China’s reform and opening-up further links Chinese people with the world

Students in Vietnam greet China.

The 40 years of reform and opening-up in China has promoted an increased interaction between Chinese people and the rest of the world.

Since China’s reform and opening-up, more and more Chinese have traveled outside of China to communicate with the world. The following stories are from three Chinese citizens who have traveled, worked and volunteered overseas, to discover their perspective on how China is integrating with the world.

Ding Qiuge, a woman from a small village in central China’s Henan province, traveled together with her family to attend her daughter’s wedding ceremony in Phuket, Thailand this year. She told People’s Daily that it was her first time outside of China, and that she never dreamed she would be traveling abroad at the age of 52.

She explained that to travel abroad was once beyond the imagination of her generation, adding that when she was a child, people were excited to receive small gifts from as far afield as Beijing or Shanghai.

Ding’s first trip abroad impressed her greatly. “Everything there was fresh to me, and the scenery was breathtaking,” Ding said, adding that she was also fond of Thai food.

The constant rise in outbound Chinese tourism indicates the continuous improvements to the life of those living in China in the 40 years of reform and opening-up. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the number of outbound tourists from China has ranked first in the world since 2013.

Between 1995 and 2016, the number of Chinese outbound tourists rose from 5 million to 135 million, with an average annual growth rate of 17.6 percent. In 2017, 136 million Chinese residents went abroad for private purposes, accounting for more than 95 percent of total outbound tourism.

The reform and opening-up, enhancing China’s overall abilities over the past four decades, also encouraged Chinese enterprises to go global and expand their business overseas.

Foreign students learn to write Chinese characters.

Zhang Jin, an assistant chief engineer from a state-owned engineering company, was part of the earliest group to take part in a Chinese project overseas. In 2001, he was deployed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a hydraulic engineering project.

Zhang didn’t know what to expect from working overseas, adding that though he had some friends working in foreign companies back then, he had never considered working in a foreign country.

After working for years in the UAE, Zhang gradually noticed changes in the development between the two countries. “When I first came to Dubai, there were limited air routes from China, but now several cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have opened direct flights,” he said.

Moreover, Chinese investment and business are commonplace in the city now, and Chinese company advertisements are everywhere, he added.

According to statistics released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, from 1982 to 2000, China’s foreign direct investment was only $27.8 billion. However, between 2002 and 2017, the figure soared to $1.11 trillion.

Today, more Chinese people like Zhang are working overseas. Statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce showed that a total of 994,000 Chinese citizens were working in foreign countries by the end of August this year.

Feng Ai and African children.

Feng Ai, honored as one of “the top ten young volunteers” in China, served as a volunteer overseas in 2005.

Feng said that when she visited Nepal in 2002, she was surprised when some children were able to say “hello” in Chinese, and she even found a board with “hello” written on it in Chinese during her time in a small village. Thanks to this trip, she decided to become an international volunteer and help people in need outside of China.

Three years later, in 2005, Feng joined one of the earliest volunteer groups sent to Africa by the Chinese government, teaching Chinese at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Feng said that in the beginning, her family expressed concern about the life of a volunteer in Africa. However, much to their delight, Feng shared that the locals were curious and friendly towards Chinese people.

Taxi drivers would say “hello” to her in Chinese when she walked along the street, and Chinese Kung Fu was well-known by locals, Feng said.

Six months later, Feng became the only volunteer to extend her service, staying for one year in total. During this period, she not only worked in overseas enterprises, but also shuttled between the embassies of Italy, Turkey, South Korea and other cities in Ethiopia, giving full play to the language and service advantages of volunteers.

“We were the first group of volunteers there, and we were always exploring what we could do and what they needed,” Feng said, adding that the first group was made up of 12 volunteers in the fields of Chinese language, agriculture, sport, traditional Chinese medicine and informatization, and by the second year there were more than 50 volunteers.

Since the reform and opening-up in China, Chinese youths continue to gain more opportunities and choices to volunteer abroad.