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No backtracking from globalization

By Ed Zhang | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-07-03 13:32

Market will continue to reward those who learn from past experience and open up their systems

There was a misprint in my column last week: a bureaucracy without (not with, as printed) enough authority to launch a change in its industry tends to be a drag, rather than a driver, of the reform. Remaining like that for too long, it not only contributes no progress, but also hurts confidence.

On the global level, this is what we see in some existing frameworks for international cooperation - Brexit, for example. It's hard to tell for how long, and how widely, its repercussions will affect this part of the world, at a time when many ominous forecasts are flowing around.

But whatever the consequence, in all likelihood it will also prove that backtracking from globalization, and from all the ties made and interests earned from it, is far from easy. It doesn't leads to a simple solution, if there can be a solution at all.

The global market, along with its logic that economists have described for more than 200 years, will continue to work and to distribute reward to those who learn from past experiences seriously and act more quickly to open up their own systems.

Globalization is unstoppable, even though it is now in a low cycle. New roles will rise for different national economies once breakthroughs come around, in technology or in management. Before that, people will find it more complicated than they thought to dismantle the existing systems than repairing them.

The same applies domestically. The country is going through many difficulties, admittedly, from a large stockpile of debt for companies and local governments, a slowdown in the growth in old industries and old industrial regions, to bureaucracies that, as I said, are unable to lead change.

But despite these difficulties, and the predictions about China's deviation from its past reformist line, there is no going back from what the country has achieved in its reform in the past 40 years. Beating a retreat would be even harder, although striking forward is unrealistic at the moment. Giving up the goals listed in the national leadership's solemn statement in 2013 would look even worse.

So, if some say, as a distant partner with the European Union, China may survive the Brexit crisis unscathed and even may be a net winner, the biggest winning point that the country stands to earn may not be in any monetary or material sense. It is a lesson that can be learned by the economic officials and corporate executives about the social cost they may face if they keep procrastinating in the actions they have promised.

Like in every reform that is overdue, people may run out of patience. Society may divide, as some individuals start peddling seemingly simple but practically messy solutions.

Fortunately, in at least one area, the Chinese leaders have shown enough resolution. That is the anticorruption campaign. It will soon result in some new accountability rules in the Communist Party of China, as official media announced last week.

China made the rules on disciplinary inspection for officials in August last year, and in October, it made the rules on self-discipline and disciplinary punishments. These are steps to institutionalize the anticorruption campaign that has been unrelenting in the past four years.

Although these rules don't directly contribute to a rise in GDP, or to any specific technological innovation, they will result in the buildup of a new regulatory environment, in which officials would risk their career, if not personal freedom, by misusing public funds or exacting personal bribes from private companies.

The direction of these developments will only match the good international practice as required by the age of globalization, and China's commitment to the latter. China, it is hoped, will take more actions along the line.

The author is an editor-at-large of China Daily. Contact the writer at

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