“Retrospection and Reflection: 40 Years of Development and Reform in China”

CIIS | 作者: CIIS | 时间: 2019-09-11 | 责编:
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“Retrospection and Reflection: 40 Years of Development and Reform in China”

Edited by Qi Zhenhong.

China Intercontinental Press & Cengage Learning Asia Pte Ltd




History, in years of special significance, always prompts people to look back to the past with the aim of drawing wisdom from it and to look ahead to the possibilities of the future. The year 2018 is such a year as it marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of China’s reform and opening-up policies. Over the four decades, the Chinese people, with their solidarity, diligence and courage, have written a magnificent chapter in the development of the nation and the state. Meanwhile, historic changes have taken place in the relationship between China and the rest of the world. Over the past 40 years, the Chinese people have embraced the world with open minds and made their contributions to the ongoing human story. Reform and opening-up has thus become a great journey characterized by the common development and progress of China and the rest of the world. China’s development has gained worldwide attention and recognition, but it has also aroused some misunderstanding and misinterpretation, even evoking distortion and slander. How do we correctly decode China? It is in this context that this book was written. From an in-depth historical and civilizational perspective, the book aims to answer three questions. Where has China come from? How did it get here? Where is it heading? By so doing, we hope to help readers form a full understanding of the developmental course of Chinese civilization, the process of reform and opening-up, and China’s relations with the world.

First, where has China come from? Nourished by a variety of sources, China’s unique classical civilization has long been stable, held together with strong cohesive force. Though following a relatively independent path, it did not remain isolated from the rest of the world. Prior to the nineteenth century, China interacted and communicated with the world’s other major civilizations in a peaceful manner. In fact, from the Han to the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, China was an active force in cultural exchanges for a long time, open and confident, and contributing such products or technologies such as silk, porcelain, papermaking, printing, gunpowder and the compass to the world, which had great significance for world development and the progress of mankind. However, the blind and arrogant policies of the Ming and Qing Dynasties closed the doors on the outside world, leading China onto a road which cut it off from the major cultural trends of the world outside. Consequently, Chinese classical civilization went from a flourishing culture to a culture in decline. During these two dynasties,the Chinese people were totally unaware that the West was overtaking China in terms of scientific, technological and socio-economic development, and continued to indulge themselves in their narcissistic illusions. It was not until 1840 when Western gunboats approached Chinese city gates that they again started to look to the world outside.

Second, how did China get here? Facing a pounding by the dominant Western civilization after 1840, China, amid a turbulent situation “unseen for three thousand years,” embarked on the arduous transition from classical to modern civilization. In this process, the Chinese nation endured much hardship and suffered multiple foreign invasions, and was more than once in danger of being carved up and even subjugated by the colonial powers. Faced with a crisis of national survival, successive generations of Chinese people with lofty ideas have struggled to explore a path of national renewal, but it was not until after the Communist Party of China led the Chinese people to found New China that the country began to gradually find a development path that both suited the conditions of the nation and conformed to the trend of the times. In particular, 40 years ago, in the wake of many twists and turns and after paying a heavy price, China drew a lesson from its painful experience and found the right path of reform and opening-up. Since then, China has entered a fast track of development, with its image changing with each passing day from a closed or semi-closed rigid economy to an open and prosperous emerging world power, successfully transforming its classical civilization into a modern one. The achievements made have not only benefited the Chinese people, which account for one-fifth of the world’s total population, but have also made significant material and spiritual contributions to the world’s development and to the progress of mankind.

Third, where is China heading? There is no doubt that it will follow through on reform and stay on the path of peaceful development. China’s economic growth over the past four decades has been achieved on the condition of openness; its future high-quality development will also be made possible only in a more open environment. This is China’s strategic choice based on its development needs; it is also China’s practical action to promote economic globalization and benefit people the world over.

In the course of the deepening reform and opening-up, China will continue to make contributions toward the maintenance of world peace and the promotion of common development. It is also pushing the international order in a more just and more rational direction. As the Chinese people are always a peace-loving people, the Chinese government has consistently upheld the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and long ago accepted the principles of modern international relations based on the notion of sovereign equality. It does not want to, nor is it able to, reshape the world order or adopt hegemonism and power politics as was expressed in the traditionalist interpretation of the concept of Tianxia, or “all under Heaven,” and a China-centered doctrine. To exaggerate this negative connotation of Tianxia simply doesn’t reflect today’s reality. If it has any meaning for China today, this derives from its positive connotations. The notion of a community with a shared future for mankind proposed by China, for instance, reflects the notion of Tianxia in the sense of humanism and the universality of man.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also has no connection whatsoever with the traditional tributary system. An initiative for international cooperation put forward by China in 2013, the BRI follows the principle of broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and aims to promote the spirit of the ancient Silk Road and achieve strategic synergy and complementarity with other countries through policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. Featuring joint development and win-win cooperation, the initiative has no relevance whatsoever with the long obsolete tributary system.

This is only a brief summary of the book’s core ideas. Fundamentally, the answer to the three questions of where China has come from, how it got here and where it is heading comes down to one sentence: China’s development cannot do without its openness to the world or without the inclusiveness and connectivity with other cultures. The prosperity and stability of the world also needs China. Looking to the future, China will only move forward toward greater modernization and greater openness to, and mutually benefit from, interchanges with other cultures, instead of returning to an era of isolation and seclusion in a vain attempt to revive a long-dead order or system which no longer conforms to the trend of the times.

These brilliant ideas cannot be displayed in more detail here, so I hope readers will take the time to appreciate the book. I am fully convinced that after reading this book, the reader will have attained a deeper, more objective, and accurate understanding of China’s development and its relations with the world.


Qi Zhenhong

President, China Institute of International Studies






About the author


Part I   Where did China Come From?


Chapter One   From Classical Civilization to Modern Civilization: Achievements and Challenges 

I. Historical Environment for the Birth of Classical Chinese Civilization and the Original Form of the Chinese Nation

II. Contribution of Classical Chinese Civilization to World Development

III. Transformation from a Classical Civilization to a Modern Civilization

IV. How the World Views China: Inspirations and Misunderstandings



Chapter Two   China’s Development Has Entered a New Era

I.  China’s Historical Achievements in Development

II.  Principal Contradiction Facing Chinese Society in the New Era

III. Historic Changes in China’s Relations with the International Community


Part II  How Did China Get Here? 


Chapter Three   Choosing the road of Development According to Circumstances

I. The Difficult Course of China’s Transition from a Classical to Modern Civilization (1840-1949)

II. New China’s Arduous and Tortuous Exploration of National Development Path (1949-1978)

III. Reform and Opening Up Is the Only Path for China’s Development (1978-2018)


Chapter Four   Adhering to the Path of Peaceful Development  

I.  Chinese Agrarian Civilization and Its Cultural Heritage for Peace II.  The Cherished Value of Peace after China’s Suffering and Humiliation

III. The Theme of Peace and Development Created a Favorable International Environment

IV. China as a Builder and Defender of World Peace


Chapter Five   Placing Emphasis on Sustainable Development

I. Scientific Development: Achieving Coordinated and Quality Growth

II. Green Development: Protecting the Environment to Build a Beautiful China

III. Inclusive Development: Achieving an Equitable Society

IV. Cooperative Development: China’s Contributions to Global Sustainable Development


Part III  Where Is China Heading?


Chapter Six   The Chinese Dream and China’s Future Development

I. The Phased Goal of China’s Future Development

II.  The Chinese Dream Should Meet the People’s Expectation for a Better Life

III. China’s Economic and Political Features as a Developing Country


Chapter Seven   Implications of the Chinese Dream for the World

I. Working toward a Community of a Shared Future for Mankind

II.  Pursuing Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics

III. Improving China-US Relations for a Better World 


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