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Thursday, October 1, 2009

60th Anniversary: The dragon marks its peaceful rise — Ron Matthews & Wang Di

Having a look at China's good side is getting increasingly difficult. Much like how celebrities are pretty susceptible to picky and meticulous over-thinking interpretations by the general public, China has had its fair share of detractors. This article provides a good summary of the good that China has been doing in ensuring it is keeping to its promise of a harmonious ascendancy.

Quotable Quotes - "For instance, China’s “official” 2009 defence budget, at US$70.3 billion (RM246 billion), is only 10 per cent of what the US spends. Moreover, China’s offensive capability is far inferior to that of the US. China’s navy probably cannot sustain naval operations beyond 160km from its shores, its combat aircraft are less than half the number of America’s, and much of its artillery is antique by Western standards."

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The dragon marks its peaceful rise
Ron Matthews & Wang Di
The Straits Times
Source - The Malaysian Insider 1 October 2009

SEPT 30 — Two events will once again focus the world’s attention on the Middle Kingdom.

The first is that China’s growth rate for this year is slated to hit 8 per cent, suggesting the country will be among the first of the mega-powers to recover from the global financial crisis.

The second will be tomorrow’s sight of China’s biggest and most impressive military parade in a decade, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

Both events will inevitably fuel concerns about China’s power. However, China views its rise as a peaceful one. Beijing’s challenge is to project a soft rather than hard image of its power.

China’s economic power is the result of its unparalleled growth, averaging 9.5 per cent per annum over the past three decades. As a result of this growth, the country has been able to increase its defence expenditure by 17 per cent in each of the last four years.

Reflecting this substantial expansion in defence expenditure, China’s military power has undergone an impressive transformation, carrying with it the potential to destabilise the world order. China now has the world’s biggest standing army, with more than 2.25 million soldiers and a broad array of advanced military platforms, including nuclear-powered submarines. The country is also in the process of acquiring aircraft carriers.

Unsurprisingly, China’s rising hard power is seen as a threat. The United States, in particular, is nervous of China’s burgeoning military capability and strategic reach.

But is this fear justified? There is room for doubt.

For instance, China’s “official” 2009 defence budget, at US$70.3 billion (RM246 billion), is only 10 per cent of what the US spends. Moreover, China’s offensive capability is far inferior to that of the US. China’s navy probably cannot sustain naval operations beyond 160km from its shores, its combat aircraft are less than half the number of America’s, and much of its artillery is antique by Western standards.

China is aware of the international anxieties engendered by its growing military strength, and needs to communicate the purpose and nature of its military “modernisation” programme.

Progress has been made on this front. In June, defence consultative talks between Beijing and Washington were resumed, and last month the two countries held maritime safety talks to reduce incidents such as the recent naval confrontation in the South China Sea.

China’s Defence Ministry has also launched a Chinese and English website to give an unprecedented amount of information on the country’s military capability. The country is also seeking to counterbalance its hard power with a focus on soft power projection, the ultimate goal being to create the image of a benign China.

For instance, in the area of maritime territorial disputes, it proposed to shelve disputes and engage in joint developments in 1978, providing the basis for the path-breaking preliminary agreement with Japan last year to jointly explore gas fields in the East China Sea. China has also cooperated with neighbouring countries in non-traditional security areas such as drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism, money laundering and cyber crimes.

The country has also sought to become a good international citizen. It has taken part in peacekeeping operations in international hot spots. In December last year, it sent three ships to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia. China acted in response to a United Nations Security Council request for assistance. Significantly, it was the Chinese navy’s first mission beyond the Pacific.

China provides a large amount of overseas aid, both economic and technical. By the end of 2005, it had completed 769 projects in Africa, most of which were associated with sustainable development.

The country has begun two other major programmes to expand its soft power. One is the establishment of the Confucius Institutes. The other is the launch of what has been described as a “media aircraft carrier” aimed at the hearts and minds of a global audience. The Chinese government has pumped 45 billion yuan (RM23 billion) into supporting four key state-run news organisations — China National Radio, China Central Television (CCTV), People’s Daily and the Xinhua News Agency — to expand the country’s influence. There are also plans to launch an international news channel with round-the-clock global news coverage, rather like a Chinese version of the Arab network Al-Jazeera.

China’s desire to cultivate the image of a benign and responsible state is likely to curtail any use of its hard power. Therefore, the country’s rise should be viewed positively. — The Straits Times

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