Archive for August 6th, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

China: no full Modernization in our Times?

Chinanews Net (中新社) quotes Chinese Academy of Sciences researcher He Chuanqi (何传启), director of the Center for Modernization Research, as identifying thirteen major opportunities and challenges for China’s modernization. The challenges were greater than those faced by any other country and were giving rise to great uncertainties, He reportedly said today. The main challenges were issues of population, resources, energy, agriculture, urbanization, education, technology, the (political) system, concepts, the economy, society, informationization, and greening. On the 8th Chinese Modernization Forum, he delivered a report on “challenges and Prospects of China’s modernization”, saying that if China maintained its current population policies, this would lead to a Chinese population of 1.4 billion – and if the current policies were eased, it would lead to 1.5 billion in the 21rst century. The current level of modernization had been achieved with a population of one billion.

Per capita, the natural resources China was able to provide were below the global average level. China had become dependent on oil imports, the rural population still exceeded 600 million with earnings below the national average, the country’s urbanization was neither completed nor uncontroversial, neither elementary nor higher or further education levels were high, innovation was over-planned and over-regulated and rather inefficient, China’s political system lagged behind economic development which meant that democratization needed to be speeded up, and in terms of concepts, feudalism (封建观念, fēngjiàn guānniàn) still lingered and influenced modernization. Concerning the economical challenges, among others, there was a growing gap between Chinese average incomes and global ones, universal social security coverage was needed to ensure social stability, a balanced development of manufacturing and informationization was needed for a new pattern of industrialization, and a green development formula was needed to create a double-win situation for the economy and the environment.

In He’s view, according to the Chinanews article, the concept of knowledge-based society, deindustrialization, informationalization and globalization, a new technological revolution, networking and greening offer opportunities for China’s modernization. It was estimated that China’s modernization level could rank among the top-20 nations worldwide in the year of 2100. China had risen from the status of a less-developed to a primary-developed country so far. It would take a struggle of another 100 years to come from the status of a primary-developed to an advanced, and a fully modernized country.

The initial four comments aren’t exactly supportive. Only one of them considers He’s report to be objective and something for the political decisionmakers to learn from. One points out that corruption is in fact the biggest challenge (it’s striking indeed that the article makes no mention of either corruption, or rule of law), one commenter seems to draw unfavorable comparisons with the past, and one suggests that the expert should eat shit – are there no people to whom China is good as is?

He’s forecast seems to look surprisingly conservative indeed – but then, it doesn’t take full modernization for China to become the world’s largest economy, and to translate that into political weight.

Either way – how much sense do such forecasts make? If technology transfer continued at its current pace, it’s hard to see how it should take China another ninety years to become a fully developed country. Political decisions at home and abroad, by foreign governments and businesses, will have a strong influence on China’s development, too.

It would be interesting to read He’s report in full, to find out if there are more aspects covered by it than the Chinanews article would suggest. But even as it is, it has caught the attention of CNA (Taiwan’s Central News Agency) and of the Liberty Times online edition (自由電子報) already.

The long-term view He’s report takes may also be meant to be a measure against complacency, rather than scientific material. The article has certainly enraged a handful of laobaixing netizens so far.


How an Independence Movement is Born, New Dominion, Aug 5, 2010
Fourth Modernization, One Step Up, July 30, 2010

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