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Initiative is building connectivity

By David Lampton | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-20 08:47

Q&A with David Lampton

Initiative is building connectivity

File photo taken on Dec 16, 2007 shows a cargo vessel sailing in Lianyungang Port in Lianyungang city, East China's Jiangsu province.

What has been China's biggest achievement over the past five years?

China has moved to the center of the global stage. Now, it has a bigger say in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; it has made the Shanghai Cooperation Organization a more active, international organization; and it has developed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. President Xi Jinping goes to Davos and, as the US seems to be stepping away from globalization and climate change, advocates more internationally public goods. There was talk about making the market the decisive allocator of resources, and there has been less progress made on that.

Initiative is building connectivity

David Lampton, Hyman professor and director of SAIS-China and China studies at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies / CHINA DAILY

What three words would you use to describe China?

I would say China is a complicated country. We need to deal with it knowing that it is not a homogeneous place. Second, it has rising expectations. China accounts for about 18 or 19 percent of global GDP. So in economic terms, Chinese people have made a lot of progress fast. China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are strengthening economically, and people in the US are going to have to learn to compromise and share the leading role. Finally, in China, leaders matter. We are seeing the rise of a leader who will make a big difference.

What do you think is the single biggest challenge facing China?

China faces two big challenges. One is sustainable development. How is it going to improve the lives of its people while preserving the environment and the resources that will continue to support further growth? The second is that success creates a new set of problems. As you modernize, people become more educated, they want greater control of their personal lives.

What do you think the solution is?

Sustainability will be achieved through a more judicious use of resources or conservation, and China is moving ahead with a lot of clean energy technologies. But we need a more innovative society that is comfortable with taking risks. To achieve this, we need leaders that believe in their people.

Could some of China's experiences be used to solve pressing global problems?

When big powers try to provide models to smaller ones, we usually end up in trouble. So I'm a little skeptical on that score.

However, China does the world a great service when it takes care of its own problems. When China is stable and prosperous, it helps the world economy.

But a big thing that it is doing is connectivity. The Belt and Road Initiative is about building connectivity around the periphery of China and knitting it to its neighbors, increasing urbanization, development and developing markets. So I like this idea of China relating to the outside world through building connections, increasing interdependence, because if we are more interdependent, we will be more peaceful.

What do you think China will be like in five years?

I think Xi will be the leader, it will have a higher GDP per capita, it will play a more important role in the world, and I hope relations between the US and China will be better. Right now, there are a lot of challenges, but it will be a world in which the current trends continue, and I would hope we can cooperate on some of the big problems.

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