"We remain at peace with this superpower in our midst."
The facts speak for themselves. After more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic which originated in Wuhan, China is now turning out to be the model on how the whole world can and should live with the disease. It has opened up its economy, has largely controlled the transmission of the disease, enhanced its health care system and is on track to be the first among the ten countries working to produce a vaccine.
After a steep GDP decline in the first half of the year resulting from one of the most restrictive lockdowns globally, the country’s GDP growth is expected to grow by 3.2 percent by the second half – the first and most probably the only one among the major economies to show positive growth this year.
Although some sectors of China’s economy such as the traditional service sector have been on a slump in months, the rebound in the other sectors such as in high tech and modern service industries have largely made up the slack. The country’s export sector has also been showing some positive movement lifted by the restart of many of the Belt and Road projects which China vetted and funded before the start of the pandemic.
China’s steady rebound in many respects mirror the creative and disciplined leadership of the Communist Party of China. Seventy-one years since founding the People’s Republic of China, the “New China” as most historians have come to describe it, on October 1, 1949 after defeating the Nationalists/Kuomintang in a bloody civil war for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people immediately after the country’s liberation from Japanese occupation in WW2, the party has provided much-needed guidance in nursing the world’s most populous nation to a position of growth and development rarely achieved by any nation in recent history.
From a largely agricultural, underdeveloped state in 1949, challenged no end by the curse of its colonial past and the need to feed, clothe and shelter almost one fourth of the world’s population, China under the communist party has overcome the various obstacles to growth and development to emerge in the last three decades as the second biggest economy in the world and a military power in its own right. More importantly, it has lifted the majority of its people from the clutches of poverty. The latest figures show that poverty occurrence in China has declined substantially in just the past seven years - from 10.2 percent in 2012 to 0.6 percent in 2019.
Of course, these positive developments came with a lot of sacrifice on the Chinese people. It had its own downsides, for one, the tumultuous years of then Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward reportedly caused the death of millions of Chinese. The deaths of thousands of demonstrators during the so-called “Democracy Uprising” in Tiananmen Square in the 1980s is another. The lingering Western chorus about the CPC’s human rights violations as in the incarceration of indigenous peoples and activists in Xinjiang province and the occupation of Tibet remains a thorn at the side. And, of course, the demonstrations and clashes in Hong Kong has become the latest platform of various countries and groups in their unending attacks against the Chinese leadership.
But no matter. Yesterday, October 1, remained a glorious day of celebrations for the Chinese people and the Chinese diaspora worldwide. Although subdued, China managed to show to the world the great strides its people have achieved 71 years after the founding of the People’s Republic, the “New China.” Quite apart from all those mentioned earlier, China has been leading the world in technology and innovation in various fields be it artificial intelligence (AI) or telecommunications (Huawei and ZTE) or IT systems and services (AliBaba/ TenCent) and medicine (SinoVac).
What makes these achievements even weightier is the fact that China, despite the growth of its military spending, has not gotten involved in any major conflicts anywhere. It has, except for some skirmishes with Vietnam and, lately, with India over Kashmir, kept to itself ever aware of its commitment to the UN Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence with Other Countries.
Notwithstanding our current dispute over our overlapping claims in the South China/West Philippine Sea and the Chinese “reclaiming and cementing of islands” in that part of the ocean, we remain at peace with this superpower in our midst and armed confrontations have been avoided. The fact is we are being “embraced” with all kinds of assistance from medical supplies and equipment during the pandemic to grants and loans for various infrastructure projects and even floods of tourists and other travelers (including gangs as some sectors have found out) and by the latest reckoning, drugs and fake goods. Now, it is up to us to manage these inroads, as it were, and ensure that we get only the best and most appropriate goods, services and influences for our sustained growth, development and independence.