BEYOND THE GREAT WALL; The China I heard about and the China I have seen

How Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones Are Driving China’s Economic and Social Development And Lessons Liberia Can Learn

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye, Monrovia, Liberia

 

In the past 30 years, China has achieved phenomenal economic growth, an unprecedented development “miracle” in human history. Since the institution of its reforms and Open Door policy in 1978, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has been growing at an average annual rate of more than 9 percent (figure 1). In 2010, it became the world’s second-largest economy, according to World Bank..

Though I am not an economist, during my 10-month stay in China, I found out that the creation of industrial parks and economic zones is the driving force behind this success.

The success comes by collective efforts by central and local officials in opening up to the world while attracting partners and investments in ensuring dreams come to reality.

We, 28 journalists from 27 African countries on 2016 media fellowship, toured many industrial parks and economic zones in China.

The Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, Jiangsu provincial, the Sci-Tech Industrial Park of Gaungzhou University of Chinese Medicine in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province and other economic zones including the Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone in Shanghai.

However, I admired the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) because we visited it twice. And it indicates that China’s opening up policy in this sector is working.

In April 2016, we (Africa journalists) visited Suzhou, such as Suzhou Industrial Park, Higer Bus, SJEC Elevator, Suzhou Classical Gardens, Kunqu Opera House, Suzhou Embroidery Institute, Kunshan Economic Zone, as well as Zhouzhuang Water Village.

In addition, we were invited to cover the events of Coordinators’ Meeting on Implementation of Follow-up Actions of Johannesburg Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in July.

As part of this event, we also went along with African delegates to visit the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP).

SIP is a joint initiative by China and Singapore, thus bearing the name “China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park”

Accelerating the optimization of the industrial structure

Authorities of the park told us that SIP voluntarily grasps the new normal of the economy and accelerates the transformation of the method of economic development. The total number of projects attracting foreign investment has exceeded 5,600. The actual utilization of foreign capital reaches over 29 billion US dollars. A total of 93 Fortune 500 companies have invested in 154 projects in SIP, forming an industry cluster with certain competitiveness in electronic information, machinery manufacturing and etc. The proportion of the output of hi-tech industry and new industry on the total above-scale industrial output has reached 67% and 59% respectively. The output of three major emerging industries, namely bio-medicine, nanotechnology applications and cloud computing industry has maintained a rapid average growth of 30% annually. The service economy is booming, with the value added output of the service industry and the culture industry taking 42.5% and 7.1% of the GDP in 2015 respectively.  There have been a total of 70 accredited projects of headquarters of all levels, and over 700 financial institutions gathered in SIP. A regional highland of financial center is forming rapidly.

Continue to improve the well-being of the people

Another thing I observed at SIP is that people-oriented and people’s livelihood as top priority has always been put in a prominent position.

Great efforts have been taken to improve people’s livelihood. With regional integration as the goal, there has been steady progress in the reform of replacing the town with sub-district, and accelerated implementation in the urban renewal plans of the old town. The establishment of special funds to enrich the people has been explored, so as to achieve the full coverage of the low marginal households.

For the coordination of the causes of education, health care, old age, social security and culture, a “full coverage, multi-level” social security system has been established.

With the comprehensive merger of the urban and rural social security, the integration of urban and rural social security system has been achieved.

The experimental project of social management cooperation between China and Singapore has been carried out in depth, and the innovation of social governance has been strengthened. A new community service management system has been established, based on the neighborhood centers, community service centers and community clubs. SIP has been honored as “National Experimental Zone of Community Management and Service Innovation” and “National Demonstration District of Harmonious Community Building”.

Lessons Liberia can learn

Since the resumption of diplomatic relations, China and Liberia have been increasing bilateral operations in recent years.

Special economic zones are geographically designated trade areas that are used to attract foreign investors and boost industrialization. They generally have trade laws that differ from the rest of the country and companies are offered tax incentives to set up operations.

One may say Liberia does not have the economic backing and facilities to set up economic zones. But its better to start something. There is a saying that “where there is no vision, the people perish”.

For Liberia, setting up special economic zones can boost the diversification its economy and promote manufacturing.

China’s experiences indicate that for zones to succeed, African governments must improve infrastructure and technology and have an educated and competent labor force as well as efficient and effective administration.

China introduced special economic zones in the 1970s as part of its policy to open up to international trade. Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms became the turning point towards a market-oriented economy. A series of experiments, including the establishment of special economic zones, became the driving force for growth.

This inspired African countries and became the rationale to establish Chinese led-SEZs in Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, Zambia and Ethiopia in the mid-2000s. More African countries are planning to establish special economic zones. In South Africa, the Special Economic Zones Act was passed recently and ten were selected.

If these countries are moving forward, Liberia can be inspired. This is the win-win situation that China aims to achieve with Africa, benefiting all sides.

China set up zones in Southern coastal areas as part of the economic reforms under the open door policy. They were very successful and led to unprecedented growth. Shenzhen, a small fishing town, became the first special economic zones. It is now the most prominent manufacturing hub on the globe. When I was told Shenzhen was a small fishing town few years ago I could not believe. This is because it has turned into also a municipality as you see high rise buildings with road networks and it is highly industrialized.

Also, in many cases, policy makers in Africa have not set up long term plans and there is a lack of consultation with local communities. Therefore, it is important to take in any plans intended to growth and development.

An industrial park (also known as industrial estate, trading estate) is an area zoned and planned for the purpose of industrial development. An industrial park can be thought of as a more “heavyweight” version of a business park or office park, which has offices and light industry, rather than heavy industry. It is clear why China incorporated such an initiative in its economic reforms.

China’s economic reforms termed “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that was started in December 1978 by reformists within the Communist Party of China, led by Deng Xiaoping.

 

 

BEYOND THE GREAT WALL: The China I Heard About, The China I have Seen

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye

 

My Experience In Covering China’s Political Activities

It is being viewed in other parts of the world that there is no democracy in China because there is only one-party rule.

The Chinese government, in consultation with the people, has been maintaining its cultural heritage for 5,000 unbroken years, thus making it difficult for any nation to make it fall.

“We learn from our ancestors, and if anyone wants to destroy China, you must destroy our culture first; which is very difficult,” said Mr Jin Canrong, Professor and Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China (RUC) told one of our lecture classes.

Many Chinese including analysts say it will be a disaster if multiplicity of parties is allowed for such a country that has nearly 1.4 billion human beings, noting that there will be millions of political parties with diverse political views. And many opposing political views will not help China because of the population, adding, “Any attempt to do that will make China to fall”.

Above all, the Chinese are satisfied with the Government, as evident by views of citizens in 32 cities and towns I visited in 12 provinces. Focus of their conversations is on how the world can learn from China about development and creating peaceful environment.

There is a high level of nationalism by the Chinese, and as such, experts, scholars and prominent figures as well as enterprises in the Chinese public diplomacy have founded a non-government organization called the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA); the sponsor of the exchange programs of African journalists in China.

China is a very large country, large population; but growth in all of its sectors, has been described as the best way to address human rights.

Political leaders say the country alone cannot be making progress, and so they have decided to strengthen relations with the world; thus paying more attention to Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and other international organizations.

Now that China is moving fast, the question is what lesson African leaders and citizens can learn if the continent must improve.

Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.37 million square km (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of Earth‘s total surface area and 20.2 percent of its total land area. With 1.1 billion people as of 2013, it accounts for about 15% of the world’s human population.  It contains 54 fully recognized sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition, the continent with the world’s highest number of countries.

Due to such partitions by colonial masters and with countries having individual sovereignty, it is impossible for Africa to unite like China.

But Africans have to learn from China to foster economic growth and development; and the political will must be holistic and patriotic.

Diverse and opposing political ideologies, masterminded by external forces have been keeping Africa behind.

Besides, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is represented all over the country, working with other local officials to ensure development projects are implemented according to the aspirations of the citizens.

 

 

 

BEYOND THE GREAT WALL: the China I heard about, the China I have seen

Social

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye

 

There was a man who suspected his neighbor of stealing his ax. All of the time this man viewed his neighbor as a thief after his (the man) ax went missing.

Fortunately, the ax was found with another neighbor who had borrowed it; and the borrower apologized.

Though the ax was found, the owner could not have peace in mind due to the suspicion he had found against the innocent. So it came a time that he could no longer hold the guilt in his mind. Therefore, he called everyone in the village to confess and apologize to his neighbor.

This goes to say that you will not understand your friend better until you learn and know who he or she is and so it is with China and other parts of the world including Liberia. Chinese have been hearing many negative things about Africa, and so Africans.

Despite reading about and knowing about the People’s Republic of China, there are several perceptions about the China I had subscribed to until my 10-month media fellowship to the country in 2016.

Therefore, let me confess that, after my deep understanding of the country, I realized that most of the perceptions, especially negative, are found against the world’s second major but fastest growing economy.

Generally, I have understood that Chinese do everything with their characteristics to suit the society following their cultural revolution. And the system is working well, though with continuous reforms. However, today I will give you my experience on the social aspects of Chinese and how I see them.

Are Chinese people friendly?

It depends on how you define the word “friendly”. There are nearly 1.4 billion Chinese, who are ethnically and culturally grounded. So varied and numerous it is difficult to generalize on something as broad and open to interpretation as “friendly”.

Having visited 32 cities and towns in 12 provinces in urban and rural China, I found out that there are certainly a lot of people who are very hospitable-friendly and mannered. I met and made a lot of friends in China.

We were 28 African journalists on the media fellowship hosted by the China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) in Beijing, sponsored by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA). We received warm receptions any part of China we visited-some on our own. Many Chinese were anxious to establish friendship with us. Some got more closer to compliment Mandarin “Ni hao,” meaning “hi” in Chinese. Other will go further by teaching you the Mandarin “ni shi na guo ren?” meaning what is your nationality in Chinese.

From the perceptions I had, I was shocked to see many Chinese oozing with goodwill and smiles having seen foreigners.  One of my Chinese friends told me that based on Confucianism, the entire culture is about manners and respect. At some points, I was treated to nice cups of tea, with the introduction of the Chinese tea culture.

I could see the smile on the face of every journalist I meet in China. He or she could not hesitate to express happiness for my being in his or her country.

Three colleagues and I were assigned with the People’s Daily Online English (en.people.com.cn) in Beijing for affiliation as part of the fellowship to experience Chinese media. At People’s Daily, I was working with a team like I was at the In Profile Daily in Monrovia. Contrary to views journalist reports are sometimes ignored, I can state that all of my reports were published. Editor Wu Chengliang could not waste time in publishing articles and stories from me even up to now.

Yes, China now has become one of the most popular destinations in the world because of friendliness. This contributes to the rapid growth and development of China’s tourism industry.

After visiting some tourism and cultural sites in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Haikou and Wuhan, among others, I discovered the booming industry due to the hospitality of the Chinese attracting millions of foreign tourists. May be the cities are commercial, but I really hope you pay a visit to China. China is a country with more than 5,000 years of history so you could not imagine how the oriental civilization will be till you see the scenes yourself.

More interestingly, Chinese are in high gear learning English and other foreign languages so as to reduce the language barriers that have impeded the their understanding with the outside world. Now I have strong friendship with officials and staff at the China-Africa Center (CAPC)in Beijing. These are Chinese graduates and interns who have studied, are studying English, French and other foreign Languages. Their friendliness helps to assist fellows at CAPC for the effectiveness of the fellowship.

I rode on Beijing subway (train) on many occasions, visiting Liberian students, Embassy and other friends. Many Chinese could not waste time in establishing friendship with me in the train. To make the friendship, we exchange WeChat contacts, through which we were, and continue to communicate today. This is how I can boast that going to China anytime will be like going home. Also, I visited some communities in Beijing where I met and established friendship with many Chinese.

In this light, I see Chinese are in line with the opening up policies being implemented by the government. They are also willing to work and stay in any part of the world.

Undoubtedly, we can embrace the China friendship to live its dream to have a developed world through win-win situation for mutual understanding that leads to growth and development, not recolonization as may be perceived. With China as one of our partners, I am of the belief that we are moving forward.

 

China and Africa had misunderstood one another in the third party (media) until leaders on two sides decided to foster a friendship some years ago, leading to the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. The China-Africa Press Center was established under the people-to-people contacts component to allow for Chinese and African journalists to engage in exchange activities by visiting and experiencing Africa and China.

Fredrick P. W. Gaye is the Editor for News & Editorial Services  at In Profile Daily and a 2016 fellow of the China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) in China . He can be reached at: fgaye.inprofile@gmail.com / +231880650176/+231777083584

 

 

 

 

BEYOND THE GREAT WALL; the China I heard about, the China I have seen: My Experience In Covering China’s Political Activities

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye

There is an adage in Liberia that: “When you are not inside, you never know.” And this is exactly the case with people’s perceptions about China in other parts of the world. I must admit that the reality on ground is different from negative perceptions about the world’s most populous country.

Let me be quick to note that, not all is well in China because it is a developing economy whose government is faced with the challenge to deliver certain portion of the population out of poverty by 2020.

As the Africa-China Relations initiative claims the world’s attention, the question that lingers is, what lessons African leaders and even the citizens themselves can learn from the fast economic growth and development of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

With its population of nearly 1.4 billion, covering a land area of 9.6 million square km, I see China political collaboration and consultations as unique working well to maintain peace and harmony.

China is under the rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC); but improved coordination and consultations are a hallmark by leaders of steering the affairs of the country, as every player, one way or the other, demonstrates nationalism.

I am among twenty African journalists on a 10-month media fellowship at the China Africa Press Center (CAPC) in Beijing in 2016. I arrived few days to the opening of the Country’s annual political sessions: The National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultation Conference (CPPCC) in March.

We were accredited to cover the two events which claimed the attention of the world, as evidenced by the widest coverage in my life so far. Local and foreign journalists at the events were estimated at about 3,500, who nearly filled the Great Hall of the People (Parliament chambers) to capacity.

Inside the chambers, any strange persons including me wondered how such a big country with large population and diverse cultures is being governed with one-party system without noise. I though there was going to be dissenting views following the opening sessions, judging from the Liberian experience; but members of the two sessions conducted the events with cordiality.

It was a great experience on March 3, 2016, when the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, Mr. Yu Zhengsheng delivered reports on the 2015 work of the Committee at its Fourth Session opening ceremony.

CPPCC is a political advisory body in China. It consists of delegates from a range of political parties and organizations, as well as independent members. The proportion of representation of the various parties is determined by established conventions, negotiated between the parties.

In practice, the largest and dominant party in the Conference is the Communist Party of China which has about one third of the seats. Other members are drawn from the United Front parties allied with the CPC, and from independent members who are not members of any party. The Conference is intended to appear to be more representative and is composed of a broader range of people than is typical of government office in the Country.

CPPC is a patriotic united front organization led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is made up of deputies from the CPC, eight non-CPC parties, non-party democrats and people’s organizations, deputies from various minority nationalities and from all walks of life, and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao compatriots and returned overseas Chinese, as well as specially invited people.

In the committee report, Yu outlined that deepening reform took place in 2015, with the implementation of major policies.

Major among them was ensuring proper understanding of the CPPCC in order to maintain a correct political direction, adhering to structure of deliberations to make political consultations more fruitful; strengthening the CPPCC functions of the democratic oversight by adhering to a problem-oriented approach and promoting ethnic unity and religious harmony to bring together the will and strength of the people.

Touching of China’s foreign relations, Yu said the the committee strengthened foreign contacts to develop a favorable external environment for China’s development.

He also used the occasion to present the Committee’s five-year plan which started this year.

My coverage at the Parliament continued on March 5, 2016, during the opening of fourth session of NPC, where Premier (Prime Minister) Li Keqiang, reported on the work of the government in 2015.

China experienced major boost in economy, with its GDP reached at 67.7 trillion yuan, representing an increase of 6.9% over the previous year; a growth Mr. Li termed as rare faster than most of the major economies in the world.

He reported that a high rate of economic development was maintained and living standards improved.

The Chinese Premier also used the occasion to outline plans for the government in 2016,

It was a colorful ceremony as deputies (members of the Parliament), and following the two events heads of various ministries and agencies giving their reports at press conferences and in sessions.

NPC is the lawmaking and supreme organ of state power and deputies (lawmakers) to the NPC are elected by the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and by the armed forces. Candidates for deputies to the people’s congress at various levels are nominated on the basis of electoral districts or electoral units. The political parties and various people’s organizations may either jointly or separately recommend candidates for deputies.

The multiplicity of political parties and delivering for the people, which one matters? To be continued…