Is it time that China show Leadership? An interesting opinion on Laowaiblog
Last month, an attack by North Korea on its neighbor, South Korea, reminded global citizens that the Korean peninsula conflict is still prominent. After the attack, it was expected of China to comment about the act, yet Beijing was silent. Only after joint American-South Korean military exercises in the Yellow Sea came about, China responded: “We hold a consistent and clear-cut stance on the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted as saying in a ministry statement. “We oppose any party to take any military actions in our exclusive economic zone without permission.”
In an effort to get China to express a more serious response against North Korea, the president of the United States, Mr. Obama, called the president of China, Mr. Hu Jin Tao, and urged him to put the North Korean government on a tighter leash after a series of provocations, which has stoked fears of a wider military confrontation in the Korean Peninsula. Nevertheless, Beijing did not express any serious response to the brutal attack, and it seems that it is not interested in tangling itself in the midst of the Korean conflict and that it was not up to China to assume any leadership roles.
China Leadership lacks the will to take a stand in many global issues. Issues such as global conflicts or natural disasters have left global citizens looking at China for help yet receiving a cold shoulder. Such is the case, for example, by the lack of will expressed by Beijing to take any significant role in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, in the Korean conflict or in the India – Pakistan conflict. It seems that China is primarily focused on developing its economic ties with other nations while neglecting to take any political stand.
One possible explanation for China Leadership unwillingness to take a leading role regarding non-economical global issues might derive from its name: “The Middle Kingdom” (中国). The name was first used to refer to the late Zhou dynasty, as they believed that they were the “center of civilization.” The name can represent a view held by the Chinese government: For thousands of years, China has been pushed aside economically and politically by foreign countries and has not had the opportunity to present the world with its culture and economic strength. In the past thirty years, China’s economic strength has risen dramatically; A rise that might be accompanied with a desire to show the world, who is fairly unfamiliar with China, that China is now its center.
The lack of understanding by China of its global position causes other nations to question its policies. One such international interaction is in the field of environment. According to the World Bank, 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China. The industrial revolution transforming the most populous country in the world is also destroying its environment. China is now the first-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main gas linked to global warming. Despite these facts, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Beijing declared that it is not changing its current policy regarding carbon emissions. According to China Daily, Liu Zhenmin, first deputy head of the Chinese delegation to the conference, said that “This national voluntary pledge is autonomous; it is not negotiable; (it is) not imposed by the outside.” Liu was responding to a Reuters report that “China is willing to make its voluntary carbon emissions target part of a binding UN resolution”. I do not wish to contend that the current environmental policy initiated by China is wrong but that the policy is not open for negotiations with other nations.
Beijing’s on-growing economic strength imposes certain responsibilities. It can no longer afford to stand by while world conflicts are transpiring or while its environmental policy is effecting the lives of millions of people. China must demonstrate that it is not only a mere economic power but that it can serve as a role model in many different aspects such as environment and politics.
A famous Chinese saying 自以为是 means “to consider oneself in the right; to regard oneself as infallible.” Beijing currently considers its acts as just and legitimate and does not wish to let any nation interfere with its affairs. Nevertheless, if China wants to receive recognition for its economic strength, and if it wishes to truely become the next global superpower, it must demonstrate humanity and leadership in various non-economical aspects.