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Thursday, June 08, 2000, updated at 12:48(GMT+8)

China Faces New Tasks in 21st Century

China's foreign strategy pursues three goals in the early 21st century: Sustaining economic development, ensuring state security and shouldering legitimate international responsibility. The task ahead is a smooth realization of the goals in response to the shifting international environment.

In the new century, international competition manifests itself increasingly as a rivalry of overall national strength among nations. Only the countries with sustained economic growth and progress in science and technology are winners.

China is now faced with a number of intractable problems and pressures. Sheer strong national strength will not produce the best solution and could even be counter-productive. Some pressures and problems, which originate from insufficient development itself, may disappear in due course of its own or be tackled with ease later on with improved national strength.

The human rights issue is a case in point. China's economic prosperity will be translated into rising living standards and cultural level of the people since it will eradicate social backwardness and result in greater popular support for the government. Thus, it will be more difficult for the Western countries to find an excuse to pick on human rights issues in China.

Besides, regional prosperity and further improved livelihood will shatter the intentions of separatists in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

It is an irreversible general tendency to reshape the current world order, a legacy left over from World War II and a product of the Cold War.

Three distinctive features mark this reshaping process: utilization and reform of the existing institutions like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, without attempting a fresh start; Western powers remaining in dominance; a global dimension in nature, with non-participants possibly discarded as an international orphan.

China, with exports reaching 20 per cent of its gross national product, will depend more on the outside world for markets, raw material, capital and technology, along with further expansion of the national economy.

The global dimension of China's economic interests will inevitably lead to the spread of its political and strategic interests. Such a situation will, in turn, result in a simultaneous expansion of its co-operation and competition with various forces of the world.

This demands us to define our relations with the world, a matter suitable for a package deal on a global scope rather than any bilateral arrangement.

Therefore, China can ill afford handing over others the right to participate in the reshaping process of the world order.

It should take a positive attitude in presenting its interests. Passive evasion would result in being treated as an odd man out, or being put under the sway of others or being forced to challenge the world order in the making. Any of these three possibilities will be in detriment to our State interests.

In the early years of the new century, an overall readjustment and reform of the current international institutions is expected to unfold in a global scope.

At the global level, there will be the reform of the United Nations, the IMF and other international institutions as well as the formulation of rules for the World Trade Organization. As for the Asia-Pacific region, on the agenda will be issues such as the proposed Asia Monetary Fund, a possible Asia Dollar Zone, an Asia-Pacific security mechanism and preventive diplomacy.

In principle, China can not possibly say "no" to all these issues without exception.

Tactically speaking, however, we may decide on the steps and degree of our participation in them in light of their merits and demerits and draw a clear distinction between the primary and the secondary for determining the scale of priority.

A good strategy should best embrace principles and flexibility and incorporate short term, national and sector interests.

For example, WTO accession would benefit China's light and textile industries, creating some 5.43 million job opportunities, but would impair our agriculture and automobile industry by depriving them of over 10 million jobs.

An Asia Monetary Fund or Asia Dollar Zone would benefit Japan more rather than an economically weaker China. And participation in a preventive diplomacy mechanism may somewhat restrain our sovereignty. But looked at from a national or long-term angle, they would promote global multipolarity.

Since China is an emerging power, equipped with superiority in other fields, the advantages of such things would outweigh their disadvantages in the final analysis.

A good strategy seeks not instant, absolute interests, nor absolute security or a "grand slam" in a game of bridge.

China focuses on economic development for its increased hard national strength. But this is not enough. Economic development serves as the basis for a strong national defence, but it does not spell a strong defence in itself. We must beef up our national defence through science and technology.

Though peace and development are two major world themes, local turbulence can not be ruled out. A new round of international arms race is on the horizon.

Washington plans to increase additional military spending up to US$112 billion in 2000-2005, with an average annual growth of some US$20 billion.

The United States is also contemplating unilateral withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty and speeding up deployment of its theatre missile defence and national missile defence programmes.

The US armament drive has stimulated a new round of arms race, dealing a heavy blow to the global disarmament and arms control process.

Russia, Europe, Japan, India and other countries have all put forward plans for arms expansion.

From China's perspective, Taiwan has yet to return to the motherland. Territorial disputes exist between China and some neighbouring countries.

What is more, hot spots of international contention are shifting to China's surrounding areas and China's international responsibility will also increase in proportion to its emergence. All this demands a powerful national defence.

Besides, defence-building is a task of strong technical continuity and no gap is allowed.

We should maintain a proper size of defence spending and production, but absolutely not at the expense of economic development.

We should persist in developing state-of-the-art military weaponry so as to overwhelm our adversaries and be prepared for any contingency.

The author is an associate researcher with China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

In This Section

China's foreign strategy pursues three goals in the early 21st century: Sustaining economic development, ensuring state security and shouldering legitimate international responsibility. The task ahead is a smooth realization of the goals in response to the shifting international environment.

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