Friday, August 1, 2008

A Lengthy Analysis of China: Past and Present International Attitudes towards China

Post 9 of an 11 part essay on how the recent unrest in Tibet is a barometer of the various internal issues and the international pressure that China is struggling to deal with.

With its economy continuing to experience rapid growth, China’s international presence and influence has become harder and harder to ignore, which has caused an increase in international action and attention directed towards the developing superpower. China’s burgeoning economy is creating huge influxes in the world markets – with cheap Chinese goods outselling those of previous providers and a sharp increase in Chinese consumption of oil and other resources significantly affecting the worldwide demand and price of such resources – that the rest of the world is having to adjust to. In addition to China’s prosperity, though, the rest of the world has also felt the affects of China’s lack of economic oversight that has caused global environmental damage and has allowed low quality, and even dangerous products to be produced and shipped to unsuspecting nations.

In addition to and, in a way, by virtue of its economy, China’s territorial issues have also had affects beyond China’s borders that the international community has had to react to. The disputes over Tibet and Xinjiang have been an obstacle to further Chinese stability and development that have affected Chinese production and, by extension, world markets. In addition, the Tibetan and Uyghur struggles have garnered popular sympathy around the world, particularly in countries such as India and Nepal that have significant Tibetan or Uyghur populations, which has encouraged the leaders of such nations to address the disputes over Tibet and Xinjiang. The harsh methods utilized by the Chinese in such regions and their neglect of human rights have generated further popular outrage around the world, which has compelled various nations, such as the United States, to denounce such actions and take them into consideration when dealing with the Chinese. Against the backdrop of China’s booming economy and growing clout, the stakes of such considerations are considerably raised.

In addition, the controversial status of Taiwan continues to be a sensitive issue that China and the rest of the world have to tread lightly around, and indeed continued fears of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan coupled with its ruthless suppression of unrest in the infamous Tiananmen Square incident have led the European Union and the United States to ban the exportation of arms and high-tech equipment to China, hoping that China will not be so willing to flaunt its large military so long as it has outdated weaponry.

All things considered, the international community clearly has had good reason to respond to and apply pressure on China.

China is no stranger to international attention: indeed, for most of human history, China has attracted the notice and fascination of much of the world. As early as Roman times, Chinese commodities, such as silk and ceramics, were in high demand across the known world. In the time of the Mongol Empire, Chinese goods were spread more thoroughly than ever across the globe, with its prized merchandise and inventions, such as the compass and gunpowder, attracting particular interest from Europe: indeed, finding a direct trade route to such products (one that did not involve the Ottoman Empire as the middleman) was one of Western Europe’s key motives for sending out naval expeditions that were the precursor to the Western colonial empires.

For the most part, though, China has been relatively indifferent or oblivious to the attention it received and the progress of the rest of the world. In their arrogance, the Chinese saw no point in reaching out to other civilizations while they were scrambling to come to China itself to trade. Furthermore, the Chinese felt that there was no need to pay attention to developments in the rest of the world, since no civilization could match that of China’s (or so they believed). Therefore, the main goal was to repel invaders from Central Asia that sought to destroy China’s remarkable civilization; events outside Central Asia were of minimal importance.

The events of the 19th century would finally make the Chinese realize the importance of paying attention to and responding to the events and actions of the rest of the world. China’s rout at the hands of Britain in the Opium War and several subsequent conflicts with the West demonstrated just how far behind the Europeans China had fallen as a result of not keeping up with international activities and progress. These defeats would lead to the European and Japanese domination of China until the mid 20th century. The Chinese would not forget the price they paid for their ignorance and isolation, finally resolving to deal with and respond to other nations more seriously than before.

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