Understanding China’s Economic Miracles: Lessons Pakistan Can Learn – OpEd


About 200 years ago French emperor and military strategist Napoleon warned the world. Let China Sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world” . Napoleon in early 19th century, had enough sense to know that if a nation of this size, with a population like theirs puts it act together there is simply no match at to all nation including the west. 

 China at that time was under Quing Che dynasty. Isolated from the rest of the world, confined in the boundaries of Great Wall built over centuries due to perceived threats to its security by China’s emperors to protect their territory. Chinese economy, social and political infrastructures we’re in bed shape. Poverty, illiteracy, internal Strifes, wars with others were common and a great challenge to the Chinese nation. There were no trading partners, no diplomatic relationships, they were relying on self-sufficiency.”

But as predicted by great strategist Napoleon, China awaked in the year 1949 two years later after the independence of Pakistan. Chinese leaders realised that Its crisis in the past was mainly political and economic due to misrule and a choked economy.

Since the PRC was founded in 1949, China has experienced a surprising and turbulent economic development process. Though China in the 1950s had seen one of the biggest human disasters of the 20th Century. The Great Leap Forward was Mao Zedong’s attempt to rapidly industrialise China’s peasant economy, but it failed and 10-40 million people died between 1959-1961 – the costliest famine in human history. This was followed by the economic disruption of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, a campaign which Mao launched to rid the Communist party of his rivals, but which ended up destroying much of the country’s social fabric.

IN the recorded history of humanity’s economic affairs, there has never been as remarkable a story as that of China in the late 20th and early 21st century. No empire or country has managed to pull more than 70 million people out of poverty; none has achieved the sustained high growth rates; none has managed to achieve the expansion of its economic pie by a multiple of 42 since 1979 (from $305 billion to $12.7 trillion)

Two German journalists, Stefan Aust and Adrian Geiges, in their book, Xi Jinping: The Most Powerful Man in the World, argues that prosperity is a goal of both Confucianism and Marxism. Xi extols the long history of China’s civilisation as far back as the earliest philosophers and calls for the great “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Henry Kissinger put emphasis on this aspect of the Chinese political culture in his book, On China. It examines the instruments of state policy being used to keep citizens in line with the thinking and working of the state. China’s authoritarian leaders are playing the long game and so far, it has worked.

Now the question is How and Why the Chinese system has proved to be durable — In a generation China will be twice that of USA and in 50 years China will be 4 times US size in economy and a stronger military and political power. 

Strong, committed, leadership from the head of state has been a major factor contributing to political stability and economic success. Chinese politicians are highly responsible answerable and serve to the nation than to themselves. On the economic front, Free market economics. China first began moving away from a centrally planned economy towards a market-oriented system, which bring an end to China’s relative economic isolation. Export-led growth strategies, encouraging foreign investment, establishment of (Special Economic Zones) Opening of Cities in which a relaxation of regulation and government control created a more attractive business environment. Further Female participation in the workforce particularly female participation in manufacturing industry. This, along with the One-Child Policy are some of the factors, which took China less than 70 years to emerge from isolation and become one of the world’s greatest economic powers.

The door of further rapid economic development was opened, China established its relations with western countries particularly with US in early 70s and re-established diplomatic ties with US in 1979. “From the end of the 1970s onwards we’ve seen what is easily the most impressive economic miracle of any economy in history,” says David Mann, global chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank.

Economists generally attribute much of China’s rapid economic growth to two main factors: large-scale capital investment (financed by large domestic savings and foreign investment) and rapid productivity growth. These two factors appear to have gone together hand in hand. Economic reforms led to higher efficiency in the economy, which boosted output and increased resources for additional investment in the economy.

The “Made in China 2025” initiative, announced in 2015, is one of several recently announced ambitious projects aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Chinese industries, fostering Chinese brands, boosting innovation, and reducing China’s reliance on foreign technology by making China a major or dominant global manufacturer of various technologies. China has emerged as the world’s largest manufacturer according to the World Bank.

The World Bank says more than 850 million people been lifted out of poverty, and the country is on track to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.

China is also carving out a new front in global economic development. The country’s next chapter in nation-building is unfolding through a wave of funding in the massive global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), also called “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), was launched in 2013 to boost economic integration and connectivity (such as infrastructure, trade, and investment) with its neighbours and various trading partners in Asia, Africa, Europe. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is generally understood as China’s plan to finance and build infrastructure projects across Eurasia. Infrastructure development is in fact only one of BRI’s five components which include strengthened regional political cooperation, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people exchanges

Since China is our next-door neighbour and both Countries have cultivated close and friendly relations since 1949, particularly after flagship project of CPEC which is part of BRI, therefore, there is great lessons for Pakistani leadership to learn from Chinese experience of rapid economic prosperity and political stability. But unfortunately, our so-called leaders are still reluctant to learn from the history or from the success stories of other nations particularly China. 

Actually, we as a nation in transition, are in leadership deficit since beginning due to our colonial background and mindset. The leadership we have experienced, so far, were and are actually hybrid politicians turned leaders in a very casual and artificial way. They fix their eyes on self interests and winning the next election rather than thinking about the future of the nation as said by great African leader late Nilsson Mandela.

Pakistan, over a period of 75 years, has been turned into a elite club, where general public has no say or weightage as a stakeholder in the governance. Parliament and democracy has been made almost irrelevant. The ruling class is engaged in infighting for lust of power and money and people have been left unregulated without any opportunities for their livelihood. The country has become near to economic bankruptcy, badly polarised.

 Intellectually bankrupt, mentally sycophant, financially and morally corrupt, politically divided and incompetent leadership will be counterproductive for any country. Therefore, it is high time that all stakeholders must put their heads together, initiate grand dialogue with full representatives from all segments of the public for a new social contract between the state and its citizens in the light of success stories of nations on the path of prosperity, peace and stability around the world, particularly our immediate neighbours China, Indian and Bangladeshi.

Sher Khan Bazai, Retired from civil service as Secretary Education, Balochistan, Pakistan

Sher Khan Bazai

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant, and a former Secretary of Education in Balochistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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