China's economic performance since the global financial crisis has been in sharp contrast to other countries. It recorded an economic growth of 9.1 per cent last year, whereas the economies of the United States, European countries and Japan slowed down.
This has reignited the debate on whether China is still a developing country. Some experts, especially in the West, say China can no longer be considered a developing nation, because it has the largest foreign reserves in the world, is about to overtake Japan as the second largest economy and is the third biggest trading power. China is as good as a developed country, they say, and hence, should shoulder more global responsibilities. It is understandable that China's fast-paced growth has made some people overestimate its power. But the truth is that despite the economic and social development of the past few years, China is still a developing nation.
Let's look at some facts. China's per capita GDP is still 104th in the world. Its remarkable fast-paced growth has not brought about a fundamental change in the uneven economic development of its different regions, its industrial structure or its underdeveloped productivity. Moreover, its rapid development has created a series of thorny issues, none of which is easy to resolve in a large country with a population of 1.4 billion.
In addition to its low per capita GDP, a number of intractable economic problems that have emerged in the course of its development show it is still far from achieving its goal of becoming a medium-level developed nation by the middle of this century.
China's rural population is between 700 million and 800 million, more than half of its total population. This demography shows China is still in the period of transition to an industrialised society. In a developed society, the rural population is usually very small. The imbalanced economic and demographic structures may help China enjoy a long period of robust economic development. But economic development history shows that when people of a country complete the rural-to-urban transition, its production efficiency grows manifold. Once that happens in China, its other economic elements will experience a coordinated, sustainable and healthy development.
If China achieves its goal of becoming a medium-level developed country by the middle of this century, it may become the world's largest economy given its huge population base. But till then China is most likely to remain a developing country.
That China is a developing country is also reflected in its similarity to other developing nations in terms of their political goals and historical experiences. A number of developing countries were once colonies, semi-colonies or dependencies of imperial powers. Most of them may have earned their independence after World War II, but they still face the common task of how to safeguard their national interests and promote economic development to achieve prosperity and fulfill their peoples' needs.
Most of the developing countries, including China, have chosen an independent and non-aligned foreign policy, oppose foreign intervention and power politics and advocate peaceful negotiations to settle international disputes .