World News

China: Second Largest, but not Second Strongest

2 September 2010 at 00:54 | 434 views

Commentary

By H. E. Mr. Qiu Shaofang, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone.

Many people in Sierra Leone consider China as a developed country for certain, and their belief is further confirmed by a recent news: According to newly released data by the Japanese government, Japan’s nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was worth $1.286 trillion in the second quarter of this year, compared with $1.335 trillion for China, indicating that China will certainly overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010.

Is China really a developed country now? The answer is definitely no. China will be the second largest economy this year, but it is still a long and uphill journey to become a developed country, let alone the second strongest economy.

China has a population of 1.3 billion, which accounts for one fifth of the total population in the world. As a result of huge population, though China exceeds Japan as the second largest economy, the per capita GDP of China still lags behind far away from that of Japan. According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s per capita GDP in 2009 was only $3,566, significantly lower than that of Japan ($39,573), and China only ranked 99th worldwide in terms of per capita GDP, which make China still as a lower middle income country. Based on GDP per capita, the World Bank classifies countries into four categories: low income, lower middle income, upper middle income and high income economies, with the first three classified as developing countries. According to this criterion, China remains a developing country.

Besides, China’s impoverished population remains the world’s second largest, only after India. According to the “one dollar a person a day” poverty standard set by the United Nations, China has 150 million people living below the poverty line. Even according to the low-income standard worked out by China in 2009, which set an annual income of 1,067 yuan as the threshold, the country still has about 43 million people living in poverty, a figure about 7 times of Sierra Leone’s whole population.

China’s urban and rural economic development is also seriously unbalanced, with the per capita disposable income in urban areas 3.3 times that of rural areas in 2008. The Gini coefficient, an index to measure the rich-poor gap, was 0.415 in this country the same year, not only higher than that in developed countries, but also higher than that in such developing countries as Romania, India and Malaysia.

In terms of its social development process, China is still in the middle stage of modernization. In 2009, the country’s urbanization rate was 46.6 percent, lower than the 50 percent world average, and much lower than the average level in the US and European countries, where it was 80 percent. The same year, the country’s Human Development Index (HDI), worked out by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), was only 0.772, which ranked it 92nd in the world.

However, in spite of all the above-mentioned disadvantage, the undeniable fact is that China does have made substantial achievement since the implementation of reform and opening up policy and enjoys a sustained economic growth for decades. Along with the growing of economic strength and the expanding of international influence, China readily shoulders its due international responsibility according to its own national strength and actively cooperates with other countries on various challenges both regional and global. For example, China hosts six-party talk aiming to solve North Korea Nuclear Crisis, dispatches peacekeeping troops to countries like Sudan and Haiti, and volunteers to cut carbon emssion to ease climate change and global warming. China is also fully involved in the development assistance and poverty alleviation in African countries.

During the 2006 Beijing Summit and the 2009 Sharm el-Sheikh Ministerial Conference of Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China reduced and exempted debts of African countries worth billions of dollars, and pledged to further provide development assistance without any political conditions. In Sierra Leone, the Youyi Building which is a landmark of Freetown, is the best demonstration of China’s generous support on the social and economic development of Sierra Leone. The new and modernized 100-bed hospital, the new Foreign Ministry and parliament office buildings among many other projects are under construction, which show the increasing efforts made by Chinese government on the support of Sierra Leone’s development.

Despite of the fact that China remains a developing country, Chinese government will keep on its assistance to the development of Sierra Leone and shoulder its due international responsibility according to its own national strength.

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