China has arrived big time. It now rivals the economic giants like Japan and the USA in its economic prowess. This should not surprise us if we look at China’s long and illustrious history. While Europe languished in the ‘Dark Ages,’ China was forging ahead with its culture and nation building.
Even 1500 years ago, everything about China was ‘big.’ It is in this ‘bigness’--- the huge population that the issues for China arise; both for now--- and then.
We all know that China has had a second growth period; after it had turned in and away from the rest of the world, hundreds of years ago. It then suffered at the hands of Western and Japanese imperialism and it was only under the Communist party that it finally threw off the shackles that were imposed.
The Communist Party without a doubt raised the standard of living for a vast number of ordinary Chinese, offering them hope for a better life. That did not come without costs, in human terms and for the environment.
China now faces the same problems that the rest of the so-called democratic world faced in the struggle for a fairer society. Fingers are pointed at China for its abuse of human rights in the Western sense. It is very easy to point out serious failings when it comes to the right of Chinese citizens to criticise their Government. We all know the plight of those languishing in the less developed countryside, where the opportunities are less than those in the cities.
Even in the huge industrial areas, where most of the products China manufactures for the rest of the world are made, life is not easy. Housing is often far from desirable, but for those living there, it is seen as better than the lives they left behind. Progress comes at a cost.
What is going to happen in China? Just look at the history of many European and emerging Asian nations. As the middle-classes expanded, there was a push for other change--- namely the right to vote, to choose life options freely and to express those thoughts in art, fashion and other ways. We are seeing it on a large scale in India too. China is no different.
There is a growing understanding of environmental issues in China---indeed an emerging ‘green movement.’ Along with the push for ‘more say’ from the populace, the Communist Party of China faces pressure to change. That can only come on ‘Chinese terms,’ not a Western idealism about ‘what is right for China.’ We have seen what happens when the West tries to force changes in Asia and elsewhere--- it doesn’t work--- when are we going to learn that? Of course that is not going to stop Western commentators standing up for what they see as abuses of human rights in China.
China is now inextricably merged into the world-wide economic jigsaw. It depends as much on us as we do on their manufactured products. It is quickly approaching a point where it is going to face competition. The balance between making cheap products and improving the standard of living for its people is one fraught with danger. They know it and only they can find that balance. Being part of a ‘global economy’ is the main factor that will drive future changes in China. We will all be affected, one way or another.