Martin Jacques: What Chinese modernization would mean for the world?


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Martin Jacques: What Chinese modernization would mean for the world?


Source:    Published: 2023-03-12


For a long time in history, the world was shrouded in the myth that modernization equals Westernization. The emergence of Chinese modernization dispels it, making modernization no longer a single-choice question, but a multiple-choice one.

For the world, China's task to modernize a country of 1.4 billion people, or nearly one-fifth of the global population, is unprecedented. The Herculean pursuit not only captures global attention, but also has global ramifications.

Among a series of concepts and initiatives that China promotes in both state governance and global interactions, the Chinese path to modernization is the most popular keyword that people would like to know more about, according to an overseas survey conducted by Xinhua News Agency recently.

What are differences between Chinese and Western Modernization?

China's path to modernization is one of peace and development, win-win cooperation, and harmony between humanity and nature, rather than external expansion and plundering.

"China's path to modernization reflects Chinese wisdom, Chinese civilization and history," said Keith Bennett, a long-term China specialist and vice chair of Britain's 48 Group Club.

"The modernization of a small number of Western countries was based on the exploitation, oppression and colonization of almost the entire world. China is not developing by exploiting any other country; China is developing itself and modernizing itself, and at the same time helping other countries to develop and modernize," he said.

China does not seek to exploit or control other nations, and it plays no role in inciting conflicts, said Mokhtar Gobashy, deputy chairman of the Cairo-based Arab Center for Political and Strategic Studies, adding that's why China has gained respect and popularity in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, Chinese modernization emphasizes both material and cultural-ethical advancement, which distinguishes it from Western modernization, said Chen Gang, assistant director of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore.

The coordination of material and cultural-ethical advancement leads the way to realize all-around material abundance as well as people's well-rounded development, Chen said.

What Chinese Modernization can offer for the world?

China stands in the world as the second-largest economy and a responsible major country. It always keeps the world's development and peace in mind in its modernization process. That is because Beijing fully understands that it will do well only if the world does well, and vice versa.

Firstly, China is committed to making the world less poor and more equitable.

By the end of 2020, China had lifted out of poverty all rural residents living below the current poverty line and met the poverty eradication target set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule.

Commenting on China's poverty reduction drive, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said those achievements are "the biggest contribution for dramatical reduction of poverty."

More than eradicating absolute poverty, Chinese modernization promotes common prosperity, thereby shrinking the enormous wealth gap and inequality that have risen in tandem with Western modernization.

British scholar and political commentator Martin Jacques highlighted China's pursuit of common prosperity, lamenting how Western countries have never taken it seriously.

"For China to embrace common prosperity, to establish a society of greater fairness, greater equity, that is a very important message not only to China, Chinese people but to the world as well," he said.

China, on its way toward modernization, has also been sharing its development dividends with the rest of the world.

Take the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to a World Bank forecast, if all Belt and Road transport infrastructure projects are carried out, the initiative would generate 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars of global revenues annually to 2030. Up to 90 percent of the revenues would go to partner countries.

"The most important thing about the BRI is that developing nations could benefit from the great experience in the development of China. BRI gives them the opportunity to create an industrial society and join the modern age. This is something that in the long run would bode well for the future of humanity," said Khairy Tourk, professor of economics with the Stuart School of Business at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Secondly, China is committed to making the world greener and more biodiverse.

China ranks first globally in the area of planted forests and forest coverage growth, contributing a quarter of the world's new forest area in the past decade.

From 2012 to 2021, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP declined by 34.4 percent, and energy consumption per unit of GDP decreased by 26.4 percent, equivalent to saving of 1.4 billion tons of standard coal.

So far, China has also emerged as a major proponent of renewable energy, and it is working hard to capitalize on the potential of a green BRI.

UNFCCC (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Executive Secretary Simon Stiell spoke highly of China's firm and consistent stance on actively addressing climate change, as well as its efforts to translate climate commitments into concrete actions.

At a time when the world is facing an energy crisis, China continues to make solid progress in dealing with climate change and plays an important role in advancing the global response to climate change, Stiell said.

Meanwhile, under China's presidency, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has adopted the global biodiversity framework ahead of schedule. China has shown leadership in global biodiversity protection, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, has said.

Thirdly, China is committed to making the world more peaceful.

For more than 70 years, China has never started a war, never occupied a single square mile of foreign territory, never engaged in proxy wars, and never been a member of or organized any military bloc.

It is the only country that has incorporated peaceful development in its Constitution, and the only country among the five nuclear-weapon states to pledge no first use of nuclear weapons. China's track record on peace can stand the scrutiny of history, and its peaceful rise is an unprecedented miracle in human history.

Since China's restoration of its lawful seat at the United Nations in 1971, China has actively participated in the political settlement of major regional hot issues, including the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the Iran nuclear issue, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and the Palestine-Israel issue.

In response to mounting conflicts and security challenges in today's world, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022.

And in the GSI Concept Paper released last month, China further expounded the core ideas and principles of the initiative, identified the priorities, platforms and mechanisms of cooperation and demonstrated China's sense of responsibility for safeguarding world peace and firm resolve to defend global security.

"China's idea of being a builder of world peace, contributor to global development, defender of the international order and provider of public goods are consistent with the ideals of the UN Charter," former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.

An alternative approach?

Chinese modernization is a new model for human advancement, and it dispels the myth that "modernization is equal to Westernization," presents another picture of modernization, expands the channels for developing countries to achieve modernization, and provides a Chinese solution to aid the exploration of a better social system for humanity, Xi once said.

China's rise as a global economic power shattered the long-held notion that modernization means Westernization, said David Monyae, director of the Center for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

The Chinese path to modernization serves as an "example" for developing countries, especially African countries, when they have been confronted with multiple crises that hinder their development in recent years, General Secretary of the Congolese Labor Party Pierre Moussa has said.

"They could find in this model elements for the construction of a development path that can enable them to handle present and future challenges," he said.

"Modernization has never been simply Westernization," Chen said, adding that "Chinese modernization is a new development model, which can be used as a reference for other countries with similar national conditions or at a similar stage of development."