Saturday, December 09, 2006

China Adapting to World Power Status

Fresh on the heels of my reference yesterday to the confusion following Zoellick's request that China think of itself as a 'responsible stakeholder,' the New York Times reports today that China is getting used to the idea of being a world power:

“Like it or not, China’s rise is becoming a reality,” says Jia Qingguo, associate dean of the Beijing University School of International Studies. “Wherever Chinese leaders go these days, people pay attention. And they can’t just say, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’ ”

Itself a major recipient of foreign aid until recently, China this year promised to provide well over $10 billion in low-interest loans and debt relief to Asian, African and Latin American countries over the next two years. It invited 48 African countries to Beijing last month to a conference aimed at promoting closer cooperation and trade.

Beijing agreed to send 1,000 peacekeepers to Lebanon, its first such action in the Middle East. It has sought to become a more substantial player in a region where the United States traditionally holds far more sway.

At the United Nations Security Council, China cast aside its longstanding policy of opposing sanctions against other nations. It voted to impose penalties on North Korea, its neighbor and onetime ally, for testing nuclear weapons...

Yan Xuetong, a foreign affairs specialist at Qinghua University in Beijing, argued in a scholarly journal this summer that China had already surpassed Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and India in measures of its economic, military and political power. That leaves it second only to the United States, he said.

While the military gap between China and the United States may remain for some time, he argued, China’s faster economic growth and increasing political strength may whittle down America’s overall advantage.

“China will enjoy the status of a semi-superpower between the United States and the other major powers,” Mr. Yan predicted in the article, which appeared in the China Journal of International Politics.

He added, “China’s fast growth in political and economic power will dramatically narrow its power gap with the United States.”

China is changing, and it has the potential to be a critical ally if its future development continues on a course of greater openness. China will do a lot to determine if that happens, but the US does play an important role. We must hold to US ideals, while remaining engaged, advocating change at a reasonable pace and practicing a consistent policy toward China.

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