[Outlook]Considering China’s riseMore than 100 world leaders gathered in China during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on Aug. 8. That is an enormous number, especially in light of the fact that only 25 participated four years ago in Athens. Some people are saying that the Beijing Games drew more leaders then a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
What made them take the time to come to Beijing despite their busy schedules?
In brief, they are trying to win favor with China. How could they refuse an invitation from a country that is emerging as the world’s most powerful nation?
At a luncheon hosted by President Hu Jintao on the day the Games opened, world leaders stood in line to shake hands with the Chinese leader in the order they arrived.
One particular leader waited nearly 30 minutes to glad-hand Hu. The fact that U.S. President George W. Bush was also in the queue means there is no need to talk about the others. The kowtow has returned in the modern era.
While attending a ceremony commemorating the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in China, President Bush underlined the importance of freedom of religion and politics.
When the U.S. delegation walked into the stadium for the opening ceremony, a Sudanese refugee was chosen to carry the American flag. That might have put China in a bad mood, as China has been offering various forms of aid to Sudan despite harsh resistance from the international community.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s Russia struck back against Georgia [which had attached South Ossetis, a Russian enclave] while the opening ceremony was being held at the Beijing National Stadium.
It took the shine off China, which had said it hoped no wars would ever break out again during the Games. However, even if they behaved in such a way, the fact remains that they came to Beijing to win points from China.
What is the true meaning of the unprecedented gathering of world leaders in Beijing? It means that we need to recognize the increased prominence of China, whether we like it or not. We should be well aware of the reality that China is strong enough to invite more than 100 world leaders to one place for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games.
The Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group at the University of Sheffield predicted, “By 2015 it is almost certain that China will become a great power economically, militarily and politically.”
That means China will be able to recover its national self-confidence and revitalize its power to where it stood prior to the Opium War.
What are the tasks facing us at this juncture?
We need to learn how to live in harmony with a strong neighbor. We need to gain a fresh insight into how to deal with growing Chinese prominence in the world based on rapidly growing economic interchange and diplomacy.
If we consider China from the old perspective, based on the state of affairs when we established diplomatic relations with the country in 1992, it will cause huge problems for us.
The foremost task is to draw up a fresh economic package aimed at coping with a new era in which China has become pivotal in its role as a leader of the world economy.
There is an urgent necessity to overhaul our industrial strategies across the board to deal with new challenges resulting from China’s economic goal of becoming a highly industrialized country.
We need to draw up appropriate policies to satisfy business needs in the Chinese economy, which is rapidly transforming itself from a global factory into a global market.
Korea’s diplomatic and security strategies require a series of adjustments.
We are witnessing that the world’s primary focus when it comes to the Korean Peninsula is shifting from military ideas to the economic and cultural sectors.
In this regard, it is necessary to consider up to what point Korea-China relations should now serve as a substructure of Korea-U.S. relations.
These days, it is nearly impossible to live a China-free life, without the use of China-made products.
In the same way, nothing will be achieved unless we pay due consideration to the importance of China.
It is time to think seriously about China’s growing prominence.
*The writer is the director of the JoongAng China Institute.
by Yu Sang-cheol