What can Bangladesh learn from China?

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China, one of the four oldest civilisations in the world, has a written history of more than 4,000 years and boasts rich cultural relics and historical sites. It is the inventor of compass, paper-making, gunpowder and printing. The Great Wall, Grand Canal and Karez irrigation system are three great ancient engineering projects built 2,000 years ago. Today, they are the symbols of the rich culture of the Chinese nation. China has gone over a long history of primitive, slavery, feudal and semi-feudal, semi-colonial societies and the present socialist society.

For centuries China was a leading civilisation and outpaced the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country went through civil unrest, major famines, military wars and occupation by foreigners. In 1949, China was established as a socialist society under Mao Zedong. After 1978, Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000, the country’s output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choices have expanded. Deng Xiaoping was an extraordinary leader. He drastically changed the economic policies of Mao, without really touching the political system and in thirty years, China went through dramatic economic development. For almost three decades, Chinese economy grew at the rate of 10 percent.

What are the big success stories of China? What are the factors responsible?

China is a country of 1.3 billion people living in 9.6 million square kilometres. Eighty percent of Chinese people speak Mandarin. There are 56 ethnic groups in the country, but 92 percent of the Chinese people belong to one ethnic group, that is the Han. So the country is more or less a homogenous one as far as the population is concerned. This is similar to the situation in Bangladesh. We are a fairly homogenous country with more than 85 percent Muslims speaking one language, Bangla, having one culture, living in a contiguous, compact and fertile land mass with plenty of water.

Chinese people are extremely hard working and for the government and the people, national interest is above all others. “China first” is their motto in developing relations with foreign countries. Among the major drivers for China’s success are the Chinese people, the true creator of China’s economic success, and the great culture that shapes their characteristics: ambitious, hardworking, thrifty, caring for their families and relentlessly pursuing good education and success.

Chinese people have an open-minded spirit of learning. When the country became an open economy towards the end of the 1970s, the leadership in China decided to send delegations to learn from other countries, especially from the US, Japan and Europe. They went for in-depth studies and learning, and did not hesitate to accept that China was far behind the Western countries. They learned, adopted and implemented what they learned, in their ‘own terms’.  Then again, thousands of students were sent abroad, mostly to the US for higher studies. A journalist once asked Deng Xiaoping, “You are sending so many people to the West, what if they don’t return?” In reply he said, “They will, because they are Chinese”. What we observed over the years is that most of them returned and are contributing to the country’s development. The Chinese also have a rich, qualified diaspora outside China, who are investing and working for the development of the economy.

China has created its own model of development, a feature of which is called ‘development administration’ in contrast to public administration. China’s five year plans, the central and local government plans and administration, the party’s annual conference are all part of its development administration. A day will come when Chinese universities will be offering courses and even degrees in development administration just as degrees in public administration are common in other countries.

China has become the “Factory of the World”. They produce everything, from needles to aeroplanes. Most of the western modern machines and equipments presently produce their required high quality finished goods and parts in China, whether it is a computer, mobile phones, cameras, televisions, toys, household goods and appliances, vehicles, clothes, high-tech apparatus, you just name it. To become the factory of the world, China has invested human and financial resources to train and upgrade the technical skills of millions of people. Presently, there are more than 250 million migrant workers producing these goods in China. China has become the top exporter of such goods and materials all over the world. To reach this state of technical production capabilities, China has developed very sophisticated vocational training institutes. These are as good as any good university, only focused on technical skills development.

China has done commendable work in its poverty alleviation programmes. In about 25 years, they have uplifted more than 500 million people above the poverty line. The reasons being, pro-poor policies, concern for the people, especially the poor, linking the poor with the market, building people’s technical, financial and management capabilities and modernising agriculture. Based on the line of USD 2 per day, poverty declined from 972 million in 1981 to 474 million in 2005, which means that 498 million people have moved above the poverty line. However, China still has a big challenge in poverty alleviation, with a huge number of people living under the poverty line even now.

Thrift is another secret of China’s success with a 25 percent personal savings rate. The huge savings by its people have created financial security for many Chinese families, reduced government spending on social welfares and helped fund many grand infrastructure projects in China, such as the world’s No. 1 high speed railway system.

China has a system of institutionalised consultation and policy debates in major decision-making processes. This kind of consultations tend to generate enormous public expectations, usually more positive than negative, for economic development. In the process, such expectations create new, medium and long term demands. Any Five Year Plan of China thus creates an interest and attention of the major part of the Chinese society, from private firms to state-owned enterprises to individuals.

In 35 years, China has accomplished at least three significant transformations, in particular: a) a transformation from a planned economy to a market economy; b) a transformation from an agrarian society to an industrialised society and c) a transformation from a closed economy to a largely open economy integrated with the world.

Source: The Daily Star

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