[Viewpoint] China’s premature overreach

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[Viewpoint] China’s premature overreach

China plans to run TV ads next month, flaunting 50 stars born in the Far East representing various fields - economy, arts, sports, fashion and science - via CNN and BBC. The household names include Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing; Li Ying, a renowned economist who helped design China’s economic reform programs; Robin Li, co-founder of the Chinese-language search engine Baidu that makes up 70 percent of the Internet search services market in China; and John Woo, an established film-making celebrity in Hollywood.

China’s confidence is at its peak, powered by its economic ascent. The country’s economy surpassed that of Japan to become the world’s second largest after the United States in terms of gross domestic product in the second quarter. The country inarguably emerged as an economic powerhouse, given its pace of growth and trade volume. In vitality, the economy eclipses Japan, Germany and Britain.

Through the image ad, China may want to pitch the country’s accomplishments to global viewers. Its newfound pride is understandable, considering the humiliation, wars, poverty and chaos the once-mighty nation went through over the last century.

While declaring the Communist People’s Republic of China as the legitimate Chinese government at the United Nations and protesting the U.S. promotion of Taiwan, former Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Xiuquan said China was not the same country that it was a century ago.

But his outburst hardly gained any sympathy from foreign counterparts, with China still in tatters from revolution and war.

But words from Chinese leaders are received differently these days. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid his respects to the gravestone of Mao Anying, eldest son of Mao Zedong who died during the Korean war, while visiting North Korea last year.

He said, “China has become a powerful country in this century. May Comrade Mao Anying rest in peace now.” Perseverance has finally paid off from the days Deng Xiaoping launched a quiet economic revolution led by the pragmatic and innocuous dictum, “it does not matter what color a cat is as long as it catches the mice.”

China now exhibits a different clout on the world stage than it did 100 years ago, as witnessed by complaints about the Cheonan sinking and claims over the southern coastal sea.

Hong Kong-based media chided China’s “premature overreach” for a superpower role while displaying unfitting behavior as a responsible stakeholder in the global community.

A responsible powerhouse with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council should contribute in pushing the international community forward in a positive direction. But China has used its status to mostly pursue self-interests while refraining from joining international actions against places that abuse human rights. The country is also stricken with internal conflicts among various races, religions and classes. We cannot expect a role model of upholding freedom and peace-loving from a society ridden with conflict and frequent use of force against free will.

The problem for us is that we are intricately linked with this nation. We inevitably would have to work on the future of the Korean Peninsula with a neighboring powerhouse in diplomatic and security fields. It is our obligation to closely study and understand China’s multifaceted aspects and complexities.

*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is Hong Kong correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Cheong Yong-whan.
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