In recent months, certain dramatic contrasts have become increasingly visible in China. In stark contrast to the more pessimistic attitudes, most people still maintain sufficient enthusiasm to spend money and to remain optimistic about their country's economic prospects. The crowds of consumers who flock to shopping malls and the stream of tourists to scenic spots in holidays stand as testament to this. While innovative enterprises which have managed to benefit from the Internet era are mulling over how to continue moving forward, those lagging behind in technological development are now struggling to survive. Fancy restaurants have tended to lower their profile and the country's super rich have begun to dispense with luxuries and get back to the grindstone, but, on the other hand, a high-end lifestyle has become increasingly affordable to the country's ever-growing middle class.
All of these phenomena indicate that the ongoing economic reform is changing China's social patterns. Superficially, economic growth is now in the middle of a slowdown. However, only certain groups of people have been affected by the economic restructuring. The growth momentum generated by the wave of ongoing economic reforms will strike a new balance among various interest groups.
Statistics imply that economic restructuring is really working, reflected in the lessening reliance on manufacturing and an increase in the role of the service sector. The manufacturing sector accounted for 45.9 percent of the GDP in the first quarter of this year, down from 59.1 percent in 2010. The proportion for the service industry stood at 51.1 percent in the first quarter, up from 39.1 percent in 2010.
The total retail sales of consumer goods rose by 11.9 percent in April, substantially fueling the economy and indicating that the domestic market continues flourishing. As the United States and European countries have begun to recover, overseas demand has regained its momentum. In April, the total value of imports and exports amounted to $358.6 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent year on year.
Economic restructuring is never an easy task. The once aggressively expanding economy now needs to experience a gear shift, which will certainly give rise to a cluster of anxieties and concerns, such as criticisms of the problems arising from explosive economic growth in the past, panics concerning the gloomy real estate market and its deceleration, and worries over how to find new growth drivers. At the moment, what China needs most is composure.
As far as enterprises are concerned, what's important is to find new business opportunities. As the reform goes deeper and an array of "mini-stimulus" policies are released, more opportunities will indubitably be generated.
In April, more than 40 percent of fixed-asset investment, which has greatly powered the economy, came from private capital. To break down the monopoly and inject vigor into the economy, the National Development and Reform Commission has opened up more than 80 projects to private capital, encompassing energy, railway, highway and telecommunications, which will bring about economic growth. Without a doubt, the spread of mixed ownership will also give birth to an abundance of new market opportunities.
Meanwhile, the drive for simplifying administrative procedures and reducing government intervention will generate growth momentum. Pilot reforms in China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, Shenzhen Qianhai Economic Zone and Yiwu, a small commodity trading center in Zhejiang Province, have urged local governments to carry out administrative reforms.
As the new drive toward urbanization continues to advance, regional economic development plans, such as the Silk Road Economic Belt, Maritime Silk Road, Northeast China's Old Industrial Base, Yangtze River Economic Zone and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration are unleashing growth potential. During the urbanization process, more rural residents will settle down in urban areas. Therefore, infrastructure construction will also contribute to long-term economic growth.
Recently, the State Council unveiled a guideline, dubbed the New Nine Measures, on promoting the sound development of the capital market. This is not only an important move in building a multi-layer capital market, but also fuels the real economy by improving financial resource allocation.
Aside from that, technological innovation has served as the engine for economic and industrial restructuring. The development of information technology has remarkably raised productivity and will continue to revolutionize China's economic structure.
And, of course, the anti-corruption campaign and the combat against monopoly will ensure that wealth flows from traditionally monopolistic sectors such as transportation, energy and telecommunications to other fields to spur market vitality.
The series of reforms following the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held last November will engender innumerable business opportunities, and those who can seize them will be the victors in the future.
This author is the executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China