China becoming more of an open book to much of the world
Female delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after attending the closing session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Friday, March 15. | Andy Wong / AP

NEW YORK – Earlier this month, 22 communists from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Finland, Norway, and Sweden returned home after their two-week visit to Zhejiang Province and Beijing in China. While there, they learned about the history of China and current developments of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

The visit was organized by the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Learning about the revolutionary history of the CPC and the People’s Republic of China, the delegates visited the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Museum, and the Redboat, where the Communist Party of China (CPC) had its First National Congress. They were also taken to the former residence of Chen Wangdao, the first person to translate the Communist Manifesto into Chinese.

A trip to Yucun Village showed how the CPC organizes in the grassroots, educating local villagers about Marxism and the resources in their community so that they could construct their own development strategy. The process also brought urban and rural people together for mutual learning, and artists were brought into the village to paint murals on the building walls, electrical boxes, and all throughout the village.

During their meetings with Zhejiang province’s vice executive governor, Feng Fei, and professors of the CPC Central Party School in Beijing, the visitors were given an overview of China’s development strategies, successes, and challenges.

Most fundamentally, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is focused on raising development and improving people’s lives. Over the course of the trip, it was clear that peace and a healthy environment are also major points of concern for today’s Chinese Communists.

China is working to upgrade its economy, transitioning from a period of high-speed growth to one of high-quality growth. Current reforms are aimed at making the economy more innovative, coordinated, green, open, and inclusive.

Visiting the Dream Town Startup Incubator, they saw first-hand how this is translating into long-term supports for small businesses to develop new technologies. Touring Alibaba, they saw how the world’s largest e-commerce group had similar beginnings.

In Zhejiang, which has been at the forefront of China’s development, Feng Fei noted that “Zhejiang has achieved a coordinated development, … with [a] narrow gap between rural areas and urban areas.” Urban and rural residents’ incomes “have been ranking the top in China for 18 and 34 consecutive years, respectively, and the growth rate of the rural income has exceeded the speed of the income of city dwellers.”

This is China’s goal for the rest of the country. While the eastern coast has become largely modernized, many central and western parts of China are still underdeveloped.

Visits to the Tianneng Group battery factory and the Hangzhou Environmental Group showed how production in China is being restructured to protect the natural environment. The Hangzhou Environmental Group’s waste-to-energy plant doubled as an environmental museum where the public is able to witness all its inner workings in real time.

The Yiwu City Planning Exhibition Hall provided a glimpse of how China conducts economic planning, and afterward, the delegation was able to explore the Yiwu International Trade Mall for Commodities. It is the world’s largest mall, with people coming from all over the world to place bulk orders.

While international trade is an important foundation for China’s opening up, the CPC is also increasing its focus on promoting peace and international friendship, exchange of ideas, and people-to-people exchanges.

In Beijing, the CPC hosted the Wanshou Forum, where representatives of communist parties from North America, Latin America, and Northern Europe gave speeches and solicited questions from the audience. The parties met with the All China Women’s Federation and the Communist Youth League of China. They also exchanged their ideas during a party-to-party “fraternity seminar,” and a meeting with the International Department of the CPC.

At the National Museum of China, the delegates viewed exciting displays exhibiting China’s major achievements toward modernization. They also received an overview of the evolution of the theoretical ideas underpinning its development, including those of Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping.

During a meeting with professors at the CPC Central Party School, delegates learned about China’s success in battling poverty and inequality.

Since reform and opening up, more than 700 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, contributing to more than 70 percent of the world’s poverty reduction during that period.

Housing space for urban people has also expanded from 6.7 square meters per person to 36.6 square meters, and rural people’s living space has grown from 8.1 to 45.8 square meters per person.

1.3 billion people are covered by medical insurance, around 97 percent of the total population.

99.9 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school in 2017, and 45.7 percent of 18-22-year-old youth were enrolled in college.

Women account for 52 percent of high school students, 55 percent of online entrepreneurs, and 70 percent of employed workers, and the government provides subsidies for child care.

Life expectancy has grown to 76.7 years old from 36 years when the People’s Republic of China was founded.

Some 900 million people are covered by pensions.

By the end of 2020, the CPC has promised to eliminate extreme poverty, to make sure no one has to worry about food and clothes and to guarantee access to education, medical care, and housing.

Many challenges remain, however. The gap between rich and poor is still large. The battle against pollution is far from over. Rents, housing prices, and mortgage debts are a serious problem for many people, especially young people. Medical reimbursements are not always enough to cover the costs of medical care, some parts of China lack good quality medical services. The two-child policy has also created additional pressures on women.

At the same time, the trade war with the U.S. and other pressures have created downward pressures on the economy and contributed to constraints on public revenue.

Meeting with the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC), Yuan Li, the organization’s Director of International Affairs, told the Western delegates, “We never deny that China has its own problems, but we are doing everything we can to tackle these problems. We want to work together with people in other countries, with different parties, to tackle some of the problems we face together.”

After a busy and informative trip, the delegates got to experience famous icons of Chinese history. Hiking up a section of the Great Wall, the visitors were greeted with a large rock displaying Mao’s famous quote: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true hero.”

Later that final Saturday afternoon, they were wandering among the ornate, brightly colored architecture of the once Forbidden City, and sitting in its beautiful gardens.


Cameron Orr
Cameron Orr

Cameron Orr is a musician and writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.