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A bird's-eye view of Beijing's central business district. [Photo/VCG]
The development model of the People’s Republic of China today has become a blueprint for development, despite its continued status as a developing nation. While underdeveloped and developing nations have traditionally looked towards the United States and Western capitalist powers for inspiration in their quest for growth, the fast-paced development of China’s economy and technology in the last four decades have influenced many countries to formulate similar models.
Today, China is the number one economic powerhouse of East Asia and is home to the second-largest economy in the world. Its economy continues to compete with that of the United States, while economic analysts have predicted that China will soon surpass the US economy to clinch the number one spot. It is also evident that China’s economy has a significant bearing on economies of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, due to China’s massive investments for development projects across these regions.
In this context, the modern development model of China and its experiences are a prime example for other countries hoping to replicate its success. China’s progress through its development model is better discussed through the spheres of politics and economy.
Politics and the stability of the existing political system is often a direct factor in determining the development of any country. The discourse on China’s political system dates back over 5,000 years, arising from the country’s feudal imperial era. With the victory of the Communist Party in 1949, founders of the People's Republic of China developed a political system they believed was fitting for the China they envisioned. As a result, the Communist Party of China became the most important and key factor in the Chinese political system.
Although the Communist Party has achieved unrivaled power, remarkably, it has used this power to ensure the continued development of China. The party has always considered the country’s peasantry as its foundation. Over the years, China’s stable and centralized political system has been credited with the systematic development since the introduction of the first five-year development plan following the revolution in 1953. This has led to the belief that slow development experienced by countries with multiparty systems are a result of the lack of consensus between political parties over the country’s development policies.
One of the most common scenarios in such countries is the tendency of new governments to introduce changes to, or completely halt, development projects introduced by the previous party. This is common within the Sri Lankan political system. This eventually causes these countries to experience slow-paced development, proving that rapid development can more often take place through a stable political system and environment such as that of China.
What is also evident is that the Chinese have strived to appoint those with requisite qualifications for the top posts in its political system, and that these leaders have worked tirelessly to present effective programs for the country’s future.
Among these many leaders, Deng Xiaoping is hailed as one of the country’s most prolific leaders who heralded in great reforms, which in turn brought about significant developments in China’s economic, industrial and technology fields. Today, under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China is playing an important role as a global power in the international arena. In recent times, the Chinese have successfully transformed their economy, which is based on the socialist market system to align with the ambitions of this century through Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, as well as programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative. This use of power by Chinese leaders has set an example for leaders of third world countries.
Perhaps the most significant point to ponder when considering China as a development model is its economic development. China routinely decides its economic direction through structured five-year plans. The first of its kind was implemented in 1953. Today the country has put into action its thirteenth five-year plan.
In 1949, China was able to establish a strong political and constitutional foundation for the country. But the Chinese were quick to realize that its economic growth was slow in comparison. In fact, it continued to be considered a poor country. The economy further declined following its cultural revolution. In 1978, China's GDP per capita was just 155 USD.
However, by 1978, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese economy had embarked on a new journey through his “reform and opening up” policies. These policies were considered a strategic plan to develop the Chinese economy through a socialist market system.
Deng claimed that Socialist states could develop their own market economy. Introducing a socialist economic model through these reforms, industrialization and urbanization soon accelerated in China, which in turn kick-started the rapid development of its economy. From 1978 to 2012, China’s economic growth average was estimated at 9 percent.
As its development journey continued, in 2012, China was able to clinch the second spot in the world in terms of GDP, resulting in China evolving from a low-income country to a middle-income country within the last 40 years. It’s “reform and opening up” policies not only developed the Chinese economy but also ensured the rapid development in the fields of industry, technology, agriculture, social development and transport.
As an economic model, this awakening of China can be used as a guide for many countries that are developing their own economic approach. The important lesson to be learned is perhaps the importance of implementing economic policies systematically.
Meanwhile, China has made tremendous strides in its technology, construction and transport fields. A market in which Chinese products cannot be found is unheard of, especially in the technology sector. The same goes for the construction field. Chinese companies carrying out construction projects in third world countries are a common phenomenon. Sri Lanka’s own large scale projects, such as the Hambantota port and the Lotus tower, are Chinese undertakings built through Chinese funding and technical support.
The country’s development in the transport sector is perhaps best reflected through its high-speed rail network, which is the largest of its kind in the world. By mid-2018, the total length of China's high-speed railway network reached an astounding 27,000 kilometers. China has also managed to add high-speed trains to its network, which travel at speeds of up to 400 kilometers per hour.
On October 1, the country celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. An undoubtedly historic moment, following the Communist Party’s victory through the revolution, to becoming the world’s second-largest economic power, is an immense achievement. Its success stories and accomplishments are immeasurable. It is evident that China has now become a development model for the world, offering valuable lessons for developing countries today.