There are times in ones life when one is overwhelmed into silent awe and one cannot help but project those moments endlessly. Ive had the opportunity of visiting China three times since last December and let me say each occasion has been a magnificent revelation. The instant, perpetually lasting impression is that of an elaborate, sophisticated dynamo churning out immeasurable energy.
The essence of development is the creation of infrastructure that then becomes the launching pad for a vibrant economy. China has done just that. This is an example that is quoted across the world. I first visited in 2004. In the six years the development of towns, road networks, seats of education and sports have achieved mushroom growth. From Lianyungang to Shanghai to Nanjing to Tianjin to Beijing, the incredible infrastructure created and the speed that it is happening with is the ultimate dream of human success in the field of development.
Six years ago I wrote, Mobilizing the enormous energy of over a billion people to turn an under developed country into one colossal manufacturing concern has been the economic development miracle of the last century. Not only has it been possible for China to become the largest and most economical producer of goods used over the world, it is now utilizing the bulk of the worlds building resources. Its import commitments for items like steel and cement stretch to the next quarter century while expanding production facilities within.
Today, that miracle is in full bloom. Swamping the world with Chinese produce, sending shivers down the spine of Western manufacturers who, by the way, are already using manufacturing facilities in China to remain competitive in their own western markets. The developed world is now vociferously clamoring for revaluation of the Yuan in order to remain competitive resulting in trade balance normalization.
Coping with disasters of massive magnitude, especially floods and earthquakes, has been a major source of concern but the Chinese resource mobilization has dealt with these issues effectively. China certainly has more resources than we do in Pakistan and comparison may be considered unfair. But I believe it is the inherent efficiency within that system that mechanically reacts with precision thus exposing our limitation in terms of disaster response.
For the first time I was exposed to the education system at University level in the city of Tianjin, hundred kilometers from Beijing. This Sports University had enormous acreage to house its various departments, playing fields and gymnasiums of the highest quality. The most impressive fact is that Tianjin in the six years has come a long way. In 2004 the entire city was under construction and there was one high tower hotel building. Today the skyscape is littered with high-rise buildings of the highest quality. Right across from the university is a high tech football stadium that is an architectural masterpiece.
Downtown Beijing is a breathtaking experience. Buildings, the height and size of which are unknown to us, totally state-of-the-art, have quadrupled but unfortunately the vast roads built to handle voluminous traffic are beginning to choke badly. This is despite the fact that the Beijing municipal government has spent $1.2 billion annually since 2000 to upgrade the local roads and Beijings total road length has increased by more than 4000 kilometers! This reflects the massive economic growth leading to a huge increase in the number of cars on the road.
A very interesting fact came to light in the Financial Times newspaper two days ago. More than half the richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. The paper company CEO, Zhang Yin heading the top 20 with a personal fortune of $5.60 Billion. There you go with equal opportunity! Women in China are hugely empowered and it is really visible.
The biggest difference is the change in quality of department stores and shopping malls. Everything is 21st century and similar to Dubai quality, every international designer is represented and each mall carries the top designers clothes, jewelry, watches, leather. You name it and they have it. Prices are on the high side, again more Dubai than London. Yet the shops are full of locals dressed exquisitely.
The amusing sight, of course, is of foreigners arriving in busloads at the smaller markets that carry the duplicates. These are people from the very countries who allegedly shun piracy. Even though these malls are no air-conditioned retail spots of luxury, they are still well-organized.
Invariably, it all boils down to comparison. The significant fact is that we in Pakistan possess vast resources, but lack the capacity and the vision to mobilize them into an integrated development machine. This will only emerge if a disciplined program is immediately formulated and extends well into this century. We had this vision in Ayubs era and then the on-ground growth gave way to figures manipulated to suit the government of that day. The tragedy is if we dont reform now, it will be too late.
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