Confidence shows rapid pace of economic reform Development is creating opportunities for young people
The Communist Party of China is holding its 19th National Congress in Beijing. asked two prominent experts for their views on developments in China and the country’s global leadership.
Having stayed in close contact with China and its people for four decades, John Holden, associate dean of Peking University’s Yenching Academy, is amazed by how Chinese people have changed during the past 40 years.
Now responsible for recruitment of international students and university partnerships at the academy — established in 2014 to offer fellowships in China studies to elite international and Chinese master’s students — Holden said later generations could not imagine what China was like when he first came in 1974.
It was during the later stages of the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) when Holden paid his first visit to the Chinese mainland.
He was an undergraduate studying Chinese language and literature at the University of Minnesota in the United States at the time.
He said it was a tough and terrible time for China, and people were not happy.
“They were afraid to talk to their families about things they cared about,” he said.
Things had changed greatly by the time he returned in 1980, not long after the reform and opening-up policy was implemented. By then, Holden had finished all his PhD requirements at Stanford University except for his dissertation.
“There was a fresh wind of openness and people were reaching out,” he recalled of his return to China. “People were talking to each other, talking to foreigners, striking up friendships and finding opportunities.”
As the country opened up, so too did the minds of the Chinese people. Everything was developing, young people had so many opportunities, and people were having fun and smiling, he said.
What now impresses Holden, who also serves as a professor of management practice at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, is the high level of confidence about the next five years.
In his eyes, China has experienced a transition period — both politically and economically — since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012.
In the past five years, the Chinese economy has maintained strong growth, as planned, and has been moving to a different growth model. The CPC has been working to combat corruption through an anti-graft campaign.
“So people are expecting that the next five years will be successful and that, for example, the economic reforms will progress quickly,” he said.
Having experience of doing business with China and as a former president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating understanding and cooperation between the two countries, Holden sees China as being woven deeply into the fabric of almost every issue across the globe.
“There is nowhere China is not present, and that’s good because China has a lot to offer, whether it’s peacekeeping, education, trade and investment, disease control or climate change,” he said.
He said there are so many ways that China can make a contribution to global progress and that the world wants China to play a bigger and more important role.
For the next five years, Holden anticipates there will be continued evolution in China’s economy and that the country will continue its efforts to clean up the environment.
He also said he believes China will gain more experience internationally and in dealing with corporations overseas, such as in Africa, where China has a big role.
“Some of the investments there have not been sufficiently sensitive to local conditions, but people are aware of that and they are trying to improve things and to get feedback,” he said, adding that the country is learning how to run compan ies abroad, how to go into other countries and make intelligent investments.
“So I expect the (overseas Chinarun) companies will continue to get better and learn to hire local people and work with them as team members,” he said.
Holden admitted that it had been a sharp learning curve.
“When I first started doing business here, how many people knew what a letter of credit was? What an international trade contract was or force majeure? Nobody knew these things. So I think there is much more capacity in China,” he said.
associate dean of Peking University’s Yenching Academy