October 1 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), and in honor of this historic event, Beijing Review's cover stories in this issue review China's social and economic progress over the past seven decades.
In order to understand contemporary China, one has to know about the course China has traversed. It is a transient moment for history but for the Chinese people, the past 70 years have been a time of victory over poverty and a march toward national renewal.
The Chinese have weathered all kinds of storms and difficulties to make tremendous achievements.
China's economic growth has soared over the past 70 years. In 1952, China's GDP was $30 billion and there were only a few factories. The country had to rely on imports for even such basic things as matches, kerosene and iron nails. In 2018, China's GDP was $13.61 trillion. China has become the world's second largest economy and the largest trading country, with the most foreign exchange reserves. China has established a complete industrial system with all the industries in the UN's industry classification system.
People's livelihood has improved dramatically over the past 70 years. Before the founding of the PRC, most people didn't have enough to eat and wear. The average life expectancy was only 35 years in 1949. Today, Chinese people not only have adequate food and clothing but are on the road to a prosperous life. The average life expectancy has increased to 77 years and Chinese now have access to better education, medical care, housing, elderly care and social security. Their sense of wellbeing has greatly improved.
China has also become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world. It has transformed from a closed and semi-closed economy into an open economy by implementing reform and opening up in the late 1970s. China has become the largest trading partner and largest export market for over 130 countries and regions in the world and contributes about 30 percent to global economic growth every year, becoming a stabilizer and engine of global growth. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 is the biggest public good China has provided to the world and the largest international cooperation platform to date.
China's progress over the past decades best vindicates reform and opening up. However, its success could not have been realized without the support of other countries. So it is providing valuable experiences for other countries to realize modernization. China will continue to pursue mutually beneficial cooperation in globalization in the future.