China has undergone great changes in the last 30 years. In 1978, China was still a backward agricultural country with per capita GNP of 379 yuan (US$ 52) and a trade volume of US$20.64 billion; the urbanization level was only 10.6 percent. Almost 300 million people were living below the poverty line. Yet by the end of 2006, China emerged as the fourth largest country in terms of economic aggregate around the world, with per capita GDP of more than US$2000 and foreign exchange reserves of more than USD$1,200 billion.
It is the focus in China's recent history to construct a modern country and transform the traditional agricultural economy into an industrial and commercial society. China started its reform and opening-up drive in 1978. This event greatly promoted the modernization of the country, so the year 1978 bears special significance. We have learned from the experience of the past 30 years that China will not enjoy prosperity without adopting a progressive culture, complete with appropriate systems and values. Modern economy can be defined as an industrial and commercial economy, modern politics should promote democracy and modern society must be a civil society.
Although China has made great achievements in the past 30 years, contemporary civilization has not been completely established in China. It is noticeable that the country is facing more complicated and difficult challenges in its economic, social and political reforms than 30 years ago.
Generally, economic transformation is first initiated in a country, transforming an agricultural economy into a modern industrial and commercial economy. Then the country focuses on constructing society and employment, while also establishing basic social security systems that ensure medical care, education, housing, old-age insurance and employment. Meanwhile, governments should also make efforts to extend people's individual liberties and participation in political affairs and promote political restructuring.
More and more interest groups will participate in the economic and political affairs after a country begin transforming in these two fields, and governments must fully respect the desires and identity of the people, thus adding more variables to the restructuring and possibly leading to more costs.
Difficulties test courage and wisdom. In recent years, there have been high jumps in housing prices and in the consumer price index, as well as frequent mine blasts and increasing number of workers' rights protections issues. All of these problems are new challenges for China's social and political reforms. "To advance the construction of society by focusing on employment and firmly develop a socialist democracy," Hu said in the 17th CPC National Congress. It is only through social construction and socialist democracy that China can evolve into a modern civilization and rejuvenate itself.
(China.org.cn by Yang Xi, November 6, 2008)