Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, April 19th, 2019

Lessons for Afghanistan from China’s Development

It has been 40 years since Deng Xiaoping kicked off China’s reforms with his famous speech Emancipate the mind, seeking truth from fact, and unite as one to face the future, which concluded that year’s Central Economic Work Conference and set the stage for the 3 Rd Plenum of the 11 Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. 
Profound changes have taken place over the last four decades and remarkable achievements have been made in China. From 1978 to 2017, China’s GDP increased to 12 trillion U.S. dollars from 175 billion, with an average annual economic growth of 9.5 percent and the size of China’s economy increased by 35 times. China’s GDP per capita reached 8,640 U.S. dollars from 156 U.S. dollars. The percentage of the China’s GDP in the world economy has risen from 1.8 percent to 15 percent. Both China’s urban per capita disposable income and rural per capita net income increased by over 100 times. Primary medical insurance and old-age insurance have covered 1.35 billion and 900 million of population respectively in 2017. China’s education has leaped from relative backwardness to the upper level of the world. Free compulsory education has been implemented in urban and rural areas. The gross enrollment ratio of secondary and higher education has reached 88.3 percent and 45.7 percent respectively. More than 700 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, accounting for over 70 percent of global poverty reduction during that period. As a result, the process of market liberalization has led to the establishment of China as a major global exporter. It eventually allowed for the reopening of the Shanghai stock exchange in December 1990 for the first time in over 40 years and, ultimately, to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. 
What is of specific importance for Afghanistan is the rapid growth of China and some other (emerging) economies in the East and the South that has created a new global economic outlook for developing countries. In the UNCTAD this is qualified as the “new geography of trade” shaped by three interlinked trends: the increasing share of developing countries in world trade; South-South trade (commodities and manufactures) and economic cooperation “reaching a critical mass”; and the changing context of North-South interdependence and terms of engagement. Within this new context, as a “new growth pole in the world economy” China has a major impact on developing regions.
Afghanistan by drawing on China’s vast and successful experience can learn how to identify a development model suiting it without to mimic China’s institutions. Rather, it must create the conditions to define its own development path, based on its history, culture and institutions.  Thus, various models for structural transformation, as offered by different groups of academics, need to be adapted to our unique circumstances and the conditions in subsets of Afghanistan.  
Afghanistan needs to incorporate principles behind China’s impressive growth into its strategies as it seeks to build on its improved development of the last two decades. We hope that, going forward, Afghanistan can look to China not only as a trading partner, but as a development mentor.