Huangshan, China

Chinese Society & Politics

Greater China in an Era of Globalization

Review of Greater China in an Era of Globalization, edited by Sujian Guo and Baogang Guo. New York: Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010.

D
evelopments since the publication of this book have only confirmed its main argument: “China’s rise is a watershed event that will change the global landscape and that is on par with the ascent of the United States of America as a global economic, political, and military power a century earlier.”

As its title indicates, this volume of essays focuses on Greater China – mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao – in the context of what one author calls “Chiglobalization,” that is, “globalization with Chinese characteristics.” Only Taiwan remains outside the administrative control of Beijing, and events since the inauguration of President Ma have only intensified the rate at which it is being enfolded into the orbit of the system’s star entity.

All the authors believe that the “Washington Consensus,” which has dominated the world for half a century, is moribund, and that a new “Beijing Consensus” is rising to challenge, and perhaps replace, Western supremacy. This new system will nominally adhere to principles of national independence, respect for sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs, while at the same time hugely influenced by a “single massively powerful centre of gravity” – Greater China.

The “Washington Consensus” trumpeted free market capitalism, free trade, democracy, and universal norms of human rights, but was marked by an “arrogance” that presumed to tell others how to run their economies and their political systems. The “Beijing Consensus” will, on the other hand, live and let live, with no qualms about how oppressive rulers treat their people, as long as they keep precious commodities flowing towards China, allow Chinese investment in their economies, and vote China’s way in the United Nations.

Western culture and technology have made an indelible mark upon the rest of the world, and will continue to do so, but local cultures and developing economies will greatly dilute and diminish that influence, while the rapid economic, military, and political decline of the West will serve to highlight the strengths of Greater China. As they have done for millennia, the Chinese will absorb what is useful from foreigners, integrating them into a culture newly proud of its ancient heritage and eager to regain its former glory and status.

A strongly revived Chinese civilization will seek to promote a worldwide “harmonious society” under its benign aegis, conscious of the superiority of its own ways.

The book is organized into two parts. The first includes “a theoretical inquiry about Sino-centric globalization and politics and policies of the four political entities” in Greater China. The second deals features case studies “of the expanding Chinese ties with the developing countries and growing Chinese influence throughout the world.” Briefly:

The first chapter, by Wenshan Jia, asserts that the world “will mostly likely be shaped, transformed and reconstructed by the tensions and interactions between Ameriglobalization and Sino-centric globalization,” creating a “global fusion of the East and West.” Chiglobalization is shaped by “eight unique factors”: China’s “size; work ethic; frugality; openness to outside information; internal unity and external diversity; enormous capacity for imitation and innovation; long-term relationship with countries and people in diplomacy, based on the Confucian principle of interpersonal relationships; the Chinese leaderships’ proposal for ‘the construction of the [sic] harmonious world’ as a new global vision for humanity.’”

James C. Hsiung explores “China’s global role in the age of geoeconomics.” Its growing economic might has transformed the total balance of power in the world. The U.S. is increasingly isolated from Europe and excluded from Asian economic organizations, while China forges close contacts with these two powerful trading blocs. Hsiung boldly predicts that China’s rise will not be aggressive, like that of the West, but will proceed peacefully, especially as both the U.S. and Taiwan see cooperation with China as in their best interests, and the world recognizes the superiority of China’s model of “state interventionism in a regulated market system.”

Xiaoyang Tang brilliantly explores “China’s complex identity” as “Empire, nation, state, and marketplace,” convincingly concluding that each concept forms an essential aspect of the way Chinese see themselves now. This chapter alone will help everyone to understand the delicate interplay of historical, political, economic and psychological forces that shape discourse in China today. To take only one example: The Chinese Communist Party “rule inherited much of the old Confucian order,” which is has only modified to some degree. These four identities shape China’s policies toward Japan, the Koreas, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Tibet, making cooperation easier in some areas and compromise impossible in others.

In “Globalization and Cross-Strait Relations,” Jing Men helpfully observes that globalization has three dimensions: material, ideational, and institutional. Each of these differs in its impact upon mainland China and Taiwan, affecting their relationship with each other. For example, the ideological content of China’s national program has been constantly changing, with intense patriotism now “the powerful spiritual force that supports the Chinese people” and “the core of the national spirit.” That, of course, makes reunification of Taiwan with the mainland imperative for Beijing. Meanwhile, increased economic integration, changing political realities, and developing institutional links make that event more likely with each passing year.

Antonio C. Hsisung & Jerome S. Hsiang investigate “Democratic Peace across the Taiwan Strait.” They believe that Taiwan’s political leaders, and especially Chen Shui-bian, pandered to gross populist instincts, thus unnecessarily irritating both Beijing and Washington. On the other side of the Taiwan Strait, a very incomplete and halting process of democratization has rendered it politically fragile and “prone to involvement in international war.” The KMT victory in Taiwan in 2008 greatly reduced the threat of war, but tensions remain, and Beijing must “rein in virulent nationalism” to avoid conflict.

“China’s Policy on Regional Cooperation in East Asia, by Marion Chyun-Yang Wang, demonstrates in detail just how much China has become integrated into the East Asian economic world, and how its presence has dramatically altered the market and increased its global overall. In the process, the United State, Taiwan and Japan have been big losers, while China’s hunger for resources have led to stronger ties with many nations and a growing military presence.

Contrary to the “conventional wisdom,” Edward Friedman argues that “economic superpower China could transform Africa.” He freely admits – even describes in detail – the ways in which China’s African policies support local dictators and serve the interests of Beijing while claiming to avoid the sort of interference that has made Western involvement odious to many Africans. On the other hand, massive investment in infrastructure, trade with China, and the presence of millions of hard-working Chinese immigrants might just lift many Africans out of poverty. Someday.

Meanwhile, as Thomas Cieslik shows, the role of Greater China in Latin America grows almost daily, as Chinese investment and market openness is luring that great continent away from the United States and into China’s economic matrix. Newly-elected leftist and anti-American governments are happily fostering closer ties with socialist China.

Conclusion

Some will question whether China’s state interventionism will produce long-term stable growth, or whether China’s rise will be as peaceful as it claims; others will point out that the decline of the U.S. has been much more precipitous than the authors could have predicted in 2008, when most of these chapters were written. Hardly anyone, however, will be able to avoid the obvious point of this book: We are witnessing a dramatic shift in world power rivaling anything seen before in world history, as Greater China moves into a position of pervasive world-wide importance and even dominance.

In this context, let us simply note that Chinese Christianity cannot be separated from the rise of Greater China and the new “Chiglobalization” pictured in this book. More and more, Christians from all over the world will come into contact with the Chinese, either in Asia or in the rest of the World. The potential for witness is incredible. Will African believers reach out to Chinese immigrants? Will Brazilian businessmen share the Gospel with their Chinese counterparts?

Without doubt, Chinese Christians living outside of the mainland will continue to bring their faith to mainland China along with their money and management skills. And the growing middle-class Chinese church will ride the wave of their nation’s rise to take the Good news around the globe. Westerners, especially Americans, may perhaps find increased opportunities to share Christ with Chinese tourists, students, and tycoons more than a little consolation for the loss of prestige and power they are even now facing.

Globalization has forever altered the shape of the Christian church. “Chiglobalization” promises to add “Chinese characteristics” to the worldwide Body of Christ.

Implications for ministry among Chinese are discussed in the article "Chinese Christianity and Globalization: Implications for Ministry" at China Institute.