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Hu Jintao - Peaceful Rise

The "peaceful rise" theme was unveiled by Zheng Bijian (an influential foreign policy advisor to Hu Jintao) at the Boao Forum for Asia in November 2003. Mr. Zheng described this as a "new strategic path [of] Chinas peaceful rise through independently building socialism with Chinese characteristics, while participating in rather than detaching from economic globalization." This theme was also articulated to international audiences through an article by Mr. Zheng published in Foreign Affairs in 2005 titled "Chinas Peaceful Rise to Great Power Status."

While the slogan of "peaceful rise" continued to circulate, by April 2004 the term had been replaced in official statements by the phrase "peaceful development," which was confirmed as the official narrative with the release of a December 2005 government white paper titled "Chinas Peaceful Development Road." In the white paper, the Chinese government outlined its new official foreign policy narrative as follows:

"To take the road of peaceful development is to unify domestic development with opening to the outside world, linking the development of China with that of the rest of the world, and combining the fundamental interests of the Chinese people with the common interests of all peoples throughout the world. China persists in its pursuit of harmony and development internally while pursuing peace and development externally; the two aspects, closely linked and organically united, are an integrated whole, and will help to build a harmonious world of sustained peace and common prosperity."

One academic expert has suggested that the change could be attributable to concerns that some neighboring countries or the United States might interpret the use of "rise" as too threatening a sign of hegemonic aspirations. It is also possible that Hu Jintao may have wished for Chinas foreign policy narrative to more closely parallel his overarching domestic propaganda theme of the "Scientific Outlook on Development." However, the reason for the change from peaceful rise" to "peaceful development" is unknown.

Chinas road to a peaceful rise is a specific concept. It refers to the development course of China from the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 1978, looking to the mid-21st century, when China was expected basically to realize modernization. It was the path of development China was taking in this period. China sought to develop in a peaceful environment, and at the same time to promote world peace. The nature of the concept is that under the theme of peace and development, China has found an independent path to build socialism with Chinese characteristics through involvement in, not isolation from, economic globalization.

First, China would continue putting economic construction at the center of national work and making development the priority of the peaceful rise. That is to say, China would not see political confrontation as its target, nor develop its economy through expansion or isolationism.

Second, China would participate in economic globalization and compete with others in the world market to realize a win-win result. Amid the acceleration of economic globalization in the 1970s, China decided to carry out the reform and opening policies and integrate itself into the process. In the 1990s when anti-globalization was on the rise, China still insisted on its opening policies and continued participating in globalization.

Third, China would persist in independent development when participating in economic globalization. That means Chinas development would be based on its own strength. In dealing with problems arising from development, China would depend mainly on its own institutional innovation, structural adjustment, expansion of domestic demand and utilization of private capital at home. For example, China would depend on its own technological innovation to reduce energy consumption, or to develop new energy sources. In short, China would take advantage of world resources, but would not bring trouble to the world.

Fourth, China would deepen reform and seek coordinated development in all areas. Under the planned economy it was impossible for China to participate in globalization. So China must reform further and build a socialist market economy. But it would face new problems, such as the expanding gap between cities and rural areas and between different regions, deterioration of the environment, and contradictions between nature and humankind and between development of the national economy and opening. All these problems would be handled well during the course of development.

Fifth, in the international arena, China would play its due role as a big country, but it has no intention to seek domination in dealing with international affairs. History had proved that domination would inevitably lead to world disorder, so the Chinese leaders pledged to the world that China would never seek hegemony, even after it basically realized modernization.

In recent history, the rise of big countries had generally been realized in two ways. One was war or military expansion. The other was extreme confrontation or Cold War. But China was trying to find another way to rise: that is, to participate in economic globalization and compete with others in the world market in a mutually beneficial way.

China expounded its "peaceful development road" concept in a white paper issued in Beijing on 22 December 2005, pledging that "China is now taking the road of peaceful development, and will continue to do so when it gets stronger in the future." It is "a serious choice and solemn promise made by the Chinese government and the Chinese people," said the document, issued by the Information Office of the State Council, China's cabinet. China settles border issues with other countries peacefully and actively helps the growth of other developing countries, the white paper said.

John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is best known in China for his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001), in which he predicts, based on his pessimistic view of the anarchic world order, that China's rise will inevitably be "unpeaceful."

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Page last modified: 30-12-2015 20:13:40 ZULU