China-US Millitary & More Than Made-in-China

If you ask a Chinese to use one work to describe the current Chinese policies, domestic and international, I think most people will give you the answer: harmony.

Harmony is the most frequently used word in state media. Cooperation, multilateralism, noninterference, trust and equality and so on. This is at least what we hear from our government everyday. So Zakaria is right when he says that China want to avoid conflicts instead of creating them. China is rising not by military expansion but by more subtle and lucrative ways.

One reason for this attitude is that China can never compete with US in military means. US military is too far ahead of China, and China can never spend as extravagantly as US on its army. What’s more, everybody is watching China with tons of concerns and skepticism. If China ever chooses to be so conspicuous, the whole world will be against it.

At the same time, inside China, there is also no space for military expansion according to public opinion and emotions. In early 1990s, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said to Chinese people that we should focus on our own business and don’t try to be the head of something, that even after China is strong enough, Chine should not pursue the hegemony. This motto is well remembered by following leaders. China now is experiencing the most prosperous and stable time in its history. The memory of war is too harsh and too painful. People now really appreciate the peace and stability, and they just want to make a better life. No one will agree with the government to spend money on aircraft carrier when the money can be used to build a new highway. (Chinese Communist Party understands the needs of people surprisingly well, which is the base of their rule.) Chinese now value economic development more than anything else, which also explains why they make so much voluntary compromise to the government: as long as the government provides a stable society and strong economy, we can talk about human rights or freedom later.

Using economic means to penetrate the American web is much safer and more profitable. This is a win-win situation. Other countries get real benefits, and China gets its legitimate share and world recognition. This effort is made much easier when Bush administration is setting fire all over the place, which makes China a very good alternative for many countries by comparison. (But many times, China is not offering a good or moral alternative. We see frequently that Chinese oversea investment is accompanied by corruption and violation of human rights.)

So my point is: Chins has no need, no ability and no intention to compete with US militarily.

Coming back to the soft power. I keep thinking what kinds of soft power China has got. Zakaria mentioned Chinese economic strength. On one hand, I am proud of the Chinese economic development. The large amount of evidence in Zakaria’s book showed the speed and quantity of Chinese economics growth. But on the other hand, Chinese industries are at the bottom of the food chain. Many Chinese factories are pressured by Walmart to lower their price, so low that the companies always stay at the verge of breaking down. And consider the environmental cost, we have earned nothing. We keep doing this because it offers jobs. Jobs create stability.

Another problem about Chinese economic growth is the distribution of wealth. Most people in China have the feeling that the country is getting rich, but the individuals are getting poor. The wealth created by Chinese people has been concentrated in some corporate and state owned company. Corruption is a huge problem. Rich people spend recklessly. Yesterday in the news there is a story of a rich man using 16 BMWs to welcome his new puppy. People online are getting furious. If you go visit some BBSs, you can feel the anger and tension.

So I think the economic strength of China is not posing a threat as big as what we hear everyday. What’s more, China is not invading anyone or expanding intentionally. China is just fighting for survival. The problem might be that China is too big and takes too much to survive.

When I go further on the list of soft power, I think US is still far ahead in most areas. Take education for example.

China is doing great in international math competitions. Chinese students are very good at calculation. Many people say this is the evidence of Chinese soft power. But why there is not yet any Chinese scientist win Nobel Prize? Chinese education is destructive to the creativity and imagination. It does not encourage questions or team work, which is the real soft power. Most Chinese classes have more than fifty people, and I feel like a product on the assembly line. I am being a bit harsh here, but the fact is that Chinese education is like mass production of goods, instead of teaching people how to be a happy, responsible and useful human. That’s why the best Chinese students always choose to come to US or go to Hong Kong to receive higher education. But on the other hand, when these Chinese students finish their study and go back to China, they will definitely make changes to the country. Just look around, I feel very confident about Chinese future generation. Many of my friends are learning from the best and most advanced, and they will go back.

Coming back from the future, looking at the present situation, I can’t help get a bit depressed again because of another soft power: freedom and rights. America is a great country because of its ability to receive criticism, to assimilate new immigrants, to adapt, to change and to improve. The creation of Hampshire College is a great evidence of the innovation and flexibility. I have great respect for that.

China does not have the openness and vigor of American society. Chinese government lacks the courage. The Tiananmen event in 1989 is still an absolute taboo in China. When a government is not brave enough to face its own history and listen to its own people, then the government is not fully grown up. These days in China, people’s feelings are very complex. On one hand, everyone is happy about China rising up and coming back to where it should be. Nationalism and confidence is high. On the other hand, people are afraid of and unhappy about the government. There is a secret compromise: people should just mind their own business, make as much money as they can and never confront the government or question the politics. There is no free speech and basic rights. Even the property right is obscure, which means that the government might one day confiscate all what you have. I have no passion to work hard when I know that I don’t own my labor and the value I created. I have no affection for a society where new ideas are not encouraged and debates forbidden. How could people be happy when they do not feel safe in their own country? How could people trust the government when their government keep lying and putting on propaganda? People always have the hope that the government is going to change and give more freedom to its people, but they get more and more disappointed every time. So many people are becoming unsatisfied and long for real changes. This is a great force that I will pay close attention to.

The more serious thing is that Chinese government is “killing” the Chinese culture. Free Tibet activists like to talk about Tibet losing its culture. But look at China itself. The cultural destruction is suicidal. We are losing the root and those things that make us Chinese. The old system is totally dismissed and thrown away. The thousands-year-old tree is cut down and burnt to heat up the economy. Just look at how much progress the modern society have made in such a short period of time, then you can imagine how valuable the five-thousand-year accumulation is!

With all these problems, Chinese government still seems to be able to rule the country. Thanks to the hostility and unfairness of many foreign media, Chinese people choose to stand on the side of government and the government is using this nationalism to strengthen its rule.

I am quite sure, that the potential of Chinese people is only 20% released. Chinese hard work is recognized and rewarded. Creativity, integrity and imagination are being oppressed. I am expecting so eagerly that one day all Chinese minds are freed and there is no danger of expressing our real ideas. I hope that one day that the government will invite everyone to discuss how we can improve the present government. When the pressure is gone and freedom arrives, I’m very sure that China will give the world a huge surprise, in a good way.

There is a problem of culture. Throughout China’s 5000 years recorded history, there are no personal rights, only obligations to authority. All the wellbeing people are enjoying is the mercy of the emperor. Even your life belongs to the authority. It took the West several centuries and huge sacrifice to gain the liberty and human rights. But in China, this process has not yet happened. One hundred years ago, there is still an emperor in the Forbidden Palace, and the only occasion, the 1989 Tiananmen event, was brutally extinguished. China still has a long way to go to find out it sown solution and the Chinese way of democracy.

When you ask me what contribution China has made to world within 100 years, I can’t think of anything worth telling. China needs a Renaissance. China needs a 21st century Confucius. The greatest contribution of Chinese people to the world in this new era will not be the cheap products, but Chinese culture, a whole new Chinese philosophy and way of life.

In conclusion, China will inevitably and unwillingly compete with US in many ways because the current situation is unfair. As we step into a Post American world, a new balance will be reached. If China is going to be the real and qualified superpower in 21st century, fundamental changes (political, cultural, and philosophical) will have to be made. China has much more to offer than “Made-in-China.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog post Zilong..

Its true that the creativity of the Chinese has been curtailed...

Interesting review of certain portions of the book :-)..