Beijing. As the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China draws near, the big day is gaining growing attention. What has China achieved in seven decades? Have these accomplishments affected people’s lives? How should one view the problems that persist in Chinese society? These are people’s concerns.
The seven decades have brought about a sea change in China. Not only has the country attained development in the wave of all mankind’s progress, China has also narrowed the gap with developed countries, attracting worldwide attention. China has achieved leapfrog development. This should be an objective appraisal that every historical scholar would make.
But a country’s development not only exists as a grand historical narrative, but also breaks down into the perception of different generations and groups. It even appears as a collection of every individual’s specific life experiences and changes. Thus, the discussion of the country’s achievements becomes much more complex, constrained by various micro-level cognitions and feelings.
The most direct interface between national achievement and personal cognition is people’s livelihoods. It is certainly vital for a country to stimulate patriotism and display state power, but people’s livelihoods are more sustainable in shaping public attitudes.
The vast majority of the middle-aged in China fully affirm the nation’s revolutionary changes, especially since reform and opening-up. Meanwhile, young people, the most active generation on the internet, are incapable of measuring these transformations with their personal life experiences. But with broad horizons, they have witnessed Western people’s livelihood situation formed by those developed societies’ long-term accumulation. Their evaluation of people’s livelihoods is based on horizontal comparisons, rather than vertical.
Therefore, broadcasting China’s grand achievements may not work for the young facing various life challenges. What young people want is a decent job and an apartment. How many times China’s GDP has increased, what achievements have been made in national defense and technology, and even how much per capita income has risen hardly impresses them.
In fact, this is precisely one of the focuses of China’s governance. The state not only should help those facing difficulties to the hilt, but also needs to clarify that China is now unlikely to reach the welfare level of developed countries. The publicity of China’s achievements should be combined with objective explanation of the existing gap, making the public neither pessimistic nor unrealistic.
China has made huge progress in welfare and has realized initial modernization. Some people like to compare China with developed countries, especially Nordic countries, in terms of welfare. This can be used to suggest discontent in Chinese society with the status quo, but such a deviation from reality is undoubtedly obvious.
China is an outstanding developing country. We should always stick to this basic understanding.
China’s rapid development has provided more chances and social equity building has accumulated some institutional experience in the past few decades. Today’s Chinese society offers every citizen more freedom to choose their life path and a better environment for young people’s development than that of previous generations.
But how far an individual can go ultimately depends on his or her own efforts, unchangeable in any era. China’s achievements should be maximally infiltrated into individual cognition and feelings. Thus the country can efficiently connect macro and micro levels, and integrate each person’s interests in accordance with a “people-oriented” principle.
(Editorial of Global Times)