The objective of achieving the four modernizations was set by Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai. By achieving the four modernizations, we mean shaking off China's poverty and backwardness, gradually improving the people's living standards, restoring a position for China in international affairs commensurate with its current status, and enabling China to contribute more to mankind. Backwardness will leave us vulnerable to bullying.
The four modernizations we are striving to achieve are modernizations with Chinese characteristics. Our concept of the four modernizations is different from yours. By achieving the four modernizations, we mean achieving a comparative prosperity. Even if we realize the four modernizations by the end of this century, our per capita GNP will still be very low. If we want to reach the level of a relatively wealthy country of the Third World with a per capita GNP US $1,000 for example, we have to make an immense effort. Even if we reach that level, we will still be a backward nation compared to Western countries. However, at that point China will be a country with a comparative prosperity and our people will enjoy a much higher standard of living than they do now. At that time, we could offer more assistance to the poor countries of the Third World. By that time, China's domestic markets will be larger and, accordingly, its trade and other economic exchanges with other countries will expand.
Some people are worried that if China becomes richer, it will be too competitive in world markets. Since China will be a country with only a comparative prosperity by that time, this will not be the case. To be frank, the mainland's volume of foreign trade is less than that of Taiwan. Even if the per capita GNP on the mainland reaches the present level of Taiwan, the mainland will not be a threat to world markets, because by that time there will be a greater demand for supply at home.
(Excerpt from a talk with Masayoshi Ohira, Prime Minister of Japan.)