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Pushing Opening Up to a Higher Level in the New Era

By Zhong Shan Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2020-05-25

Speaking at the ceremony in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that China will remain committed to the path of peaceful development, pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, and continue working with the people of countries around the world to promote the development of a global community with a shared future. At the opening ceremony for the Second China International Import Expo, he introduced a three-point proposal for building an open world economy and announced five new measures in China's efforts to expand opening up, thus providing fundamental guidance and pointing the way forward for the CPC as it pushes opening up to a higher level.

I. China's opening up has been an extraordinary yet tortuous process.

In the 70 years since the founding of the PRC, China's opening up drive has made it through countless difficulties and setbacks, creating glorious achievements that have captivated the world. Throughout this process, the CPC's theories on opening up have consistently been refreshed and refined over time, the practice of opening up has consistently ventured forward through all challenges, and the results of opening up have consistently been expanded upon and used for the benefit of the people.

At the time of the PRC's founding, China had an utterly destitute economy, while internationally it was caught up in confrontation between two opposing blocs and faced hostility from the West, which sought to keep our country isolated. China's path to opening up was thus particularly difficult. Under these extremely tough conditions, the CPC sought to learn from other countries on the basis of maintaining China's independence and self-reliance. On the one hand, China actively cooperated with countries belonging to the socialist bloc, launching 156 major projects with the help of the Soviet Union and conducting barter trade with Eastern European countries and other members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, and simultaneously conducted trade with companies in some Western countries. On the other hand, China also actively used Hong Kong and Macao as bridgeheads to break through blockades and embargoes, building links with Southeast Asia and between Asia, Africa, and Latin America.In 1957, China established the Canton Fair (also known as the China Import and Export Fair), opening a window to the world that drove the development of China's foreign trade. In the 1970s, using the opportunity of US President Nixon's visit, China managed to have its legitimate seat at the United Nations restored and its relations with the Western world improved. This began a gradual process of normalization in trade relations between China and other countries.


NPC deputies vote on the draft Foreign Investment Law of the People's Republic of China. A law-based environment is the best environment for doing business, and opening up is the only path toward development. China introduced the Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures in July 1979. It later formulated the Law on Foreign-funded Enterprises in 1986 and the Law on Chinese-Foreign Contractual Joint Ventures in 1988 in order to provide a law-based environment conducive to the development of foreign-invested enterprises in China. On March 15, 2019, the Second Session of the 13th National People's Congress voted to pass the Foreign Investment Law of the People's Republic of China, thereby setting the legal framework for foreign investment in China in the new era. The law came into force on January 1, 2020.


At the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978, the historic decision was made to launch reform and opening up. China has kept becoming more open ever since amid the process of globalization. China has remained committed to pursuing development with open doors, from establishing special economic zones like that in Shenzhen to opening up cities on the coast, near the borders, along the rivers, and in the interior and vigorously developing economic and technological development zones; from promulgating and utilizing three laws on foreign capital (namely the Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures, the Law on Foreign-funded Enterprises, and the Law on Chinese-Foreign Contractual Joint Ventures) to introducing the first basic law on foreign trade; from initially having only a handful of companies authorized to engage in foreign trade to having numerous enterprises conducting trade internationally through releasing restrictions on such businesses; and from focusing on "bringing in" to actively "going global." China's accession to the World Trade Organization was a great milestone in its efforts to open up to the outside world. At the time of its accession, China ranked sixth for total exports, whereas by 2009 it had risen to the first place. China's opening up has thus progressed in leaps and bounds, injecting great vigor into development of the national economy. Calculated at constant prices, between 1978 and 2012, China's GDP grew at an average rate of 10% per year, its foreign trade grew at an average of 17% per year, and it used a total of US$1.3 trillion in foreign investment. We have opened up and embraced the world, seized the historic opportunity offered by economic globalization, made use of our comparative strengths, late-starter advantages, and institutional superiority, and focused on utilizing both the domestic and international markets and the resources therein, thus achieving sustained development at a pace rarely seen in the world, catching up with the times in great strides, and becoming an important participant, beneficiary, and contributor in the process of economic globalization.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has maintained an overall strategic perspective, constantly promoted theoretical and practical innovation regarding opening up, carried out systematic strategic planning on opening up in the new era, and propelled China's efforts at opening up toward historic new achievements.

Entering into the new era, China became even more assured and confident in opening up. Theorization, planning and decision making regarding opening up are growing more and more mature and refined, from maintaining the greater good in the pursuit of shared interests to working toward an open world economy and a global community with a shared future; from practicing the principles of sincerity, pragmatism, affinity, and good faith in our policy toward Africa to promoting the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness in our neighborhood diplomacy; from strengthening economic and trade ties to furthering cultural exchange; from building a new open economic system to promoting all-round opening up; and from taking the initiative to consistently expand opening up to upholding an integrative approach to national security. The Belt and Road Initiative is a major proposal that was introduced on the basis of Xi Jinping's deep insights on the future of humanity. This proposal is both a theory and a plan for action, both a grand outline and a detailed blueprint, and its impact on the world is now starting to show. At present, China has signed 197 documents regarding cooperation on building the Belt and Road with 137 countries and 30 international organizations. From 2013 to 2018, trade in goods between China and countries along the Belt and Road totaled approximately US$6.5 trillion, and China's investment in these countries totaled US$97 billion. The Belt and Road Initiative has become a model of win-win cooperation in economic globalization, and a Chinese-made international public good. The cutting edge of the reform and opening up drive and our efforts to push toward a higher level of openness now involves advancing the development of pilot free trade zones and exploring the possibility of developing free trade ports. Since 2013, China has set up 18 pilot free trade zones, development of the Hainan Free Trade Port has progressed steadily, the Lin-gang Special Area in Shanghai has been officially established, and Shenzhen has fully launched the project to turn the city into a demonstration area for socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Second China International Import Expo was attended by representatives from 181 countries, regions, and international organizations and more than 3,800 companies. Though the total area for displays was expanded twice, reaching a total of 360,000 m2 after the addition of 60,000 m2, there were so many exhibitors that it was still difficult to get a booth. This year's expo was higher in quality and yielded better results. There were 288 key enterprises and Fortune 500 companies in attendance, and more than 400 examples of new products, new technologies, and new services on display, many of which were being shown in China for the first time or making their global debut. Over 500,000 professional buyers visited the expo, of which more than 8,000 were foreign buyers, a significant increase over the first expo. The event offered a platform combining exhibition, discussion, diplomacy, and cultural exchange and provided first-rate service and support. It thus yielded results that far exceeded expectations, and generated a broad global impact. The success of this event demonstrates China's great confidence in expanding opening up and represents an important milestone for our efforts to open up to a higher level in the new era.

Since entering the new era, China has moved closer to the center of the world stage. As it has constantly increased its ability to participate in global economic governance and exerted an increasingly strong impact on the world economy, China has become a key player in the global economic domain, from introducing a Chinese solution to build an innovative, invigorated, interconnected, and inclusive world economy at the G20 summit in Hangzhou to demonstrating willingness to shoulder the responsibilities of our times and promote global growth at the World Economic Forum in Davos; from displaying China's determination and confidence with regard to furthering reform and opening up to calling for joint efforts to build an open, innovative, and inclusive global economy and pursue openness and cooperation for a shared future at the China International Import Expo; from promoting cooperation through APEC to improving mechanisms for cooperation through BRICS; and from speeding up the construction of a network of high-standard free trade zones to raising the "three principles" and "five proposals" regarding reform of the WTO. Since the launch of reform and opening up, China has moved up from 32nd in the world to the first in terms of export volume, its utilization of foreign investment has expanded from a few hundred million dollars to ranking first among developing countries for 27 consecutive years, and its outward investment has grown from basically nothing to among the highest in the world. Today, China is increasingly consolidating its position as an economic power as it is now the world's largest trader, second largest consumer, and second largest foreign investment user, as well as the country with the largest foreign exchange reserves. In 2018, the size of China's economy broke 90 trillion yuan, accounting for roughly 16% of the world economy, nearly 30% of global economic growth, and about 13% of global exports of goods. China has thus become an important force in driving and leading economic globalization.

Speeding ahead through all manner of challenges over the last 70 years, China has transformed itself from a largely closed society into one that is completely open to the world on multiple levels and in a wide range of fields. Through seven decades of reform and innovation, China has pioneered a path that combines national conditions with global trends, the preservation of independence with the pursuit of opening up, the expansion of openness with the deepening of reform, and the quest for our own development with the desire to benefit the world. This uniquely Chinese path to opening up has proven to be enormously successful.


A French exhibitor displays baked goods at the Second China International Import Expo on November 6, 2019. The expo was held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) from November 5-10, 2019. The event's seven main sections of the Enterprise & Business Exhibition brought together products from all over the world. The exhibition for food and agricultural products was the largest by area, as well as the exhibition with the most countries and businesses participating. PHOTO BY CNS REPORTER MAO JIANJUN

II. Opening up is the path the Chinese nation must take to reach rejuvenation.

General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out that for any country or nation to achieve rejuvenation, its progress must be consistent with history, and its development must follow current trends. History has proven time and time again that as long as one acts in an active yet prudent manner, greater openness means greater development, less openness means less development, and no openness means no development.

From the domestic perspective, we must be open to the outside world if we are to realize the "Two Centenary Goals," because openness serves a number of important functions in this regard.

First, it propels our efforts to build a strong and modern socialist country. Xi Jinping has emphasized the fact that openness will bring us progress, while isolation will cause us to fall behind. All of the powerful nations in the history of the world, including the Roman Empire, to which all roads led, the Arab Empire, which had trade routes spreading in every direction, the Spanish Empire, whose naval power was unmatched, the Dutch Empire, which dominated maritime trade, and the British Empire, on which the sun never set, rose to prominence by opening up. Pushing opening up to a higher level will help China embrace the outside world with greater confidence and open up on more levels and to higher standards. This will inject vigor into our efforts to build a strong and modern socialist country, and begin another golden age of openness for the Chinese civilization.

Second, it provides momentum for comprehensively deepening reform. In China's modernization drive, we have constantly made new achievements by using opening up to spur reform and development. If a country stays closed off, it won't get very far in reform, but if it opens its doors, it will have ample momentum and experience to draw upon which in turn will fuel reform. While opening up can have the effect of forcing us to follow through with reform, it can also provide direction and create momentum. China's reform process has now entered the crucial stage in which all of the easy reforms that have made everybody happy have already been completed, and all that is left are the most difficult reforms. Pushing opening up to a higher level will help promote positive interaction between opening up and reform. Greater openness will spur more ambitious and comprehensive reform, and compel us to follow through with tough reforms, breaking through the barriers of vested interests and the constraints of ossified perspectives. This will make national governance more inclusive, and boost the modernization of our governance systems and capacity.

Third, it serves as a catalyst for the shift toward high-quality development. Xi Jinping has stressed that since China's economic development over the last 40 years has been achieved under conditions of openness, our economy must be even more open in the future if we are to realize high-quality development. High-quality development is an ambitious plan for transforming our economy so that its strength comes from quality rather than size, and this plan is the basis for the next stage of economic development in our country. China's economy is now in a crucial stage in which it is changing its approach to growth and adjusting its structure, and simultaneously facing many new issues and challenges. We need to strengthen economic cooperation with international partners to build on our strengths and shore up areas of weakness. China has a population of 1.4 billion, which makes it the country with the largest middle-income group and largest market in the world. It therefore has immense potential, and its prospects are limitless. Pushing opening up to a higher level will help China attract more advanced factors from around the world, better utilize the domestic and international markets and resources, unleash the massive potential in its domestic market, make structural improvements on the supply side, cultivate innovation-driven development, and expedite great transformations in terms of quality, efficiency, and drivers, thus providing powerful momentum for our efforts to build a strong and modern socialist country. 


Handicrafts on display at the Côte d'Ivoire Pavilion at the Second China International Import Expo on November 7, 2019. At the expo, China welcomes guests from all corners of the world to work for the benefit of all humanity. Bringing together exhibits, forums, diplomacy, and culture, the event is an important part of China's commitment to open up its market to the world, and a shared international platform for promoting open and mutually beneficial cooperation. Through the expo, members of the international community, including African countries, have the opportunity to share in the fruits of China's development, and to work together to build an open world economy.


From the global perspective, opening up is necessary to meet the great changes that are taking place on the international stage. Focusing on global trends, Xi Jinping made the important determination that these changes are of a magnitude not seen in a century. Though these great changes may cause anxiety and involve a certain amount of risk, they also present an opportunity to make major breakthroughs. Opening up has the following qualities on the international stage.

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