Korea and the Chinese dreamChoo Mi-ae, leader of the Democratic Party, is busy darting in and out of places. Last month, she visited the United States and met with White House officials, members of Congress, think tanks and the media.
Earlier this month, she met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. While it was not a one-on-one meeting, she was treated to a dinner banquet by Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and strategist for Xi. She is also planning visits to Russia and Japan. I don’t know what she aspires to become, but she is certainly dreaming big.
Xi invited 460 major party leaders from 120 countries and held a large-scale international event called the World Political Parties Dialogue. After he became “Emperor Xi” at the 19th Communist Party Congress in October, Xi carefully prepared the event to promote the results of the congress and show off China’s communist system. As most of the attendees were party leaders from Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa and South America, the presence of South Korea’s ruling party leader was noteworthy.
Choo attended the photo session with Xi as one of 14 representatives and received special treatment. She was allowed to deliver a keynote speech at the general meeting on the final day.
At the opening speech, Xi emphasized that China would neither “import” foreign models of development nor “export” the Chinese model. “China is not seeking hegemony or global expansion,” he said, “but tries to be the builder of world peace and the defender of the international order.” By connecting every nation closely, seeking common ground and respecting differences, Xi hopes to turn the world into a harmonious family.
Since Donald Trump became president and began advocating America First, the status of the United States in the international scene has fallen. The United States voluntarily gave up its role as leader of the international order through a smart integration of soft and hard power.
Under the slogan of peace through strength, the budget and workforce of the State Department have been drastically cut, while the defense budget has sharply increased. Posing as the protector of the Paris climate change agreement and free trade, China has quickly filled the void left by America.
At the 19th Party Congress, Xi delivered a 3.5-hour speech on the new era of Chinese socialism and great rise of the Chinese people. By 2020, China plans to establish a free society where everyone is free from worrying about food, clothing and shelter.
By 2035, China hopes to accomplish socialist modernization in all areas and attain the “Chinese dream” by 2050, becoming a rich civilized nation and harmonious socialist power. It has ambitions to become a leader of the civilized world surpassing the United States.
At the World Political Parties Dialogue, Xi said winner-take-all and beggar-thy-neighbor approaches have “eroded a country’s own roots for growth and impaired the future of whole humanity.” While he did not name the United States, he was practically condemning American governance that encouraged global inequality and disparity. The event was interpreted as China’s challenge against the U.S.-led global order. Xi revealed a plan to institutionalize the dialogue and invite 15,000 party leaders from around the world in the next five years.
Yet China still has a long way to go to reach the U.S. level in terms of economy. Inequality and disparity are more serious than in the United States, and China is rapidly turning into a “Big Brother” society. More than 20 million surveillance cameras combined with artificial intelligence and big data watch individuals day and night.
China overwhelms the United States in capacity and number of supercomputers, with 202 of the top 500 supercomputers, far more than 143 in the United States. When artificial intelligence and robots replace the workforce as supercomputers to become the core driving forces of the fourth industrial revolution, it is uncertain where the anger of jobless Chinese will head. China is likely to tighten surveillance of its people.
Liberal democracy across the world is threatened. But it is doubtful whether Chinese-style one-party governance can be an alternative. It is also doubtful whether the international community will follow the Sino-centric world order. As the rivalry between the United States and China intensifies, South Korea’s position will become more awkward.
In her keynote speech, Choo said she was sure that the Chinese dream advocated by Xi, the architect of a new era, would contribute to global peace and prosperity. I want to ask if she has overlooked China’s real intention behind her special treatment.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 5, Page 35
*The author is a senior columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.