Development is a general concept that includes many different aspects. The definition of development is improvement in human welfare, quality of life, social well-being, and satisfying the population's needs and wants. There are many different measurements for development, such as GDP, GNI, Human Development Index, Gender Inequality Index, Gini coefficient, and etc. Since each nation has its own culture, history, tradition, religion, and etc., the measurement of a successful development varies for different countries. As a result, although the general development concepts apply to all countries, each country needs to find their own specific way to develop. China has led the world its development among many various measures; especially economic growth. This analysis will consider some of the factors that are associated with China's exception development trajectory and what option it may hold in the future.
China's History of Development in the Twentieth Century
To understand China's rapid development it is necessary to look at the history of the events that occurred in China in the twentieth century. The Cultural Revolution was a movement in China that occurred during the period from about 1966 to 1976. This revolution was basically a power struggle between leaders in the Communist Party of China. However, the disagreement grew about how the government should operate and eventually included large portions of Chinese society, which nearly brought the People's Republic of China to a point of civil war. The revolution was propelled by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in order to regain control after a previous movement known as the Great Leap Forward.
Mao Zedong sought to increase the speed of socialism in China. The purpose of the Great Leap Forward was to increase the production of steel and raise agricultural production. However, the movement was counter-productive. Steel production did not achieve its desired levels. This had wide spread consequences and many industries were in havoc because some regions were over producing steel and other areas were being neglected. Furthermore, much of the steel that was produced was impure and useless while at the same time much of the agricultural production was falling.
After Mao's death the communism tradition began to embrace more capitalistic practices. At the end of Mao Era all enterprises in China were owned by the state. State owned enterprises (SOE) after Mao's death were unproductive and overstaffed along with their technological level being far from the standards in the Western countries. In 1976 came new leader Deng Xiaoping, revamped the Chinese economy, because it was undeveloped, ineffective and declining economy combined with a very poor population, and this was the beginning of the movement towards a market economy.
China's More Recent Development
Since the reforms of 1978 moved China to a post-Mao period, the economy has experienced an eight to ten percent growth rate annually which is among the highest rates in the history of economic development (Thomas). This rate leads to a doubling of the entire economic activity of the country every seven years. If this rate continues at its current pace, China will overcome the United States as the world's largest economy by 2020 in terms of its purchasing power parity (PPP). The current development model is a mixture of capitalism and communist elements. For example, although many industries have been liberalized and a strong private sector has evolved, the state retains much control over major strategic industries as well as the financial sector. China is also the world's biggest recipient of foreign investment as many businesses and individuals have attempted to be a part of China's enormous growth potential.
There are many advantages that China has such as low labor rates and a large domestic economy. However, these factors alone cannot explain China's success. If these were the dominant factors the other countries in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) would have development performances similar that of China. Together, the four BRIC countries comprise about 40% of the world's population, cover more than a quarter of the world's land area over three continents, and account for more than 25% of global GDP (Jason). However, China alone is responsible for more than 15% of the world's total growth in economic output.
Figure 1 - World GDP (The Economist Online)
China has had a long history of development success that has severed as the foundation for the more recent wave of economic activity. However, differences between China and the rest of the BRICSs can be found also in a variety of factors including politics, education, regulation, and others. Each of these factors are responsible for China's current success in their own ways. For example, having state control over many aspects of the economy can provide strategic advantages for the country's sustainability. The Chinese under this system can implement strategic plans that are not subject to the volitility found in the business cycle in the private sector. Thus not having to rely on the whims of the market allows for the government leaders to concentrate on long-term planning. However, concentrated power also have many disadvantages such as a high level of corruption that is commonly reported among Chinese officials.
Figure 2 - BRIC Development Data (Jason)
China is currently ranked 101 out of 187 countries surveyed in regards to the 2011 Human Development Report launched by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) (Wei). The HDI takes into account many factors that are prevalent in a society that relate to the quality of life that might be experienced there. It takes into account factors such as life expectancy, education, and income in the form of gross national income (GNI) per capita. Although China is still relatively low on the list it has made significant advances in the last few decades. For example, since the 1978 economic reforms the HDI was rated at 0.53 however in 2011 it has risen to 0.678 which is a remarkable jump (United Nations Development Project).
China was able to raise its HDI significantly by improving many aspects of its society. China's health achievements have been remarkable. In 1981 life expectancy was 67.9 years and by 2005 it has reached 72.4 years. Over the same time period China was able to improve its adult literacy rate to nearly ninety percent of the population which is much higher than most developing countries. The compulsorily education average has risen from 5.3 years of school in 1982 to 8.5 in 2005. The income opportunities and the quality of life that the Chinese enjoy have also significantly improved with China's economic growth.
However, despite the improvements China has made in regards to human development there are also significant challenges that lay ahead if it is to continue this rate of improvement. For example, inequality is a major issue in China on a broad scale. Not only is there gender inequality, there is also much inequality found between rural and urban areas. Furthermore, economic inequality is also a growing concern and there is much regional disparity among economic activities. There are also concerns about the sustainability of the Chinese model and China is also facing issues with pollution and other ecological pressures. Furthermore, another challenge will be the importation of resources since China lacks many essential resources to adequately provide for its population.
The Gini coefficient is a measure of income distribution. A Gini coefficient score of 0 would represent perfect equality and a score of 1 would mean that one individual controlled all of the resources. In 2005 the Gini coefficient was calculated to 0.425 and in 2010 is rose marginally to 0.438 (Orlik). This figure is indicates that there is a substantial level of inequality in China. By comparison, the Gini coefficient of the United States in 2000 was 0.408. The wealth and income gap has raised concerns about the social stability of the country since the lack of a healthy middle class can negatively impact the countries sustainability.
With regards to gender inequality, China also has a substantial obstacle to overcome. In rural China, although women make up 65% of the rural labor force, they occupy only 1-2% of the local decision-making positions (United Nations in China). Furthermore, women are not represented in legislative positions in China. In fact, China has one of the lowest participation rates of women in government in the world with the exception of the Middle Eastern nations. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are over a hundred million "missing" women in China. These are women and young girls who have suffered under the one child policy because families prefer boys. There is also discrimination in other areas of society such as in health treatment neglect or neglect in nutrition. In 2005, the sex ratio of children under the age of 5 totaled 122.66 (122 boys for every 100 girls born), the highest ratio in all of Asia Pacific (United Nations in China).
China's recent success often overshadows its efforts to maintain development on a sustainable path. However, given the high level of…