Among the many political and economic issues on the agenda for China’s national legislators and political advisers, US political scientist Jon Taylor considers rural revitalization to be one of the most important issues to be addressed at this year’s two sessions.
“President Xi (Jinping) talked about three tough battles — preventing financial risk, reducing poverty and tackling pollution,” said Taylor, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, United States. “When you think about where China has come from in the last 40 years, the anti-poverty battle has been mostly won but not completely.”
In his travels over the years, Taylor has witnessed China’s progress. When Deng Xiaoping visited Houston in 1979, China’s GDP was equivalent to that of a small country’s — about the size of Portugal’s.
“Today, China is literally not the same country,” he said. “It has been transformed as a result of smart, stable and prudent policies of economic growth.”
While some people view China’s lower GDP growth target of 6 to 6.5 percent for this year as a negative, Taylor said it actually means that China is a much more developed economy.
“The US would kill for such a growth rate,” he said. “It says something about the maturity of China’s economy－about the rise of urbanization in particular.”
One of the developments representing China’s progress is its high-speed rail system.
“High-speed rail has a profound impact not only economically, but socially, politically and geographically,” Taylor said. “It didn’t exist 20 years ago … Today, the high-speed rail system is not only very noteworthy, but it also says something about the rise of urbanization, the rise of the middle class, the need to connect the middle class to its transportation needs, employment needs and vacation needs.”
The economic reform of the last 40 years has seen hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty, and Taylor said China is taking care of the small remaining portion of the population living in extreme poverty.
“Rural revitalization and income inequality are real concerns,” he said. “There are people living in the countryside who have desperate needs, hence the need for rural revitalization and expanding urbanization.”
China needs to improve public services, create affordable public hospitals and improve rural infrastructure for such people, he said.
Taylor views rural revitalization as the key to maintaining China’s economic growth and encouraging domestic consumption, which is important for China to move away from a manufacturing-based economy to a smart and technology-based economy.
He also said a rising middle class society will demand pollution control.
“It leads to technology breakthroughs, to reliance on green and smart technology and to the way bank and financial institutions will play a role in all of these,” Taylor said.