Jiangsu shows how to balance socioeconomic trade-offs while creating lively biz environment
A recent week-long visit to many modern factories, beautiful parks, and pleasant villages and farmland in East China's Jiangsu province with a group of international journalists made me think of English poet William Blake's magnificent song Jerusalem. Much of Jiangsu's industry is far from the coal-fired "dark satanic mills" Blake described in his poem, which was written in the 1800s as England first grappled with the economic, environmental and societal consequences of the early stages of the industrial revolution.
Though many challenges remain, Jiangsu is making strong progress toward improving the lives of its citizens by upgrading industry, fighting pollution, and creating services and public goods such as excellent parks and transportation.
Jerusalem expresses societal goals so strongly that it had become the anthem of British workers' movements. Blake's dream of building a new "Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land" is similar to the Chinese concept of xiaokang.
Often translated into English as "moderately prosperous society", xiaokang actually includes much wider goals than the limited idea of economic growth implied by the English phrase.
First explained by Confucius, xiaokang incorporates ideas about what a person needs to be happy. But, broader than Aristotle's near-contemporaneous idea of human flourishing, xiaokang emphasizes policies that a nation needs to follow to make its people happy.
Certainly, a good level of material prosperity, or raw GDP, is needed. But xiaokang also emphasizes the need to ensure the well-being of everyone, while acknowledging the need for entrepreneurs and businessmen to drive development.
In an explanatory speech delivered to the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee, which was convened from Oct 26 to 29 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping said China can complete the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects on schedule. It is "completely possible" for China to meet the current standards for high-income countries by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) and to double the total economic volume or per capita income by 2035, he said.
We journalists had the privilege of visiting a wide variety of factories, farms, natural sites, and historical sites near the cities of Nanjing, Wuxi, and Taicang. These places gave us a good view of the policies that an industrial province is implementing to achieve the economic aspects of xiaokang while improving the environmental and lifestyle aspects.
Jiangsu province has a long history of focusing on economic productivity. In a visit to the restored ancient Meili town in Wuxi, our group learned the story of Taibo, the first son of King Tai of the Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-256 BC), who established the state of Wu, which was centered on present-day Wuxi on the north side of Taihu Lake.
One of Taibo's first priorities was increasing the productivity of the area by importing new technology from more northern parts of China.
A visit to two factories and one logistics warehouse illustrates Jiangsu's move to upgraded, efficient, and environmentally friendly industry. Plus, these show the importance of the dual-circulation model of the economy, which emphasizes production for domestic demand while still maintaining strong international trade and investment ties.
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