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Has China Peaked?

This is a question I have been struggling with these past few months. I don’t mean to say that China’s economy is headed for a bust (although many are afraid it is), but will the rest of the world ever like China as much as it did during the Beijing Olympics?

It was a moment when China’s human rights issues seemed to be improving, Wikipedia had been unblocked, journalists were given greater freedoms than before, and China had spared no effort in responding to the Sichuan Earthquake. Heck, Beijing even had blue skies for several days in a row! The stadiums and infrastructure had all been built in record time, and the opening ceremony was awe-inspiring. It seemed there was nothing that China couldn’t do.

The 2008 Olympics was China’s grand arrival on the world stage after recovering from a century of civil war, world war, and disastrous policies put in place by the Party. It was a big moment, and all of China’s 1.3 billion people knew it.

It seems that since then China has been chasing that initial high of global respect. They’ve staged the Shanghai expo at an incredible expense, but it went largely unnoticed abroad, as will this years Universiade, and 2014’s Youth Olympic Games (Nanjing is hosting, and they started advertising it last year).

After the 2008 Olympics, China has been as resistant to Climate Change initiatives as the US, increased internet censorship, arrested dozens of dissidents, allowed N. Korea to attack S. Korea twice, raised tensions in the South China sea and Beijing’s air reached “Crazy Bad”.

I think this is a question quite worthy of further discussion, so, in your opinion, Has china peaked?

please leave your lengthy comments below


8 Comments

  1. Aside from the obvious issues like repression of human rights and all that jazz, the world is finally recognizing China as a new superpower. And that recognition comes with a lot of baggage. When you’re at the top everyone at the bottom hates you. America still hasn’t learned to deal with it and tries to be everyone’s friend, which doesn’t work. But China doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks most of the time and that leads to a lot of animosity, particularly with its neighbors. I’d say China’s reputation has no where to go but down. =(

  2. Chopstik says:

    I’ll admit, I’m an optimist; a cynical optimist at times, but an optimist nonetheless. I don’t think it has peaked but I do think they need to make some changes to ensure it does not deteriorate precipitously. Many outside of China view it as a burgeoning superpower and that, in and of itself, engenders a myriad of emotions ranging from supplication to fear to admiration and anything in between. I suspect that most in the upper echelons of government are only too well aware that there are many issues in China that are yet unresolved and view themselves as a still a third-world nation (and there is merit to that argument). The crux, as always, is that the truth lies somewhere in between and there is yet no good appreciation for how to view China dispassionately.

    Many in the West fear the rise of China as a superpower and automatically see the future relationship as antagonistic. There are many in China (no thanks to the hypernationalism preached ad nauseum by the government) who see the outside world similarly. The Olympics and that time period was one of good feelings regarding China and its fairly peaceful rise to prominence. However, the government will only allow that image to prevail so long as it does not cost the government in terms of its hold on power. And therein lies the future. If the government can maintain its grip on power without repression and the ugly side that we’ve seen recently, then China’s image can again rise internationally to potentially even greater heights. However, as the past has shown, any threat will be treated accordingly and without regard to China’s international image.

    And just to be fair, no nation is immune from this. Every government plays to its domestic constituency and governs accordingly – the West is certainly no exception. It is worthwhile to note that it is an apparent double-standard in some ways to judge China in this way while ignoring that our own respective governments act in the same fashion (in ways designed to ensure their own continued rule). Just an observation…

  3. Bill Rich says:

    China peaked in the 18th century.

  4. Tim Corbin says:

    Chopstik: You play the optimist, I’ll play the pessimist.
    My wife won’t like this, but…
    Unless China changes the way it interacts with the world, it will never “peak”. You can’t have foreign policy that requires you to act like an offended 12-year old every time someone is critical of you. Constantly telling countries to “mind their own business” doesn’t work on the world stage. Chinese leadership has zero idea what it means to be a world leader – they can’t even get things straight domestically (not that having some issues on the home front is a sign of poor international performance, but everyone here knows what I mean). Staying out of other countries business is the exact opposite of what leading countries must do – everyone must hold everyone else accountable. China doesn’t get that at all – and I doubt they ever will.
    Rant. Over.

    • Tom says:

      I am tempted to agree with Tim, at least for now, China isn’t showing leadership, even though it has power. My coworkers were pretty stunned to hear that China had supported the Sudanese gov’t despite of Darfur. They gasped when they realized it was almost the same scale as the rape of Nanjing. Until their own people can be proud of China abroad it doesn’t seem so good.

  5. Chris says:

    Does a superpower need to lead the rest of the world? We got used to Britain and the US doing that but why should China? If they have enough money and resources why should they be bothered to what everyone else thinks or what goes on in the rest of the world? The US tries to lead the world and is resented for it.

    • Chopstik says:

      It’s not that the US or Britain tried to lead the world so much as they operated in their own self-interest – which lead to them trying to control other nations to their own benefit. China will do the same (see the dispute in the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands – or DiaoYuTai, if you wish – where it is already occurring). The question is whether it will be relatively benign or whether it will be worse.

  6. sunsetreflector says:

    China is still growing. There’s lots of potential.

    By contrast the economic strength and influence of the West is drawing to a close as you can see for yourself in the recent developments in the media. Telling these probes to “mind their own business” is never wrong, for the Western press, under the guise of objective reporting, is armed with its own agenda.

    Also, as I have lived in another authoritarian country for such a long period of time I have come to see “freedom” as little more than an idealistic Western fantasy. Look at the heaps of mess they are having on their doorsteps nowadays. And do you think even the leaders of Western countries actually love being criticized, disrespected and lambasted on a daily basis despite any of them even attempting doing their best for the people?

    Courtesy is appreciated regardless of culture and ethnicity, and I feel that many among the electorate that are of low-grade intelligence should not be allowed to speak up. Whereas mannered and constructive criticism should be given a listen as I do agree but most critics and, for want of a better word – malcontents – unfortunately fall into this category more often for the love of troublemaking, so naturally it should be advocated that these voices that disrupt the harmonious running of the environment for everyone should therefore be suppressed.

    Stability and economic success granting everyone three meals everyday and a roof over their heads are much more important than carousel values like “freedom”, “gay rights” and “women rights”. These are things that may prove economically brilliant for they being encouraged to come out to work increases taxation dollars and revenue for the state, but they are also capable as undesirable forces to cause chaos and problems in society.

    The Eastern thought while often being conservative, is still a wiser one in the long run if you examine various modes of governments past and present. You will realize this eventually I hope.

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