"China Threat" or a "Peaceful Rise of China"? BY MING XIA "China's rise" can be seen as a quintessentially political processâ€”through which the ruling Communist Party has sought to shore up its legitimacy after the Cultural Revolution irreversibly changed the nation and caused three crises of ideological belief, faith in the CPC, and confidence in the future. As the Party realized that the performance-based legitimacy was the only hope for prolonging its rule, economic development became the highest politics. Consequentially, the success of economic development would have to cause political implicationsâ€”the external ones are carefully monitored and evaluated by China's neighbors and the only superpower of the worldâ€”the United States. Will China become a threat to the United States, Japan, and surrounding countries? The reason for American concern mainly arises from its hegemonic status in the world politics and the ideological incompatibility of China with the Western value system. China's stunning economic growth has convinced the West that it is just a matter of time until China becomes a world superpower. But its ideological orientation makes China a revolutionary power that is threatening both to the United States' status and global structure. Three different logics have been constructed to substantiate the "China threat" thesis. First, ideological and cultural factors make China a threat. For neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration, the mere factor that China still sticks to communism makes view it adversely. Samuel Huntington has added a cultural factor: in the clash of civilizations, the "unholy alliance between Islamic and Confucian civilizations" is the most fundamental threat to the West. For people using this logic, the sensible response from the U.S. is, in the short run, a containment policy, and confrontation is possible if needed; in the long run, the promotion of a peaceful transformation within China. Second, geopolitical and geoeconomic factors. For many realists, even China has shed off its ideological straitjacket, as a great power in size (territory, population, and economy), China has to pursue its own interest and respect. Nationalism may still drive China into a course of clash with the United States, if the latter refuses to accommodate or share the leadership with China as a rising power. Some scholars fear that democracy can unleash strong nationalism and popular nationalism can make China even more aggressive toward the United States. Third, the collapse of China. Opposed to the previous two perspectives, some people are concerned that if China suffers a Soviet-style sudden-death syndrome and spins out of control, it can create an even worse scenario. The sheer size of the population makes refuge problem, the failed state and the followed crises (warlordism, civil war, crime, proliferation of nuclear weapons, etc) impossible for the world to deal with. Due to these three different considerations, the United States often oscillates from demonization to romaticization of China, from containment to engagement. The U.S.-China relationship has shifted from conflict, to confrontation, to competition and back to conflict, but so rarely features with cooperation. One American China specialist characterizes the bilateral relationship as "the sweet-and-sour Sino-American relationship." The Japanese have a different set of reasons to feel upset by China's rise. Although Japan has been culturally indebted to China since the Tang dynasty, somehow Japan has developed a strong Oedipus complex toward Chinaâ€”namely to commit patricide against its cultural patron. In the past century, China suffered several severe acts of aggression at the hands of the Japanese. The mutual animosity between these two countries has been strong. The Japanese deep involvement in Taiwan, its stubborn refusal to offer unequivocal apologies to the Asian neighboring countries over its aggressions, and American military alliance with Japan all have been irksome to the Chinese. The construction of Chinese nationalism by mainly relying on anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese turned Japan into an easy target. To some degree, the Chinese leadership has tried to release the popular anger against the regime by directing it either to the local tyrants or to the international bullies (U.S. and Japan are two natural candidates). Now Japan and China still have not developed any framework to resolve their territorial disputes and their relationship has reached a low point. The Chinese often suspect that U.S. and Japan are the originators of a variety of "China threat" arguments. In addition to the ideological threat, many other neighboring countries have more stakes in China's new move. For Southeast Asian nations, the presence of a sizeable and extremely rich Chinese ethnic group and their increasing dependency upon China's economy for growth forced them to be very careful in handling their relationship with China. With a continental size (China has almost two times the territorial and population sizes of all other Asian Pacific countries combined), China consumes a tremendous amount of foreign direct investment and pops out huge volume of exports; other countries feel the competition from China. At this moment, no government in the Asian Pacific region has adopted a clear anti-China policy; but sporadic anti-Chinese riots have occurred in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines; and strong resentment against the Northern economic and cultural invasion has surfaced in Myanmar (former Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries. Even Singaporeâ€”the self-proclaimed third Chinese territory in addition to China and Taiwanâ€”was upset by China's strong hand in 2004 after Lee Hsien Loong, the soon-to-be-inaugurated Prime Minister of Singapore, visited Taiwan. The combination of stunning economic growth and unpredictable political governance causes deep concerns about China among the nations in the world. The Chinese leadership has realized the urgency to calm down these concerns and to build a supportive international environment for its ascendancy. To make its rise less a threat, the Chinese government has sponsored many PR events, such as exhibitions in foreign countries, promoting Chinese language programs, and so on. But most importantly, the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao put forward the thesis of "China's peaceful rise" in his speech to a Harvard University audience in December 2003. Under this thesis, there are several points: First, China's development depends upon and in return will contribute to the world peace; second, China will resort to peaceful means for development; third, China's development will rely more on its own resources and market; fourth, China is prepared for a long-term process of hard work, even several generations, for economic prosperity. Finally, even as China has achieved its economic development, it will not seek hegemony in the world or come out as a threat to any country. Under the guiding principle of "China's peaceful rise," the Chinese government has conducted actively diplomacy at four (at least) different levels: (1) Creating strategic partnerships with the second-tier powers. China has signed strategic partnership treaties with the EU, Russia and India to strengthen their relationships as well as to balance the American power. (2) Promoting "good neighbor policy" in the Asian Pacific region. By increasing trade with the Asian-Pacific region and also let these countries enjoy trade surplus with China, China has positioned as an important trading partner with these countries. Besides, China has entered into various mechanisms of regional cooperation with these countries. During the 1997 Asian financial crises, that China refrained from devaluing its currency and helped stabilize the regional economy by mobilizing its foreign currency reserve won positive reactions from this region and the U.S. (3) Seeking cooperation and avoiding confrontation with the U.S. The Chinese side basically has sent to Washington a clear message that China is a conservative power and has no intention to upset the status quoâ€”namely the U.S. as the sole superpower in the world. (4) Neglecting Japan. As China has successfully managed relationships with the sole superpower, the second-tier strategic partners, and neighboring countries, China is able to afford to ignore Japan and occasionally show some toughness. For the past five years, the Chinese leadership has been cautious and successful in managing the internal nationalism and American unilateralism, to some degree, thanks to the anti-terror war. Now some signs have indicated that the honeymoon between the U.S. and China in the aftermath of Sept.11 attack and anti-terrorism coalition has arrived at its end. If the United States shifts its policy to a hard-line toward China, the cyclical turbulence in the Sino-American relationship may soon resurface. This might jeopardize China's plan of a peaceful rise. At the micro-level, the U.S. seems to have been more provocative toward China, the latter has been more on defensive; but if we look at the Sino-U.S. relationship from the macro-level, it seems that China can take back initiative if it can remove the thorn of communist ideology and authoritarianism, because the Americans tend to believe that under the doctrine of democratic peace, democratic countries do not fight war against each other. Therefore, to create long-term internal and external stability, the CPC has to learn how to play the card of democracy. Does this amount to ask a leopard to change its spots? "China Threat" or a "Peaceful Rise of China"? - New York Times ******************************* An interesting article analysing China and its position in the global geopolitical and geostrategical scenario. China has emerged from classical Communism and from the 'Bamboo Curtain' syndrome and instead has embraced Capitalism that was much hated and have done extremely well by divorcing itself from the earlier ideology. China now is a cross between capitalist surge and straining at the shackles of the Communist Party stranglehold, which the latter is in no mood to let go. To divert the desire of the people to be free of the asphyxiating control of the Communist Party, the latter has channeled the mindset to a new high ot ultra nationalism, commencing with the drumming of the 100 Years of National Shame and having channelised the same is on an aggressive drive to flex its muscle in the neighbourhood while rapidly miltarising China to project the Communists as the sole champion to make China the indisputable superpower of the world. This will obviously bring China in conflict with the neighbours and those who feel that there turf is being threatened. At the same time, internally, there is discontent growing with the inequality between the rich and the poor and between regions of China. There have been clashes and disharmony with the Communists using a heavy hand to quell the disturbances. The Japanese are the concerned with the this belligerent China and they are moving away from their pacifist approach and are also moving toward militarism. The US, on the other hand, is cobbling up an alliance against China in a Pan Pacific Asia Australasia matrix. Even Myanmar, an ally of China, is turning away from China, while the other ally Pakistan is crumbling under its own illogical identity. Will China crumble under its own dichotomous approach internally and externally? What does the future hold for China, its neighbourhood and the world?