The road taken: a story about Chinese modernization
Published: Feb 16, 2023 11:07 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both." Such are the beginning lines of the poem on the choice of roads by Robert Frost, which was one of my favorites during my college years. I was touched by the firm choice, which would make all the difference later in life. Knowing the importance of the choice of roads, I marvel at the road of Chinese modernization that my nation has taken. 

Chinese modernization has become a trendy term in the world since the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), highlighting features such as people priority, common prosperity, economic progress and peaceful development. In sharp contrast to Western modernization featuring capital priority, gap between rich and poor, obsession over consumption, and colonialism, Chinese modernization provides a new option for mankind to achieve modernization. In my view, Chinese modernization, the road my nation has taken, has already brought much and will bring more in-depth impact to China and the world at large.

This is a road of faith. It has its origin in the long years of struggle of the Chinese people led by the CPC to put an end to their miseries and found the People's Republic of China. It is based on the guidance of Marxism combined with the specific conditions of China and the hard work of the Chinese people, in the new era since the 18th National Congress of the CPC. The 1.4 billion Chinese people, including 96 million Party members, are convinced that this road will prevail, because we have seen ups and downs, sufferings and success, and pains and gains. This faith ushers in the bright future of this road.

This is a road to fulfill herculean tasks, most notably the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the unprecedented mission of a much better life for 1.4 billion people. The huge population does mean a great deal. A small problem multiplied by 1.4 billion will be a huge one, while a top mark divided by this number will be tiny. However, the great leadership of the CPC and the solidarity of the brave Chinese People have been proven to pave the way for achieving the tasks. China's GDP rose to 114 trillion yuan in 2021, accounting for 18.5 percent of the global total, up from 54 trillion yuan in 2012. China won the battle against poverty, lifting nearly 100 million people out of extreme poverty, marking a D-Day in human history against poverty. Ten years ago, I took a delegation from a Western country to some poor areas in China. The delegation was amazed by the efforts to tackle poverty and the large-scale construction under way. I really wish that I could have a chance today to show them the thoroughfares built in the mountains and the streamlined workplaces in the modernized factories so that they could see for themselves the anti-poverty progress and the changes in the daily lives of the Chinese people.

This is a road for common prosperity. Economic progress marks both Western and Chinese modernization, but who enjoys the economic progress makes the difference. I admired the advancement and wealth of developed countries, but also sighed at the sharp conflicts between the rich and the poor there. That made me better understand only a government of the people and for the people shall be supported by the people. There has been a rise in China's GDP per capita from $6,300 in 2012 to $12,551 in 2021, as well as a great leap forward in terms of people's livelihoods. My family is right on this wagon of progress. When I was a kid, my parents took the country road to move from their village to a town. When I grew up, I took the train to go to college in Beijing, which is 1,000 kilometers away from my hometown. When I worked as a diplomat, I went abroad by plane. Every time I went back to my hometown, I saw the face-lift of the town and the better life of my beloved ones. My story is just like that of many other families in China's course of urbanization. Such common stories add a human touch to China's road of modernization and showcase the common prosperity that characterizes this road, which inspires 1.4 billion people to strive for a better future. With the grassroots support and shared aspirations, this road will become a circle of life and make a huge difference in the lives of the Chinese people.

This is a road with a great emphasis on civilization. Some Western scholars have lamented that Western modernization has opened the Pandora's box of evils with debased civilization, consumption obsession, and lost humanity in spite of its pioneering technology and material gains. The cultivation of spiritual civilization, as a key word for Chinese modernization, holds the key to closing that box of evils. On this road, the Chinese people pursue wholeheartedly their spiritual aspirations and will be more devoted to spiritual wellbeing. We share the great Party-founding spirit, staying true to the CPC, the people, truth and our dream. We see more volunteers and more brave acts in our daily life. Programs such as Touching China (a CCTV program awarding common people who have touching stories) and Most Wonderful Family (a prize for families with wonderful morals and values) have revealed many wonderful stories about normal people. "Finish your dish," as an example of virtues, has become trendy. More exciting Chinese films have come out. Traditional and modern Chinese culture will have a bigger role to play in building a highly civilized society.

This is a road highlighting green development. Learning the lessons from Western modernization, which caused pollution first and sought recovery later, we uphold that clear waters and green mountains are as good as mountains of gold and silver in the process of Chinese modernization. Ten years ago, with my delicate nose, I suffered from the smog in Beijing. Today, blue sky and white clouds have become the new normal in Beijing. This has been named "Beijing Miracle" by the UNEP. Underlying the "miracle" is a combination of targeted scientific research, industrial restructuring and regional coordination across different governmental bodies and all sectors of society. The "miracle" is just one of many examples showcasing China's response to climate change, which has fulfilled China's commitment to the global battle against climate change and will offer a bright future of green development. 

This is a road of peaceful development. Peace is the best and dearest public good in the world. Seven years ago, little Aylan lost his life in the cold Aegean Sea while trying to escape the conflicts and wars in Syria. He should have been 10 years old now. The Western Wall in Jerusalem knows how precious it is to pass a day without blood being shed. Nothing is worth more than peace. While the West took the road of violence and robbery to achieve modernization and left a great deal of wounds and scars in the developing world, China has taken a peaceful path toward modernization by seeking its own development and helping other countries develop. The Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative are a recipe for peace from China. With further progress in its modernization, China will do more for human prosperity and world peace. 

This is a road winning more and more recognition. As there is more than one way to achieve modernization, every country has the right to choose its path according to its own unique past and present conditions, drawing upon experiences of other countries. China stands ready to share its experiences with other nations without strings attached. After the 20th National Congress of the CPC, leaders, officials, experts and journalists from many countries, including Western ones, expressed their appreciation and recognition of Chinese modernization. Speeches by President Xi Jinping when addressing the 17th G20 summit and the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting won wide applause from the audiences. Some people claim that China will export its own development model. The claim is clearly covered by a grey filter and is little more than disinformation. If China did want to export its own model, the Western style would be more direct and effective. Those with a narrow mind and even ill intentions should open up, accept the truth, and stop telling lies and rumors about the Chinese way of modernization. Otherwise, they will only find themselves on the ever-losing side. 

Such is my story about the road taken by China. Different from the aforementioned poem by Mr. Frost, there is no place for a sigh in the story. I shall be telling this story with pride when I grow old, sharing my different experiences in Chinese modernization and happy contribution to the wellbeing of my motherland and the whole of mankind.

The author is a Beijing-based scholar. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn