It's amazing that China, with 20 percent of the world's population, managed to accomplish tremendous economic feats through relatively smooth reforms in three decades, former Dutch cabinet junior minister Annette Nijs told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"It's intriguing that China carried out far-reaching reforms without serious upheavals," said Nijs, who was recently named Executive Director Global Initiative of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.
The Chinese model of development, which favors prudence in market opening-up and maintains state regulation, has been increasingly recognized as a better alternative in this century to the Washington Consensus which champions free trade, she said.
Clear long-term targets
Nijs praised the Chinese government for introducing reforms in a steady and stable way.
"Often you see an opening-up of a country after a war. But in China it is a well-planned shift rather than a shock, which is gradually carried out with sufficient control," she said, noting the remarkable balance China developed between its political system, the market economy and the social stability.
"Although there are internal clashes sometimes, China on the whole is a stable country. We all thank China for that because if China is not stable, the rest of the world will see unrest," said Nijs, who was the Dutch state secretary for education, culture and science between 2002 and 2004.
Nijs also spoke highly of China's ability to maintain a coherent policy in the pursuit of prosperity. "China is one of those countries which are very clear in their long-term planning. It planned and set targets far more clear than most European economies," she said.
"Most countries have a budget for a few years and they don't look beyond those years. But China has long-term and short-term planning. All the national five-year plans are moving towards the long-term targets. That is a very practical approach," said Nijs, who made numerous visits to China since 1987.
Although some people complain that China is not opening its market fast enough and the country is still asked to go further in its system reforms, Nijs said she believes China has done a good job.
China has delivered many fundamental reforms including introducing nine years of free education, she said.
The country aims to increase its per capita income from US$2,000 to US$5,300 by 2020 and raise the percentage of rural population with health care from a quarter to 80 percent. "If all those targets are met, China is going really fast," she said.
In Nijs' view, China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and enriched the middle class, which are its biggest achievements in the past 30 years. "Millions of Chinese now have a living standard similar to the Europeans," she said.
Nijs is also impressed by the fact that almost 40 percent of China's GDP are generated in the science and technology sectors. "This means China has been able to make the shift from 'made in China' to 'created in China' which is a remarkable achievement," she said.
Another positive sign is China's decreasing dependence on energy consumption for its growth. In 2005, China had to retain a double-digit GDP growth with double-digit energy consumption growth. But now the annual growth of energy consumption has been reduced to 4-5 percent.
"China may still has a long way to go to increase the energy efficiency, but what it has done is a big shift," she said.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Chinese companies are going global and some 30 have listed in the renowned Fortune Global 500 rankings, which Nijs considered a major accomplishment.
She said these companies are taking stakes in or acquiring other companies especially in the energy and the financial sectors across the world. In some sectors Chinese companies are having a large market share in the world, such as container transportation, steel production and kitchen appliances. Chinese automotive companies are even reaching to the United States.
"This shows that Chinese companies have moved from trade to production, logistics, marketing and sales in foreign countries. That is a major achievement in merely three decades," she said.