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[Editorial] China’s Global Emergence Over 60 Years

Posted September. 29, 2009 08:27,   


Mao Zedong, who won China’s civil war against Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang, declared the foundation of the People’s Republic of China at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, 1949, saying, “The Chinese people have stood up.” Some 300,000 people at the square embraced each other to celebrate the historic occasion.

On Thursday, 1.3 billion Chinese will mark the 60th anniversary of their country’s birth. At the time of foundation, China was large only in size and population. Now, it is the world’s third-largest economy with annual growth of eight percent despite its many ups and downs.

Chinese economic expansion is not expected to stop anytime soon. Having emerged as one of the world’s two major superpowers along with the United States, the Middle Kingdom will surpass the U.S. in economy by 2030. The first U.S.-China Strategy and Economic Dialogue in Washington July 28 was a symbolic event heralding the era of “Chimerica” referring to the rule of China and the U.S. in the world order. Some, however, view China’s 60th birthday with apprehension over the power a stronger China will have.

China was stuck in a dark tunnel for three decades after its foundation. Tens of millions of people starved to death under the food rationing system of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Chinese troops fought on the side of North Korea in the Korean War, contributing to the division of the Korean Peninsula.

In 1978, China started on its industrialization path after adopting open economic policies and reform. Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping started economic reform, saying it does not matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice. An endless list of economic indexes shows the success of the Chinese model in which socialism and capitalism coexist: third in economy size, third in trade volume, and first in foreign currency reserves. The Chinese economy is soon expected to surpass Japan for second place in the world rankings.

The international community is keeping an eye on the relations China has with its neighbors and what its role in the world will be. Though the hope is for a responsible country contributing to the world in befitting its size, fears keep rising over a stronger China. The country itself is fueling worry that its emergence can threaten the rest of the world. It continues to incorporate the history of traditionally autonomous regions such as Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region into its own history. A Chinese project to incorporate Korean history into China’s expanded China’s boundary from the east point of the Great Wall to the region near the Amnok River, which forms part of China’s border with North Korea. If Beijing fails to resolve these problems, it cannot be seen favorably by the international community.

If China wants to be considered a global superpower, it must work harder to bring positive change to the world order. It needs to play a major role in resolving the North Korean nuclear program, a problem that threatens peace in Northeast Asia and the world. China needs to repay the world with contributions since it grew through economic exchanges with other countries. The international community believes China will eventually seek hegemony if it does not change.

China’s fourth-generation leadership will pass down the reins of administration to the next generation in 2012. It has built a frame of inheritance that promotes stability and efficiency, but this is far from a democratic shift of power through popular elections. On human rights and religious freedom, China lags far behind global standards. Many internal conflicts are clouding the glory of the country’s economic growth. Last year, more than 120,000 demonstrations and riots each involving more than 50 people occurred. The widening gap between the rich and poor, environmental pollution, and lack of healthcare are problems China must tackle.

South Korea must also learn lessons from China`s successes and failures and get motivated. Seoul needs a new diplomatic strategy tailored to the change of Beijing`s status. U.S. President Barack Obama said U.S.-China relations are the most important in the world, but friction will likely develop between the two superpowers. Apart from its alliance with Washington, Seoul must develop its bilateral relationship with Beijing for national interest. Through the regular trilateral summit among South Korea, China and Japan, building a multilateral framework for coexistence and co-prosperity of the three countries will be good preparation for the future.