[OUTLOOK]Plan needed to counter ChinaZhao Ziyang, the former general secretary of China’s Communist Party who played a leading role in introducing market economy concepts in China, died in Beijing on Monday. Mr. Zhao was a politician who had the misfortune of falling from a man of the highest authority in China to a man of confinement for saying during the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests that a market economy and political democratization should stand together. The world is carefully watching the future of China after Mr. Zhao’s death.
Over the last 15 years, Chinese leaders have put all their efforts into economic development, while holding back from political development. As a result, China is writing a new history of capitalism faster than any other country ever has in the past. China’s trade volume has exceeded 1.1 trillion dollars already. Whenever a big economic issue breaks out in China, like a shortage of industrial raw materials or revaluation of the Chinese yuan, international economic indices fluctuate.
High-ranking Chinese officials including President Hu Jintao are frantically searching all over the world, not just in Asia but also in South American countries, the Middle East, Africa and the North American continent, to secure energy that China will need in the next 50 years.
They are now accelerating the integration of people by holding such big international events as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Trade Fair.
In international relations, China has managed to avoid restraints from the United States, Japan and the European Union by employing a pragmatic detour strategy. China avoids raising the issue of unification with Taiwan that should, in Chinese opinion, follow the examples of Hong Kong and Macao. China does not want a head-on collision with the United States over Taiwan.
China has instead chosen to maximize economic dependency of other countries on it, so that the economic dominance of the United States would be decentralized.
China is even pouring in cheap industrial products into the South American market, basically the backyard of the United States. It is trying to expand its dominance through its purchasing power of natural resources and merger and acquisitions of South American companies.
Even in Korea, Korea’s trade volume with China has exceeded that of Korea’s trade with the United States. There are people who predict that China will continue to be Korea’s largest trade partner. China is trying to use its economic power to slowly weaken the influence of Japan and the United States in Northeast Asia. To overcome the United States, the number one country in the world, China is groping for ways to emerge as a powerful country.
Having walked through the highway of success without running into any critical moments so far, China is now showing a very accurate and careful attitude in establishing a national future strategy. Nowadays, it is said that Chinese leaders are engaged in an in-depth study on how the world’s nine great superpowers since the 15th century have succeeded and declined.
China has a halfway goal of becoming the third largest economy in the world within the next five years. Therefore, all eyes are on what the next “economic” goal of China will be. There are several predictions: Some say it will accept political democratization and join capitalist countries.
Others predict that it will come forth as a military superpower using its economic powers, while others say China will pursue a third road, accepting capitalism while retaining a socialist political system.
In China’s future, there are problems such as the Taiwan issue, economic crises and democratization. There is also the possibility of a clash between China and the United States.
If China uses its expanded economic power to become a military power and challenges the supremacy of the United States like Japan and Germany did, Washington will probably use the beltway of India, Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Russia and other countries to restrain and weaken the power of China through a containment policy or a policy leading to the collapse of China.
Putting political or military situations aside, the scenario of a China-U.S. collision will bring double or even triple hardships to Korea’s diplomacy and security when we consider the economic influence China and the United States have on Korea.
If China secures its place as the third ranking country in the world, our small goal of becoming “the hub of Northeast Asia” will be a dream that is only possible if we jump over the 2nd ranking country Japan, the 3rd ranking China and then Russia too.
If we are to take China’s development into an “advanced country” as an opportunity, we need a thoroughly planned national strategy that surpasses that of China. Which country in history are Korean leaders preparing to benchmark? The experimental mind of China, that succeeded in making a market economy flourish without democracy, continuously gives us new tasks to challenge.
What is our halfway goal and what is our final goal? If we do not have a solid vision and specific actions to support it, China will be nothing but a threat to Korea.
* The writer is a professor emeritus of international relations at Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jung-won