GUEST Column by Dr. Zhou Pingjian
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949, the Chinese people have brought enormous changes to the country, creating an unprecedented miracle of development in the world history.
Once labeled as the “Sick Man of East Asia”, life expectancy at the beginning of the new republic was around 35 years. It rose to 77 years in 2018.
The illiteracy rate in China stood at 80% in 1949, today the newly-added labor force has received over 13.3 years of education on average. The average years of schooling for the Chinese rose to 10.6 years in 2018 from 1.6 years in 1949. In 2019, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education rises to 48.1% from 0.26% in 1949.
Not capable of producing even a tractor in 1949, we now have a comprehensive industrial system in China. China is now the only country that has developed all the industrial categories of the UN’s industrial classification. As the world’s largest industrial producer, China ranks the first in the output of 220 products.
Over the past 70 years, China’s GDP has averaged an annual growth rate of around 4.4% for the first three decades and 9.5% for the last four decades, lifting more than 700 million people out of poverty. By 2020, all people living below the current poverty line will be taken out of poverty.
In a short span of several decades, China has accomplished what took developed countries hundreds of years to accomplish. This clearly shows that the Chinese people are following the right path. This is, without a doubt, something to be proud of.
That said, we are soberly aware that China remains the world’s biggest developing country and is still at the primary stage of socialism. While China’s economic aggregate is big, when divided by 1.4 billion, it sits at only around 70th place in the world, lagging behind many countries including Seychelles, Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea. China’s per capita GDP has yet to reach the world average and East Asia and Pacific average. While China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas its production capacity leads the world, China’s prominent problem is that its development is unbalanced and inadequate. This has become the main constraining factor in meeting the people’s increasing needs for a better life. Moreover, over 74 million people currently rely on our basic living allowance system; every year, more than 10 million people join the urban job market; several hundred million people need transferring out of agriculture and settling in urban areas; and we have more than 85 million people with disabilities. For China, enabling all 1.4 billion people to live a comfortable life is still going to be a long-term tough job.
The path you take determines your future. The key to China’s development has been the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, pursuing a path that is suited to China’s national conditions. This is a path based on the Chinese context. This is a path that puts people’s interests first. This is a path of pursuing reform and innovation. This is a path of pursuing common development through opening up. No matter how many difficulties and obstacles are there on our road ahead, the Chinese people will unswervingly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the CPC. Any external disturbance or containment cannot shake our confidence and courage, let alone block the historical trend of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
At present, the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century with various global challenges on the rise. Under such circumstances, no country can stay immune on its own. All countries need more than ever before to strengthen communication and coordination, respect each other’s development path, make the pie of mutually beneficial cooperation bigger, jointly safeguard international equity and justice, firmly safeguard multilateralism and continuously promote the democratization of international relations. China stands ready to make positive contributions to this end.
As an African saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The Chinese people have always believed that China will do well only when the world does well, and vice versa. China has grown from a poor and weak country to be world’s second largest economy. What it relied on was not military expansion or colonial plunder, but the hard work of its people and our efforts to uphold peace. History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war, or a trade war, will produce no winners. We believe that there exist no issues that countries cannot resolve through consultation as long as they handle these issues in a spirit of equality, mutual respect, mutual understanding and accommodation. We will continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, so as to share our development opportunities with other countries and welcome them aboard the express train of China’s development. China will stay as determined as ever to build world peace, contribute to global prosperity and uphold the international order.
Never forget why you started, and you can accomplish your mission. China and Africa have always been a community with a shared future. No matter how developed it becomes, China will always see the countries of Africa as our time-honored friends. No matter how the international situation evolves, China will work unremittingly to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with African countries guided by the principles advocated by President Xi, namely the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith.
Both China and Nigeria are major developing countries of great influence in the world. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1971 and strategic partnership in 2005 in particular, the all-round, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation between China and Nigeria has been a pace-setter for China-Africa cooperation. In recent years, thanks to the strategic guidance and personal commitment of President Xi and President Buhari, China and Nigeria have significantly enhanced political trust and secured fruitful outcomes in practical cooperation. China-Nigeria relations are at their best time in history and face new opportunities of growth.
China and Nigeria are born brothers. Our joy is shared and happiness doubled on the occasion of October 1st celebration every year. The brotherly South-South cooperation between China and Nigeria is equal-footed and mutually beneficial. We firmly support Nigeria in pursuing a development path that suits Nigeria’s national conditions. We have every confidence that under the able leadership of President Buhari, Nigeria will achieve even greater success in its national development. We stand ready to work with Nigeria to enhance mutual trust, jointly pursue Belt and Road cooperation in greater synergy with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), effectively implement the outcomes of FOCAC Beijing Summit, and elevate the strategic partnership between China and Nigeria to a new level.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)