Yang Yiyong’s unusual private pastime is to collect benchmark statistics to measure China’s return to world leadership. “It’s like a marathon,” says the scholar at China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). “193 nations are running against each other and we are measuring where China stands in that race.”
According to the 51-year-old’s most recent calculation, China reached 65.3 per cent of its great renewal last year. On Thursday, the director of the NDRC’s Research Institute for Social Development shared the most recent update of his Great Renaissance of the Chinese Nation Index on his Sohu blog using 2012 data.
Its results had previously been circulated internally at the NDRC and they mark a rise of 2.6 percentage points over 2010, when Yang last measured China’s national glory.
The “great renaissance of the Chinese nation” has become a political buzzword in the mainland. Xi Jinping, in his first speech as Communist Party General Secretary in November last year said the new Politburo had to “accept the baton of history and continue to work for realising the great renaissance of the Chinese nation to let the Chinese nation stand more firmly and powerfully among all nations around the world.”
Along with colleague Tan Yongsheng, Yang first measured the index in 2007 using 2005 data, when the nation achieved 46.4 per cent of its renaissance.
The index is the combination of 28 sets of data, which benchmark China’s economic, social and environmental conditions against international averages. They range from average protein intake to water pollution and military expenditure.
For Yang, China’s renaissance is not a return to old glories of the imperial past. “You can’t step twice into the same river,” he said paraphrasing the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Yang said he wanted to provide an overall measure of China’s global standing.
Yang declined to speculate about when China’s Great Renaissance would be complete. As a scholar, he said, he had no way of predicting the future.
All data sets have risen since 2005, but two have turned around since 2010: China’s international influence had fallen 1.7 per cent and the state of the nation’s natural resources has fallen by 0.8 percentage points.