China, from humiliation to global powerhouse

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China, Tiananmen Square, Mao Zedong

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong stood atop Tiananmen Square and declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. “The Chinese people have stood up!” he proclaimed, marking the end of a long period of turmoil and foreign subjugation. At the time, China was a nation ravaged by a brutal civil war, the trauma of Japanese aggression, and a century of humiliation at the hands of Western powers. It was an impoverished country, with average annual earnings of a mere 49.7 yuan ($6.85), and an average life expectancy of just 35 years.

Seventy-five years later, China is unrecognizable from the peasant nation it once was. It has transformed into an economic behemoth and the largest commercial and industrial nation in the world. Life expectancy has more than doubled to 78 years, surpassing that of the United States, and the nationwide per capita disposable income in 2023 was 39,218 yuan, exceeding that of some European countries. This dramatic transformation is a testament to China’s relentless pursuit of development and modernization.

One of the most striking aspects of China’s development is its rapid advancement in infrastructure. Since 2008, China has built the world’s largest high-speed rail network, spanning 43,700 kilometers. The country also boasts 259 airports, supporting both domestic and international connectivity. Major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen have emerged as global hubs for business, manufacturing, technology, and education. The skyline of Shanghai’s Lujiazui, which was non-existent 45 years ago, now stands as a symbol of China’s “reaching the sky” and its astonishing pace of change. The city is home to iconic attractions such as Disneyland and Legoland Park, drawing tourists from around the globe.

China’s achievements in communications infrastructure are equally impressive. With over 3.748 million 5G base stations, the country leads the world in next-generation connectivity. Moreover, China has become a pioneer in renewable energy infrastructure, significantly contributing to global efforts in combating climate change. In the automotive sector, China has emerged as the world’s largest exporter of cars, with electric vehicles making significant strides, surpassing traditional market leaders like Japan.

Beyond its economic and technological advancements, China has transformed its role on the global stage. No longer a nation in need of aid, China has become a major provider of support and development assistance, especially to countries in the Global South. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a flagship project, has forged new connections and provided immense opportunities worldwide. Landmark projects such as the China-Laos Railway, the China-Europe Railway, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have enhanced global connectivity and economic integration. China’s development model serves as a source of inspiration for many developing nations, showcasing how rapid progress can be achieved through strategic planning and execution.

China’s rise is not just about economic might; it is also about reclaiming national pride and sovereignty. The return of Hong Kong in 1997 and the ongoing efforts to reunify Taiwan reflect China’s commitment to ending the era of foreign domination and subjugation. The country’s ability to protect its territorial integrity and repel foreign aggression ensures that the humiliations of the past will never be repeated. For the Chinese people, this resurgence is a source of immense pride and a testament to their resilience and determination.

Culturally, China has experienced a renaissance, with a renewed focus on preserving and promoting its rich heritage. The country’s cultural exports, including film, music, and literature, have gained global recognition, further enhancing its soft power. The government has also invested heavily in education, ensuring that future generations are well-equipped to continue the nation’s upward trajectory.

China’s achievements over the past 75 years are nothing short of extraordinary. From a war-torn and impoverished nation, it has risen to become a global powerhouse, leading in various spheres from technology and infrastructure to economic development and cultural influence. This journey has not been without challenges, but the Chinese people have consistently demonstrated their ability to overcome adversity and achieve remarkable progress.

Looking ahead, China’s goals are ambitious. The nation aims to become a global leader in innovation, continuing its push towards technological advancements and sustainable development. It seeks to play a more prominent role in international affairs, advocating for a multipolar world where power is more evenly distributed. As China continues to grow and evolve, its experiences and lessons learned will undoubtedly influence global development policies and strategies.

China’s 75-year journey from a nation of humiliation to a global powerhouse is a story of resilience, ambition, and relentless pursuit of progress. It serves as a powerful example of what can be achieved through determination and strategic planning. As China looks to the future, its continued development will shape not only its own destiny but also the global landscape, offering new opportunities and challenges for the world community.

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