Christian Y. Schmidt strolls in Beijing on February 6 2020（GONG YINGXIN）
Christian Y. Schmidt, a German writer, has made many discoveries about China's development during his many years of travelling around the country. "There have been too many. I don’t know where to start," Schmidt told Beijing Review when asked about the most impressive moment he has witnessed since settling in Beijing in 2005.
Schmidt described China's 100-year history of development as "unbelievable," a conclusion based on a broad spectrum of China’s achievements, including its economic development, gains in per capita income, tackling of illiteracy and malnutrition, and increase in average lifespan. "Gains in these areas are strong evidence that the Chinese development model is the best in the world. No other developing country has made so many achievements within such a short time span," he said, also noting that China’s swift and effective response to COVID-19 under the leadership of the Communist Party of China was commendable.
In early 2020, after the outbreak of the epidemic, Schmidt began keeping a diary of his own experience with epidemic prevention and control in Beijing. To give Germans an accurate picture of Chinese people's lives during the pandemic, he posted his diary on the Internet. "If the German Government had put decisive anti-virus policies into place the way China did, more lives could have been saved," Schmidt said.
Also, the rapid development of China's public transport systems and high-speed railway networks also bolster Schmidt's confidence in the government's capacity to lead.
In addition, Schmidt has been impressed by the sharp reduction of air pollution in major cities such as Beijing. "The Chinese Government is always able to respond promptly to emergencies," he said.
Schmidt does not hesitate to contribute his suggestions on China's future development. He hopes China will continue its promotion of sustainable development by gradually phasing out the use of fossil fuels, discontinuing the expansion of expressways, and restricting the number of private cars. He also believes that China's political leadership should have more female representation.
The most significant human right
At the top of the long list of achievements China has made in the past century, Schmidt believes, is the eradication of absolute poverty. "If someone is still struggling in poverty, other issues of so-called human rights are nothing but hot air."
2020 saw China complete the task of lifting all of its rural residents out of poverty. Since the late 1970s, China has helped more than 700 million people out of poverty, accounting for more than 70 percent of the global total over the same period according to the World Bank's international poverty standard. The World Bank estimates that nearly 700 million people are still under the world's absolute poverty line. "China's triumph over poverty shows that poverty is surmountable. It's not an incurable congenital disease," Schmidt said.
Schmidt believes that China has not only provided an outstanding example of poverty elimination, but also contributed to the development of many other countries, with the Belt and Road Initiative being the most striking example.
Recent years have seen a steady rise in two-way investments among countries along the Belt and Road. Statistics from China's Ministry of Commerce reveal that, during the 13th five-year plan period (2016-20), China's investments in these countries surpassed $90 billion.
"Thanks to these investments, countries which have been long oppressed by Western countries and taken advantage of as sources of cheap materials finally get opportunities to tap into their true development potential. China's inputs into infrastructure construction will help make the world fairer and safer," Schmidt said.
Enhancing understanding through cooperation
Schmidt feels sorry that most ordinary Germans have incomplete and biased knowledge of China. "The more China achieves, the greyer the picture most German media will paint of it," said Schmidt, noting that this was the case in the German media's reporting on China during the pandemic.
Schmidt says the Western media are trying to depict China as an aggressive power. "But they're unable to offer any facts to back up their ideas," he said. "For decades, China has not made efforts to expand its territory, let alone wage war. This strikes a strong contrast with Western countries, including Germany."
Recently, human rights sanctions, as well as a series of events surrounding cotton from Xinjiang, have pushed China-EU relations through a series of changes.
Schmidt believes that China and Germany need to bolster multiple aspects of their cooperation in order to address any misunderstandings. In addition to introducing works of German literature to China, and vice versa, both sides should be working to further improve overall cultural communication.
In the post-pandemic era, efforts should be made to ensure that exchanges between people are restored. "After all, the best way to shatter deep-seated bias towards China and remove misunderstanding is to come to China and see with one's own eyes what's happening here," said Schmidt.
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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