For some outsiders, China may be one of the most dubious variables on the international chessboard.
Many seem to believe that China's ascent to greatness will inevitably disturb, if not sabotage, the present world order. Violence was part of the story about each of the world's current powers, how could China be different?
The answer can be found in the report by General Secretary Hu Jintao to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Hu's report includes a special section on international affairs, titled "Unswervingly Follow the Path of Peaceful Development."
From Deng Xiaoping down, the recent national leaderships of China have shared an optimistic view of the world. Hu's report inherited that optimism and takes it a step forward, appealing for concerted international efforts to build a "harmonious world" featuring lasting peace and common prosperity.
The longing for harmony in state-to-state ties is based on the perception that the fate of China is more and more closely bound with that of the world.
Reform and opening-up has interwoven Chinese national interests tightly with those of the outside world. The CPC's commitment to continue pushing ahead with reform and opening, as is evident in Hu's report, will only make the bond tighter.
Soon after he and his colleagues received the relay baton from the country's third-generation leaders, Hu called on the nation to "single-mindedly work for development, and be all attentive to construction". We see the same proposal in Hu's report.
On numerous occasions, Hu and his comrades emphasized the country needs a peaceful international environment to develop itself. The rather pragmatic need determines China will not pursue a confrontational approach abroad. If such logic appears more or less opportunist, Hu promises that China will never seek hegemony, or expansion.
Even on the matter of Taiwan, the most feared flashpoint in the region, the CPC has shown impressive flexibility. Hu, in his report on Monday, offered to sign a peace treaty with the island. On the other side of the Taiwan Straits, Chen Shui-bian is bent on a desperate stunt to inch toward de facto independence.
In spite of its preparations for the worst scenario, which is not unlikely given Chen's capriciousness, the mainland authorities are obviously not willing to let anything, the Taiwan question included, distract its concentration on development.
Having been through the turmoil of domestic civil wars and foreign aggressions, this nation knows the value of peace better than many others.
(China Daily October 17, 2007)