Sinologist hails strength of economy

Updated: 2022-03-10China Daily


Colin Mackerras

Professor confident in China's growth despite tense relations with the West

China's two sessions are taking place in March "in a context very good in some ways", said Colin Mackerras, a Sinologist and emeritus professor at Griffith University in Australia.

Addressing China's economic resilience and how its growth can serve as an engine for the Asia Pacific, the renowned analyst said that "Chinese goods and technology are still increasing in impact" in the region.

The most important aspect of China's economy is the different emphasis implied in the term "common prosperity", around which a lot of discussions are being held during the two sessions. "It signifies an attempt to reduce inequalities and share the good things of society better," he told China Daily.

Last year, President Xi Jinping announced the total elimination of absolute poverty. The process of dragging hundreds of millions out of poverty has been going on for decades, and its success must stand as one of the "biggest achievements in history", the expert said.

He's optimistic China can achieve "common prosperity" in the next few years. Mackerras said while some Western commentators may think this ambition will slow down China's growth, the facts tell a different story.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it caused, China's economic growth in 2020 was only 2.3 percent. Although better than most other countries, growth was still the slowest it had been for years. Yet in 2021, economic growth was 8.1 percent, the highest since 2011 and slightly better than the 8 percent predicted, he pointed out.

Mackerras said the nation's strong, sustained growth is an "excellent" indicator of the Chinese economy's "resilience". Despite difficulties, China has succeeded "not only in overcoming the virus better than any other large country, but its economy has rebounded", he said, adding that direct foreign investment remains robust despite problems in relations with some Western countries.

According to official data, China remains the world's largest holder of foreign exchange reserves, with $3.25 trillion as of the end of December, a six-year high.

"Neither border closures due to COVID-19 nor the hostile attitude of the United States has prevented China's economy from remaining extremely globalized," Mackerras said. "While US-based globalization may be in retreat, the extent of China's global impact and role has never been greater."

The influence of the Belt and Road Initiative continues to grow, with 145 countries and 32 international organizations having signed cooperation agreements as of December. "Australia's attitude toward the BRI may still be negative, but the great majority of South Pacific countries have signed up, including New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga," he said.

"China is the largest trading partner of many countries in the region."

Mackerras also cited Australia, whose two-way trade with China last year was the largest it had ever been in value, despite serious difficulties in their bilateral relationship. He added that China's economy may still have problems, but it's essentially still very strong.

He said China has done remarkably well in coping with the pandemic, "something which many Western countries have failed to give China the credit for".

"Overall, it seems to me the Western media are generally very mean-spirited in the way they have failed to recognize this, with some even blaming China for causing the pandemic," he said. "The way the American authorities have blamed China for the virus is a disgrace, especially given the contrast in some relevant figures."

China has been active in distributing vaccines to poor countries. Compared with Western countries, its generosity has been "remarkable", he said.

Karl Wilson in Sydney contributed to this story.

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