By Chinyere Amalu
(Just back from China)
THE statement by the president; of China, Hu Jinato that â€œChinese people are rich and confidentâ€ on the occasion of that countryâ€™s 60th anniversary on October 1, 2009 may seem unrealistic to many people. However, a visit to the country will open the eyes of anyone to the reality of the statement by Hu.
Such a visit is a journey in self discovery of the transformative influence that the West has had on this former mostly rural and agrarian society that boasts the largest population of any country on earth.
A 10-day trip which started from September 22 to China by 1,300 foreign journalists selected fromÂ English and French speaking countries of Africa, South Asia, Latin and South America showcased the readiness of China to reach out to the rest of the world. I was among the 30 African journalists on the trip. Initially, nothing spectacular struck my attention on arrival at the Guangzhou airport until we started the two-hour journey to the Swan White Hotel where we stayed for two days. One thing that struck my attention was the impressive arrangement of flowers on both sides of the airport road. The array of flowers along the airport road undoubtedly gave the city its â€œhome of flowersâ€ sobriquet.
It wasnâ€™t until September 25, that the secret behind the successes made by the Chinese government since it opened its door to the western world was revealed to the delegation by the governmental department at Guangdong. It was disclosed that Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, is also the centre of politics, economy, science and technology, education and culture of the province. Since the reform and opening policy commenced in 1979 using the zone as a pilot, great changes have taken place in Guangdong.
Located on the northern edge of the Pearl River Delta, adjacent to Hong Kong, Macao, and the South China Sea, the major economic indicators of the province such as GDP, Foreign Direct Investment, export volume, local revenue, and investment in fixed assets, total retail sales amount of consumer goods have ranked first among the provinces and regions of China. In fact, by 2008, Guangdongâ€™s GDP reached RMB 3.57 trillion (525 billion US dollars), increasing by 10.1 per cent over the previous year. Guangzhou is the centre of foreign trade and economic cooperation in south China. The zone is, of course, where most Nigerian businessmen do their business while in the country. The Chinese Export Commodities Fair now renamed â€œChina Import and Export Fairâ€ in 2006 has been held biannually in Guangzhou since 1957.
The cityâ€™s overall economic strength ranks third in China. In 2008, its GDP totaled 821.6 billion Yuan, increasing by 12.3 per cent over the pervious year. A night cruise on the Pearl River is a delight for any tourist in the southern city of Guangzhou. The African journalists were made to feel and savour the warmth and sweetness of the city at night when they took a cruise on the river.
The Pearl River is formed by convergence of Xi Jiang (the West River), the Bei Jiang (the North River), and the Dong Jiang (The East River). The river flows for 2129 kilometers and is the third longest in China. Chinaâ€™s beauty was not only here. Foshan located in the mid-south of Guangdong province with a population of over 5.6 million is another tourist delight. You could behold, untiringly, an array ofÂ traditional arts like ceramic sculpture, brick carving, paper cutting, Chinese Kungfu, dragon boat racing, lion dancing among other dynamic shows in Foshan.
Shenzhen is another beautiful city with a population of 8.3 million. The economy of the city has been powered by the establishment of a Special Economic Zone. The average annual GDP growth rate of 27.8 per cent in the last 20 plus years has turned the city into a modern metropolis.
In 2006, Shenzhen won an intense competition to host the 2011 summer Universiade. By 2008, the cityâ€™s GDP reached RMB780.6 billion, increasing by 12 per cent over the previous year. You could visit more beautiful sites around the country but suffice it to say that China has launched itself into a world class economy. Its record of economic growth may be difficult to erase even in the foreseeable future.
The director, trade and investment, deputy minister of foreign affairs Gwadong, Zhong Jianhui, said that the province in the last three decades took remarkable steps to pursue economic growth. We visited some of the major industrial conglomerates in Gwadong such as Galanze Group, a world-class enterprise and manufacturer of ovens, air conditioners and household appliances; Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE), one of the Chinese telecom equipment providers which has over 62,000 employees and 10,000 of them working in about 107 representatives offices around the world including Nigeria.
The delegation also visited Shenzhen museum, which showcases the journey of Economic Development in China 30 years on. The splendid China Folk Culture Village is another tourist centre of repute visited. Splendid China and China Folk Culture Village is two-theme park combined in one. It was opened to the public in 1991. It represents Chinaâ€™s architectural wonders.
In the cinema hall of the village, happy, shiny Chinese ethnic minorities give performances to gaping tourists. The parkâ€™s replicas of famous places follow a â€œmostâ€ theme. For example, Zhaozhou Bridge is represented as the â€œmost ancient stone arch bridgeâ€ a replica of the park itself, under the title â€œmost overrated tourist attractionâ€ wouldnâ€™t go amiss.
One astounding fact is that these tours are also money making ventures, as tourists pay for every service rendered. But then, it could be worth it if you can afford it because they offer the best of treatments which you could only bet to have in few countries.
Many of the sites spurned several heartrending discussions among the African journalistsÂ who had to lament the level of decay in Africa, especially the level of underdevelopment in the continent. We were enmeshed in such a lamentation when the Chinese centre of attraction, the capital city Beijing, smiled at us. The fist port of call was the press centre where we were hosted by the head of the centre. The press centre is like a five star hotel, where all the services you need could be found. There was thorough security check before entry no matter who you are. It is a centre you can be proud of as a journalist.
There we were told that our main assignment was the coverage of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the new China. But before then, we visited Foton Motors Company, where we witnessed the production of new cars, starting from the engine to the body.
The Beijing Opera centre was another centre of attraction for tourists, which we were privileged to be part of. But how did China cope in the context of the global economic meltdown, we were tempted to ask? The director ministry of commerce, Mr. Lixiaobing, told us that China was not immune toÂ the effect of the global economic crisis, but pointed at survival factors. â€œWe adopted strategy to achieve success in our economy,â€ he said.
According to him, the countryâ€™s GDP hit 2 trillion dollarsÂ in the first quarter of 2009, adding that the Chinese government has expanded its areas of cooperation of which Africa has become one of their greater interests. The climax of the visit was participation of the African journalists in the 60th anniversary ofÂ China on 1Â October. It was celebrated in grand style with the participation of theÂ military, school children, and civil servantsÂ at the Tianamen Square. Before the parade afterÂ HuÂ had inspected the military troops and newly launched sophisticated military hardware all manufactured by China, he gave a speech; summarized in few sentences:
â€œThe road to progress has never been smooth, but looking ahead, we can say that Chinese people are confident. We must continue to coordinate ourselves to save human race.Â It is only socialism that can save China, opening up of new socialism will make the people happy.â€
The presidentâ€™s assertion is indeed a challenge for Nigeria which at 49 is only eleven years behind the landmark just attained by China. Can Nigeria attain this landmark in the next eleven years even with the Vision 20-2020 agenda? Tomorrow will tell.