Is China still maintaining a low profile?

By Ruan Zongze Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 19:48:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

During my visit to the US in mid-April, I had the opportunity to talk with local government officials, scholars and journalists, with China and the US at loggerheads over bilateral trade.

I got the impression that there were heated discussions over the US' policies toward China. One popular opinion said Washington's policies in the last few decades were a failure since they did not change China, and the US needs to get tough on Beijing to say "No."

It is also believed in the US that the current bilateral tensions are of China's making. Some people say they miss "the good old days" when China maintained a low profile and focused on development. Now China has changed and become aggressive, in their eyes. Is there any truth in these remarks? What steps should China take?

In the last century, the US twice experienced the threat of losing its No. 1 position in world economy. During the first crisis, as the Soviet Union's GDP surpassed 60 percent of the US', Washington stepped up containment efforts and the rivalry ended with disintegration of the USSR. The second time, when Japan's GDP exceeded 60 percent of the US', Washington started taking a series of measures to contain the Asian country. The Plaza Accord signed in 1985 severely hit the Japanese economy, and Japan has since never really recovered. 

Thus, once a country's GDP crosses 60 percent of the US', it will show no mercy to the challenger. It has nothing to do with ideologies, political systems or whether the rival is keeping a low profile or not.

China's GDP exceeded 60 percent of the US' in 2017, which challenged the latter's tolerance limits. Starting from the end of last year, China has been labeled "a revisionist country" and a rival in several reports released by the US government. Washington's rejection or even suppression of China is not surprising.

The US' attempt to start a trade war is not only for subverting China's economy and trade, but also for squeezing its development space, and even undermining its rise. The US is likely to trigger conflicts and resort to strategic blackmail in the future. Forced into the trade war, China cannot escape but has to fight hard.

Having entered a new era, China is still keeping a low profile. As the international community has huge expectations of a rising China, Beijing needs to shoulder more international responsibilities. The essence of a series of proposals made by China in recent years have been intended at development and win-win cooperation, such as the Belt and Road initiative, establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and developing a new international relations paradigm. They have all been China's confessions of willingness to shoulder more responsibility.

In order to better protect China's increasingly globalized interests and reduce suspicion and uneasiness among other countries, China needs to make its domestic and foreign policies more transparent and predictable.

As the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said, the Chinese government's goal is to develop the country into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the 21st century. It is a reflection of the Chinese people's will, and a goal that we will all work hard to achieve.

China's proposal of building a new type of major-power relationship with the US shows exactly that Beijing is still treading softly under new circumstances. A new type of major-power relationship means one built on mutual respect and win-win cooperation instead of conflicts or confrontations. Which major rising power has ever made such a proposal, featuring win-win cooperation, to an established major country in history?

According to the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, China is and will long remain in the primary stages of socialism. And its international status as the largest developing country has not changed. Don't the two unchanged aspects further prove that China is maintaining a low profile?

There is no precedent for China's rise. In the future, it must continue to keep its composure. It must do the right things, avoid making mistakes and avoid major risks. Only then will China remain strong on its path to rejuvenation.

The author is executive vice president and senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus