The rise of China’s economy: Part One

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CHINA has one of the world’s biggest economies.
It currently ranks third after the US and Japan.
China also has the world’s fastest growing economy.
Although China is now well-known for its technological advancement and high industrial capacity, few can fully comprehend how big and influential China has become.
It is this great world influence China has that this series seeks to bring to light.
To achieve this, we will have to delve into a bit of Chinese history.
In antiquity, China had one of the world’s largest economies.
In the 19th Century, the economy was disturbed by the trade in opium by British sailors.
National revenue was lost through the purchase of opium.
Labour resources shrunk as the youth became addicted to the harmful narcotic.
They became unproductive and only concerned about getting high.
This was especially a problem in big cities like Shanghai.
The leaders of the time tried to stop the trade of opium but were met with violent resistance.
This led to two opium wars which devastated the Chinese economy, leaving the country semi-colonised by several European nations, particularly Britain.
Japan would acquire western weaponry coupled with an imperialistic war philosophy.
They engaged China, which had been weakened by the opium wars, and almost colonised it.
China partook in a war of liberation and after Japan’s defeat by the US in the mid 1940s, China became liberated.
However, internal disputes between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China led to other waves of economic and social instability.
There were also ambitious former monarchs who wanted to return to power and became warlords.
This ended with the efforts of individuals like Mao Zedong who shepherded the masses and led them in the building of a peaceful and united China.
Due to these woes, China lost Xianggang (Hong Kong) to Britain and Taiwan to KMT dissidents.
This shows how badly their economy was affected by the coming of the Westerners into their region.
The US sought to subtly take over all former Japanese colonies and territories.
Among them was Vietnam, Philippines and Korea before it was divided.
They became influential in the south of the nation of Korea where capitalism was embraced.
However, China and the Soviet Union had influenced the north of Korea where communism was embraced.
When the US sought to use military force to achieve their goals in Korea, China intervened against it and ruined their winning prospects.
Since then, there has been tension between China and the US.
As a result, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, China was firmly under sanctions by the US and its European allies.
China became an isolated nation with a closed economy.
This was until after Zhou Enlai’s diplomatic efforts to mend international relations with the West and Deng Xiaoping’s ‘opening up the economy’ policies (Gaige kaifang).
This means China was not on the stock exchange until the mid-1970s and had less impact on the world economy than nations like colonial Zimbabwe at the time.
However, in a short time, the world has witnessed China transform itself into super power status.
This is not only owed to their plenteous land and population, but unity, organisation and sacrifice.
The Chinese have a very patriotic and nationalistic approach to serving their nation.
This was instilled in them by their negative experiences under foreign groups like the Europeans and the Japanese.
Thus they try to depend on themselves for their welfare (food, clothing, shelter, education and so on).
Their nationalistic patriotism is a positive trait that can be likened to the servitude and loyalty of insects towards their queen.
This gives the Chinese people an ant-like culture of working together for the common cause of simply developing their nation.
Personal incentives and benefits like high salaries were not a high priority for the Chinese.
Thus, they had, and continue to have, the world’s cheapest labour resources.
But by far the biggest tool China has in achieving its political and economic goals is a one party state.
The people are united because the leaders are united.
Any set plans can be carried out and reviewed carefully because there is no opposition or regime change agents to disrupt progress.
Therefore, long-term plans could be effectively set and this is how China managed to tackle most of its problems.
Democracy or following the will of the people is no serious way to run a nation.
It leaves room for enemies to influence Government policy by bribing or brainwashing the people.
Democracy is typically coupled with capitalism which, if applied at an individual level, makes personal benefits the key incentive for work.
This limits community development and economic growth.
This is why most African countries are failing to develop as rapidly as China which had a similar economic situation as ours a few decades ago.
The one party system allows decision making to be more scientific and less corruptible.
Government can carry out public services efficiently through well-funded and managed parastatals.
Essential goods and services can also be subsidised as is often done in China.
Government can also effectively partner up with private investors with security because threats of regime change and unnecessary costs on campaigning and voting are nil.
The national revenue can actually be used for more important things like social security and healthcare.
China has made quantifiable strides that make it a nation to reckon with in trade.
It has strategic minerals such as rare earths which are used to make electronic devices like cellular phones and lap tops.
The Chinese add value to their minerals and only sell them after beneficiation or already installed in the final product.
China is a great competitor in the technological field against nations like German, US, Korea and Japan.
In Africa and the world over, goods marked ‘Made in China’ can be found everywhere.
Though the Chinese are often accused of copying, their craftsmanship is unquestionably top-notch.
Chinese goods have also been tagged as fragile but that is often because the customers would have purchased cheap products manufactured with inferior materials.
Durable Chinese goods are just as available but they come at a price.
The increased presence of Chinese people in foreign lands such as Africa and the West is another tell-tell sign that their nation is growing socially and economically.
Chinese businessmen and women can now be found everywhere from the primary sector (mining and agriculture), to the secondary (processing and construction) and tertiary (retail).
These are only the obvious achievements of the Chinese on the world economy.
We shall look at less known trivia to do with the rise of China’s economy in the next episode.

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