Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in March that without an active role of China, no major world issue could be resolved. Clinton’s remark came shortly after Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US in February. This stood in sharp contrast to what the American media had assessed in a shrill tone. According to these media, China was told "bluntly" about human rights and trade issues, and that the visitor was given a "somber" reception.
The media bias was obvious, considering that Xi’s visit would not have taken place without Washington’s initiatives. Beijing would not have made the first move, lest Washington showed reluctance to receive the man who is headed to succeed President Hu Jintao.
The red carpet welcome the world’s most powerful country gave Xi was clearly to woo him and keep direct contact in preparation of the time when the latter formally took over the reins of power in the world’s No. 2 economy. It would be hard to believe that the hosts did not deploy psycho analysts and their kind to read and assess the visitor through the gestures he made and the diction he employed. The debriefing sessions in the different departments most likely produced for the hosts many "findings" for future use.
Xi, who is expected to be at the helm of Chinese state affairs for at least a decade, reached out to America’s heartland with billions of dollars in farm deals, in a transaction that the American media described as "China Xi woos US heartland". The Chinese business delegation accompanying Xi signed deals, including commitments to buy 317 million bushels of soybeans from major US companies, in a deal estimated to be worth $4.3 billion. The gesture gave the American people an inkling of China’s growing strength and clout.
Although the Western media described China as "the rising Asian power", the fact is that China has clearly emerged as a world superpower - a superpower born without Western fanfare or even grudging acknowledgement so far. Many Western countries like to believe that there is only one superpower after the disintegration of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.
The world is no longer a unipolar one. Unlike the Soviet Union which never was world economy No. 1 or 2, China is the largest economy next only to the US, having overtaken Japan two years ago and is destined to take the No. 1 spot within a generation, if the assessments made by Western experts and international financial agencies are any guide. In terms of aggression and "export" of communist ideology, China does not hold the records set by the Soviets. It is not involved in toppling governments or interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.
However, it is fully capable of protecting its sovereignty and keeping at bay extraneous forces that try to create trouble within its vast stretch of territory neighbouring countries in South East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in March called for overhauls in the political workings, which attracted media attention worldwide. China has come a long way since the February 1972 visit to that country by US President Richard Nixon. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai are no more. So is Deng Xiaoping. Gradual changes are Beijing’s approach to political and economic changes.
Wen’s remarks were actually the general consensus in the Communist Party of China (CPC). President Hu, as the General Secretary of the CPC, last summer had laid heavy emphasis on the "people" and "welfare". Lest Chinese people and the rest of the world overlook the accentuation, Beijing Review’s Editor Zhang Zhiping pointed out that, in Hu’s speech "the word ‘people’ was used 136 times, demonstrating the importance of the people in the party’s construction and development." Hu’s speech was made in connection with celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China.
China is redefining the word ‘superpower’ and demolishing the myth that only military presence is a guarantee for such status. Those emphasising on a unipolar world had not even in their wildest dream expected - and perhaps never wanted - China to make such a dazzling success story in 30 years’ time.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, during a meeting with Hu in Beijing last year, described China as an "all weather friend". Gilani was trying to signal two messages - that China was a reliable partner and that some were fair weather friends.
While Lenin’s Soviet Union disintegrated two decades ago after more than 70 years of communist rule, China’s one-party communist dispensation took off in 1949. Beijing is maintaining strong vigilance against what it sees as western attempts at creating fissures in China through Tibet. There are a number of bilateral and multilateral issues between China and the neighbourhood.
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony in February slammed China for raising objections to his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, describing the superpower’s comments on the issue as "most unfortunate" and "really objectionable", Arunachal Pradesh being an integral part of India.
The Chinese authorities have accused the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which wants an independent homeland for Xinjiang’s Uighurs, of orchestrating attacks in the region on many previous occasions. Uighurs say they have been under decades of political and religious repression and the wanted immigration of China’s dominant Han ethnic group.
Beijing has been rejecting the offer by the Philippines to bring their South China Sea territorial disputes to a UN tribunal. The islands are claimed in their entirety or partly by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China prefers bilateral negotiations, which other countries fear is a divide-and-conquer approach that would weaken their bargaining power.
Beijing has promised the Association of South East Asian Nations loans to the tune of 10 billion dollars. Its investment in Africa outscores those of other foreign countries. It possesses more green dollars than does the US government. Its policy is to think in long terms rather than mere 10 or 20 years. Its investments elsewhere have also increased markedly. The quiet superpower’s GDP in 2012 is estimated at $7 trillion, the second largest in the world, up from 56.35 billion dollars in 1978.
Adaptation, adoption, intelligent initiatives, productive imagination, resilience and power to withstand, despite ideological differences with many countries, have accorded the world status that China is today. This has not contributed to the Cold War that the world was witness to when the Soviet Union was the second superpower till the early 1990s. The US is well aware of the other superpower and is dealing with it accordingly. Although economic competitors, the two will have to work together to avoid being irresponsible superpowers.