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China needs more finesse, lighter touch for future success

I share the view that if the Chinese leadership is able to undertake necessary reforms, China will surely be able to thrive and endure through to its centenary year ("Questions on China - and the world - in 2049"; Dec 27, 2015).

One cannot understate China's impressive transformation within the short space of just over three decades.

With regard to economic policy, China has excelled in creating a capitalist developmental state, with the government playing an active role in promoting and shaping business and industry.

Its former leader Deng Xiaoping had the foresight to build up powerful state-owned enterprises, while his successors have cultivated considerable foreign investment. The country's infrastructure has been transformed with new airports and high-speed railways.

Looking ahead, its priorities must surely be to stimulate greater domestic consumption and move forward with an economy based on ideas and innovation, rather than low value-added processes and pallid imitation.

In the political arena, the decision to implement "one country, two systems" to preserve Hong Kong's role in international commerce has been largely successful. This has been tested in recent years with civil activism; nevertheless, Beijing has exercised remarkable restraint.

Perhaps the greatest challenge that China faces in the coming years is managing its position as an emerging superpower within a new global order. As China adopts a more muscular military footing and seeks to grow its overseas influence through its "One Belt, One Road" plan, it should be mindful of other states' concerns.

Care must be taken to avoid unnecessary sparring with the United States. Confrontation and acrimony are petty and needless when strategic cooperation promises substantial dividends.

Likewise, cross-strait relations with Taiwan must be carefully nurtured with tact rather than brute force.

As circumstances change, Beijing must adapt. One might conclude that while China has come so far with maximum governance and steely confidence, the decades ahead call for greater finesse and a lighter touch.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'China needs more finesse, lighter touch for future success'. Print Edition | Subscribe