What Western Countries Think about China?

02/11/2018

When talking about China, everybody has their own opinion. While prejudices about this country are still widespread, the Dragon moves quickly to raise again as key country in innovation and science. So what do Western countries think of China today?

 

China certainly does not leave indifferent and many people still have prejudices related to this country. Despite this, the middle Kingdom is today one of the biggest economic power in the world and one of the most powerful states in both political and military fields. With a millennial history behind it, the big Asian giant is a model with whom Western countries must compare themselves.

However, the comparison with this particular Eastern country cannot fail to keep in mind how the millennial Chinese history is made of contradictions and that it could be an obstacle to a full understanding of the country and its international dynamics.

The contradiction that the highest summits of international politics find more puzzling is how China can – and wants – to sit at the table of the great Western superpowers. Since 1949 when the People’s Republic was founded, the country went through many obstacles but it managed to arrive at the UN Security Council, thus sitting again at the table of powers that matter.

 

China is becoming global leader in political, economic and environmental issues over the next three decades.  PRC is already on its way to becoming a superpower in the key areas of science and innovation, all the while, the west seems to be asleep at the wheel, but China is not the enemy.

 

In any case, the economic opening undertaken by China has always been its strength in Western eyes. The opening phase that followed the “Open Door” policy of Deng Xiaoping, in the mid-1990s, had already paid off consolidating itself as an effective strategy to keep an eye on. Former President Jiang Zemin referred to China as an independent country, increasingly open and attentive to foreign political events and those speeches are now the basis for the great success the country achieved 20 years later.

China has been able to combine some hallmarks of Western markets with some aspects of its tradition creating a new functioning system, opposed to the Western one. Western economic and business realities admire Chinese strength of adaptability to the global market that safeguards its identity and its independence at all costs.

Nevertheless, the biased idea that sees China as a colossus that conquers large sections of the market with low-cost products is still strong. Western perception is always that of an invasive market created by a community, which is not open to integration and not respectful of commercial rules.

However, in recent years, this idea is radically changing. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2017 revealed how the general feeling about China is in 38 countries. This study revealed that a new favorable sentiment is growing.

 

© Cifnews雨果网, Shanghai. The spectacular rise of China over the past two decades and the relative decline of the US mean that sparks are bound to fly. PRC is in the way of surpassing the US economically.

 

Among the nations polled, 27 countries have a favorable view of China, and 12 – including Canada, Russia, and many Western European countries – believe that the Chinese economy is the largest economy in the world. The study shows that the Dragon is gaining more and more support in the global market compared to the United States that previously held the record.

The rise of China has caused a series of reactions from all over the world. Some countries remain skeptical about China’s growing international influence while other countries see it as a source of economic opportunity. However, the Pew Research Center study has identified how these reactions are moving favorably towards the People’s Republic, thus changing what were the certainties and the international economic and political dynamics of the last century.

 

From “Made in china” to “Made with China”. The idea that US is winning against China in the trade war is a dangerous myth. PRC’s economy is still roaring and China is becoming a high-tech giant.

 

After a history of economic predominance, followed by a long economic crisis, it is difficult for the West to accept how their own beliefs and policies have failed. In this context, it is even more difficult for the big Western powers to recognize how a country so far from its models can emerge as a major international player. In fact, the suspicion about China is still great.

Its economic influence in the world is not always understood or accepted, but its supporters recognize the correctness of trying to shape the global system within its successful model.

“For the first time, China will become a great power within a global civilization. Like all great powers before it, China will surely wish to arrange the global order and the behavior of other states (and private organizations, too) to its liking,” wrote Martin Wolf in his article How the West should judge a rising China.

 

© Cifnews雨果网, the new bullet train on Beijing-Shanghai railway. By now, China has the longest high-speed rail network, representing almost the 65% of the total global mileage.

 

The Pew Research Center study has determined that 45% of the countries that have expressed positive opinions about this new international player includes most of the Asian countries, South America but also and above all, the African continent, which recently received many Chinese investments.

These investments have been positively perceived thanks to the effectiveness of the operations conducted and the non-interference with the local policies. The long and expensive process of previous foreign investments “has changed with the coming in of Chinese capital, we see the projects are being effected just in time and we see very high-quality work,” said Booker Ngesa Omole, National Organizing Secretary, SDP-Kenya.

 

PRC is also leading fintech sector and e-commerce, including cashless payments. From Urumqi to Shenzhen, from Harbin to Canton, up to 90% of all commercial and retail transactions in convenience stores and cafes are occurring through Alipay and Wechat.

 

In conclusion, in the last 30 years, China has effectively managed to combine its socialism with the market economy, making this “oxymoron” – as defined by The Economist – an extraordinary success. Now even the last Western countries that still had doubts begin to recognize that the great “poor and polluted” Asian country is taking giant steps in science, technology as well as improving the lifestyle of its citizens and in green energy.

As the per capita income of the Chinese increases, the Western world witnesses an improvement of the PRC system at an unprecedented speed and scale, and it does not remain indifferent. No wonder why more and more countries are changing their minds, revealing themselves more favorable to the Far East emerging power and, consequently, the Western entrepreneurial realities want to grab a slice of the opportunity offered by the Chinese market.

Western companies rush to participate in Eastern economic talks like never before, a sign of the huge potential that this country has to offer in terms of sales and investments. Therefore, the right approach is the one that recognizes China as an equal – if not superior – international competitor. Although its history of contradictions can still provoke many criticisms, the countries favoring the Dragon see China as the partner capable of re-establishing a stable, fruitful and peaceful multilateral cooperation.

 

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