Sunday, June 03, 2007

A `peaceful rise' at the expense of the people

By Shen Chieh 沈潔

Taipei Times: Sunday, Jun 03, 2007, Page 8

Despite what it calls its "peaceful rise," China is an abnormal country. The US Department of Defense has said that the Chinese military's development of long-range missiles, submarines and fighter jets exceed its national security needs.

While China's military technology is highly advanced, most of its people live in poverty.

The quality of life is low and some of the country's exported food and toothpaste products are even toxic.

China espouses a peaceful rise and the creation of a wealthy country with a strong army. Although these are legitimate goals, the problem lies in China's definition of what a wealthy country and a strong army mean.

China also pursued these ideals toward the end of the Qing Dynasty (清) but failed to take the needs of the public into account and in the end the dynasty could not be saved from itself.

The US became a superpower after the end of World War II. It built a wealthy country and a strong army based on a democratic liberal system.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union adopted a communist dictatorship at the cost of freedom, with the result that neither the country nor its people prospered.

The Soviet Union did manage to build a strong country, but it nevertheless collapsed.

Japan and some European countries adopted democratic, liberal systems without vowing to become rich countries with strong militaries and still managed to prosper.

China has adopted a dictatorial communist political system and an economic system with some capitalist characteristics. This mix contains both the strengths and the weaknesses of the two systems.

On the one hand, China's long-range missiles are capable of threatening the US and are able to shoot down satellites.

On the other hand, China seems incapable of resolving its serious environmental issues, such as water pollution, mining disasters, rampant corruption and food safety challenges.

China relies on cheap labor and foreign investment to mass produce products it then dumps overseas.

In light of its enormous foreign reserves, it appears to be a rich country, but this wealth is spent expanding the military and not on improving living standards.

In the coastal areas where the corrupt privileged class relies on foreign investment and profits from the privatization of state-owned businesses, some people are wealthy enough to be listed among the world's richest people by Forbes magazine.

In the country, though, most farmers are so poor that they can't manage to make ends meet.

The tremendous gap between rich and poor in China is worse than that in capitalist countries.

The dictators in Beijing have no international enemies but are still rushing to strengthen the military.

On the domestic side, though, laborers are being abused and farmers are being oppressed.

This is not the image of a strong country.

With such a rigid political system, inflated and unbalanced economy and chaotic policies, China is its own worst enemy.

Thus, talk of making public welfare the first priority has become just that -- talk.

If China's only pursuit is to build a rich country and a strong military, the bursting of its economic bubble will cause it to collapse in the same way the Soviet Union did.

Shen Chieh is a US-based freelance writer.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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