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The View from China
With Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington for a major summit with President Obama, I thought I’d relay some thoughts from State media in China, various editorials. I offer these without comment. My own commentary on the U.S.-China relationship can be found in “Week in Review.”
World-class military not exclusive luxury [1/7/11]
The rumored Chinese stealth jet, or “aircraft-carrier killer,” has been making headlines in the U.S. China-U.S. relations that seemed to warm around the New Year, now face a new wall.
There are numerous walls between the two powers. Some would try to help the two sides negotiate a path between the walls, while others attempt to bring the two to a dead end.
It is both natural and unnatural for the U.S. to be concerned about China developing new weapons. Most powers wish that their superiority will last forever. China is growing up fast, and the U.S. military edge over China is unavoidably shrinking.
Whether the reported new weapons are true or not, in the long run, China will own first-class weapons that are capable of competing with the U.S. war machine. But owning these weapons does not necessarily mean China will attack the U.S.
The outcry among U.S. media reflects the permeating surprise over China’s military progress. This gap of expectation and reality is dangerous for Sino-U.S. relations, and is worth the attention of both Beijing and Washington.
Some are even trying to estimate at what pace China’s development, especially military progress, would be seen as tolerable for American society. Should China surpass this theoretical threshold, the danger could then be more easily ascertained.
Apparently, the U.S. is not ready to treat China as a major power. They cannot accept the fact that China will sooner or later possess a first-class military. They are too used to the old power structure, in which China and other developing countries have long been treated unfairly.
Some American decision-makers swear by the role of aircraft carriers in the western Pacific, as if a few of these vessels could prevent the slumbering giant from waking.
China now faces a dilemma. Raising its voices to certain international affairs, it risks being labeled as tough or overly assertive. But China can no longer forego its own basic rights.
It will be a painful procedure. There will be many discussions about China’s growing military power that may even spiral into protest and criticism.
Similar to our adaption to increasing frictions with Western countries, the older powers will also acclimatize to China’s rise.
China no challenger to U.S. on West Pacific [1/10/11]
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in China on Sunday. The day came about seven months later than he had expected.
Both militaries obviously have a pile of questions for each other. The West Pacific is like being at the crossroads of peace and turbulence – there is no traffic signal here – and all the players in the area are watching where the two powers are heading.
On the eve of his visit to Beijing, Gates restated his concerns about China’s military buildup. Meanwhile, China is no less worried about the U.S. military presence in Asia. When U.S. aircraft carriers were heading toward China’s nearest sea, China had enough reason to cry about its concerns just like the U.S. did.
Despite its military buildup in recent years, China is one generation or more behind the U.S. in military technology. Both China’s arms system and weaponry performance are way behind.
The U.S. has obviously defined a set of excessive and even luxury security standards. Perhaps Washington would feel relaxed only when the Chinese military uses weapons and facilities obsolete in the U.S. army and when the Chinese soldiers return to the era of wearing straw sandals.
The U.S. often questions China’s strategic intention because of its military modernization. In fact, China also wants to ask: What is the U.S. strategic intention of keeping absolute military superiority over the West Pacific?
China won’t be a fast-growing but fragile country. It has to develop its military strength in order to make any power think twice before trying to offend China’s key interests.
The top priority of developing Sino-U.S. military relations is to build mutual trust. The U.S., with stronger military power, should release more sincerity.
In past decades, the U.S. toppled more than a few countries through both hot war and cold war. It has to do more to reduce the natural assumptions of a “U.S. conspiracy” in the Chinese society.
At the same time, China should also take U.S. anxiety into consideration. The U.S. is used to being the leading player on the world stage, accepting global obedience. China’s effort to improve its own national security isn’t compatible with the West Pacific order at the moment. China needs to explore a new road to collective security in the region.
Despite the need to step up its military buildup, China should not set a long-term goal of comprehensively surpassing the U.S. This is both impractical and even risky.
China should endeavor to dispel military contention out of its national competition with the U.S., which best facilitates China’s interests.
This is easier said than done. But in an era of globalization, it is not necessarily utopian.
China’s growth not a result of espionage [1/14/11]
Although the French government has insisted that no specific country is being targeted in Renault’s industrial espionage complaint, French media have taken the China link as granted.
This is not the first time that China has been labeled as a “thief” in descriptions by Western public opinions. As innovation becomes a national strategy, China has been confronted with aspersions on its innovation capability.
In the eyes of some Western opinion leaders, China’s knack of copying products is no longer a quirky sideshow, it is now endorsed by the Chinese government in urging the co-opting of foreign technologies. It’s as if China is going to modernize off foundations stolen from the West.
Surely, China’s modernization includes some imitation of the West. It is a natural for Western society to feel proud and the occasional cheap shot is even understandable.
However, it is ludicrous to cast China as a thief that grabs any technology it can by illegal means to try and take shortcuts to power.
Human civilizations have always progressed at different paces, and stragglers will always imitate the pioneers.
Europe built an IPR [intellectual property regime] system after the Industrial Revolution, and Europe and the U.S. have reaped the greatest profits from innovation.
Within two decades of its reform and opening-up, China fully accepted the existing IPR system.
Among emerging countries, China has led the charge in intensifying crackdown campaigns against copycats.
Without China’s increasing collaboration on IPR protection, neither Louis Vuitton, nor McDonald’s or Apple would be enjoying the success they have here today.
China’s imitation does not necessarily hinder Western benefits. China’s Internet growth started with imitation, which violated no laws, but helped the global spread of the Web.
Previously China learned from the U.S. to build highways, and now the U.S. in turn seeks to learn from China in building its high-speed rail network. Should both countries shield their traffic network to prevent possible imitation by others?
Those who keep disparaging China’s innovation capacity and even appeal for technological blockades appear in the wrong light. They think that the technological advantage they have should keep them ahead now and in the future.
Industrial espionage does exist in China, just like it exists across the world. But the Chinese have also learned a lot of other things from the West – high divorce rate, paparazzi and hair dye. Why is China never blamed for these?
Hu’s visit will show patience to the world [1/15/11]
A popular perspective among certain U.S. citizens seems to be that the superpower’s confidence in maintaining its status is slowly being sapped by the prospect of a rising China. However, few people in the Middle Kingdom consider the fall of the U.S. to be a given.
Mutual understanding between the two is sometimes weakened across different areas. But the upcoming visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to the U.S. spells a golden opportunity for the two countries to air their differences.
Recently, U.S. media once again sifted through the obstacles that Sino-U.S. ties must face, such as the value of the yuan, protection of intellectual property rights and military transparency in China. Such a narrow perspective is woefully near-sighted when considering the entire vista of bilateral relations.
Sino-U.S. relations include many odd speculations and questions that both powers would do well to shrug off. Unprecedented conflicts and competition are wracking the Asia-Pacific region, and the two sides are aware that there is no time to worry about the more cosmetic battles.
Using the same stereotypes about China for years, certain media sources have brought grudges back to the surface. In reality, the U.S. is not being dwarfed by China, but by itself.
Next week’s summit is set to show both peoples and the whole world that rumors of an Asia-Pacific Cold War are groundless.
Those who see relations between China and the U.S. as mirroring those of the U.S. with the former Soviet Union suffer from a woeful lack of historical vision.
The world is always suspicious of the patience between China and U.S. in dealing with questions of concern. Hu’s visit will showcase this patience to the people. History proves that overreaction and paranoia will only deteriorate a situation. The transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world has shocked the U.S. in recent years, and its media have combined an existing bias with new paranoia.
What the two need most right now is mutual trust, or at least tolerance, to be able to listen to each other instead of engaging in pointless sniping.
The U.S. should understand China’s pursuit of military development but not question China’s strategic intentions. For China, it should not be confused about the U.S. preoccupation with containing China’s military development.