[OUTLOOK]China’s rise brings challengesWith its practical-minded diplomacy, China is fast becoming a new superpower, as well as the manufacturing plant of the world. As a result, China could greatly influence the future of the Korean Peninsula, along with the United States.
After the Cold War, China implemented a foreign policy that was more practical than ideological, striving to achieve the economic reforms that Deng Xiaoping had started and opening its doors to the outside world, despite its slogans of “self-reliance” and “anti-hegemony.”
China criticized the United States for defending Taiwan as being, or trying to be, “hegemonistic.” But its actual behavior showed that it was of primary importance to China to improve its relations with the only superpower.
When NATO forces bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake in 1999 and when a U.S. reconnaissance plane collided with and downed a Chinese fighter jet in 2001, fierce anti-American demonstrations were held throughout China. But, fearing that this might compromise its improving relations with the United States, the Chinese government hastily put an end to these demonstrations.
In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization, and China had put all its efforts into negotiating with the United States for this goal. Last year, when the United States began its war on Iraq, China initially opposed the war but did not join the anti-American coalition that France had tried to form.
This, however, did not deter Chinese President Hu Jintao from personally visiting Paris last week, his first official visit to Western Europe, and signing nine business and research deals. The tour also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Thus, China pursues a “balance of power” policy, or an extension of its ancient policy of “iijei,” which translates as “setting one barbarian tribe against another.” China will cooperate with the United States in its war against terrorism and the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But it will confront the United States over such issues as Taiwan, Tibet and human rights.
Economically, China is making good use of the United States as its biggest export market. China had a surplus of $130 billion last year in its trade with the United States, recording a growth rate of 9.1 percent, among the fastest in the world. Meanwhile, to avoid tension over trade with the United States, China has recently bought U.S. Treasury bonds and many planes from Boeing and agreed to conduct joint research on the Chinese currency’s exchange rate.
This is to acquire the trust of the U.S. Congress and the world capital market. With the Chinese economy thus swiftly integrating into the flow of globalization, the biggest point of interest for the participants in the recent World Economic Forum at Davos was China’s future. At present, China is attracting over $50 billion in investment, and U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs predicted that by the year 2041 China’s economy will have surpassed that of the United States. Since 2002, China has become the biggest profit-making export market for Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is already without a doubt the center of Northeast Asia’s economy.
This reality is in stark contrast with the domestic view that Korea is the center of the Northeast Asian region. It is true that even now, China considers the Korean Peninsula one of its “peripheries.” A good example of this view is how certain Chinese historians have argued recently that the kingdom of Goguryeo, which stretched across the Manchurian plains, actually pertained to ancient China.
Even now, Beijing and Taipei call Seoul “Hanseong,” its ancient name in Chinese characters. If we consider that China has a population of 1.3 billion and that Shandong, the closest of China’s 31 provinces to the Korean Peninsula, alone comprises over 90 million people, the overwhelming size and rising status of China will pose an enormous challenge as well as abundant opportunities to Korea.
Getting North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal would also be impossible without the positive intervention of China. So far, China is playing the mediator between the United States and North Korea and arranging the six-way talks as such. In reality, China would support non-proliferation on the Korean Peninsula if only to prevent the rearming of Japan. But, since any disturbance in North Korea, which has been described as the “lips” that protect the “teeth” that is China, would bring serious damage to its own security and economy, Beijing does not want North Korea to be in trouble, and wants to maintain the status quo as long as possible.
Korea must especially be careful since China’s rise in East Asia will lead to a repetition of a power struggle between China and Japan. When it was announced that China and the 10 members of the Asso-ciation of Southeas Asian Nations agreed to forge a free trade agreement by 2010, Japan proposed even more comprehensive economic cooperation and offered $3 billion in aid at the ASEAN summit meeting held in Tokyo last December . In the midst of accelerating competition between China and Japan, Korea must also concentrate on diplomacy that will bring practical benefits for the welfare of our people and the progress of our country.
* The writer is a visiting professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Ahn Byung-joon