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Does the 21st Century Belong to China? Essay Sample

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Does the 21st Century Belong to China? Essay Sample

  1. Introduction

                 For the past consecutive years, China is perceived as ‘the economy’ to watch. If it continues to maintain the rate it is growing for these past several years, then it can well become one of the superpowers of the 21st century. There are those who view this with scepticism though, as to China’s ability to actually convert this into reality considering its political system of government. Much of this attitude though lies with the underlying sense of dread caused by a veiled mistrust against any grain of communism. Although China has long opened its door to the world, and the coffers of its economy has been enriched by capitalism, the path of possibly controlling the world system by its unlikely alliance of communistic-capitalism, is a prospect that has made some parts of the world uneasy.

                 It is quite an understatement to say that China’s bullish approach to enrich its economy, with its products seen almost everywhere, has been felt throughout the world. Its contribution is felt at grassroots level among consumers from different nations, sending smiles from the latter caused by big savings from its cheap products. Manufacturers also have much to thank China. Some experts even went further to say that the world’s economy had been saved from a hurtful recession because of China’s strong development.

China can be likened to a vast ship, though with a definite course planned up ahead, would it survive the storms that are threatening to bring it off track or worse, down? There is much speculation concerning then about China’s future, would it surge upward or buckle down? It should be recalled that for the past hundreds of years China held the record of being the biggest economy but was eclipsed by Europe and the United States from the 17th to the 20th century. Would China this time, weather the storms and keep its economic growth afloat and become the next decade’s key economic and political global player?

  1. History of China’s Economy

China’s economic history is as lustrous as its political and cultural past. Early China has dazzled the west because of its advanced technology in the old world, being the first people known to have developed and used gunpowder, silk, utilized papermaking, paper money, porcelain, or even the humble matches and umbrella (Inventions, Innovations, and Other Contributions from Ancient China). These are just a speck from the list. The present world would be a lot different if not for their numerous contributions.

It is not surprising therefore that China is heralded as being the largest economy that spanned for two thousand years (Nalapat 2005). It is not only the largest economy but had the highest per capita income before the 15th century. Even three centuries later, China still accounts about 30% of the global economy’s GDP. However, the expansionist movement of Europe and the Industrial Revolution in America catapulted these nations to become world leaders even up to this day. It has left a wide gap for the rest of 18th century China, leaving it far behind with a vast distance (Gupta 2008: 239).

The tables have turned however, when at the end of 1970’s and mid-80’s that drastic measures called the Three Step Development Strategy were earnestly enforced. Consequently, the government had achieved the targeted economic growth through these strategies.

The government largely owns and controls most of the major institutions but it has allowed farms and business to be owned and worked by families or even individuals, giving them more autonomy for making decisions as well as permitting the trading transactions on a free market basis (Findlay et al 1993).

Aside from reforms in the agricultural sector, the government also moved to promote non-agricultural enterprises, fostering economic activities. The most significant change occurred when P.R.C. allowed its local businesses to interact with the foreign market to export its goods off shore. Vice versa, China also opened its doors to foreign investors and imported goods which sent the greatest boost in its economy, creating it as one of the robust economy to beat (Harding 1988).

  • Current Economic Scenario

There is no question as to the size of China’s growth. It has helped about 400 million of its people by giving more economic opportunities by providing jobs to uplift their lives from poverty (Hutton 2007). However, there are those who are quite sceptic to its ability to sustain such development. Would it suddenly lose its momentum like a fast car that has overheated? The Chinese government has also expressed concern over these problems. Whereas early economic progress was driven to be measured only through GDP, current leadership acknowledges how inaccurate this method is.

  1. Problems

China is currently facing gigantic problems as enormous as its size. Unrest is brewing among the Chinese masses. It is raising the issue of what it sees as unjust and unfair distribution of wealth. Despite its GDP growth, average wage last year accounts only to $12 to $14 a day. But the figures are direr in the rural areas, whose wages can go as low as $1 a day (Reynolds 2007). A large fraction of its population does not have access to quality education, a must for any nation’s development. The lack of good education is a growing sentiment among its citizens. Compared to those among advance nations, most young Chinese have not entered any field of specialization. Length of education that is compulsory by Chinese law is only 9 years. The quality of this education is also poor, unlike Japan who has invested to ensuring the quality of education among its next generation, to prepare them to lead the country to better directions.

Hosting the Beijing Olympics was an ambitious step by the government. Construction went at feverish pace. China was able to meet international standards to host such a prestigious event. The overall event was a success. It was a showcase of China’s ability to be at par with the rest of the best in the world. But there was a slight ‘speck in the eye’. As the entire world turned its eye on China at the beginning of the event, its awful pollution was also quite apparent. Some delegates were spotted as wearing surgical masks because of severe air pollution. It is not surprising that some question the prize of China’s economy might not be worth upon the environmental damage it has incurred. China can well learn from Japan, who has one of the most efficient pollution control system. Alongside the problem of pollution is the pervading disease of corruption among government officials.

Many state-owned business enterprises or private-owned business funded by government owned banks are losing and threatens to put millions of its workers out of work. These state-owned banks are facing losses from bad investments, due to unpaid loans given to losing business enterprises. At the same time, it has to face the problems caused by immigrants added to the labour force. Millions of its workers are working in part-time jobs, earning and living under below minimum wage. It has thereby demonstrated the government’s failure to translate the country’s growth to improve the standards of living to a large part of its constituents.

Since the Chinese government has encouraged business enterprise, the scramble for profit has brought ruthless mass production of products that has sacrificed the safety of its consumers. Due to the inculcation of the Cultural Revolution, most Chinese do not have a sense of social responsibility.

Globalization has made the world smaller. Technology has allowed the bringing of people, even in different cultures, closer. Better communication has facilitated business movement. But for the common Chinese, there are many barriers that would hinder better connection. This is not only caused by difficulty or not being fluent in the English language, but Chinese people also had to overcome barriers in differences in way of thinking for China has been isolated from much of the world.

Of graver issue, is the government’s failure to enforce the law to regulate the process of production. This has resulted in a backlash of international reaction by recipient countries. Chinese products had cut production budget to compete with other products from other countries simply by offering a cheaper price. However, such cutbacks in the production process have laid aside the well-being of its consumers. Although Chinese products are a lot cheaper, it is mostly substandard.  If it goes unchecked, the demand for its products might lessen, and China is not prepared to live without the gain of exporting its merchandise. Chinese government should also gear therefore to depend less on export.

In talking about China’s difficulties, certain doom is about to crash upon it. It should not be forgotten that China also posses strength that keeps it at cutting edge against its competitors. China still offers cheap labour mostly in factories and a busy construction business, which has attracted foreign investors, and ensures to produce cheaper products or the mere increase of profitability. Toyota Motor is just one of the multi-billion investments into China, who will avail of the cheap labour costs (Foreign Investment in China Rebounds).

  1. Assessment:

The leadership of China can be credited for much of China’s surge of economic prosperity. The reforms it had made before are now reaping to uplift millions of Chinese out from poverty. Deng Xiaoping made a major transformation on its economic policies, and together with Chinese tenacity and hard work, placed China’s economy on second place all over the world, in terms of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity).

Given that China can overcome the hurdles that are currently on its way, and continuous the momentum of the feverish pace of the country’s economic growth, then it can well be the richest economy even before 2050.

However, in order to achieve this dream, China must first learn from its history’s past. Despite China’s technological supremacy in the early period, its attitude of ethnic supremacy caused it to close its doors from the rest of the world. Since China was more advanced then, it felt that the rest of the world was barbaric, and the Chinese people had no nothing to gain from corresponding with other people groups. Such superior attitude played a great part in the imminent collapse of the Chinese dynasties. Today, it cannot afford again to have the same attitude of inflexibility towards other leading nations. A conflict with the leading nations of today, such as the United States or Japan, can incur uncontrollable setbacks. It might sacrifice the bright future that many past generations of Chinese had worked so hard.

Since China’s development, the global economy’s well-being will also be largely affected from that of China. Rising to be one of the leading forces of global leadership, it is imperative that its integration between the superpowers of today must be harmonious. Some of China’s social paradigm might clash with those from the west, and it is needful that such things should be taken with serious measures by the current Chinese government. What China would become, is crucial to maintaining the stability of relations among nations, and likewise from that of China.

The United States, on the other hand, whose emergence to its position of power, came upon by not so peaceful means. It took two major wars, World War I and II, to bring the US into the core of the world’s leadership. The cost had been enormous to millions of lives. Parts of Europe and Japan also had a similar history when it gained or attempted to gain supremacy during a period of the world’s history.

In a much closer relevance to China was the outcome of USSR and East Germany. The close -door policy that characterized communism, resulted in the imminent collapse of these countries. Their attempt to develop and survive took them on the road of using military force which drained the country’s finances which could have been invested elsewhere that could have yielded more profit.

If not for the economic reformations done by China, it would have followed the fate of its predecessors. The neighbouring countries of the People’s Republic of China in Asia would rather have nothing political against China, such as Korea, Japan or India, that would cause military conflict. However, PRC’s economic stability cannot be separated apart from taking as much political transformation as it did in its economy.

If it chooses to use force to expand its global clout, it can only emerge as a winner if it chooses peaceful means to do just that. Though China’s military force is one of the world’s largest, investing and pursuing such means would be injurious to its growth. It can be observed that China’s steep rise came about at a time of peace rather than war.

Taking the cue from USSR or East Germany’s collapse, China’s leadership took a bitter pill in order to survive. And it has more than just survive, PRC has demonstrated before the world that it has all the potential to achieve more than that. But in order to carry on to the next level, it should always establish a peaceful approach in international relations and uphold these values.

What of its potential rivals? The European Union for example are also facing some of its own problems. EU has adopted to prioritize its own constituents and kept its shores close from benefitting out of sourcing talents around the world. Although this would ensure security for its own constituents, it poses a high-risk of a fresh inflow of ideas and talents that are essential to keep it at cutting edge with its rivals.

Between EU and China’s problems, it is still the latter which could possess the greater potential to unseat the United States from being the leading power amongst nations, that is, if it continuous at the rate of growth it is going. Compared to that of China’s, EU would seem to have a sluggish pace, since it will have to subsidize less developed member nations before it reaches its full potential. Although EU would also have a greater advantage of having more advanced member nations that are far more ahead than that of China and have established greater economic and political mileage for the past consecutive years. However, it is not a far possibility that alongside with the US and EU, China can well become the third force to complete the three-part post that will be the key international players for the globe’s economic and political order in the near future.

A big factor which could determine the future of China is its relations or the manner by which it would deal with Taiwan. The United States also would do more good by avoiding any military conflict with China, sparing its nation from the possibility of tasting from the Chinese Army’s long-range missiles which could wipe out its cities. But needless to say, it is more for China’s advantage to avoid any clash with the United States. A boycott against its products or the pouring of capital into the country can bring huge repercussions that would send its economy spinning downward. It is imperative that China maintain peaceful relations with Taiwan.

In relation to this issue, as part of this peaceful approach is to avoid unnecessary build-up of arms that would upset the international community or send the jitters among its  neighbouring countries. It would be unwise to develop its military force which is more than what is needful of any possibility of imminent threat upon its own shores. This is one of the foremost signs that other nations would look into to gauge China’s sincerity of eliminating any use of force to advance itself or gain political clout internationally.

One might point out US’s spending on its military force. However, there is no point of comparing US’s spending upon its own defence with that of P.R.C. The US is in its own unique spot with the rest of the world, but the rest, including that of China, is not. The US therefore still enjoys the privilege of declaring what is politically correct and what’s not.

China should learn from the mistakes of the former Soviet Union’s decision to take the military path which resulted in its collapse. Europe in the 1940’s experienced internal conflict which resulted in the retardation of its growth for a certain time. In contrast, Japan, who also had an imperialistic past history, gained power through peaceful means what it failed to accomplish through arms.

China would also be contending EU’s strength. In order to do that, it should also learn to look upon the welfare beyond its own self and ally with Asian neighbours. This might seem to bring in conflict with China’s self-interest. However, a strong alliance will bring greater security on its own economy. It should learn to gain a respectable and trustworthy image in the international scene.

The Chinese are quite known among its Asian neighbours as a ruthless businessman, someone who would extend dire measures to gain bigger profit. However, Beijing should cease the manufacture and ruthless trading of arms as part of its lists of products to sell. Among the thousands of commodities that China has flooded the international market, military hardware, especially nuclear technology and artillery, is simply toying with danger — a highly risky business whose end is surely not worth the few advantages in profit that it can bring. An in fracture upon its relations with leading nations would severely damage economic expansion.

While others would justify military build up with supposed threats coming from the US, Taiwan or Japan, it should be noted that these nations were one of the foremost consumers of China’s exported products and thereby facilitating its economic growth. Had not been for these countries, China’s growth rate would not have been as phenomenal and its economy would still be left for most part in mediocrity.

Entering into any armed conflict would be detrimental to any growth. While it may seem expedient at certain situation, it could never foster a country’s productivity. Also, utilizing military force to subdue another country and expecting the subjected locality to attain sustainable economic contribution is something one can hardly expect in these times. It did work for Europe and the England in the distant past, but there’s a lot of room to doubt that it would still work today.

Take for examples US’ participation in the Iraq war. It has dragged the current US government from unfavourable reactions both locally and internationally. Not only had it strained US’s position from other nations, it had also strained the US economy. Despite the large amount it has already invested in this war, it has yet to pump out massive amount from Iraq’s oil reserve, which contains one of the biggest oil reserves in the world.

To get involve in military conflict is a distraction that would become costly. China is already experiencing internal tensions within its own borders. Disgruntled farmers and workers are taking back against the government, though through indirect means. The growth of Non-government organizations had caused these sectors in society to fight against injustices incurred against them by some local Chinese officials.

This has brought quite a different fight against the government in general. Since complaints are targeting specific persons instead of the government’s system, overruling and stopping such kind of protests are becoming difficult. Such an approach may not meet P.R.C. head-on but this has taken a fragment of the people’s fear and respect towards the government’s authority which is a crucial part in communist rule.

What is needful is for P.R.C. is to map out the necessary countermeasures over the economic hurdles that the country would be facing instead of entertaining ‘adventurous’ idea against its Asian neighbours.

Together with the other pillars of Asia’s economy — Japan, India and Russia, must pledge never to adhere to military aggressiveness at all times, except when threatened. If China’s ascent to becoming a global superpower is to be peaceful, without any assault, then it needs to fix its eyes to the strategy of peace. Peace in China would also ensure that it will not be distracted to find solutions in upgrading the standard of living among its millions of constituents. The vision of a 21st century as belonging to China would not be hard to reach, even if the current political system of government does not change. What it needs to do though, as already mentioned, is to change some of its policies that are hurting its own self. It need not have to become western, no more than the Japanese had done.

Although some western economists and analysts argue that China need to remove its present system of government, to do so would bring greater damage. If the present system were able to transcend China’s economy from poverty and bring prosperity, then it would not be hard to imagine for China to overcome these difficulties. The road might be bumpy, but their tenacity and being industrious can surely bring them to their destination. However, in order to do so, it must be flexible enough to meet the demands of the time. If it chooses to ignore the needs of its people, instability will threaten to throw the country off its brilliant course.

References:

  1. Inventions, Innovations, and Other Contributions from Ancient China. Available: http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/chinahist/dynasties.html

(19 September 2008)

  1. M.D. Nalapat. Ensuring China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’. Available: http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SRR/Volume14/nalapat.html

(18 September 2008)

  1. Gupta, A and Jossey-Bass. The Quest for Global Dominance. ISBN978-0-470-19440-9
  2. Findlay, C., Will Martin, Andrew Watson. Policy Reform, Economic Growth and China’s Agriculture. OECD.1993.
  3. Harding, Harry. China’s Second Revolution: Reform After Mao. Brooking Institution: 1988.
  4. Hutton, Will. Does the Future Really Belong to China? Available at

http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=8174 (January 2007)

  1. Reynolds, Neil. China Far Poorer than the World Thinks. Globe and Mail (12 December 2007)
  2. Foreign Investment in China Rebounds. Bloomberg News, Reuters (15 January 2007)

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