Weak-nation mentality is limiting China's potential on global stage

By Wu Jianmin Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-24 22:13:01

China is now in the spotlight of world attention, and this is the result of the dramatic changes that are happening around the globe and within China.

Global changes, particularly the financial crisis, accelerated China's ascent to a leading role on the global stage. Both China and the rest of the world need time to adapt to this process. China needs to shed its previous mindset of seeing itself as a weak nation.

Despite its immense size, China was indeed for many years a weak country. Long-term poverty and hardship has bred a weak-nation mentality throughout the country, characterized by a lack of confidence.

China cares too much about external comments, fears being despised, and is eager to showcase its advantages in case they won't be noticed. This kind of mindset does not match China's growing status in the world.

China needs time and reflection to overcome this mentality. It should put much of its focus into thinking about what the big picture will be, and consider ways to improve self-confidence, while winning the understanding and support of the global population.

A big-picture approach means that China has to show consideration to the well-being of all humanity and the future of the world. China's national interests have already become integrated with the prosperity of the rest of the world. China cannot develop without the world, and the world cannot prosper and stabilize without China either.

The top leadership of China has stressed the relationship between morality and benefit, saying the nation needs to sacrifice some benefits for moral causes.

China should understand that a moral approach requires the consideration of the common well-being of humanity and the future of the entire world. If the country can view internal and external problems from this perspective, China will undoubtedly take the moral high ground.

Meanwhile, China's confidence is closely connected with its status in the international community. After moving from the edge of the world to the center, China has to learn how to get used to various critical and even nit-picking comments. Those are actually instances of special "treatment" for a rising power. China needs to smile at these critics and try to find common ground with them.

Disparities between countries can never be avoided. Opinions on various issues have to differ among different countries because of the lack of commonality in terms of history, culture, social systems, values and stages of development.

It would be too narrow-minded if these disparities were seen as the big picture of bilateral relationships.

Finding ways to earn the understanding and support from both its own people and the world population is also critical for China.

Chinese diplomacy enjoys a good tradition of valuing the importance of the people. This should be explored, in order to improve China's image by acquiring sympathy from around the world.

China should continue putting effort into creating friendships abroad. Actions such as China's recent aid to the Philippines, made while part of the country was devastated by super typhoon Haiyan, are a good method.

Soft power and discourse power have become the most discussed topics in Chinese media and academic circles. Both "powers" cannot be acquired from thin air, but from the recognition of the majority of the world.

Only when China's advocates are able to attract world attention can China enjoy both kinds of power. Adversely, if disgust and resentment are felt when China speaks out, then the more China speaks, the worse the outcome will be.

Chinese diplomacy is becoming more detailed and individual-oriented. The stakeholders are not limited to the nation's leaders or government officials, but every Chinese person who has embraced a global approach.

China's advance to the center of the global stage is not only a top priority of the Chinese government, but also a mission for Chinese individuals.

The author is Executive Vice Chairman of China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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