Episode 72      34 min 45 sec
The Fourth Rise of China

Prof Wang Gungwu and Dr Pradeep Taneja examine the latest rise of China in its historic, economic and strategic dimensions. With host Jennifer Cook.

"But what we don’t always understand from outside is how much pressure is building up inside and how much we should try and recognise the problems that the Chinese leadership have within their own country." - Prof Wang Gungwu




           



Prof Wang Gungwu
Prof Wang Gungwu

Wang Gungwu is professor at the National University of Singapore and Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, Wang Gungwu is author of an extensive body of work on Chinese cultural change.

Gungwu is a Fellow and former President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science.

In Singapore, he is Chairman of the East Asian Institute, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Heritage Centre and a Board Member of the Institute of Policy Studies and of the Institute of Strategic and Defence Studies.

From 1986 to 1995, Gungwu was Vice Chancellor (President) of the University of Hong Kong. He received his BA (Hons) and MA degrees from the University of Malaya in Singapore, and his PhD at the University of London in 1957.

Dr Pradeep Taneja
Dr Pradeep Taneja

Dr Pradeep Taneja joined the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne in January 2006. He teaches primarily in the following areas: Chinese politics, political economy and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Born and largely educated in India, he lived and worked in China for more than six years during the 1980s and 90s, and the geographical focus of much of his work is on China. However, he continues to maintain an active interest in Indian politics and regularly writes about it.

During 2002-2004, he lived and worked in Bangkok as part of a multinational team to help set up the graduate program at a new Thai university. Earlier he was Director of International Programs in the Graduate School of Management at La Trobe University. His professional career has combined teaching, consultancy and research activities across various fields – but always with a disciplinary focus on political economy.

Pradeep is frequently interviewed by Australian and foreign media on developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

His current research interests focus on the relationship between politics and business in China, the political implications of China’s energy security policy and the rise of China as a regional and global power. He is also interested in China’s relations with India and the European Union, and is currently co-editing a book on China-EU relations.

Credits

Host: Jennifer Cook
Producers: Kelvin Param, Eric van Bemmel, Miles Brown and Jennifer Cook
Series Creators: Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param
Audio Engineer: Miles Brown
Theme Music performed by Sergio Ercole. Mr Ercole is represented by the Musicians' Agency, Faculty of Music

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The Fourth Rise of China

VOICEOVER
Welcome to Melbourne University Up Close, a fortnightly podcast of research, personalities, and cultural offerings of the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Up Close is available on the web at upclose.unimelb.edu.au.  That’s upclose.u-n-i-m-e-l-b.edu.au.

JENNIFER COOK
Napoleon Bonaparte famously referred to China as a sleeping dragon that was best not woken up.  Well, in a world that has witnessed September 11, a war in Iraq and is now in the grips of a global financial crisis one thing is clear – the dragon has not only woken, but it has a fire in its belly.

Hello, I’m Jennifer Cook and welcome to Up Close, coming to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia. In today’s episode we’re taking both an historic and economic overview of China and asking the question, just what does the latest rise of this nation of 1.3 billion people mean, not only for itself but for the rest of the world?

With me in the studio is Professor Wang Gungwu, who is the Chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, and the Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University.  Gungwu was also the Vice‑Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong from 1986 to 1995.  The author of an extensive body of work on Chinese cultural change, he is in Melbourne attending the University of Melbourne’s Festival of Ideas.

Welcome to Up Close, Professor Wang.

WANG GUNGWU
Thank you.

JENNIFER COOK
Also joining us is Dr Pradeep Taneja, a lecturer in Chinese politics, political economy and international relations in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.  Thank you so much for joining us, also.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Thank you, Jennifer.

JENNIFER COOK
Now, Gungwu, if I could begin with you and a point you made in your keynote address to the Festival of Ideas Conference.  You spoke of how no one can ever truly know the real China or the real West and how a puzzling past has led us to an uneasy present.  Do you think you could take us back a little and explain just how each side has perceived the other historically?

WANG GUNGWU
From China’s point of view the West was far, far away and didn't really come to their notice until just four or five hundred years ago.  China itself, of course, has a very long history and, strictly speaking, this is not the first time it’s risen.  I calculate this could be described as the fourth rise of China.  In short, China can rise and fall then rise again, and that's happened several times.

So the fourth time, of course, has been after about a couple of hundred years of decline and fall, rather precipitous fall, and the Chinese have found this particular fall more painful than any time in the past.  But that fall has been badly understood elsewhere.  To some people, of course, it’s simply meant that the Chinese as a civilisation, as an ancient civilisation, has passed its prime; it is finished and has got to restart again.  For the Chinese, they are not prepared to accept that; they know they have lots to learn from the West and elsewhere, but they still believe that they have cultural capital, with which they hope to rebuild a new Chinese civilisation on top of all the new things they are learning from the West.

JENNIFER COOK
So could you just explain to us why, as you said, this fall, this latest fall has hit the hardest of all.

WANG GUNGWU
This fall has been particularly difficult because it has come across a civilisation more powerful than any others that had challenged China before and, of course, the world has become globalised in a way that never happened before.

So, whether the old formula of rising after falling will work or not is still not clear but they believe they have enough cultural resources to rebuild themselves, even after having met a civilisation so much more powerful than any they ever had.  But in order to incorporate and learn from this new civilisation, they have had to go through several revolutions – very bloody and painful periods of great suffering, poverty and deprivation – so the lessons have been very hard learnt.  Now that they have got to this point with new economic developments and so on they will be very reluctant ever to lose it again, so they are very hardheaded about it now and they’re tough about it.

JENNIFER COOK
How does then the West see that?

WANG GUNGWU
I think the West is coming to realise that they’re something more than just simply one of those native countries which the West then transform into another model of the West; they can't simply assume that the Chinese will one day become like themselves.  But at the same time, I think what is significant is the West also realises that the Chinese have the capacity to learn from the West and learn pretty well in a way not unlike the Japanese, who have done that before, so the Chinese are not doing it for the first time.  They have seen another East Asian country learn from the West so quickly and become masters of the technology and the science and so on, and the Chinese are inspired by that and they think they can do the same – if the Japanese can do it, so can they.  If they can do that, I think that would be quite impressive to the West.

JENNIFER COOK
And Gungwu, something that has contributed to that which you've written extensively about, of course, is the Chinese diaspora.

WANG GUNGWU
That is certainly one factor.  I think it would be true to say that when in the middle of the 19th Century the Qing Dynasty Mandarins discovered that there were rich and successful Chinese in Southeast Asia they were both surprised and impressed, and decided then to start a policy of encouraging these Chinese to come back to China, invest and bring back their expertise and help the country.  It wasn’t very successful at that point, anyway it was too late for the Qing Dynasty – it collapsed anyway.  But in the new regime of republican China they took it up again, took it very seriously and actually set up institutions to bring back as many as possible of the overseas Chinese to help in the development of China.  That policy has basically been sustained ever since.

But of course, during the Mao Zedong period there were ambiguities and uncertainties but, after Deng Xaoping returned, this policy was restored and partly because they really appreciated what the overseas Chinese had achieved abroad, particularly in Southeast Asia nearby.  One of the most interesting things, in fact, is to see Deng Xaoping arrive in Singapore before there was diplomatic relations.  He visited Singapore, talked to the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, about how Singapore came to become what it is and actually went back to China and told his officials that we have something to learn from Singapore; not, I think, the political system, but the economic development, the management of a city, the aspects of governance and efficiency.

But Singapore was only one example; he was looking at Hong Kong, the Chinese in Taiwan, the Chinese elsewhere.  And altogether, the total picture was one of surprising success for Chinese living in other people’s countries, and I think he concluded that the Chinese have the capacity to modernise if they were given the opportunity but he had to open up.

JENNIFER COOK
Now you use that word inspired, and it’s that dynamism, isn't it, that he saw in Singapore, and that energy and he thought, look, we could harness this for China ourselves.

Pradeep, I’d like to talk to you now a little bit, still taking this view back into the past.  If we look at Deng Xaioping looking outwards and thinking, we could take this back to China, isn't this how these European traders all those centuries ago started to open up and started to build their own wealth?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, the Europeans have had a fascination with China from when they “discovered” China.

If I can come back first to this question of Deng Xaioping and learning from Singapore and other overseas Chinese communities.  Clearly when in the late 1970s China decided to create the special economic zones – three of them in Guangdong Provence and one in Fujian – all four of them were strategically located very close to overseas Chinese communities.  The three in Guangdong Provence obviously faced Hong Kong and were homes of a large Chinese diaspora, and the one in Fujian also served the purpose that it was facing the island of Taiwan.

The special economic zones played a very important part in China’s experimentation with these market oriented economic policies.  They studied not only in Singapore, they looked at Taiwan because Taiwan had set up those export processing zones in the 1960s and some of them had been quite successful.  So China tried to learn from the examples of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and other territories in the region which had created these export processing zones.  

But also, if I can come back to this question of China’s rise, I think the Chinese are aware that they are rising but, at the same time, they’re also treading very cautiously.  A few years ago in the Chinese intellectual discourse they referred to “China’s peaceful rise”.

JENNIFER COOK
That's right.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Later on they decided that it was perhaps alarming for others that China’s rise could be seen by its neighbours and the rest of the world as threatening, and therefore they started using a different term, “China’s peaceful development”.  So while they’re aware that China is growing in its economic power, its military power and it’s international influence is growing, at the same time they are also very cautious in the sense that they do not want this to be translated into China being perceived as a threat by the rest of the world.

JENNIFER COOK
So, Pradeep, tell us a little bit about China’s economic power, perhaps.  Well, I’m thinking, of course, of the US Treasury Bonds.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, China has accumulated, as is widely known, nearly $2 trillion – which is $2,000 billion dollars  – in foreign exchange reserves.

JENNIFER COOK
Let’s just pause there.  That is a staggering figure.

PRADEEP TANEJA
It certainly is.  It’s unprecedented the kind of foreign exchange reserves that China has accumulated, and it’s both good and bad.  It’s good in the sense that China now is in a very strong position when, in the face of the global financial crisis and the rest of the world is needing cash, China is a cash rich state;  that's why we see Chinese companies making investment in all different parts of the world.

But at the same time, it is also a reflection of economic policies pursued over the last 30 years where consumption has been discouraged.  In other words, economic policies, social policies pursued by the Chinese Government have not instilled confidence amongst the Chinese consumers to go out and spend the money that they have earned over the last 30 years.  So, as a result, China has been using its relatively cheap labour to export Chinese made products to the rest of the world, to the United States, to the European Union, and countries like Australia.  But at the same time, China has not been spending that foreign exchange that they have been earning through that trade.

Normal states like Australia, for example – Australia has done very well in terms of the export boom; Australia has been the quarry to countries like Japan, South Korea and now China, in the sense that Australia exports Australia’s minerals to these countries.  But in Australia we also consume very heavily so we end up, despite very successful exports, we end up running trade deficits because we import more than we export.  Whereas, in China the focus has been very much on savings; because China has very little in the form of a social safety net the Chinese people feel that they need to save more, whether it’s for health reasons, for retirement or for other social occasions like weddings and funerals – the Chinese tend to save more.  But savings by Chinese citizens mean the Chinese economy has a lot of cash in the system.

JENNIFER COOK
You're listening to Up Close coming to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I’m Jennifer Cook and I’m talking about the latest rise of China with Professor Wang Gungwu and Dr Pradeep Taneja.

Let’s look now at what has been the flip side of this investment in, say, US Treasury Bonds and this investment overseas. How that changes or affected the West’s view of China.  It has given rise to a sense of unease, hasn’t it, and in some places fear and alarm?

PRADEEP TANEJA
Well, China’s foreign exchange reserves have meant that China has been able to buy assets in different parts of the world.  For example, a large chunk of China’s foreign exchange reserves are invested in US Treasury Bonds, in other words, China has been buying the US debt.  Now, it’s not that they particularly wanted to do it, but when you accumulate such a large amount of foreign currency you need to do something with it, you need to get some sort of return.  US Treasury Bonds have been considered historically to be quite safe; they don’t give you a very high return but they give you a reasonable return and, therefore, the Chinese authorities have considered [it] wise enough to invest in the US Treasury Government Bonds.

But now we are finding that the Chinese are looking at diversifying their investment.  They’re looking at alternative methods  of investing cash and Chinese companies have been trying to invest in the Australian mining sector, for example.  Australia is a very resource-rich country and the Chinese authorities and the Chinese business community realises that Australian resources have played a very important part in the development of Japan, in the development of South Korea, and they see those resources playing an important part in China’s development.

JENNIFER COOK
And that brings me to the Southeast Asian region as a whole.  How are they viewing these investments by China?  What is the feeling out there, Gungwu?

WANG GUNGWU
In Southeast Asia there are many governments who are very happy to have business relations with China and Chinese investments would normally be welcomed.  But at the same time, China is competing in the same markets and the Southeast Asian industries are producing rather similar goods and they are losing out to Chinese competition.

So right now the basis of the main trading between the two would be resources to China and some manufactured goods from China, cheap goods to Southeast Asia.  But on the whole they’re still happy because the trade balances have always been in favour of the Southeast Asian countries so far; the Chinese have not pushed beyond that.  I think that may have some strategic thinking behind it, because I think the Chinese are very conscious of the fact that Southeast Asia is so important to them and they want all the countries there to be friendly to China. China has many borders, in fact all around it, and none of the other borders are as secure, in their view, as the Southeast Asian maritime border and some of it land border.  There are problems but they have paid quite a lot of attention to make sure that these relations would develop into something even better.  Their relationship with ASEAN is a very good example.

JENNIFER COOK
Yes.

WANG GUNGWU
ASEAN-China relations have been surprisingly good in the last ten years or so and the Chinese themselves have changed their minds about it.  At first they used to look at ASEAN as a potential problem for them but now they recognise that, actually, it is in their interests to befriend ASEAN, to be as close to ASEAN as possible to make quite sure that this particular part of their backyard, their neighbourhood, would be safe for them.

Because I think, essentially, the most important thing is that they want ASEAN to stay as ASEAN and not to be divided.  Any kind of division in ASEAN would not be in their interests because it could then mean that external powers could have different kinds of arrangements within Southeast Asia which may or may not be happy for China.  Whereas if ASEAN stood together and China could have good relations with the ASEAN leadership, this would promise a longer period of security, in their view, and it is something they are working hard to achieve.

JENNIFER COOK
Now, I’d like to mention at this juncture China’s military spending.  Pradeep, could you talk to us a little bit about that.  It is causing great concern.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Officially China is increasing its defence spending by about 17-18 per cent a year, roughly.  Now, this is the official data; many people who look at this data more closely argue that the real data could be much higher.  But we also have to take into account that China started from a very low base and if you look at the growth of China’s GDP you would expect China to expand its military, its navy, its airforce.

JENNIFER COOK
Everything’s expanding.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Exactly.  For a power like China – China, for example, still doesn't have any aircraft carrier.  In the past the Chinese, of course, felt that simply having an aircraft carrier wasn’t going to be good enough because you have to be able to protect the aircraft carrier, otherwise it’s a sitting duck.  But now the Chinese are building aircraft carriers, they’re modernising their army, they’re modernising their navy.

Now Chinese is preparing its defence forces to defend China’s interests far beyond China’s immediate borders and this means that the rest of the region including the ASEAN countries, are hedging their bets.  They have very good relations with China, they have very profitable relations with China but, at the same time, they are not abandoning their relationship with the United States; they see the United States as an important player in the region.  Also, some ASEAN countries – Singapore, Thailand – are also very keen to involve India and Australia and other powers in the region, and that’s the kind of a hedge; that in case China’s development is not peaceful then they could be a balancing force in the region.

JENNIFER COOK
I think importantly, China isn't asking these countries to cut their ties with the US, it’s not an either/or situation anymore.  Is that right, Gungwu?

WANG GUNGWU
Yes, quite right.  The Chinese have done their own analyses and they find the presence of the United States is actually good for stability in the region.  They have made it quite clear they have no objections to the US continuing their role.  The only thing I think they would want to guard against is any kind of ganging up against China; if they can ensure that that never happens then I think the presence of other powers – Japan, Europe, United States, even Russia – I don't think they have any big problems with that.  I don't think they actually expect any region to be exclusively close to China or pro-China.

All these other regions which are even much more problematic – in fact, I think if they can be assured that everybody involved in Southeast Asia are reasonably peaceful and friendly that would be extremely helpful to China because then they can concentrate on areas that are much problematic.  Look at Central Asia or the borders with all the 'stans and right across to India and Pakistan and so on; they are very delicate areas which need a lot of very careful, sensitive attention.  Then on the other side, the Six Party talks over North Korea – it’s extremely complicated and they take up a lot of their energies.  If they could be assured of one peaceful patch of the neighbourhood, I think they would be very happy.

PRADEEP TANEJA
I would agree with that and I would add that one other area of concern for China is, of course, Taiwan and the United States’ potential role in the resolution of that conflict; they’re very sensitive to that.  They obviously do not want the United States to be taking sides in any conflict, but they do know that the United States has kind of legal requirements to step in, in favour of Taiwan and they know that this could lead to potential conflict.  That’s why, although China has maintained consistently that it does not abandon the option of using force to reunify Taiwan, it has refrained from using force.  That, to a great extent, has to do with the role, or the potential role that the United States could play in that part of the world.

JENNIFER COOK
You're listening to Up Close coming to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I’m Jennifer Cook and I’m talking about the latest rise of China with Professor Wang Gungwu and Dr Pradeep Taneja.

Of course, another country that’s making great economic progress in the region is India which, like China, has a huge population but, interestingly, it’s got a large resource of educated English speaking citizens to draw upon.  So just how does India compare to China, or how does China view India’s meteoric rise?

PRADEEP TANEJA    
Well, compared to China, India’s rise has not been meteoric.  I mean, India is a latecomer to economic liberalisation, foreign investment.

JENNIFER COOK
Yes.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Although India has in recent times a longer history of capitalist development, unlike China India actually has firms which are 100 years old and have uninterrupted development.  So India was not entirely hostile to foreign investment or to international trade, but it did have restrictive policies and it imposed conditions on foreign investment which made it difficult for foreign companies.  In the 1970s companies like Coca-Cola and IBM actually left India because of some of the restrictive government policies.  But India began to change in 1991, which is a gap of nearly 13 years compared to China, so China did have a headstart in opening up.

I think another factor that China had in its favour was that China’s initial economic development was fuelled by foreign investment coming from the overseas Chinese community.  China was lucky in the sense that there was a Hong Kong next door which was becoming uncompetitive, and China was able to open up its economy to investment by overseas Chinese investors and other foreign investors at just the right time.  Then, of course, Taiwan also found itself in a difficult position; Taiwanese exports were becoming uncompetitive, and China welcomed Taiwanese investment.  Initially, of course, the Taiwanese government had restrictions on allowing Taiwanese companies to invest in China and they placed a limit on the investments.  Many Taiwanese companies started using Hong Kong as a kind of conduit for investment into China.

So China had this benefit of large reserves of cash both in Hong Kong and Taiwan, plus overseas Chinese communities in other parts of Southeast Asia.  They injected large amounts of money which then developed confidence for other foreign investors.  So, if overseas Chinese felt comfortable investing in China then other foreign investors, for example, the Japanese – the Japanese investment in China actually started quite late; the Japanese were trading with China since the 1970s but they did not feel confident enough to invest in China.  Following the example of the overseas Chinese, the Japanese also started investing.

India had no such diaspora.  India has a large diaspora but it’s mainly professional and more recent.  And, in countries in Southeast Asia, for example, where India does have the non-resident Indian population, most of them are not entrepreneurs, most of them haven’t accumulated large amounts of wealth.  If you look at the Indians in Malaysia, most of them went as indentured labourers.  If you look at Indians in Fiji or Mauritius, most of them went as indentured labourers and have not been able to develop into major entrepreneurs.  There are some exceptions but the majority of Indians are not in that position.

Now, India’s economic story since 1991 has been quite a good one, too.  But I think the biggest story here is the China-India more than, you know, the economic comparisons.  

JENNIFER COOK
Yes.

PRADEEP TANEJA
India and China are, as you know, the two most populous countries in the world, not just in this part of the world.  Their relationship has been strained since 1962, although over the last 20 years since particularly 1988 when the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, visited China we’ve seen significant changes.  Most of India’s big software companies now have a presence in China, in Shanghai and Hangzhou and in generally the more prosperous parts of China.  But in my view, these two countries, until they can resolve their boundary dispute, I think the full potential of this relationship will not be realised and I think it will remain a factor of instability in the region.  If India and China could somehow work out a way to resolve their boundary dispute, I think it would be good for the region, it would good for the world.

JENNIFER COOK
Gungwu?

WANG GUNGWU
I think that sums up very well the complexities of their relationship.  It’s a strange one, and in some ways a most unfortunate one, because the two countries in the past have never had any problems with one another. In fact, if anything, the Chinese had great respect for what India stood for with Buddhism and so on. The relationship, a thin relationship, has always been through trade and through the Buddhist sutras, if I may put it like that.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Yeah.

WANG GUNGWU
Later on all the trading was done by others, anyway.  To begin with the Arab and Persians, followed by the Europeans and some Chinese went out for a short while. But on the whole, the Chinese didn't go as far as India, they were quite happy, content with Southeast Asia.  So it’s all within the last few decades that the relationship began with independence of India, with India’s support for China for the new PRC – Nehru supported the Peoples Republic of China – and began extremely well.

So given all that, it really was very unfortunate that the misunderstandings over the borders led to the war in 1962.  In this case, I have to say that the Indians feel it more than the Chinese, because in that particular war the Chinese did better than the Indian military, who were not so prepared as the Chinese were.  For that, I think many Indians have not forgiven not only the Chinese, but have not forgiven Nehru.  In fact, I see so many attacks, criticisms of Nehru for having so mishandled that whole thing.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Yes.

WANG GUNGWU
So the regrets are all over.  Given the regrets, it seems to me only a matter of time – and time is a healer, I think, I hope so, anyway – and that over time these things will be less significant for the relationship.

But what I think is a bit of a worry is that the global affects of trade and political relationships, the financial crisis, all of these things have highlighted some of the differences.  The Chinese have entered into the Indian Ocean, resources in Africa, oil and so on.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Exactly.

WANG GUNGWU
So the Indians are noticing that and the Indians get a little concerned about that and whether the Indian navy can do the same in the South China Sea or beyond.  All these are now matters which had never arisen before, these are brand new issues and I think a lot of wise leadership becomes essential.

JENNIFER COOK
So, gentleman, final words if we’re looking to the future for this latest rise of China in the region.  What are your thoughts?

WANG GUNGWU
I think China has great problems ahead for itself.  My own view is that China has more problems inside than outside.  The Chinese Communist Party has managed it so far very well, managed their problems very well.  But there are limits to how fast they can continue to grow; there are limits to how their methods will remain effective when people become better educated, more organised, or at least seeking to be better organised, seeking effective ways of at least having their voices heard.  All these social pressures are there – whether they are allowed to grow or not is hard to see, but there is a limit to how far you can keep them down indefinitely.

So all these things have to be carefully weighed and I think the leadership is increasingly conscious of the need to refine their methods to make their governance, as it were, more acceptable to the people, to meet some of the demands of the people in ways that will not threaten their monopoly of power.  But how they achieve that is something that they cannot afford to lose that particular battle and they’re working very hard.  From what I understand is that they are spending a lot of time on precisely those issues within the country.  

The external ones, of course, we are interested in from outside.  But what we, I think, don’t always understand from outside is how much pressure is building up inside and how much we should try and recognise the problems that the Chinese leadership have within their own country.  If we want the place to be peaceful and all of us to enjoy peace all round, it is not in our interests to actually make things worse for the leadership in China. Here’s where, of course, there is a lot of argument and dispute as to what is the proper policy towards China. And there are people who disagree with that, who say that, no, the responsibility is to make China into a better government, if necessary to produce a regime change – there are such views – but I think that would not be in the best interests of all concerned.

My own view is that China should be allowed to grow within itself, let the Chinese people develop in such a way that they will themselves determine the kind of future systems of government that they can live with.

JENNIFER COOK
Pradeep?

PRADEEP TANEJA
I mean, I agree with Professor Wang that the greatest challenges for China ahead are internal not external.  You have a market driven economy but a political system which remains quite authoritarian.  I think the Communist Party, although they have instituted many changes in terms of regularising succession of leaders – for example, there’s a much greater degree of predictability in terms of who China’s future leaders would be.  Still, when it comes to the demands from ordinary Chinese people for greater accountability, greater transparency – let alone democracy – I think the Communist Party will have to make room for those demands because if it doesn't do that then the internal challenges could prove to be much greater.

Recently reading Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs after his death, he says the first step could be the democratisation of the Communist Party itself, in other words, the Communist Party’s internal functioning could be democratised as a first step.  Because that could send a very good signal to the Chinese public in general that if the Party is willing to democratise its internal operations, it’s internal functioning, then there is a hope that maybe that will spread to China as a whole.

So I think that the greatest challenges are internal rather than external, and if China can tackle those internal challenges well, successfully, then I think China has a great future as a major power, not just in this part of the world but globally.

WANG GUNGWU
I should just add to that. I think a very important point is the fact that I think even within the Communist Party the majority of the people in the Party are in favour of democratisation within the Party.  They may have thoughts about democratisation outside of the Party, but within the Party I think there is widespread recognition that, for the interests of the Party and its own leadership – its own cohesion – there must be greater democratisation. That is already something that is very much spoken of by the Party leaders themselves.

JENNIFER COOK
Well, thank you, gentleman, for a fascinating and interesting discussion.  Thanks for your time today.

WANG GUNGWU
Thank you.

PRADEEP TANEJA
Thank you.

JENNIFER COOK
We’ve been speaking with Professor Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, and Dr Pradeep Taneja, from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, about the rise of China.

Relevant links, a full transcript and more information on this episode can be found on our website at upclose.unimelb.edu.au.  You can leave a comment on any of the episodes of Up Close by clicking at the link at the bottom of the page.  Melbourne University Up Close is brought to you by the Marketing and Communications Division in association with Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Up Close is created by Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param.  Today’s episode was produced by Kelvin Param, Eric van Bemmel and Miles Brown.  Our audio engineer is Miles Brown and our theme music was performed by Sergio Ercole.  I’m Jennifer Cook, until next time thank you for joining Up Close.  Goodbye.

VOICEOVER
You’ve been listening to Melbourne University Up Close, a fortnightly podcast of research, personalities and cultural offerings of the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Up Close is available on the web at upclose.unimelb.edu.au.  That’s upclose.u-n-i-m-e-l-b.edu.au.  Copyright 2008 University of Melbourne.


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