The Roadmap of China's Ascent

Expert cites forward-thinking leaders as one major factor

Blackstone Group's Antony Leung speaking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Dalian, China, in September 2009.

MUMBAI, February 9, 2011 - China has shifted its focus from economic development to traditions that stress parents' responsibility for educating their children. According to Antony Leung, Senior Managing Director of the Blackstone Group and Chairman of Blackstone Greater China, this is just one of many factors propelling China's unique growth story.

In an address titled The Roadmap of China’s Ascent, the former Financial Secretary of Hong Kong and Chairman of the Education Commission said the seven million graduates China churns out annually makes it competitive with countries like Switzerland. Furthermore, the Chinese savings rate of 48 percent helps explain the strength of its economy.

In Leung's view, China's forward-looking government has pioneered a number of concepts to adapt to changing environments. These include the "same city" idea, for which infrastructure is designed to connect spaces by travel times of less than an hour, rather than following a (Western) model that leads to the proliferation of congested urban centres.

Leung also cited China's relative homogeneity as another factor that allowed it to pursue its particular growth strategy. Beijing adopted policies that improved people's livelihoods, assuming that other differences would become less salient if this is achieved. Rather than remaining fixated on adherence to a particular ideology, such as communism, China recognized the need to evolve its approach, drawing from both its history and present-day circumstances.

Looking forward, Leung said China is on track to grow into an environmentally sustainable model—one mindful of its depleting fossil fuel and uranium reserves. China is also the poorest country in the world in terms of per capita fresh water, and this, Leung said, could lead to tensions with other governments in the future over access to resources.

Leung also suggested that corruption remains a major check on China's growth and prosperity, explaining that it has acted as a trigger that brought down every dynasty in the past 3000 years of Chinese history.

In closing, Leung called for a greater understanding and exchange of ideas between China and other countries to optimize shared opportunities for development.