LEE KUAN YEW -- 2005-05  Minister Mentor & former Prime Minister of Singapore 

Win-win Approach for China's" Peaceful Rise   

China's rise has sent tremors to the rest of the world. Together with India's rise, in 20 to 30 years the centre of gravity of the world will shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. China's transformation from a centrally-planned static economy into a dynamic high growth economy has been impressive. It has attracted massive foreign direct investments and its exports are changing world trade patterns and cargo flows. Many nations observing the spread of China's growth are fearful for their future positions, and thinkers foresee major changes in the world balance of power. Inevitably, China will move up the economic and political pecking order.

America and Japan are most alert over China's resurgence and corresponding increase in military capabilities. America is wary of a challenge to its super-power status. Japan, after its aggression in China starting with the annexation of Formosa or Taiwan in 1895, has deep fears of revanchist tendencies in China.

China's neighbours, Korea, Vietnam will be uneasy but not unduly overwrought.

Russia is unlikely to be alarmed by China's rise. With its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, it remains a formidable power. Moreover China is a good trading partner, and a market for Russian conventional weapons.

A recent BBC survey showed that Europeans are not uncomfortable with the rise of China :

As of the 6 EU members polled, a plurality of citizens view China's influence as positive, in France(49%), Great Britain(46%), Italy(42%), and Spain(37%); a plurality view Chinese influence as negative, Germany(47%) and Poland(33%). No EU country has a majority which perceived Chinese influence negatively.

Several EU governments view China's rise as creating another centre of power and will redress the overwhelming weight of the United States.

Joseph Nye, former US Assistant Secretary of Defence and Director of the National Intelligence Services recently wrote,"The??rise of China' is a misnomer. "Re-emergence" would be more accurate, since the Middle Kingdom has long been a major power in East Asia. Technically and economically, China was the world's leader(though without global reach) from 500 to 1500. Only in the past half-millennium was it overtaken by Europe and America. The Asian Development Bank has estimated that in 1820, at the beginning of the industrial age, Asia accounted for three-fifths of world output. By 1940, this fell to one-fifth, even though Asia was home to three-fifths of the world's population. Rapid economic growth has brought output back to two-fifths of the world total today, and the ADB speculates that Asia could return to its historical levels by 2025."

I believe the present generation of Chinese leaders know China is far behind America and that strong economic growth is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to make China a world power. What China needs is the brainpower and intellectual ferment that enable nations to create and master a broad range of leading edge technology. At present the US, EU and Japan are well ahead in bioscience, nanotechnology, etc, technologies that can lift mankind to a higher level and give the pioneer nation an edge over all others. China can only play catch-up, so its global influence will be constrained. Nevertheless China is aware that the US views it as its only possible challenger.

China needs peace and stability domestically and abroad to become as a modern nation in 50 or more years.

On 11 Jan 1994, I met Liu Huaqing, Vice-Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission. He had fought as a guerrilla in Shandong for many years. After the People's Republic was founded, Mao sent Liu to Leningrad, Russia, to learn to build a navy to guard China's long coastline. I said Russia's technology was inferior to America's. Liu said no one should underestimate Soviet science and technology. They made first-class weapons. What was wrong was their Soviet economic system. Soviet investment in military research and development and arms production was disproportionate to their civil economy. Eventually their civilian technology and economy could not support their military expenditure and led to their economic collapse. China, he said, must never make that mistake. Asked how long China would need to modernise, he repeated Deng's"50 years". And he added China must have the technology and economy in the civilian sector that could support its military expenditure and technology development, otherwise it would face a Soviet-style collapse. He knew the pitfalls China should avoid.

China's strategy to avoid conflicts.

China is drafting a strategy to guide its future development. They have identified three key challenges(1) energy depletion,(2) a deteriorating ecosystem,(3) an imbalance between its economic growth and society's development. In response, China will consciously set out to overcome the three anachronisms?C(a) overcome the old inefficient path of industrialisation and implement a new, sustainable model;(b) eschew the traditional approach of hegemonistic emergence and the outdated, old Cold War mentality, and(c) overcome the weak links in governance to build a"harmonious" society. Hence China will pursue the"peaceful emergence" approachand continue to develop well into the 21st century.

By this strategy, China avoids the path that Japan and Germany travelled in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century countries such as Japan and Germany sought imperial expansion in order to gain new resources?C to increase living space or lebensraum. The pursuit of such policies at the expense of other countries has led to wars, destruction and eventual defeat.

This doctrine for China's"Peaceful Rise" shows that China is aware that its rapid growth is creating enormous pressures in the international system, and they need to craft a development strategy that will avoid conflict. No one can be certain if peaceful solutions can always be found when nations interact and jostle in a rapidly changing world. However China's expressed intention to pursue a peaceful strategy for development is promising. Meanwhile, China is abiding by the existing rules for world order, having undertaken to conform to the rules of the WTO and other multilateral regimes.

China plans to avoid the competition for limited resources by abjuring overseas conquest and instead seeks greater economic cooperation in win-win solutions.

Asean countries are well aware of China's rise and from time to time feel uncomfortable with China's assertiveness. In the 1980s and early 90s, China pressed its claims to all the islands in the Spratleys and the Paracels. In the late 1990s, China changed its approach. Instead of pre-empting by occupying more islets to assert its claims based on old Chinese maps, causing tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam, China has now offered to share exploitation of any oil or gas in the disputed areas between China, Philippines and Vietnam. This is win-win situation.

In November 2000 then Premier Zhu Rongji offered Asean a Free Trade Area(FTA) agreement. The offer is attractive because it gives Asean"early harvesting", ie Asean gets free trade benefits first, before China exercises its rights. China's economy will grow, whether or not there is a free trade agreement with Asean. Offering Asean such a free trade agreement shows good intentions, allowing Asean to maximise its exports to the Chinese market. This is a win-win approach China has taken with its smaller neighbours.

A Renaissance - Not a Bid for Military Power

No nation has ever become the major power without a clear lead in technology, both civilian and military. From the Roman legions, to the naval powers of Portugal, Spain and Great Britain, to Germany in World War I and the US post World War II, great power status was achieved by those nations that were able to harness their technological advantage for holistic development of their civilian and military capabilities. Germany was able to equal British industrial and technological capabilities by 1914 when WW1 broke out. Japan's economic and technological superiority was greater than that of China and Russia when it defeated them in 1895 and 1905 respectively. It was hubris that made Japan attack Pearl Harbour when it was not equal to America in economic, industrial or technological capabilities. Japan was crushed in defeat.

It is better for China to manifest its rapid growth not in military muscle but in cultural revitalisation- a return to China's golden age?C the Han, Tang and Ming era, when the arts and culture flourished in a prosperous society.

During the Han dynasty, China made great strides in historiography, arts and science, including the invention of paper.

The Tang dynasty saw innovations in the arts and technology. Block printing made the written word available to a vastly wider audience. Chang'an(now Xian) was the world's largest city with streets well laid out in grid fashion. Kyoto in Japan was modelled after Chang'an.

The Ming dynasty was a time of cultural renewal. The porcelain industry, reached an unprecedented height. Chinese merchants and Admiral Zheng He explored the Indian Ocean, reaching East Africa. Many books were printed using movable type.

A cultural revival in China can express itself in novels, poetry, drama, literary works, architecture, paintings, sculptures, films, TV features, cartoons, video games, fashion and clothes, good cuisine and a gracious living. By allowing many schools of the arts, culture, philosophy and politics to contend, China will ensure a vibrant cultural efflorescence.

In this way, China watchers, scholars and media the world over will then see that China's ambition is not to conquer the world, but to rekindle its civilisation with a vibrant, high and popular culture, when the Chinese enjoyed the high standards of living and quality of life. Such a China would be attractive to the world. Even Americans and Japanese will be favourably influenced by such a revival of Chinese arts and culture.

It is, in short, a"renaissance" or[??]???in Chinese. Renaissance is a revival of learning and culture, of intellectual and artistic achievement and vigour, and of peace, prosperity. It is the efflorescence and a rediscovering of a great civilisation which can only happen under conditions of peace and stability and economic abundance.

The Italian Renaissance was intertwined with the intellectual movement of Renaissance humanism, which focussed on human interests and values, laying stress on the dignity of the individual. The Chinese government's emphasis on governance for the people(?????,???), embraces the same ideals.

A renaissance of China in the context of contemporary global civilisation can trace their roots to China's distinctive past. The success of Zhang Yimou's films, including in the West, is an example a new sustained period of cultural engagement and acceptance in the 21st century.

Artistic Freedom needed for a flowering of arts and culture

To achieve this, China needs to maintain an open environment, one that encourages freedom of artistic expression and the free exchange of ideas among Chinese and between China and the world at large. "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." Fittingly, the popular cinematic awards are also known as the"hundred flowers" award(?????).

All said and done, it is China's deeds not its words that will be conclusive. The whole world will rejoice to see China encouraging its culture to flourish in a free market as it is doing with its economy. They will want to see where China channels its efforts and growing resources.

What happened to the USSR when they diverted so much of its resources in heavy industries and military technology and failed to keep pace with US technology and economy is a lesson China cannot afford to forget.

There is logic and merit in China's doctrine of peaceful emergence. Taiwan however is an unwanted distraction. But if Taiwan were to go for independence, China has made clear it will intervene, whatever the consequences. Hence the significance of the anti-secession law. America's response was to get Japan to declare that Taiwan is included in their joint security interests. America and Japan have to ensure that the Taiwanese President does not push the envelope too far or they will be dragged into a nasty war. The situation across the Taiwan Straits has always been delicate and difficult, but war is not inevitable. Prudence on both sides will make war unlikely.

As Joseph Nye, wrote: "If, for example, Taiwan were to declare independence, China would likely intervene with armed force, regardless of the perceived economic or military costs. But it would be unlikely to win such a war, and prudent policy on both sides can make such a war unlikely."

China's"peaceful emergence", is in everyone's interest. An"unpeaceful rise" will mean conflict and chaos in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

China and India both re-awakened in a peaceful and stable Asia is good for the world. They will be sources of a new vitality, adding to the discoveries in science and technology to improve the human condition.