China seeks to reassure world it poses no threat


  • World
  • Thursday, 22 Dec 2005

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - China sought to reassure the world on Thursday that its rapid economic growth does not pose a threat just days after announcing its economy is a sixth bigger than previously thought. 

Its policy paper, "China's Peaceful Development Road", is the latest effort to convince other countries, notably the United States, not to be alarmed by the rapid economic ascent of the world's most populous nation and its growing diplomatic clout. 

"China's development will never pose a threat to anyone; instead it can bring more development opportunities and bigger markets for the rest of the world," the 32-page document said. 

China has racked up double-digit annual economic growth for more than a decade and is trying to match that with a greater role in diplomatic affairs, hosting six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programmes and becoming a prominent aid donor. 

But it has also seen huge military growth and modernisation, developing more sophisticated missiles, satellite-disrupting lasers and underground facilities which the United States says could upset the balance of power in Asia. 

China regards neighbouring Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to ensure its eventual reunification -- by force if necessary. 

On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso called China's military buildup a threat, the latest barb traded between the Northeast Asian neighbours and wartime foes who feud over everything from rights to energy resources in the sea to the way history is taught in school. 

But the policy paper's use of the phrase "peaceful development" continues a shift from an earlier mantra of "peaceful rise" in what analysts say is a conscious effort to dispel fears. 

"Rise is too ambiguous. It's much broader and it raises fears among many about the broader implications of China's rise, especially the security dimension," said Peter Gries, a political scientist at the University of Colorado, in the United States, who specialises in Chinese nationalism. 

Chinese analysts said the phrase "peaceful rise" was abandoned last year, over fears that it would invite anxiety in Washington. 

"'Development' shows China itself wants to become prosperous, but 'rise' indicates China wants to narrow the gap with developed countries," said Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute for International Studies at Tsinghua University. 

"They said 'rise' would cause dissatisfaction from the United States and worried the U.S. would adopt policies to restrain China," he said. 

BENEFITS FOR ALL 

Thursday's policy paper stressed the benefits China's boom could bring to other countries. 

"Statistics released by the World Bank show that China's economic growth contributed on average 13 percent to world economic growth from 2000-2004," it said. 

"China's development has not only benefited the 1.3 billion Chinese people, but also brought large markets and development opportunities for countries throughout the world." 

But the economy has also been a target, with the U.S. critical of China over an exchange rate it says is undervalued, giving an unfair advantage to Chinese exports, and over a trade surplus set to reach $100 billion this year. 

Analysts said China was slow to realise that its growth could be perceived as threatening, traditionally viewing itself as a victim of foreign aggression since the time of the Opium Wars. 

"On the one hand you have a tremendous pride that after a quarter of a century of reform and opening, China has really begun to emerge," said Gries. 

"But on the other side there is this recognition finally of a security dilemma, that one's strength can be seen as threatening by others, leading those others to arm themselves or form alliances ... and you get this tragedy of an arm's race." 

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