China is about to adopt its 11th five-year plan, setting the stage for the continuation of probably the most remarkable economic transformation in history, while improving the well-being of almost a quarter of the world’s population. Never before has the world seen such sustained growth; never before has there been so much poverty reduction.
Part of the key to China’s long-run success has been its almost unique combination of pragmatism and vision. While much of the rest of the developing world, following the Washington Consensus, has been directed at a quixotic quest for higher GDP, China has once again made clear that it seeks sustainable and more equitable increases in real living standards.
China realizes that it has entered a phase of economic growth that is imposing enormous – and unsustainable – demands on the environment. Unless there is a change in course, living standards will eventually be compromised. That is why the new five-year plan places great emphasis on the environment.
Even many of the more backward parts of China have been growing at a pace that would be a marvel, were it not for the fact that other parts of the country are growing even more rapidly. While this has reduced poverty, inequality has been increasing, with growing disparities between cities and rural areas, and between coastal regions and the interior.