The rise and rise of China
As China is celebrating 40 years of economic reform and opening up policy, it has many reasons to be proud of its achievements. Since the economic reform began in 1978, China has achieved a remarkable economic growth that stunned the world.
In December 1978, former president Deng Xiaoping delivered his historic speech "Emancipate the mind, seeking truth from facts and unite as one to face the future." This triggered four decades of reforms that have transformed China into the world’s second largest economy. By some time in the next decade, China will be among the few countries in the world that will have transitioned from low income to high income status since World War II.
Between 1978 and 2016, China's annual GDP growth averaged 9.7 percent. China registered an outstanding economic performance in 2017 when its GDP hit USD 12 trillion. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China's development has lifted the country's 700 million people out of poverty.
The renowned British economist Nicholas Stern, who taught economics at Peking University in the 1980s, visited China last week. Stern said that when he lived in Beijing in 1987 he used to ride bicycle everywhere as there were few cars in the capital. “Today I am totally taken by surprise by the development of the city, the high-rise buildings and crowded motorists.”
Exports – a key driver of China's economic expansion in 2017 – rose 7.9 percent to 2.26 trillion dollars, the highest rate since 2011, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs. Imports soared 15.9 percent to 1.84 trillion, the strongest increase in six years.
Amidst trade controversy with the US and the Trump administration the new East Asian economic powerhouse is trying to strengthen its trade partnership with the rest of the world.
China Daily, a leading news agency, organized a press trip dubbed “Discover China” in which 20 foreign journalists visited two popular Chinese cities Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province and Jining, Shangdong Province from October 14 to 21, 2018.
With a population of 9.47 million, Hangzhou is the capital of East China’s Zhejiang Province. The city is very green and clean. With such a big population, the city administration managed to keep the city neat. Magnificent high-rise buildings lining up along the spacious streets offer comfortable ride for motorists. Dedicated pedestrian walkways and roads for motorcycles make the traffic flow smooth. By looking at the sheer number of luxury cars roaming the wide avenues, one can tell that the city has a sizeable upper-class population. Expensive cars like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Range Rover, and Cadillac are often seen speeding on the streets of Hangzhou.
With an ancient history that dates back to over 5000 years Hangzhou is bestowed with rich cultural and historical heritages. The city is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the West Lake and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. In 2016 Hangzhou successfully hosted the G20 Summit at the City’s International Convention Center which today is visited by a large number of tourists. The office where Chairman Mao Zedong and his Communist Party of China (CPC) comrades drafted the constitution in 1954 is located in close proximity to the city. Hangzhou which is under preparation to host the Asian games by 2020 has built a magnificent stadium which can host 80,000 spectators.
According to the Information Office of Hangzhou Municipal People’s Government, 160 million tourists visit the city of which three million are foreign. The Office said Hangzhou is a National Ecological City and a National Ecological Garden City. The city has been awarded as a sample city with best tourism practices by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Hangzhou does not only have a glorifying past history but even today it is registering remarkable economic achievements. According to the Information Office, Hangzhou has registered a rapid economic growth. In 2017, the city’s GDP grew by eight percent to 1.26 trillion yuan raking the tenth among large and medium sized cities in China. Its per capita income reached USD 20,000.
Sun Chao, division chief with the Information Office, stated that Hangzhou is building a digital economy. Chao said the city managed to attract a number of giant companies including Alibaba, the world’s largest online trading company. There are a number of industrial parks, hi-tech parks and young entrepreneurs’ incubator centers.
The biggest e-commerce company Alibaba was established in 1999 by Jack Ma and his friends in Hangzhou. The conglomerate has several subsidiaries including Daraz, Alibaba Pictures and ANT Financial. The group’s annual revenue reached 250 billion yuan in 2018. The company, which employs 80,000 people, plans to become a trillion dollar company by 2020.
Hangzhou accounts for 70 percent of the total cloud computing capacity in China. Alibaba Cloud has risen as the world’s third largest public cloud service provider with assignments in more than 200 countries and regions. “Hangzhou is playing an increasingly important role in building the Digital Silk Road,” the Information Office said.
Jining City, Shandong
Jining is the hometown of Confucius (551-479 BC), the celebrated Chinese thinker, philosopher and educator. Located in the South West part of Shandong Province, the city has been honored as the “Home Town of Confucius, the capital of the Grand Canal and the land of Culture. With a population of 8.5 million, Jining enjoys rich cultural heritages.
It is the birth place of the first ancestor of the Han people, the Yellow Emperor and China’s five saints of philosophy: Confucius, Mencius, Zengzi, Yanhui and Zisi.
Briefing a group of foreign journalists Yan Jianbo, head of the Jining Publicity Department, said that Confucianism has shaped Chinese peoples’ lives in one way another and become a potent symbol of eastern culture and the world’s cultural heritage. “Jining has long been committed to promoting inter civilization and mutual learning.”
Jining is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. The Confucius Mansion, Confucius Temple and the 2,500 year old Confucius family cemetery called the Confucius Forest along with the Grand Canal of China – the longest artificial river in the world – are UNESCO World Cultural Heritages. According to the municipality, the city receives 100 million tourists annually.
With modern expressways, high-speed railways, and airport, Jining is the transport hub of the Shandong Province. It also has abundant natural resources. It has a coal deposit of 15.1 billion tons and rare earth reserves of 12.75 million tons.
Jianbo said Jining has evolved from a traditional agricultural city into a modern industrial zone. “The city has developed industrial parks for coal chemicals, engineering, machinery and vehicles manufacturing industry, textile and ICT.”
The Chinese high-end garment manufacturing company, Ruiyi Fashion is based in Jining. The luxury brand manufacturer operates 582 stores in 13 countries in Europe and Asia. It has set up centers in Milan, Paris, London and Tokyo. It also supplies its products to Zara, H&M and Armani. Founded in 1972, Ruiyi Fashion ranks 16th among the world’s top 100 luxury groups in 2017, according to Deloitte. The company plans to become world top ten luxury brands manufacturer with 100 billion yuan annual sales by 2020.
According to Yunpeng Li, brand promotion director, Ruiyi is interested in investing in the textile industry in Africa. Li said the company has identified Nigeria as the next investment destination in the continent. According to him, President Xi Jinping instructed Ruiyi to be China’s ambassador on the new Silk Road under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Jining is also known for its vast IT parks. Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, is one of the leading ICT companies based in Shandong ICT Park. According to Zhang Tongzhong, Jining Enterprise Cloud Business Department Project manager, Huawei focuses on cloud computing projects. The company runs mammoth server rooms in the industrial park. Tongzhou said Huawei is working on artificial intelligence, highway, railway and agricultural digitalization projects.
“Huawei is expanding investment in Africa including in Ethiopia. We are planning to invest in cloud computing in Ethiopia,” Tongzhou told The Reporter.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) China hopes to expand its trade and investment cooperation with the rest of the world. BRI is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. The initiative aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves. As China is marking the 40th anniversary of economic reform and opening up policy, it is aiming even higher to bolster trade and investment cooperation and regional integration.