Before our arrival to China, my impression was that the Chinese government was focusing on getting a lot of the big things right. Indeed, the economic reforms that started nearly 40 years ago under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping have entirely transformed the country. With an average GDP growth rate of close to 10% over that period, the tremendous development that China has experienced in these years is a testament to that vision.
In the cities that we visited –Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen– the results of the modernization process brought about by this economic success are immediately palpable. Redeveloped neighborhoods with state-of-the-art buildings, particularly in financial and business districts, are knit together by modern and well-run underground transportation systems. While there are zones that require further investment, with some old infrastructure still lagging behind, it is clear that large scale urban planning will continue to transform the landscape of these cities, as well as the lives of its citizens.
However, despite the big impression that all these changes cause to any first-time foreign visitor, what really caught my attention is that the Chinese government is also encouraging its citizens to get the small things right. From the beautiful flowers and small gardens that embellish local streets and highways, to the carefully crafted videos shown in subway trains inviting users to adopt basic courtesy habits, there is a clear effort to remind people that the small details are as important as the big picture. With public attention concentrated in landmark initiatives as the One belt, One road –which aims at defining the country’s future and global impact–, it is remarkable that the government is also prioritizing these other somewhat smaller initiatives.
“He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools”, said the great Confucius. By reinforcing the attitude to get the small things right, the Chinese government will certainly hope that their countrymen have the right tools to sustain their push for economic development. I, for one, will also take notice of this simple but powerful philosophy of life.