years or so, high-quality development and innovation has been the focus of the Chinese economy while it has maintained medium and high-speed growth. It has been repeatedly stressed, innovation is the inexhaustible driving force for national prosperity, the long-term solution of high-quality development depends on scientific and technological innovation. Brilliant achievements have been made in mobile communication, high-speed rail technology, artificial intelligence, manned spaceflight, quantum science, supercomputing and so on. Digital economy has enjoyed a rapid growth, reaching 38.6% of GDP in 2020. At the same time, the government attaches great importance to solving prominent environmental problems and vigorously promoting a green development. China has committed to peak its CO2 emission before the year of 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

    Over the past 72 years, especially in the past 40 years of reform and opening up, tremendous changes have taken place in China. China is now the second biggest economy in the world with GDP of more than 15 trillion US$. It is the largest manufacturing country in the world. Among the world's 500 major industrial products, China has 220 products ranking first in the world. Infrastructure continues to improve. The national railway mileage has reached about 140,000 kilometers, including 35,000 kilometers of high-speed railway.  In terms of expressway mileage, China ranks the first in the world with nearly 150,000 km.  People's living standard has been greatly improved. More than 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty with the eradication of absolute poverty of nearly 99 million people by the end of 2020, leading the way in accomplishing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal. China's per capita GDP increased from 27 US$ 70 years ago to some 10000 US$ by 2020.

    If we quickly sum up the experiences of China’s development, some key factors are the following. Choose the development path based on national conditions and do not copy the political system and development model of other countries. Take development as the basis and key to solving all problems. Gain development momentum through reform and opening up. Optimize and upgrade industrial structure by innovation. Adhere to a people-centered policy. A strong government and leadership is needed. State-owned enterprises are important in national economy but the increasing role of the private sector shouldn’t be neglected. China's non-public economy now accounts for more than 60% of GDP, more than 50% of tax contribution and more than 80% of employment contribution.

    Having displayed the marvelous progress, we should not overlook the challenges and difficulties the nation faces. Disparity of development among different regions within the country, difficulties and obstacles of upgrading from the lower-middle to the high end in production and supply chains, the danger of falling into the “middle-income trap”, the aging population and the international challenges and uncertainties, just to name some of them.

    Looking ahead, from 2020 to 2035, China is striving for realizing basic modernization. From 2035 to the middle of this century, the target is the rejuvenation of the nation, being a prosperous, strong, democratic, modern socialist country.

    On international front, China has been actively advocating for peaceful development and global cooperation with destiny of a human community with a shared future. China upholds, the international system should be the one with the United Nations as the core, the international order should be based on international law and the basic norms of international relations should be based on the principles of the UN Charter. President Xi Jinping said in his speech at this year’s UN Assembly, that the Chinese nation inherits and pursues the concept of peace and harmony. We did not and will not invade, bully or seek hegemony. China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, a defender of the international order and a provider of public goods. China will continue to provide new opportunities for the world with its new development.

    As a fast-growing economy, the largest trading nation and the largest consumer market, the second largest outbound investor, China's contribution rate to world economic growth has exceeded 30%. China advocates for open economy, free trade and economic globalization. China joined Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last year and has just applied for the membership of Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). President Xi Jinping proposed the “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI) which follows the principle of joint construction through consultation with shared benefits. Since the initiative was put forward 8 years ago, BRI has been responded by 138 countries and 30 international organizations with over 200 cooperation agreements. As the corona-virus pandemic has posed severe challenge to the whole world, China has called over and over again on international joint efforts against it. Up to now China has supplied the world with one billion doses of vaccines and will provide another one billion within the year.

    As the first piece, I hope the above-mentioned history and data will help you know China especially China’s economy a little better. China Forum would like to brief you more about various aspects of China, development of its manufacturing sector in particular, and Chinese perspectives on global issues.


    (The article in Portuguese was orgianlly published on Sep. 30, 2021 on IREE website.)

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