Prof. He Wenping
Chinese Academy of Social Science, Director of African Studies
The Belt and Road: China Shares Its Development with Africa and the World
Prof. He Wenping is the Director of African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. This is an edited transcript of her address to the International Schiller Institute conference on “Fulfilling the Dream of Mankind,” Nov. 25, 2017, in Bad Soden/Taunus, Germany, which she presented under the title, “President Xi’s Perspective for the Year 2050 and the Perspective of African Development.” Subtitles have been added.
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great honor for me to be here, to join in this wonderful conference. Thank you very much, Mme. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, President and founder of the Schiller Institute, for inviting me here. I am very impressed, first of all, by this opening music, the lovely song called “The Jasmine Flower.” Actually, when I hear the beautiful song, I have a kind of motivation to jump on stage, to sing together with this beautiful song. [applause]
This song I know is very famous in the Western society, seemingly like one of the Chinese dishes that is called Gong Bao Ji Ding, which I hear is also very famous in European countries, and especially in Germany. I think several years ago, when I spent my visiting fellowship in the German Development Institute, I had a very good friend—she’s a German—she invited me to her apartment to cook this Gong Bao Ji Ding. And she followed all the procedures, how to begin doing it from the first step, second step, so it’s amazing. Even me, I couldn’t do that Gong Bao Ji Ding from the beginning to the end. So, we tasted that delicious dish together.
So, like founder and President Helga said, now in China, the Chinese people eat very well, but not so healthy! We have to learn how to diet now! Before, during Mao’stime, we had a shortage economy, and when Deng Xiaopingmade reforms and thisreform, the “Opening Up,” and now the Chinese can feed themselves. But, now they’re learning how to eat healthily, how to do the diet. So, I want to speak over my dinner, and also do a diet in order to keep a good figure.
Today I think it’s a wonderful conference theme, called “Fulfilling the Dream of Mankind.” I have the honor of talking about President Xi Jinping’s perspective for the year 2050, and the perspective of African development. I have been told I have 20 minutes—I hope I can finish all my slides in 20 minutes.
First, the point in China is the roadmap and this development goal of 2050; 2050 is not too much further away, it’s just quickly, every year passes so quickly, so very soon we will reach 2050. His perspective, first, is in China, how to resolve the challenges we’re facing at home.
And then, in the world there is the peaceful diplomacy, also called One Belt, One Road. So, One Belt, One Road is something linking China and all of the world: It’s like our Confucian philosophers, and also like the Germans, with lots of famous philosophers coming from here, Schiller and so many! Those philosophers’ thinking also needs to be connected together.
And then, inAfrica:Africa is a wonderful continent, I think, unfortunately now still left behind. So from China and from the world, how should we work together to help the people in that continent? That’s the main point.
Two Pictures of China
First, in China, the roadmap development goal— you all know on Oct. 18 in Beijing we had the 19th Party Congress, and all those very important documents will be released from the Party Congress. During the Party Congress, President XiJinping spelled out a longterm roadmap for the Chinese people, and the goal is to establish a moderately prosperous society, which we call the Xiaokang society. Xiaokang is a Mandarin Chinese word which means now moderate well-being. It’s notso much a superpower yet, but just a moderate wellbeing society. So by counting, we should be out of poverty for all 1.4 billion population.
This is a tremendous job! Now we are entering into a new anti-poverty phase, called a “target anti-poverty phase.” What is the meaning of “target”? About a half year ago, I traveled to our poverty-stricken area in Shanxi province, and also I traveled to another, called Guizhou province, to see the poverty area, and I found that the local village heads will find out which households are still in poverty. So this is called the “targeting.” And the heads of the village and the village leaders,their job is to help those poverty-stricken households to help them to get rich in a certain amount of time.
To bring out of poverty all of our 1.4 billion population by 2020, is not an easy job. The per-capita GDP will reach $10,000. Now Chinese per-capita GDP is $8,000 in the year 2016; but back in 1978, our per-capita GDP was $156! So it was very, very poor, when this opening and reform was just starting. In Mao’s time, we had a very interesting phrase, to express Chinese people’s thinking about our three generations of leadership: The first generation of leadership, which is Chairman Mao—Chairman Mao helped the Chinese people “stand up,” which means, before we were lying on the ground, being colonized, semi-colonized by Japan, but Mao helped the Chinese people stand up, but not to be well fed, not well clothed, just to stand up: political independence.
Then Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up. Deng Xiaoping helped the Chinese people to eat well, now becoming rich, but only economically. But now, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, so they not only stand up and eat well, becoming rich, but we should make more contribution to the world, becoming people who really enjoy life, and the country also enjoys dignity in the world. That’s to establish a Xiaokang welfare society.
And then, how to reach that goal, the two stages from 2020 all the way to 2050. The first stage is to 2035, to realize the socialist modernization, per-capita GDP will reach $30,000; that’s the goal.And then GDP as a whole will reach $43.6 trillion, becoming the level of what’s called the middle-developed country. That’s the first stage.And then, from 2036 to 2050 to become a country of prosperity, democracy, civilization, harmony—the beautiful socialist modernization power. That’s the goal that’s been set up in this 19th Party Congress.
So, when we think about China, there are two pictures of China, that is, generally speaking. If you go into details, there are a thousand different pictures of China. Those general two pictures—one is a rising power, seems very strong; this is the second biggest economy already, but—let me show the picture here—here is the general picture about China, this is the Global Economy by GDP. When we see the top right, United States of America, accounts for 24.32% of total global GDP; and then, to the left top, that’s China, the yellow one—China accounts for 14.84% of global GDP. And then, a lot of others have double-digit percentages of GDP. So, in general, China is very powerful now.
But, when we go to the per-capita GDP, this is the picture. We talked before about the Xiaokang. We’re still struggling, heading forward toward Xiaokang, just to get to $10,000 per-capita GDP. Even recently,— let me share with you what the heated debate has been in recent days. Just a week ago in Beijing, there was a big fire; I think it was beyond the north Fifth Ring. That big fire cost around 28 lives. Eventually, after an investigation, we found that fire started in the basement, during the renovation of the building. And they found that there were a lot of people, migrant people living in that area, so fire safety measures hadn’t been taken, and eventually the municipal government made a decision that all those places below the standard of fire safety have to be demolished. And then we had lots of debating from the rich saying, those migrant people, now they have to go back to their home towns. So that is the real picture.
It’s another picture of China: Per-capita GDP is very low, and then the poor people, migrant people, are still struggling for their lives. In Beijing, winter season is very cold for those migrants. They have to leave Beijing and go back to their home towns with very short notice. That’s another picture of China, so not saying that “everything’s beautiful”; there are also very huge challenges.
So those two stages for 2050 are a huge challenge for China itself.
China Has Passed the Tests
So how to realize those beautiful goals? I think President Xi Jinping has done these things ever since 2013, when he took office. He has done things domestically, of course. Political development is to strengthen Chinese Communist Party, the ruling party’s leadership, through the anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaigns. Anti-corruption is to do the things from the party leadership, but anti-poverty is to resolve the people on the ground, so there are two ends of those campaigns. But both ends of those campaigns are intertwined with each other. We started with anti-corruption, otherwise you cannot re-collect the confidence of the people on the ground to the ruling party. Although we started to resolve this poverty issue, you cannot claim it for yourself; you are still marching on the socialist path.
Anyhow, how to re-collect the confidence of the people and build the party’s leadership? So three self-confidences have been put forward: those three, called the self-confidence, are the Development Road Confidence; the road we have chosen is called the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. So: Development Road Confidence, Theoretical Confidence, and Confidence in the State System—actually, the three things are the same thing, but have three different sides.
Maybe I should show the “shoe theory” President Xi Jinping mentioned, which means everybody wears our shoes, and the shoes should fit the feet, rather than the feet fitting the shoes. This is very simple knowledge, but when we deal with those very complicated theories, sometimes we lose sight of the simpler things.
So, we have this traditional story coming from this shoe theory. China has a 6,000 year history. Recently, U.S. President Trump mentioned this story: President Xi Jinping met President Trump and the First Lady to visit the gorgeous Forbidden City, the imperial palace, and he mentioned, China has 6,000 years of history, and President Trump answered, “Oh, yes, I know that! Egypt has a longer history—8,000 years.” President Xi Jinping said, “Yes, yes, Egypt has 2,000 years longer history than China, yet both are very civilized.”
So anyway, in our 6,000-year history, we have this phrase—when you learn Chinese, we have lots of beautiful phrases; all these phrases come from stories. This story mentions a guy who went to the market to buy shoes, but those shoes didn’t fit his feet. Maybe the shoe style was beautiful, but it didn’t fit his feet. And then, he immediately got out his knife, trying to cut his feet smaller, in order to fit into the shoes. This is the story: All our primary school students, they know this story when they write in Chinese writing; if you use a beautiful phrase you can get a higher credit, because you know the character very well.
So, it looks very simple, but it seems like our national condition is just like our feet: Our national condition, our character, our history, our population, our philosophy, all of that. Our feet cannot change, but those beautiful systems, liberal democracy, with some finger-pointing at China saying, “it’s a one-party system,” like you see a lack of transparency, and also maybe there’s no fixed election—blah, blah, blah. We know what’s better for China. At least those self-confidences are not naive belief! “I’m super, I’m super,” but in fact, you just have very poor performance. That’s not where self-confidence comes from. The self-confidence comes from your good performance.
What kind of things have we done that are good? Of course, from $156 per capita GDP, now becoming the second biggest economy, and also, we have gone through a lot of tests,such as the Arab Spring. When the Arab Spring took place in the year 2011 in Tunisia, there was lots of guessing, saying “China should be next,” to have an Arab Spring very soon. Things were happening from Tiananmen Square, lots of reporters, every day they go to Tiananmen Square just to “catch the picture,” to offer the picture to the newspaper and get it on the front page. But it’s very disappointing: There is no such thing happening.
And then, there was a lot of talk, after the 2008 financial crisis on Wall Street, with people saying “China will be next,” and all those economic things about Deng. Before, they were even talking about China breaking up. But all of those tests, now the Chinese people and the government have gone through. Still, the economy is good; in politics people are united. And even the issue of terrorism, you see Egypt has suffered from another terrorist attack just yesterday. China also needs to watch closely for all those potential terrorists, maybe they are coming back from Syria, from Iraq. All of these are the great, great challenges.
Therefore, the confidence coming from those things—we have passed through all those tests, it’s not just coming from empty things.
Also, put forward the Chinese Dream—I’ll move a bit faster now—achieving the rejuvenation. I don’t have the time to compare the Chinese Dream and the American Dream; there is a bit of difference from the American Dream.
Secondly is combating corruption. President Xi Jinping mentioned power must be caged by the system, and the rule of law must be strengthened. Also there are several channels to anti-corruption. The first is to improve the Party’s conduct and strengthen Party discipline. Party discipline: Its power has been dramatically strengthened. A lot of tiger-level corrupted officials, and the mosquito-level corrupted officials—no matter whether you are tiger-level, like on the level of the Political Bureau, very high level those leaders; and the mosquito-level is the countryside, the village level, the heads of villages. With all levels of corrupt officials, there is no method.
Now, also we have the Party school. I will not go into detail for lack of time. But one factor in the anti-now,corruption campaign,— I visited from time to time different provinces, and the people in the provinces, especially grassroots level people, now feel happy, because before, whenever you’d go to see a doctor, or you send your kids to school, you have to go through the back door; otherwise there’s no chance for the poorer people, for their kids to get into a good school because corrupt behavior was everywhere, at all levels. But now, those people are saying, “Oh, thank President Xi Jinping, we no longer have these kinds of officials, bold enough to collect the ‘red envelopes.’ ” In China, the red envelope is where you put the money to give to the doctor, so he will maybe be careful in doing the surgery for you; if he doesn’t get the red envelope, you know, maybe he’s not as careful in your surgery.
Now, those things are no longer there, especially among officials. And we also have the anti-poverty campaign.
Economically developed green economy and ecological progress. So, from “speed matters” now to “the quality matters.” Before, in Deng Xiaoping’s time, we had a slogan, “Only development matters: Development, development, development; GDP, GDP, GDP.” All levels of officials, they just concentrated on how much GDP growth rate they achieved, otherwise there’s no hope for their promotion. But now, GDP no longer matters: quality matters! So our environmental protection ministry is very powerful. They will go to different provinces to check on pollution. So if you are not concentrating on quality, you will not get your promotion anyway.
In Deng Xiaoping’s time there was a very famous slogan—these are the words of Deng Xiaoping: “No matter whether it’s a white cat or black cat, as long as it catches the mouse, it’s a good cat.” He was referring to the fact that no matter whether it’s the capitalist way or socialist way, as long as it can make our GDP go forward, we’ll take it. But now, people are saying “Black cat or white cat doesn’t matter at all, we are far beyond that ideological thinking, but now it should be a Green cat.” We cannot suffer from this pollution, and there’s a lot of very bad air pollution.
One of our Party Congress documents talks about establishing the “beautiful China,” so you can see a blue lake, a blue sky, very clean water, fresh air—those things we used to have before. But, after “development, development, development,” you have money in your pocket, and you have to pay to put on your face mask [to protect against air pollution]. So, what’s the meaning of life?
It just like a person, people were saying, before you reach 40 years old, you sacrifice your health to chase after money; but after you reach 40, you spend all the money you accumulated, trying to get your health back! That’s the significance for China: Before we were sacrificing our sky, our blue sky, clean water, to chase after GDP. But now we have to use all the money in the GDP trying to get back the blue sky! That’s the vicious circle.
How to pay attention to this quality issue in economic development? We made another change, which is a a production-driven economy to the innovation-driven economy. The pollution comes from what kind of thing? Coming from “Made in China”—China serving as the world factory, where everything was “made in China,” so everything was spent in China, and pollution was left in China. So the world factory caused this pollution. We no longer want to be the world factory, we want to be the world’s office, like India. The India President for instance said his country is a world office. We also want to be the world office.
Now, the world factory is also OK, but we need to improve, from those polluting ones, to becoming a very clean industrialization. So that is how to balance this growth and development, and inclusive development. Not to have only GDP growth rate with poor people and migrant people being chased away from the capital city. So, we have to be inclusive. All of these environmental developments, domestically speaking, this world of 2050, and internationally, are in the China One Belt, One Road initiative.
On One Belt, One Road, I don’t think I need to go into detail, because when I entered this conference room, I saw lots of books over there [The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge]—maybe I’ll do some advertisement for those books—they are very rich for the world One Belt, One Road. So, I’ll skip over that.
The Three ‘No’s’
Earlier, we were talking about the peaceful rising of China, and then because maybe some American friend said “it’s very aggressive,”—“peaceful rising, it’s very aggressive.” And it’s not so nice to the ear, so we changed the name to “peaceful development.” So when our American friends put forward the Asia Pivot, we also thought it was quite aggressive, Asia Pivot. And so they also very nicely changed the name to the “Rebalancing Asia.” So you see, we both changed and could meet in the middle.
So, from “peaceful rising” to “peaceful development,” is the guideline for China’s diplomacy, but some people have noticed, saying in Deng Xiaoping’s time, Chinese policy seemed more or less to keep a low profile, and then in Xi Jinping’s time, it seems more becoming active somehow, making more contributions to the world. Probably, yes, that’s right. When you have the capacity, maybe you should make more contributions.
Let’s skip over and go to the “Three No’s,” the three things we will not do: One “No” is “no intention to rely on so-called new colonialism.” We have been labeled as the “new colonialists” in Africa, but not even our African friends have had the right to say whether China is the new colonialists or not. So I have no right to say that—our African friends have the right.
And secondly, the second “No,” is no intention for military expansion, and war like Germany and Japan did in the Second World War.
And no intention to ask for the “China model” or to pursue ideological confrontation.
So those are the Three No’s to explain why China’s policy is peaceful development.
The Industrialization of Africa
Let’s quickly go to the One Belt, One Road: This is just what I call—this is not official, it’s what I call it—I think this is a 1.0 version of One Belt, One Road, because all those things you see, the Maritime one and the Silk Road continental one, go through 64 countries. In this 1.0 version, only Egypt is from Africa, among these 64 countries. But now, I think One Belt, One Road is entering 2.0 version—that is, now facing all the countries in the world. As President Xi Jinping mentioned to the Latin American countries, “you are all welcome to join the Belt and Road.” In the Chinese “40 Minutes,” Xi said, all the African continent is now on the map of the One Belt, One Road, the whole African continent, especially after the May Belt and Road Summit in Beijing had taken place.
So now, its face is open to all the countries in the world, now it’s inclusive. Any country that would like to join, I would like to say. You see, these are two leaders in the world: People are saying “America First” is the idea. You see from abroad, Trump in the White House saying, “America First.” If anything is not too good for America, it’s not good at all. But, for President Xi Jinping, the One Belt, One Road is to make the world better. It’s not, “make China better,” because with all this Belt and Road, the Chinese foreign exchange reserves, we’re now enjoying the number-one highest foreign exchange reserves in the world.
So, we’re going to use those foreign exchange reserves to build all those roads—connectivity! Connect China and other countries to join together, to build trade. And there are three connectivities we are talking about: First is the policy connectivity, China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is relevant to countries, their own development strategy. For example, Ethiopia. Ethiopia has now been named as the “next China” on the African continent. It’s not my invention, these words—many scholars have been published talking about which country in Africa is going to be the China in Africa, which means, developing faster! Faster and leading other countries forward. Most of them refer to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has now reached an GDP growth rate, last year, as high as 8%, but the whole rest of the continent, especially the oil rich countries, are suffering from lower oil prices. So they have developed an industrialization strategy; their strategy and the China strategy should be connected. One is called the policy connectivity.
One is to make the world better, another is to make “America First,” America better. So we look for the world, and America now looks for America only. That’s the difference.
This is the connectivity—“policy coordination,” our policy and the relevant country, not only in Africa, but policy connectivity first. And then, physical connectivity, to build infrastructure. Infrastructure to link the countries together. And then we push for trade, unimpeded trade. Allow me to share another number with you: In the world as a whole, there are 193 countries, but China serves as the number one trade partner with as many as 128 countries! So, we are based on economic growth, based on export, based on trade. Now Chinese President Xi Jinping is holding high the flag of free trade.
So free trade and also inclusive globalization. When he joined the World Economic Forum in Davos, earlier this year, this is the first time a Chinese President had joined the World Economic Forum; before that, the highest official was only the Prime Minister. When he joined that forum, he put forward two things that China wants to push forward: One is free trade, and the other is the inclusive globalization.
That is the trade we want to push for as global trade, and financial connectivity, financial integrity. China is pushing the One Belt, One Road to share its development with the world, and the way to push for such a major initiative was to establish what’s called the AIIB, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This is a multilateral bank. And also the Chinese currency, the RMB, will also be widely used with those countries that are doing business with China.
And then, the people-to-people bond, that’s another connectivity. So we’re talking about five connectivities within this One Belt, One Road. People-to-people is very important. Before, China has been doing very well with the G2G, government-to-government, and then it has been doing very well with the B2B, business-to-business, but we have not been doing very well in P2P, people-to-people. Maybe Chinese people are very shy, so maybe that’s one reason they’re not very good at doing the P2P. So we should become more open and not so shy.
You know, in our education, like my son, all the way from primary school, kindergarten to the university, there’s no debate in the classroom, you just take notes, take notes, about whatever the teacher is teaching. Take notes, take notes; no challenging, debating, raising questions. And we don’t have political campaigns, so there are no such places for talking. There are lots of places for listening!
Anyhow, people-to-people contact, we need a lot of NGOs to go abroad.
Africa Is Rising
So very quickly, let’s move to Africa. In Africa, we have commitment, that is the FOCAC, the full name is the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. This forum was established in 2000, and every three years there is a FOCAC meeting. The FOCAC meeting in 2015 took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. In that meeting, President Xi Jinping joined the meeting, put forward ten cooperation plans, and pledged the money—as high as $60 billion—to cover all ten areas: industrialization, agriculture, infrastructure, finance, environmental protection, and more.
The Belt and Road is very good for Africa’s job creation. A lot of money has been earmarked to use for the industrialization of Africa. Let me just highlight in my last two minutes, the two areas, like two engines—like in an airplane, if you want to take off, you need two engines: One is industrialization, another is infrastructure. Without good infrastructure, there’s no basis for industrialization—short of electricity,short of power,short of roads, and then it’s very hard to make industry take off.
We have done a lot. Africa now is rising. Before, Africa was regarded as a hopeless continent, more than 15 years ago. But now, with kite flying over, now it’s Africa’s rising time. You see this map from the IMF, only in those deep blue places do they enjoy very high economic growth rates in the past decade—Asia, and Africa. So those two blue areas have above 6% GDP growth rates. They are mutually serving as the engines for each other—Asia’s growth coming from Africa, Africa’s growth coming from Asia. A booming future, industrialization creating jobs. I am sharing with you a lot of pictures of Ethiopia’s Oriental Industrial Zone. I visited that zone—there is a shoe-making factory, lots of jobs have been created. You see, I visited that zone at least six times; every time I saw more business there.
Just to show you another infrastructure map: the Mombasa to Nairobi railway that was just finished at the end of May. We are going to build the second phase, from Nairobi all the way to Malaba in Uganda, and then that’s an East African Community network. When this railway was finished—this is President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying this laid the foundation for industrialization. This shows people celebrating this railway connection, and this shows a man holding a paper saying “Comfortable, convenient, very soft, safe, and very beautiful.” And here, very beautiful at 100 years old, a grandmother. [applause]
Thank you very much.