Sunday, December 21, 2008

China: New Hope or Threat to the World?

The rise of China as both an economic and political power has provoked intense interest in the West.

Daily discussions in the US and Europe reflect on the rapid emergence of China's industrial might and potential on the world stage. Much of this discussion seems to be underscored by deep anxiety, however.

The Beijing Olympics provided a focus whereby this anxiety seemed to intensify. Some have raised concerns about a rise of 'China-bashing'. Has it become 'fashionable' to portray China as an 'evil' empire as a means playing up the comparative virtue of the West?

Talk of the impressive acceleration of China's productivity is invariably accompanied by environmental concerns, particularly with regard to pollution and China's increasing demand for material improvements leading to greater energy consumption.

The political character of the Chinese regime is also a cause for concern, with passions raised particularly with regard to the lack of free speech in China, abuses of human rights in Tibet, and alleged complicity with atrocities in Darfur and Zimbabwe, as China plays an ever greater international role.

To what extent is the expansion of China's productive capabilities to be welcomed? Can China provide an example of how to transform less developed parts of the world? Or is the growth of China a threat to the international order and humanity more broadly? Are Western observers right to fear the rise of China?

Is the discussion about China sufficiently objective, or has it rather become a focus for concerns within the West, such as our own ambivalent attitude to economic growth, and fears about our changing place in the world? - NY Salon

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