Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Different kind of exceptionalism

By Le Yucheng (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-24 07:52

China's peaceful rise is unique to its own circumstances and is not based on looting, plundering and invading

As a diplomat I travel widely. Wherever and whenever I go, either to participate in bilateral talks or to attend multilateral conferences and seminars, the questions raised are mostly about the rise of China. What does China think now it is rising? What does China's rise mean to the outside world? Is it possible for China to rise peacefully? All these questions are tough to answer. But I answer questions such as these with the Three No's. That is: No easy path to take; no existing model to emulate; and no strategic intention to challenge.

No easy path to take

Anne-Marie Slaughter, my former US counterpart in the US State Department, told me that she thought there was no other nation like China, which is not only one of the richest, but also one of the poorest countries in the world.

Here are some facts and figures that may help people understand China:

A 5,000-year uninterrupted civilization (one of the world's oldest civilizations)

A population of 1.3 billion (roughly four times the number of people in the United States, and three times the number of people in the EU)

9.6 million square kilometers of territory (which is the third largest in the world, behind only Russia and Canada)

The second largest economy in the world

More than 10 percent of annual GDP growth in the past 30 years

200 million to 300 million middle-class citizens

150 million people living below the poverty line (taking the United Nations' standard of one US dollar a day)

10 million people have no access to electricity

24 million people in need of employment each year (which is bigger than the population of Canada)

There is really no easy way for China to proceed on the road to prosperity. Lawrence Summers, the former economic adviser to US President Barack Obama, repeatedly points out that with a conservative growth estimate of 7 percent per year, China's GDP is doubling every decade and people's living standards are being raised by 50 percent every 10 years. However, it should be remembered that behind these facts and figures are the sacrifices and extraordinary hard work of the Chinese people.

Looking back over the 60-year history since the founding of the People's Republic of China, there have been no civil wars and no invasion or aggression outside its borders. There has been no refugee problems, no conflicts or financial crisis triggered by China. We try to absorb and solve our own challenging problems, including those by-products of modernization, urbanization and industrialization, instead of troubling others.

All the achievements China has made have been earned through the wisdom and creativity of its people, as well as fair competition and mutual benefit. As opposed to looting, plundering or invasion, China has remained on a road of peaceful development. China's development is part of the world's development, and the better China develops, the greater the contribution it will make to the world.

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