BY DANIEL HYATT
It’s been 40 years since China decided to open up and show the world that the approach to national development is not singular. During second half of the last century when the West was busy in its ideological war on socialism, China was quietly taking strides toward success. The developing world today has numerous lessons to learn from this textbook case of human development.
Perhaps the greatest developmental success that China achieved was in poverty alleviation. Independent bodies like the United Nations and World Bank serve as witnesses to this fact, wherein the latter believes that nearly 800 million people escaped poverty in China since the 1980s. Meanwhile, International Poverty Reduction Center in China concluded that the country lifted 850 million people out of the scourge from 1981 to 2013, thus reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty from 88 percent to 1.85 percent.
But how exactly was China able to do that? One of the major approaches was a targeted anti-poverty program. It helped not just the urban population but also focused on people from remote areas and on those who lagged behind. In addition to the government, private companies joined in through programs like Alibaba’s Rural Taobao to exclusively target poverty-stricken areas. Then it was the increase of financial investments, jointly undertaken by government and the social sector with full play to participate in poverty alleviation programs. Citizens were also encouraged by bringing about a sense of enthusiasm and creativity in building their businesses. In the end, an intensified assessment program was followed to ensure that these efforts succeeded.
China has emphasized human-oriented development and developmental practices have kept a humanist approach as their prime focus. With basic health insurance covering all Chinese people, living standards improving, and educational quality rising at par with global standards, China has scaled the Human Development Index over the years.
China has taken a lead role in shouldering the world’s environmental protection responsibilities. The Chinese government threw its weight behind the Paris Agreement on Climate Change after making visible efforts in improving local environmental conditions. A potent Environment Law was introduced, specific targets were outlined in the Five Year Plan and violators were penalized.
With its workforce aging and wages rising, China is laying more emphasis on automating its industry. Chinese investors are using Western and indigenous expertise to remain abreast of the 4th industrial era. The “Made in China 2025” plan aims to develop manufacturing on par with industrialized nations. The government has been pursuing plans for concentrating on the use of renewable energy. To reduce dependence on coal, green sources like wind, solar and nuclear power are being extensively encouraged.
While devoting itself to industrial development, China has at the same time reformed agriculture. Technology and research-based methods were introduced to massively increase farm production. Improvements include giving more rights to farmers, ending state monopoly on agricultural products and encouraging growers to establish township enterprises.
Empowerment of local governments has been instrumental in China’s growth. Fiscal decentralization encouraged regional competition and resulted in a market-oriented economy. Authorized to use capital expenditure, local governments encouraged private investors by making them a part of international production and supply chain. Provincial governments remained flexible in addressing local challenges by adopting innovative solutions. Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces were so successful in achieving their economic goals that the central government asked them to join hands with the rustbelt northeastern provinces to rejuvenate their economies.
Another secret of China’s success story is its investment in growth of other countries. The Belt and Road initiative, aimed at reviving the ancient silk route, is taking major economies along on China’s path to prosperity. The initiative has encouraged communication among partner countries and is making the entire region conducive to development. China is also increasing investment in Least Developed Countries to $12 billion by 2030. In addition to that, hundreds of poverty reduction programs, agricultural cooperation projects, trade promotion programs, educational scholarships and medical facilities have been made available to countries struggling with their development initiatives.
Owing to the Chinese policy of investing in a shared future, the developing world is now looking toward China rather than at traditional players of global growth. The inventive methods adopted by China in fostering development are a lesson that any developing nation can overcome challenges even during the span of a single generation.
(The author is a Pakistan-based freelance journalist. email@example.com)