Opening Speech at the Launch of 2016 China National Human Development ReportAug 22, 2016
By Mr. Xu HaoLiang,
UN Assistant Secretary General
UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director for Asia and Pacific
I am delighted to welcome you all to the launch of the China Human Development Report 2016, where we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first Human Development Report. The core message of this report – Social Innovation for Inclusive Human Development – is to address the progress and challenges of China’s human development and also its implication for global development.
In 1990, UNDP introduced the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures national human development from dimensions of income, education and health. Since then, UNDP has been working persistently to broaden the concept and practice beyond economic conditions and income growth.
When we refer to human development it fencompasses, the protection of people’s social rights to healthcare and education; equality among different communities and genders; and thirdly, mass participation in public affairs.
The National Human Development Report has explored and coordinated diversified human progress across different regions and societies, between rural and urban areas, between economic and social sectors, and between domestic and international regimes.
History has shown that human development evolves through both economic and social advancements. To sustain economic growth and balance social stability, development should not only benefit certain groups of people, but embrace all members of society- development must be ‘inclusive’.
By doing so, not only do we have a more favorable environment for economic growth, but also the vast majority of society can enjoy the benefits of economic development.
It is essential that ‘inclusive’ human development and economic growth do not conflict, but work together to promote the basic conditions of sustainable development.
However, it must be noted that the development since the 1980s, has seen a level of divergence in the ‘inclusiveness’ of human development. Although the overall trend in developed countries has been the continuation of social innovations, there has been a widening in income gaps, resulting in the deterioration of the ‘inclusiveness’ of countries. This is especially the case with newly industrialized countries with rapid growth rate and limited focus on social progress.
To change this situation and sustain economic and social advancement, the Human Development Report has been employed to help design proper economic and political institutions that explore the full potential of inclusive markets, encourage technical progress, invest in people, and reduce the inequality across regions and groups.
I am thrilled to see that in recent years, China’s overall human development has significantly progressed in terms of education, health care and public participation, but as the 2016 report emphasizes, many challenges do still remain and the imitations are still there. These limitations are twofold.
On the one hand, while economic growth has been substantial, developments in social progress, equality of voice and cultural prosperity, have been relatively limited.
On the other hand, for the mass population of the less empowered, for example the benefits of urbanization are still constrained. These limitations have urged the need for more inclusive human development.
The challenges are tough and the window of opportunity is limited- demographic changes, an aging population, economic downturn, and growth in public expectation alongside a digital divide across rural and urban regions provide great challenges for the inclusiveness of development in China.
However, bold decisions can still be made through careful investigation and planning. It is to this end that the China Human Development Report 2016 becomes is timely.
This report answers the key questions regarding the future development of China by analysing the characteristics of inclusiveness and of Chinese human development alongside the importance of social innovation. It also provides measures to promote China’s inclusive human development for both domestic and international experiences.
Throughout the report we can see that China is a unique case of human development. The market socialism regime, rapid economic growth over the past 30 years, and unique social-cultural environment, have distinguished it from most western societies.
It is with this in mind that the report provides concrete and transferrable examples of social policy such as the household responsibility system, which provides strong incentive for agricultural production, to the household registration reform that promotes labor migration, to employment support for college graduates and many more.
Furthermore, at UNDP and wider United Nations, we believe no one should be left behind and China has made unprecedented progress on this. From 1978 to 2010, 660 million people were lifted out of poverty, and the illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged has fallen to 1.08%.
China’s human development, which is systematically outlined in this report provides a comprehensive and in-depth case study for other developing countries, who may have an interest in China’s lessons. Likewise with the adoption of the sustainable development goals last year, I hope this report can support SDG 10- which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries, and serve as a reference for others.
The report provides the opportunity for South-South cooperation to be extended from trade and economic cooperation to more in-depth collaboration of experience sharing across the developing world.
A good example of such cooperation is the belt and road initiative by Chinese government since 2013. The land-based silk economic belt and oceangoing maritime silk-road underlies not only economic cooperation, but also collaborations in terms of culture, social policy and human development.
Lastly, I would like to take a moment to thank the team of authors from DRC and UNDP for their hard work and dedication on this important think piece. We hope the China Human Development Report 2016 will serve not only as an invaluable insight into China’s human development experiences and challenges, but also as a fundamental reference for both social practice in other developing countries and the understanding of the relationship between social innovation and inclusive human development in general.
I would also like to take this opportunity to also thank the Peace and Development Foundation, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Tsinghua Unigroup, Hengchang Litong Investment and Management, and Stora Enso Group for their donations that have made this report possible, and to the many colleagues in the United Nations System who provided valuable assistance.