How to help the world better understand China?
Updated 14:23, 01-Nov-2019
Cheng Yung-nien
Cheng Yung-nien, director of East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, gives a speech at the 4th Understanding China Conference in Guangzhou, south China, October 26, 2019. /VCG Photo

Cheng Yung-nien, director of East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, gives a speech at the 4th Understanding China Conference in Guangzhou, south China, October 26, 2019. /VCG Photo

Editor's note:  Cheng Yung-nien is the director of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

1. China's economic miracle is driven by its political and economic system.

From an economic perspective, China's great achievements are closely linked with its fundamental socialist economic system. In the past two decades, neither the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis nor the 2007-2008 global financial crisis has had a significant impact on China's economy. This demonstrates the strength of China's economic system.

From the political point of view, since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China's political system has been developed persistently. In particular, since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), its political system has been promoted to a new high, laying an institutional foundation for the ruling party and the country's lasting peace and stability.

Learning from others is necessary, but the purpose of learning is to improve oneself instead of becoming someone else. The same holds true for a country and its civilization. Therefore, I believe that out of the "four confidences," a concept first raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the most important "confidence" that we should have is the one in our culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

China has always stressed independence and self-reliance, but it doesn't mean close-door attitudes towards the outside world. China sticks to its reform and opening-up policy, managing its own affairs well while learning from others, thus representing the essence of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

2. The original aspiration and the mission of the CPC are the key to gain institutional advantages.

Carrying out reform is to seek truth from facts and solve specific problems. From "poverty is not socialism," to "minimum income guarantee to the poor," to large-scale targeted poverty alleviation in recent years, China has delivered concrete benefits to more people and given them a stronger sense of fulfillment.

Great Hall of the People in China's capital of Beijing, September 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

Great Hall of the People in China's capital of Beijing, September 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

When it comes to poverty alleviation, it is also a matter of a country's political and economic system. These institutional advantages are largely dependent on the ruling party. As I said before that the CPC is not only a ruling party, but also a party staying true to its mission.

To stress the original aspiration is to stress the mission. If the CPC can fulfill its mission to enable its people to acquire a stronger sense of fulfillment, the ruling party will be in a better position to safeguard long-term peace and stability.

Empty talk will do no good to the nation, only practical work can help it thrive. In the new era, we should work hard to constantly improve and optimize our institutions with commitment to excellence. The original aspiration, mission and purpose of the CPC have already set the tone that the ruling party is the key to the institutional advantages.

3. To remain committed to its cause and maintain economic growth in the framework of opening up is China's greatest contribution to globalization and other countries.

Globalization is a public good which needs to be maintained by all countries, and the major countries should play even more important roles in this process. China's further opening-up will surely present more opportunities for economic globalization and inject new impetus into world economic growth.

In the past, the world order was dominated by Europe and the United States. But the game is changed now. This is why the world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, which has brought many opportunities to China.

Moreover, there is still much room for China's internal economic expansion, which means that its economic growth rate will still be high, comparing with that of the West for a long time to come.

At the same time, as the largest developing country, China needs to assume greater responsibilities in international affairs and work together with developed and developing countries alike.

For China on the global stage, there is no shortage of tough challenges. How to achieve world peace? How to provide public goods to the international community and in what way? How to coexist with other nations in a pluralistic world, considering their different systems?

4. Understanding China is not only the need for China's improvement, but also the need of the world.

Helping the world to better understand China can't be achieved through talking. It instead starts from tireless work of Chinese intellectuals. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment in the West, intellectuals played a very important role. If similar roles cannot be played by Chinese intellectuals, there would be insufficient work to interpret and present China's cultural traditions and contemporary successful development practices to the international community; therefore, it would be difficult for China to consolidate its soft power.

Telling Chinese stories well requires both an accurate approach and a solid knowledge system. Without its own knowledge system, it won't matter if China's rulers or its intellectuals won't be able to figure out the social development trend. In this case, China would only know how to follow suit rather than innovate, thus unable to sustain its development. Innovation is the spirit that drives the progress of a nation. Surviving and thriving amidst fierce international competition is like sailing against the current – one either innovates and forges ahead or gets left behind. 

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