Allan Zeman: Achievements of China are rooted in "putting people first"
Dr. Allan Zeman, GBM, GBS, JP, is the Chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, a major property owner and developer in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong Area, one of Hong Kong's most popular tourist and entertainment districts. He was born into a Jewish family in Germany and raised in Canada, and he renounced his Canadian citizenship and has become a Chinese citizen in 2008.
His story with China goes back 45 years ago. He accepted our interview on April 19, to share his first-hand experience and thoughts on the achievements of China, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), in the past ten years. This interview has been edited and condensed.
I watched China change dramatically, especially these last 10 years, when President Xi Jinping was elevated to the head up the country and the party in 2012.
Development both domestically and internationally
The first thing he did was to realize that corruption in the CPC was a very big factor that affects the CPC and China at the beginning of his term. And this was something that people, the masses resented. In the first few years, he consolidated power for himself and put a good team together, strong team together. He was the one that was able to put together a team that could really crack down and only through having strong backing with himself. Because no other leader, I think, would have been able to establish that cracking down on the endemic corruption at the time, really arresting leaders of different provinces in government, both high-level and low-level officials. This was never done before, no one has ever heard of it. I think at last count, maybe from the beginning up to now, about 4 million people have been arrested and prosecuted. This is a very big number. So people started looking at him very different -- this was is a leader that really meant business; this was a leader th at really showed that "want to improve the life of the people" -- and which he did.
When he came in 2012 and was put up at the top, he strengthened the party in many ways. He put good people in and continued to grow the number of CPC members -- they grew to 95 million, 10 million more than the population of Germany. Under him, the party became more disciplined, pure, and powerful. Because of his leadership core, he was able to unify the entire party, really everyone behind it.
The other thing that president Xi has done is the green development. This is the buzzword now for the young people, for the world, about saving the planet. And China is one of the leading countries in cleaning up the pollution. In the past, they were doing everything possible to make their people wealthy and to give their people jobs. And pollution was part of the process, because burning coals was a big problem. We used to go to Beijing, and I remember the air quality of Beijing used to be terrible. Then in 2020, the percentage of days with good air quality in Beijing was 75.4%, and was 87 % in the cities, which really is a very good thing. China has plans for 2060 to reach carbon neutral. The world is now looking at China as being a very responsible citizen.
He made China under his leadership into a powerful country and now entering an era of strength. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, has now brought so many people out of extreme property, and a very strong middle class in China today. China was able to literally bring people out of extreme poverty nationwide. He took 100 million people out of poverty. No other country in the world has been able to do that. China is the first one. He walks with the people, because he came from a place before he lived in the cave for many years, when he was growing up, so he understood the hardships that people really have to live with. He realized that the divide between the rich and the poor is becoming too great, so he is serious about "common prosperity".
China is taking the right path under President Xi. U.S. is used to being No.1 in the world, even though its economy is still No.1 and China is No.2. In the next 10 years or sooner, I believe China will be developing faster. And we can see with U.S. -- they're very, very worried, and that's why they're putting up all these barriers against China. So when Huawei with its 5G was leading the world, they tried to say, "Chinese government will be spying on us, if we allow 5G into our countries by Huawei". They banned certain countries from accepting Huawei's 5G. And they decided to take a step further, "we will hold back selling chips and semiconductors to China so that they can't advance their technology". That didn't scare President Xi.
What President Xi did was to say, okay, we'll be self-reliant -- The same like he did with the trade war when he had to decided we can sell our own goods to our own middle class. Same thing with chips and semiconductors, president Xi decided we will give a lot of money to anybody who wants to start chip technology development. So China is very, very busy at the moment, producing their own chips and of course upgrading all the time and innovating all the time.
"I saw the changes taking place in the people"
When President Xi came in, he came with the "China Dream" and instilled it in all the people.
I saw the changes taking place in the people, in the population, in my staff in mainland China, in the people I talked to in mainland China, and in how the world was looking at China -- Before, for them, China was the second-class country -- U.S. was No.1 and China really was coming out, but not so strong. But President Xi came in and he set to make his agenda widely known. He wanted both domestically and internationally growth. There was something that he decided is very important.
In the past, the East always looked to the West -- sent my kids to school in the US; schools were better in the US; moved to the US, traveled to the U.S.… Since Xi Jinping came into power, for the future, the West will be looking to the East. I tell young people "Go East, young man, not 'East go West'". The strength of China will only get stronger and stronger.
And Hong Kong will always remain the super connector between the East and the West, and China needs that. So "one country, two systems" will always remain. President Xi knows that's very important.
Because Hong Kong only has 7.5 million people, whereas mainland China has 1.4 billion people. They don't need another Chinese city of 7.5 million people. But under "one country, two systems", with our Common Law System and our independent judiciary, Hong Kong is very good for China, because we're the guy in the middle that has trust from the rest of the world because of our Common Law System. China has the Civil Law.
Harvard Survey: 92% Chinese respondents love and respect their government
Beijing had the Summer Olympics in 2008 and now the Winter Olympics. No city has ever had both Olympics before. And yet they were able to show the world that, during this Covid-19 outbreak, they came up with the "isolation bubble" in Beijing, where the athletes flew in, could not go into the city of Beijing, but they stayed in the Olympic village; people outside the "bubble"didn't get infected; the athletes came out, they did what they had to do; Zhang Yimou did great opening and closing ceremony to show the world the strength of China; the athletes left very happy, having a great event. These are things that I call "soft power", how China has been able to show the world what we have.
About 8 months ago, Harvard university did a survey in China of the people, some of the questions were, do you love your government? Do you respect your government? What do you think of your life? Is your life getting better? 92 % came back that they love the government, they respect the government, their life is getting better.
Western countries have so-called democracies, they think about democracy first, and everybody fights for their survival. There's no thought process that really works. And that's why they're falling behind. In the U.S., you have the Republicans and Democrats, they hate each other, they can never agree on anything. That's why the countries stand still.
Western societies are apart. Chinese people work together. Because if they make people's lives better, then the people will believe in them, love them. When you have 1.4 billion people, you have to have the Chinese system. And that system really does work, when you have that many people.
Probably, if many of the rest of the world were to travel to China and see the airports, see the roads, the bridges, the life styles the people in China have, they would understand why China is likely to be the leading country, the No.1 country in the world in the future. And they don't have to fear China, because China is a very peaceful country. The nature of the Chinese is to be very peaceful. All they want is for a better life, for their own people. I go back with China 45 years, so I've seen the changes taking place in China. It's upgraded, and made the life of the people better, and really was the Communist Party of China that was empowered during different stages. Because they put people first. That's the most important thing.
And that's basically my summation. So I look forward to the 20th CPC National Congress.