An American friend asked me: “Why is China successful?” This summer I went to east China’s Zhejiang Province on holiday. The region has the most vibrant economy in the country. I asked my local guide what is the one word that defines his compatriots, and he said, “eagerness.” That sums up who we are as Chinese.
Chinese labor productivity grows at 9 percent annually, the highest in the world. The country has maintained a strong labor force and high rates of working women. This year, China broke into the world’s top-20 most innovative economies for the first time. American multinational conglomerate General Electric started doing business in China as early as 1906, with its slogan “In China, For China.” R&D from its 2,500 Chinese engineers has made GE even more competitive.
When Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) started China’s reform and opening up 40 years ago, he not only shook up a stagnant economy, but also set the imagination of Chinese people free.
Farmers were no longer chained to the field, workers were no more burdened by travail, and entrepreneurs became truly enterprising.
In droves, Chinese people became porters and builders, canners and caterers, engineers and researchers, phone makers and shop owners. They are the beating heart of a growing economy and the backbone of an aspiring nation. Like the American pioneers in the West, they deserve every respect for their human ingenuity and determination. They are the real Chinese at their best. They are the good part of humanity.
You may ask what is the government’s role in all of this? I’d say it is the catalyst. The true chemistry is generated by the hands and feet of hundreds of millions of Chinese workers.
I know some Americans perceive China as a “thief, robber and plotter” because it is richer, better, stronger and different. But this is not only wrong, it misses the point.
Like a speeding car, China powers ahead because of a strong engine not because it jumps lanes. No one should be blamed for making efforts, especially if they are willing to join hands with others. In this sense, the Chinese share the same dream as Africans, Europeans and Americans.
Colin Powell once said diplomacy is listening to what the other guy needs. A great statesman stands tall because he understands humanity in friends and in opponents.
The Chinese and American people are at another historical crossroad. Some say we are only connected by wallets; I don’t agree. We are connected in more fundamental ways – in our creativity, aspirations, and introspections. How we imagine each other will not only affect others, it will define who we are.
English author Rudyard Kipling says “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” But adds, “There is neither East nor West when two strong men stand face to face.”