The hegemonic bus driver on tenterhooks

By Luo Huaiyu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 17, 2014
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 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

Shakespeare famously wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." According to U.S. President Obama in a recent interview, all the world is a bus and all the countries riders. Of the many passengers on board, he named China as "a free rider." President Obama's rhetoric lacks grounds, as historical facts show that China traversed a hard journey to board this bus and has since been paying a fair share for its maintenance.

More importantly, not a word was spoken about the longtime driver who stays at the wheel and so often blows off steam at the expense of passengers and pedestrians. It takes a hegemonic driver to call an exemplary passenger like China a free rider.

China has been taking on more international responsibilities proportionate to its capabilities since the resumption of its UN membership in 1971. This has become more evident in the 21st century as China has emerged as the world's number two economy. In terms of international peace and security, China has acted as a consistent peacemaker in the Korean Peninsula, in Africa, and most recently in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. China is the largest contributor of peacekeeping troops among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and has taken an active part in international efforts against terrorism and transnational organized crime.

China has maintained stable and relatively fast economic growth and provided steady assistance to other developing countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific. It is worth noting that China's foreign assistance usually takes on the form of infrastructure construction, which creates a direct positive impact on the receiving states' economic development and the livelihoods of the receiving states' people. China does not attach political conditions to its assistance, nor does it direct assistance to organizations or factions which can potentially contribute to further instability and conflict.

China is also playing a constructive role in a number of global issues ranging from climate change to global governance reform. Although China and the United States may differ from each other in terms of their positions on or approaches to addressing these issues, they are nonetheless working to reach the same end. Take the issue of climate change for example, China's position is that developed countries should shoulder more responsibility because they have been emitting since the Industrial Revolution, and that they should therefore provide developing countries with financial and technological help. The United States has a largely different opinion on this. It is all too normal to have different opinions on critical issues, but it is unreasonable to blame the failure to reach a consensus on China. By the same token, the United States' frustration on domestic and international fronts by no means justifies President Obama's accusation that China is a free rider.

A proper explanation might be that the driver himself is not faring well, both inside his country and out, and he is quite disturbed by this. In that case, denouncing someone as a free rider serves the occasion just right.

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