Country ready for new chapter of progress

2021-01-20 12:04:51

  People gather to celebrate the arrival of the New Year near the Bund during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China on Dec 31, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] Recently, I arrived in Shanghai as the Republic of Korea's consul general. The period for which I will be serving in this diplomatic function will overlap with the early years of the 28 years between China's two great centennial celebrations-namely establishment of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. By coincidence, I traveled every nook and cranny of this country alone as a backpacker 28 years ago. Since then, I was posted to various European countries, and it was only in December that I finally arrived in Shanghai. This 28 years of absence has brought pleasant surprises and a fairly accurate description of how much this country has changed. To say nothing of the jaw-dropping high-rises, I also feel the changes within the Chinese people, which, interestingly, they do not notice. They have become way more confident than the people I met as a traveler 28 years ago. It seems to me they have strong confidence of their past achievements, current path and the future success they are certain of. This confidence makes them smile, be patient and kind, and behave in a mannerly way. Both the unpolished kindness and unbridled curiosity that once surprised a young diplomat turned into the usual manners that I have become accustomed to during my diplomatic life. The timid and concerned eyes of youngsters that I met in the long train carriages with hard seats are replaced with the dazzling pride and bottomless cheers of the so-called linglinghou, or the post-millennial generation. I admire the remarkable changes that the Chinese people have attained and I pay great respect to their efforts and hard work for this success. However, when we drink, we should remember the one who dug the well. In 1921, the story began when a dozen young men gathered in Shanghai. That was how the first 28 years started with the establishment of the Party. The story of life and death, success and failure, joy and despair. The story of a young revolutionary couple, captured, tortured and sentenced to death, with the wife's execution postponed until after her childbirth. Hours before the execution, the mother, Zhao Yunxiao, was allowed to breastfeed her newly born daughter for the last time. While looking down at her baby, Zhao wrote a heartbreaking letter starting with "my dear little baby", telling her about her parents, wishing her happiness that she could not share. The first 28 years, from 1921 to 1949, were an accumulation of stories of fortitude and struggle. A hundred years later, the Chinese people stand again in front of a new sheet of paper waiting to be filled with a new story. I am very thrilled to witness the first line of this story at a place none other than Shanghai, where the first story began. I am thrilled not because of the place, but I am thrilled because I will become a part of the story this time. Not only me, but the whole world will also be affected in one way or another by the second story of 28 years. The first story is all about nation building. The outside was insulated from what happened inside China. Given Chinese status and influence around the world today, it is neither possible nor necessary for the Chinese to do something that has no global effect. In accordance with the plot of the story to be told of China's next 28 years, the extensively connected world will inevitably fluctuate. China cannot be a single orator. It needs a participatory audience this time. It need not be a Chinese story at all. It shall be a co-authored work. In the early years of reform and opening-up, foreign companies rushed in to make something in China to benefit from the nation's cheap labor. And then to make products and services to satisfy Chinese consumers. But from now on, it is inevitable to make them with China, physically and metaphorically, given its economic prowess, global status and technological development. Multilateral cooperation with China at the center will become a must. The situation will see China take a leading role and take on more responsibility. Generosity, even political and cultural, will be exercised. Conciliation and concession will be praised. Strategic cooperation and constructive competition with China will be dominant. In this regard, the whole world will grab the pen together in good faith with China in order to write a story of concerted efforts for another 28 years to come. A handsomely grown-up China, leading and helping peers, is the one that many people like Zhao Yunxiao have desperately wished that their children would gain from their sacrifice in the first 28 years. A new chapter is now open. Another 28 years is just beginning. Go, China, go! Let's go together! The author is the Republic of Korea consul general in Shanghai. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.