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Colin Mackerras: China’s development path ‘has great appeal’

Author  :  REN GUANHONG     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2022-11-11

The recently concluded 20th CPC National Congress has attracted worldwide attention. Many foreign scholars have been exploring the recipe for China’s fast economic growth and long-term social stability from different perspectives. In a recent interview with CSST, Colin Mackerras, a fellow from the Australian Academy of the Humanities and professor emeritus at Griffith University in Australia, shared his views on China’s development path, saying “the way China has chosen to develop and handle massive problems has great appeal to countries that are trying to drag themselves out of backwardness and make real progress domestically and in the world.”

Remarkable achievements

Citing the World Bank’s data that China’s share of global GDP grew from 7.74% in 2010 to 15.19% in 2020, Mackerras said that the nation’s standard of living, infrastructure—especially the wonderful high-speed railway system, overall production and trade with foreign countries are all models of how a country once renowned for its underdevelopment can rise so quickly.

“It is true that China is facing some headwinds at present, due to COVID lockdowns necessary to prevent the spread of the disease, and deliberate attempts by the US to block its growth. However, it seems to me that, after temporary problems are overcome, it can continue its rise to becoming the world’s largest economy,” he said.

In political terms, Mackerras said China has been remarkably stable in a world full of rising tensions. “President Xi Jinping has made very good progress in stamping out corruption and consolidating the power of the CPC.”

Regarding “soft power” as another interesting measure of China’s rapid development, Mackerras defined it as a nation’s ability to influence other actors “through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion,” quoting the executive summary of the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2022 as saying “though China’s performance may be a surprise to some in the Western world, it will have been expected across many developing countries.”

Contributions to global poverty reduction

In a news release dated Apr. 1 2022, the World Bank calculated that over the past 40 years, the number of people in China with incomes below the World Bank’s extreme poverty margin ($1.90 per day) had fallen by close to 800 million. It added: “With this, China has contributed close to three-quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty.”

“Of course, China is extremely relevant to, and useful for, global poverty reduction,” Mackerras said. “This is especially the case since many of the good trends signaled in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, announced in 1999, have begun to go backwards since 2015.”

Among the Sustainable Development Goals, the first two and most important are elimination of extreme poverty and elimination of serious hunger. China’s achievement in eliminating absolute poverty is a stupendous achievement and a model for all countries, he said.

Significance of BRI

Mackerras noted that the US-led world is retreating from globalization. At the same time, China-based globalization is on the increase. “This is especially the case through the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), first announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013.”

He pointed out that the BRI aims to improve infrastructure and various kinds of exchange and investment across the great Eurasian continent in a way that has not happened for many centuries, since the maritime route started to replace the continental route between China and Europe in about the 16th century.

As of August 2022, 149 countries had signed up to join the initiative. “It may have faced problems, but its overall success in contributing to infrastructure, trade, and prosperity in the world, especially the non-Western world, is beyond doubt,” Mackerras said, adding that it is likely to have a huge and positive impact on the economies of the non-Western world in the coming decades.

According to the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research, the BRI is likely to increase the world GDP by $7.1 trillion per annum by 2040, with widespread benefits. The positive impact of the BRI on the world economy, especially the non-Western world economy, and of China on global exchange and development is obvious, Mackerras said.

Editor: Yu Hui

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