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China's peaceful rise faces US provocations: Opinion

By Chua Chin Leng (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2016-04-19 13:41

Jean Pierre Lehmann, emeritus professor of international political economy at the International Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, wrote an article on the above in the Straits Times on April 9. His story centers on the rise of international powers starting, with Portugal, Spain , the Netherlands, Britain, France, the US, Japan and the USSR. He traced the history of these powers and the use of violence and wars as an intrinsic part of their ascents. War and violence as tools of conquest and world domination were inevitable before a new power took the pole position.

And now comes China. Would China’s rise as a super power be peaceful, be an aberration and not in the mold of the Western powers, predated by wars and violence? The western narrative has constantly harped on a belligerent and expansive China that would swing its big clubs at everyone on its way up, like the Western powers. China would be like one of them, no exception. So beware, China is coming.

China today is the No. 2 super power after the US. In a way, China has risen, peacefully, without the need for wars and conquest. This alone would have been enough proof that a super power can rise without resorting to violence. China is what it is today, without the need for conquest but by trade and commerce. Is this enough to assuage the Western thinkers and media to accept China as a risen power, peacefully?

The other notion is that China is not there yet. It has to overtake the USA and this last step would force the issue and a war with the Americans. And in Lehmann’s view, China has the right to engage in wars. It was the victim of aggression when major powers came to being. China should follow the same pattern in the rise of a super power, through war and conquest, to challenge and defeat the incumbent super power, the USA.

However, according to Lehmann, ‘if China succeeds in achieving a peaceful rise to great power status – that is, dispensing with war, pillage, slavery, conquest and exploitation – it will be the first rising great power to have done so.’ This could be a welcoming outcome if China is left alone to continue in what it has been doing for the last 30-plus years. Unfortunately this may not be the case. The Americans are in the way of the peaceful rise of China with its confrontational approach towards China, the pivot to Asia, building anti-China trade and military alliances, escalating and precipitating armed conflict, particularly in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea. Today it is reported that the Americans would be conducting sea and air patrols in the South China Sea, not freedom of navigation, as if the South China Sea belongs to the American Empire. Here it is not China challenging the Americans to a show of force. It is the Americans that are standing up to China, confronting China and putting up obstacles to contain China’s rise.

Though the American patrol is only a token show of force, it is a bad precedent. China could ignore this little insect, but in principle it is bad. What the Americans are doing, violating other countries’ sovereignity and economic zones, China could do the same. China could announce conducting air and naval patrols in American economic zones as well. Both sides can play the game of bully. The Americans’ blatant flexing of military muscle to exert control of the South China Sea and in the Korean region should not be ignored by the world community.

In Lehmann’s view, the world must work with China to achieve this historical aberration, that a super power can rise to the pole position without having to go the disastrous and destructive road of war. China’s march towards the No. 1 super power status, to eclipse the Americans through economic means and economic development could be a possibility and only a matter of when. It is in the interest of the rest of the world that they work with China for a peaceful rise instead of following a confrontational course set by the Americans.

China has risen and will continue to rise peacefully as an economic and military super power. The main protagonist against such an eventuality is the intent of the Americans and its bellicose policies towards China. China is no Western nation, has its own culture and values and is not seeking conquest and colonization. It is a super power more in the economic sense and would grow to be a bigger economic power, without having to control and colonize any country like the Western powers did. China is not seeking war, and war is unnecessary in the Chinese model to be the greatest power on earth. The world can and must work with China for this to happen, peacefully. The world must not allow the Americans to force an issue with China leading to a conflict of epic proportion and destruction. The Americans too know that a war with China is inconceivable. China knows that too and is trying to avoid a collision course with the Americans.

If good sense prevails, the peaceful rise of China will be a welcome aberration in the history of humankind.

The author is a political observer from Singapore.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website.


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