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Peter WilsonPolitical counsellor, Beijing
China has raised more people out of poverty, in a shorter period of time, than any other country in history. Since reform and opening up began 30 years ago, launched by a famous Deng Xiaoping speech in December 1978, more than 500 million people have moved out of absolute poverty, to live on more than a dollar a day. There are still many poor people in China. Rural incomes in particular are often low - and more than half the population in this vast nation live in the countryside. But China's achievement has never been matched before. It is responsible for 80% of the movement towards the poverty target set by the UN in its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Premier Wen Jiabao went to the UN last month, to take part in a High Level Event with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others, to galvanise a renewed global commitment to meeting all the MDGs. He talked about China's model for growth, which has been the envy of the world. He got a very warm welcome from others, keen to learn China's secret - for their own growth, and when working with others to meet development targets. But the Premier was keen to point out this was not a signal that the Central Government here is complacent - huge challenges remain. That's why the Central Party Committee that met over the last weekend focussed on rural land reform. They see this as the best way to get rural incomes to increase, and see production go up. It also signals significant changes in landuse structures in the countryside. The details are not yet clear. But a lot of people here are calling this a new revolution.
A lot of people in China say 'China is not a superpower'. They argue that average urban incomes are $2000 a year, and average rural incomes are closer to $600 a year. This is not high. But China looks different from abroad, or from its own wealthier cities. Deng's reforms famously allowed some people to get rich first. It worked, not just for them, but for society more broadly. It has created new political challenges. But they are surely better than the old ones. China's modern wealth and expertise has allowed it to do things that were previously unthinkable, such as mounting the Olympics, and more recently sending men to walk in space. These signs of aspiration inspire others to dream. New prosperity has also led to a significant expansion of China's interests, which is good for the UK and others too.
We have lessons to learn from the way China has developed - often defying development orthodoxy of the time. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has an office in Beijing, which co-operates closely with the Chinese Government, including on development in Africa. We are pursuing a joint project together, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. China's message to Africa is a positive one. Africa is rightly seen as a land of opportunity. Its growth rates are now running at 6% a year, higher than at any time in my lifetime. Huge challenges remain, particularly in some countries - not helped, in some cases, by lousy politics. Investment and aid bring new issues, and new responsibilities. They also create new hope, and increase opportunities for joint work, including learning from others' successes and failures. China often uses the phrase 'win-win'. It certainly applies to working together with Africa.
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