The past two weeks were China’s moment. The Communist Party of China held its national congress and the new party leadership was elected. This will have a profound impact on China’s future and positive implications for China-Canada relations.
This leadership change comes at a critical moment in China’s development. Thirty-four years ago, Deng Xiaoping launched the policies of economic reform and openness that have driven the country’s rise. Since then, China’s economy has been growing at the rate of nearly 10 per cent a year and became the world’s second-largest in 2009, enabling its people to have deeper pockets and to live better lives. China is now the second-largest importer, the No. 1 exporter and the largest foreign exchange reserves holder in the world. More than 200 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty. China also stunned the world recently with its high-speed rail and manned-spaceship technologies.
But this is no time for complacency. We must still tackle tough issues such as development disparities, environmental degradation and corruption. As we head into uncharted waters, China’s leaders are certain that only by deepening reforms can these growing pains be addressed. China is destined to maintain its policy of reform and openness and to continue along the road of peaceful development.
In his first speech, new Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping sent out strong and clear signals regarding the country’s trajectory. The Chinese government will spend more on social security, health-care services, education and environmental conservation. More job opportunities will be created. With increases in household incomes, domestic consumption will become a greater contributor to China’s economic growth. No effort will be spared to build a fairer society and cleaner government. While China has no intention of copying Western democracy, the rule of law remains the priority of the Chinese government, and freedoms and rights will be protected in a way befitting the nation’s realities.
This is not political rhetoric. China has already taken action. The recent reform of income distribution will mean increased income for poor families, the fairer distribution of wealth and a burgeoning middle class. China is expediting the building of a nationwide social security net.
China considers Canada a very important partner in its efforts to achieve the aforementioned goals. Trade and investment flow between the two countries are already very strong. China is also Canada’s largest source of international students and its fastest-growing tourist market. With China’s economic growth, more co-operation in the energy and resource sectors can be envisioned. Industries such as clean energy, information technology and aircraft – where Canada’s strengths lie – will find enormous opportunities in China’s economic restructuring. Canada’s competitive financial institutions are well positioned to claim their fair share in the expanded Chinese capital market. In 2010, China set a goal of doubling its per capita income by 2020, which would allow the Chinese people to seek better education, to travel overseas more and to purchase quality agricultural products, all of which mean more opportunities for Canada.
We now live in an increasingly interdependent world where the old notion of a zero-sum game should be abandoned in favour of mutual benefit and co-operation. China’s plan for long-term development is now clear. It is high time to apply some long-term planning and strategic thinking to this important bilateral relationship.
Zhang Junsai is Chinese ambassador to Canada.