Since issue No. 37,1998, Beijing Review has published interviews with more than 10 Chinese and foreign personalities of various circles. They comment on great changes brought about by China's reform and opening policies over the 20 years. Following is the essence of their talks-Ed.
Dr. Zdzislaw Goralczyk (Polish Ambassador to China): I was lucky to have experienced the period before and after China launched its reform program, witnessing with my own eyes the great changes in development. Beijing before the reform was quite different from what I see today. What impressed me most was the Chinese people all wearing blue clothes and the same style of shoes. Houses were usually one to four stories. But the Chinese people were warmhearted. Now, several decades have passed. Earth-shaking changes have happened in Beijing and even in the whole country. Shanghai's Pudong New Area, in particular, can match the large cities of developed countries. In its transition from planned economy to market economy, China also faces problems just like some other countries. But I believe the Chinese people, led by the Chinese Government, are bound to overcome any difficulties, and will win still greater achievements.
Xue Lan (Deputy Director of Development Research Academy for the 21st Century of Tsinghua University): I was lucky to be among the first batch of university students in 1977 when China resumed the college examination enrolling system after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). In 1985, I went to the United States and chose to study in the New York State University at Stone Brook. Two years later, I had got a Master's degree in technological systems management and a Master's degree in public policy and management, and in 1991 obtained a doctorate degree in engineering and public policy from Carnegie-Mellon University
Since my return to China in 1996. 1 have found many research subjects that are closely connected to my interests. It is through the reform and opening program that we have had the chance to study abroad, which in turn has broadened our outlook. It is also the development of reforms that has attracted an increasing number of our students studying abroad to return to serve the motherland.
Monstapha Saphariny (Palestinian Ambassador to China): I first came to China in 1968, and stayed in Beijing between 1975-76, enabling me to see some of the problems China suffered then, and know a lot about the country.
In 1978, Mr Deng Xiaoping creatively put forward the policy of reform and opening. From the very beginning, he clearly pointed out that the policy was geared to boost the national economy, improve the living standards of the people and strengthen national power. Looking back on the course of the past 20 years, we can see the policy has proved successful.
Great changes have taken place in Beijing and other cities over the past 20 years. Though I have lived in Beijing for a long time, sometimes I cannot find my way to the suburbs. In terms of the economy and the people's living standards, today's China is a great country. We think a strong China is advantageous to the third world.
Chang Ke (Chief Representative of Winterthur Insurance Ltd., Beijing Office): The people's conceptual changes represent the greatest change in the past 20 years. The speed of such a change has exceeded that in Europe during the same period. The mushrooming of collective, private and foreign-funded businesses has turned China into a pluralistic economic society. The introduction of Western economic means and management expertise has bought tremendous conceptual changes related to investment, consumption and living style.
With regard to insurance, 20 years ago there was only the People's Insurance Company of China engaged in the business. The common people did not know how to cope with risks to their lives, properties and other things. Along with the changes in the people's concept of investment, insurance has become an effective means of saving and long-term investment. In 1997, a 26-year-old private business owner in Dongguan. Guangdong Province, insured the lives of herself and six family members for a lump sum of 8 million yuan. It is common in that area for a family to insure 500,000 yuan worth of property.
Zheng Youzhuang (a disabled person in Changping County, suburban Beijing): I am a disabled person and my wife has neither hearing nor speech. I have parents and a son who is studying in primary school.
Before the 1980s, my family lived on government relief. We did not have enough to eat, let alone money for anything else. Thanks to the contract system of responsibility linked to production, the private economy has mushroomed, becoming a necessary supplement to State and collective economies. Assisted by the Changping County Association for the Handicapped, I got rich by raising pigs, becoming a well-known special disabled pig-breeding household in my county. Now my annual pure income is around 60,000 yuan. In addition to donations to disabled people on festivals, I have helped poor families in my village with pig raising. At present, almost all the disabled people in my village are engaged in household businesses, some of them raising rabbits and others breeding fish. Their life is getting better.
Morino Tomozo (Director of the Beijing Office of the Japan External Trade Organization): Sino-Japanese trade has grown fast over the past two decades. In 1997, it reached US$60 billion, 27 times that in the early reform period, and this represented a faster pace than the increase in China's overall foreign trade.