[Viewpoint] A ‘great’ country cannot live in past
Many say the world now has two superpowers for the first time since the Cold War: China and the United States, together known as the G-2.
G stands for Group. But it can stand for “great” when it refers to a leading country.
What makes a great country? It’s not just the size of its military stockpile, its population, land or gross domestic product.
Americans believe their country is great. Where does this kind of pride come from, and why doesn’t it bother other members of the global community?
The United States, since its founding in 1776, has left a trail of disgrace across human history.
Americans massacred the native peoples and exploited African slaves to build their industry and nation.
They championed colonization and supported some tyrannical states for their national interests.
Their armed forces orchestrated the invasion of the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow an anti-American Cuban government. They aggravated unrest in the Middle East in their support of Israel.
Yet their shameful tracks are eclipsed by their great contributions to mankind. The country’s democracy prompted the French Revolution in 1789, which helped put an end to absolute monarchy in Europe.
They freed their slaves in 1865, and 143 years later elected their first black president. Americans saved Europe from Hitler’s tyranny and Asia from Japan’s imperial ambition.
They enacted the Marshall Plan - sweeping reconstruction that cost $13 billion - to help rebuild Europe after the devastation of the Second World War.
When Soviets cut off traffic to Berlin in 1948 to isolate the city from the western zone, the U.S. Air Force launched an unprecedented airlift to deliver daily food, fuel and medical supplies to German citizens at the expense of dozens of airmen’s lives.
When communist North Korea invaded the South in 1950, the country sacrificed 54,000 American lives to defend South Korea.
The country has earned the accolade “great,” because it stood up for justice.
But what about China? How has it contributed to mankind?
The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. For the most populous land in Asia to embrace communism has been a major setback to mankind. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution served as a climatic “Great Leap Backward.”
Under the extreme Socialist banner, human dignity and rights have been atrociously stamped on.
Communist China inflicted its greatest harm against the human race by joining the Korean War. Without its stampede to aid North Korea, far fewer lives would have been shed and the Korean Peninsula today would have been rooted in democracy and a market economy.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans helped to democratize Japan. If China had not interfered, the United States and a unified Korea would have accelerated China’s reform and opening.
What’s done is done, and we cannot live in retrospection if we focus on the future.
Yet the problem is that Chinese Communists still hold fast nostalgically to the antiquated remnants of their history.
The international community questions how sincere China is in its support of what should be international common ground: fighting for human rights and against terrorism. Under international norms, no country should harbor terrorists. Yet a major criminal case appears to have erupted and its next-door neighbor, North Korea, is a strong suspect.
The North denies any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, but all the circumstantial evidence points to that state. As a crucial member of the international community, China should have kept its distance from the suspect.
But the Chinese leaders gave a warm welcome to the ringleader, entertained him and sent him off with an armful of gifts.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman pooh-poohed criticism from South Korea and other countries, saying Kim Jong-il’s visit to China was an “internal issue.”
Any internal affairs in a country of global importance should be in sync with common sense and the principles of international society. If it doesn’t help, it should at least not disrupt international efforts to eradicate terrorists.
The international community will now have a hard time punishing Kim Jong-il, who returned to his country from Beijing greatly pleased and indulged.
China’s actions cannot be justified. It might not be easy to emulate the United States in its role of acting “generally” in defense of justice. But China must either choose an entirely new path to become a great country, or remain fettered to an old, useless ideological trap.
*The writer is an editorial writer on political affairs at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jin