Wang Wen:West needs to change its China narrative

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Wang Wen:West needs to change its China narrative

2020-09-08

By Wang Wen       Source: Global Times         Published: 2020-09-07



I once thought that I could not run or do mountaineering anymore. My ankle sprain kept recurring after running multiple marathons and climbing multiple peaks over the past three years. I have paid a heavy price for my radical way of exercising. As I have recovered after several months of treatment and recovery, I stop showing off or going to the extremes, but rather pursue only a healthy lifestyle.


It seems that in China, many middle-aged people like me are increasing their participation in sports. Take marathons. In 2015, there were only 134 marathon events in China. In 2019, the number jumped to 1,828, with over 7 million runners.


About half of the participants in marathons are aged between 35 and 50 years old. This age group is the backbone of society. Their increasing interests in sports reflect the growing trend of Chinese people pursuing healthier lifestyles after enjoying material prosperity.


Indeed, the process of Chinese people's pursuit of a better life has certainly not been smooth all the way. There are critics of marathon events in China in which sudden deaths occurred and many have been injured. But marathon has led to the rapid development of the sports medicine and rehabilitation industry in China. Various related emerging industries, including sports training, fitness clubs, and sports apps, are also booming.


China is advancing by drawing lessons from the past. Chinese people's average life expectancy stood at 77 years (close to the US' 78.7) in 2018, a sharp increase from 36 when the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. From this perspective, some Western media outlets and politicians' criticisms of China's human rights situation are awfully biased.


That is to say, one of China's significant recent changes has been overlooked by the Western media outlets that are eager to politicize anything. The pursuit of a high-quality life by ordinary Chinese not only makes them healthier and facilitates their life, but also injects dynamic to economy and boosts national rejuvenation.


Another example. By the end of 2019, there were 484 airports in China. Meanwhile, according to data of US Central Intelligence Agency, by the end of 2013, there were 13,513 airports in the US, 4,093 in Brazil, and 1,714 in Mexico. Germany, whose territory only covers over 357, 000 square kilometers, had 539 airports that same year. This gap is stimulating some Chinese cities to proactively construct airports.


Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the opening of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress in October 2017 that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. Xi said the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved into one "between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life."


In this new era, repeatedly addressing contradictions will surely improve living standard, promote social stability and prosperity, and lead to constant national progress.


Unfortunately, US politicians often view China's development through tinted ideological lenses. They frequently portray either human rights in China as extremely bad or the CPC as the antithesis of the Chinese people. This is at least US politicians' strategic misunderstanding of China.


In fact, even a slight improvement in 1.4 billion people's life would lift China's economy in a large scale, which can also boost the development of the world economy. In 2020, when the world is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, China has been the only major economy with positive growth and is expected to contribute greatly to the world economy.


China's growth has been empowered by each and every ordinary Chinese citizen's pursuit of better life . This process, of course, is not easy. There will be setbacks, like I used to get injuries when I do sports.


For every foreign friend, it is easy to perceive the charm of China from the logical pattern of "development - contradiction - correction - redevelopment." It can therefore be seen that the outdated narrative about China from Western media and politicians may need a revolutionary change.


The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. wangwen2013@ruc.edu.cn