CHINA RISE MEANS “HUG THE WORLD WITH RESPECT”
By Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.
The present paper is a definitive answer to Rob Gifford’s address “China’s Rise: A quest to ‘Hug the World’? featured by NPR (U.S. National Public Radio). The address presented the viewpoints of both Panda huggers and Panda doubters without conclusion. As a Westerner, Mr. Gifford is not to be blamed for drawing on limited knowledge of Chinese history and civilization for his address. Would the address have been be delivered by Kissinger, formerly U.S. secretary of State (author of the best seller book “ON China”), who understands China as a civilization state, the conclusion would have likely be an affirmative answer to the question posed. The present author is a bicultural scientist currently working on Solar Stirling engine for electric power generation, born in China but received all his higher education from America since the tender age of 16. He also grows up in America in a bicultural family, having married to an American wife with German ancestry. I learned my Western history from my broad minded wife, who teaches world history as her life time interest. I am heavily influenced by her in my world view from an unbiased scholarly view that relies heavily on history and cultural development.
There are many reasons to justify accepting China as a peaceful nation and as defined by Kissinger, a civilization state with 5000 years of uninterrupted history. This is an opinion widely held by many well informed world historians. This is also a claim that China often uses to remind the Western nations. However, Panda doubters often argue that the past does not guarantee future ambition will be the same. This is where a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and national spirit will yield a more accurate perspective. The present author will now endeavor to make the logical conclusion to the question posed by Mr. Gifford by summing up relevant current and future development factors that will guide China to “hug the world with respect”. The qualifying world, respect, is very pertinent here. Hugging without respect is routinely practiced. When the hugger is unwilling to treat the hugged as equal and using a very condescending manner. This type of hugging is done by one side who perceive the other as inferior without tolerance and acceptance of differences in culture or belief.
According to Western thinking based on the rise of Germany in Europe before Second World War, there will be confrontation between China, a rising power, and the reigning hegemony power, America. Panda doubters argue, this conflict of ideology, interests and religion would inevitably lead to the next major world war. This type of thinking may apply to 19th Century Europe but has no relevance to China and her path of development today. The genius of Deng Xioping, the late reform and opening up leader of China, lies in his correctly predicting that the world trend is mutual development and not war. Results of the wars launched by America during the last five decades have badly sapped American economy and soft power. During the same period, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) all have benefitted through commerce and mutual development. Through China’s effort alone 500 million people have been saved from stark poverty and achieved a reasonable living in the short time of thirty years. This achievement is unprecedented in human history. 80% of the people of the world have risen from stark poverty due to China’s recent achievements. There is no reason for China to abandon Deng’s teaching while she is ahead.
According to Kissinger in his book “On China”, China is very different from the West culturally, philosophically and religiously. Christianity is an aggressive religion which believes the doctrine of crusades and spreading the gospel to save the heathens. United States also believes in the “manifest destiny” to preach and teach our so called universal values to the under developed countries. The European 19th Century spread of European colonialism often hides behind the spread of Christianity. China does not have a national religion of her own to save the world; it accepts all major religions. Because the fact that China as a whole does not practice Christianity Western countries deeply distrusts her. It went as far as preventing Chinese Americans being fully accepted as full equals into the American melting pot compared to many other Christian minorities of any color. I know, because I lived as a Chinese American minority in the U.S. for over 50 years.
Instead of religion, the two major pillars of teaching that China believes are Confucianism and Daoism. The corner stone of both philosophies are the teaching of Harmony. Harmony with mankind, harmony within family, within oneself, among nations, harmony between the government and the citizens and with nature. In short, China has no built in religious reason to expand. In fact Confucius teaches that “Gentlemen prefer harmony to conformity. Little people prefer conformity to Harmony”. In another word, Chinese philosophy accepts a multipolar world, whereas Western world rallies behind Christianity as the only true religion. Most important America presidential speeches are dutifully always end with “God bless America”. Americans are very proud of the fact that our money is printed with “In God we trust” to remind us that we believe in the only true God. The implication is heathens like the Chinese cannot be trusted. This is the major reason that China and Chinese Americans are not trusted by Americans.
America is very reluctant to hug China; even China has come a long way as student in learning America technology, management and values. That Chinese are good students is a well-accepted fact. Confucius taught the importance of learning. Chinese civil system was based on meritorious promotion almost 2000 years ago and it remains so in the present government. Among other reasons, this willingness to learn is most important for China’s fast progress today. Most Chinese accept the Confucius adage “When there are three people together one must be my teacher”. There is no equivalent practice in Western society. The opposite belief is more like “When there are three people together, I must be the teacher”. There are many reasons America cannot and will not hug China with respect despite China’s enormous improvement during the last thirty years. All the China bashing is due in no small account to American politicians’, scholars’ and media’s distrust of China. According to my American wife, the history teacher, the disrespect of Chinas very deeply founded due to the facts that 1) China is not a Christian Country, 2) Racially Chinese are not Caucasians and thus are inferior to all Caucasians, including whites, Indians and Latin Americans, 3) Today China does not practice communism but the legacy of the cold war of the last Century of cold war has left a deep distrust of China in the hearts of America that still remain today. 4) Culturally and philosophically China is very different from the West.
In “On China” Kissinger boldly tries to contrast American and Chinese thinking by using common practices in the two different societies. I agree that his examples are well conceived. First in warfare America always believe in overwhelming fire power. America won in Korean War dog fights because of the F16s have bigger guns than the Mig 15s. However, we are a long way from the Korean War. America still spends more on military power than the rest of the world put together.
However in today’s mutual development world to win friends by soft power is just as effective as fire power if not more. Today China is winning friends by investment, trade and helping to build infrastructures in developing countries (see “Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World”, by Joshua Kurlantzick and “The Beijing Consensus” by Stefan Halper). And In her search for friends , China is not promoting ideology or religion. She also practices noninterference in the recipient countries internal domestic policies. According to many authors Beijing Consensus trumps over Washington Consensus in wining more friends. Instead of practicing confrontation, Chinese practices holistic approaches in international relations. This is the common Chinese approach to problem solving. This type of strategic thinking is taught by even Suntze the master who wrote “the Art of War”. Suntze taught the Chinese to balance all strategic factors before launching a war and the best way to win is without launching a war. War is the last resort after exhausting all options. In a war, as recent history shows both sides loose.
The Western approach to War is more akin to playing Chess than the playing Chinese Weiqi (known in the West as the Go game, introduced by Japan to the West). Chess is a game of confrontation and capture, in capturing the King to win often both sides are trading pieces until one side or both is devastated. Weiqi is a different strategic game. The players objective is not capture but to surround the enemy by using the least pieces. The winner wins by more spaces occupied. Quite often the game is decided by only a few spaces won. All pieces are equal; there is no power structure that distinguishes each piece. The game is played with more steps thinking ahead than chess. It is simple in move but very complicated in strategy than chess. Today a well programed computer can usually beat the best human chess player but the same cannot be said about weiqi. Please read present author’s article “Learn to play weiqi, the harmony game, for fun” Published by San Francisco State University, Confucius Institute website.
In China’s rise more of the world will be brought together by Beijing Consensus. Commerce and trade will bring the world together in Harmony instead of War, cold or hot. China is embracing Harmony Renaissance as governance philosophy (“Chinese Harmony Renaissance, What the World Must Know”, by the present author). She is willing and eager to hug America with respect, but the U.S. is not quite ready to return the hug. China is already hugging all the nations she has relation with. Because in China there is Harmony Renaissance and China believes that she must develop together with the world. China believes that a multipolar world is inevitable. The only way America will hug China in return is not for China to be more like America but for America to recognize China’s progress and accept China as an equal not an inscrutable people and culture as the old Western world saw China. China’s Harmony Renaissance means China accepts a multipolar world and willing to continue to learn and make changes for a mutual development world.