Reform, opening-up create new wonders in human history

2018-12-18 10:15:00Xinhua Editor : Gu Liping ECNS App Download
Special: 40YearsOfReform

With the first pile driven into the foundation in Shanghai, Baosteel broke ground on Dec. 23, 1978, just one day after the Communist Party of China (CPC) closed its epoch-making meeting that ushered in the era of reform and opening-up.

"As a college student back then, I clearly remember a celebration was held in Beijing for China's annual steel output exceeding 30 million tonnes for the first time," said Chen Derong, who majored in steelmaking in 1978 and this year became the chairman of China Baowu Steel Group, Baosteel's parent company.

Last year, China produced over 830 million tonnes of steel amid the country's resolute steps to cut excess production capacity to raise the industry's product quality and competitiveness.

"This year, the output could exceed 900 million tonnes," Chen said.

The exponential growth in the steel industry not only bolstered China's galloping economic growth but also epitomized the new wonders in human history brought about by the reform and opening-up.


China's brisk economic growth over the past decades is undoubtedly one of the country's most stunning feats.

Compared with global growth, China's economy was in the fast lane between 1978 and 2017, expanding at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent, outpacing annual global growth at about 2.9 percent in the same period.

Reform and opening-up have "produced the greatest economic achievement in human history," said John Ross, a researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Back in 1992, the researcher predicted that China's economic reform would produce rapid economic growth. Ross even launched a website to share his observations on China-related issues.

China's growth rate over the past decades was "the fastest growth ever experienced by a major economy in the whole human history," Ross said.

The view was shared by Shanghai-based researcher Song Luzheng, who said achieving the fast growth was only one of China's "unprecedented miracles in human history," with others being the largest economic and social transformation, and "the largest industrialization at a fast pace," amid the country's peaceful rise.

To make the economy more balanced and sustainable, the country has continued to optimize its economic structure toward a growth model driven more by consumer spending, innovation and services while weaning it off over-reliance on exports and investment.

Another remarkable achievement was poverty reduction, Ross said, pointing out that China's commitment to lifting all its rural poor out of poverty by 2020 "carries great significance for China and even the whole world."

The World Bank data showed that China lifted 853 million people out of poverty from 1981 to 2013, accounting for more than 70 percent of the world's total poverty reduction figure, which Ross described as "an overwhelming contribution to world poverty relief."

Through its reform and opening-up and massive poverty relief efforts, China has found a poverty alleviation path with its own characteristics, offering "Chinese experience" for the poverty relief of other countries, according to a document released in November after a meeting held by the Chinese government and the World Bank.


There are several factors behind China's economic and social marvels.

Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said the most important reason behind China's economic and social marvels is the leadership of the CPC.

With the landmark decision to start the reform and opening-up, the CPC was able to bring the nation's development back on the right track, which needed political courage and wisdom, Tu added.

Tu also attributed the stunning progress to Chinese people being both industrious and frugal, which allows the people to create and accumulate wealth.

"Meanwhile, the favorable conditions created by the reform and opening-up gave full play to such traits of the people," Tu said.

Song Luzheng also mentioned factors including a large and educated workforce, a high savings ratio, as well as the country's distinctive political system that allows it to push reforms in the long-term interests of the nation and the people.

The miracles the country attained in past decades are unparalleled compared with the history of Western modernization.

"The biggest difference between the modernization paths of China and Western countries is the way of accumulating capital," Tu said.

"It is undoubted that China's rise is peaceful as it did not take advantage of or bully other countries," Tu said, calling China's development "a precious model in which the prosperity has been achieved through peaceful and fair approaches."


A winner-takes-all approach has never been an option for China, which pursues open, innovative and inclusive development that benefits everyone.

Shanghai Volkswagen, now known as SAIC Volkswagen, is a perfect example of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the rest of the world after the reform and opening-up.

When the joint venture was established in 1985 after years of negotiations between the Chinese and German sides, annual production of Shanghai Santana vehicles was just 1,733. In 2017, the company produced and sold more than 2 million cars, the largest among all automakers in China.

On July 18, 2018, the company's 19 millionth car, an orange Touran multi-purpose vehicle, rolled off the production line.

China's fast-growing and open consumer market provide manufacturers and service providers with an enormous opportunity, said Morgan Stanley economist Robin Xing.

"The reform and opening-up integrated the country's huge labor market into the global industrial chain, which boosted the productivity of the world economy while bringing a low-cost advantage," Xing said.

China has emerged as the biggest driver of the global economy, contributing 27.8 percent of world growth last year, more than the contribution of the United States and Japan combined. In 1978, the ratio was just 3.1 percent.

Between 1979 and 2017, the country's average annual contribution to global growth was 18.4 percent, the second largest in the world.

While achieving development of its own, China has constantly provided aid to developing countries, such as those in Africa, with no political strings attached and built a large number of infrastructure and industrial projects, said Lian Ping, an economist with the Bank of Communications.

Looking ahead, China should open wider to the outside world, and meanwhile contribute more to the world, Tu Xinquan said. The CPC has vowed to adhere to a path of peaceful development and build a community with a shared future for humanity.

Having grown up with reform and opening-up, Baosteel has not only experienced the achievements of the past 40 years but also been a part of them. "At least six out of the 10 tallest skyscrapers in Shanghai were built with our steel," Chen said with pride.

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