Updated: 2008-10-30 13:00
OTTAWA -- China has made tremendous achievements in all social aspects and improved its status on the international arena as a result of its reform and opening-up policy adopted 30 years ago, Peter Harder, a Canadian expert on international affairs, said in a recent interview.
Harder has visited China at least 14 times since 1980 and thus enjoys first-hand knowledge of what the country has undergone in the past three decades.
"China was colorless, (and) it was grey, everybody wore grey," he said while recalling his first Chinese tour.
However, things have changed tremendously since then, said Harder, who served as deputy chief for 16 years in several Canadian federal government departments including the Treasury Board, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of International Trade.
In just 30 years' time, China has emerged as a colorful, prosperous and self-confident society with a significant influence on world political and economic affairs, he said.
While economic growth has substantially facilitated the improvement of the material life of ordinary people, the whole of Chinese society has seen progress in all aspects, from people's awareness of their social responsibilities, their openness to the outside world, the mode and level of governance, to the awareness of sustainable development, Harder pointed out.
"You cannot come on visits to China over a period of time as frequently as I have without noticing the tremendous increase of human freedom, of rule of law, of focusing on accountability, particularly at the municipal and local levels where the issues of being responsive to native citizens are very much discussed," he said.
China's progress is a good thing for the whole world, he said. "I view the opening-up to the outside world as having been hugely beneficial to both China and the world."
"By that I mean China has been able to provide economic opportunities to its public, which has vastly improved the quality of life of its population and has done so over a period of years, which indicates sustainable economic strategy."
On the other hand, "the world has benefited from China's participation in the global market place and global political space," he noted.
Harder credited China with being a responsible member of the United Nations Security Council and a partner in global solutions for several international and regional issues.
Though China faces the challenge of economic disparity between its coastal and interior areas as well as between rural and urban regions, its leadership is fully aware of the situation and is putting in place a development strategy to address that challenge.
As for environmental challenges, the Chinese government has advocated the notion of harmonious growth in its latest five-year plan to better balance the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection, Harder said.
He expressed confidence that China would have an even brighter future as the Chinese leadership is responsible and has displayed the ability to maintain national economic growth and to participate in global affairs effectively and responsibly.
Harder currently holds the post of president of the Canada-China Business Council (CCBC), Canada's leading organization to facilitate bilateral trade and investment.
He will lead a large delegation consisting of Canadian entrepreneurs and five provincial government heads scheduled to visit China from November 2-7. The tour will be part of celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the CCBC and of China's opening-up policy.