Chinese modernization provides a roadmap for China’s future development: UK expert

By Du Mingming, Peng Yukai (People's Daily Online) 14:45, January 06, 2023

Editor's note:

With the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluding in October 22, 2022, China has formally embarked on a new journey of building a modern socialist country with a new blueprint. As the congress attracted worldwide attention, People’s Daily Online interviewed many foreign experts, scholars, as well as those foreign friends residing in China, to learn their thoughts about the congress as well as China’s future development.

David Ferguson is currently the honorary chief English editor for the Foreign Language Press in China. Previously a football agent, Ferguson has been working and living in China for 16 years. He is also a recipient of the Chinese Government Friendship Award and the 15th Special Book Award in 2021.

Next station, China

Ferguson first came to China in 2004 on a business trip. Despite being able to speak several languages, the native Scot had no idea about the Far Eastern country.

“I thought China was a huge country with one or two small outposts of modernity in places like Shanghai and Beijing, and the rest of the country was one enormous paddy field populated by poor peasants in gray clothes growing rice,” Ferguson recalled.

Ferguson decided to settle in China to take advantage of some promising new opportunities in 2006, together with his wife and young son. After trying his hand at several different jobs, he happened to witness the false reports fabricated by Western media on the turmoil in Tibet in March 2008. He felt angry and told himself, “If this is how they're going to behave, somebody has to do a more honest and accurate job.”

With that as his motivation, Ferguson joined China.org.cn, a web-based information and news provider, and worked as a journalist and editor doing his best to present a reasonable, accurate and honest picture of China to Western audiences.

He has taken part in multiple reports on a series of major news events such as the Wenchuan Earthquake, the Beijing Olympics, and the Shanghai EXPO.

Two years later, Ferguson joined Foreign Language Press (FLP). When he accepted the job, he never imagined that he would stay in that post for 12 years, longer than any previous jobs he had worked in. 

Photo of David Ferguson (Provided by the interviewee)

China, a new path

As a writer and an editor for FLP, one of Ferguson’s main tasks for the past five to six years has been editing political works translated from Chinese. One of the most remarkable works that Ferguson edited is none other than “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China”, which also helped him win the Chinese Government Friendship Award and the 15th Book Award of China in 2021.

In Ferguson’s opinion, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is not just an individual idea. Instead, it is comprised of multiple policies and ideas that fit together as a structure, providing a roadmap for China’s development.

Ferguson paid a great deal of attention to the 20th CPC National Congress. In his opinion, the congress was held at a “fortunate and timely” period. Facing the fact that the world is undergoing changes of a magnitude unseen in a century, the congress allowed China to figure out some major issues, both domestic and international, that had to be carefully handled. 

Photo taken on November 27, 2017, shows David Ferguson holding a copy of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China” at a signing ceremony in Beijing (Photo courtesy of the Foreign Language Press)

In a report at the opening session of the Congress, President Xi underscored that the "central task" of the CPC “will be to lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization."

Just as people are curious about what direction China will take in the next five years and more, Ferguson noted that the “central task” showed the unique political strength of the Communist Party of China.

“There isn't any other country in the world (other than China) that is actively looking forward 27 years and planning what the country is going to be looking like at that point,” said Ferguson. “It’s an indication of the Chinese system that they can do that. If you look at what is happening in the UK right now, the prime minister has been sacked after a month. What kind of long-term plan can they make?”

In terms of Chinese modernization, Ferguson emphasizes that people should make an overall distinction between Chinese modernization and the modernization that the US and other Western countries have undergone. Given China’s different nature from the Western world, it is unreasonable to evaluate Chinese modernization using the critiques of Western modernization.

“Chinese modernization is not a path about exploiting the majority for the interest of the minority,” said Ferguson. “It’s a path that involves win-win cooperation with other people. It's a path that involves people-oriented development, people-centered development. The CPC is doing a good job in leading China along the path, which means that they are making sure that no one is left behind and everyone can share the fruits of development.”

Emotional hostility toward China

For a long time, there has been a negative and hostile narrative against China and the Communist Party of China from the Western media. On the surface, it seems that misunderstanding is the reason behind the confrontation between China and the West. However, being a “Westerner” and having lived in China for more than a decade, Ferguson holds a different perspective.

“A misunderstanding is a rational thing that happens because of a lack of information or because of misleading information,” said Ferguson. “The problem that China is dealing with, however, is an emotional hostility that has been deliberately created. Fundamentally, it began with the issue that the United States cannot accept the fact that it is not going to be the world’s No. 1.”

Ferguson noted that the US has spent a long time believing that its system is the only system that works, and other countries should be more like the US if they want to be successful. Now, they're facing a very large country that is doing very well without adopting the Western system. With their innate sense of their system’s superiority, Western people cannot deal with the fact that their emotional need to feel superior is being challenged. As a result, all the subsequent reactions are emotional.

With China embarking on a new journey of building a modern socialist country, Ferguson holds a positive attitude towards the bright but challenging future. “I’m very confident that China will achieve its goals,” said Ferguson. “Even in the worst circumstances, I’m still confident that China will continue to be successful.”

Having lived and worked in China for more than a decade, Ferguson is satisfied with his work and life, and believes he has more to offer. “I’d like to do more work presenting China,” said Ferguson. “A lot of people are now active on social media. A lot of Westerners like myself who know China, live in China, respect and appreciate China, want to present China positively.” He believes that putting his voice on social media can help him reach a lot more people. 

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Wu Chengliang)


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