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China: Will The 20th Century Giant Become A 21st Century Superpower

China: Will The 20th Century Giant Become A 21st Century Superpower?

 

AUTHOR LCdr. S. K. Singh, Indian Navy

 

CSC 1988

 

SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy

 

 

 

Executive Summary

 

 

Title : China : Will the 20th century giant become a 21st century

 

superpower ?

 

 

I. Purpose : The purpose of this paper is to examine if China

 

will become a "superpower" by the 21st century.

 

II. Thesis : Current indications are that China will become a

 

major world power by the 21st century unless certain events slow

 

it down. What are these factors and what effect could they have

 

on the country.

 

II: Data : While the superpower of the world are reducing

 

their nuclear arsenal China is quietly enhancing its already

 

formidable nuclear and conventional military capability. With the

 

world's largest population of over a billion people China already

 

enjoys the status of a giant on the international scene. Yet it

 

is not regarded as superpower because of its inability to

 

influence world events.

 

The country's tumultuous political history from the time of

 

the communist revolution shows how changes in leadership leads to

 

changes in policy and, at times, is detrimental to the country's

 

progress. Its relations with the United States have improved in

 

the last two decades but are still not warm enough. Recent

 

overtures made to it by the Soviet Union have yielded some

 

results but are also far from desirable.

 

IV : Conclusion : The country is going to face some delays in

 

achieving its goals cut whatever happens to its people is bound

 

to affect the destiny of mankind on Earth

 

 

CHINA: WILL THE 20th CENTURY GIANT

 

BECOME A 21st CENTURY SUPERPOWER?

 

 

OUTLINE

 

 

Thesis Statement : Current indications are that China will become a major

 

world power by the 21st century unless certain events slow it down. What

 

are these factors and what effect could they have on the country ?

 

 

I. Political situation

 

A. Last four decades

 

B. Current situation

C. Future outlook

 

 

2. Military situation

 

A. Current developments

 

B. Future plans

C. Export potential

 

 

3. Foreign Relations

 

A. Sino-America

 

B. Sino-Soviet

 

 

4. Conclusion

 

A. Influence of politics on economy

 

B. Military and social influences

 

 

 

CHINA : WILL THE 20th CENTURY GIANT

 

BECOME A 21st CENTURY SUPERPOWER ?

 

 

 

At a time when the two superpower of the world are seriously

 

engaged in reducing their nuclear arsenal a so-called third-world

 

country is quietly engaged in enhancing its already formidable

 

nuclear and conventional military capability. With the world's

 

largest population of over a billion people and also the world's

 

largest armed forces totalling more than four and a half million

 

men and women, China already enjoys the status of a giant on the

 

international scene.

 

From the time of the communist revolution in 1949 the country

 

has made a great deal of progress. The Chinese industry has

 

undergone a record growth during these years especially from

 

1958-72 when the average self-sufficiency in all energy forms and

 

has located massive petroleum deposits in Manchuria and offshore.

 

It's coal reserves are rated to be amongst the largest in the

 

world and since 1980 the country has been exporting coal and

 

petroleum even though its petroleum deposits have only been

 

superficially tapped.(11:xvii)

 

On the agricultural front China's progress has been equally

 

remarkable. It has not only achieved the capability of feeding

 

its vast populace but is even able to export some of the food

 

items that it produces. The country's hydro-electric potential is

 

believed to be the largest in the world and its armament industry

 

has developed into recognized exporter of arms and equipment.

 

Leading economists of the world have predicted that the Chinese

 

economy will be the second largest in the world by the end of the

 

first decade of the next century.(12:7)

 

Despite all these factors China is merely regarded as a giant

 

on the international scene and not a "superpower" due to its

 

inability to influence world events at large. Will this 20th

 

century giant merely grow into a bigger giant in the years to

 

come or become a "superpower" of the 21st ? Current

 

indications are that it will ,indeed ,achieve the status of a

 

superpower sometime during the 21st century unless certain events

 

at home and abroad slow down its progress and delay this

 

transformation. What are these factors and what effect could they

 

have on the country ?

 

The first and the major factor is the political set up of the

 

country which has undergone varying degrees of turmoil from the

 

time the communists seized power nearly four decades age. Nobody

 

realizes this more than the country's ageing statsmen Deng

 

Xiaoping who, during his long political career, had been ousted

 

and disgraced no less than three times.

 

When the communist government came to power in China in 1949

 

one of its first acts was to sign a thirty year treaty of

 

friendship, alliance, and mutual assistance with the Soviet

 

Union. This treaty gave the Communist govenment in Peking enough

 

confidence to enter the Korean war six months later. The war and

 

a mass movement against the local "bourgeois" distracted the

 

country's masses long enough for the government to implement its

 

first five year plan in 1953. This five year period from 1953-57

 

is regarded as the period of "transition to socialism". During

 

these years Soviet assistance in economic and technical spheres,

 

strengthened by Sino-Soviet agreements signed in 1953-54, played

 

a significant role in the development of the country.(11:31)

 

The latter part of the fifties stretching into the early

 

sixties is, ironically, known as the period of the "great leap

 

forward". This actually refers to the scheme of Mao Zedong and

 

the communist party to achieve spectacular progress by arousing

 

the masses ideologically and driving them to do their utmost for

 

the country. In reality, this optimistic plan did not work and

 

was an economic failure. It forced Mao to step down from his

 

position as the chairman of the People's Republic leaving other

 

leaders like Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi to consolidate their

 

positions within the party. Deng, at that time, was regarded as a

 

radical leftist due to his support of the anti-rightist campaign

 

of 1957 and the founding of the people's communes in 1958. This

 

new leadership changed the country's foreign policy from

 

"peaceful coexistence" to a "hard line". An aggressive propaganda

 

assault was conducted against the United States for its support of

 

Taiwan. The offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu held by the

 

Nationalists were subjected to a massive artillery bombardment.

 

The Tibetan revolt of 1958 was brutally suppressed and in its

 

aftermath China's relations with India deteriorated as the

 

Chinese accused India of hardbouring the Tibetan refugees. Border

 

disputes between the two countries increased the bitterness

 

further. On the northern front, Sino-Soviet border disputes

 

,which had been brewing for some time, led to the termination of

a 1957 agreement between the two countries by which the Soviets

 

were to help the Chinese produce their own nuclear weapons and

 

missiles.(11:35)

In 1962 Mao Zedong, who had been sidelined after the debacle

 

of the "great leap forward" and had spent the previous two years

 

practically in semi-seclusion, decided to stage a comeback and

 

used his ability to arouse the masses against the "capitalist and

 

anti-socialist" tendencies in the country. This was the "great

 

cultural revolution" of the sixties which shattered the party

 

organization from top to bottom. With the seizure of power by men

 

like Lin Biao and other protagonists of Mao, Deng was removed

 

from all his posts and publicly humiliated.

 

The cultural revolution ended in 1969 but factional

 

infighting continued well into the seventies. In September 1971,

 

however, the death of Lin Biao led to a steady decrease in the

 

influence of the fundamentalist left wing radicals and they were

 

eventually purged out. The new swing to the right led to the

 

famous visit of President Nixon to China in February, 1972 and

 

the establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan later in the

 

same year. In April, 1973 Deng was rehabilitated by the then

 

Premier Zhou Enlai and appointed vice premier but three years

 

later, with the death of Zhou Enlai, he was ousted again. On

 

September 9, 1976 Mao Zedong died and the radicals lost their

 

major influence. Deng again managed to stage a comeback and at

 

the party session of 1977 he was reappointed to all the posts

 

that he had held prior to his dismissal ie. Vice Chairman of the

 

Chinese Communist party and member of the Politburo and it's

 

Standing Committee.

 

Due to his own tumultuous career Deng realizes that constant

 

changes in the party leadership, which generally lead to changes

 

in policy, hinder the country's progress. His efforts to provide

 

the country with a stable leadership after him have, however, not

 

been very successful partly due to his own liberal policies at

 

home and partly due to the conservatives opposition to China's

 

opening its "doors" to the west.

 

In 1975 Zhou Enlai started his four modernisations in the

 

fields of agriculture, industry, national defence, and science

 

and technology. These programmes were designed to put China in

 

the same league as some of the leading nations of the world like

 

the United States, Japan and West Germany, by the year 2000.

 

Although the majority of the Chinese leadership and the public

 

realizes that these liberal reforms have yielded substantial

 

results in the last eight years and that it is essential for the

 

country to import western technology if it is to achieve its

 

modernization goals,Chinese politics does not rely on the

 

"bourgeois concept" of democratic majorities. The desire for

 

power and personal likes and dislikes often take priority over

 

the country's needs.

 

Deng's desire to ensure political continuity has received a

 

severe blow with the forced resignation of his heir apparent, Hu

 

Yaobang, in January 1987. This was also a major setback for the

 

reformers as it allowed the conservatives, who favour a more

 

orthodox brand of socialism and tighter party controls, to seize

 

the initiative. There is widespread speculation that Hu's

 

dismissal was masterminded by none less that Deng himself because

 

of Hu's inability to implement the modernization programmes in

 

the spirit they were to enforced in. It is also possible that

 

Deng may have made Hu the scapegoat to pacify the conservatives

 

who had become increasingly critical of Hu along with various

 

aspects of these reforms. Whether the conservatives increase

 

their influence in time to come or are purged out by the

 

reformers is anybody's guess. In any case it is unlikely that the

 

conservatives would reverse the present liberal trend. They may,

 

at the most, slow down the pace of the reforms. As it is, of

 

late, the Chinese leadership has itself set back the year of

 

modernization from 2000 to 2020. At the Pac Rim conference, held

 

in 1986, the vice chairman of the Chinese State Planning

 

Commission stated that it might now take China 75 years to get

 

close to the well developed countries pushing the date further to

 

2062.(9:31)

 

Zhao Zhiyang, the sixty seven year old premier, who has taken

 

over Hu's chair as the General Secretary of the party lacks Hu's

 

experience in youth league organs but ha acquired a considerable

 

stature as a national leader. He also does not share Hu's

 

extensive military background but has had close ties with the

 

military at both the regional and the national level. The rural

 

reforms introduced by him as the first party secretary of the

 

province of Sichuan in late 1975, were so successful that they

 

were adopted at the national level by the third plenum of the

 

eleventh central committee in December, 1978. His standing with

 

the military is much better than Hu's who is not regarded by the

 

military as a strong and a stable leader. In fact, it is believed

 

that the military was instrumental in successfully resisting

 

suggestions that Hu replace Deng as the Chairman of the Central

 

Military Commission.

 

It is obvious that Zhao's major task is to consolidate his

 

position and tackle the conservatives. Even if he succeedes in

 

this difficult task eventually, the process is expected to slow

 

down the reforms which are in the process of implementation and

 

delay the introduction of new ones. (8:14). If Zhao is to leave

 

the premiership open there would be two candidated for the job.

 

These are the two vice premiers Li Peng and Tian Jiyun. Li was

 

educated in Moscow and is well known in Beijing but not in the

 

country. He is, to an extent, regarded as a conservative. Tian

 

Jiyun, on the other hand, is a reformer who has been a close

 

adviser to Zhao for the last four years and has a reputation for

 

far sighted efficiency. (6: 10)

The conservatives feel that it is better to be aligned to an

 

unfriendly communist power than to a friendly imperialistic one

 

and their coming to power is expected to bring in a modification

 

of the foreign policy in that they may lean towards the East

 

European countries for their requirements. The ideology of the

 

reformers is, perhaps, not much different. In 1980 Deng pointed

 

out," The infiltration of Bourgeois ideas into China is

 

inevitable, (but) we shall never allow the worshipping of

 

capitalist countries at the expense of national pride and dignity

 

while learning advanced technology and management skills from

 

them".

 

The second factor which is of importance and will affect

 

Chinese influence in world affairs is the military potential of

 

the Chinese armed forces. According to "The Military Balance

 

1985-86" published by the International Institute of Strategic

 

Studies, London, China's defence expenditure is estimated at $

 

34.5 billion which makes it the third highest in the world after

 

the Soviet Union and the United States. The presence of Chinese

 

defence firms at international arms exhibitions is becoming

 

increasingly noticeable. The People's Liberation Army which

 

celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in August, 1987 is currently

 

in the process of modernizing and reorganizing its 35 Field

 

Armies into 24 Integrated Mobile Armies.The eleven military

 

provinces have been reorganized into seven military regions. The

 

first of the newly integrated armies - the 38th - is already

 

deployed in the Beijing Military Region and the second in the

 

Shenyang Military Region.

 

China has been extremely successful in its rocket launching

 

programmes and since 1970 the Chinese have put no less than

 

twenty satellites into space with only two failures. The

 

temporary grounding of the American space programme also gave a

 

boost to the Chinese plans. They bagged a contract to put

 

Mailist, a Swedish communication satellite, into space for the

 

reported sum of $ 19.5 million and are believed to be negotiating

 

with no less than eight other countries including Great Britain,

 

Italy Austria, and Canada. (6:12)

 

The Chinese also have a considerable number of strategic long

 

range missiles. Of these the Dong Feng (East Wind), a solid

 

fuelled missile,is capable of carrying five megaton warheads over

 

a range of 8,078 miles (13,000 Kms.). Looking at the considerable

 

range of this missile it is interesting to analyze its possible

 

strategic employment. The army had equipped its "59" and "62"

 

tanks with laser rangefinders and the integrated armies are using

 

the 5.56 mm. similar in performance to the American M-16. The 105

 

mm. gun is in use alongwith the i55 mm. self propelled howitzer.

 

The army is also in the process of computerizing its signals

 

system. (6:13)

 

The Chinese Air Force has the second highest number of

 

aircraft in the world which are also in the process of

 

modernization. The F-6 bis fighters (MiG-19 variants) already

 

carry effective radar systems. The H-6 bombers (Tu-16s) are well

 

maintained to effectively deliver the nuclear bombs held in the

 

Chinese armoury. The Chinese Navy has become a blue water Navy

 

with nuclear submarines and missile destroyers.In addition to all

 

this the United States has agreed to supply the Chinese with

 

transport aircraft, helicopters, flight training systems, aerial

 

cameras, and certain types of radars as well as Tow anti-tank and

 

Hawk anti-aircraft missiles.

 

The American aid package is designed to sharpen the teeth of

 

the Chinese Armed Forces and force the Soviets to withdraw some

 

of their forces from the East Europeon border and place the on

 

the Sino-Soviet border where they are more expensive to maintain.

 

Although this package has has been carefully thought out to

 

prevent the use of these weapons or equipment contrary to the

 

interests of the United States it is very difficult to ensure it.

 

China is the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world after

 

the United Stated, Soviet Union, England and Grance. In its

 

desire to earn foreign exchange China is very likely to copy them

 

and sell them to whoever wants them irrespective of other

 

considerations. The use of Chinese Silkworm missiles by Iran to

 

disrupt the Persian Gulf shipping has no moral implications for

 

the Chinese. A future scenario could be the use of similar, if

 

not these, weapons by the North Koreans against the South

 

Koreans.

 

Although Sino-American trade reached a high mark of $ 7.3

 

billion last year making the United States China's third most

 

important trading partner the relations between the two countries

 

have not warmed up enough. The expulsion of "New York Times"

 

reporter John Burns in 1986 and two Chinese diplomats from the

 

United States recently is one such pointer. During the last one

 

year the Chinese press has devoted a great deal of its attention

 

to inform its readers about the shortcomings of the American

 

society and the American political system. On January 20, last

 

year the "People's Daily" described in detail how the economic

 

status of Blacks in America had declined over the past decade.

 

Taiwan remains a major thorn in Sino American relations. The

 

Chinese are obsessed about the reunification of Taiwan with

 

mainland China and have been offering a number of incentives to

 

engineer it. They have even decided to let Hong Kong maintain its

 

capitalistic profile after it reverts to them in 1997 to display

 

an example of their flexibility. The refusal of Taiwan to even

 

consider their porposals makes the Chinese feel that the United

 

States is not exerting enough pressure of Taiwan.

 

On the other hand overtures of friendship by the Soviet Union

 

have yielded some results. After two decades of animosity the two

 

countries have exchanged visits at the vice premier level.

 

Cultural and educational exchanges have recommenced and the

 

Chinese communist party has reestablished ties with its

 

counterparts in East European countries. Moscow is again actively

 

assisting the Chinese in modernizing the old Soviet style

 

factories which still outnumber the western or west-assisted

 

ones. A possible reason for this may be the fact that the present

 

day leadership, both within the party and the military, has been

 

educated at a time when the Soviet influence in China was at its

 

peak. Many of the top military officers of today were either

 

trained in the Soviet Union or in the military academies set up

 

under Soviet guidance.

 

China has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation

 

Treaty and its growing nuclear capability has already made it an

 

entity in the world's power equation. The economic reforms and

 

the growth rate of country, however, depends on its future

 

political atmosphere. A change in the country's leadership during

 

any time in the future may lead to a change or a reversal in the

 

economic or foreign policy and drastically affect the growth

 

rate. Even though this seems a remote likelihood at this time the

 

country's past history is ample proof that one cannot preclude

 

this possibility.

 

Deng has over the years reduced the role of the armed forces

 

in the nation's politics substantially possibly to avenge the

 

humiliation suffered by him during the Cultural Revolution at the

 

hands of the army-supported Red Guards. The modernization of the

 

armed forces has been given the lowest priority. A few cosmetic

 

changes in the form of badges of rank and new uniforms have been

 

made to appease the armed forces. Although the men in uniform

 

still maintain their high morale how long this lasts would have

 

to be seen. The pay and allowances of the armed forces are very

 

low compared to their civilian counterparts. An ordinary soldier,

 

in his first year of service makes an averge of $ 4.00 a month

 

which is just enough to gain him a single entry into any

 

provincial discotheque. The strength of the armed forces is being

 

reduced by a million in order tohave a qualitatively superior

 

force as opposed to the numerically superior one favoured by

 

"Maoist" doctrine.

 

The rehabilitation of these men is expected to pose a

 

substantial problem for the Chinese leadership. To add to this,

 

despite extremely strict family planning measures, the country's

 

population is expected to cross the two billion mark by the year

 

2050. The economics of employing and feeding these people and the

 

present fay problems of inflation and the rapidly rising cost of

 

living is going to be major worry of the future leaders. An

 

appreciation of these factors will not make it very difficult to

 

visualize a China of the future nurturing expansionist tendencies

 

and flexing its muscles to take what it needs or desires.

 

It is already apparent that, as the Chinese economic and

 

military power is increasing it is becoming more and more

 

involved in regional and world affairs. In December, 1985 Wu

 

Xuequian, the Chinese Foreign minister, stated that, "China will

 

not sit with arms folded if Vietnam invades Thailand, (but)

 

..will take forceful measures with Thailand. These "forceful

 

measures" have been the delivery of tank and artillery by the

 

Chinese to Thailand. By 1986 the Chinese had also supplied

 

Pakistan with eleven hundred type "59" tanks, twenty four fast

 

attack craft, and more than two hundred frontline fighter

 

aircraft (with over a hundred more on order). In Africa the

 

Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Somalia, Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, and

 

Zimbabwe possess Chinese equipment. (2:24)

 

The economic problems being faced by the the Soviet Union are

 

expected to relegate its economy to the fourth position by the

 

year 2010 causing a decrease of its influence of China will

 

gradually change the bipolar world as it exists today. Although

 

this is not likely to occur till we are well into the next

 

century what happens to the Chinese till then is what happens to

 

every fourth human in the world and is surely an influene on the

 

distiny of mankind on the planet Earth.

 

 

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Discriminate Deterrence , January, 1988.



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