Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Rise of China

The rise of China as a global superpower was one of the issues often discussed throughout the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) I took part in back in September 2007 (with visits across six different cities in the US). I had read mostly optimistic views about the issue hence, found it quite surprising that in many of these discussions, some very strong pessimistic views were expressed instead.

A fellow participant from Taiwan especially (not surprisingly I guess), conveyed on numerous times his views that the West, especially the United States, should recognise the Republic of Taiwan as a sovereign independent nation-state and not be afraid of any kind of backlash from Beijing. According to him, China needs the rest of the world more than the other way around. Also, to him, China is facing a multitude of domestic problems ranging from socio-economic to environmental issues, which will hinder significantly China’s economic progress in the near future and eventually prevent it from ever becoming a genuine economic and military superpower.

Every country has its own domestic issues. China, the world’s most populous nation obviously has more and of various kinds compared to others. Some outsiders therefore, I believe are too quick to complaint about the situation here.

I’ve visited China every year for the last six years. I admit, on certain issues, I used to have some very negative views. For example, I found it hard to accept that despite being a communist country, education and health-care services are not provided free to its citizens. I’ve observed how Chinese parents struggle financially to pay for their children’s education and how much people here have to spend from their own pocket for medical treatment.

I had lived in Finland for almost two years and witnessed in this socialist-democratic country the generosity and efficiency of the state in providing free education and health-care services to its people. A socialist Finland and a communist China I thought should have similar approaches when it comes to public services.

But really, to compare China and Finland is not even like comparing apples and oranges. Apples and oranges are indeed different but at least they are of similar sizes. China and Finland are more like durian and melon seed! The total population in Beijing alone is a few times more than that of Finland. Still, the Finnish government has struggled for a number of years to maintain the social welfare system for its five million citizens. Can anyone imagine the financial and administrative challenges of maintaining a similar system for one-and-half billion (one thousand and five hundred million) people?

What we can see in China today in fact is a careful and well-planned process of liberalisation to encourage healthy competition, individual responsibility, and careful financial planning. The moment a child is born, parents know they have to plan ahead for the child’s future. Basic education is available for all but only those who excel will receive financial assistance from the state. No one is refused basic health care services. State medical insurance scheme are also now available and the premiums are reasonable.

The Chinese government I believe is more than aware of its own domestic issues and are well-placed to deal with them successfully. Always, the most important challenge in providing effective governance is to strike a fine balance between freedom and control. The Chinese has been able to do this remarkably well for the last decade despite the predictions of a few doomsayers.

Can China rise then as a genuine global superpower? I think China already is, and has been one for a number of years now and will remain so for many decades to come. I do not think the Chinese government harbours any ambitions of military takeovers of its neighbours hence the discussion about China as a future military superpower does not really matter. But China’s rise as an economic superpower, despite the various socio-political-economic issues it has to face, is obvious and inevitable. A country that constitutes a-fifth of the world’s population will always play a major role in this era of globalisation.

Countries around the world are all competing for stronger ties with China. Heads-of-governments of Malaysia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as foreign ministers of Great Britain, United States and others had all purposely arranged for official visits to China at the start of their respective tenure.

As for me, I have forged my own ties with the Chinese people for the last six years. My Chinese wife and I recently welcomed our third child, a baby girl born in the north-west Chinese city of Lanzhou, whom we hope and pray will grow to be a global citizen with the best of both Malay and Chinese Islamic values.


NoRuLLiSzA eL FaRiSi said...

assalamualaikum sir..
kef halak? ramadhan kareem..
kullu 'aam wan entum bikher..
blog yg ilmiyyah, ma'a taufiq wan najah..

Zaki Samsudin said...

wa'alaykum salam warahmatAllah

Sister Norullisza,

Ramadan Karim! Terima kasih kerana mengunjungi blog saya. Tak ada yang istimewa dalam blog ini sekadar meluahkan pandangan berkenaan beberapa isu semasa.

Saya baru pulang dari China untuk bersama dengan isteri dan anak yang baru lahir. Alhamdullillah semunya selamat.


syazwani said...

salam sir,
tahniah atas kelahiran baby..

selamat berpuasa..