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When China Changes the World

The rise of China meets with mixed voices from around the world: voice of welcome, doubts and even worries that China might be a potential "threat".

French journalist and economist Erik Izraelewicz gives his answer based on his observation of China. His book "Quand la Chine change le monde" (When China changes the world) was the best seller for several weeks in France last year.

As sub-editor of Les Echos and member of Commission Economique de la Nation, Izraelewicz began to garner materials and data about China when he visited China for the first time in 1990. Since then, he has been to China for dozens of times.

In the preface of his book, Izraelewicz says that never before in economic history has there been such a large country (with 1.3 billion people) which experiences such a continuous high growth (at an annual rate of 8 percent) for such a long period (25 years). The success should be a relief, yet, it is also worrisome.

The data and materials in the book come from official statistics from the Chinese government, the World Bank and the WTO. Izraelewicz has many friends in the academic circle, including American, French and Chinese scholars. He interviewed a lot of people including Chinese economists Hu Angang, Fan Gang and Lin Yifu (Justin Lin).

He also talked with people extensively, business people, politicians and journalists. His conversations with business people help him understand the business environment and development in China. He visited factories to see life and working conditions of blue collars. If the person he talked to can speak English or French, he would ask them about their views on China's politics and the built-up of democracy.

He was particularly impressed by the speed that China is pushing forward its construction. He could hardly recognize a place each time when he returned if he had not been there for some time. In his most recent visit to Beijing, he found more projects underway and heavier traffic jam. Those who stay in China for a long time may not realize how significant the changes are.

In comparison, changes in Europe are much slower, with almost no change in some places for dozens or even hundreds of years. Life there is so comfortable and does not change so fast as in China.

He points out in the book that China's economic development is influencing French people in economy, daily life, jobs and even weather. He warns that China should pay attention to pollution, energy consumption and wastes, which will not only pose a threat to China, but also affect the global climate.

The message that Mr. Izraelewicz is trying to send in his book is that China is neither "a terrible rival" nor "a super power in the future". He does see an alert or a threat in China to some extent. But a threat, or pressure, is not necessarily something bad.

The Western society, he explained, is old and developed, like an old person who lives a comfortable life, but has lost vitality and wants to maintain status quo. Look at the east, especially Asia, where emerging countries are rising with a booming and vigorous economy and the more diligent people. The threat and competition they bring serve as a morning call to the West which has to take measures to face the challenge, or it will lose the chance to survive one day.

Izraelewicz urged westerners to have a correct understanding of the rise of China which is an objective fact and an irreversible trend. They must accept China as an emerging industrialized nation.

In the meantime, he noted, the West should undergo transformation toward sectors where they are more competitive. This cannot be completed overnight and it will be a somewhat miserable process.

He hopes that a permanent dialogue mechanism and platforms for negotiations and discussions be established between China and its developed counterparts like the US and Europe so that people can often exchange views, put up forward suggestions and seek solutions acceptable to all parties.

(People's Daily March 3, 2006) 

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