The Benefits of Slowing Down

By EO Editorial Board
Published: 2011-01-05

Issue 501, January 4, 2011
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
Original article:

The growth rate of the Chinese economy continues to exceed forecasts. In 2010, it again managed to outstrip the growth rate of the previous year.

Last year China's entire economic scale surpassed that of Japan and became the world's second biggest economy. Many economists have boldly predicted that it will take less time for China to become the world's largest spender. While Europe's debt crisis spread, China maintained its rapid growth. Nothing seems to slow the train of the Chinese economy, which saw double digit growth rates. Fueled by incredible stamina, China even claims that it will finance efforts to stabilize Europe's economy.

China is capable of becoming the world largest economy. The Shanghai World Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games have created history, fulfilling our expectations that China will consolidate its image through two global events to become a confident and vibrant international player.

The size and scale of China's high speed railway, currently under construction, are ranked No 1 in the world. China boasts the world's fastest train and the world's fastest super computer. The profit ratio and the rate of return of its banks are the world's highest. The Agricultural Bank of China's IPO signifies the end of China's financial sector rescue operations. Although this rescue effort which began during the last financial crisis has lasted for over a decade, Chinese banks have managed to shift from "technologically bankrupt" to "World's No 1" in the shortest time in history. This was previously considered impossible.

The Secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said today's world cannot do without China. China is becoming increasingly important, due to the quick expansion of its economic scale and strength of capital. In 2010, China's World Bank voting power became the third largest in the world, and it will soon become the third largest shareholder of the International Monetary Fund. From Copenhagen to Cancun, world climate summits have become a contest between China and the US. Though theatrical, they can also be read as a sign of China's new status in the world.

China has achieved its new status through its rapid development. Consequently, we are proud but still vigilant. During the past few decades, China has achieved its economic development by setting economic growth as its top priority. During this financial crisis, its 9 percent GDP growth rate has indicated its economic prowess, but will it last? Should it last? Maybe it is time to revise China's development model.

Can we slow down? In the year 2020, how will we interpret China's historical changes up until 2010? Will we regret developing so quickly when we did not have a clear idea of our goals? If that's true, how can we claim that we are in the process of creating a beautiful new world that justifies sacrifices?

We have exhausted our natural resources. Our environment will not recover even if we doubled our investment efforts in the future, and we have parted ways with our green hills and clear water. We have dismantled old walls but history will remain in our memories; our countryside has strived to enter the era of urbanization. But we will eventually learn that if we seize farmers' lands in the name of establishing a new life, we are destroying not only their land, but their respect for public authority.

Can we slow down? We can. We can slow down if we have the opportunity to examine China's rapid economic growth of the past three decades. If we can have more dialogue with the world, if we can listen to the voices of the people and design development path that reflects their needs, if we give up fast profits for steady earnings, and a decent, happy life, why shouldn't we slow down?

Let's slow down in 2011. If we choose to maintain our current development speed at any cost, it will be impossible to slow down in the future. Slow growth does not need to signal failure; nor will China's strength be overshadowed. If a country chooses to make its citizens happy instead of seeking recognition solely based on economic figures, it will receive more respect from the whole world. To its population of over a billion, China will be a kinder, more attractive place to live.

This article was edited by Rose Scobie and Ruoji Tang