This year marks the 40th anniversary of the official beginning of reform and opening up. Over the past four decades, China has witnessed spectacular development and transformation across the country. Its economy has grown at an annual growth rate of 9.5% and is now the second largest in the world. Chinese residents now live better lives. They have translated poverty into prosperity and more than 700 million have escaped poverty. Some of you may have been to China and have personal experience with its tremendous changes. The development of China delivers benefits to not only the Chinese people but also the wider world. And over recent years, China has contributed more than 30% of economic growth globally and 70% in East Asia.
Some international friends may wonder whether China remains a developing country given its status as the world’s second largest economy. To understand a country as vast and populous as China, we must take a comprehensive look at its development stage. Despite its large economic size, China’s per capita GDP is only 80% of the world average and less than one sixth of that of Singapore. The country has witnessed rapid growth of new industries and new forms and models of business over recent years, but traditional industries still dominate the economy and upgrading them is a challenging task. Generally speaking, industries in China are at the low and middle end of the global value chain. Some Chinese cities are well developed, especially in coastal regions, but rural-urban development is unbalanced: many villages and some remote regions suffer from lagging infrastructure, and didn't gain access to highways, electricity and the internet until recently. Also, there are about 600 million rural residents in the country, 200 million of whom are working in cities, and they lag behind urban residents when it comes to living and working conditions. By the end of 2017, 30 million rural residents still lived in poverty, with an annual income under 3,000 yuan. In addition, there is a huge gap between China and developed countries in terms of education, elderly care and health care. These examples mean that China remains a developing country and much remains to be done to modernize this country.