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Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 00:45
China's initiatives have put globalization on right track
By Ho Lok-sang
Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 00:45 By Ho Lok-sang

China has benefited greatly from globalization and opening up to the world. It will continue to open up, and President Xi Jinping has vowed to do what he can to make globalization a blessing and not a curse to humanity.

President Xi has in recent years kept reminding us that “we share the same common human destiny.” In saying this, he has demonstrated to the world that he is a firm believer in globalism; i.e., that all the nations in the world should work together to make our world a better place for our progeny.

China announced its decision to adopt its reform and opening-up policy in late 1978. Since then, the Communist Party of China has steadfastly pushed forward its agenda of opening up. The yuan was not at all convertible in the 1970s. But the CPC has introduced various bold and totally new initiatives to increase the yuan’s convertibility over the years. In 1980, China introduced the foreign-exchange certificate to circulate alongside the yuan, largely for the use of visitors to the mainland who could use that to buy imported goods in “friendship stores”. That initiative was terminated in 1995. In the mid-1980s, so-called renminbi swap centers were set up in most large cities, allowing a market more or less determined by the yuan exchange rate to run alongside the official rate. Eventually, the two-track system was united in 1994. The yuan became convertible on current account in 2013, and on Nov 30, 2015, the International Monetary Fund announced it would include the yuan in the special drawing rights basket, to take effect on Oct 1, 2016. Hong Kong soon became the world’s largest yuan offshore center, as well as the world’s largest yuan bond market outside the mainland.

China’s economic achievements had long been doubted by Western scholars, many of whom claimed that China’s GDP growth was much lower than official figures. Many had also suggested that China’s economy was going to face a “hard landing” with disastrous results. Today, China’s achievements on many fronts have caused alarm to the extent that the United States and its allies are quite worried about China’s further economic and technological advance.

Many had suggested that China’s economy was going to face a “hard landing” with disastrous results. Today, China’s achievements on many fronts have caused alarm to the extent that the United States and its allies are quite worried about China’s further economic and technological advance

But the West should have nothing to worry about because China has only peace and prosperity in mind. Those who fear China do not understand Chinese civilization. The main philosophical strands in Chinese civilization are Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, and none of these glorifies wars and conquests. Mozi, a contemporary of Confucius, is particularly well-known for his doctrine of non-aggression. The Chinese from an early age learn to revere peace and order, and to seek harmony with nature, first from within and then extending to the outside world “everywhere under heaven”. China does not have territorial ambitions beyond the borders it recognized when the People’s Republic of China was established.

In line with this philosophy, China has been much more focused on preserving the ecological balance and restoring the environment’s natural grandeur. When Xi assumed the presidency, he stressed the need to seek quality growth and de-emphasized the rate of growth. Indeed, the decline in China’s growth rate from the previous average of 9 percent per year before 2012 to 6.5 to 7 percent in recent years is to a large extent engineered. Whereas there had been a lot of talk about “green GDP” in the earlier years, China’s recent effort to clean up and reduce pollution, and protect the environment and the ecological system throughout the country, is unmistakable.

Whereas the world is fast losing its forest coverage in Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand and parts of Africa, between 2013 and 2018, China planted 338,000 square kilometers of forests. China has vowed to further increase its current forest coverage of roughly 22 percent to 26 percent by 2035 and 30 percent by 2050.

There has been a lot of concern about China-built coal-fired power plants. The presumption is that being coal-fired, they must emit a lot of pollution and will aggravate global warming. What has been forgotten is that China is today the nation with the most advanced clean coal-fired power generation technology. Early this year, the National Energy Administration announced that the country has beaten its target of ultra-low emissions and energy conservation and transformation outlined in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) two years ahead of schedule. According to the NEA, by the end of the third quarter of 2018, the capacity of the coal power generators with ultra-low emissions in China reached more than 750 million kilowatts, or over 75 percent of the country’s total installed coal-fired power generation capacity. Transformation of coal power generators had led to an 86 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions, an 89 percent cut in nitrogen oxide emissions, and 85 percent less smoke dust from 2012 to 2017, according to the China Electricity Council.

Early last year, the Huaneng Pakistan Sahiwal Power Plant, a major project on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that began in 2015, was completed and started operations. From design to construction, the engineers were mindful of energy conservation and emission reduction. The result is desulfurization and a dust-removal performance that far surpassed the national emission standards of Pakistan. If a project launched in 2015 can do it, projects launched after that date certainly can do better.

Presently, there is still a lot of mistrust of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but the BRI is gaining traction anyway. It has now extended to South America, and many African countries have refuted the “debt trap” narrative. The Belt and Road Initiative is proving to be not only a success story for China, but also a success story of globalism. The world needs more trust, more cooperation, more open minds. Then humanity will have a better, more-peaceful and more-prosperous future.

The author is a senior research fellow, Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University


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