So I always look at China in the context of a rather long time

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by Xinhua writers Shang Yang, Zhou Xiaozheng, Li Changxiang

NEW YORK, June 22 (Xinhua) -- China's ruling communist party has transformed an underdeveloped country into an economic powerhouse in less than four decades, displaying an impressive level of adaptability and competence, a famed U.S. expert on China has said.

The Chinese leaders "are all extremely well prepared for their jobs," and the Communist Party of China (CPC) "has shown itself to be adaptable," Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR), told Xinhua in a recent interview.

One of the few well-recognized "China hands" in the United States, Orlins has been engaged in the promotion of U.S.-China relations since the late 1970s. He pays seven or eight visits to the country each year as the NCUSCR president, a position he has held since 2005.

"I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to have witnessed the growth of China," he said in his Manhattan office.

Recalling his first visit to Beijing in October 1979 as a U.S. State Department staffer, Orlins said that he didn't see a single car on his way from the airport to the hotel, and that the road had only one lane in each direction mostly occupied by ox carts and bicycles.

Today's Beijing is a totally different city, a sharp contrast to Orlins' hometown New York City, which "basically looks the same as it looked when I was born."

"I also went to places where there was no running water, no electricity, and children didn't wear shoes and were in tattered clothes," said Orlins. "And now I go to those same places, they have highrises and air-conditioning. Even the kids are bigger, because they're eating right and living right."

With this economic miracle taking place right after the catastrophic Culture Revolution, it indicates that "the Chinese Communist Party learns from its mistakes and is able to change policy enough to create growth," commented the expert, who was also a former banker, investor and lawyer.

"The communist parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe did not show adaptability, so they were unable to create an economy that was thriving," he added.

The CPC also has a "remarkable" organizational system that helps select the most competent persons and train them well to govern the country, according to Orlins.

"I cannot recall in the last 30 years meeting with a senior Chinese official who wasn't extremely competent," he said. "They know what needs to be done ... and as an American sitting there they always lay out to me a very clear plan for what needs to be done."

That's because all these officials have been trained well in different parts of the government -- in both rural and urban areas, economic and social matters, central government ministries and local provinces, he noted.

In Orlins' view, the CPC, which will celebrate its 95th founding anniversary on July 1, also faces problems and challenges, such as corruption and vested interests opposing reform.

The ongoing anti-corruption campaign is something that "absolutely needed to be done," and the "economic imperative" for China is to continue to push forward the reform.

"The old model for growth is not going to work anymore, the leadership understands that and is clear what needs to be done," said Orlins. "Sometimes the reforms are going to stifle growth in the very short term, but in the mid and long term, you are going to see greater growth."

Despite the lower growth rates caused by a painful economic transition, China also sees positive changes that could be "a real source of growth." For instance, the regulatory environment for small, tiny businesses has improved enormously; consumption has increased, particularly in travel and leisure; and companies like Alibaba and Tencent are growing at a rate of 30 percent or more.

"So I always look at China in the context of a rather long time," said Orlin. "Forty years working with China, you have to be an optimist."

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