It is truly unfortunate that China is so misunderstood by so many people in the Western world. This misunderstanding constitutes the biggest threat to world peace and world prosperity. My Year of the Rabbit wish is that the Western world will realize that the “China threat” is imagined, while the “China advantage” is real. The China advantage is an advantage not only for the Chinese but also for the entire world.
Last year in an article titled “West’s ‘divide and rule’ culture a great threat to development”, I pointed out that domestic politics has contributed to the rise of the “China threat” rhetoric among Western politicians. I cited the “Human Development Report 2021/2022”, which says the world is “lurching from crisis to crisis, and which risks heading towards increasing deprivation and injustice”. “For the first time in the 32 years that the UN Development Programme has been calculating it, the Human Development Index, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row.” Unfortunately, the upcoming 2022/2023 report is likely to show that the decline has continued for a third year.
Like every other country, China has its own problems. It is still struggling to improve its governance, manage its demographic problems including, but not limited to, aging and the emerging population decline, eradicating corruption and reducing crime, etc. However, China has also succeeded remarkably in many ways to the extent that it is contributing to human development not only in China, but also promises to benefit the rest of the world. I call this the “China advantage”.
China has succeeded remarkably in many ways to the extent that it is contributing to human development not only in China, but also promises to benefit the rest of the world. I call this the “China advantage”
The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s ongoing major strategy to leverage the “China advantage” at home and to make life better elsewhere. China has gained an awe-inspiring capability to build needed infrastructure facilities even in the most challenging terrain or climate conditions. Through the BRI, China has helped landlocked countries access international markets. China is helping many countries build their industrial capability (especially through launching massive construction projects of power plants, transportation networks and technology transfer). China offers both a huge market to other countries and technical expertise to those that need it. China has long benefited from the influx of foreign direct investment from many countries that then themselves benefit from close access to China’s huge and growing market. About 20 years ago, China began to invest in countries all over the world. Since 1998, China’s overseas direct investment has grown from almost nil to a record $12.8 billion in December 2015. Although the figure has come down noticeably since then, there is potential for it to pick up again if geopolitical tensions ease and when the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The “China advantage” is built on four pillars of Chinese culture: relentless effort to self-improve (zi qiang bu xi), true virtues to take on heavy responsibilities (hou de zai wu) (both from I Ching), readiness to leverage opportunities (shan jia yu wu) (from Xunzi), and an open mind to accommodate different views like the ocean accommodating rivers from all directions (hai na bai chuan) (from Zhuangzi). Chinese sages from ancient times have taught us to learn from experience and self-reflection with an open mind and to take advantage of what is available within the bounds of ethics and always working diligently. Chinese wisdom is behind Deng Xiaoping’s advice to eschew dogmatism in favor of pragmatism.
The Communist Party of China is guided by these principles to serve the country and the world. Ever since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China has never invaded any country nor occupied any foreign land. Zheng He, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), had launched seven expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. After examining evidence from various sources, Gavin Menzies concluded that Admiral Zheng visited the Americas 71 years ahead of Christopher Columbus. At the time, China was the strongest and richest nation on the planet, but it never colonized any part of the world. “Befriending neighbors” is a principle long held in China. The “China threat” is a bogeyman created by some people with ulterior motives in the United States to divert their people’s attention from the failures at home.
I have long maintained that the “Chinese dream” and the “American dream” are no different in essence. That is why the 2008 Beijing Olympics proposed the slogan “One World, One Dream”. China is ready to be a partner of any country that wants to benefit from the “China advantage”. With so many global challenges facing humanity including in particular the existential threat due to climate change, it would be silly not to work together as a team.
The US has tremendous sway on public opinion. If the US and China, the two leading countries in the world, are to work together to build a better world, fair play and mutual respect are paramount, and the US should help douse the toxic rhetoric. China has come a long way in the protection of intellectual property rights and private property rights. The West has never found any evidence of so-called “Huawei backdoors”, “forced labor in Xinjiang”, “genocide of Uygurs”, or “predatory lending” in the Belt and Road Initiative. So let us turn the tide, and let all take advantage of the “China advantage”.
The author is director of Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS