China’s experience in modernization serves as inspiration for many countries

By Norbert Molina Medina / 03-23-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

The convening of the Two Sessions and the relevant agendas has been fundamental to China’s development in 2023. The fundamental issues discussed in the proposals and motions during the Two Sessions were related with environmental care, innovation, agriculture, investment, the service sector and others. Key decisions and suggestions about national governance will thus be made aimed at achieving the objectives to be fulfilled for the second centenary goal (2049) that will turn China into a modern socialist country in all respects. 

Changes towards more dynamic sectors

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 health crisis exposed the vulnerability of the health systems of many countries, and provoked a crisis that is still affecting many developed countries and the Global South. China’s strength and experience in handling this type of crisis has allowed it to recover its growth levels and stabilize them, despite being affected. In doing so, China demonstrated its logistical capabilities and immediate attention to an emergency that engulfed the world and for which we were unprepared.

China no longer pursues the idea of accelerated development but longer-term sustainable objectives, with profound changes towards more dynamic sectors. China’s take-off in the last four decades is admirable. This is not a personal judgment, as it has been determined by the main international organizations that have monitored China’s economic growth and modernization in general. This helped to lift more than 800 million people out of poverty. The fact that poverty has been overcome in such a short period of time is worthy of recognition. This does not mean that all social problems have been overcome, as there are still issues to be resolved such as congestion of large cities, unequal development between regions, social security, expansion of the education system. 

However, the results so far have been more than spectacular in science and technology, communications, infrastructure and, in general terms, quality of life. China overcame the difficulties of its pre-1978 development model and set out to build a strong and modern country.

The modernization process carried out by China in the last four decades has become one of the main topics of study in universities worldwide. The reason is to try to understand how the Asian country achieved such good results in such a short period of time. Starting from the consideration that the Chinese model is not exportable, there are elements that could well serve as inspiration for the countries of the Global South still mired in misery and backwardness. China’s experience could very well serve as inspiration for many countries like Venezuela or the rest of Latin America. In what sense? In trying to create the minimum conditions necessary to guarantee development: favorable environment for foreign investments, legal and physical security, concern for education, science and technology, progress in infrastructure, quality in communications, efforts to encourage innovation, among other aspects with which China has been able to advance but Latin American countries very little, given the determination of the latter to remain in permanent political instability and loss of opportunities. Latin America remains stagnant, China’s modernization case is still there waiting for many of its positive and adaptable aspects to be taken into account. 

Chinese modernization is collective

Western civilization has made enormous contributions to humanity. After the first two industrial revolutions, the world advanced dizzyingly in many ways. This allowed people’s lives to improve on many levels. Advances in medicine and in science and technology, for example, increased life expectancy and a much lower mortality rate compared to previous centuries. However, the Western industrial development model has innate defects. Compared with Asian countries such as China, Japan, and India, among others, is highly polluting and predatory of nature, making it a serious threat to the survival of the human species. As long as no progress is made on this last issue, humanity will continue to face great calamities and suffering. 

China in just three decades saw hundreds of millions of people move from the countryside to the cities in search of better living conditions. In Europe it happened, yes, but it took longer as a process. In many Western countries, especially in the developing world, structural problems persist that have not allowed them to advance steadily along the path of development and progress. Incessant political crises and the inability of the ruling elites have kept these countries in stagnation and backwardness. 

The Chinese model is collective, not individualistic, and is based on a long-term project, with continuity over time. In the West, changes are sometimes determined by the color of the party in power. 

In the Chinese case, millenary cultural values are influential and cannot be lost sight of, while in the West individualism and immediatism are the order of the day. It is an irreversible drama for those who do not have the same capacity to compete and advance along the same path. In Western societies, capital develops in a somewhat different way. In China, the CPC has been the axis around which reform and opening up has revolved. It designs, implements and oversees the operation of the development model. It is true that private capital plays a very important role, but always under the supervision of the state authorities. 

China has problems to solve, yes, but there seem to be no doubts in its determined advance towards material and spiritual progress. Today China is modern and thriving, connected to globalization. China today is a key player in the international system and the prominence it has been developing is the result of its own modernization process, its booming economy and the mutual interest that countries around the world and China have shown in shared benefits. We are sure that, in view of the current conflicts in the world, China will have to make enormous efforts to contribute to world peace and development.

Norbert Molina Medina is a professor from the Center for Asian-African Studies at Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela.

Edited by BAI LE