It’s been ten years since the Wenchuan Earthquake struck China, leaving an everlasting scar on ravaged land, but also revealing the strong and unyielding will of the Chinese people.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to deepen regional cooperation and improve connectivity on a trans-continental scale. While the scope of the initiative is still taking shape, the BRI consists primarily of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onwards to Europe, and the New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe. Six other economic corridors have been identified to link other countries to the Belt and the Road.
About 5 years ago we embarked on a global initiative titled “Thirsty Energy” to respond to water-energy nexus challenges around the world. The initiative, a joint effort of the Water and the Energy Global Practices at the World Bank, has finally come to an end. We wanted to reflect on the lessons learnt along the way, as our team has developed a fantastic set of material and methodologies to move the needle forward on this issue. We hope that the global community takes advantage of this to ignite change.
Among the 29 countries and economies of the East Asia and Pacific region, one finds some of the world’s most successful education systems. Seven out of the top 10 highest average scorers on internationally comparable tests such as PISA and TIMSS are from the region, with Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (China) consistently among the best.
But, more significantly, one also finds that great performance is not limited to school systems in the region’s high-income countries. School systems in middle-income Vietnam and China (specifically the provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong) score better than the average OECD country, despite having much lower GDP per capita. What is more, scores from both China and Vietnam show that poor students are not being left behind. Students from the second-lowest income quintile score better than the average OECD student, and even the very poorest test takers outscore students from some wealthy countries. As the graph below shows, however, other countries in the region have yet to achieve similar results.
In the last few years, CSA—which is an approach to agriculture that boosts productivity and resilience, and reduces GHG emissions- has gained momentum as understanding of its critical importance to the food system has risen. Nearly every government representative and farmer I meet during my missions (most recently in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan) expresses genuine interest in making CSA part of their farming routines and agricultural sector.
This momentum is reflected in the Bank’s own actions. Since the Bank started tracking CSA in 2011, our CSA investments have grown steadily, reaching a record US$ 1 billion in 2017. We expect to maintain and even increase that level next year as our efforts to scale up CSA intensify.
Over the past 15 years, China has emerged as one of the world’s financial inclusion success stories. While much attention has been paid to the rapid innovation and massive scaling of Chinese fintech companies, China’s successes in financial inclusion reach beyond fintech. Account ownership has increased significantly and is now on par with that of other G-20 countries. One of the largest agent banking networks in the world has been established. And a robust financial infrastructure has been developed that underpins these successes.
So what can policymakers in other countries learn from China’s experience? While China is in some ways a unique environment, there are still valuable lessons to be learned from both its successes as well as its remaining challenges.
A new report released last week -– Toward Universal Financial Inclusion in China: Models, Challenges, and Global Lessons - provides a wealth of data and information about the various initiatives and efforts that have contributed to China’s advances in financial inclusion. The report, which was jointly written by the People’s Bank of China and the World Bank Group, also outlines remaining challenges and distills lessons for policymakers in other countries.
Better jobs, higher salaries and improved access to basic services – the bright lights of cities seem to promise these and more.
Forty years ago in December, Deng Xiaoping delivered his historic speech "Emancipate the mind, seeking truth from facts and unite as one to face the future." This triggered four decades of reforms that have transformed China into the world’s second largest economy. By some time in the next decade, China will be among the few countries in the world that will have transitioned from low income to high income status since World War II.
Understanding the path China traveled, the circumstances under which historical decisions were made, and their effects on the course of China’s economy will inform future decision makers. Increasingly, this reflection is important to the rest of the world as more and more countries see China as an example to emulate. At the 19th Party Congress in November 2017, China accepted this mantle for the first time since the onset of reforms.
In some ways, China’s reforms were fairly mainstream. The country opened up for trade and foreign investment, liberalized prices, diversified ownership, strengthened property rights, kept inflation under control, and maintained high savings and investment. But this is simplifying the reforms and obfuscates the essence of China’s reforms: the unique steps China took reforming its system are what makes its experience of interest (see the Annex). Its gradual approach to reform was in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Although often compared, China and other transition countries were simply too different in terms of initial economic conditions, political development, and external environment.
Predominantly rural and among the poorest nations on earth, China was marred by the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the political disruptions during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Integration into the global economy was minimal. Industry was inefficient, but also far less concentrated than in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Perhaps most importantly, because China retained political continuity, the country could focus on an economic and social transition instead of a political one.
Comparison with much of the Latin American reforms also seems out of place. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina were far closer to a market-based system than China, and their reforms—liberalization and macroeconomic stability—were focused on macroeconomic stabilization, whereas China’s reforms aimed for a transformation of the economic system as a whole. So there is no need to juxtapose the “Washington Consensus” with a “Beijing Consensus:” the approaches taken served very different purposes indeed.
How can we harness the digital economy to make mobility more sustainable? This question was the main focus of this year’s Transforming Transportation conference, which brought together some of most creative and innovative thinkers in the world of mobility. One of them was Davis Wang, CEO of Mobike, a Chinese startup that pioneered the development of dockless bike-sharing and is now present in more than 200 cities across 12 countries. In his remarks, Wang raised a number of interesting points and inspired me to continue the conversation on the future of dockless bike-share systems and their potential as a new form of urban transport.
What exactly is dockless bike-sharing (DBS)?
Introduced in Beijing just under two years ago, dockless bike-share has been spreading rapidly across the world, with Mobike and three other companies entering the Washington, D.C. market in September 2017.
As their name indicates, the main feature that distinguishes “dockless” or “free-floating” systems from traditional bike-share is that riders can pick up and drop off the bicycles anywhere on the street rather than at a fixed station.
This is made possible by a small connected device fitted on each bike that allows users to locate and unlock the nearest bike with their smartphone in a matter of seconds—yet another new derivative of the “internet of things” revolution!
- Internet of Things
- digital economy
- smart mobility
- shared mobility
- urban mobility
- urban transport
- sustainable cities
- sustainable mobility
- Sustainable Communities
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Climate Change
- Urban Development
- East Asia and Pacific
- United States