The one question that kept propping up during the first of the two-part forum on “Understanding China”, organized by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) last February 27, was how China’s key position in the global politics and economy can benefit the Philippines, in general, and the various development sectors, in particular.
“How can China’s progress become the Philippines’, too?” This was one of the critical questions that PRRM Chair Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tañada posed to the forum speaker Chito Sta. Romana during his opening remarks. With all eyes on China, the former Philippine Senator was also keen to know as to how the country’s bilateral relations with the world’s second largest economy should be. The Spratlys dispute was among the list of every audience’s interests as far as the RP-China relations are concerned, topping other social development issues as smuggling and eco-waste.
During his 39-year residency in China, Sta. Romana worked as a reporter and producer for ABC News, part-time writer for the Washington Post, translator-editor for a Chinese publishing house, and even joined Chinese peasant-farmers and factory workers, making him one of the most sought after consultants on China matters upon his return to the Philippines. Sta. Romana presented how the two great Chinese leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, shared the goal of modernizing China, albeit with different approaches, and how it has awakened the sleeping dragon of Asia. Sta. Romana, however, was more intent in discussing the sustainability of China’s development process.
China has had an average annual growth rate of 9.31% during the past three decades, a doubled per capita income every nine years since 1978 (the fastest growth rate in the world so far), and a poverty reduction rate from 85% in 1981 to 15% in 2009, among its many other seemingly impressive development statistics. Despite this, Sta. Romana said that China now faces increasing inequality (between rich and poor, between urban and rural, between east and west), corruption in government and business sectors, environmental pollution, growing social unrest, and economic overheating, and is now looking for a way out. The usual strategy that made China what it is now will no longer work, added Sta. Romana, and there is a need to shift from export-led growth due to uncertain demand in the United States, Europe & Japan. The government cannot afford to undertake more infrastructure investment without worsening the inflation, and there is the challenge to expand domestic demand by promoting domestic consumption.
With participants from development organizations, the private sector and the academe throwing in more questions to Sta. Romana, PRRM President Isagani Serrano assured them of the second part of the forum to be scheduled soon.
Understanding China is part of PRRM’s 60th anniversary activities