By Tao Wenzhao
A big question is haunting top US decision-makers and their peers in some other countries: Will China's rapid development pose a challenge to the international system?
Their worry is groundless because the course of China's reform and opening up in the past two and a half decades and a half is a process of integration into the international system.
Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of the country's reform and opening up, once observed that no country could achieve modernization in seclusion. It follows that China must be open to the rest of the world, including international organizations.
First and foremost, China, the only developing country among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, has been faithfully playing its role in the UN, the largest and most widely represented international organization.
In September 2005, President Hu Jintao, in his attendance of the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the UN, reiterated China's support for strengthening the UN Security Council's role in maintaining world peace and reinforcing international security, called for building a harmonious international community and announced China's five important measures in helping speed up the growth of developing countries. All this won wide acclaim from the international community.
Starting from 1988, China has been taking an active part in the United Nations peace-keeping undertakings. China's first "blue-helmet" contingent was organized in 1992, made up by 47 military observers and a 400-person engineering brigade, and was sent to Cambodia to carry out the UN's peace-keeping mission.
In January 2002, China decided to elevate its involvement in UN peace-keeping missions to a higher grade. Now, Chinese peacekeepers are seen actively involved in peace-keeping tasks from Central America to the South Pacific region.
China is a nuclear power and also an important member of the world's non-proliferation system. The country, from the moment it possessed a nuclear arsenal, declared that it would never use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances and has stuck to the principle ever since.
In addition, China is a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and supports the treaty's indefinite extension. The country has also signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and become a full member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004.
China signed the chemical and bio weapons ban treaties and pledged its full compliance with the principles and parameters of the Missile Technology Control Regime as early as 1992. The country also demonstrated its willingness to be a full member of the regime. Besides this, China has formulated whole sets of rules and regulations with respect to the control of export of sensitive materials, technologies and equipment involving nuclear-related items, biology, chemicals and missiles. These rules and regulations are basically compatible with international conventions and have been rigorously enforced.
China entered the World Trade Organization at the end of 2001 after 13 years of gruelling negotiations and is now effectively implementing its WTO commitments.
In the field of human rights, China has signed the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Treaty and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
With regard to environmental protection, China is the member of Kyoto Protocol and a series of environmental-protection organizations. The Chinese Government has made it clear that the growth mode for the Chinese economy will be put on an energy-saving and environment-friendly basis.
In view of this, the conclusion can be drawn that China is an active player in the international system.
Also, China is the beneficiary of the mechanisms of the current international system.
Economic globalization has been picking up speed since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. And the Chinese Government has committed the country to this process.
This has ensured the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. China's foreign trade, for example, doubled in 2004 since the country's WTO entry at the end of 2001. Meanwhile, China has been one of the biggest recipients of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world. Sharp growth in foreign trade and huge amounts of FDI pouring in have combined to inject vitality into the Chinese economy, powering it further ahead.
Globalization is a process in which the world's resources are rationally distributed and the world's industrial structure is realigned. China enjoys its own advantage with its low-cost labor force, which has been brought into full play over the past two and a half decades. As a result, labor-intensive industries have moved to China quickly. This has helped the employment situation in the country and pushed the economy ahead.
It is certainly important that high-tech and innovation factors should be emphasized in future development. Labor-intensive industries, however, will remain a vitally important factor in propelling China's economy for a fairly long time to come.
In sum, China's economic progress has been in keeping with the process of globalization and we can safely state that China is a beneficiary from this process.
Being the beneficiary of the current international system, how can China be expected to challenge it and try to topple it? Instead, the country will defend it and help improve it.
China is the world's largest developing country and the economy is huge. The country's integration into the international system is bound to bring some impacts on the system. All developments and events so far, however, point to the fact that China's influences on the current international system have been positive. Or in other words, the relationship between China and the international system is one of benign interaction.
The author is a researcher from the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily February 23, 2006)