eg Chinese Voices
No. 48 | 12.06.2022
China’s first nuclear power project exported overseas – Hualong One in Pakistan. [THEPAPER.CN]
Building the “New Three Rings”: China’s choice in the face of possible complete decoupling
Cheng Yawen
Cheng Yawen (程亚文) is a professor at the Institute of International Relations and Public Affairs, Shanghai International Studies University

Context

Since the beginning of the 2018 US-China trade war, Western countries have sought to decouple from China in terms of economic, technological, and people-to-people exchanges. According to Cheng Yawen, the recent Russian-Ukrainian conflict marks the end of the US-led globalization wave. Facing the possibility of full decoupling by the West in the future, China urgently needs to make a new choice in its diplomatic and strategic priorities to downgrade the importance of Europe and the US and to promote a new international system based on South-South cooperation.

Key points

  • The explicit rule of the international order is the principle of the sovereign equality of states, but the center-periphery hierarchy of the West has been perpetuated as an implicit rule. China and Russia, because of their strict capital controls, are the last two obstacles to further U.S. control of the global periphery, and are, therefore, subject to focused Western repression.
  • Beginning in the 20th century, China and other Asian countries, and African and Latin American countries have supported and assisted each other in resisting colonial rule and nation building. China actively participated in the Bandung Conference and introduced the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in 1955, which were echoed by Asian, African, and Latin American countries. After the reform and opening up in 1979, China has been committed to cooperating with all countries, forming a partnership strategy of "major western powers are the key, neighboring countries are receiving major attention, and other developing countries are considered very important"; but this strategy made China’s technology and economic development overly dependent on Western countries and this cannot continue any longer as the world is facing "the end of globalization".
  • Given a future of possible decoupling, China should focus on constructing a new global system by forming a "three-ring" international system: the first ring is China's neighboring countries in East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East; the second ring is the vast number of developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America; and the third ring extends to the traditional industrialized countries, mainly Europe and the United States.
  • The basis of China's international relations for the construction of the "new three-ring" international system is "South-South cooperation". In recent decades, the economic base and trade flows of developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have changed significantly. Between 1980-2021, the economic volume of developing countries rose from 21 to 42.2 percent of the world's total output; in 2021, trade between China and Africa and China and Latin America increased 2 times and 2.5 times respectively compared to 2010.
  • Yet the current trade flows and mutual investments of developing countries are still heavily dependent on the financial and monetary institutions/networks controlled by the West. In order to break their dependence on the West and further enhance economic and political autonomy, a broader financial and monetary cooperation, and new sets of instruments among developing countries should be constructed in key regions between China and leading economies in the region.

Summary

One hundred years ago, CPC leaders proposed the revolutionary path of "encircling the cities from the countryside". Today, China and the developing countries need to overcome the West's preventive measures and cooperate with the global "countryside" – the peripheral countries – in the same way. The emergence of a new global system and the deepening of South-South cooperation will create favorable conditions for China to build a "three-ring" international system, to resolve international pressure, and to break through the siege.

How China’s self-developed nuclear reactor Hualong One become successful
Wei Feng
Wei Feng (魏峰) is the chief engineer of Hualong One, China General Nuclear Power Group
Yun He
Researcher of “Liaowang Think Tank”

Context

In April 2022, two units of Hualong One, China's first nuclear power project exported overseas were put into commercial operation in Pakistan. With the completion of the Hualong One, China became the fourth country to have independent intellectual property rights for third-generation nuclear power technology after the United States, France, and Russia. In the interview, Wei Feng talks about the arduous process of the project's R&D.

Key points

  • In 1955, Mao Zedong made a strategic decision to develop the nuclear energy industry. From 1964 to 1970, China successfully launched "Two Bombs and One Satellite" and the nuclear- powered submarine, laying the foundation for China's nuclear industry. In 1970, in order to promote economic development and solve the problem of power shortages in Eastern China, premier Zhou Enlai proposed the construction of nuclear power plants.
  • At the beginning of the economic reform, China's government departments were still divided on whether the country should develop its nuclear power technology independently or introduce the technology from overseas. In 1991, China's first self-developed Qinshan nuclear power plant (300,000 kilowatts) was connected to the grid in Zhejiang, making it the seventh country to build its own nuclear power plants after, among others, the United States, Britain, and Russia.
  • After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, voices in opposition to nuclear power plants were raised. China decided to conduct a comprehensive safety review of its nuclear power plants and vowed to build their plants with the "highest safety standard", which led to the design of Hualong One.
  • In May 2015, the first nuclear power unit (No.5 unit) of Hualong One started construction in Fuqing city, Fujian province. In January 2021, the unit was put into commercial operation, with 88 percent of all equipment built in China.
  • Hualong One has three physical barriers and two sets of safety systems, which can avoid the leakage of radioactive substances in extreme situations internally and withstand external and weather-related attacks such as large aircraft impacts, magnitude 9 earthquakes, and severe tsunamis and typhoons.
  • With an installed capacity of 1.161 million kilowatts, Hualong One can meet the annual production and living needs of about one million people. It is equivalent to reducing standard coal consumption by 3.12 million tons per year and planting more than 70 million trees, which is necessary to achieve China's carbon neutrality target by 2060.

Summary

Wei Feng points out that the construction of Hualong One took only 68.7 months from the start of construction to operation, breaking the world record for the speed of building third-generation nuclear power plants. Behind this success is the strong national industrial system. At the same time, Hualong One meets the world's highest safety standards, making it one of the most widely accepted third-generation nuclear power plants on the market.

Why did China revise the law on vocational education?
Yao Yang
Yao Yang (姚洋) is a professor at the China Center for Economic Research (CCER) and the National School of Development (NSD), Peking University

Context

On May 1, China enforced the newly revised Law on Vocational Education, the first major revision of the law in 26 years since its promulgation in 1996. The new law specifically emphasizes that vocational education has the same importance as general education. Taking into account China's talent needs and the goals of socialist education, Yao Yang analyzes the necessity and urgency of reforming the vocational and compulsory education systems in China.

Key points

  • After the implementation of the new law, the previous "one size fits all" provision – where 50 percent of junior high school students go to general high school (普通高中 Pǔtōng gāozhōng) and the other 50 percent go to vocational high school (职业高中 Zhíyè gāozhōng) – will be abolished. In the past, based on their scores on the high school entrance exam (中考Zhōngkǎo), those who were not able to meet the entry score for general high schools had to enter vocational high schools where students have fewer opportunities; a mere 4-5 percent at the province level enrolled in a university. The new law guarantees that vocational high school graduates will have more equitable opportunities to receive higher education.
  • The gap between urban and rural education in China is still wide. Higher education is universal in large cities. China's gross enrollment rate in higher education reached 57.8 percent in 2021, with college acceptance rates for general high schools in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai reaching 80–90 percent. By contrast, many young people in rural areas have not yet completed nine years of compulsory education.
  • The compulsory measure to divide junior high school graduates transfers the pressure on Chinese students from the high school stage to the junior school stage. As a result, many parents are anxious from the time their children attend elementary school until they take their junior high school exams. From a very young age, the talent selection system forces students to study like mad and "to crush" their competition while stifling their creativity.
  • Vocational education becomes a tool for class stratification. A troubling fact is that 90 percent of the students in vocational high schools come from rural families. Since they rarely get opportunities to enter the middle class through higher education and higher-paying jobs, students from rural families are often locked into low-paying jobs in low-value producing industries as blue collar workers. This cycle must be broken before achieving the goal of common prosperity.
  • China's industries are upgrading with the share of low-end manufacturing gradually declining, while high-end manufacturing and production services suppliers requiring more highly educated personnel are growing. An excellent high school education for all Chinese students is a top priority for China to achieve full modernization by 2035.

Summary

Yao Yang believes that the best education reform plan is to implement a ten-year compulsory education system from elementary school to high school. 17-year-old children who graduate from high school are mentally mature and can choose their next step according to their own situation. The author stresses that the essence of education is not pre-defining the student, but rather cultivating a complete person. As a socialist country, China's education should aim to develop its students' abilities to explore their individual potential, so that each child can realize this potential to serve the country and reach the goal of common prosperity.

Behind Chinese universities’ withdrawal from the international university rankings: Risk of academic colonialism
Lü Dewen
Lü Dewen (吕德文) is a professor at the School of Sociology, Wuhan University

Context

Recently, several top Chinese universities such as Nanjing University and Renmin University of China have dropped out of the international rankings, triggering heated debates. Lü Dewen points out that domestic universities and colleges now use the international ranking system as a rigid standard. Although, to a certain extent, the ranking system is beneficial for international academic exchanges and the expansion of Chinese academic influence, the obsession with high rankings could lead to a situation where western ideas dominate the Chinese university system.

Key points

  • Some functions of universities, including academic innovation and talent cultivation, can be assessed by objective indicators. However, some indicators, such as financial stability, research reputation, and physical infrastructure cannot be the basis on which to evaluate the academic heritage and legacy of a university. For instance, the importance of Peking University in China's modern history and its significant influence on national and social thought cannot be quantified by objective evaluation systems or reputation surveys alone.
  • The index-led management approach has dominated the academic circle. The evaluation of whether a teacher is valuable is also quantified through the number of his/her papers, projects, etc. Significant factors that cannot be quantified, such as responsibility to students and the substantial impact of research results on social progress, are ignored.
  • International ranking agencies are essentially commercial organizations that gain great benefits through the ranking system. Moreover, these rankings are almost always a money-making scheme for the English-speaking world, which cannot be used as a tool to assess the quality of Chinese academic research.
  • This is especially true for the humanities and social sciences, whose initial and real purpose was to serve the progress of the country and society. If academic research in these fields is proven to be valuable in China's society, it is also bound to make an intellectual contribution to human progress. Not many people are even aware that many institutions and the schools of humanities and social sciences in China have been rooted in colonialism.
  • A more alarming practice of academic colonization is that some universities intentionally guide their teachers in the direction of internationalization, totally disregarding domestic academic standards and features of the courses. For example, the recognized top journals in the humanities and social sciences overseas may not be as good as the ordinary SSCI journals, a China-based citation index system, yet teachers are rewarded for their publications in international journals.

Summary

Of particular concern is that, today, Chinese universities and colleges have been besieged by major international rankings, although, overseas rankings and journals do have their significance and some scholars are extraordinarily good at telling Chinese stories in foreign languages. Moreover, why are "international" economic and social development and cultural values always defined by western standards? China is fully capable of establishing a Chinese-centric academic assessment system and does not need to" trim the foot to fit the shoes" (削足适履 xuè zú shì lǚ) and reflect western values within its university system.

Why did Chairman Mao strongly advocate agricultural cooperativization?
Tao Lujia
Tao Lujia (陶鲁笳) is the former First Secretary of the Shanxi Provincial Committee and a member of the Tenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Ma Shexiang
Distinguished Researcher, Jianghan University

Context

After the founding of New China, Mao Zedong referenced the development model of Soviet agricultural collectivization and creatively explored a new path for the socialist transformation of agriculture based on the Chinese reality. By the end of 1956, 96.3 percent of the country's farmers had joined cooperatives, and the socialist collective ownership system was basically established. Tao Lujia, a witness to the cooperative movement, recalls the historical process of the development of agricultural cooperatives in Shanxi in the 1950s.

Key points

  • In 1951, the first 10 primary agricultural cooperatives in Shanxi caused controversy within the Party. Some said that they were utopian socialism because they lacked a mechanized agricultural system. The primary agricultural cooperatives with Chinese characteristics were viewed as the first step in developing a Soviet Union style collective farm and were later supported by Mao Zedong. The reason was that Mao Zedong realized, early on, that China's history, for thousands of years, had repeated itself and proven that a small-peasant economy would inevitably lead to polarization. The new China, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), had to completely avoid and eradicate this phenomenon.
  • A survey, conducted by the Changzhi District Committee of Shanxi Province in 1951, showed that the first signs of polarization had appeared in the countryside after the completion of land reform. Ninety-six households, mainly middle peasants in five villages in the region, sold their land, and some wealthy peasants started acting like loan sharks, lending money with annual interest rates as high as 60 to 180 percent.
  • Simultaneously, however, agricultural cooperatives in Shanxi were taking the road to collectivization through land shareholding and unified management, and socialist common prosperity was increasing. After analyzing the situation, Mao believed that the CPC could avoid polarization and capitalism in the transition to socialism by supporting the socialist element in agricultural cooperatives and encouraging peasants to take the path of collectivization.
  • In 1953, a total of 2,242 cooperatives were established in Shanxi province, with a total grain output of 87,597,400 kilograms, up 27 percent year-on-year, and the output per unit area in cooperatives was 1.4 times that of individually-run farms in the region.
  • Socialist industrialization is also inseparable from agricultural cooperativization. After considering the lessons of China's low per capita natural resources and the Soviet model's continuous squeeze of the agriculture sector to support heavy industry, Mao Zedong proposed "simultaneous industrial and agricultural development and industrialization through collective agriculture".
  • In the context of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (抗美援朝战争 kànɡměi yuáncháo zhànzhēnɡ), agricultural cooperatives became the leader in patriotic efforts to increase production. It was with the backing of the vast number of farmers and various industries that the Party and army were able to withstand the difficult times during the War and successfully smash the enemy's economic blockade.

Summary

As early as the period of agricultural cooperativization, Mao Zedong considered the problem of coordinated development of mountainous areas and plains, and cities and villages, and believed that the comprehensive development of rural agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and fisheries would be conducive to attracting young people to stay and build up the countryside. The overall strategy of industrial and agricultural integration that he constructed was not only a long-term strategy for the new China to cope with the US encirclement at that time, but also an important inspiration for the development of today's urban-rural integration.

(Chinese Voices will continue to interpret the historical context and developmental logic of Marxism's Sinicization)

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