Learning from China’s Rise

By Benedict Weerasena

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“It is a pleasure to have friends coming from afar”

Confucius, Ancient Chinese philosopher; in The Analects of Confucius, a collection of his ideas and sayings

Chinese hospitality to guests from afar is truly heart-warming and exuberant, which epitomises the quote above by Confucius. The warm welcome extended to the scholars from 3 different continents including countries as far as Argentina and Chile was remarkable.

Recently, the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) Central Committee organised a 10-Day Study Trip for a Delegation of Scholars from Emerging Countries. Held from the 24th of June to the 3rd of July 2017, this Study Trip also coincides with the 29th Wanshou Forum held in Beijing.

29th Wanshou Forum

Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy

Before this trip, I admittedly did not know much about Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. However, after learning more about the ideas and thoughts through the 29thWanshou Forum and the other thematic briefings, I am certainly impressed with how applicable these principles are on international relations.

For instance, the recent Osaka Summit did highlight the applicability of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy in promoting mutual respect, equality, partnership, expanding consensus among the G20 countries. It is of utmost importance that China takes a more important role in contributing to world peace by promoting mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation in a new form of international relations. 

Also, it is interesting that Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy is a development and reflection of traditional Chinese Culture. For instance, Confucius once taught that ‘Peace and cooperation are the most valuable’ and that ‘All people between the four seas are brothers’. This highlights the importance of reflecting on one’s national culture, drawing invaluable lessons for the present and future. 

Delegates sharing a light-hearted moment at the 29th Wanshou Forum

Understanding Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and principles of a Community of shared future for mankind gives me a brighter hope for the future of developing countries. China has indeed taken a strong lead in showing how developing countries can prosper together through win-win partnerships. 

At the Closing Ceremony of the 29thWanshou Forum,  hearing that the Chinese people and the world will reject a hegemony if China wants to pursue a hegemony reassures developing countries that China is serious with its “all countries are equal” principle. Also, it is important that we as fellow developing countries step up our contribution to the global agenda of mutual respect, peace and harmony too. 

Excellence in Governance

China’s growth in the past 70 years is truly a miracle! More significantly, 40 years of open door policy led to China’s role as the world’s largest exporter, manufacturer and holder of foreign exchange reserves.

Understanding the sense of shame the Chinese society experienced during the Opium War magnifies why the Chinese people are so driven to improve themselves and strive for a better future. And the secret of China’s success is Strong leadership as shown by the Communist Party of China (CPC) over the past 70 years.

CPC’s strength lies in its willingness to self-evaluate and revolutionise itself, looking at its own weaknesses and improving the party time and time again. Also, its mandate to be people centered and sincerely seek happiness for the Chinese people is such an inspiration to all other political parties in the world. That is one reason why the CPC is unafraid of the rise of technology and how it may be a threat to the longevity of the CPC. 

The willingness to self-evaluate and revolutionise is an invaluable lesson that every political party needs to learn, especially parties which have been in power for a long time. This prevents party leadership from sinking into a lackadaisical mode of governance which also inhibits cancerous lukewarmness from creeping gradually into the party members’ beliefs.

Party building at primary level

We also had the opportunity to discover more about party building at the grassroot level with 2 visits, one to the CPC Community Centre at the Shichahai Hutong and also Beiyuantuan Village in Qufu.

Visiting Beiyuantuan Village

I was very impressed with the leadership team and in particular the Village Leader at Beiyuantuan Village. It is certainly an arduous task to transform a village from one with violence and crime to a model village. This also shows the important role CPC plays in ensuring good and educated leaders are developed through lectures and education at every level from top to bottom. 

Also, so much priority is placed on developing good families. Good families truly are the core elements of excellent societies. I am amazed at the success of the Family Award System and how effective the mechanism is in transforming the society. I am hopeful to suggest this model in rural policy papers in Malaysia. 

Surveillance Cameras to prevent crime at Beiyuantuan Village

Economic development

Reading about China’s high quality development and experiencing it first hand is such a different experience. One of my initial questions coming here was how China balances economic growth with pollution control and ecological preservation.

In Beijing, I am certainly impressed how the motorcycles are all electric driven and none of them pollutes the air! This is a far cry from pictures of the past highlighting Beijing covered in haze every early winter. This proves that China is successfully pursuing a balanced and sustainable growth, using the applications of science and high technology to overcome the negative by-products of urbanization on the environment. 

In addition, it is certainly impressive how China has facilitated a remarkable transition of such an enormous population dependent on cash payments into a cashless society. As I was walking on the streets of Beijing nearby Beijing’s famed Drum Tower, I was drawn to an elderly street performer happily playing the erhu. It was incredible that he had a WeChat QR Code attached! It also made much sense as locals do not carry cash or small change anymore.

Elderly Street Performer with Attached WeChat QR Code

Also, the visit to the Jinan Innovation Zone was an eye-opener. Seeing how China taps into world-class international talent and human capital (especially the German translator who was perfectly fluent in Chinese), prioritizing international cooperation with Germany,  Finland, Israel, United States to spur the Jinan Innovation Zone is astounding!

Also, the authorities of the State and Provinces have created a very conducive environment for start-ups and entrepreneurs. This healthy ecosystem combined with top class infrastructure prospers the businesses to international standards. 

Discussion at Jinan Innovation Zone

China-US trade friction

The trade war is certainly a worrying issue for not just China but open economies across the world. At the 29thWanshou forum, I proposed that United States has underestimated China’s economic resilience and China is not as vulnerable as it seems.

Coming to Beijing and Jinan, I totally am convinced that this it true! For instance, seeing how Xiaomi innovates and produces its entire line of household products (other than its world renowned mobile phones) in such a short span of time shows that Chinese companies have the capacity to turn challenges into opportunities. Yes, time and time again even in Qufu and Jinan, we are reminded that the Chinese people see Challenges as Opportunities! 

Visit to Xiaomi Headquarters

Hence, any form of tariff imposition will push Chinese companies (especially those dependent on inputs from the United States) to innovate all the more through research and development. I believe China will have the last laugh in the next 10 years when it is able to produce its own inputs without relying on the United States. 

Also, I strongly believe that the way forward for China would be stronger economic cooperation with South East Asian region with a total population of over 600 million. This can certainly mitigate the loss of trade with other countries as a result of the tariff. 

Cultural exchange

Donning the Chinese traditional costumes in Qufu and Jinan while experiencing various traditional Chinese cultures was an exhilarating experience! Cultural exchanges including drinking tea, Chinese art, Musical instruments and many others are certainly important in understanding the core values of the Chinese people.

Delegates from Kenya, Argentina, Malaysia and Chile donning Chinese traditional costumes

As I am part Chinese, I finally understand that “王八蛋 (wáng bā dàn)!!!” (bastard) actually stems from the term “忘八 (wàng bā)” (forget 8 virtues). This demonstrates how important the 8 virtues of Loyalty, Trustworthiness, Righteousness, Proprieties, Filial Piety, Brotherly Love, Integrity and the Sense of Shame is to the Chinese people. 

In particular, the ‘sense of shame’ value is understood in the context of the 8 virtues. If the Chinese people do not do well in the other 7 virtues, they will have a sense of shame. On a national level, people who advocate the right values and principles will be respected while those who do wrong will be condemned at the international stage. Similarly, if a nation violates common rules, they should have a sense of shame. 

In conclusion, this Trip for Scholars from Emerging countries has certainly open many doors for greater cooperation between China and the rest of the world. It has also connected scholars with interest on the rise of China from emerging countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Kudos to all who made this trip possible and to China, we say, Xie Xie! (Thank you)

A Letter of Thanks to the Chinese Organising Team

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