By Dr. Sheng-Wei Wang
October 14, 2007
Introduction The U.S.-China relationship is very important. It is not only bilateral and regional, but also global. Never in history has China been as closely related to a Western superpower in economic, geopolitical and global strategic interests as it is today. Due to the two nations¡¯ enormous differences in areas like culture, history, economy and politics, their relations are predictably complicated and may change over time more often than not. The U.S. is striving to understand this immense Asian nation and its role in the world. But most American media, academics and political strata have presented their views from the standpoint of U.S. strategic planning on how to contain rather than how to cooperate with China. As a result, the ¡°China threat¡± rhetoric has created frequent jitters that have shaken the healthy, normal progress of the U.S.-Sino relations. China¡¯s Ascendancy China is writing its own version of what it wants to accomplish without resorting to war and conquest. Several issues merit attention in understanding modern China: First, China¡¯s ascendancy does not pose a threat to the U.S. since China is far behind the U.S. on many levels. As a nation, China suffered deeply throughout history. American media and politicians have painted a very rosy picture of China¡¯s economic development despite the fact that hundreds of millions of Chinese people still live below the poverty line, and severe environmental degradation and rampant corruption are eroding the nation¡¯s progress. For example: economic data show that in 2004 China¡¯s per capita income was only US$1,490 and ranked 105th of 192 world countries; the U.S. per capita income was then US$41,400 (about 28 times higher) and ranked fourth. Although China¡¯s per capita income increased to US$2,001 in 2006, its urban and rural gap between rich and poor continues to widen. In addition, the World Bank reported that the average Chinese personal asset value was only US$9,387, less than 2 percent of the average U.S. value. The U.S. currently ranks the second most competitive economy in the world and is first in technology and innovation, technical readiness, company spending for research and technology, and quality of its research institutions. China trails the U.S. by more than 30 nations in these important areas. Among the 20 top world universities, 18 are American; the U.S. invests 3.25 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 0.5 percent in China; in addition, the U.S. spends 2.59 percent in research and development compared with 1.31 percent in China. China has few patents (U.S. 2.02 per 100,000 population; China 0.50). America remains by far the most attractive destination for students, taking 30 percent of the total number of foreign students globally. Second, peaceful development by China should be regarded as beneficial to the world rather than harmful. Were China not a country deeply committed to peace and harmony, there would not have been the Silk Road which spread Chinese civilization to the rest of the world. In the early 15th century, China had the world¡¯s largest seagoing fleet equipped with the most advanced cannon, but it did not attack other countries or seize their territories. The Chinese idea of building a harmonious world is an extension of the concept of a harmonious society at home originating with Confucianism, a Chinese variant of humanism and ¡°soft power.¡± In addition, the quintessence of traditional Chinese culture exhibits a spirit of ¡°tolerance¡± and ¡°benevolence.¡± Because of tolerance, China is happy to absorb American culture. This is a sign of the confidence the Chinese have in their own culture. And because of benevolence, China strives to build a harmonious atmosphere in its own society while pursuing world peace in the international community. It is unwise to apply the Cold War strategy to China since globalization has increasingly intertwined the fates of all nations; also, China gets so much global attention because of its economic power, not its missiles. The reason is simple: military might may vanquish, but not govern; once the soldiers and generals leave, unrest would resurface, unless the military action has achieved what the majority of the people want. China is the third largest trading partner of the U.S. and its fourth largest export market, while the U.S. is China¡¯s second largest trading partner and its biggest export market. More than 50 percent of China's exports come from foreign-owned producers. American companies are prospering as they gain greater access to the Chinese domestic market, according to a seven year annual survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce. Two-thirds of American companies surveyed made appreciable profits in China and 42 percent reported that profits made in China were higher than world-wide averages for other countries. Third, China is currently engaged in extensive domestic, economic, social, and political reform including the preparation of an adequate national defense to secure its external environment for peaceful development. China has ¡°groped for stones to cross the river¡± instead of dramatic change through potentially dangerous ¡°shock therapy.¡± It pursued its own course to develop its rapidly growing economy. Internationally, it has adopted a pragmatic approach to handle relations based on the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other nations and multilateralism for balancing the power of big countries. The whole package is termed the Beijing Consensus by Western scholars and politicians. China has emphasized stability as the foundation of its economic and political reforms and its foreign policy. The Beijing Consensus has attracted attention and won respect from many underdeveloped and developing countries. It seems that the Chinese policy is seen favorably because China is also a Third World nation that has fought imperialism and stood with the Third World against Western pressure. The success of the Beijing Consensus lies in: 1) a strong willingness to innovate as a path to prosperity for poor countries; 2) a strong belief in sovereignty and multilateralism as a determination to find its own route; and 3) a desire to accumulate the tools of ¡°asymmetric power projection¡± to balance world powers to be in charge of the Chinese national destiny. Conclusion China is in the midst of a revolution again and it is a peaceful one. We are witnessing an unprecedented Chinese migration from rural to urban areas. We are also witnessing the Yangtze River Water Dam project which has changed the course of the river and reshaped the map of China. China¡¯s ascendancy is inevitable. Any U.S. attempt to hinder economic modernization in China would hurt both countries. Healthy competition between China and the U.S. should be viewed as a stimulus to progress. More importantly, competition is both constructive and common among world powers. It is essential that the American public accept peaceful development in China as a historical trend, as suggested by Dr. Henry Kissinger and many others. The world should appreciate the effectiveness of China in limiting its population and striving, for the past 58 years, to solve its own problems of employment, food, lodging, crime, and other civil issues without seeking help from the world. The world should also be pleased that China has successfully mediated the six-party talks concerning the Korean peninsula nuclear crisis and taken a positive attitude towards the request by the UN to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur. China is playing a larger role in keeping the world peace. Nonetheless, China still has a long way to go. History will document the actions of the Chinese people just as history recorded the greatness of Americans with their technological breakthroughs and visions that have changed the world. *************************** About the Author Sheng-Wei Wang was born in Taiwan. She graduated from National Tsing Hua University with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and earned a Ph.D. degree in Theoretical Chemical Physics from the University of Southern California. She was a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory after many years of scientific research at Caltech and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Prior to founding in 2006 the China-U.S. Friendship Exchange, Inc., she was also a self-made California real estate developer for 15 years. She considered herself nonpolitical until Taiwan¡¯s 2004 presidential election. She used her physics research skills to write a JFK-conspiracy- expos¨¦ arguing that President Chen Shui-bian¡¯s minor skin wound must have been staged. She briefed the U.S. State Department about her findings in May 2004 and was interviewed on TV. This investigation made her a well-known Chinese-American media figure. In order to strive for peace across the Taiwan Strait, she is devoting her efforts to China¡¯s peaceful reunification. Her translated English book, ¡°One Country, Two Systems¡± in Taiwan (a Chinese book by Taiwanese writer Hsing Chi), was published in the U.S. in 2006 by International Publishing House for China¡¯s Culture. Her earlier article, ¡°The Answer My Friend Is Blowing in the Wind,¡± was published in the ELM magazine on February 1, 2006. Her latest essays, ¡°For Whom the Bell May Toll?¡± and ¡°The Blue Danube on Gulangyu Islet,¡± appeared on American Chronicle¡¯s May 1 and May 12, 2007, issues. Her second English book, China¡¯s Ascendancy: An Opportunity or a Threat¡ªWhat Every American Should Know about China, is published in November 2007 by International Publishing House for China¡¯s Culture. She can be reached at Curra888@yahoo.com or www.ChinaUSFriendship.com, an English and Chinese bilingual website. ************************************** www.ChinaUSFriendship.com Website Introduction This website aims at improving the Sino-U.S. relations and promoting peace between China and Taiwan. It is published at a critical juncture in Chinese and American history when both countries can celebrate a fruitful mutual engagement, yet face some uncertainties for their long-term interactions. It is run by the China-U.S. Friendship Exchange, Inc., which was founded in Northern California in September 2006 by Dr. Sheng-Wei Wang, a scholar, writer and media figure. The site will host monthly web publications in English and Chinese languages by invited experts on major China-U.S. issues and related Taiwan topics. Forums and book publications are planned as the website further expands in the future.