With a huge population full of diligent and clever people, China certainly shall expand abroad to export its people’s diligence and resourcefulness to cooperate with local people in developing their economy.
That is what a rising China shall do to benefit itself while benefiting others. I regard it as China’s economic expansion, an expansion of prosperity.
The US is a remote country from Asia so that however strong China becomes, it will not hurt US interests. What the US worries about is China’s rise to become its rival superpower or replace it as the only superpower in the world. However, China’s current leader does not seem to have intention to do so. What China wants is to be benefited by its relations with other countries. Acting as US rival or replacing the US as the only superpower will cost China a lot but bring back little or even no benefit.
The Lesson of the Collapse of the Soviet Union
The collapse of the Soviet Union is a very good lesson for Chinese leaders. The Soviet Union has a much smaller economy but has the ambition to be a rival hegemon to the US. Like the US it had to bear the heavy burden of protecting and supporting its subordinate countries. It has given huge aids to Vietnam to enable Vietnam to defeat the US but get no return at all form Vietnam. So were its aids to North Korea and Cuba to enable the communist regimes to survive there.
People wonder why the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed as there seemed no crisis in it to bring it down. However, it is very clear to Chinese leader that the Soviet Union was crushed by its heavy burden to contend with the US given its much inferior economic strength. Anxious to maintain Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s survival, Chinese leaders certainly would not repeat Soviet Union’s disastrous blunder.
Like the Soviet Union’s efforts to spread communism, the US wants to spread its democratic system the world over but has achieved nothing, the democracy it has established in Iraq and Afghanistan are difficult to survive without US military support. The much praised Jasmine revolution for the establishment of democracy has only replaced old autocracy with new autocracy such as the autocratic regime changes in Egypt and even chaos such as the chaos in Libya.
US failure to export its political system makes the Soviet lesson even more convincing.
China simply should not have any intention to export its ideology and political system as China simply cannot benefit from such export. What it should pursue is but win-win cooperation with other countries. Such cooperation will benefit not only China but also its cooperation partners and make China popular among them. Current Chinese leader Xi Jinping is precisely doing that in launching his Belt and Road initiative.
However the experience of Western colonialism and the two world wars tells other countries that a rising power usually bullies other countries and even tries to conquer other countries and turn them into its colonies. Can China be an exception?
China is a country with its own long history and the dominance of Confucianism characterized by benevolence, harmony and the doctrine of the mean quite different from the predatory Western colonialism. Therefore, China simply has a culture different from Western culture instead of being an exception of Western culture.
Westerners and those who have suffered from Western colonialism are scared of China’s rise because they do no understand Chinese culture so that they see China from a Western instead of Chinese perspective.
Another Lesson China Has Learnt from History
While colonists were having difficulties in maintaining their rule and interests in their colonies in Southeast Asia in spite of their military power, Chinese immigrants prospered there through their diligence and resourcefulness in developing local economy. They gradually became wealthy and control 50% or more of the economy in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
History has taught China that colonialism is doomed to failure while having Chinese people in other countries to develop local economy in cooperation with local people will not only make the Chinese people there rich but also benefit China with their wealth. In Chinese history, overseas Chinese were the major source of funds for China’s 1911 democratic revolution and war of resistance against Japan from 1937 to 1945 and major source of investment in China’s three decades of reform and opening-up.
When China was weak and poor, it cannot help its overseas Chinese but had to rely on them for funds. Now, China is rich and strong. It shall help build the infrastructures to help overseas Chinese conduct win-win cooperation with local people.
We can foresee that facilitated by the infrastructures that Chinese government will build under its Belt and Road initiative, Chinese people will spread all over the world to cooperate with local people in developing local economy. They will become rich there due to their diligence, resourcefulness, and expertise. China’s peaceful expansion in the world, especially in underdeveloped countries and regions utterly cannot be stopped by the US with its military threat.
I would like to regard the immigration of Chinese to Southeast Asia in last century to gain economic dominance there as China’s first round of economic expansion. It was very successful when China was poor and weak unable to help those overseas Chinese.
The Belt and Road initiative is the beginning of the second round of China’s economic expansion that will be entirely irresistible as diligent and resourceful Chinese immigrants have the strong support from their homeland.
Article by Chan Kai Yee