Modernization Dream to Come True

Modernization, a century-old dream of the Chinese people, will come true at last as this 5,000 year-old civilization has begun to take concrete steps toward this goal.

The Chinese people began to dream about modernization at the beginning of the last century, but it had remained a distant dream until 1949 when the New China was founded.

In 1964, the Third National People's Congress set the objective of achieving modernization in agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology in a not too long a historical period. In 1975, the late Premier Zhou Enlai reiterated the objective.

However, no substantial steps had been taken until the late 1970s when the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping developed a three- step approach toward the goal, that is, resolving the inadequate food and clothing and realizing a comfortable life in the 20th century and attain the goal of four modernizations by the middle of the 21st century.

At the opening of the current session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, Premier Zhu Rongji announced that China had fulfilled the tasks for the first two steps as China's GDP topped 8.9 trillion yuan, or 800 US dollars on the per capita basis by the end of 2000. The new millennium marks the beginning of new journey toward the third-step goal.

Many cities and provinces have already worked out their timetable for attaining the goal. Encouraged by Premier Zhu Rongji's call to take the lead in modernization, such coastal areas as Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing have all committed to realizing modernization in 5-20 years. Even Tibet has raised the slogan of "edging into the front rank of modernization" by the middle of this century.

The strong "catching-up" desire of the Chinese and high expectations will provide an extraordinary incentive to economic growth, said Lu Xueyi, an NPC deputy and a sociologist.

Many other NPC deputies and CPPCC members, who are experts in many areas, hold an up-beat attitude toward China's modernization goal, saying that the sweeping technical revolution in the world and the increasing momentum of economic globalization have presented good opportunities for China to jump-start the drive for realizing the third-step objectives.

They are of the opinion that China has every condition for maintaining a rapid economic development for a considerably long time to come.

The rich human resources, a high savings rate and the economic strength gained over the last decade have laid a fairly firm material foundation for realizing modernization, said noted economist Liu Guoguang. the surging industrialization and urbanization will provide long-lasting vitality for modernization and the growth potential of consumption demand and investment demand is huge.

Different from the "pure catching-up" approach in the past, the experts and scholars pointed out, the current modernization program has placed people and the improvement of the people's living standards in the first place. Instead of one-sided pursuit for high economic indices as in the past, the new program is a package of comprehensive indices, covering industrialization, urbanization, development of IT industry, ecological environment protection, competitiveness, globalization and social equity, they noted, adding that it has put on the agenda the common modernization of both urban and rural areas.

The new program features a sustainable development and harmonious development of population, resources and environment, according to experts. It aims at realizing a unified national market, a cross-the-board opening to the outside world and broader social reform instead of pure economic reform.

They said that what is characteristic of modernization in the developed world has already appeared or is soon to appear in China, such as the new industrial structure and consumption structure, the accelerated pace of urbanization, the new changes that have taken place in the rural economy, the new social structure with the government playing a smaller role, a social security system covering both urban and rural areas, and greater attention of the general public to knowledge and education.

Prof. Niu Wenyuan, a CPPCC member and head of the research group on the sustainable development strategy of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said it is quite feasible for China to achieve modernization by the middle of this century, but he called the attention of all places to keep soberly aware of the complexity and difficulty of the process as the criteria for modernization are changing and there are big disparities among different regions and between town and country.

(People’s Daily 03/12/2001)