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Reconstructing China: The Peaceful Development, Economic Growth, and International Role of an Emerging Super Power: The Peaceful Development, Economic Growth, and International Role of an Emerging Super Power

Reconstructing China: The Peaceful Development, Economic Growth, and International Role of an Emerging Super Power: The Peaceful Development, Economic Growth, and International Role of an Emerging Super Power

by Li Jingzhi, Pu Ping

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China's rapid economic advancement has resulted in vast and unprecedented changes, among which opportunities and challenges coexist. As power is redistributed globally, China is finding itself at a crossroads. And as a socialist nation, China's economic rise presents unique



China's rapid economic advancement has resulted in vast and unprecedented changes, among which opportunities and challenges coexist. As power is redistributed globally, China is finding itself at a crossroads. And as a socialist nation, China's economic rise presents unique challenges.

  • Where does China fit among powerful capitalist nations?
  • How can China leverage economic opportunities that come with globalization—without disrupting international order?
  • How can China build the international trust necessary to continue on its path of peaceful development?

By comparing possible modes of the rise of great powers, Reconstructing China explains why it is absolutely essential that China take a path of peaceful development and growth, and how the nation can achieve it in the most effective way possible.

Written by international relations expert Li Jingzhi—a professor at Renmin University of China—Reconstructing China gives policymakers, global investors, business leaders, and anyone else interested in the rise of China a perspective of China's growth they will find nowhere else.

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McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
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Reconstructing China

The Peaceful Development, Economic Growth, and International Role of an Emerging Super Power


McGraw-Hill Education

Copyright © 2014 McGraw-Hill Education
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-182860-4



With the end of the Cold War, peace and development have become the major themes of our time, and the international situation has begun to assume certain characteristics inclining toward stability and moderation. The collapse of bipolar structure and the termination of antagonism between capitalism and socialism have brought a fundamental change to the once intense international relationship; the menace of easily provoked wars does not exist anymore, and the possibility of direct clashes between major powers is prominently diminished. Instead of fierce confrontation, relationships between countries take the new form of peace and cooperation; furthermore, the aspiration for cooperation between countries has, generally speaking, never been stronger; problems caused by war far outweigh benefits from it; and the cost for major powers to materialize their national interests through war is accelerating. Thus, each country is pressing for a peaceful and stable international environment for its economic development.

The accelerating economic globalization affords every country a precious opportunity to develop its economy. Establishment of the worldwide unified market enormously boosts free transnational movement of products, capital, services, and workforce and makes global distribution of resources possible. World trade has achieved unprecedented development, and the world economy keeps opening up. Meanwhile, the international division of labor in commodity production is becoming more complex, and the number of multinational corporations is growing rapidly. The development of communication and information technology is strengthening the political and economic relationships between countries and expanding exchanges between cultures and societies. This situation has resulted in much closer contacts between countries in the aspects of production, trade, and other sectors, as well as greater interdependence and more prominent mutual sensitivity and vulnerability. The interests of different countries are interwoven, and the growing joint international interests have curbed the clash of interests between countries. Owing to this, seeking economic cooperation and maintaining common interests have become the major aspects of interstate relations, taking the place of conflict and confrontation. And the competition over comprehensive national strength rooted in economy, science, and technology has become the major competition mode between countries, substituting for arms races.

What's more, with the development of globalization, the world is confronted with ever more prominent global issues in regard to environment and ecology, AIDS, and so on posing serious threats to the survival and development of human beings. Thus, economic globalization not only affords each country the precious opportunity for economic development but also calls for more cooperation between countries. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, peace and development as the era's theme are gaining more prominence. The international and regional regimes for politics, economy, and security have become a significant force in maintaining international peace and promoting development. As the largest intergovernmental organization, the United Nations has been actively engaged in resolving international crises, tackling global issues, and aiding developing countries. Through advanced mechanisms such as a single currency and common foreign and security policies, the European Union (EU) has become the most highly integrated regional organization, whose peaceful development mode sets an excellent example for the subsequently rising major powers or groups of nations. Another important impetus behind regional peace and development is the various regional organizations such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union (AU), and especially the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN "10 + 3," and ASEAN Regional Forum, in whose establishment and improvement China has played a proactive role. Contributing to the prosperity and stability of Asia and to a favorable environment for China's economic development, these international and regional regimes are "an important platform for the rise of China." It is against this general background that the conception of peaceful development and a harmonious world gradually took shape in China.

This conception completely overthrows the thinking of colonial expansion and hegemony in modern history and remains an inevitable choice that fits the current international value system. In modern history, even up to the end of World War II, and in an international system where the law of the jungle prevailed, colonial expansion and wars were legitimate policy instruments for states to accumulate wealth or achieve diplomatic goals. This sent those eager-to-rise major powers on the track of wars for hegemony. However, in our world today, fundamental changes have taken place in the international value system, and only peaceful approaches can be employed, for the rise of the major powers and their legitimacy can be achieved only through the construction of a peaceful national image. Thus, China's conception of peaceful development and a harmonious world remains what this era of peace and development calls for and accords with the value principle of the present world.

As far as the security environment and world public opinion are concerned, China finds itself in a much improved international and regional security environment since the end of the Cold War, especially at the present stage, which ensures the essential conditions for the peaceful development of China. First, the relationship between China and the major powers maintains a sound momentum of development. Through the establishment of partnerships, multilevel communication, and cooperation mechanisms, effective channels have been opened up for prompt communication and closer cooperation with those powers in all aspects. For example, China is sharing more and more joint interests with the United States, the hegemonic power in the present international system. Since the 9/11 incident, cooperation between China and the United States keeps expanding; in addition, the United States has long been concentrating on major international security issues, such as antiterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. As Professor Shi Yinhong wrote in 2006, "it's possible that the U.S. will not take China as its standard rival or major rival in quite a long time." The combination of these two factors results in a comparatively relaxed space for China's development. Second, China and its neighboring countries are vigorously developing a relationship between good neighbors and friends. Through the resolution of boundary issues with most of its neighboring countries and under the guideline of "shelving differences and seeking joint development," China has effectively reduced conflicts and friction with its neighbors; as it is largely engaged in regional economy and security regimes, China has made great contribution to regional development, thus earning more approval from its neighboring countries and expanding economic and security cooperation with them. This favorable cooperative atmosphere is undoubtedly conducive to the peaceful development of China. Finally, China finds itself in a better public opinion environment. This is because more and more countries are regarding the development of China as an opportunity rather than a challenge, as China bears an increasing amount of international and regional responsibility with continuous development of its economy. For example, as the engine of regional and even world economic development, China has leaped to the front ranks of the world in regard to its contribution to the increase of the world's gross domestic product (GDP). Another example is that China's constructive contribution to major international issues, such as the nuclear issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and antiterrorism, is winning more approval from the international community.

However, we should also be aware that unfavorable elements still exist in the international environment, and the world is not tranquil. For example, in present international politics, hegemonism still remains a major threat to world peace. Especially after the 9/11 incident, there is a stronger tendency toward unilateralism and power politics in the name of antiterrorism on the part of the United States to make global deployments for its strategic interests. Meanwhile, some countries still cling to a Cold War mentality and maintain and consolidate their respective military alliances, which adversely impact regional and international peace and stability. What's more, international security is confronted with severe challenges, and the end of the Cold War highlights ethnic conflicts, religious clashes, and territorial disputes. Hot regional issues keep springing up, while local wars and violent conflicts frequently break out. In addition, there is a growing threat caused by unconventional security problems such as terrorism, transnational crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and so on. Global issues in other fields also demand urgent solutions and pose threats to the world's peace and stability. These global issues include environmental deterioration, shortages of resources, poverty issues, rampant piracy, financial crisis, information security, infectious diseases, natural disasters, and so on. Obviously, the numerous inharmonious notes in this generally harmonious international environment constitute the actual basis for China's conception of peaceful development and a harmonious world, a reaction to the inharmonious world after the Cold War.

Due to these unfavorable factors, the development of China is confronted with pressing interference from the international environment. First, China's rapidly growing overall national strength puts some Western countries and neighboring countries into a panic, which accounts for the long-held arguments of a "China threat." These threat arguments are mainly about how China's rapid economic development would lead to its greater military strength and strong ambition for invasion, which would in turn make China inclined to achieving its goals through invasion or the use of military force. To put it more specifically, the United States, the hegemonic state, is concerned that China would overthrow the present international system for hegemony, while the concern from neighboring countries is that China would possibly solve territorial disputes by resorting to armed force. What's more, some of the countries holding the view of a China threat perceive that China's economic development will disturb other countries' economies, since China's economic development would give rise to price hikes and a scarcity of resources such as energy, food, minerals, and other materials. Even worse, China has become a big socialist country, and its unique development mode poses a challenge to the widely accepted American mode. In this sense, in spite of some improvement, the world's public opinion still remains unfavorable to China, which imposes great pressure on China's development.

Second, the complicated surrounding geographical environment has to some extent a negative impact on China's peaceful development. China is surrounded by numerous countries, some of which are large, and there are numerous prominent hot issues. The continuously strengthening U.S.-Japan military alliance adds to China's geographical pressure and also makes the Taiwan problem even more difficult to cope with. Because of this, the Taiwan problem is becoming more explosive and China's reunification more difficult, which has created a big obstacle on China's road to development and greater prosperity. Other than this, the boundary and territorial disputes between China and some of its neighboring countries remain unsettled; the India-Pakistan conflict and the DPRK's nuclear crisis might break out easily. These are all latent dangers in the way of China's development and might impair the stable surrounding environment of China at any time.

Finally, the destructive force of global issues cannot be ignored. These global issues include rampant ethnic separatist activities, the deteriorated environment, financial crisis, infectious diseases, and so on. Under certain conditions, the destructive force of these issues might easily break out, restraining China's peaceful development.

To sum up, the present international situation is generally favorable, with peace and development as the theme of the era, but global issues still hold a prominent position and a security threat still exists. It is against this background that China put forward the conception of peaceful development and a harmonious world.

Inherent Dynamics for the Conception of Peaceful Development and a Harmonious World

In regard to domestic conditions, the primary dynamic behind the conception of peaceful development and a harmonious world is China's need for a peaceful and stable international environment for its rapid economic development. Rapid growth of overall national strength reinforces the material basis, which allows China to seek wider international and regional impact and a more significant role on the international stage. Consequently, China has become more aware of its international status as a major power and more eager to shoulder international responsibility and make a contribution that is in line with this status. On the other hand, the tremendous benefit and advantage brought forth by China's rapid development affirms its strong faith in maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for development and in seeking peaceful development.

Since the reform and opening up, an economic miracle rarely seen in human history has taken place in China. According to statistics, from 1978 to 2007, China's GDP has increased from ¥364.5 billion to ¥24.95 trillion, with an average annual growth rate of 9.8 percent, three times more than that of the world economy over the same period. China's economic aggregate ranked fourth in the world. By the end of 2010, China's economic aggregate overtook that of Germany and Japan, ranking second in the world. Meanwhile, by the end of 2010, China's total export-import volume had leaped to number one in the world. Since taking the place of Japan as the largest country by foreign exchange reserve, China is still enjoying an upward trend in its foreign exchange reserve, hitting $2 trillion. Apart from this, China has ranked first in the output of major industrial products such as crude steel, raw coal, cement, chemical fertilizer, mobile phones, and computers, becoming the genuine workshop of the world.

Since 2008, in spite of the financial crisis, the severe deterioration of the world economic environment, and their negative impact on China's economy, China still managed to sustain a comparatively high economic development rate. In 2009, China's GDP reached ¥33.5 trillion, increasing by 8.7 percent compared with that of 2008; while China's export-import volume reached $2.2 trillion, a remarkable economic achievement considering the interference of financial crisis, though a small decrease compared with that of other major countries and regions.

However, China's economic development does not aim at the blind pursuit of quantity. Based on more than 30 years of experience in economic development, China put forward the general idea of a scientific outlook on development, endeavoring to transform its economic growth mode. Thus, over recent years, while encouraging economic development, China has been attaching more importance to environmental and ecological protection. In addition, China's central finance has been allocating more capital for major projects targeting energy saving and environmental protection. What's more, through eliminating outdated production capacities, restricting the development of industries that are high in energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, and optimizing the energy structure, the Chinese government is taking substantial actions to protect the environment and ecology. China's stronger sense of responsibility is fully revealed in its energy conservation and pollution reduction target of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010.

Excerpted from Reconstructing China by LI JINGZHI, PU PING. Copyright © 2014 McGraw-Hill Education. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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