Former Deputy Secretary-General of State Council on foreign investment, WTO, industrial policy, etc.
Selected translations of Jiang Xiaojuan's Academic Autobiography
Today’s newsletter features selected translations of the Academic Autobiography of Jiang Xiaojuan (Mandarin, JD.com).
From 2004 to 2018, Jiang worked in the State Council, first as Deputy Director of the Research Office. Later, she was a Deputy Secretary-General of the State Council, where she was responsible for education, science and technology, culture, health, sports, women and children, and ethnic and religious affairs. In other words, she was a minister-level official in the Chinese government cabinet.
Currently, Jiang is the Dean of the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, and member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and Vice-Chairperson of the Committee of Social Construction of the NPC.
Between 1986 and 2004, she was first a Ph.D. student and then a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one of the most important Chinese official think tanks. She was a visiting scholar at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand between November 1987 and January 1989.
There are already some English translations of her academic autobiography, including most recently by Jordan Schneider at his ChinaTalk newsletter. Weekend Long Read: What Electric Fans Tell Us About China’s Industrial Policy, published at Caixin in English in March, also appears to be an excerpt of the book.
而我进研究所时所在的工业发展研究室更是曾有过一位著名的室主任——朱镕基同志。我进研究所时的办公桌恰好是他用过的桌子,其中一个抽屉里还有一捆他的手稿《论企业管理》。他时任上海市市长,我请去上海出差的陈惠芹老师请示他如何处理这些手稿,回答说“不用留了” ,于是我就当废纸处理了,日后当然很后悔。两年后我也担任了这个研究室的主任。 1998年我去朱总理办公室汇报工作时,他还提及此事,笑道: "你就是江小涓啊,接了我的位子,坐了我的桌子，还卖了我的稿子。”
When I joined the Institute of Industrial Economics, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, I first worked at the Industrial Development Research Division. The division had one famous former director - Comrade Zhu Rongji.
When I entered the office, my desk happened to be the one he used, and there was a bundle of his manuscript "On Enterprise Management" in one drawer. He was the mayor of Shanghai at the time, and I asked Chen Huiqin, who was on a business trip to Shanghai, to ask Zhu what to do with these manuscripts. The answer was "No need to keep them."
So I treated them as waste paper, and of course, I regretted that later. Two years later, I also became the director of this division.
When I went to Premier Zhu's office to do a work report in 1998, he also mentioned this matter and said with a smile: "You are Jiang Xiaojuan, who took my position, sat at my desk, and sold my manuscript. "
In this part, Jiang Xiaojuan revisited her support of opening China to foreign businesses with the full realization that foreign investment and foreign trade is a sensitive subject because it is easy to arouse national emotions and be labeled.
研究外资外贸问题比较敏感,容易激起民族情感,被扣帽子。这种情形下,企业调研和案例研究有较好的说服力。1999年我有一次作学术报告,快开始时主办方有点紧张地告诉我,现场有几位听众是来“找碴”的,要当面提问题质问我为什么要为外资企业说话。此前我听到过其中一位对我的指责,说外资企业给中国员工的工资不到其国外同类企业员工的1/10,而我却为之“叫好”。我考虑了一下,就在报告中插进了我做的一个调研。当时媒体报道过一个例子,国内合资企业缝制国外品牌的比赛用足球,缝一个大概得到1.4美元,但在东欧国家缝一个的价格是4美元,而数年前西班牙的企业未关闭时缝一个是8美元。很多人对此不满意,说我国工人受到国外资本家的剥削。我恰好去苏北调研,就去看了一个体育用品合资企业,员工实行计件工资,平均月工资500多元,手快多做的能拿到600多元。一年下来可以拿到七八千块钱。而当时苏北农民的年人均收入还不到1000元,乡镇企业的平均年工资不到5000元。由于被报道过,此前就有数批采访者,员工抵触情绪挺大,说:“我们也想挣更多，你们帮我找?来这么多人.说些指责的话，老板不了,我们怎么办?"我讲了这个案例，也引述了员工的话，说如果我们找不来让他们挣更多钱的机会,这个就业机会对他们就是重要的。后来的提问环节,这几位没有发言。后来我又认真看了他们的相关文章,发现基本观点虽然不同,但也有合理成分,于是我专门就外商只挑选好客户而国有企业还要承担普遍服务功能这个现象,写了一篇文章-《外商挑奶皮,内资受歧视》,并提出了相应的政策建议。研究对外开放问题,始终要回应担忧和质疑。2008年是改革开放30周年,国内再次集中关注开放中的利益得失间题。当时的批评意见主要有:开放收益分配中我们所得很少,主要利益被国外投资者获得;外资不引进先进技术,只是大量转移落后技术和污染产品;出口商品主要是资源能源高消耗的产品和污染环境严重的产品等。当时我已经离开了社会科学院,但感到事关重大应该发声,就根据多年的研究积累写了一篇论文,有针对性地回应有关开放问题的若干争论。稍后,我又约请易纲、常青、刘世锦、王子先等学者合作写了一本专著--《中国开放30年:增长、结构与体制变迁》,他们都是相应领域中的资深专家，分析深入又具体,当时颇受欢迎和好评。后来这本书还由Cengage Learning出版了英文版: Thity Years of Opening Up in China
The concentrated entry of foreign-funded enterprises has brought great pressure to domestic enterprises, caused many voices of doubt, and also attracted the attention of high-level decision-makers.
I studied industrial issues before, so I focused on the relationship between foreign capital utilization and domestic industrial development. At that time, there was a view that the massive entry of foreign capital inhibited the development of domestic industries. Our research shows that the opening up of the domestic market and the introduction of foreign capital brought competition, which indeed put pressure on domestic enterprises in the short term. But at the same time, competition had played a positive role, forcing domestic enterprises to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance competitiveness.
The industries such as household appliances, automobiles, communication equipment, industrial and engineering machinery, machine tools, electric power equipment, and daily chemical industry, which opened up earlier, had experienced the process that domestic enterprises being suppressed first and then developing, domestic and foreign-funded enterprises developing together, and the whole industry continuously enhancing its international competitiveness. Especially when domestic industries are improved, multinational companies will introduce more advanced technologies, improve the overall technology of the Chinese industry, and promote the technological progress of domestic enterprises through extensive spillover effects.
At that time, some industries were particularly affected by foreign investment. I remember that around 1998, a retired minister-level official wrote a letter to the leader(s) of the State Council, stating that the best enterprises in China's cleaning product industry have all established joint ventures, and this industry has been "swallowed up" by foreign capital. The official wrote that China’s own national industry had reached the critical juncture of life and death.
I happened to write an internal report based on similar facts but with different views, which was seen by Premier Zhu Rongji. He asked me to make an in-person report in his office. I went with Vice-President（of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences）Wang Luolin because my project was part of the research conducted by a team led by Wang. Maybe Premier Zhu felt I might feel nervous, after taking a seat, he joked about the fact that I had sold his manuscripts as scrap.
As mentioned in my report, there were indeed many joint ventures, but our original interests didn’t suffer a significant loss, and there were new benefits, such as basically retaining employment, substantially increasing wages, keeping production as usual and increasing output value, and rapidly improving technology, especially that environmental protection had improved significantly, while these (Chinese) enterprises (prior to joint ventures) used to be big polluters.
In terms of ownership (of the companies), we originally had 100% of the shares, then we had fewer shares, but these shares brought more than before. The joint ventures might cause us to lose the brands that we had been familiar with for many years, but we could take measures to encourage foreign-funded enterprises to inherit these domestic brands or create new brands for joint ventures.
At that time, I boldly predicted that the advanced technology and advanced management experience gained from this round of joint venture provided more opportunities for "learning while doing" and a large talent reserve. With the large market and large demand in China, the domestic industry will accelerate the overall upgrading and more domestic industries will develop through competition. Later, China's experience showed that the foreign capital, foreign technology, and management experience brought by opening-up promoted the high-level development of domestic industries and improved the overall competitiveness.
Foreign investment and foreign trade is a sensitive subject because it is easy to arouse national emotions and be labeled. In these circumstances, company-specific research and case studies have better persuasiveness. In 1999, I was about to give an academic report but shortly before the start, the organizer told me a little nervously that there were several listeners who came to "find trouble" and would confront me on why I spoke for foreign-funded enterprises. Earlier, I heard one of them criticize me, saying that the wages paid by foreign-funded enterprises to Chinese employees were less than 1/10 of those of similar enterprises abroad but I “applauded” that (practice despite the wage gap). I thought about it for a moment and inserted a research I did into the report.
At that time, the Chinese media reported an example. When a domestic joint venture sewed a soccer ball for a foreign brand, and it got about $1.4 for sewing one soccer ball, but the price of sewing one in Eastern European countries was $4, while the price of sewing one in Spain was $8 when a Spanish factory had not closed a few years ago.
Many people were dissatisfied with this, saying that our workers were exploited by foreign capitalists. I happened to go to northern Jiangsu to do research, so I went to see a joint venture in sports goods. The employees were paid piecework, with an average monthly salary of more than 500 yuan, and those who were quick and good could get more than 600 yuan. That’s seven or eight thousand yuan a year. At that time, the annual per capita income of farmers in northern Jiangsu was less than 1000 yuan, and the average annual salary of township-and-village enterprises was less than 5,000 yuan.
Because the issue had been in the media and there had been several groups of interviewers before, the employees were quite resistant and said, "We also want to earn more, so can you help me find the opportunity (to earn more)? There were so many people coming with accusations. If the boss (of the factory) quits, what shall we do? "
I shared this case and quoted the employees, saying that if we couldn't find opportunities for them to earn more money, then this employment opportunity was important to them. Later in the questioning session, those people (who came to “find trouble” ) did not speak.
Afterward, I carefully read their articles and found that although the basic viewpoints were different, there are also reasonable elements in their articles. Therefore, I especially wrote an article on the phenomenon that foreign businessmen only selected the good customers and state-owned enterprises had to undertake universal service functions - "Foreign businessmen pick milk skins, domestic capital suffers discrimination", and put forward related policy suggestions. When studying the issue of opening to the outside world, we must always respond to concerns and doubts.
2008 is the 30th anniversary of reform and opening-up, and the domestic public opinion once again focuses on the issue of gains and losses in opening-up. At that time, the main criticisms were as follows: we received very little in the distribution of benefits from opening up, and the main benefits went to foreign investors; foreign capital did not introduce advanced technology, but only transferred backward technology and polluting products in large quantities (to China); China’s exported products were mainly based on high consumption of resources and energy and serious environmental pollution.
At that time, I had left the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, but felt that it was important to speak out, so I wrote a paper based on years of research and responded to some debates about opening up. Later, I invited Yi Gang, Chang Qing, Liu Shijin, Wang Zixian, and other scholars to write a book - "China's Opening 30 Years: Growth, Structure and Institutional Change." They were all senior experts in their respective fields, and their analysis was thorough and specific, which proved very popular and well-received at that time. Later, the book was published in English by Cengage Learning as Thirty Years of Opening Up in China.
Everyone agrees that China’s accession in 2001 to the World Trade Organization is a milestone. But two decades later, few appear to remember that there used to be significant domestic opposition to joining the WTO and the Chinese government overrode the opposition, with both confidence in China as well as a hope for using opening up to promote domestic reforms.
Here, Jiang Xiaojuan recounted her calculus, which included opening-up and competition would break through some obstacles and promote domestic deep-level reform in many ways.
全民担心“人世” ,害怕降低关税开放国内市场后,许多国内产业被冲垮。许多人都说,在60%~-100%的关税下,国内的产品都没有太强的竞争力,如果再大幅降低关税,那么国内的企业就毫无市场了。我因此前有研究基础,对中国产业、外贸和外资企业等都有较深入的了解,因此我的观点与当时这种主流观点并不相同,我不认为国内产业没有竞争力。我提出的一个理由是,虽然当时我国的关税率较高,但那只是“名义”的。以当时反对声音最大的汽车工业为例,虽然名义上有60%-100%的关税,但进口的核心零部件,80%以上是由外资企业、开发区内的企业进口的,它们享有非常多的税收优惠政策,实际关税不到15%, “入世”后关税降至15%-20%,对这些企业并没有实质影响。这类“名义”与实际差别较大的情况较为普遍,再加上国内企业的应对能力、市场渗透度及产业链条,大多数行业和企业虽然会受到一定冲击,但不至于被冲垮,而且会在更开放的市场中更快提升国际竞争力。随后的事态充分表明这个判断合乎实际:曾经的担心几乎都未出现,还推动了中国经济的又一轮开放与高速增长。我是“入世”进程中国内少数明确表示支持的学者,也几乎是唯一明确表示国内产业不会受到大冲击的学者。我的主要观点在一些重要的党政内部资料上多次刊出,得到过国家领导人的多次批示,领导人也单独或在会议上听取我的意见,算得上是这个领域的“著名专家”。除了具有对国内产业、国际贸易和跨国投资等问题长期研究基础上的信心外,我坚定地支持“人世" ,还在于相信开放能够突破一些障碍,从多方面推动国内深层次改革。在参加这项工作的过程中,我也能感受到决策层具有同样的考虑和决心。“入世”时我们被附加了一些额外的条款或条件,其中一条是不承认中国市场经济国家地位。2003-2004年期间,我以专家身份参加外经贸部的工作组,到欧洲8个国家去做工作,争取让他们早日承认我们的市场经济地位。在这个过程中,我用大量的数据和事实,努力让这些国家的政府官员和学者更多地了解中国多年来的改革进程,了解中国为加入世贸组织而做的多项工作。在交流过程中,我也进一步理解了发展完善市场经济体系的几个关键问题。2003年下半年,我参加了十六届三中全会文件的起草工作。我提出建议,看望在文件中写入“各种所有制企业能够平等使用生产要素,在市场上平等竞争,受到法律平等保护"这样的内容,进一步完善市场经济体制,这个提法在文件的不同部分中得到体现。通过参与“入世”的相关工作,我有一点体会,那些椎动我们向前走的力量,往往是对我们至关重要却又是我们不能左右的力量。
The whole population was worried about joining the World Trade Organization, fearing domestic industries would be shattered after opening up the domestic market and lowering tariffs. Many people said that even under the tariff of 60%~100%, domestic products were not very competitive; if the tariff were greatly reduced, there would be no market for domestic enterprises.
I have done researches and established a deep understanding of Chinese industries, foreign trade, and foreign-funded enterprises. Therefore, my view was different from that of the mainstream at that time, and I don't think that domestic industries would not be competitive. One reason I put forward was that although the tariff rate in China was relatively high at that time, it was only nominal. Take the automobile industry, which was most vocal in opposition at that time, as an example. Although there was a nominal tariff of 60%-100%, more than 80% of the imported core components were imported by foreign-funded enterprises and enterprises in development zones. They enjoyed many preferential tariff policies, and the actual tariff was less than 15%. After China's accession to the WTO, the tariff dropped to 15%-20%, which would have no real impact on these enterprises.
Situations like this, where the nominal was quite different from the actual, were actually quite common. Coupled with the coping capabilities, market penetration, and the industrial chain of domestic enterprises, although most industries and enterprises would be affected to some extent, they would not be shattered, and they would enhance their international competitiveness faster in a more open market.
Subsequent events fully showed that this judgment was consistent with facts: almost none of the previous worries materialized, and the accession to the WTO also promoted another round of opening-up and rapid growth of China's economy. I was one of the few scholars in China who clearly expressed support in the process of China's entry into WTO, and I was almost the only scholar who clearly stated that domestic industries would not be greatly impacted. My main views were published many times in some important internal materials of the Party and government and won repeated written instructions from state leaders, who listened to my opinions alone or at meetings. So I was regarded as a "famous expert" in this field.
In addition to having confidence based on long-term research on domestic industry, international trade, and transnational investment, I firmly support the accession to the WTO for another reason: I believe that opening up can break through some obstacles and promote domestic deep-level reform in many ways. In the process of participating in this course of work, I could also feel that decision-making leadership had the same consideration and determination.
When we entered WTO, we were attached with some additional terms or conditions, one of which was not to recognize China as a market economy. During 2003-2004, I participated in the working group of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation as an expert and went to work in eight European countries to strive for their early recognition of our market economy status. In this process, I used a lot of data and facts to make the government officials and scholars of these countries know more about China's reform process over the years, and know more about China's work for joining the WTO. In the process of communication with them, I further understood several key issues in developing and perfecting the market economy system.
In the second half of 2003, I participated in the drafting of the documents of the Third Plenary Session of the 16th Communist Party of China Central Committee. I proposed to write in the document such content as "Enterprises of all kinds of ownership shall be able to use production factors equally, compete equally in the market, and be protected equally by law" to further improve the market economy system, which was reflected in different parts of the document.
Through participating in the work related to China's entry into WTO, I have one reflection: the forces that propel us forward are often forces that are vital to us but could not be influenced by us.
(Your Pekingnologist tried but couldn’t come up with a good idea of what Jiang was saying here in this last paragraph.)
Jiang Xiaojuan revisits an argument she had with China’s science and technology circles in early 2003 when she was vocally against launching state-funded projects for technologies that she deemed had to be tested by the market and better left to the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Jiang also cited the example of China’s Internet giants as a successful example that the Chinese government didn’t pick winners and left the fierce market competition to produce champions.
2003年初,我与科技界有过一次关于引进技术问题的讨论,引起较多关注和争论。当时我参加了科技部组织的一次重要会议,主题是制定国家科技重大专项,参加者都是国内顶级科技专家。我前面的专家发言认为引进外资不可能提升中国产业的技术水平,而是跨国公司借此转移落后技术和污染技术。同时多数专家还认为市场导向的企业不可能有长期眼光和科技实力,因此需要政府组织科技界搞攻关项目,才能促进全面的技术进步。由于他们不专门研究经济问题和产业问题,我感到有必要将实际情况说清楚,恰好我刚刚出版了一本专著《中国的外资经济:对增长、结构升级和竞争力的贡献》并带在包里,于是就在我的发言中插入了一些情况介绍。比如我对127家跨国公司在华投资企业的调研表明,外资企业是新产品新技术的重要提供者,与外方母公司的技术比较,提供了最先进和比较先进的技术的企业占比达到76%;与国内企业的技术比较,填补了国内空白的企业比例达到65%,其余企业都使用了国内先进技术。再比如外资企业在中国的出口增长中占了半壁江山, 70%以上的高新技术产品是外资企业出口的。因此在全球化时代,要重视科技创新,但不能排斥引进技术,特别是产业技术,引进、消化、吸收、提高,是迅速提高产业技术水平的一条重要途径。同时,我还举了几个民营企业的例子,表明它们有技术创新的动力而且成了全球的“排头兵”行业。面对满堂意气风发准备大规模推进重大科技攻关项目的科技专家,我这番话的效果可想而知,质疑者、批评者甚多。不过,我对这个问题的各个层面确有深入研究,有足够底气,并不怕质疑。第二天本来可以不参加会议,听说了这些反馈,我还专门去和专家们讨论请教,我以实际情况、数据案例说话,倒也挺有力度,并未被问住或驳倒。至今还有不少人记得这次争论。在那次发言中我特别表明,坚决支持在市场不能为、不愿为或者交给市场主体效率低、速度慢的关键领域中,由国家组织重大攻关项目。但是,当时想要组织攻关的技术专项,既有类似“两弹一星”这样服务国家重大目标、无须通过市场竞争检验的战略性项目,也有更多需要进入市场与国内外企业相竞争的技术。后一类技术不仅需要有所谓“核心技术”的领先水平,还需要有设计和生产时间优势、成本优势,特别是成本控制与极高良品率一致性的优势,还有嵌入到现有配套产业链或推动形成新配套产业的优势。哪一种能力的形成都充满着不确定性和风险,都需要基于企业家精神的创新与拼搏,也需要市场提供激励和溢价变现的通道,消化试错成本并分散失败的风险,有效的体制机制才会吸引越来越多创业者和投资人甘愿冒失败的风险倾心于创新。我国互联网产业的发展是一个典型案例。当时,有无数的中国创业者投入到了全球互联网大潮之中,各类互联网公司如雨后春笋般涌现, BAT (百度、阿里巴巴、腾讯)三家公司都已崭露头角,但还不那么突出和知名。虽然有过多次“是否太多”“是否太乱”的讨论和担心,但政府并未如此前那样选择以“定点企业”“牵头企业”等方式给予其选定的企业特别支持,也没有以过早或过度的监管抑制更多企业的创新,而是顺势而为,容忍了这种“一哄而起”的竞争格局,并以各种方式提高全社会对信息化和互联网的认知度,我国互联网普及率以远高于世界的速度增长。经过“泥沙俱下、大浪淘沙”后,最顽强最幸运者“脱颖而出" 。 BATE家并非政府选择的企业分别在搜索引擎平台、电子商务平台和社交平台方面站到了全球产业的前沿,还出现了众多“独角兽公司”和更多的创新型中小企业。在这个过程中,企业不断调整和改进,在应对假冒产品、信息披露、交易信任和物流配送等方面,虽然做得不算尽善尽美,却也是持续有效改进,得到市场和消费者的认可。从2012年开始,中国互联网普及率超过世界平均水平。
At the beginning of 2003, I had a discussion with the scientific and technological community about the introduction of technology, which caused some attention and arguments.
At that time, I attended an important conference organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology, with the theme being formulating major national science and technology projects, and all the participants were top domestic science and technology experts.
Experts before me (in the discussion) said that the introduction of foreign capital could not improve the technology of Chinese industries, but multinational companies could transfer backward and polluting technologies (to China). At the same time, most experts also believed that market-oriented enterprises couldn’t have a long-term vision and scientific and technological strength, so it would be necessary for the government to organize scientific and technological circles to carry out key projects in order to promote comprehensive technological progress.
Because they didn’t specialize in economic issues and industrial issues, I felt it necessary to explain the actual situation clearly. I just published a book "China's Foreign Capital Economy: Contribution to Growth, Structural Upgrading, and Competitiveness," and brought it in my bag, so I inserted some information into my speech.
For example, my survey of 127 multinational companies investing in China showed that foreign-funded enterprises are important providers of new products and technologies. Compared with the technology of their foreign parent companies, the proportion of enterprises that provided the most advanced and more advanced technologies reached 76%; compared with the technology of domestic enterprises, 65% of the foreign-funded enterprises in China had filled the gap in China, and other foreign-funded enterprises in China had used domestic advanced technology.
Another example is that foreign-funded enterprises accounted for half of China's export growth, and more than 70% of high-tech products were exported by foreign-funded enterprises.
Therefore, in the era of globalization, we should attach importance to scientific and technological innovation, but we should not exclude imported technology, especially technologies in industries. Introducing, digesting, absorbing, and improving technologies is an important way to rapidly improve the level of industrial technology.
At the same time, I also cited several examples of private enterprises which showed that they had the power of technological innovation and become the "vanguard" industry in the world.
In the face of a full house of scientific and technological experts who were ready to push forward major scientific and technological research projects on a large scale, you can imagine the effect of my remarks. There were many skeptics and critics.
However, I had done in-depth research on all aspects of this issue, and I had enough confidence and was not afraid of being questioned.
I didn't have to attend the meeting the next day. After hearing about some feedbacks, I went to discuss and consult with the experts. I spoke with considerable strength in terms of the actual situation, data, and case studies. I kept my momentum.
Many people still remember this debate. In that speech, I indicated in particular that I strongly supported the organization of major key projects by the state in key areas where the market could not do it, was unwilling to do it, or market players would proceed with low efficiency and slow speed.
However, at that time, the projects that they wanted to organize to tackle key problems, included not only strategic projects like "two bombs, one satellite" which was to serve the major national goals and would not need to pass the test of market competition, but more projects on technologies that would need to enter the market to compete with domestic and foreign enterprises.
The latter sort of projects would need not only the so-called leading "core technology", but would also have to have advantages in design, production time, cost, and especially the advantage of consistency between cost control and extremely high yield rate, and the advantage of being embedded into the existing supporting industrial chain or being able to promote the formation of new supporting industries.
Any of the above is full of uncertainties and risks and requires innovation and hard work based on entrepreneurship. They also require the market to provide incentives and channels for cashing out at a premium, absorb costs from trial and error, and spread the risk of failure. Only effective institutional mechanisms can attract more and more entrepreneurs and investors to take the risk of failure and devote themselves to innovation.
The development of China's Internet industry is a typical case. At that time, countless Chinese entrepreneurs took part in the global Internet tide, and various Internet companies blossomed. BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) had emerged, but they were not so prominent and well-known (as they were later).
Although there have been many discussions and concerns about "whether there were too many (Internet companies)" and "whether it was too chaotic," the Chinese government chose not to give special support to its selected enterprises by means of "designated enterprises" or "leading enterprises" as before. Nor did the Chinese government curb the innovation of more enterprises by premature or excessive supervision.
Instead, the Chinese government went with the flow, tolerated the "crowded" competitive pattern, and raised the awareness of informationization and the Internet in the whole society in various ways. The penetration of the Internet grew at a speed far above the world’s average.
After severe competition which eliminated those who couldn’t survive, the most tenacious and fortunate ones stood out. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, which were not selected by the government, stood at the forefront of the globe in the search engine, e-commerce, and social networking, respectively.
Many other "unicorns" and more innovative small and medium-sized enterprises have also emerged.
In this process, companies constantly adjusted and improved, and despite they were not perfect in dealing with counterfeit products, information disclosure, transaction integrity, or logistics, they by and large continuously and effectively improved, winning the recognition of the market and consumers. Since 2012, China's Internet penetration rate exceeded the world average.
By most accounts, the medical cost in China for citizens especially the poor people with serious illness remains exorbitant, sometimes resulting in tragedies where patients can’t afford treatment.
After all, this is a developing country where, according to Premier Li Keqiang, six hundred million - 600,000,000 - citizens earn less than 1,000 yuan (140 US dollars) in monthly (disposable) income.
On the other hand, China has poured trillions into its nearly universal medical insurance system in recent years, which now covering over 95% of the population. The progress in improving affordable health care is undeniable.
But there are always people who insist that in the old days of the People’s Republic, including even the Cultural Revolution, medical treatment was free and widely accessible, painting a utopia that simply didn’t exist.
This is what Jiang Xiaojuan has to say.
In 1972, my father moved back to Xi'an and became the editor-in-chief of (the newspaper) Xi'an Daily, and the whole family returned to Xi 'an. It coincided with recruitment in Xi'an Health School, and since I met the requirements, I signed up and was accepted. At the end of 1973, I worked as a nurse in Xi'an Central Hospital after graduation. A nurse in a hospital can meet all kinds of people and various scenarios: many patients say goodbye happily when they are cured and discharged from the hospital, and also scenes of incurable diseases and even death. Now people say it’s best not to test human nature, but under the conditions at that time, when seriously ill patients who had no access to free medical care backed by the state were hospitalized, they faced with medical expenses that might result in bankruptcy or even in debt for life, it was impossible that human nature wouldn’t be tested. When I was on duty, there was a tragedy in which the patient had a heavy headache due to high intracranial pressure, and the two families of the spouse argued over the medical expenses, which led to the patient jump off the building in suicide. My feeling at that time was that there was a pain but no hate - both families were poor and both had old people and children to take care of. There are also patients who didn’t have the money to pay for medical treatment, so they wouldn’t leave the hospital and stayed in the hospital for more than two years. (Typically patients were asked to pay upon checking out.)
In 1977, I joined the rural roving medical team and worked in Zhenping County, the southernmost part of Shaanxi Province for nearly one year. The group I was in was stationed in a commune health center, and also went to the county hospital to help. The farmers there were very poor, and many people were ill, but they stayed at home for a long time (instead of going to the hospital). They asked us to make a diagnosis and give treatment because we have some regular medicine that was free of charge. Sometimes, we recommended some critically ill patients to go to commune hospitals or county hospitals for further treatment, but that was basically impossible (because of poverty). There was a family whose father was a public official with income. All five children had tuberculosis, but only two boys were taking medicine. Even earlier when I accompanied my parents who were “sent down” to Hanyin County, Shaanxi Province. The eldest child of our landlord was a “barefoot doctor” in the village. He had a box for medicine. I don't know what medicines were in it, but there should be few varieties and not enough. I remember he borrowed money (from us) many times, saying that this month's medicine was used up, so he borrowed money to buy some first. Since the amount of his borrowing involved changes, he specifically explained why he wanted to borrow one and one tenths (1.1) yuan because he wanted to buy a bottle of painkillers, a bottle of licorice tablets, and a bottle of belladonna tablets (belladonna tablets are used to stop stomach cramps). This kind of medical service was extremely limited. I remember the leader of our production team had a six-year-old child who suffered from congenital heart disease but died because there was no money to cure it.
There was also a daughter-in-law, who got breast cancer and the doctor said a surgery cost more than 100 yuan. The family said no, and she died half a year later. Speaking of it, I know a lot about all levels of China's medical system before the reform, including medical institutions in production teams, communes, counties, and cities. Many years later, I took part in the reform of the medical and health systems. Now Some people compared the current medical system with the one before the reform and said that free medical services covering the entire population was achieved during the "Cultural Revolution", and that was praised by the World Health Organization. (That’s when) I think of all the above.
The book, Academic Autobiography of Jiang Xiaojuan, is available in Mandarin.