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Drive to modernize will boost prosperity

By LI LEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-12-14 07:27
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Photo taken on June 17, 2021, shows a section of expressway in Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's ambitious target of achieving socialist modernization for its 1.4 billion people against the odds of an aging population, when accomplished, will shift the world's prosperity eastward, according to experts and various publications.

Nanfang Daily, a newspaper based in economically vibrant Guangdong province, said the achievement is bound to leave a "rich and colorful stroke" in the arc of civilization.

The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October reiterated the longstanding goal of turning the world's most populous country into a fully modernized socialist power by the middle of this century — a feat that a commentary in People's Daily said "has no precedent to follow".

The report, which was delivered by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in the presence of more than 2,000 delegates, called the modernization drive "a task of unparalleled difficulty and complexity", given the number of people involved.

China's population reached 1.413 billion in 2021, according to the latest national census. The number is widely projected to still be above 1.3 billion by around 2050, despite the country's declining birthrate and aging population.

To achieve the 2050 goal, prosperity will be delivered to more people than in all other industrialized countries combined, said Yuan Xin, an economics professor at Nankai University in Tianjin and vice-president of the China Population Association.

"The world has 37 fully modernized economies, whose combined population totaled 1.09 billion," he said, which accounts for only a fraction of the 8 billion people on Earth.

The world now has 14 countries with 100 million-plus citizens, and among them only two — the United States and Japan — have completed the arduous process of modernization — a catchall term that describes a relatively high level of industrialization and urbanization.

Study Times, a newspaper that illustrates the latest Party theories, said that modernization of a country as populous as China will have a lasting influence on mankind's history, as it will require improvements ranging from higher incomes to wider social security coverage and cleaner air.

A large population usually means a bigger market and talent reservoir.

However, a deeper examination of China's demographics reveals thorny tasks ahead that need to be addressed promptly and wisely, experts said.

Yuan said that the decrease in population and the aging of society will become major demographic features exerting a huge influence on China's society and economy in the coming decades.

In 2020, 264 million people in China, or 18.7 percent of the total population, were age 60 or above, according to official data. Demographers estimated that the number will reach 520 million by the middle of the century, making China a deeply aging society.

The process will also be intertwined with a reduction in the number of prime-age workers, from 890 million to 650 million during that period, he said.

"The scale of China's population will make social and economic problems even more complex and challenging, and also create more opportunities," he said, adding that preparations need to begin right away.

Zheng Gongcheng, a professor at Renmin University of China and president of the China Association of Social Security, said that China's super-large modernization efforts — unlike the small-scale ones achieved by the Republic of Korea, Singapore and China's Hong Kong and Taiwan regions, collectively known as the Four Asian Tigers — will manage to shift the world's "center of modernity" from Europe and the United States to Asia and showcase that Westernization is not the only path to modernization.

Last year, China eradicated absolute poverty and managed to extend pension and health insurance to 1 billion-plus people, marking a historic achievement on the route toward modernization.

With the 20th CPC National Congress successfully concluded, the Party is charging full steam ahead with modernization.

Study Times said that "Chinese-style modernization" stands ready to broaden the road and option for others to become wealthier countries, and will contribute a Chinese solution to the global quest for better political systems.

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