Security Research Review

 Bharat Rakshak > Security Research Review > The All Seeing Eye

Ensuring China's "Peaceful Rise"

Prof. M. D. Nalapat

Modern China has astonished the world with its rapid and steady ascent to economic prosperity. Already the second-largest economy in the world (in Purchasing Power Parity terms), the Peoples Republic of China is on course to become the biggest before 2050. This should come as no surprise, for China, with four millennia of recorded history and a civilization that has enriched the world, was the primary economic power on earth for most of the two millennia prior to the second half of the 1800s.It was only during that period that the Chinese economy ceased to be the world's largest (and India the second-largest). Since 1979 however, when "Paramount Leader" Deng Xiaoping first brought in comprehensive economic reforms, the Peoples Republic of China has emerged as the fastest-growing major economy .Chinese scholars have written of the inevitability of the rise of China, and have elaborated on their reasons for coming to such a conclusion

It is the contention of this essay that the rise of China to international primacy must of necessity be peaceful, for another conflict with the US,India or Japan would almost certainly deprive the Peoples Republic of China of the future that its industrious people are working towards. In what follows, the conditions are explored that would ensure a "peaceful rise" for China - the only sort of rise possible for the country under the present international circumstances. The reason why this subject is being studied is because the future of China is as critical to future global harmony and stability as the other core issue facing the international community, which is the creation of conditions that would remove extremism and violence from certain religious practices and beliefs. Whether China rises peacefully or enters into major conflict, or falters and enters into another period of economic decline, is as key to to a future for the whole of humanity that is better than the present as is the elimination of what may be termed '" Religious Supremacy", by which is meant the belief and practice of individuals and groups based on their conviction that their particular belief systems are not simply superior to others, but vest in them a "divine right" to enforce compliance from the rest of society with their own schema. Such "Religious Supremacists" often resort to the use of force, including the use of Terror as a method of persuasion

Although comparisons are often made between China and the US, the reality is that both the external circumstances as well as the internal dynamics of the two countries have been so different as to
belong to distinct and wholly separate genres. The rise of the United States became visible during the World War I, and accelerated after World War II. However, the rise of the US has not been a "peaceful" one. Even since World War II, when the damage caused to humanity by war was patent and changed the attitudes of much of the human race about conflict, the U.S. has engaged in wars in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, either directly or through proxies

While the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was often described as an "aggressive" empire, the fact remains that the expansion in the USSR's territorial reach almost entirely took place as a consequence of the central role played by Moscow in defeating the German armies between 1941 and 1945.That was not a war sought by the USSR; rather, it was forced on the republic by Hitler's passion to colonize the country in the name of "Lebensraum". Since the 1941-45 war and the consequent bloodletting, Moscow shrank from the use of force to enforce its writ, save in exceptional cases

In both Hungary in 1957 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, local resistance to the U.S.S.R's military intervention was slight. It was only in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union met its nemesis in the religious
warriors trained in Pakistan, given logistical help by the US, and funded by Saudi Arabia. Although it is a fact that the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, rather than demonstrate aggressiveness, the entire Afghan campaign and its conclusion points to Soviet reluctance to follow the path taken by the
US of using its military resources comprehensively. Had for example, Moscow attacked the base area of the jihadis - Pakistan -the ability of the religious fighters within Afghanistan to resist Soviet forces would have been degraded to an extent that would have made the 1989 withdrawal militarily unnecessary. Throughout the ten years when it was engaged in a proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan, the ability of Pakistan to respond to even a conventional Soviet attack would have been
insufficient to avoid a comprehensive military defeat. However the USSR never once launched any attack on the base area of the Afghan resistance - Pakistan.

Over the period 1945-91, the U.S.S.R. consistently exhibited a low level of willingness to use force in support of its strategic objectives -- in contrast to the U.S. Once Mikhail Gorbachev took command of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, even the blustery rhetoric adopted by first Nikita Khruschev and then Leonid Brezhnev became rare and ultimately disappeared

Soviet reluctance to comprehensively use the forces that it had so painfully and expensively built up since the 1941-45 conflict extended to policy towards its allies. During both the 1965 as well as the 1971 India-Pakistan wars, Moscow worked to restrain New Delhi. In 1965, then U.S.S.R. Prime Minister Kosygin ensured that a reluctant Prime Minister Shastri of India surrendered the strategically vital Haji Pir pass in Kashmir to Pakistan, a concession that may have helped induce Shastri's fatal heart attack in Tashkent a day later.

In 1971, Moscow privately made clear to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that Soviet support would not be forthcoming were the Indian  army to leverage its defeat of the Pakistan forces in East Bengal to force a
withdrawal of that country's forces from Kashmir. Once again, a policy of caution was followed by the Kremlin. During the last four days of the Bangla Desh war, there was intense secret pressure from
Moscow on New Delhi to declare a ceasefire even before Pakistani forces formally capitulated in Dacca. In instance after instance, the reluctance of the Soviet regime to take any appreciable risk of a
conflict with the West or its allies rose in proportion to the immense and ultimately ruinous military outlays of the U.S.S.R. In contrary instances such as Vietnam, it was the resolve of local leaders that prevented the giving of concessions to the West that Moscow privately sought from them, and would have ensured, were the USSR in control of Vietnam the way it was over East Europe

Had the USSR followed a policy of "peaceful rise" rather than comprehensively militarize itself in a manner that suggested the imminence of conflict while - except for rare instances - pursuing in
effect a policy of peace, it may have escaped both the ruinous diversion of resources from civilian to military needs as well as the similarly economically-damaging policy of "Containment" followed
against it by the US and its NATO allies from the 1950s. By its policies, Moscow got the worst of two worlds: the absence of concessions that could have been won by the use - or the credible threat - of force, and the economic stringency that followed from the policy of Containment. A policy based on the premise of peaceful relations with the US and its NATO allies may have avoided several of
the stresses that the USSR was subjected to on the basis of its offensive capabilities much more than its actions. Such a policy may have gone a considerable distance towards recreating the US-USSR
friendship that marked the period 1941-45.As public opinion in the countries belonging to NATO would not have countenanced an unprovoked invasion of the USSR, there was no need for Moscow to create the huge apparatus of offense and defense that it did, when it itself was clear about the need to avoid a "first" strike

In such a context, it needs to be remembered that the core objective of the policy of "Containment" was not regime change in Moscow but the prevention of the expansion of the USSR's influence into other parts of the globe. A CPSU that followed in its entirety a policy of "Peaceful Rise" may not have had to face the challenges that finally led to its collapse in 1991.This is a fact of history that has
considerable relevance for the surviving Communist giant, the Peoples Republic of China. The recommendation given below is that Beijing follow a policy as different in its military implications from that of the USSR as the Chinese leadership has done so markedly in economic policy. In the same way as Moscow faced a near-zero threat of invasion from the NATO allies, China today has a neighborhood comprised of countries that are not simply unable but also unwilling to countenance the use of force in a first strike against the PRC. Neither Russia, India, Japan, the Koreas, Pakistan, Myanmar or Vietnam pose a military danger to China, for the reason that none of these countries has any outstanding dispute with the PRC that can generate a drive towards the extreme step of conflict, while Taiwan can be expected to avoid a first strike that would be suicidal for itself

The advantages to China of a "peace policy" would be much more than the gains secured by a "conflict policy". That this is so is clear from the historical record since the PRC was formed in 1949. It was only
during the externally peaceful years beginning in the 1980s that China grew at a rapid clip. Its economic performance during the previous (conflict-ridden) period was meagre, and resulted in widespread
deprivation. The lessons from the example of the USSR are clear. Rather than seek to follow in the path of either the USSR or the US, China needs to proceed on its own path of demonstrable "Peaceful Rise"

Returning to the example of the USSR, while its rise was practically frozen soon after the 1939-45 conflict, the expansion of the geopolitical space occupied by the US has continued to the present. Rather than simply look at a small complex of figures, such as national income statistics, the "rise" of a power has to be calculated in the totality of its abilities, its human potential and its willingness to respond to a given set of circumstances. Although the geopolitical position of the U.S.S.R. was raised
significantly after its 1941-45 war, this was a discrete jump rather than a continuous process of expansion of influence. The subsequent "victories" won by Moscow - as for example, on a few occasions in the Middle East - were usually temporary, expensively secured and ultimately impossible to sustain. Hence, unlike the U.K. a century-and-a-half ago or Germany from the period of the 1930s to the
reversal of fortunes of its armed forces following the Kursk battle in 1942 or Japan from the 1960s to the middle of the 1990s,the U.S.S.R. became a "standstill" rather than a "rising" power after the 1939-45

While global giants of the past such as the U.K., Germany and Japan have seen a decline in their relative influence in the modern period, only the U.S. has sustained its rise, which is continuing almost a
hundred years after it first emerged as a world power. After the U.S., the only other country that
has the potential to replicate such a feat is the Peoples Republic of China. Although some scholars have spoken of India in the same terms as China, the reality is that this other Asian giant has at least a
decade of demonstrated growth and institutional change ahead of it before it can be said to be in
the same league as the US and China. At present, whether it is in the physical or the policy infrastructure needed for growth, India is at present twenty years behind China. Only a change in the National Income mix from industries dependent on physical infrastructure to those whose success hinges on "intellectual" infrastructure has resulted in the acceleration of development seen in India since 1994, not government policy

And what of Europe? From 1992 (when he first wrote on the subject in the "Times of India"), this writer has been skeptical of the long-term future of a unified European Union, although the EU presently
constitutes one of the three "poles" of the international order, the other two being China and the U.S. The common European currency, for example, would come under heavy strain once individual countries in Europe experience high unemployment and slow growth, and need greater control of domestic monetary policy to help mitigate the effects of this on the populations of individual countries. The "European Project" is predicated on a continuation of good times for the economies in that continent, and is unlikely to survive in a situation of falling employment and stagnant output

This fault line - the risk of failure brought about by adverse economic circumstances - has been compounded in its effects by the decision on the part of French and German leaders - motivated by sentimentalism towards the "European Family" - to attempt to spare first the people of East Germany and later the entire former Soviet bloc countries the economic pain and physical dislocation that is inevitable in a period of transition to a modern economic and socio-political system. Only by refusing to pump in resources designed to create an artificial equality and prosperity could West Europe have spared their own citizens the economic hardship that has been the result of the "Europeans Only" policy of the E.U

While a "Europeans First" policy would also have gone against the present trend of looking on resources as a global pool, the near-exclusive focus by Western Europe on East Europe for sourcing manpower (and anchoring investment) has led to economic decisions being taken that will affect West European competitiveness severely at a time when not simply North America and Japan but China and India are
emerging as business rivals

Unlike the U.S. and Canada, which have to a much greater extent than the EU sourced legal immigrants from whichever location makes the most economic sense, the E.U. has formally sought to keep
out potential migrants from outside Europe, even while avoiding the degree of action needed to prevent the current volume of illegal aliens reaching European shores from North Africa, China and other
locations. Instead of a policy of legally sourcing the best talent from across the world, West European states are now in the position of watching "bootleg" immigration - often from socially high-risk areas 
- enter in large numbers. The prohibition of alcohol was a failure. The EU's attempted prohibition of high-value human talent on grounds of origin will prove an even worse error

Thanks to the acculturation engendered by nearly three centuries of British rule followed by the continuation of western education after Independence in 1947, an engineer from Chennai in South India
would be far more productive within the E.U. than a former apparatchik from Romania, and an accountant from Bangalore would add much more economic value and be less potentially socially destabilizing than an Albanian policeman. However, the E.U. has made it all but impossible for the Chennai engineer or the Bangalore accountant to legally reside and generate value in its territory, even while it accepts those regarded as belonging to the same "civilizational networks" that they themselves come from. The reality is that the development of both information and technology has created a global civilization that can no longer be defined or restricted in geographic terms. Unless each country seeks to source its "human resources deficit" from those zones that provide the best qualified manpower, that country will find itself outbid in the international marketplace of products, processes, services and ideas

Given the forecasted lack of cohesion within the EU and a continuation of economic growth and social stability in China, it is Beijing rather than Brussels that has the potential to challenge the current position of the U.S. as the dominant power on the globe

This writer has argued - for example at 2003 India-China Round Table organized by Hong Kong University - that China is emerging as one  of the three "poles" in the international order, together with the
U.S. and the E.U. However, the condition for the sustenance of such an outcome is that it must of necessity be peaceful, as any conflict or significant tension would create counter-forces that would reverse the course of economic progress of the P.R.C. A potential speedbreaker that could prove fatal
to the PRC's future is Taiwan. The island is under the effective protection of the U.S. and falls within the geopolitical zone of influence of the U.S.-Japan partnership. Aside from the outcome of securing the peaceful and willing consent of the people of Taiwan to unite with the PRC, any other route would result in a Pyrrhic victory,in which the PRC would "gain" Taiwan but lose its own economic future and thereby its political stability and social coherence

Although the development of long-range offensive missile systems by the Peoples Liberation Army that are capable of obliterating U.S. cities may prevent U.S. intervention in the event of conflict with
Taiwan, there would almost certainly be a crippling economic fallout for China as a consequence of a war of unification, with the U.S. at the minimum likely to put in place a system of "containment" of the P.R.C. The free access to U.S. and allied  markets that is at the heart of China's economic success would be lost, and China would encounter a much heavier degree of induced geopolitical turbulence than the USSR did during the years of the "Cold War".Peace across the Taiwan Straits is therefore a pre-condition for the continued rise  of China

While several analysts posit that it is the rapid economic rise of the P.R.C. that is creating within the US an influential body of opinion that sees China as a rival if not already an enemy, the fact is that Beijing's economic success - while unprecedented in Asia - is not sufficient cause for the unease in Washington. Rather, it is the military buildup of the different branches of the Chinese militia and military. The recent acceleration of the development of submarine-launched long-range missiles, to quote only a single example, is perceived as indicative of a determination by China to develop weapons systems that go far beyond a purely defensive role.

Indeed, the present family of strategic weapons systems now operational or in the process of being developed within the branches of the Chinese military go far beyond the capability enhancement
needed to deter the U.S. and Japan from coming to Taiwan's help in the event of a conflict between the island and the P.R.C. There is need for China to avoid giving rise to the perception that it is seeking to
"rise" in the a (1930s) "Classical German" way , which is through the creation of substantial military capabilities not proportional to any known threat. Rather,it would be best for a Rising China to follow the
"Modern Japanese" way, that followed by Tokyo from the 1950s to the mid-1990s,which is to discount the building up of military strength and instead focus on economic growth. While Japan has had the benefit of the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" and protection, it is the argument of this essay that the dense
inter-linkage of Chinese and U.S. commercial entities has created an "economic umbrella" that is as potent in its efficacy in shielding China from unprovoked attack as the nuclear shield of the US has been
for Japan. The protection provided by this US "economic umbrella" over China would be lost in the event of a conflict across the Taiwan Straits, even in the unlikely event that the US and Japan not
intervene directly in the war

Given that the U.S. has substantial economic incentive to remain in a state of normalcy with the P.R.C., and that none of the countries around China's periphery pose a military threat to Beijing, nor are demonstrating any intention to be so, it would follow that it would be in China's interest to slow down its military spending and thereby prevent the negative reactions that this engenders  in several countries, most of whom do not openly acknowledge their unease, but which is nevertheless palpable.

In view of the paramount need to ensure a "Peaceful Rise" for the PRC, it would be in Beijing's interest to abjure the use of force against Taiwan, the way that India has - in effect - given up force as an
option to get control of the territories in the former princely state of Kashmir that are now under the effective jurisdiction of Beijing and Islamabad. Indeed, New Delhi has extended such a "peace logic" further by effectively demonstrating (during the 1999 Kargil conflict) that the capture of those parts of Kashmir now in the control of Pakistan is no longer on the Indian military agenda. The chances of a conventional conflict between India and Pakistan are therefore extremely low, in large part because of India's  forbearance.

Thanks to the changed international climate as a consequence of September 11, 2001, neither the U.S. - nor even "liberal" elements within the E.U. - any longer look with favor on the Kashmir jihad, a
fact that has lowered substantially the international pressure on India to withdraw from any part of Kashmir now in its control, pressure that was resisted even in 1963 or 1993 when the geopolitical position of India was much weaker than it is today.

As a result of such a "peace-oriented" policy on the part of New Delhi, the (largely India-centric) non-proliferation fanatics in the US are  becoming isolated in their efforts to continue the technology sanctions that have forced Indian defense laboratories to reinvent the wheel repeatedly and at great cost. Thus, while the defense procurement of China may leading to the adoption of what this author has (in 2001) termed a policy of "constrainment" of China (stopping those exports that have an obvious
military use, while allowing other forms of trade and contacts), the U.S. administration has in mid-2005 accepted India as a nuclear ally with almost the same rights as those bestowed on France and the U.K.
The "peace-oriented" policy of India has been a substantial contributor to this development. Beijing would do well to replicate India's policy of taking the use of force off the table while discussing the resolution of disputes. Should this be followed then it is likely that several current and planned restrictions on technology transfer to  China would go.

Such a policy of "Peaceful Rise" has to have the substantive underpinning of the avoidance of a military buildup that is disproportionate to any threat faced by the Peoples Republic of China. As Japan did from the 1960s - when it entered on is period of economic expansion - China needs to create a defense capability that reflects its peaceful intentions, so as to convince critics of its sincerity towards a policy of taking the option of war off the table unless made the victim of an attack onitself 

Unless this be done, significant elements within the international community would arrive at the conclusion that the only way of fusing the economic rise of China with a tension-situation around its environs would be to ensure that the P.R.C. follows a policy of peaceful settlement of differences, a
policy that would have significant spillover effects on the willingness of international investors to continue to pour capital into China. The formal launch of a policy of "constrainment" when
dealing with the P.R.C would result in an economic setback that could have long-term implications, as this line of action would block off access to technology and materials with potentially overwhelmingly military applications, a subset that includes a lot of the technology needed for upgradation of civilian systems as well. A policy of "constrainment" would shut off training and other amenities now available to Chinese military forces and over time may extend to people-to-people and cultural contacts, as a policy of "constrainmnt" runs the risk of developing (through the effect of action, reaction and counter-action)
into one of full-blown "containment.

For a country with such a unique place in history to continue on a "Peaceful Rise", the current degree and composition of defense spending in the P.R.C. may be seen as incompatible with China's own fundamental long-term interest, which is the raising of living standards of the Chinese people. To accomplish that, access to Taiwanese, Japanese and US technology and markets is mandatory. Hence the reality that the only policy in China's interest is one that seeks to reduce -- rather than
accentuate -- tension and the risk of conflict.

Most Chinese scholars and analysts would disagree with these conclusions and point out that the P.R.C. spends much less on defense than the U.S. However, it is the contention of the author that any
attempt by China to replicate the "non-peaceful" strategy followed by the US would have effects on the PRC's prospects that may reverse its economic progress. The "military" path followed by the USSR needs to be avoided by China if the country is to displace the US as the primary economic power on the globe

Even as the continent of Asia is recovering from the retardation of growth caused by its colonial past, care needs to be taken to ensure that its path to prosperity does not follow that of Europe in the period before the end of the 1939-45 conflict. Europe was at war both within itself and with the rest of the world throughout the period when technology and later output in Europe began to accelerate to levels that outstripped the somnolent (and misgoverned) countries in Asia. It is not an accident that
only those patches of Asia that had a relatively better quality of governance - Siam and Japan are examples, as also the kingdom of Travancore in India - escaped colonial control. Unless conflict is
avoided, there may not be an "Asian Century" for centuries.

For the "Asian Century" to come about, the larger powers within the Asian landmass - China, Russia, Japan and India - need to pursue a policy that puts peaceful relations with surrounding regions at the
core. Of these four countries, the only country that has had an armed conflict with every one of its neighbors during the previous half-century is China. Hence the need for Beijing to go the extra mile to
ensure that no state on its periphery has any anxiety about a possible military threat from the P.R.C. As part of such a process, it is necessary for the PRC to abstain from the sale or gift of missile
and nuclear technologies across its borders. The monetary or geopolitical benefits of such transactions would be far less than the cost in terms of lost goodwill amongst the major powers. The steady and
disproportionate (to known threats) increase in the capabilities of the Peoples Liberation Army, the P.L.A. Air Force and the P.L.A. Navy works to generate precisely the fears that China's own self-interest
mandates that it avoids  

While some Chinese scholars defend the P.R.C.'s defense expenditure by referring to the US "threat", others point to Taiwan and, more recently, to Japan, as reasons for the military buildup. Ironically, it
is largely these three entities that are fuelling the economic expansion of China. Were exports to
the U.S. and capital inflows from Taiwan and Japan to be taken out of the economic mix, China would still be an underdeveloped country rather than a global power. Absent the initiation of military
conflict by China, none of these three powers would be a threat to the P.R.C., and any attempt to justify defense expenditure by pointing to the "threat" from one or more of the three would be an 
example of circular reasoning.

There are several, even within the U.S., who believe that it is the might of the U.S. military that is underpinning the apex position that the country presently enjoys within the international system. In fact, the U.S. military will - after cooler, more dispassionate counsel operates in that land - be seen as the engine that has destroyed more U.S. interests than it has ever claimed to protect. In Vietnam, throughout the period of the conflict between the North Vietnamese and the U.S., the most effective recruiting agents for the Viet Cong were U.S. soldiers obtruding into towns and villages across South Vietnam. A similar situation prevails today in Iraq, where the insurgency is strongest precisely in those regions where U.S. forces conduct a large number of operations.

Every conflict has demonstrated that raw military power, while it may be sufficient to temporarily subdue the local population, is not sufficient to get them to re-enter productive life and thereby make

the occupied territory an economic asset. Although Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, as yet the U.S. has been unable to ensure that enough oil gets pumped to meet surging international demand. While conspiracy theorists allege that the "sabotage" of Iraq's oil production is precisely the objective of both George W. Bush and Vice-President Cheney (in view of their ties to the oil industry), the reality is that it is U.S. incompetence that has prevented a return to normalcy in Iraq. Were Beijing to follow the example of the U.S. and put military power above "soft" power, it would soon find itself as bereft of genuine friends as the present-day "hyperpower."

"Hard" power may be compared to a battle tank that overruns resistance and takes over a territory. However, battle tanks by their nature need to be on the move, and cannot therefore be optimally used to hold territory. This is the function of the infantry. In other words, "soft" power. In the case of the U.S., Hollywood has done much more for U.S. influence abroad - at least in the period after 1945 - than the U.S. army.

China has, thanks to its immense store of cultural traditions and human wealth, a head start in the projection of "soft" power in Asia, an advantage that may be eroded were there to be rising perceptions of a China that puts "hard" power before "soft"

The example of India may be useful to consider. Despite its nuclear arsenal and million-strong army, India has consistently projected its "soft" power rather than seek to copy the U.S. . The one time in the recent past when this was replaced with a "hard" approach was in early 2002 when the B.J.P.-led government moved several divisions to the India-Pakistan border in order to create an illusion that India was planning an attack. In reality, it was clear to all major players that Prime Minister Vajpayee had no intention whatsoever of ordering an attack, with the result that the only lasting effect of the theatrics was the perception that the subcontinent was on the brink of war, when in reality it was not. The effect of this misperception was to scare away investment from India, and retard the country's economic prospects. After that unfortunate experience, New Delhi has avoided falling into the trap of portraying the subcontinent as on the brink of even a nuclear exchange.

Lately, rose-colored perspectives on China are starting to be replaced with analyses of the numerous ways in which Beijing's policies and actions are perceived to be running counter to U.S. interests. Should this negative trend continue, the chances are high that it will affect the U.S.-China business relationship, and lead U.S. corporations to locate alternative sources of supply for the materials that they presently source from China.

In view of the fact that it is continued economic prosperity that is preventing large-scale opposition to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, it is in the C.C.P.'s interest to ensure that its most important market - the U.S. - does not shrink owing to a perceived military threat from China. Again, the Japanese model (1960-95) commends itself. Should Beijing follow this model, it would forswear the development of weapons such as long-range missiles and nuclear reactor cores for submarines, and reject the temptation of going in for a bluewater navy. Second, it would take the option of force off the table in negotiations with its neighbors, including the Republic of China

This prescription is especially valid in a context in which it is beyond the capability of the P.R.C. to take over Taiwan by force, except at an economic cost - both in terms of financial outlays for the war and because of the consequent loss of both Taiwanese expertise and capital as well as U.S. markets - that would force China into an economic depression that could potentially destabilize the country that is today an example of progress for the  world

Over the past decade, there has been a steady progression in the number of "incidents" involving farmers and workers angry over the loss of jobs or other perceived injustices done to them by local Communist Party apparatchiks. A rising number of individuals are learning how to work the system, by concentrating their fire on local officials rather than on the party as a whole. These newly-sprouted N.G.O.s are not fighting for abstract concepts such as "democracy" (and thereby triggering the wrath of the Public Security Bureau) nor against C.C.P. rule, but simply for justice in specific, local contexts. This makes them difficult to forbid, while at the same time the spectacle of public opposition to minions of the C.C.P. chips away at the fear and respect for Communist rule that is the glue holding together the Chinese state. In such a volatile situation, any risk of war would further increase the tensions already extant within the country.

There are analysts, including within China, who claim that the "nationalist" mindset of the Chinese people would lead them to reject those who move away from a full-blown strategy of using "all possible means" to get control of Taiwan. Such views do a great injustice to the Chinese people, who have endured centuries of oppression and suffering and are concentrating on improving their lives. It was his focus on this that made Deng Xiaoping an icon to his countrymen, displacing even the legendary Mao Zedong. Should it be perceived that the C.C.P. is willing to put at risk the entire progress China has made under Deng in order to carry out an unwinnable strategy of the capture of Taiwan by force, the mood within the country would shift away from - rather than go towards - such adventurism.

The "peace dividend" caused by a policy of taking the use of force off the table would extend not merely in the economic sphere but in that of domestic public opinion as well. In view of its immense benefits, a policy of peace would be as likely to promote the rise of China as a policy of the threat of war would retard that process.

True friends of China in Asia would encourage those in Beijing who favour a "peace" approach rather than pander to those who seek to flex military muscle in order to force a decision. As mentioned earlier, to avoid going the war-ravaged way of Europe during the period of its ascent, the four major powers of Asia - Russia, China, Japan and India - need to commit to a policy of abjuring the use of force except when directly attacked.

Chinese analysts themselves claim that the rise of China will be peaceful. To achieve this, the P.R.C. needs to adopt a policy of peace that will also avoid the wide-ranging military buildup that contains within it the risk of conflict owing to either miscalculation or overconfidence

In sum, China has the potential to displace the the U.S. as the dominant power on the globe. In order to achieve that, China must slow down its military spending, thus demonstrating its commitment to a policy of Peace in its international relations. Not only is the current degree of defense spending incompatible with  China's own fundamental long-term interest -- raising the living standards of the Chinese people -- it can create negative reactions in several other countries. For living standards to rise, continued friendly access to  Taiwanese technology and capital and to Japanese and U.S. markets is necessary.  Therefore, the optimum policy in China's interest is one that seeks to reduce the risk of conflict, especially with this triad

The development of China into a world power is a matter of pride for the whole of Asia. However, this is possible only in a context that avoids conflict and activities that go against international norms such as the proliferation of missile systems and nuclear weapons technology. Only by adopting such standards for itself can the P.R.C. once again reclaim in the future its past as the paramount power on the globe. Those who wish China well need to ensure that they encourage those who accept this, and differ with others seeking to replicate for China the military interventions and buildup that have become a staple of U.S. policy

Professor M D Nalapat is the Director of the School of Geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India

© 2005 Bharat-Rakshak