The economic reform that started in 1978 has helped China to greatly enhance its overall national strength. Not only is China now the world's biggest factory, it is also the world's fastest-growing economy.
With its booming economy and the concept of "peaceful rising," proposed by President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Beijing is pushing its superpower diplomacy as a means of broadening its influence all over the world. However, China's growing economy cannot obscure its military expansion, which is a potential threat to the security of Taiwan, to the Asia-Pacific region and even to world peace.
China constantly claims that its peaceful rising is not only in line with a new world trend toward peaceful development, but is also beneficial to deepening regional cooperation and will bring greater benefits to the international community.
This claim is used to quell a growing sense of unease among countries in the Asia-Pacific region who think that China, with its growing political and economic power, and large-scale military expansion is trying to become a regional hegemon. China has deployed more than 600 ballistic missiles in coastal areas targeting Taiwan. Furthermore, the Pentagon's annual report on China's military power last year pointed out that China's military expansion poses a threat to stability across the Taiwan Strait and even in the Asia-Pacific region, from Japan to the South China Sea.
Japan is not only concerned about the fact that China is enhancing itself militarily, but recently also discovered an intrusion into its territorial waters by a Chinese submarine. All the above seem to indicate that China's "peaceful rising" is nothing more than a hoax.
With the globalization of the economy and a world of increasing pluralization, peace and development form the foundation for improving the lives of people all over the world. In other words, the aim of economic development is to enhance people's living conditions and shape a modern society that espouses democracy, freedom, the rule of law and human rights.
The benefits of economic development should not be used to prolong the lifespan of corrupt bureaucracies that exercise authoritarian rule and trample on human rights and freedoms domestically, while internationally presenting themselves as a military superpower, threatening neighboring countries and destabilizing the region through military expansion.
The community of liberal democracies is an international environment in which conflicts can be resolved and peaceful coexistence maintained.
Conversely, if China, with its improving economic situation, continues to be anti-democratic and disregards domestic human rights, it will definitely become a source of upheaval in the Asia-Pacific region, rather than a stabilizing force for development.
Chen Lung-chih is the chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.
TRANSLATED BY DANIEL CHENG