OUR MAGNIFICENT GOAL AND BASIC POLICIES
October 6, 1984
I am a layman in the field of economics. I have made a few remarks on the subject, but all from a political point of view. For example, I proposed China’s economic policy of opening to the outside world, but as for the details or specifics of how to implement it, I know very little indeed. So today I am dealing with the question again from the political point of view.
We have determined a political objective: to quadruple economic production by the end of the century, achieving a per capita gross national product of US$800 and a better standard of living for our people. This objective may seem modest to developed countries, but to China it is an ambitious, magnificent goal. What is more important, with that achievement as a foundation we can strive to approach the level of the developed countries within 30 to 50 years. That will be no easy job. It can’t be accomplished by bragging and empty talk. We need to have a whole set of sound guidelines and policies concerning domestic and foreign affairs. Since the Third Plenary Session of our Party’s Eleventh Central Committee, we have formulated a policy of invigorating the domestic economy and opening to the outside world. Our goal cannot be attained without such a policy.
To invigorate the domestic economy, we began with the countryside. Eighty per cent of our population lives there. China’s social stability and its economic development depend above all on the development of the countryside and the improvement of rural living standards. A fourfold increase in overall production depends first and foremost on whether it can be achieved by the 80 per cent of our people who live in the countryside. It seems that all our new rural policies are succeeding. In the past, life in the countryside was difficult. Now we can say that most of our people there have enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and their housing conditions have greatly improved. The quick success of our rural policies has heightened our confidence and encouraged us to decide on the target of quadrupling the GNP.
The recent rural reforms are of revolutionary significance. Meanwhile, we have embarked on an experiment in urban reform. Of course, we cannot mechanically apply what is successful in the countryside to the cities, where the situation is far more complex, involving industry, commerce and the service sector as well as the scientific, educational and cultural spheres. Urban reforms and the restructuring of the economy in general will be the main topic for the forthcoming Third Plenary Session of the Twelfth Central Committee of the Party. That session will herald China’s comprehensive reform. It took three years for rural reform to take effect, and it may take three to five years for urban reform to bring about noticeable changes. Our experience in the countryside convinces us that our urban reform will succeed. We are also aware that mistakes may be made because of the complicated nature of urban reform, but they will not affect the situation as a whole. We shall watch our step, and if anything goes wrong, we shall put it right, that’s all. In short, we shall adhere to our motto, seek truth from facts. We are convinced that our urban reform will succeed too and that the forthcoming Third Plenary Session of the Twelfth Central Committee will go down in Chinese history as a very important event.
While invigorating the domestic economy, we have also formulated a policy of opening to the outside world. Reviewing our history, we have concluded that one of the most important reasons for China’s long years of stagnation and backwardness was its policy of closing the country to outside contact. Our experience shows that China cannot rebuild itself behind closed doors and that it cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world. It goes without saying that a large country like China cannot depend on others for its development; it must depend mainly on itself, on its own efforts. Nevertheless, while holding to self-reliance, we should open our country to the outside world to obtain such aid as foreign investment capital and technology. This kind of assistance is not unilateral. While China will obtain investment capital and technology from other nations, particularly the developed ones, it will in turn make a greater contribution to the world economy. Its expanded foreign trade in recent years has borne this out. So we say that the assistance and the contribution are mutual. Invigorating our domestic economy and opening to the outside world are long-term, not short-term, policies that will remain unchanged for at least 50 or 70 years. Why? Because quadrupling the GNP, which will take 20 years, is only our first step and will be followed by a second, approaching the level of developed countries, which will take 30 or 50, let’s say 50, years. The two steps together will take 50 or 70 years. By then it will be even less likely that the policies will change. If anything, we shall open up still more. Our people would not allow anything else.
It is our hope that businessmen and economists in other countries will appreciate that helping China develop will benefit the rest of the world as well. China’s foreign trade makes up a very small portion of the world’s total. If we succeed in quadrupling the GNP, the volume of our foreign trade will increase considerably, promoting economic relations with other countries and expanding the Chinese market. Therefore, judged from the international perspective, China’s development will benefit world peace and the world economy. Western statesmen should realize that unless it helps developing countries, the West will have difficulties solving its own market and economic problems. I’m afraid an open economic policy is not a question confronting just the developing countries, but the developed ones too. Three fourths of the world’s population live in the developing countries, an area which does not yet amount to much in terms of a market. But there is only limited room for expanding the world market if people confine themselves to the developed countries alone.
We hope that foreign industrialists and businessmen will consider cooperation with China in a world perspective. Cooperation has been proceeding quite well in recent years. We need to expand it. To facilitate extensive contacts, the China International Trust and Investment Corporation can serve as a window to the outside world. Believe me, China is not petty-minded about details regarding its economic relations and cooperation with other countries. Because we lack experience, some of our laws are not yet well defined, but they will be as time goes on. Some friends have expressed their fear of risks. If any problems arise, we shall share the burden. Others have raised the question of the duration of cooperation between enterprises. If the technology you provide is really advanced, cooperation can be prolonged. In short, to increase economic cooperation between countries, China will work to encourage it, and so should the industrialists and businessmen of developed nations. First of all, they should set aside their concern about risks; there is no need to worry that our policies might change. They should confidently accelerate their cooperation with us. Time will prove that those who help us will benefit no less in return. And their help will have even greater significance politically and strategically.
(An interview with Chinese and foreign delegates to a symposium on China’s economic cooperation with foreign countries.)