Professor visits China, offers reflections on its evolution

Ali Jarbawi, the Director of the Master’s Program in International Studies at Birzeit University, shared his 10-day experience in Shanghai, China, presenting his reflections and impressions about Chinese political culture, the political system, and China’s status as a great polar power.

Jarbawi developed his insights while attending a training program at the China-Arab Research Center on Reform and Development located at Shanghai International Studies University. The program is designed for Arab policy makers, foreign policy representatives, and academics to explore further Sino-Arab cooperation on education and culture.

Jarabawi started by describing the cultural and technological development that China has achieved since his last visit in 2010: “China has been growing rapidly and constantly, while maintaining its long-standing history and rich culture.”

The reason for this continuous prosperity, according to Jarbawi, is China’s reform and open door policy first adopted by its former president Deng Xiaoping in 1978. These policies opened China to the global market and created extraordinary institutional change, which promoted its economic and international status, while maintaining its commitment to communism.

Jarbawi noted that the country’s GDP, external trade, and rate of urbanization have increased significantly during the past 50 years. These increases occurred because of the open door and economic reform policy, in addition to the concrete planning and strategic development that has characterized China. “In the past 50 years, there were inflows of foreign capital, technological development, and the management of knowhow. These have enabled China to turn its resources and space to rapid economic growth. The shift to an open-door economic policy ushered in a period of high economic growth in the first half of the 1980s.”

“Amid these changes,” Jarbawi continued, “China has maintained a one-party communist rule on the political level, while moving to a market system on the economic level. The government has accelerated the shift to the market economic system, but it has so far failed to provide a clear definition of what is meant by a communist market economy. The Communist Party has been able to work on the reform process, for it still has the power to lead the state. Up until today, the state was able to move the country toward a market economic system, and keeping its people loyal to the traditional ideology. ”

Despite these developments, China has still many issues to deal with, such as the recent dwindling in the economic growth, the imbalances in development, low rates of scientific innovation and entrepreneurship, and the high rate of corruption. However, Jarbawi noted that it is unlikely that the public would demand more political freedom and disposal of the communist ideologies.