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Can China make it on the world stage?

HONG KONG (AsiaNews): As China is being touted more and more on the world stage as a world power, with some suggesting it stands on a par with the United States of America (US), Liu Peng, the director of the Pu Shi Institute for Social Sciences in Beijing, is asking whether China can truly lay claim to that title or not.

In a lecture delivered in 2011, Liu proposes that China’s greatness on the world stage is only being measured by the size of its gross national product and foreign reserves, neither of which reflect the fibre of a world power.

He points out that there are other countries with bigger holdings that are not considered to be major players on the world stage and some with smaller accounts which are. So he asks, why are the world media rattling the print pages and airwaves about its rising star.

He says that historically speaking the tag of world power refers to states holding a dominant position in the international system, with the ability to influence events and advance their own positions in the fields of politics, economics, military, science and technology, as well as in the spiritual sphere.

Liu points out that assets in dollars and cents, nuclear arsenals or large populations do not cut much grass on the world power list.

Liu notes that it is relatively easy to be a power in a limited field or area, but far more difficult to project a far reaching influence in economics, politics, military movements, technology, culture or value system to the extent that it influences world trends or serves as a role model for other nations.

“In other words, it must be powerful materially and spiritually,” Liu explained.

He then asks why, since China so blatantly does not belong in this league, are the western media touting it as being on a par with the US as a world managing community.

Nevertheless, Liu notes that what China has achieved in recent decades is not to be scoffed at and that it certainly does already possess much of the raw material to project it into the higher leagues on the world stage.

“So,” he notes, “what the Chinese need to consider is not what it has done or achieved, but what is lacking?”

He says, “It is a painful question to answer, but to avoid it will prevent China from truly rising. Even if China’s gross national products surpasses Japan and she has built her own aircraft carrier, successfully launched a manned spacecraft and landed on the moon, China still cannot live up to the definition of world power as none of these things are almighty.”

Liu goes on to surmise, “If China does not develop her comprehensive strength in other aspects, her leading position in the economic field will be temporary. And if China does not find a solution to her Achilles’ heel, she will never reach the status of being a great power.”

He sums up his question by asking what is lacking in Chinese society today.

Liu then notes that while commonly held opinions have it that the big stumbling blocks are energy resources, shrinking global markets, underdeveloped technology or even the legal system, he adds that while all these do indeed present problems, they are merely the findings of analysing material and technical spheres, and not the problem itself.

Diving back into history, Liu searches for the source of China’s prowess when it was but a poor and populous nation.

“If we look back on how China has attempted to maintain its standing in the world throughout its thousands of years of history, and how other powers rose in history, we can see that the key factor that determines China’s future development lies not in the realm of the material, but in the realm of the spiritual,” he concludes.

He then suggests that what has been lost from the glory days of Chinese influence is faith.

“What is China most lacking in the 21st century? Faith! China is suffering from serious flaws in its spiritual life and morality which are in essence, matters of faith. In this area of faith, the Chinese are experiencing a serious void and confusion. It is time to light the spiritual torch that shines over the road of development for the nation and the country,” Liu continues.

He then attributes what he calls a recent string of outrageous and ridiculous occurrences not to a lack of money, but a lack of faith.

“While the old faith has been destroyed and a new one not yet built up, the imbalance between the spiritual and the material, which is caused by a spiritual emptiness and moral void, becomes increasingly salient,” he notes.

He claims that the torch that guides is too dim to provide the cohesive force for a nation made up of various ethnic groups, multiple social classes and different interest groups, let alone to shine in every dark corner of the world.

Liu says that the question that needs to be answered is what is the spiritual pillar or the core value belief system of Chinese people today.

“The official answer is well known, since everyone has repeated it many times on numerous tests from elementary school to college,” he says.

“However, if you take into consideration the actual situation of Chinese spiritual faith, this is a pressing question that has existed for a long time, but has been deliberately avoided,” he explained.

He then lists off a litany of ethnical problems that have dogged China in recent times, from the Shanxi black brick kiln incident to the tainted milk power scandals, concluding,

“This shows us that the belief system put forth by the authorities for years now exists in name only,” he commented.

Liu laments that the social forum for discussion of ethical questions is lacking, noting that the media only relate stories, chronological accounts of what happens, without touching on any analysis of the causes of such behaviour, which he claims cannot be simply be attributed to a lack of revolutionary outlook for life and values.

“Our media rarely face these questions directly or come straight to the point,” he said, “nor address why it is that the core value and belief system that the authorities repeatedly propagate does not work?”

He asks, “Do the Chinese, who have simply solved the problems of food and clothing, in fact hold any value or belief system? What exactly went wrong with the faith of the Chinese? Do we believe that there are in fact no problems with our faith or do we merely consider the problems insignificant and not worthy of our study? Where is China going and how far can she go?”

Liu concludes by stating that self-deception is not helpful and returning to his question of why the western media are touting China as a world power in the making is maybe no more than an attempt to compel it to take on some of the responsibilities that come with huge foreign reserves and big bank accounts.

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