GUEST COLUMNIST by Dr. Michael Ehizuelen
Four decades ago Deng Xiaoping, who was regarded as the chief architect of China’s reform and opening up surprised the world by implementing the “open door policy” which have added a glorious chapter to the development epic of China. At the BOAO Forum for Asia Annual Conference in 2018, President Xi complement Deng Xiaoping legacy with his softer tone speech by saying “the Chinese people will continue to work with the world to make greater contributions to mankind, unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, actively participate in promoting changes in the global governance system. To build a new type of international relations and to promote the construction of a community of human destinies.” Also, at the same forum, he said “if the partial opening of the economy by Deng Xiaoping brought prosperity to China, then it will be unwise to close the door now to destroys China’s prosperity”; as such, at the BOAO forum President Xi Jinping surprise the world by opening China door much wider. The logic and the strategy behind opening the door much wider is to allow more import and more services and to bring more prosperity to China. This is the secret behind China’s success in the past four decades having a good leadership that will do the right thing at the right time. President Xi Jinping said: “we will never threaten anyone nor overthrow the existing international system no matter how rich or powerful China becomes, we will not seek to build up spheres of influence – China will always be a builder for the world peace, and contributor to global development as well as a defender to international order.” President Xi’s softer tone speech at the BOAO forum is an overture to help resolve the standoff that has fueled fears concerning what the global economy may undergo in terms of protectionism. President Xi’s softer tone speech called for a commitment to openness, promoting free trade, investment liberalization and facilitation, supporting multilateral trading system, connectivity, mutual benefits, build an open global economy, and reinforce cooperation with the G20 and other regional and multilateral frameworks.
According to Xin Ming, Professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee said “China reform moved to the next level after the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. This was the genesis of a novel phase in the Chinese economy as it becomes a period when China becomes more systematic, interconnected and coordinated. As a result of this, in 2013, China established the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to strengthen global connectivity. This initiative has created numerous benefits for nations along the routes. For example, according to Xinhua report titled China sees trade, investment growth with B&R countries, as of August 2018, China has signed 118 Belt and Road collaboration pacts with 103 nations and international organizations, and signed or upgraded five free-trade pacts with 13 nations along the routes. The report further mentioned that China total trade value with nations along the BRI routes surpassed US$5 trillion in the past five years, with an annual average growth of 1.1 percent, in contrast to falling global trade. China is presently the largest trading partner of 25 nations along the BRI routes. Also, China’s joint direct investment with nations along the BRI routes has soared by 7.2 percent yearly on average. The Xinhua report further mentioned that more than 83 foreign economic and trade collaboration zones have been launched with nations along the BRI routes, with an accrued investment of 28.9 billion dollars. The zones attracted almost 4, 000 firms, generating 2 billion dollars of tax revenue for these nations and creating 244, 000 local employment. At the BOAO Forum for Asia Annual Conference in 2018 President Xi said: “the Belt and Road initiative originated in China, but the opportunities and achievements belong to the world.” He further said that this is not a “Chinese club”. Saudi Arabia and Japan are also discussing plans to join BRI. This indicates that China seeks cooperation rather than competition at the global level. No doubt difficulties and challenges would happen in course of projects implementation, the fact is, through discussion, mutual trust and teamwork which are the key basis of the BRI, the BRI nations with their capacities and strength can address these issues collectively and move forward to attain domestic global economic goals.
At the beginning of the reform and opening-up period, numerous Western leaders had doubts about China’s policies and wanted to verify them through Deng Xiaoping. Four decades on, the reverse is the case as numerous nations think that there is much to learn from China in terms of the precision with which it is forging ahead to implement its strategy. China has vowed to deepen reform and open wider to the outside world. President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony of the First China International Import Expo (CIIE) on November 5 in Shanghai that “China’s economic growth over the last four decades has been achieved with a commitment to opening up. In the same vein, high-quality development of China economy in the future can only be guaranteed with greater openness.” CIIE is the world’s first imported-themed expo held at the national level, which is a vital significant decision made by China to pursue a novel round of high-level opening up, is China’s major initiative to widen market access to the rest of the world. At the expo, numerous exhibitors of the CIIE came from G20 member states as well as nations with the links to the BRI. A total of 172 nations, regions and international organizations exhibited their products and services, plus more than 200 firms from over 40 African nations. CIIE offers a good chance for exhibitors to go beyond the norm and to expand the status-quo of current trading levels. It also provides an excellent opportunity for developing economies to engage with Chinese firms and display their diverse products. CIIE showcases to the world that new trends in economic cooperation are emerging and China is making that happened. To conclude, Chinese concepts and initiative such as “community of shared future for mankind,” “the Belt and Road Initiative” and the “green development” that originated in China’s own development have been incorporated in United Nation documents and strategies and have become popular concepts in global governance. To conclude, Helga Zepp LaRouche who is the Schiller Institute Founder once said: “if the G20 would put the world silk road on the agenda, then China’s dream would become the world’s dream.” As such, if China’s dream becomes the world dreams, then the world can move from “Emptiness” to “Joyfulness”. I used emptiness because a nation without a good manufacturing sector to create jobs, financing to fund development projects, sound infrastructure to create a multiplier effect, trade and investment to inject capital into a nation’s economy is empty. As these are the opportunities the BRI is presenting to the world. So, I urge African countries to look forward to fully participate in the BRI to reverse the continent’s anti-industrialization process due to their failed adjustment, which was guided by Western “structured reforms” in the 1980s. The final goal is to accelerate technology transfer, employment creation and Africa’s comprehensive transformation.
(Dr. Michael Ehizuelen is the director of Centre for Nigerian Studies, Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University)