The recently concluded weeklong 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be remembered as an epoch-making event not only in the history of China but also the world. The insertion of what has come to be acclaimed as ‘The Xi Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ into the constitution of the Communist Party has put President Xi Jinping into the privileged league of great Chinese leaders, Chairman Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
President Xi has thus become the first living leader to have earned this rare honour. Two of his signature and deeply cherished initiatives, namely his anti-corruption programme and the Belt and Road vision also found their way into the party constitution.
President Xi’s Thought, which is characterised by his new philosophies, ideas and strategies on governance, has been built on the edifice of Marxism-Leninism, Chairman Mao’s Thought, Deng Xiaoping’s Theory, and Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents. It is also distinct in its own way. Mindful of ground realities and objective conditions shaping the global political and economic order, he has demonstrated his statesmanship to look far into the future.
The Congress just did not just provide a blueprint for next five years but also laid out a comprehensive plan to achieve the Chinese renaissance from today through 2050. Vowing to complete Deng Xiaoping’s project of building a ‘Xiaokang society’ marked by general prosperity and orderly social norms, the Xi’s ‘new era’ seeks to attain social modernisation by 2035, which will witness middle class expansion, and innovation- and technology-led, clean development.
President Xi has identified that threats to sustained economic development stem from gap between the rich and the poor and environmental hazards. Hence, his policy has shifted from underdevelopment to making economic growth balanced and participatory. By demanding the reform of global economic governance system, Xi Jinping has made a strong case to develop a model for fair and equitable governance that reflects the realities of modern times.
Ever since the 18th National Congress in 2012, China with Secretary General Xi Jinping as the core has successfully implemented the new philosophy of innovative, coordinated and shared development agenda with a focus on four-pronged Comprehensives enunciated by the Chinese president.
China’s march towards medium-high growth trajectory has been evidenced by an annual GDP growth rate of 7.2 percent on an average from 2013 to 2016, which is higher than the world average of 2.5 percent during the same period. Its GDP accounted for 15 percent of the world total ($11.2 trillion) and GNI per capita registered an increase from $5940 in 2012 to well over $8000 in 2016, thus inching closer to the goal of middle-to-upper income country. The country was ranked 25th on the Global Innovation Index 2016. The preceding five years witnessed the lifting of nearly 14 million people out of poverty on an annual basis, with 2020 being the deadline for lifting the whole of the rural population out of poverty.
The ‘tigers and flies’ approach adopted by President Xi in his drive to root out corruption has resulted in bringing down 1.5 million corrupt people. His Belt and Road Initiative captures the spirit of our times and is a gigantic step aimed at promoting openness, inclusivity, peace and mutual learning. Enjoying strong support and ownership of around 100 countries and multilateral organisations including the UN, the Belt and Road vision is not only a bold but also an epic and futuristic proposition that seeks to create a community of shared interests. It is a pathway to promoting win-win partnerships for around three billion people from across Asia, Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.
Once dubbed as the sleeping giant by Napoleon Bonaparte, New China has successfully emerged as a global economic, military and strategic power. While the first years under Chairman Mao were formative and inward-looking, China embarked on a journey of economic development and opening-up by keeping a low profile in the comity of nations as advised by iconic Deng Xiaoping. Through the sagacity of the leadership, vision of the Communist Party and hard work by the Chinese people the country was able to achieve its objectives by the end of the last millennium.
The ‘muddling through’ years between 2002 and 2012 saw China consolidate its economic gains by increasing its GDP and expanding its economic size in terms of purchasing power. The stage was thus set for a leader of Xi Jinping’s intellectual prowess to seize the moment and guide China along a new path of balanced, participatory and green development.
As global political and economic architectures undergo transformations with implications for world peace, harmony and overall wellbeing of humanity, the peaceful rise of China as the second largest economy and paramount global power has brought much-needed relief to those who feel that the emergence of far-right politics in Europe is a potential threat to the forces shaping globalisation. The lethality and imminence of this threat can be gauged from the increasingly receding position the UN has been subjected to over the last couple of decades in particular.
As ‘political nationalism’ becomes a new normal across North America and Europe, calling into question the very foundations of our shared fabric of economic globalisation, President Xi Jinping has emerged as a potent voice espousing the aspirations of the developing world. He has advocated a strong case for multilateral and a shared approach to problem-solving, with the UN at the core of dispute resolution.
In his historic address at the last meeting of the World Economic Forum 2017, President Xi Jinping put up a resolute defence of economic globalisation, stating that “There was a time when China also had doubts about economic globalisation, and was not sure whether it should join the World Trade Organization. But we came to the conclusion that integration into the global economy is a historical trend. To grow its economy, China must have the courage to swim in the vast ocean of the global market.” His appeal for a dialogue and cooperation between South-South and North-South blocs resonates well with the global community.
What has impressed me deeply about him is his enunciation of the ‘Chinese Dream’, which seeks to improve the living conditions of not just the Chinese but also people of other countries. His Belt and Road vision, and by extension the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, are extension of his ‘dream’ that is premised on fostering shared prosperity and creating a community of common interests.
We, in Pakistan, look at China as an ‘iron brother’ and an ‘all-weather friend’ whose phenomenal progress continues to inspire and motivate us. China continues to be a model country for Pakistan in many respects. Beijing’s impressive rise has great lessons for Pakistan.
With President Xi Jinping at the helm, China has a central role to play in shaping the 21st century, which is being increasingly dubbed as the Asian century. As brothers and partners, we remain keen to learn from the experiences of our great Chinese friends in our quest to achieve progress and prosperity.
The writer is the chief minister of Punjab.