Chinas rising power focus of free lectures
October 3, 2007 6:02 PM
Across the Pacific, the most populous country in the world is quickly becoming a leader in the economic and political arena, a fact that may often be overlooked.
“China Rising and the World” is the subject of a free, weekly lecture put on by SF State’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSS) that aims to give students and instructors a chance to catch up on how the nation’s rise affects the United States and other industrialized nations.
“We have more faculty studying China on this campus than any other school in the country,” said BSS Dean Joel Kassiola, moderator of the semester-long series that can be attended by anyone without registration.
Lecturers are drawn from a number of campus departments, ranging from international relations and business to anthropology.
Dr. Kassiola, who has been arranging open lecture series on a variety of topics for several years, describes them as a chance to address issues of public interest.
“I think what we need to do, as a university, and what this allows us to do, is get this interdisciplinary work,” said Tom Burgess, 58, a graduate student in literature who said he been attending this semester’s lectures out of personal interest.
“This is great for me,” he said. “I have a real love of China.”
The most recent session, “The Rise of China: Implications for the United States and the World,” focused on connections and tensions between the two nations. As China grows in power, its future becomes increasingly tied to the United States and the world, according to the lecturers.
Jim Wong, an SF State career counselor and graduate student of political science, lectured on China’s military activities and policies and the U.S. government’s perception of these. Citing a 2006 Department of Defense report to the U.S. Congress, he described China’s grand strategy as one of “restoration.”
“China wants to return to prominence in its part of the world,” Wong said. “Many who are under 30 may not recall that for many years China was known as the ‘sick man of Asia.’”
The term refers to China’s reduced status in global power in the 19th and 20th Centuries due to military defeats at the hands of European and Japanese powers.
“There is a strong sense that China will not allow itself to be humiliated again,” Wong said.
According to the DOD report, he said, China’s military budget was at least $35 billion as of March 2006, comprising more than 14 percent of China’s national budget.
Wong stressed, however, that China’s leaders take a rational and realistic view of the geopolitical situation. China, he said, knows that it cannot compete with the U.S. military, and is focusing on diplomacy and indirect methods of conflict, such as cyber-warfare, communications disruption, and industrial espionage.
Business Professor Nini Yang pointed out that political friction between powers is sometimes outweighed by mutual economic interests. China’s top trade partners are currently Japan and the U.S., she said. Both countries tend to view China with suspicion.
Political Science Professor Sujian Guo, director of the Center for US-China Policy Studies, a BSS-based think tank, said China has experienced a rapid economic growth rate of 9 to 10 percent annually.
“At the current growth rate,” Dr. Guo said, “China’s economy will overcome the U.S. by 2025.” But, he added, China may not be able to maintain such a growth rate for that long. One problem facing that country, he said, is that it has the largest population in the world, but has limited access to essential resources such as potable water.
China’s population is also aging, Dr. Guo said. And while most industrial nations become industrialized before the aging problem hits, China is facing both challenges at once.
Jean-Marc F. Blanchard, associate professor of International Relations, described China’s growing energy needs and their implications for global politics.
“[China] should become the world’s largest car market between 2010 and 2015,” Blanchard said. Currently, China is the third largest purchaser of cars in the world. As China’s population grows, its demand for cars does as well, he explained. Consequently, the country’s energy needs also expand.
“Put starkly, China will become a buyer of hundreds of millions of tons of energy,” he said.
Blanchard and the other lecturers touched on U.S. concerns that China’s increasing energy needs point toward a future of international law-breaking and conflict over natural resources such as oil and liquefied natural gas.
“It’s true that China’s energy needs influence China’s foreign policy,” Blanchard said. “Perhaps a lot.” But, he said, that doesn’t mean all foreign policy is driven by a hunger for resources.
Wong said that China-U.S. relations could either go in a peaceful direction of international integration of powers, or a scared and angry direction leading toward open conflict. Dr. Guo sounded a similar note during his presentation.
“I hope the world will not try to contain China’s rising,” Dr. Guo said. “Because if you treat this country as an enemy, it will become an enemy; but if you treat it as a friend, it will eventually become a friend.”
The lectures are held in the Health and Human Services building, room 154, on Wednesdays from 7:15 to 8:55 p.m. It is also part of the course BSS 275.
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