A shopping expo in China made headlines in May.
Some 1,300 global brands, including Swatch of Switzerland, Swarovski of Austria, Shiseido of Japan, and America’s Dell and Tesla, came together at the first China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, capital of south China’s Hainan Province.
With a large number of exhibitions and trade fairs, trade, invention and innovation, access to foreign products is easy and convenient in China. The country’s five major cities – Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen – collectively host around 140 such exhibitions each year, according to the Japan Foreign Trade Organization.
But decades ago it was a whole different story. Before the 1970s, many struggled to fill their bellies, let alone pamper themselves with a shopping spree.
China’s reform and opening-up policy is what changed the course of the country’s development.
Since the launch of this policy, China has gone through three major waves of openness. The first began in 1978 and continued into the 1980s and 1990s. It saw an influx of foreign direct investment for infrastructure construction and industrial projects across the country. At the forefront of this wave of openness was China’s first Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen, which proved to be an early magnet for foreign investors and a testing ground for policy innovation.
The second wave began in 2001 with China’s accession to the WTO, which sparked a new wave of foreign investment and much greater integration into the world economy.
Today, as China begins a new chapter of development under its 14th Five-Year Plan, the nation stands on the cusp of a new wave of openness marked by proactive initiatives to further deepen China. integration.
The vehicles include the development of new Free Trade Zones (FTAs) and the Hainan Free Trade Port, the integration of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay region, and new international trade and development agreements. investments such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Agreement (RCEP).
This political approach has proven to be extremely beneficial for China’s development. It brought about reforms and widened the market, allowing a more specialized division of labor. In addition, intense competition stimulated by trade liberalization and import tariff reductions has forced domestic firms to be more efficient. It also led to optimization of resource allocation and industrial upgrading.
Over 40 years of reform and opening-up have seen China’s total imports and exports grow from $ 20.6 billion to over $ 4.5 trillion, making the country the world’s leading trading nation.
Openness is not just about “bringing in” resources; it also paves the way for China for its contribution to the global economy. Reform and openness have become an internal driving force for China to embrace globalization, both economically and in terms of people-to-people relationships.
Today, China is both an engine of global economic growth and a contributor to world order. While pursuing its own development, China has never sought to confront head-on with other countries and has always remained committed to world peace and development.
China is also playing a leading role as an active participant in the Paris Agreement to tackle climate-related issues through various efforts. This reflects the nation’s positive attitude towards – and its competence – to participate in multilateral cooperation and global governance. It also demonstrates a sense of mission and responsibility to partner with other countries to meet the challenges of human survival and development.
Meanwhile, China has also proposed several approaches for global governance and development, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and building a community with a common future for humanity.
Progress on these fronts highlights the need for institutional openness at a deeper level and on a broader scale. The 2021 Government Work Report also proposes the development of new systems for a higher level open economy in China, the promotion of high-quality development of the BRI and the construction of a global network of free zones. exchange.
This not only harnesses China’s economic potential, but also stimulates the growth of the world economy. Having shifted the country from a scarcity to a shopping experience, today’s reform and openness is not only China’s recipe for success, but has arguably become an indispensable driving force. towards a more prosperous world.