[Outlook]The Chinese example

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[Outlook]The Chinese example

Recent seminars held in Korea and China offered good opportunities to gauge the atmosphere in China after the Beijing Olympic Games and the global financial crisis.

Chinese high officials and scholars at the seminars hesitated to accept the fact that China is a powerhouse, maintaining that their country is merely a large one among the developing nations of the world. Their opinion was quite different from the way the rest of the world perceives their country.

It is generally accepted that China has already met the requirements of becoming a superpower, and that its era has dawned. China’s economy is the world’s fourth largest, and it has started to offer its advice to the world economy. Chinese capital is behind mergers and acquisitions of American companies. China is helping its neighboring countries deal with the financial crisis and it is drawing up new ideas about the region. The country’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, maintained that we should stabilize the international currency system using a variety of currencies, proposing democratization of international monetary systems.

Despite the fact that it has become an international power, the Chinese government thinks of its own country as being in the early stages of development, as the national per capita income is still only $2,500 and tens of millions struggle with hunger. Witnessing Chinese companies go bankrupt one after another as the global financial crisis impacts China’s real economy, the Chinese government has been issuing a daily warning that if the actual growth rate falls short of the potential growth rate, China’s economy could slip into tough times. China has foreign reserves of $2 trillion, but it says that doesn’t indicate the country is rich.

When it comes to diplomacy, the Chinese government maintains that it should take responsibility as a large country, but it also says it won’t step to the forefront until its national power has grown strong enough. After the financial crisis, international society has demanded that China play a bigger role in rescuing the world economy. But with the belief that rescuing China is rescuing the world, China has poured around $588 billion into improving urgent domestic economic issues and doesn’t believe that it is time for China to enhance its internationalism.

This stance is revealed in China’s view on President-elect Barack Obama, who regards China as a key partner. China is still concerned that conventional U.S. policy - a combination of containment and engagement - won’t change much. A Chinese scholar of international politics whom I met in Busan last week said that Obama realized Americans’ dream of equality, but that the U.S. won’t treat other countries equally. He was not persuaded by Obama’s emphasis on change.

In the face of the crisis, China has been acting in a reserved manner, despite the fact that it dreams of becoming a powerhouse.

China is unique in that even a small problem becomes a huge one when multiplied by 1.3 billion people, and its large economy is not so large and abundant when divided by that number. What’s important for China is not creating a grand facade of being a strong country, but being modest, diagnosing reality and finding solutions.

To do so, senior members of the political party put their heads together, instead of the country’s leader making decisions alone. Particularly since the Hu Jintao regime came into office, more than 50 meetings were held since December 2002 on opening the country’s doors and the security of the national economy.

Nearly every month, experts from inside and outside the country are invited to the meetings. They discuss a variety of topics, from Internet culture to the financial crisis. This is probably why 50 percent of Chinese people see the current situation as more of a challenge than a crisis, and 70 percent trust that their government has the capacity to deal with the situation.

In this regard, China can offer many lessons to Korea when it comes to dealing with the current urgent situation.

As Mencius said, one should blame no one but oneself for a bad harvest; one should be well prepared and brave.

The Korean government needs to seek more partners in governing the state. Both the ruling and opposition parties struggle not to be regarded as implicit in the government’s misrule. The Blue House should not ask other parties if they can come up with better ideas while keeping important information to itself.

A pre-emptive, determined and sufficient response is necessary when handling not only the financial crisis, but also domestic and international politics, and inter-Korean relations.

We need to act at once. A harsh winter is coming to the Korean Peninsula, and we can’t wait until next year.

*The writer is a professor of international relations at Sungkyunkwan University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Lee Hee-ok
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