Milestones of modernization
China's unique development model has successfully set the country on the path to its rejuvenation
China's rise and development has been one of the most significant global events in the 21st century so far. It is important to see that this change has historic preconditions, with its roots in the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and the establishment the Communist Party of China in 1921.
There has been an unprecedented increase in the standard of living for more than a billion people in China since 1979 and many other people around the world have benefited from China's development. China has lifted about 800 million people out of poverty over the past four decades, and eradicated absolute poverty in the country in 2020.
China has evolved its own development model in a modest way and other developing countries are inspired by its achievements. Set against the backdrop of the world's current problems and other models, China's experiences are seen as references for other countries exploring their own development paths.
The model of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" has developed over time and has deep roots in the long history of Chinese civilization.
It was necessary to manage events in the period after the 1911 Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the Chinese imperial regime in 1911 and the subsequent turmoil of the Republic of China. The Japanese invasion starting from 1931 resulted in the external disruption of endogenous development in China and the awareness that a foreign power had to be countered with a forceful defence.
There were many challenges that had to be overcome after 1949.Compared with China's strong performance today, the Chinese economy and society were not globally influential at that time. Going through ups and downs, China experimented, learned and reformed step by step.
In 1949, the average life expectancy was around 40 years. By 1978, it was more than 65. Also without literacy, the big economic success that was to follow would not have been possible. In 1949, literacy was a little above 10 percent, while in 1978 it was 66 percent-one of the biggest jumps achieved by a developing country.
These conditions underpinned the era introduced by Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up. The term "socialist market economy" was coined at the 14th National Congress of CPC in 1992. A broader concept, which includes a combination of strategic planning and the market and also public and private kinds of ownerships, is socialism with Chinese characteristics.
There are several main reasons underpinning the successful reform of China's economic system since 1978. We need to find the specific answer to the question of what made this rise and development possible. The core logic behind the Chinese reform and opening-up was that international trade was not only taking place between two countries employing the same system. China developed its own system and cooperated with others. Since the beginning of reform and opening-up, the fact that the planned economy was giving way to the socialist market economy has been considered a relevant factor for a rapid economic development.
If we take the fall of empire in 1911 as year zero for modern China, the foundation of the PRC in 1949 as the first milestone, and the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978 as the second milestone, we might view 2013 as the third because of the setting forth of the Chinese Dream and the related Belt and Road Initiative, with the goals of realizing a "moderately prosperous society in all respects" by this year, and making China a modern, developed country by 2049.
China's development can be seen as a unique kind of modernization continuing the trend of constant interactions between itself and other civilizations for thousands of years particularly via the historical Silk Road. China's Belt and Road Initiative revitalizes and updates the historical Silk Road, presenting opportunities for many people and countries to cooperate with China on basis of mutual respect and multilateral cooperation.
The author is director and senior fellow of the Centre of Global Studies in Prague, and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. This article is provided by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.