Sunday, May 4, 2008

Should China be part of the international political health system?

By China Watcher

Over the weekend, I read an article from the USA’s CIA chief who said that China’s behavior in the international arena is narrowly focused on its own objectives without giving any concern about the health of the international system. And China which is a potential power must accept its fair share of responsibility that commensurate with its growing status. Otherwise, the world will look at it more as an adversarial rather than a “peaceful” nation on the rise.

China needs time

China’s real economic growth is confined to within the last 20 years (1989-2008) and its actual military modernization commenced in mid-1990s. So the time frame is relatively short as compared to the time taken by the few Western nations (European’s industrialization age started about 200 years ago) to what it has become today – economically strong, politically influential and militarily powerful – with high-tech homemade armed and strategic weapons. China’s economic growth and transformation from a society which was agricultural based to an industrialized society over the last 20 years was a spectacular achievement. Some economists even termed it an “economic miracle”. I believe every factor of productions and its elements were in place combining well with the correct economic strategies implemented. I personally feel that the one-party rule has made it easier and faster for projects to be implemented as against another layered bureaucratic system normally associated with a democracy. Take a look at both China and India and you would be able to see the differences – though India has also enjoyed encouraging growth especially over the last 7-8 years, the income gap is still widening till to this day.

If I could recall clearly, there were some western economists, critics and experts who predicted that the Chinese economy will crash in the mid-1990s as a capitalist economic system cannot work well with a political system which is still administered by an “authoritarian” government. Shanghai was a place which has the most construction tower cranes at one time and there were so many buildings and office spaces for rental that certain Western critics called that a real estate “bubble” waiting to explode. That was 10 years ago and it has not happened? Was that a real economic judgment or just another Western ploy to create “panic” in the system or just plain jealousy?

China needs time to fully develop its society given that its hinterland and its Western provinces are still relatively backward. There are places in China that are dependable on “foot doctors” or mobile doctors and medical assistants because accessibility is difficult and the region is poor. Even in the bigger coastal cities, the health care system, if any, still has much room for improvement. This is just one area that needs to be systematically monitored and implemented if China wishes to move into “developed” status and it will, of course, require a huge allocation of funds. Though the economy size has surpassed the US$3 trillion mark, but on a per capita basis, it is hardly impressive due to the huge population of 1.35 billion to date.

China is no threat

China’s military modernization is still ongoing and there are many aspects of hardware and warfare strategies which have yet reached the standards of the US or European powers or even Japan. So how could this be a threat? China is still under an arms embargo by the European Community and as such, it cannot purchase advanced military hardware from any European producers for its army modernization. Ironically, it is grouped together with Myammar, Iran, Zimbabwe and North Korea in its terms of engagement for purchase of military weapons from Europe. So, without high-tech dual use technologies from advanced industrialized nations like France, Great Britain, US and Germany, how do you expect China to be a threat?

Fortunately, China is quite resourceful. It had acquired some advanced weaponry from Russia particularly the 4th generation fighter planes (SU-30K), destroyers and sophisticated diesel submarines over the last 10 years. Recently, I observed the volume of military transactions between China and Russia has declined, more significantly in 2006 and 2007. One reason for this is that the Chinese, through reverse engineering, has acquired the technologies to do so. Two obvious examples are the indigenous J-10 fighter jets and the Jin-class nuclear ballistic submarines (Type 094). Chinese-made jet turbine engines with poor thrust response and the loud sound from its submarines motors are two areas that would require a bit of fine tuning. I am very confident the Chinese will close the gap in the next 10 years. Maybe, the European arms embargo is a blessing in disguise – it makes the Chinese more determine to do it themselves.

An advanced military force is an essential element of great power status and nobody has the right to question this.

New Player

The Chinese is deemed a new player in the procurement of oil and mineral resources for its burgeoning economy. As a new player, it is expected to offer something “extra” from what the established Western nations has firmly cemented. The West has over many decades created a network of oil and commodities buyers and sellers which has been well integrated into its own financial systems that any newcomer would find it difficult to break into. Hence, China has no choice but to deal with oil rich nations which the West does not want to deal with as these countries do not conform to their Western standards of civil liberties. Such prominent countries that come to the forefront are Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Myammar. Are the Western countries willing to include China, a country with a different political system, into its exclusive system and networks when it comes to oil trades?

Two additional questions I seek to ask, “Where do you think are the many oil traders located and which countries have the most advanced secondary hedging commodities instruments? I have a strong feeling that the current high oil price level is due specifically to speculative trades rather than the increased oil demand from China and India.

Legacy Issue

Taiwan is a legacy of the Chinese civil war and thus, whatever designs of the Chinese are, it is an internal Chinese problem of which the West has no right to interfere. Most of China’s military upgrades are essentially to ensure that the US does not intervene in the event of an outbreak of hostilities across the Taiwan Straits. The Chinese has no intentions other than to ensure that Taiwan does not make a declaration of independence.

My friends from US told me that many residents talked about China but they had so little knowledge of the country, its people and culture. Surprisingly, most of their perceptions were drawn from the many articles and news they gathered from the news and televisions media. If the Western media continue to play on human emotions, stick to its Western supremacy ideals and failed miserably, to inform and educate the US societies, then the repercussions will continue to be felt in the next 20 years.


China is not an “enemy” as the West would like to portray but it would like to be integrated in the world’s system, which the West must play a part to gradually assist it to do so. China’s stability is important for the international health system and I believe the West must not impose its own standards of civil liberties in its quest to do so. China needs to be integrated into the world’s political system but it must be given time to do so.

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