Greater understanding

Updated: 2012-03-13 08:19

(China Daily)

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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent elaboration of her government's commitment to engaging China sounded remarkably clear-minded, at least about the obstacles that lie in the way of better ties.

In fact, all the suspicion and mistrust of China's intentions, particularly Clinton's idea of its "selective stakeholder" role, which she threw out last week during the two countries' commemoration of the 40th anniversary of former US president Richard Nixon's history-making trip to China, have already been addressed.

China consistently adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which in themselves guarantee a fair and democratic international order. As it has in similar circumstances, the country is exploring every possibility to deliver a peaceful ending to the crisis in Syria. This country has also been the sole advocate of restraint and consultation with regard to maritime territorial disputes, even when some of the other claimants have become provocative at the instigation of outsiders.

The government has also been consistent and transparent about the purpose and scale of its defense spending.

And while agreeing universally accepted international cyberspace standards may be difficult considering the divergent concerns of various countries, Beijing is willing to try and happy to discuss the issue.

Admittedly there are fundamental differences over human rights - Beijing focuses on those of the overwhelming majority, while Washington chooses to focus on carefully selected individuals - but there has been continual progress on protecting people's rights in China.

In fact, the hoopla over its prowess reveals both an overestimation of what this country has accomplished so far and what it has to offer. The hallmarks of prosperity found in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities are by no means representative of China in its entirety. The prevalent portrayal of China as the world's No 2 power is based on this assumption, which disregards the country's severe and acute development gaps across its vast heartland.

We do have the world's second largest GDP; but according to the IMF, China ranks 95th in terms of its per capita GDP, which is less than one-tenth that of the United States. In November, when the nation's poverty line was raised closer to the international standard, 128 million of our compatriots - about half the total US population - were still living in poverty.

These are the real truths of China's peaceful development path and should constitute the basis of any reasonable and realistic expectations of what our country can and cannot do.

(China Daily 03/13/2012 page9)