Friday, July 25, 2008

30th March, 2008

China's rise: A threat?

By Mathew Yakai in Changchun

CHINA is a developing country, yet the fastest growing economy, becoming the third largest after Japan.

Its’ political and economic signs depicts that China is getting a global prominence while maintaining its regional power in all corners of Asia Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Coincidently, China is moving towards being a democracy in the past three decades.

Many will not live longer to see China after 20 to 40 years but every signs show that China will have a huge impact on the regional and world politics and economics given its current growth.

But if there is one thing that we all feel and experience as far as China is concerned then it’s the China’s presence in our kitchen, living rooms, dining tables and even the clothes we wear, ‘the China made products’.

Let me put it on record that “China made products” are of good quality and very cheap, giving us a choice.

Last year, Washington had a diplomatic stand-off with Beijing over “China made toys”. Only last month, Tokyo had the stand-off with Beijing over the alleged dumpling poisoning (food) exported to Japan.

America apologized after finding out that there were no fault with the toys.

Tokyo did a thorough investigation with the help from Beijing for possible food poisoning but to no avail, bringing back a likely diplomatic stand-off on track.

In PNG, we had the “tooth paste saga”. Unfortunately, our scientific capability is below standard and samples have been sent overseas for investigation.

But the local media have already tarnished Beijing’s reputation over the “tooth paste issue” like what American media did to China toys. America apologized later but PNG has not and this is an outstanding issue.

PNG government must build its scientific research institutions that can cater for any experiments, like in the case of “tooth paste” so that the finding is independent and credible.

We can not trust any results provided by overseas laboratories that have the opportunity to manipulate the findings for various reasons. Our educational institutions and scientist are capable to carry out experiments if more funds are allocated.

China made products, both soft and hard wares have penetrated almost all the countries, both big and small.

Some see China’s growth as a threat, few see as an opportunity but many will definitely appreciate when they benefit from what China is providing.

Coupled with its “global” presence in all forms and size, many see China as a “threat”. Scholars watch closely China’s rapid economic growth and predict that this pose serious threat in world peace.

“China’s fall a threat” is the line most scholars and commentators ignore in their arguments.

Since opening up three decades ago, China has developed its economy impressively. This has provoked observers to conclude that “China’s rise” is a threat to both regional and world peace.

This is in line with ‘realists’ thesis that a rising power will stimulate rivalry in power politics, definitely against U.S.A. Even American policy makers see China as a threat and propose for “engagement” and “containment” policies.

However, Asian scholars argue that “China’s rise is a peaceful rise”.

Scholar Samuel Kim in his article “Chinese Foreign Policy in Theory and Practice” sets out clearly the notion of China’s threat given its economic growth.

“For good or otherwise, Beijing managed to capture global prime time, with a “rise of China” chorus in the global marketplace turning into the “rise of China threat” debate in the Asia Pacific region in general and United States in particular.”

Kim further imply that the fall of former Soviet Union that now reveals China as a growing power, with the potential to challenge the only hegemony, United States. China with its vast land mass and 1.3 billion people and double digit economic growth might seem a potential threat to America.

Scholars have also promoted the notion of “China’s rise is a threat”. Existing literature and journalistic works are overwhelming.

Economic development is inevitable when technological know how is at its advantage stages. The French revolution, pax-Britannica, and pax-America have shown that when human knowledge is extended, follows forthwith is the tangible economic developments.

For China’s last three decades of impressive economic growth is understandably an inevitable growth given its mobility from being a developing country to its current stages.

For Kim to depict that China’s rise is a threat to the world is unfounded and no theoretical framework has been established to explain his hypothesis. Kim failed in his analysis to state as to what will happen if China “falls” from its current economic growth.

No scholar or even an existing literature states that “China’s fall is a threat” to world peace.

If China collapses now, imagine what would happen to the 1.3 billion people.

The country would shake my humble prediction. But that’s not what we want to see happening in China.

So, what Kim and others predict that “China’s rise is a threat” is a non issue. Instead, they should look on the other side of the coin where “China’s fall is a threat”.

Scholar Brantly Womack in his “China between region and World” rightly states that, “China is arguably the country most difficult to understand, and the country most important to interpret correctly.

The difficulty derives primarily from great disparities of situation – history, culture and politics.” China’s history goes back 5,000 years and when there is a history, culture accompanies it. Politics is an inbuilt characteristic of humanity.

So, can we say that for one to rightly understand China’s foreign policy, he must be well versed with China’s 5,000 years old history? The answer is both yes, and no, depending on the issue at hand.

Given China’s prominence and strength, it is a single state, a regional power and a global presence.

China is not actually a global power but its presence globally can be felt, but definitely it’s a regional power and a “central kingdom”. Given these, Kim rightly states that elites in China draw their foreign policy by looking at domestic sources.

Likewise, policy specialists are human beings by nature and consider their domestic polity.

Where then “international polity” comes in. Again for China as a “global presence” given its economic strength and being the member of the Security Council, China remains a responsible stake holder and its foreign policy should responsibly made.

Let me state that China is unlikely to become a “global power” in the foreseeable future but definitely, its “global presence” is of significance to other states.

Womack concluded by saying that China is a clear “Central Kingdom” and is still a center, though not the center of the world.

But he failed to mention the fact that the “Central Kingdom” will collapse or get into conflict with other countries if its foreign policies are not handled diplomatically, especially in “China rise threat” theory.

Globalization is a form of institutionalized dependency and every country do depend on each others.

China has the largest market in America and thus, diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing is of paramount importance.

Diplomatic relations between Port Moresby and Beijing is also important and indeed it is necessary.

This is not Beijing’s “soft power diplomacy” as stated by Womack. For the developing countries, this is necessary because China has a lot to offer.

In Womack’s words, “China’s external power is “soft” in the sense that it can persuade other states to cooperate on mutually beneficial objectives, but it can not force them to comply with China’s wishes. This is in line with China’s current foreign policy, “win-win” diplomacy and “non-interference” policy.

Beijing does not interfere in one country’s sovereignty. However, USA, Australia, Britain and other countries blame Beijing for not playing its aid diplomacy by the existing rules.

But “soft power” is properly accommodated when China and other countries mutually accept any negotiation.

Realists say that China’s rise will promote rivalry, but idealists say that China’s rise would promote peace and harmony, as international norm’s and values are accommodated.

China is a responsible state. After becoming the member of the World Trade Organization, it made sure all China made products are globally accepted.

Politically, China has taken a leading role on many regional and international issues like the ongoing Six Party Talks regarding the North Korean nuclear issue, implementation of Kyoto Protocol and settling the Darfur crises.

Militarily, China has contributed its forces to the war torn region through the UN Peace Keeping Force and conducted joint military exercise to curb any global threats.

Thus, China promotes peace globally, is willing to help the developing countries in the region while rescuing its 1.3 billion people out from poverty.

For USA to blame China for its alleged substandard toys is a joke when every families in America look forward to buying Chinese made toys for their children as present.

China’s dumpling to Japan is not only cheap and ready prepared but delicious. And who goes to work without brushing his teeth?

From toy to dumpling and the tooth paste, these issues have the potential for a possible diplomatic stand-off.

But interesting enough, China’s economic growth has provided enormous opportunities around the world, thus, “dragons’ rise is peaceful”.

NB: The writer is a PNG student studying in China

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