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China creating its own way to thrive


When China set the goal of the Four Modernizations decades ago, the world did not dream that China would change the very meaning of the word "modernization "in the 21st century. Today when we talk about China's modernization, we are not just talking about the rapid and multilevel development of China-we are talking about China setting the new global criteria for modernization.

At the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035 were proposed. These have given "modernization" not just a new meaning, but also a new level of significance. The plan not only foretells rapid growth of the country's economic, scientific and technological strengths and a new level of income per capita in urban and rural areas, but also envisions a great modern socialist country that would manifest a historic transformation of socialism itself.

When we talk about China's success, we can line up and enumerate fascinating numbers and illustrations of Chinese achievements, but above all these figures it is important to point at the wider picture in which China is actually changing the whole world.

China is providing a role model for a world that has been stuck for a long time, as the traditional Western meaning of modernization does not respond to contemporary challenges anymore. In other words, regardless of the fact that modernization as a theory, vision and practice has its origins in the West, I believe we are facing a revolution in which it will be reborn and transformed in its ideological development and practical realization by China.

Actually, it would not be an exaggeration even to propose a completely new term based on China's model of modernization. As a matter of fact, compared with what China is doing today, the term modernization sounds outdated. More than just achieving modernization, China is actually overcoming the mistakes and consequences of the Western type of modernization. That means China is offering an example to the whole world, which is struggling with the consequences of what once was set as "modern" and "prosperous".

One of the great misunderstandings in the West is its assumption that China for its own sake needs to adjust its communication to the Western culture in order to satisfy the West's perception of China's modernization. Wrong. The price for misunderstood lessons from China will be paid by the West, not by China.

The world also has to adjust its communication to China as meeting on the half way will bring mutual benefits. The challenges that the West is facing in the 21st century have convinced the developing world that modernization is not equal to Westernization. China is not seeking to change the Western world, but China is on the historical mission to adjust in order to be in a better position to help the whole world.

There is no end of the history. History continues on its inevitable way, whether or not we stand in front of it in silence.

China was not silent. The pandemic is the best example of how loud China is when the rest of the world is silent.

The West missed the opportunity to transform itself. That opportunity was missed when Western success had reached its peak. That peak unfortunately was not the platform for making world a better place, but instead it produced social injustice and further unsustainable development.

Today, in China's path of modernization we can see the correction of the West's mistakes. Just like the continued high growth of the Chinese economy was the main driver for the world's economic recovery after the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008. And this is not the only time China is helping, or I would even dare to say saving the world.

With the implementation of reforms, China has pulled almost 800 million people out of the absolute poverty, who with their newly created economic potential, have changed the parameters of economic development, not only for China, but for the overall world market.

Today, understanding China is inseparable from understanding the Chinese philosophy of modernization. It is a huge mistake of the West to arrogantly perceive China as competing with it to try and reach its level.

China is changing the very nature of modernization, creating its own way to thrive in the contemporary world. It is creating, not competing.

The once winning ideology of the West has come to a dead end as capitalism has more victims then winners, nature is fighting back against its exploitation and human beings as individuals are left behind. As the West progressed, people were left behind. With material wealth that celebrated the exploitation of resources, nature was left behind. With the rise of populism, democracy was left behind.

It is in such a context that China is exploring a transformation and has shown us that we need a new innovative form of Marxism and modern social state.

That is why I feel free to propose the new term for the contemporary Chinese model of modernization-harmonization. Because, modernization can be interpreted differently in various cultures, which might easily lead to new misunderstandings. In that sense, China should use its success to propose a new conception to the world-the concept of harmonization.

Humanity today does not have an adequate response to the challenges it faces.

To offer just one example that testifies to the absurdity of today's civilization: So far more than 240 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus, of whom 4.8 million have lost their lives. And no one can predict with certainty its further course. The most painful fact is that there is again a lack of global solidarity and cooperation in the research, production and distribution of vaccines and necessary medical equipment. At the same time, the COVID-19 has struck a severe blow to the world economy, causing crises and mass layoffs in both poor and rich countries.

However, this crisis has not affected the possessors of the world's greatest wealth. The wealth of the 10 people who were the richest in the world in December 2020, increased by half a trillion dollars, to $1.12 trillion, according to a report by Oxfam. That is enough money to vaccinate the entire world's population against COVID-19 and to ensure that no country becomes impoverished due to the pandemic, Oxfam states. This fact clearly testifies to the unsustainability of the existing global economic order, its absurdity and inhumanity. Its disharmony, that requires not the tools of modernization, but the whole new approach of unique harmonization.

Let us recall at this point, the thoughts of Confucius, who said that only great inequality is worse than the poverty. The path of Chinese modernization is in fact a fascinating juncture of its traditional philosophy and its current development and social realities. And that is exactly why the time has come for a new global doctrine of harmonization, which is a precondition for sustainability and global peace, not just development.

The harmonization that China is embracing today is the solution to global challenges that are the outcomes of unbalanced development.

In regard to development, China achieved within decades what took the West centuries to achieve. But China's development implies that economic, cultural, political, social and ecological sectors need to be developed simultaneously. And I would say that one of the most important innovations that China is offering is the fact that the development is perceived through the lens of civilization.

China's modernization construction, new models of industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization will inevitably have a profound impact on the whole world. China is promoting the new type of modernization in which economic, political, cultural, social and ecological civilization aspects are developed in harmonized and sustainable manner. And that manner provides an example that economic growth does not have to be on the opposite side of social justice.

China is rejecting placing economic growth and social justice on different sides of the fence. With its GDP exceeding 100 trillion yuan ($15.42 trillion) in 2020, China set the goal to keep its economy developing within an appropriate range until 2025 rather than reaching just certain numerical goals.

While the modernization of the West was awarded with unprecedented material wealth and at the same time paid with enormous environmental damage, China's perspective of development implies that people and nature exist in harmony. In that perspective economic growth is inseparable from social progress. While the Western model focuses on capital as the engine of development, China sets people and nature in its focus as well.

The explosive growth of the Chinese economy is no longer a surprise and news to the world, but a pronounced pride of Chinese citizens and a natural consequence of such accelerated social, technological and economic development unparalleled in recent world history.

This new sense of patriotic pride is an additional factor driving accelerated development of China. However, in a world of Western domination, it arouses suspicion. This, in turn, has developed into a fear of Chinese nationalism, which the West sees as China's aspiration to acquire global domination.

Aside from it being absurd for the Western powers to deny to others the right that they have enjoyed for centuries, such arrogance only leads to the conclusion that the Western world considers that it is their natural birthright.

While not denying the enormous contribution of Western civilization to the overall development of the world, such an attitude is even more absurd if we bear in mind the terrible sufferings and problems that the same world faces as a result of its inflexibility, global and regional wars and the huge socio-economic divides resulting from the neoliberal political philosophy and global order in which humanity that still holds sway today.

Every country has the right to choose its own modernization path. The Chinese model of modernization offers a new option to other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence and social justice. It also offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity.

Nevertheless, today's China must be aware not only of itself and its role in the modern world, but also of the responsibility it shoulders for the necessary modernization of that same world. And that is because today the world modernization, which is a precondition for the sustainability and development of civilization, depends on China and the key aspect of its harmony of modernization.

The author is former president of the Republic of Serbia. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.