Demystifying China

Maleeha Lodhi at Dawn: Western paranoia about China is frequently reflected in the Western media. It is exemplified by coverage in the influential news weekly The Economist, which always depicts China as an aggressive, predatory power out to upend the prevailing international order. Most European countries, however, are reticent to take a hawkish approach, not least because China has now replaced the US as Europe’s biggest trading partner. China itself has long sought to project its ascent to global power status as a ‘peaceful rise’, portraying its extraordinary economic success, expanding international influence and increasing military strength as posing no threat to international peace and stability.

There is now a growing and rich body of literature on China’s rise, much of it written by Western authors and analysts. A new book by a Chinese scholar and economist is therefore a welcome addition. China’s World View: Demystifying China to Prevent Global Conflict by David Daokui Li offers a Chinese perspective on how the country works and what the implications are of its rise for the West. His aim is to challenge and allay Western concerns and anxieties about China, arguing that, instead of being a threat, the rise of China is good for the world for multiple reasons and a factor for international peace and prosperity. Li is uniquely positioned to relay this not only because he knows his own country but also for his understanding of the West, having spent several years studying there.

He is concerned that the gulf between the West and China is widening. On the part of Western power elites, Li sees a readiness to engage in a new Cold War, while on the Chinese side he sees a drive for a more aggressive response to the West, especially the US. These views are regarded by him as dangerous escalation of misunderstandings and miscalculations which could lead to a conflict that is entirely avoidable.

Among the reasons he identifies for widespread Western fears of the country is the timing of China’s rise, coinciding as it has with many Western countries not being “in the best political and economic shape” and facing many troubles. This has eroded Western confidence and produced an “overreaction” to China’s ascent. It has caused US politicians to blame China for America’s socioeconomic problems.

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