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  Reform, opening up bring change in people's thinking  

The biggest change brought about by China's 30 years of reform and opening up is one in the thinking of the Chinese people, said David Lampton, professor from Johns Hopkins University, in a recent interview.

"I asked Chinese friends, what's the biggest change that happened with this open and reform policy, they don't say the buildings and the physical structures in China," Lampton told Xinhua.

"They say the thinking of the Chinese people is the biggest change," he said in the interview on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up which began in 1978.

"China has changed from the conception of the security of self-reliance to interdependence. And I think that is probably the most important change, not only for China but for the world," he said.

Lampton, a well-known expert on China and Sino-US relations, is director of China Studies in the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The historical motivation of China's reform and opening-up could be traced back to as early as 1840 when Britain launched the First Opium War against China, an event which ushered in more than 100 years of humiliation for the Chinese people, Lampton said.

"I pay careful attention to the world economic history. You look the world economic history from the birth of Jesus Christ to 1840, China accounted for 25 to 33 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP)," Lampton said. However, the percentage fell to three to four after 1840 and that remained pretty much the state of the condition until the late 1970s.

Since the beginning of the reform and opening up in 1978, China has begun to reclaim its share of global GDP. The current share, as the World Bank would put it, is about 16 percent, half way to China's historical stage.

Whatever the specific figures, the point is that China adopted the open and reform policy, he said. "In order to achieve what the Chinese people have wanted to achieve ever since 1840: that is to restore China as a strong, proud member of the world community. I think that is the fundamental motivation," Lampton said.

"And it seems to me that the core of the open policy, the reform policy is China is going to be urbanized, globalized and marketized," he added.

Lampton spoke highly of what the Chinese people have achieved with 30 years of reform and opening-up. "It's been a successful policy. If it had not been successful, I am sure that the pragmatic Chinese people would not continue it."

The policy was "remarkably successful" in at least two aspects, Lampton said. As a result of the policy, about 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty, a population bigger than the United States. Also, it has turned China, a rather isolated country in many respects in the late 1970s, into one whose opinion needs to be heard and its cooperation is required in order to solve most of the world's problems.

"I think the objectives of improving the economic lot of the Chinese people and enhancing national influence in the world have been served by this policy," he said.

On changes in other areas, the professor mentioned China's recent success in launching and safely recovering its Shenzhou 7 spaceship, its elevation from a net World Bank development assistant recipient to a fledgling donor country and the positive role it has been playing in the six-party talks on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula.

"So I think you can go policy area by policy area and see enormous progress," he said.

China also faces a number of daunting challenges on the road ahead, he said.

"We can look at this year's from the big storm in January, the earthquake in May to the global financial crisis in September and October. So I think in general, I would say Chinese leaders are probably at least as much focused on their problems as they are on the achievements of China," Lampton said.

According to the professor, there is a huge need for China to protect its environment. Though China has been partially successful in solving this "big problem," the regulation system has not kept up with the pace of development.

In a longer run, or in the next 30 years, China will face a demographic problem because a relatively small number of young people will have to take care of a growing number of old people. The issues of social security, retirement, and healthcare cost will become a grave challenge as China's population ages.

The rising expectations of the Chinese people for political participation and more material gains will be another challenge China faces.

When asked whether the development of China will help promote a harmonious world, Lampton said the improvement in the living standards of 20 percent of the world's population is a "good thing."

"The world would not be a peaceful place if 20 percent of the world's people feel that they are not making progress and are treated unfairly. So I think that it undeniably contributes to the world," he said.

"I look at China as a power as potentially an ally in solving problems," he added.

Talking about the future prospect of China's reform and opening-up, Lampton voiced confidence that China would continue this policy.

But "it is something that you have to keep fighting for because in each of our societies (China and the United States) there are forces who would like to close," he said.

"We have to keep trying to improve it and make it work so that the majority of people in both our societies recognize that is the most beneficial way to move," the professor said.

Editor: Feng Hui

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