AGAINST fearing the rise of China

FOR fearing the rise of China


China’s phenomenal growth keeps the world economy afloat. By embracing the market, the world’s biggest country had multiplied its economy 10-fold over the past three decades. That has empowered millions of consumers eager to buy foreign goods. The “Chinese miracle” saw 30 years of growth averaging over 8 percent. It’s true that growth has slowed recently to just 7 percent, and China must now avoid the “middle income trap”. Nevertheless German carmakers, Australian mines, and Bordeaux vineyards have all enjoyed a China-fueled boom. China’s rise offers boundless opportunities. The rest of the world just has to show some Chinese-style entrepreneurship to take advantage.


China’s military budget has grown even faster than its GDP, averaging over 12 percent for over a decade. The 2.3-million-strong People’s Liberation Army is fast developing high-tech weaponry, from stealth fighters to precision missiles and nuclear submarines. Its first aircraft carrier is due to enter service in August. The goal is clearly to project power at a time when Beijing continues to cast a covetous eye over Taiwan and is locked in territorial disputes with neighbors in the South China Sea and beyond.


The last thing China wants is conflict to distract from all that money-making. From stabilizing the Middle East, to neutralizing Islamist radicalism or countering nuclear proliferation, China and the West have shared interests. Beijing hates being lectured, but approached sensitively, a China whose emergence as a diplomatic and military power is only just beginning to match its economic might, could become a vital partner for protecting peace and stability. China’s “future and destiny never been more closely connected with those of the international community,” says the country’s 2010 Defence White Paper.


China’s vast pool of cheap labour, its absence of social or environmental restraints means it can undercut the rest of the world. Its unfair practices are killing jobs around the globe. Failure to protect intellectual property rights means competitors are ripped off and consumers dumped with substandard counterfeits. China’s insatiable demand is pushing up world prices for oil and minerals. The world’s biggest polluter is also destroying the planet, its carbon emissions are up 171 percent since 2000.


The rise of China, and in its wake India, Brazil and, maybe, even a resurgent Europe, will create a multi-polar world where no one holds a hegemonic position. Constrained by checks and balances and needing to work together in the face of threats from terrorism, energy insecurity or climate change, the new great powers will develop into what Hillary Clinton calls “a multi-partner world.”


China uses its immense economic power to get other countries hooked on handouts. Chinese aid and investment has secured an unhealthy hold over nations across Africa, enabling it to harvest their mineral resources and exploit their workforces. Its grip on $1.261 trillion of American debt looms over the US economy. Now colonization by stealth has reached the Europe, as China grabs Portuguese power companies, Greek ports and whatever other bargains appear in the euro-crisis fire sale.


Hilary’s husband Bill once contended that a prosperous China is less of as threat than one that is weak and poor. In economic terms, the fast-growing wages in China’s vast manufacturing sector are rapidly eroding China’s low-cost advantage. By some estimates it could soon be cheaper to make stuff in the US. If China’s growth were to grind to a halt, sparking social unrest among its 1.3 billion people, the world might really have something to fear.


China is a direct threat to European and US hopes of spreading democratic values. Beyond its repression of domestic dissidence, China has been a consistent barrier to UN efforts to curtail despotism from Burma to Sudan and Syria. Beijing’s Africa policy runs counter to EU attempts to link development to human rights and China’s very economic success undermines the West’s aspirations to be a model for others to follow.