Chinese modernization: unique solution to China’s reality

By George N. Tzogopoulos / 03-02-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

China has been following a patient and firm policy since 1978. The reform and opening up has been a key contributor to its modernization process. Chinese modernization has a new governance model with different features due to different challenges, compared with the West where capitalism dominates. It is therefore a unique solution that adapts to China’s reality. 

Laudable achievements 

In the past three years, the Chinese economy has been steadily dynamic, and general economic progress was gradual amid unprecedented difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts of China to combine its anti-virus policy with the maintenance of good growth rates were arduous. Similar to other developing countries, China’s modernization process was influenced by the pandemic and the bleak global economy but has still been remarkable. Through a Western prism, leaving the pandemic behind means investment opportunities in China are massive. Obviously, foreign investors will find it much easier to go to China and explore opportunities without quarantine measures upon entrance. Economic perspectives for 2023 are optimistic according to estimations of international bodies, and tourism in particular will be a driving force in supporting growth. 

China’s people-centered approach is unique throughout its implementation of the long-term project of modernization. In the new epoch of technology, China’s common prosperity policy that aims to narrow the income gap between social groups deserves attention. The country strives to improve the living conditions of its citizens. The alleviation of absolute poverty is laudable, and is the most important achievement of modernization in the last few decades. But the alleviation of absolute poverty does not mark the end of the journey as challenges remain plentiful. China’s task is arduous. The stabilization of past successes, such as building a moderately prosperous society, in parallel with the creation of opportunities will pave the way toward greater social and economic prosperity. 

Government regulation crucial 

Government regulation is crucial in turbulent times, for example, during the global financial crisis and debt crisis. We have seen regulatory policies in the West, and though Europe has been more “keen” on regulation than the US, such policies are lax and weak, which means inadequate utilization of social elements and resources to deal with the crisis. In sharp contrast to the West, China has well-ordered government institutions, which have a direct and positive effect on its public policies and play a decisive role in the modernization process. Natural disasters in recent years (which can occur anywhere in the world) exhibit how climate change can affect ordinary life. 

To tackle the challenges, environmental protection has been a priority for China’s sustainable development over the past decade. Long-term plans and strategies have been carried out at the state level and progress has been made both domestically and internationally. The fast rhythm in the usage of renewable energy sources in China within just a few years is an example that indicates the importance of an effective government in addressing climate change.

Asymmetry will always arise 

Different standards need to be taken into account when China is compared to the West in terms of its modernization. The West is ahead of China in terms of modernization, specifically, accomplishing industrialization. Those industrial powers have generally entered the post-industrial period. But China is making great progress at much faster rate and with higher efficiency, which amazes the world. As far as the ongoing 4th industrial revolution is concerned, China’s technological miracles one after another, are indicative of its capacity not only to learn but also to contribute to innovation itself. This capacity is significant for modernization and strengthens the position of China within international systems. 

It is noteworthy that asymmetry will always easily arise in the modernization process. Developments and contradictions coexist, which is typical for modernization in each country. Uneven development across sectors gradually appears as industrialization and urbanization advances. Western countries have experienced this asymmetry, and China now faces differences between urban centers and agricultural regions. China’s governance model is different from that of Western countries but the problem of asymmetry is similar. I believe there are no borders in addressing this challenge. National policies and international cooperation need to go together. 

George N. Tzogopoulos is director and senior research fellow from the Centre International de Formation Européen (CIFE).

Edited by BAI LE