[THE FOUNTAIN] The Global Threat From China

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[THE FOUNTAIN] The Global Threat From China

Today, roughly 30 countries in the world can be considered wealthy nations. They comprise less than 16 percent of the global population, according to a Harvard University professor, Jeffrey Sachs. Western Europe, North America, Japan and some oil producing countries have boarded the train of the rich nations. Korea, one of the four dragons in Asia, is also considered a wealthy country.

China has emerged as the leading concern of the global community. The country of 1.2 billion persons may soon jump aboard the train of wealthy countries, and other nations around the world are trembling. Korea is one of those countries. The concern has been expressed in newspaper series, and Korean lawmakers questioned the government about the nation's economy last Friday at the National Assembly with special attention to the Chinese competitive threat. Lawmakers are worried that China will soon outpace Korea in some competitive industries such as iron and steel and shipbuilding. The government replied that it would cope by producing higher value-added products. We have heard those words before; words seem to be the limit of our reaction.

International organizations have forecast that China's GNP will exceed that of the United States by 2020. Since Korea has always failed to present a long-term vision for our country, we may need to pay attention to the larger pictures portrayed by the research institutes of other wealthy countries. What is clearly depicted in most publications is the scenario of "dystopia" after this generation. The scenario predicts the ruin of the earth due to excessive energy and environmental burdens created by China.

In 20 years, China's energy consumption will reach that of Korea, which was the equivalent of 3.87 tons of oil per person in 1999. That is roughly the total oil exported from the Middle East. The effect of explosive demand for cars will be enormous. If China matches Korea's current ratio of one car for every four persons, 300 million cars will roam about China in 2020. China will outpace the world's energy guzzler, America, with its 240 million cars. Currently, China produces 14 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. That amount could increase 10-fold or more.

The scenario of dystopia is so clear that we cannot deny it. Stopping the growth of China is impossible and depending on technological innovation is irresponsible. Chinese experts say they are living comfortably on $800 GDP per capita now. They believe that China will reach a state of "great community," a Confucian ideal, in 20 to 30 years. It is ironic that the utopia of Confucian ideas could also become a threat to humankind.

The writer is an editor of JoongAng Ilbo publications.

by Cho Woo-suk

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