Over the past 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country has grown into the world's second largest economy, the largest manufacturer, and the largest trader in goods. Its per capita GDP rose more than 500 times that of 1949.
by Xinhua writer He Fei
BEIJING, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- "Never in the world has a developing country (leaped) to an economic wonderland at such a pace," observed German journalist Martin Kummer.
In an interview with Xinhua, the veteran reporter, now in his eighties, recalled the changes he had witnessed in China in his lifetime, and lauded the significant improvements the Asian country has made in quality of life, technology, infrastructure and global governance.
Like Kummer, who has put on several photo shows on China, numerous China observers have recorded China's development process in photos, travelogues and essays, telling the stories behind China's sound and fast development in seven decades.
Photo taken on July 9, 2019 shows Audi vehicles awaiting transfer at the parking lot of FAW-Volkswagen in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province. (Xinhua/Xu Chang)
OPENING UP TO CHANGES
In April 1976, Kummer recorded with his camera various facets of China and the lives of its people during a three-week visit to China, then a mysterious land of the East to many in the West.
People wore "the same black or gray Mao suits," led "poor lives" and had "scarce" recreational activities, he recalled.
In 2006, Kummer retraced the same route of his previous visit, shooting pictures at the same place and from the same angle. He was amazed to see that the cities had developed like mushrooms after the rain.
A two-story plant was replaced with the over-400-meter skyscraper of Jin Mao Tower in the economic powerhouse of Shanghai. Sedans and limousines ran through the avenues, which were once grayish streets with cumbersome bicycles standing on the sides.
Photo taken on Nov. 1, 2018 shows the night view of Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua/Shen Bohan)
Over the past 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country has grown into the world's second largest economy, the largest manufacturer, and the largest trader in goods, with its gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding 90 trillion yuan (about 13.4 trillion U.S. dollars) last year, and its average annual growth rate reaching 9.5 percent. Per capita GDP hit 64,644 yuan (about 9,624.8 dollars) in 2018, more than 500 times that of 1949.
Unveiled in 1978, the reform and opening-up drive has "produced the greatest economic achievement in human history," said John Ross, a British academic and senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.
Through persistent endeavors to strengthen its reform and opening-up, China has ushered in a stage of high-quality development, and leapfrogged as an innovator of mobile payment and a sharing economy.
An employee demonstrates a facial recognition payment equipment recently launched by Alibaba, at a bakery in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 27, 2018. (Xinhua/Zhang Chenlin)
As unilateral and protectionist measures roil the global markets, China has been working to optimize its business environment by passing a foreign investment law and implementing a negative list management system to shore up investors' confidence and create a stable, transparent, predictable and fair market environment.
Economic productivity is fundamentally determined by the performance of the human capital market, and with the vibrant development of a market for ideas, "China will then stand not only as a manufacturing center of the world, but also as a lively source of creativity and innovation," said Ronald Coase, a late Nobel laureate in economics, in one of his books.
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
William Brown, a U.S. professor of business management at Xiamen University in Southeast China's Fujian Province, has been living with his family in China for more than 30 years.
This summer, he retraced the journey he took in 1994, a 40,000-km drive to inland and coastal areas, and noticed that changes were going on in "every province, every town and every corner."
Rural areas have embraced new technologies, he said in fluent Chinese, citing an example that when he bought some specialties from local farmers, the latter used mobile payment apps to finish the transactions.
Aerial photo taken on April 11, 2019 shows a settlement for poverty relief relocation in Sansui County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Yang Wenbin)
Kummer has similar feelings. He said he was impressed by "the dramatically improved everyday lives of people and their ever-increasing prosperity -- first in the east of China, then on to the west."
Compared with 1949, the Chinese people's average life expectancy rose from 35 years to 77 years in 2018, and the education level leaped from an 80-percent illiteracy rate to having nearly one in every three people with a high school diploma or above.
China has created the miracle of lifting over 700 million people out of poverty, which is unprecedented in human history and has set an excellent example for other countries that still struggle with poverty, said former UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces.
The country had 16.6 million rural people living below the national poverty line at the end of 2018, and is striving to make all-out efforts to wipe out absolute poverty by 2020.
"China still has a long way to go" and faces "great internal and external challenges," but the Chinese people and their leaders have been able to discern the road to harmony and prosperity in an increasingly convulsed and uneven world, said Peter Nolan, director of the Center of Development Studies at Cambridge University, in an article published in July in Spanish news outlet Rebelion.
Children receive schoolbags as gifts for their summer vacation from volunteers at Wuying, a village of Miao ethnic group in southwest China, July 27, 2019. Local students' summer vacation has been enriched in recent years as more and more residents were lifted out of poverty. (Xinhua/Huang Xiaobang)
OFFERING POSSIBILITIES TO WORLD
While achieving progress in its domestic development, China has been shouldering responsibility as a major country to make this world a better place.
"We will continue to pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, share our development opportunities with other countries and welcome them aboard the fast train of China's development," Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the UN Office at Geneva in 2017.
China served as a stabilizer and driver of the world economy in both the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, contributing about 30 percent of global growth for many consecutive years.
Facing headwinds of unilateralism and protectionism, the country has been playing a key role in global production and value chains, further opening up its market to foreign investors and injecting fresh vigor into the global economy.
A Ghanaian exhibitor talks to guests during the Lanzhou Investment & Trade Fair in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, July 4, 2019. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)
Meanwhile, drawing from its rich development experience, China is trying to shed light on effective global governance to achieve lasting global peace and prosperity.
Thoughts and visions such as practicing the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, fostering a new model of major-country relations, and building a community with a shared future for mankind have resonated with many in the international community.
The contribution of a nation to the world and humanity lies not only in how much it creates materially, but also in the ideas it proposes, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in his state visit to China in May.
Martin Jacques, a senior fellow of politics and international studies at Cambridge University, said China has done unprecedented pioneering work and offers "a new possibility" to the world, and the country is abandoning "the law of the jungle," hegemony and power politics and replacing them with win-win cooperation and sharing.
People look at a new China-Europe freight train from Chengdu to Vienna at the Vienna South Freight Center in Vienna, Austria, on April 27, 2018. (Xinhua/Pan Xu)
Kummer, as an accredited journalist to China, was affected by the generosity and warmth of the Chinese people during his many visits, saying it is his "greatest luck" that the number of his Chinese friends continues to increase.
He and his Chinese friends enjoy "a warm friendship with each other till today," Kummer said.■
(Video reporters: Lian Zhen, Chen Wang; video editors: Sun Shuo, Zheng Jingqiang, Wang Qi)