In November, Beijing unveiled five mascots for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. On Dec. 22, China's State Council Information Office published a white paper entitled China's Peaceful Development Road.
The message Beijing intended to convey with the mascots and the white paper was the promotion of a "peaceful rising" and the lack of hegemonic ambitions.
The two developments did not attract much attention in Taiwan, because it was still absorbed by domestic political bickering.
However, we should not underestimate their impact.
With China faring well on the economic front and modernizing its armed forces, other powers have become anxious.
Fueling their concern, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last year broadened its membership to include Iran, India and Pakistan.
Elsewhere, China and Russia conducted their largest-ever joint military exercise in response to the eastward expansion of NATO and the US-Japan Security Treaty, as well as to counterbalance the wave of revolutions that swept across Eastern Europe last year.
China, Russia and a number of European nations and left-wing regimes in South America are dissatisfied with both the US and Britain and their attempts to promote what is criticized as "liberal imperialism" across the globe.
However, both the US and Japan have accused China of attempting to create an Asian Monroe Doctrine through ASEAN meetings.
Beijing's strategies, propaganda and actions have failed to dispel suspicion in regard to its ambitions, though these have at least delayed any direct confrontation in response.
On the economic front, China has also begun to expand its contributions to the world thanks to a booming economy and increased demand for imports. China is now not only the sixth-largest economy in the world but also the world's third-largest importer.
In the course of 10 years, China's domestic need for information technology, automobiles and telecom products will make it the world's biggest consumer market.
Capitalizing on its economic growth, China has signed procurement contracts with Australia, Canada and South American and African countries for large amounts of raw materials. China adopts a laissez-faire policy toward ASEAN nations by allowing them to enjoy a favorable balance of trade.
China's diplomatic and economic policy has encouraged more entrepreneurs from around the world to pour their capital into Brazil, Russia, India and China itself, a development that has led some academics to wonder if the "Beijing Consensus" will replace the "Washington Consensus." The head of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London has pointed out that China's thirst for raw materials is more beneficial to Africa than all of the efforts made by developed nations to write off that continent's debt.
In recent years, Beijing has realized that the US presence in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia has discouraged Japan from enhancing its military capability as well as deterring North Korea from making any sudden moves.
Beijing has also sought to diminish the wariness of Southeast Asian nations and prevent nuclear proliferation in order to gain influence in the region.
On top of all of this, to maintain its grip on power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must pursue political and economic reforms and stabilize its massive economic growth.