The World Bank, heeding a Confucius saying “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door”, released this week a landmark report into the anticipated challenges and opportunities that China will grapple with over the next 18 years.
Titled China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society, the Report makes for compelling reading.
It notes that there is “growing recognition within China that the current pattern of production and growth is unsustainable …”.
This one finding is a direct challenge to the Communist Party to implement reforms that will place China’s future growth on a more sustainable footing and to ensure that economic growth is not at the expense of social and environmental concerns.
On the release of the Report, World Bank President Robert Zoellick paid tribute to the past achievement of Chinese growth policies that have seen “600 million people lifted out of poverty” and achieved growth rates of almost 10 per cent per annum for more than 30 years.
Without doubt, the Chinese economic and industrial revolution has had major implications for the world economy while posing challenges for the world’s geo-political balance.
While growth has been strong in the past, the report warns that it would be wrong to assume that growth will continue uninterrupted, based on the policies that have underpinned development to date.
The Report also notes that while China’s growth has been phenomenal, there remains an enormous challenge to ensure the benefits of growth flow through to the Chinese people still living in poverty.
The Report details in particular how China will face the challenges of an ageing population, which will impact before the nation is comparatively wealthy.
Many developed countries, including Australia, are well aware of the impending challenges posed by the ageing of the Baby Boomer generation that will put enormous strains on resources as large numbers of people retire in a relatively short time.
This wave of retirements coincides with a period of lower fertility, meaning there will be fewer new taxpayers to fund the increasing demands on government for health and other services.
The Howard Government commissioned two Intergenerational Reports, in 2002 and 2007, detailing the scale of the looming challenges of an ageing population, and the estimated cost burden on future generations.
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