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China in Spotlight


“Jean Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten, in an interview with Li Hui Wei of Contemporary World, the official monthly publication of the International Department of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee (CPCCC), reveals unique insights gained over a decade of working inside China. This interview was published in Chinese in the November 2010 edition of the publication and translated into English for Asean Affairs.

 Q: As a French scholar with a noble family background, you are regarded as an “overseas Lei Feng” in China. What attracts you to China?
A: The two most attractive elements of China for me are: a. The Chinese people – particularly the good-natured Chinese farmers. I am fond of Chinese cleverness (street wisdom), humor, hospitality, friendliness and sense of honor (face). Since 1997 I have stayed a few days each month in the countryside living with Chinese farmers.

b. The Chinese culture. I am particularly fond of Tang Dynasty porcelain, Ming Dynasty furniture, Qing Dynasty architecture, Beijing Opera and Chinese modern paintings (like the one next to my home). I have visited every Chinese province at least once. On every visit I try to better understand the local culture.

Q: You’ve stayed in China for more than 10 years. How do you perceive China’s achievements in reform and opening up?
Baron JC hunting at his estate in Burgundy, France, Nov 2010

A: The last 30 years of Chinese achievement since the start of the open door policy is straight-forward:

  • Major macroeconomic developments in terms of gross domestic product growth, making China the engine of growth for Asia-Pacific economies.
  • Major microeconomic achievements with 20 state-operated enterprises listed in the Fortune 500, with Petrochina topping the list.
  • China’s rapid response when faced with major catastrophic events such as the 1998 flood and the 2009 earthquake. I would like to particularly praise the People’s Liberation Army when more than 1 million soldiers were dispatched for humanitarian relief in both cases.
  • Major achievements in terms of giving a better standard of life to the Chinese farmers after successful ongoing land reform policies.
  • China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
  • Chinese government’s intelligent use of the LU Xun “Yang Qi” model to take the best from the West and leave the rest.
  • China’s international status as a “responsible” member of the international community with well recognized China involvement in United Nations peace forces and the exceptional marketing of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Q: What problems do you think China is still faced with in her economic development?  


President of RIESS
Jean Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten, is President of the Royal Institute of East-West Strategic Studies (since 2009) and Visiting Professor/Director of Research at the People’s University of China. He is well known to have been the first and only Caucasian specially invited member of a Chinese parliamentary institution (Changchun CPPCC 2001).

He is honorary adviser to several central and local government agencies in China (NDRC, MOFCOM, MOE, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqin). He is also non-executive director of six companies in Hong Kong/PRC and involved in China business/investment advisory to a dozen Fortune 500 multinationals. Outside China he is Honorary Representative of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Honorary Professor at Assumption University of Thailand, and Adviser to the US Coalition of Service Industries. He was named a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2003.

He received bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in engineering from the University of Strasbourg and a master’s degree in management from Oxford University in 1991.

Professor von Pfetten is the author of several research papers on the subjects of China foreign direct investment strategies, the Chinese model of corporate governance, and Asian leadership changes, presented at United Nations and APEC summits.

A: The most important problem facing the Chinese economy is the increasing gap between the countryside and the city. China is still a developing country with a rather low gross domestic product per capita.

I would like to add the following:

  • Continue to expand domestic demand and stimulate the consumer market away from foreign direct investment and the export oriented economic growth model. Efforts are needed to increase the income of residents in raising the minimum wage standard. It would be helpful to raise the minimum purchase price of grain and boost the income of farmers.
  • Manage the growth of urbanization carefully. Implementation of land reform raises the possibility that farmers will trade their land use rights, thus depriving them of an important security.
  • Support the service sector, which is environmentally friendly and instrumental in job creation. The government can provide incentives for starting one’s own business, effectively giving more support to the rising private economy.
  • Bolster the international influence of the renminbi and encourage Chinese companies to establish international footholds and acquire valuable resources and assets overseas.

I would also suggest that China’s current development transformation be accompanied by a profound reform of people’s ideas:

  • The phrase “economic growth” should be replaced with “economic development”.
  • Local government officials should switch from “rich nation first” mentality to “rich people first”.
  • The economic cake should be made “better” instead of “bigger”.
  • State-owned capital should change from “profit-oriented” to “public interest oriented”. Such change of the people’s mindset is a prerequisite for a sound implementation of new rules and regulations enacted from the central government .

Q: We hear that your biggest wish is to join the Communist Party of China (CPC). May we know the reason why you want to join the CPC and what you think about the development of the CPC?  

A: Beyond my 1999 party report I would like to add:

  • CPC has an historical meaning for the Chinese people: the party assures the stability of the country and is giving the Chinese people back their pride after so many centuries of foreign humiliation.
  • CPC has an historical meaning for the world: the CPCstrengthened China is the only country giving alternative ideals since the fall of Soviet Union and insures stable economic development for the country to enable the country to become the engine of growth for the world at large
  • CPC current ideals are very close to those of my greatgrand- uncle, Joseph Faisant, that were embodied in the Radical- Socialist Party of France in the1920s. He was MP and helped to organize young Chinese to work and study in France, including Deng Xiaoping in 1921, who worked at the steel mill of my family in Burgundy. These ideals can be simplified into a vegetable called “The Radish”: Red outside (socialist), White inside (traditional values) and always very close to the butter plate (attention to the economy and well-off society). I personally particularly subscribe to the making of an “Harmonious Society” which still remains to be achieved in China and the rest of the world.

Q: Recently, China’s position in the international community has been rising. However, there are some unfriendly comments about China. In your opinion, how should China improve her image in the international community?

A: I am very surprised by the last three years of increased misunderstanding of China by the rest of the world, particularly Europe, probably due to the financial crisis which is still very damaging in terms of its decreasing wealth and increasingly protectionist mindset. I now feel that the Chinese government should better use China’s rich culture to win the hearts and minds of Western people by promoting Chinese cultural centers abroad, for instance; and also use foreign voices to represent China outside. Given its rapid economic growth, some commentators have argued China has become a global power and is no longer a developing country. Others say China should redefine itself a “responsible stakeholder” helping maintain the present international order. These arguments are inconsistent with China’s reality. For all the hype about China’s rise, its per capita GDP ranks 104 worldwide in a World Bank report, lower than many other developing countries. China should and will continue to align itself with other developing countries.

JC Iseux, left, with General Fidel Ramos, former president of the Philippines In 2005, Professor von Pfetten, left, is greeted by General Cao Ganggquan, then Chinese Minister of Defense, right. Professor von Pfetten in 2006 , left,with Zohong Nan Hai, center,and Zeng Peiyan, then Chinese deputy prime minister, right.

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