A reality check first
Lately, major countries consider a combination of nostalgic attitude of focusing on national reputation and pride and the sense of reality understanding national circumstances and interests. Domestic situations are full of challenges, but countries seem to be leaning towards reminiscing the glory of their past.
The United States boasts world’s largest economic, military and diplomatic capacities. But they are the largest, but not absolute. Nevertheless, the United States want to exercise absolute influence based on the power of value alliance and military dominance and focuses on checking on China’s expansion. Japan is as lethargic as an outdated leviathan, but it continues to hold parties and acts of self-display on the ship deck. Japan made alliance with the United States to check on China and got consent to become a normal state capable of war through militarization, but Japan’s national debt continues to grow in an alarming way.
China is in agony. China has opened the era of rising, and its influence as well as share in global economy is drastically growing. With world’s largest foreign currency reserve and solid Chinese business giants, China is concentrating on the diplomacy of economic power in Asia, Europe, Africa and Central and South Americas.
Nevertheless, the leadership of the Communist Party of China must be troubled. In the past three decades, the Chinese Communist Party accomplished miracles, but through the transition period after the 2008 global financial crisis, it is faced with a crisis of trust. Circumstances and environment have changed so much that the conventional strategies and manuals are no longer relevant. And signs of saturation are spotted throughout.
Moreover, the new U.S.-Japan alliance made China nervous, and China is working on revising its global strategies. China believes that there is a possibility of the free sea route in the West Pacific blocked and is obsessed over the risk of being attacked by the allied fleet of the United States and Japan in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Therefore, China has built an artificial island over a coral reef in the South China Sea and firmly believes that the “pivot to the west” was the best and safest option.
In order to get out of the pressure of the diplomatic alliance network of the United States, China focuses on turning America’s key allies like the United Kingdom and Korea to their side. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United Kingdom vividly showed the reality of the international relations. Xi received exceptional welcome, riding on the carriage with the queen, walking the red carpet at Buckingham Palace and speaking to the joint session of the Parliament. During the UK visit, China successfully made a meaningful connection with the United Kingdom, a key member of the NATO and a core ally of the United States, in return for large-scale investments. President Park Geun-hye attended the 70th anniversary Victory Day parade in Beijing with China benefiting greatly in both justification and real interests. President Xi supported the Korea-China-Japan summit facilitated by Park and agreed to make joint responses on the North Korea nuclear issues.
But these examples illustrate the limits of China’s diplomacy of economy and power. The United Kingdom traditionally keeps a balance of economic interests while keeping the dignity and tradition of the British Empire. But they are of the Anglo-Saxon blood and are one with the United States spiritually and in terms of values. Moreover, China cannot weaken Korea’s decades-old alliance of security and value built on blood and hearts just by improving relations with Korea.
Xi made a state visit to the United States on September 26. The visit was a juxtaposition to the UK visit in every way. Xi’s message to boast China’s power by travelling from Seattle to Washington D.C. was overshadowed by the passionate welcome for Pope Francis. In Washington, Xi had to face the subtle smile of President Obama and listen to his composed yet cold and resolute English.
Storming is gathering over China. It is carrying loads beyond its capacity and seems to be reaching for goals and achievements that are too high in too many regions and areas. China has to respond to overwhelming situations while it displays excessive pride and hides fear deep inside.
To China, it may be important to overcome the United States and accomplish the grand vision of the future. But it needs to focus on escaping the crisis of international trust and control the transition first. China should concentrate on self-innovation and self-control to bring back the economy on track. It will be the greatest rise of China. China has grown in size, so it is the time to fill it up. Just as for any other country, China needs to have reality check first rather than resorting to the old glory. It is still too early for China to pop champagne.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 11, Page 32
*The author, a former minister of commerce, industry and energy, is the chairman of the North East Asian Research Foundation.
by KIM HOE-RYONG, Chung Duck-koo