A record to beat!

On 9 September 1976 Mao Tse-Tung, “father” and venerated incarnation of the People’s Republic of China, left our world. In a nod to history, Jacques Chirac resigned in the same year from his position as prime minister of France, a major power then building its first budget deficits.

Who would have imagined that 35 years later, still officially-communist China would boast currency reserves in excess of $3,000bn, whereas France is struggling with a debt of €1,300bn?

Figures from contemporary China make us dizzy: it is the second-largest global power, domestic product doubled between 2005 and 2010, its population represents a fifth of humanity, exports have multiplied by 45 over 30 years etc. etc.

In China, everything is always more!

Beyond these superlatives, the success of the Chinese model is a statistical reality: “China has undergone the largest and fastest reduction in poverty in history, with the absolute rate of poverty as defined by a revenue of less than one dollar a day (in PPA) falling from 74% of the population at the start of the reform in 1981 to 15% in 2004”.  (1)

The reality we discovered in the average sized towns of Xiinjiang (Urumqi), Sichuan (Chengdu), Yunnan (Kunming) and Shanxi (Datong), is a China that is clean (excluding pollution factors), modern, and above all equipped with infrastructure that would turn engineers from France’s Ponts & Chaussées school green with envy. A huge country far more advanced than its neighbours in South-East Asia and India.

However this clearly winning China continues to rouse suspicion throughout the world! Caution and doubts concern the quality of products, over-production, pollution, national favouritism and a lack of transparency. There is no end to the criticism. Thirty years of success are not convincing enough.

More surprisingly, a sort of bad conscious weighs on messages from both the authorities and the man in the street. As if they were embarrassed to have succeeded, or scared to go even further and find a limit to this great success. “Thirty years of mad growth.. and what if suddenly, the fantastic ride were to end, what if the Dragon were also slain by the bad spell of the Thirty Glorious years” (2)

The sense of history (2,300 years of successive dynasties) revived by the very near reference to the people’s victory over feudalism and the propertied classes (1949 is not that far back…) probably explains both this fear of failure and the obstinate aim to progress and take the entire country towards a better future, accessible for everyone:  “China will have to change the machine, root its growth far more in innovation and domestic consumer spending”. (2)

An excellent engine for the Chinese power to rapidly discover a modern base for its future growth and one that rhymes with consumer spending, education, health, retirement, sharing and maybe freedom and democracy. New weapons to establish a new record and go well beyond the fatal 30 years!

After all, who believed in the future of China in 1976?

 Didier Le Menestrel

1 Economy of the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia
2 Chinese Arrogance by Erik Israelewicz: to recommendation to all who would like to better understand modern China and its challenges