Major Transformation and Obstacles that Shaped China After 1949
Around the globe, no country has undergone a tremendous transformation as compared to China. Similarly, it has continued to develop in many areas since time immemorial and they include trade, religion, and education. It is the only nation transormed from an agrarian economy in a span of two generations into the superpower. The transformation is a success trajectory incomparable to any other country in the world (Gosh 1).
Consequently, it has surpassed other economic giants thereby becoming the second economy in world with 16 percent of the total world nominal Gross Domestic Product (Gosh 2). In addition, it has been the best country in terms of purchasing power and a leading economy since 2014 (Gosh 2). Even though it has faced major challenges like political and military upheavals, it has emerged as a major player in world economics and politics. This paper examines the major transformations and obstacles China has faced along the way. Further, it highlights how its foreign policy has propelled it to the world arena.
The Origin of Success
The rapid ascend by China in the world economy, military, and political spheres is not a new phenomenon. The introduction of the five-year plan spanning from 1953-57 saw the utilization of resources for industrial production. With assistance from the USSR, it rolled out various projects. Moreover, its rise to a superpower in the international scene has been contributed by the country’s military power, economic prowess, and international diplomacy power (Hang 1).
On the other hand, direct foreign investment and international trade have contributed to its growth. Furthermore, the devaluation of its currency in the international market enables it to export more goods and other essential services to other countries. While foretelling the rising of China in the international world Kissinger said that “I don’t agree with China in everything but it is important to note that it will play an integral role in the new world in the 21st century” (Kissinger 13).
Since his first visit to China as an envoy from the U.S, he was cognizant of the fact that China had become a superpower and therefore, an influencer in world affairs. While highlighting the Chinese success story, Kissinger unveils the origin of the advancements witnessed. He credits China’s revolutionary leader who changed the political landscape from a feudal society to a communist country; thus, ending continued wrangles that had bedeviled the country for a long time (Kissinger 18). In 1962, Mao Zedong convened an important meeting that could shape the future of the republic. He called all his military generals and top political advisors to Beijing.
In contrast, on the same day, Chine was on the verge of war with India over the Himalayas Islands where each country claimed ownership of the territory (Harding 13). India contested for the land since it was demarcated by their colonial masters; the British. On the other hand, China saw it as part of its imperialism in the region and had surrounded the area while India put an outpost at the border between the Island and China. However, negotiations had been started by Mao who decided to compromise instead of war (Kissinger). He recalled that the two countries had been fighting previously with the first war taking place over one thousand years and it was China that had assisted India.
According to Mao, after the incident, the two countries co-existed peacefully yet, in the Sino-India war, it was India that had killed more than one hundred thousand Chinese prisoners. Therefore, he had to lead the imminent war against India to make them come to their senses so that they could come to the negotiating table and seek a truce (Kissinger 19). Following the meeting with his generals, he launched the offensive that caught the Indian army unaware and was defeated and captured along with their machinery. However, China returned the prisoners and their equipment to India afterward and retreated.
This was the defining nature of the Chinese leader under whose stewardship China started taking strides on the right path to the current state (Kissinger). Perhaps, the skill of negotiating and seeking common ground has made Chine a peaceful country, and the tranquility has enabled it to develop. Even though other countries can claim to have had such statemen, none will compare to China’s Mao and some of the emperors before him.
Among other reasons, China has been a unified country with over a billion people who are a source of cheap labor in the international market. Right from the 3rd century to the end of the Qing Dynasty, China was among the most stable countries in East Asia (Harding 13). The Chinese emperor was seen as a unifying figure who brought about political stability. Furthermore, Chinese culture, political structures, and language were the backbone of their civilization as all conquered territories had to learn and embrace their culture (Kissinger 19). This led to the unity of the country and China is the only country that called itself the Middle Kingdom to unify its people.
The Transformation Journey
Following the victory after the conclusion of the Civil War, Mao established the Republic in 1949 where he emphasized the economy and equality, especially among the landless people. Further, in 1953 he initiated an overhaul of land ownership and ushered in new reforms targeting landlords and the numerous peasants (BBC News Service). Consequently, he ensured that land was confiscated from the landlords and divided among the people.
This resulted in more people owning land and former owners were killed or fled to other countries from their provinces. Further, he launched an atomic bomb and satellite program with help of USSR resulting in the successful development of bombs in 1970. Also, in 1963, the launch of the education movement led to the rollout of education programs throughout the republic. Following the death of Mao Zedong, Deng became the new leader and in 1978 a constitution was passed but due to the unrest from the revolution public safety was at stake, as a result, an anti-crime campaign was launched which lasted for 5 years.
Following the economic success of Singapore, China sent its officials to study and learn how to improve their industrial sector and become self-reliant. Deng also introduced Special Economic Zones intending to let foreign investments without stringent government measures. Consequently, various industries were established in Shenzhen and later spread to other parts of the republic. By 2001 leaders from Russia, China and other four Asian countries had formed a pact aimed at fighting religious militancy and promoting trade ties among the countries (BBC News Service).
After the stepping down of Jiang, the National Congress elected a new president to take over, Hu Jintao. In February 2011China became the second-largest economy in the world after overtaking Japan. Similarly, in 2013, Xi Jinping became the president ushering in new a generation of leadership and launched a zero-tolerance to corruption (BBC News Service). The president has been in power since 2013 propelling China to greater international economic standards.
Obstacles it Faced
During the transformation to its prosperity, China faced many challenges in form of natural disasters. As a result, millions of citizens were afflicted, especially in the Tianjin region of northern China. For instance, Paltemaa reports that China suffered from famine from 1958 to 1961 which claimed up to 45 million lives, an earthquake in 1976, and floods in 1963 (2). However, on the contrary, it has transformed from an agrarian-based nation to a modern powerhouse recognized globally. Therefore, its foreign policy has contributed immensely to continued economic growth. It is a flexible, pragmatic, and active policy used to increase resource mobilization, investment, and market expansion.
A Civilized China and Its Implication on UAE Foreign Policy
While modern society might define society from different perspectives using different criteria, China has been through many transformations resulting in a civilized country. Further, historians concur that China has a unique past that has influenced the world history. Besides, many believe that China is among the regions that are associated to the cradle of man, Westad states that “it has surpassed a relative period of less importance and entered the center stage of international affairs with superpowers” (11). It is also considered the cradle for human beings on earth. Also, as predicted at the beginning of the 21 Century, it has become a leading player in global affairs with the advancement in technology and becoming among the largest world economies (Westad 11). This section looks at China’s ancient to modern civilization and its implication to the United Arab Emirates foreign policy.
Practice of foreign policy started after the Mao Zedong period as China started realizing that they are left behind technologically. While highlighting the foreign policy, Kissinger notes that “the new China under Mao could sweep the house clean before inviting guests” (103).
It meant that the leaders feared western influence and could first ensure there were no such remnants before considering foreign diplomacy. In the new era, China exhibited different patterns after the inauguration of the republic. Many instances demonstrate their mixed foreign policies. First, there are those of the view that some of the foreign policies came up as a result of its engagement in world trade and as a result, it wanted to safe face and present a different image to other countries. Many people across the world have a view of China as a communist regime that does not respect human rights and freedom of speech and other democratic rights as exercised in other countries especially in the West.
In addition to the above assertion, the entrance of China into the global stage has changed some of the aforementioned perceptions from other nations. However, the rise of dissidents and sentiments from its citizens especially the reformers and those against the government’s communist ideologies let to a change in foreign policy of China. Moreover, the conflicts that arose out of wars across the borders and abroad between China, the Soviet Union, India, and Japan among others led to its citizens resenting the government.
Consequently, it had to change its choices regarding the government approach, especially on the international political altercation. One such incident occurred between Russia and China where there were resentments from the citizens against Russia. This was due to the sidelining of China by Russia in Vietnam in addition to the skirmishes of the Sino-Soviet (Kissinger). These two incidents were the backbone from which China realized the importance of seeking more allies and opening its borders for other countries.
Therefore, it had to seek assistance for modern industrialization from other nations. Couple with a fragile economy, dissidence from their former friends the soviet and the appealing nature of the US lured them to think beyond their borders, the East, and started focusing on the west (Kissinger 294). Besides, the trajectory of foreign policy remained the only way for the country to develop. Therefore, there were two scenarios feasible to the Chinese leaders; to venture beyond their borders or keep to themselves and maintain its closed ideology. First, China opened up to the US and later to Japan even though they had historical differences born of animosity during the ancient wars. Japan was considered an industrial powerhouse and therefore, China had to seek help to industrialize (Kissinger 318).
After, seeking cooperation from the two countries, it brought in the capital for investment and technology. The stable international conducive environment enabled china to enhance sustainable economic development (Kissinger 299). China received technology but remained unmoved in the political sector and continued with its communist ideology.
After China opened itself to the outside referred to as the opening course resulted in enormous economic, industrial modernization and development. However, this was marred by the 1980 incident that tainted China in the wave of democracy. The Tiananmen Square demonstration affected the country on two fronts. While the incident portrayed china as a bad country internationally, at home it was the right time to sell the socialism ideologies on the premise that foreign forces are behind the disintegration of the republic. Kissinger points out that “What started as a demonstration evolved into the challenge of the authority by occupying the Tiananmen Square” (365).
Also, other western European countries that had subscribed to the socialist ideals were finding it hard and conforming to capitalism. This made the situation tire since the use of force to quell the dissidents from the people were met with a lot of criticism from countries outside the region (Kissinger 365). Notwithstanding the criticism, it continued with its open policy.
Nevertheless, the country started taking strides in the international arena whereby in 1990 it was recognized as a regional power that negotiated and arbitrated over wrangles between countries especially border disputes. Besides, in the 90s, the Clinton administration lifted sanctions that had slapped on China. This was seen as the only way since China had become an economic and industrial force that could not be ignored during the nuclear proliferation era.
China started forging alliances with other countries in Asia and Russia. In the new century, China changed into a liberal economy and changed its foreign policy after the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US that changed the perceived US powers and as a result, China positioned itself as a new force as it entered into the WTO, World Bank, and IMF as a member (Kissinger 358). China has avoided disputes in the region in addition to the invasion of other countries lately, in addition to its low-profile diplomacy.
Through its soft power, its vigorously projecting a peaceful image globally through the promotion of culture, education, tourism, and sports (Zhu 1). Through the establishment of an investment bank and the latest regional cooperation, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it has shown its leadership in the region. Similarly, the road initiative, called ‘Belt and Road’ meant for cross border linkages is another avenue for the extension of its soft power (Zhu 1). Nevertheless, it faces challenges from climate change and therefore, it should join other nations in combating the same.
China as a ‘Civilized Nation’
While the definition of civilization may differ from a European perspective, China has come a long way as narrated by different historians. While looking at the transformation to modernity, Westad highlights that “much has happened in China in terms of educational transformation due to international influence” (177). He goes further to point out that universities and foreign tutors, scholars, and experts lead to the creation of modern and civilized China. Consequently, China had a unified compulsory primary education introduced consisting of 6 years by 1930 with a replica of the US-based curriculum. This was aimed at creating a modern and civilized China. As a result, many universities were opened up with the western education system and many Chinese were enrolled.
On the other hand, Chinese national identity and nationalism are the major two important concepts that one ought to understand to decipher civilization on both fronts. This is important since Chine has risen to the limelight with her assertive role in global politics (Bisley and X 1). However, China has been concerned with the creation of a prosperous national political image both at home and abroad. Its challenge has been establishing a new consciousness and culture aimed at building a society with a new identity but at the same time has Chinese values at heart. For the last few decades, China had implemented an open-door policy with a focus on the global economy while it is conflicted with national consciousness.
This leaves the country at the cross roads with two challenges-engaging in a world market with a capitalist approach while at the same time, practicing, its socialism with a focus on national identity (Bisley and X). While commenting on the paradigm, Kissinger points out that it was under pressure that China ever sought diplomacy with western countries during the 19th Century. However, he further argues that diplomacy was shut after defeats in war (Kissinger 32).
Therefore, this shows how China is facing internal pressure for having to balance both ideologies. However, with the increase in military and economic power, it wants the western to acknowledge her ideologies at the international level. Besides, China’s journey to a civilization state is reflected in nationalism which is characterized by its political and social culture. Therefore, this is the reason why China displays a willingness to absorb foreign influence and ideas and integrate them into their systems.
Diplomacy and Impacts on UEA
China is a major player in Middle East affairs, especially on trade. Being a civilized nation, it has contributed positively to the Arab factor. Like their neighbors, Saudi Arabia, China has expanded and improved ties with the UAE to realize its objectives. By finalizing its partnership with Saudi Arabia, it is not leaving UAE out of the bilateral partnership hence, diversifying its export markets and energy sources in addition to security and its global influence.
Also, an established diplomatic relationship going back to 1984 has seen its rapid development and it has become a major trading partner to Dubai and UEA in 2014 and 2011 respectively. Also, in 2018 trade between the two countries realized 45 billion dollars and 450,000 tourists visited Dubai in 2017 while in 2016 they had 600,000 (Future Directions Organization). Again, Dubai is located amid Africa and the Far East and Europe routes and it offers a stopping point while on route to these destinations.
Besides, together, China and Dubai have a strong influence on world financial markets and can rival their western counterparts. Chinese banks had loaned Dubai a tune of $1 billion although they distanced themselves from Dubai investment firms following the financial crisis (Future Directions Organization). Further, Chinese imports account for 15% of UAE’s exports and in 2015 concessions were made between a construction company and an Abu Dhabi counterpart for oil drilling worth $330 million. The same company is involved in the modernization of UAE’s crude oil pipeline.
In conclusion, China has faced various challenges to become one of the most powerful nations on earth. The calamities that befall China includes; famine that lasted 3 years and killed over 45 million people, an earthquake, and floods in the years 1958, 1976, and 1963 respectively. However, using soft power and diplomacy, China has cultivated a niche in the international arena by leading in the economic sector. Through its civilization, it has established a way of reconciling the western European capitalist ideology while at the same time holding to a socialist approach at home. Lastly, with a robust economy, cheap human capital, and labor, China is likely to continue dominating the global economy as a superpower.
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