UNDP administrator speaks highly of China’s reform and opening up

By Che Bin from People’s Daily

Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Achim Steiner recently gave an interview with People’s Daily, expressing his high praises for China’s reform and opening up.

“Almost 40 years of collaboration between China and UNDP covers a long period of extraordinary development in China, so the UNDP was very privileged to be an early partner to China’s economic transformation, and I think over this period we have moved from being a partner bringing expertise and knowledge of our development to China to increasingly being an actor within China’s development, innovation and reform process,” he said during the interview.

Setting its office in Beijing in as early as 1979, the UNDP is the first UN agency to establish office in China.

Steiner came to China for work almost on a yearly basis in the recent dozen of years. He told People’s Daily that China’s economic success is without doubt the greatest illustration of how the country has changed in the past 40 years.

“We should remember that its GDP about 40 years ago was smaller than that of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and today it is the second largest economy in the world,” he noted, adding that China’s economic transition is a remarkable success story.

Steiner praised China’s achievements in poverty alleviation, saying the country’s success in poverty reduction is without precedent.

He noted that all parts of China, from coastal areas to the western parts, even the areas of extreme poverty, had benefited from the rapid GDP growth. He introduced that the UNDP has promoted for years the concept of multidimensional poverty, which essentially measures the inequality or the deprivation of people not only by daily income, but also the access to education and health services.

“In these domains, it has really delivered a great deal of progress over the last thirty years. China is, in fact, the only country in the human development index of UNDP that has graduated over this three-decade period from being in the lowest category to now being amongst the highest category,” the UNDP administrator said.

Equal and balanced development policymaking has been part of China’s national development policymaking process for a long time. “In the context of that, China invested heavily also in the social and human capital, so to speak of its population,” Steiner said.

China’s education scale ranks the first in the world and Chinese people’s life expectancy is amongst the top echelon of countries. Steiner believes that these are all indicators that development goes beyond just the GDP growth and is trying to be more inclusive.

As the former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme and the vice chair of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, Steiner is pleased to see China’s recent achievements in ecological protection and sustainable green development.

He said the coupling of economic growth from environmental degradation pollution was a difficult journey, but China has begun to show significant success stories.

“I think ultimately the concept of ecological civilization that is now into a part of the 13th Five-Year Development Plan will allow China to become an example of the ecological transformation, perhaps, you know, moving towards a greener economy and development pathway,” he noted.

Steiner pointed out that since China’s accession to the WTO, it has taken the decision to engage more actively in global processes and the multilateral system. In recent years, China proposed a great many of new initiatives to promote global governance such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS New Development Bank.

“I think we can only welcome China’s more proactive engagement in the global policy making arena,” he said, adding that he hopes China to use the established institutions in the multinational systems so that nations could work together on issues related to free trade, climate change, as well as regional and sub-regional development agendas.

He said that China and UNDP have a great deal of common interests, and he hopes the two parties can continue to work together to promote the common development of the world.

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