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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

At Home In The World

December 19, 2009

SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN16 December 2009, 12:00am IST
The Times of India

The visit of a Canadian prime minister to a major Asian country would
rarely stir wider interest. Yet if Stephen Harper's recent visit to
China was watched closely in other capitals, there are reasons for it.
Harper is the last G8 leader to come calling. The prime minister of the
world's second largest country has missed no opportunity to harp on
China's human rights record. He met the Dalai Lama, played up the case
of Tibet, kept away from the Beijing Olympics' opening and spoke of
"difference in values". He did all that a potential partner of a rising
power should not do.

Harper could not have carried on needling China and expected to make a
success of Canada hosting the G20 and G8 summits and the Winter Olympics
in 2010. With Canadian business finding it hard to strike gains in
China, Ottawa had to change its tune. This is another reminder that
Beijing expects world capitals to be mindful of Chinese concerns, and
demonstrably so.

In its 60th anniversary year, New China wants everyone at the party. At
the same time, the People's Republic is firm about keeping out those who
do not acknowledge its power and status manifest in the shashtipoorthi
celebrations. In Indian culture, 60 years has particular meaning. It is
not very different in China, where the attainment is as much an occasion
for ceremony as for proclamations of power. In the Chinese lunar
calendar, like in Indian ones, 60 years are a historical cycle. The
years, which have names, are repeated every 60 years.

Though it may be a truism that history repeats itself, New China is
determined to not repeat the turbulence and turmoil of those six
decades. Sixty years after Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the
Communist Republic, China would like to put behind all political and
ideological debate, and go forward on the strength of its economic might
to claim the world as its oyster.

China's Maoist revolution is perhaps the 20th century's only one with a
'capital' outcome literally. With over $2 trillion in reserves, China is
the biggest holder of US treasury bonds, and Washington remains "deeply
indebted" to Beijing. So much so that, while the US-led developed world
has been in a funk, bled by the economic crisis, China marches on
triumphantly. It leads as the first economy to recover from the
recession and the only one confident of 8 per cent GDP growth in a year
capitalism's powerhouses have battled contraction.

China's epochal transformation in such a short period is awesome. Twenty
years of turbo-charged economic growth has changed for all time the
semi-feudal, semi-colonial condition of a people who were dirt poor.
Once condemned as irrelevant, isolated and backward, China has risen as
a power at once courted and feared. Its emergence as the world's third
largest economy, stable and prosperous enough to feed its 1.3 billion
people and hold its own against any and all, has no precedent.

Mao demolished the foundations of the primitive, old China. Deng
Xiaoping capitalised on this political legacy to unleash an economic
miracle still unravelling 30 years after he declaimed, "It is glorious
to be rich." Today, New China is glorying in the wealth and power
economic, political, military and diplomatic flowing from it. While G8
may give way to G20, increasingly there is talk of G2 a global
leadership where the US and China work hand in glove. The latter's
economic clout as the world's factory and biggest energy user, and a
main player in international financial institutions - needs no
overemphasising.

While most countries are busy with economic fire-fighting, Beijing is
pressing ahead with strategic, security and foreign policy goals. Its
political, military and diplomatic power is at a never-before peak. It
does not need to articulate its concerns; its concerns are anticipated.
For example, US president Barack Obama not meeting the Dalai Lama before
his visit to China last month lest Beijing take offence. The Obama
administration has trod warily on issues be it human rights or
minorities in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions that might offend the
Chinese leadership.

Beijing has little to worry about beyond its borders. Nothing foreign
can hinder China's global advance. The challenges are essentially
internal. There have been hundreds of thousands of "mass incidents"
minor riots, social upheavals, demonstrations and protests across China
in recent years. These "mass incidents", not making headlines abroad
like riots in Tibet or Xinjiang, signify the seething discontent of
those uprooted or left behind by development, the deprived and the
dispossessed. This is the flip side of rapid economic growth: appalling
income disparities, rising unemployment, displacement of rural
populations, pervasive corruption, criminality, massive environmental
degradation, pockets of extreme poverty, social sickness, discontent of
the have-nots and restive minorities in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions.

China's achievements are enormous. Equally striking are these black
holes in which may be lurking unsuspected dangers to the sustainable and
inclusive growth that is critical for realising President Hu Jintao's
vision of a just and harmonious society.

The writer is a journalist.
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