[Viewpoint] China’s inner conflicts

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[Viewpoint] China’s inner conflicts

It’s never easy to predict the future. There are so many variables that are beyond a man’s foresight. A “black swan” that is out of the norm can pop up anywhere, anytime. And yet, only a few people object to the forecast that the 21st century will be the era of China. Those who were buoyed by the neo-imperialistic fantasy of “Pax Americana” said the 21st century would be the era of the United States, but their voices were buried under the sandstorms of Iraq and the collapse of Wall Street. “Pax Sinica” is not a matter of supposition: It has become recognized as a matter of time.

Goldman Sachs’ 2007 forecast is often quoted in talks about the China’s economic future. According to the report, China will catch up with the United States’ gross domestic product by 2027 and become the world’s largest economy. By 2050, China’s GDP is expected to be two times larger than that of the United States.

Over 5,000 years of China’s history, there were only two periods of prosperity and peace. The 100 years of the period from emperors Taizong to Xuanzong was a time of peace and prosperity. And another 100-year period during the Qing Dynasty ruled by emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong marked the height of the country’s power. When China has a larger economy than the United States, will the golden era of China’s history return?

There are various forecasts, but it is commonly agreed that China will rise, but it will have some structural limits. A newly published book, “When China Rules the World,” however, illustrated a fundamentally different view.

In this book, British historian and journalist Martin Jacques describes the future of Pax Sinica under the firm belief that China will become a superpower that will stand in comparison with the United States.

China’s yuan will become an international currency over the U.S. dollar and Shanghai will become the new hub of global finance, replacing London and New York, he forecast. Major European cities will become the sites of historical remains, just like Rome and Athens of today, and Chinese will become an international language just like English, he predicted. The book also said Confucius will become a familiar philosopher throughout the world, just like Plato.

None of these ideas were particularly new, but what was interesting in his book was the argument against the idea that modernization means Westernization. Jacques sees culture as the future value replacing ideology. He finds the core reason behind China’s rise to superpower status to be in its culture.

He said China’s vast territory and population, where 92 percent of the people are the Han race, and China’s deeply rooted belief that its civilization is the center of the world will define China’s new modernity. According to Jacques, the China that rises above the past 200 years of humiliation will not be a China that copies the United States. He said it will be a China devoted to China’s original image of its civilization.

He believes that Pax Sinica will be different from “Pax Britannica” or Pax Americana, which have sought expansionism based on economic and military powers.

Jacques believes that Pax Sinica will be focused on pacifism, valuing harmony and stability. Because China believes that it is the center of the world, it will not feel the need to expand aggressively.

Will this be true?

Can we will be optimistic about the future of Pax Sinica despite the recent bloody oppression in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region?

The greatness of a country lies in its courage to admit wrongs and in its ability to correct them. Instead of hiding an illness, a great nation must reveal and cure it. China, in that particular sense, is far behind the United States. A glance at the history of the United States reveals how the nation has built itself on finding cures for problems based on objective truths, no matter how long it takes, rather than using stop-gap measures.

And what made it possible was the democracy of America that Alexis de Tocqueville praised so highly.

Right now, China has plugged a bleeding wound with its finger. It may be able to get by for the time being, but the wound will eventually grow septic. Minorities in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region refuse to exchange their freedom for anything else. And the number of underground Falun Gong believers and Protestants is larger than the 75 million members of China’s Communist Party.

Farmers, who already hold grudges about the Chinese government’s land expropriation policy, and young people, who have taken economic prosperity for granted, will become more frustrated as political freedom becomes more remote and obtainable.

If China wants to harmonize with the world through Pax Sinica, it must achieve harmony from within. Without inner harmony, the world will see Pax Sinica only as a symbol for an angry dragon rather than a gentle panda.


*The writer is an editorial writer and travelling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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