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China The Anti-Superpower Or The Second Hyperpower

According to available information, the Chinese expert community is now actively discussing whether Beijing should express its wishes more loudly, all the more so as there is no shortage of people who would like to see the current global leader replaced
by Dmitry Kosyrev
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Nov 01, 2006
The arrival of the "Asian century": China's becoming the world's second most influential power and the fourth largest economy (after the United States, Japan and Germany) and the possibility that it will become the largest one -- all this is already a reality. Recent developments have only served to confirm the growth of China's global influence.

The Wall Street Journal estimates that within a few days or weeks, the country's reserves of foreign currency and securities will reach $1 trillion, rising fivefold from 2000.

U.S. dollars and dollar assets account for as much as 70 percent of these savings, the paper writes. The latter means that China lends dollars to the United States in exchange for various American debts, including government and federal agency bonds, to say nothing of loans to the private sector. The chief consequence is America's greater vulnerability to and dependence on China. If the Chinese authorities should decide to direct money into another currency or to increase spending on the domestic market, the United States could be hit by a bitter financial crisis, the paper explains.

The outside world, however, has long been aware of an odd phenomenon: the Chinese leadership is diligently dismissing any talk of the country's role as a global leader. A few days ago I visited Beijing with a RIA Novosti delegation received by the agency's partner, the newspaper Renmin Ribao, and I had the opportunity to hear the official explanation for this modest stance. It was voiced by Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui and went something like this:

"We are soberly aware that China still remains a developing country ... Speaking of the real picture of China, we are now witnessing a lopsided development of the country's different regions. We have coastal regions with rapid economic development, but there are also economically underdeveloped regions, such as the western part of the country. Several hundred million people still live below the poverty line.

"So we believe that we still face very challenging development tasks ... Of course, there is now talk that in a few years China will be the world's number one economic power. We are grateful for these kind wishes ... But speaking of our approach, we cannot and do not aspire to replace any other country in the role of number one. Our objectives are very specific: to build a country with a medium level of prosperity by 2020, where per capita GDP will reach $7,000, while backward and underdeveloped regions will be able to develop. I will repeat once again, that we cannot claim the roles discussed in such comments."

This statement does not seem logical at first sight. The outside world need only be interested in a country's gross output and the potential for economic or military influence it implies, not in its per capita GDP, which should be the concern of the country alone, alongside unequal development of its regions.

Yet it is this concern that causes Beijing's cautious, if not hostile, attitude toward its superpower future.

In the southern province of Guangdong, the general manager of the Nanfang Media Group, Zhong Guangming, gives a simple answer to the question of what ordinary Chinese think of China's grand future: they are not interested, he says, since they are worried about their own economic problems. He says that even in Guangdong, China's most developed province, there is a big income gap between residents of the Pearl River Delta and those in rural areas, which results in social tension.

These words hold the key. They even help explain why the assistant foreign minister started speaking of the difference in the level of development of Chinese regions when asked about what was seemingly a different thing: China's future international status. At its recent sixth meeting in Beijing, the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party approved a plan outlining the concept of "harmonious development" and setting numerous tasks to eliminate inequality both between individuals and between regions. This proves that the country's leadership is aware of the danger that people will become discontented with growing inequality, where some achieve great success and others do not.

Obviously, ordinary Chinese would not understand if their government spent money and effort on greater commitments on the international stage instead of focusing on domestic problems. The U.S. experience has shown that claims of leadership, especially exaggerated ones, result in huge spending -- and not only in the military sphere -- which quickly destroys any prospects of exercising this leadership. Apparently, the Chinese authorities do not believe that they can accept this spending and risk provoking their people's displeasure.

According to available information, the Chinese expert community is now actively discussing whether Beijing should express its wishes more loudly, all the more so as there is no shortage of people who would like to see the current global leader replaced. Perhaps, many nations would prefer China to become the new leader instead of the United States, hoping it would take into account all of the latter's typical mistakes so as never to repeat them. Yet most of those who take part in the debate agree that this moment should be delayed as long as possible. It looks like China will indeed resist its already obvious global leadership role as long as it can, applying the same maxim it does to its nuclear weapons: "Having, but not using."

(Dmitry Kosyrev is a political commentator at RIA Novosti. This article was reprinted with permission from the news agency.)

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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