Is China ready to be a global power?
- Source: Global Times
- [23:27 November 10 2009]
By David Shambaugh
Taoguang yanghui, yousuo zuowei: "Bide time, conceal capabilities, but do some things."
Is Deng Xiaoping's axiom still appropriate to be one of the overarching strategic principles guiding China's foreign policy?
The first part of Deng's eight-character axiom has been hotly debated in Washington, with many arguing it is a policy of strategic concealment and conscious desire to hide the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) growing military capabilities (thus the persistent US call for increased transparency).
But it is the second half of the axiom that is really relevant to today's China. Deng urged China to "do some things"in international affairs – in effect, to pick and choose its unilateral and multilateral involvements where China can become marginally more involved in world a. airs, global governance and regional security.
In this decade China has indeed done "some things."
It has played a particularly vital role in the Six-Party Talks process concerning North Korea's nascent nuclear program, and has worked generally well in tandem with other members in this process .
China has participated in the "5+1"United Nations Security Council "quintet"concerning Iran's nuclear program. Within the UN Security Council, more generally, China has played an increasingly active role in recent years – helping to forge consensus among other members on divisive and sensitive issues.
China has also ramped up its contributions to UN peacekeeping operations – contributing at present 2,155 personnel in a dozen locations, making China the 14th largest contributor in the world but first among Security Council members.
China has also begun to contribute to disaster relief beyond its borders, notably the 2004 post-tsunami relief in Indonesia and Bangladesh, and the 2005 post-earthquake relief in Pakistan.
More generally, China has become a major contributor of aid to poor African and other developing societies.
As Premier Wen Jiabao has pointed out, China also contributes to global stability and governance through its domestic modernization and providing food and social services for its population of 1.3 billion.
More recently, China's economic stimulus package is contributing to recovery from the global fi nancial crisis.
And China's e. orts to control the A(H1N1) virus is an important contribution to global public health. All of these are tangible and important examples of China "doing some things"in the international arena in recent years. But is this enough and appropriate for China today and in the future?
China is a global actor today, but it is increasingly being called upon by other countries, notably the US and EU nations, to become a more fully engaged and "responsible"global power – as World Bank President Robert Zoellick once described it "a responsible international stakeholder."
Increasing China's global contributions and the potential for it to become a global partner of the US will figure prominently in US President Barack Obama's discussions with President Hu Jintao when he visits Beijing on a state visit November 16-18.