Chi­nese Dream to oc­cupy center stage in 2014

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - COLIN SPEAK­MAN The au­thor is an econ­o­mist and di­rec­tor of China pro­grams at CAPA In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, a US-UK based or­ga­ni­za­tion that co­op­er­ates with Cap­i­tal Nor­mal Univer­sity and Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Univer­sity.

o sleep: Per­chance to dream.” Stu­dents of Shakespeare world­wide will rec­og­nize th­ese words spo­ken by Ham­let. Dreams have in­spired peo­ple and na­tions for cen­turies, per­haps none more so than the Amer­i­can Dream. Yet dreams are pre­cious and can be bro­ken. Bri­tain’s Elec­tric Light Orches­tra in their fa­mous pop hit im­plored us to “hold on tight to your dream”. China should do that next year as it rises to many chal­lenges.

As 2013 comes to a close, China’s top leader Xi Jin­ping’s Chi­nese Dream for the re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion has come to oc­cupy center stage and in the com­ing Year of the Horse, China will gal­lop for­ward in its pur­suit. This dream is both a per­sonal and varied one for in­di­vid­u­als, and a col­lec­tive one for the na­tion. Hope and har­mony fea­ture loudly in it.

Af­ter 35 years of un­bro­ken eco­nomic growth, of­ten around dou­ble dig­its, why shouldn’t China, which has raised hun­dreds of mil­lions of its peo­ple out of poverty, dare to dream?

The Chi­nese Dream is mul­ti­fac­eted, em­brac­ing im­proved liv­ing stan­dards, greater fair­ness with a crack­down on cor­rup­tion, and a ris­ing force for good in a chang­ing in­ter­na­tional arena.

China’s per capita GDP in terms of pur­chas­ing power par­ity was about $8,000 in 2012, ver­sus $48,000 in the United States. China may be the sec­ond-largest econ­omy but surely few would be­grudge its peo­ple achiev­ing the dream of dou­bling their av­er­age an­nual in­come and be­com­ing a mod­er­ately pros­per­ous na­tion over the next decade. That pros­per­ity will greatly ben­e­fit the rest of the world, be­cause China is mar­ket of more than 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for win-win growth.

A key to this pros­per­ity is main­tain­ing ro­bust but bal­anced eco­nomic growth, with im­proved en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies. In Novem­ber, the Third Plenum of the 18th Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in Novem­ber de­cided to deepen re­forms to re­struc­ture the econ­omy, al­low­ing mar­ket forces to rise to the top while re­tain­ing a core role for re­struc­tured State-owned en­ter­prises. This is one pil­lar of the dream, and in­cludes in­creased eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency, in­no­va­tion, higher value-added in­dus­tries and a more open fi­nan­cial in­fra­struc­ture.

China watch­ers ea­gerly await 2014 as more build­ing blocks are be­ing put in place. While the right kind of in­vest­ment will re­main im­por­tant and China will reach out to new ex­port mar­kets around the world, the acid test will be signs of the long awaited rise in do­mes­tic house­hold con­sump­tion as a per­cent­age of in­come.

China’s eco­nomic growth re­flects Deng Xiaop­ing’s ad­vice that, it is nec­es­sary to “let some get rich first”. Ac­cord­ing to Ru­pert Hoogew­erf, this year has seen the num­ber of bil­lion­aires in China sur­pass those in the US, which means some peo­ple have al­ready achieved their Chi­nese Dream. Yet the large eco­nomic in­equal­ity that the GINI co­ef­fi­cient, which was 0.474 in 2012, re­flects is that China is not con­sis­tent with so­cial equal­ity, and that should be the sec­ond pil­lar of the Chi­nese Dream.

A har­mo­nious so­ci­ety is a fair so­ci­ety. There­fore, part of the col­lec­tive dream has to be im­proved so­cial wel­fare: greater ac­cess to med­i­cal ser­vices and higher pen­sions for se­nior cit­i­zens, a more re­dis­tribu­tive tax sys­tem, fairer tax treat­ment for small busi­nesses and elim­i­na­tion of cor­rup­tion.

The crack­down on cor­rup­tion, which in­cludes some high-pro­file cases, has sent an im­por­tant mes­sage. And the anti-cor­rup­tion drive to trap both the “flies and tigers” (catch­ing the small as well as the big fish) should strengthen peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in so­cial jus­tice. The coun­try’s lead­er­ship has sent out another im­por­tant mes­sage which is more about moral be­hav­iour — that lav­ish of­fi­cial banquets, lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ van­ity projects and gen­eral mis­use of tax rev­enue that is needed to help build a fairer so­ci­ety may not be cor­rup­tion, but they are not the cor­rect way to serve the peo­ple.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments will play a key role in the Chi­nese Dream be­cause about 250 mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to move from ru­ral to ur­ban ar­eas and many new cities are likely to be built in the next cou­ple of decades. This pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­nity for eco-friendly, ef­fi­cient and safe ur­ban de­sign by draw­ing on the best global prac­tices un­der trust­wor­thy lo­cal lead­er­ship.

The third pil­lar of the Chi­nese Dream is that China should play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in world af­fairs as a re­spon­si­ble stake­holder and a coun­try that shares with many oth­ers the same core global is­sues: eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal progress, growth of world trade, food safety and se­cu­rity, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, fight against ter­ror­ism and gen­eral sta­bil­ity.

China has an­nounced new se­cu­rity man­age­ment struc­tures to ad­dress some of th­ese is­sues in­ter­nally. As a con­tin­u­ously grow­ing econ­omy, it has been able to spend more funds on the mil­i­tary while main­tain­ing it as a mod­est per­cent­age of the GDP and at an ab­so­lute value far be­low that of the US. It is in­evitable that some peo­ple will want to present this as a threat, and it will test China’s diplo­macy to show that it only has a peace­ful in­tent for de­fen­sive pur­poses — that there has been no change in China’s long-es­tab­lished pol­icy of mu­tual non-in­ter­fer­ence in a coun­try’s do­mes­tic af­fairs.

Cer­tainly, the top lead­ers’ vis­its to Rus­sia, the US, Africa, Europe and South­east Asia have high­lighted the in­ner peace in the Chi­nese Dream, which means a ris­ing China will ben­e­fit the world rather than desta­bi­liz­ing the ex­ist­ing world or­der.

Ul­ti­mately, if China re­al­izes its dream, it would in­spire other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to do so and help ad­vanced na­tions to con­tinue to pros­per. It is a dream of peace that will ben­e­fit China as well as the rest of the world.

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