Too often China, its leadership, and its plans for the future have not been properly understood in the West. And of course, those in certain quarters who see a patent advantage in choosing to deliberately misunderstand China, frame China as a global aggressor. Those who seek to promote discord and adversity seemingly choose to ignore the necessity of working to maintain peace between nations.
So it is refreshing to be able to look at real, not imagined, developments in China, that show how China sees a future, a future of economic progress and stability. As an example, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area shows what may be achieved with careful planning. In the five years since the signing of the Framework Agreement for the Greater Bay Area, there is substantial evidence of the move to high-quality and innovative activity. The drive for modernization, of course, brings with it the improvement in living standards and greater stability. And this modernization is taking place despite dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hear that some aspects of the frosty of international relations have been a result of the world being denied the value of meeting up in person with friends and colleagues. As a lawyer, I’m sometimes asked, how can a Western company do business securely in an area such as the Greater Bay Area, if the legal system is subject to political interference. I usually reply, firstly, many international companies have found it both possible and rewarding to do business there.
Secondly, I point to the dramatic modernization of the Chinese legal system in recent years. The steps taken to improve legal oversight and reforms aimed at an improved, impartial judiciary have been as Xi Jinping observed in his report to the 20th National Congress, I quote, “the comprehensive advancement of law-based governance has been a profound revolution in China’s governance.” And a statement that has direct resonance with UK lawyers.
Again, I quote, “An impartial judiciary is the last line of defense for social fairness and justice.” In this case, it might be thought that foreign companies are excluded from this advancement. Foreign-related fields and foreign-related affairs are expressly included in the report in the objective that I quoted, “good laws are made to promote development and ensure good governance.”
Now, it must be said right away that this is not an importation of Western legal systems. Overseas companies cannot assume the law in China is a replica of what they find at home. What is revealed, however, is a powerful statement of how the rule of law is developing in China. It is, as it must be, a development that fits with the historical progress of the law in China and shows Chinese characteristics.
As for the development of the Greater Bay Area, one sees the very significant steps forward being made in new technologies, which will determine how the future is shaped. The Greater Bay Area hosts sixteen quantum computing startups, has an Area Center for Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence, and is a promising ecosystem for life science and the medical industry at large. All these point to a cluster that will focus on emerging technologies.
The transformation from general manufacturing to high-quality innovation is underway. There are two observations I offer in this regard, one about leadership, and one about international institutions.
The great modernizations that are taking place in China did not come about by accident. They’ve been planned and carried out under the guidance of the country’s leadership. The long period of reform has led to the transformation of the lives of the Chinese people and has proceeded through careful strategic thinking at the leadership level.
And of course, this path is specific to the Chinese context and is not directly transferable to, for example, the UK. There must be lessons of a general nature for other nations. What is clear is that the quality of leadership can be a critical determinant of a country’s progress. This may not be a quantifiable quality by the rules of economics, but it assuredly is very significant. It perhaps also exposes the perils of populism, hierarchic rules, and neglected strategic thinking.
China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy also contributed to this article.
This article first appeared on CGTN