China Rising: Beijing’s Global Ambitions and Domestic Challenges

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Carolyn Bartholomew, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

Jacqueline Newmyer, Long Term Strategy Group

Derek Scissors, The Heritage Foundation

Moderated by James Mann, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

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Summary

The Afternoon session of FPI’s 2010 Forum featured a panel discussion titled “China Rising: Beijing’s Global Ambitions and Domestic Challenges,” moderated by James Mann of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The panel included opening remarks by Carolyn Bartholomew of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Jacqueline Newmyer of the Long Term Strategy Group, and Derek Scissors of The Heritage Foundation.

First, Jackie Newmyer discussed the importance of recognizing China as a one party communist dictatorship. As recent reports show, the level of government surveillance in China is greater than that during the occupation of East Germany. Despite a population over one billion people, this unelected, oppressive government remains run by a select few.

Second, Ms. Newmyer discussed what the Chinese ruling party perceives as its threat perception. To this point, Ms. Newmyer said the Chinese government often sees the United States, the sole remaining hegemony of the world, as the greatest threat to Chinese power. For the Chinese government, the greatest threat is American influence in spreading democracy and human rights in Asia. They see growing alliances in Asia, as well as actions in the Middle East, as direct threats and campaigns to expand American influence.

In response to perceived American influence, enabled through increased economic growth, China exploited America as an economic partner to pursue massive defense modernization. In this sense, the decline of the Soviet Union presented a unique opportunity of relative peace in the world. The United States approached China as an economic partner, in the hope that over time, economic gains would cause regime change. Years later, it is clear this policy has failed, as China continues to exploit this relationship as it attracts foreign investment and technology from the United States.

Next, Derek Scissors discussed China’s global ambitions through economic lenses. China continues to operate within the global context of a United States sponsored economic system. China’s currency remains pegged to the dollar, although the Chinese government continues to manipulate the system. Mr. Scissors then discussed China’s international growth. Fifteen years ago China was a regional economy, yet today, China is a global economy that attracts goods and investments from around the world.

While China has experienced unprecedented economic growth, Mr. Scissors predicted that within ten years, China will undergo sharp changes, or else the Chinese economy will “hit a wall.” Through the loss of productivity in labor, declined rates of return on government investment, and lower levels of sustained growth, China will face major long-term economic problems.

The final speaker on the panel was Carolyn Bartholomew, who offered insight into democracy and human rights in China. She noted that economic reform did not lead to social reform, as many experts originally predicted. Today, basic rights are continuously denied in China. People who try to express political will through dissent are jailed, despite the rights guaranteed to them by the Chinese constitution. This is most clear in internet censorship, where the Chinese government is very successful in cracking down on internet freedom. Despite the free flow of information once promised with the creation of the internet, the people of China remain oppressed.

Over time, as the Chinese economy grew, the Chinese government expanded its role on the global stage, exporting the values of the communist party abroad. Authoritarian governments have since emulated China’s censorship, a very disturbing trend to human rights groups around the world. 

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