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Three visions of China's road ahead
( 2003-09-03 10:40) (China Daily HK Edition)

Six Nobel Prize winners, including Lawrence Klein and James Heckman, and six Chinese economists, Li Yining and Dong Furen among them, have worked out a draft version of a world economic development declaration.

Workers sift through rubble of a demolished site in Shanghai. A China Urban Development Report released in December 2002 said the percentage of Chinese living in urban centres will rise from the current 37 per cent to 75 per cent within the next 50 years. [Reuters]

Key points of the declaration will be made public at a series of high-ranking economic meetings scheduled to take place in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province from November 6-7.

At the beginning of August, a group of famous Chinese economists expressed their views on the declaration, urging that alleviation of poverty top the agendas of all developing countries in the coming years.

A smoother transfer of technology from and closer co-operation with developed economies is seen as essential in achieving this goal.

Meanwhile, the drafting committee is also considering the views of 25,000 business people from 74 economies around the world.

The draft declaration stresses the importance of equality, mutual benefit and interdependence in world economic activities.

The guideline principles to boost world economic growth will also emphasize the rational use of natural resources to achieve sustainable development, in addition to the fair and equal distribution of wealth among various nations.

China Daily invited three experts to voice their views on sustained development, urbanization and education issues.

R. C. Lao
R.C. Lao, a Canadian Chinese, is an environmental expert with the State Council, and also the resident project manager of the Canada-China Project on Cleaner Production (CP) under the Canadian International Development Agency:

China is currently going through a phase of rapid economic growth under a reform process that is having a significant impact on people's lives.

China's GDP is expected to triple by 2020, ushering in "xiaokang", or the promised "well-to-do society". To sustain such "economic miracles", an average annual growth rate of 8 per cent is critical, along with the necessary resources to support such growth. Aside from other problems along the bumpy road to prosperity, insufficient resources can be the single most dangerous threat to the otherwise rosy scenario.

China must implement a strategy of sustainable development to keep from not only exhausting its own resources but also having a serious impact on those of the rest of the world.

As Dr Klaus Tupfin, Deputy Secretary General of the UN and Director General of its Environmental Programme (UNEP), recently warned, if one car was owned by every two Chinese, the same ratio of people to cars in America, steel and petroleum production across the globe would soon be exhausted.

The huge increase in consumption of fossil fuels would have an adverse effect on climate changes, causing drought, flooding and heatwaves. The most serious consequence of all would be the impact on China's food supply.

This is perhaps the first time that agricultural production is being appreciated as a sensitive measure of the dangers that climatic change can bring.

A circular economy is the only path by which China can realistically reach sustainable development.

The transformation of the traditional pattern of dependence on resources consumption must be replaced by more ecological solutions and the recycling of resources for utilization in economic development. In industrial sectors, cleaner production is the fundamental prerequisite for establishing a circular economy.

By so doing, China can realize the rewards of its buoyant economic performance.

James Jao
James Jao, an American-Chinese, is the State Council's certified foreign expert and the first New York City Planning Commissioner of Asian Descent:

As the largest developing nation in the world, China faces various growing pains, one of which is unplanned urbanization.

According to the China Urban Development Report released in December 2002, the percentage of Chinese living in urban centres will rise from the current 37 per cent to 75 per cent within the next 50 years.

This means that 320 million square metres of housing will be added to urban areas each year for the next 30 years. Presently, there are 663 cities in China with more than 400 million people. By 2010, China will have approximately 1,200 cities with populations of 600 million or greater.

No matter how you look at these figures, the growth rate is mind-boggling.

The challenges that lie ahead for city officials and planners are immense, such as how to cope with dramatic population growth, while avoiding the mistakes made by many industrialized cities in the West as well as the East.

Municipal officials, therefore, will need to balance the conflicting political, social and economic needs of growing cities with the ecological needs of their surrounding environments. They must be sophisticated in the promotion and implementation of land-use and transportation policies, and knowledgeable about the utilization of environmental assessment studies to identify potential problems and design strategies for mitigation.

To equip officials and planners with these skills, the country must send more of its senior staff and planners to study overseas and obtain advanced planning degrees.

The Chinese Ministry of Construction should also hire more foreign planning experts to work in China so they can share experiences and expertise from their native countries. After all, one of the biggest wastes of resources in modern China today is the demolition of poorly planned developments.

Tearing down a recently constructed building or having to re-plan a site because of a flawed planning process is a terrible waste of tax dollars, but it is avoidable if planning is done correctly in the first place.

Lin Yueqin
Lin Yueqin, a researcher with the Economic Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:

Environmental challenges, poverty and education will all be top priorities for China during the coming years.

But education is of utmost importance as solutions to all manner of problems can be cultivated by developing the country's greatest resource - people.

China suffers an imbalance of educational levels across the country, especially between the relatively developed eastern areas and the underdeveloped western regions.

Schooling for people aged 15 and older in rural China averages 6.85 years, despite a noticeable leap in the country's efforts to reduce rural illiteracy.

By the end of 2001, more than 91 per cent of Chinese had benefited from the "Nine-year Compulsory Education" system, which includes six years of primary education and three years of junior high school, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Education.

But of every 100 Chinese, only two go on to receive higher education. In the United States, the figure is 44 in 100.

To ensure that China sustains its development both economically and socially, the country must spare no pains in the sphere of education.

A change is needed in the current investment policy, which emphasizes infrastructure construction but fails to attach enough importance to education, especially compulsory education.

The central government should substantially increase financial input into the education cause and expand mandatory education to include senior high school.

Foreign investors, together with Chinese partners, can also become involved in most education services in China through joint-venture schools and co-operative programmes, such as distance learning and training.

China should open primary, secondary, higher and adult education to foreign educational organizations through co-operation, and even allow foreign investors to hold controlling shares in these services.

China does not set any obstacles on Chinese students' studying abroad or receiving training outside China, and schools and educational institutions can also invite or hire foreign teachers, provided they have bachelor degrees or higher qualifications and at least two years of teaching experience.

In addition, China must foster a large number of economic and scientific professionals who can adapt to international competition.

China's education sector should be strengthened as soon as possible to compete with foreign counterparts as the government can no longer erect any barriers to block out such competition.

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