As a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), this is the 20th consecutive year that I sat in the Great Hall of the People and listened to our premiers delivering their annual working reports to the National People's Congress (NPC). But when I heard Premier Wen Jiabao, in his concluding remarks to this year's report, confidently promise that the future of our country will be "as colorful and smooth as silk", I just could not help bursting into applause.
No premier before has publicly made such a confident assertion, and the atmosphere of the 6,000 odd people in the hall bordered on euphoria.
Yes, we are still struggling to achieve peaceful development, and we still have a lot of problems to resolve. But from the picture outlined in the work report, our government is facing up to the challenges ahead and has the determination and means to tackle them.
The central government controls about 40 percent of the country's 3.93 trillion yuan revenue ($490 billion), which is now growing at the rate of more than 24 percent annually. Through transfer payments, it can direct resources to specific areas to achieve policy objectives. It is doing that to address issues such as speeding up the development of the socialist new agricultural community, education, medical service, employment and social security, and environmental protection and conservation. The overall objective is to build a more harmonious society where people's needs will be equitably satisfied under law, order and democracy, in harmony with our neighbors and with nature. We are not there yet, but we are committed and are seen to be seriously trying.
China, a country which has just managed to pass the $2,000 GDP per capita mark, dazzles the world not only with such a grand vision but also with a working model and a 30-year unbeatable record. It proves to the world that peaceful development is feasible, and more than that, that it is beneficial to the world.
China does not believe there is a one-size-fit-all strategy of national development. It believes that each country will have to formulate its policies according to its special conditions.
Viewing the Chinese developmental experience from the angle of sustainable development, which is now most popular among European countries, China seems to have grasped the correct balance among economic development, social development and environmental conservation to achieve sustainability.
This new Chinese development strategy is comprised of the following parts:
Economic: Sustainable high-speed growth supported by mass consumption by the Chinese population. This is achieved through the stimulation of domestic demand and more equitable income distribution to create a broad base of common consumers. It is based on an innovation-led and knowledge-intensive economy. It is a long-term strategy of optimal resource utilization, which is increasingly service-dominated. These are in fact the best elements of a new growth model being developed and advocated in academic and policy circles in Europe.
Social: Equal treatment of all social and ethnic groups; redistribution of income through massive transfer payments from the central government, plus education equality and minimum living standards for all urban and rural populations to ensure social justice and equality; investment in the population through health, family and social institutions; and education to create better living conditions and marketable skills for all.
Ecological: Based on the concept of the new scarcity - constrained by the world's limited resources and the concept of conservation; cleaning up polluting gas, solid and liquid waste emissions.
Sustainable development looks at a country's development in isolation and with heavy emphasis on ecology. The Chinese strategy puts this in a global context. It is the first country to advocate a harmonious world. This groundbreaking concept began half a century ago with the famous Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, whereby countries large and small are treated equally and with respect for their sovereignty.
China was the first, and so far the only, nuclear power to publicly renounce using its nuclear capability for a first strike. It advocates peaceful settlement of international disputes and co-exploitation of natural resources in disputed territories. Its friendly relations with its neighbors include a commitment to promote their security and prosperity, something unheard of in international relations.
When you read Premier Wen's work report, all the above elements are there, with specific figures and concrete examples. China is clearly moving in the right direction.
Source: China Daily; By Lau Nai-keung, from Hong Kong, is a member of the National Committee of CPPCC