07/25/2012, 00.00
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The Achilles' Heel of China's Rise: Belief

by Liu Peng
Growth in China's GDP and foreign currency reserves, but also in the spiritual void of the people. The Party’s campaigns of moralization have all failed, leaving space to stupifying episodes of corruption, lies, violence to which people respond with riots. If China wants to be a great power, it must address the issue of religion. Part one.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China will never be a great power until it rediscovers spiritual values and gives space to religions: this thesis which AsiaNews has always affirmed and underlined is today being raised by figures such as Liu Peng, a member of the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences. An expert of the Chinese and American religious world, Liu shows that his country is suffering from a spiritual crisis that could bring it to the brink of collapse. Although China has made huge strides in material progress, the nation lacks a system of spiritual values, a void which is generating the evils of corruption, violence, injustice. For the author, the growing social unrest is a sign that China urgently needs to change, by giving freedom to religions and invigorating society with the values of religious beliefs. Only in this way can it become a truly great power. We publish this long article in installments, in the hope that it will make some suggestions to the next Congress of the Communist Party of China

The text presented here is the first part of a lecture given by Liu Peng and published by the Pu Shi Institute for Social Sciences in 2011. The notes are by AsiaNews. Over the next few days other installments will follow.

With its impressive economic development, China has joined ranks of world powers. Some scholars have even suggested that it is on par with the United States, coining the terms "ChinaAmerica" and "G2". At the G20 Summit in 2010 China moved closer to the center of the world stage as it emerged from the global economic crisis with its growth intact while the economies of the old super powers remained stagnant. Given all this, some Chinese feel that the Chinese model is the only correct one. Some in the Chinese media have even started to raise new questions: How should China spend its foreign exchange reserves, which rank highest in the world? Should China, as a holder of a trillion dollars of American debt, come to America's rescue? Should the Chinese RMB take the place of the US dollar?

It is not an exaggeration to say that since the 1840 Opium War, Chinese people have never been filled with such a sense of pride, achievement, and confidence. There are people inside and outside of China who believe that China will soon be an equal superpower to the United States, and may even replace it as the dominant power in the world. Could it be that the China's long dreamed-of rise is just around the corner? China has finally arrived at the day when she can peel of the label off "poor and backwards populous nation"and join the Super Powers Club and thus have the chance to dominate the destiny of the world.

1 Trillion Dollar U.S. Public Debt

However, the media-advertized "Rise of China,"although partly supported by facts, is not an entirely accurate picture. Whether China can become a "power"with true impact and influence and to what extent China can maintain its current "good feelings"are far more complex questions than the media speculations indicate. The positive feelings that the Chinese hold towards the rise of China mainly originate from China's GDP and FER (foreign exchange reserves) growth. In other words, as the saying goes, "money is no problem[J1] ."But GDP and FER indicators do not show everything. What is real "power?" Not every Chinese knows the answer to that question.

Historically speaking, the so-called "powers"refers to those states who hold a dominant position in the international system, and who use that dominant position to influence events and advance their own interests in the fields of politics, economics, military, science and technology, and spiritual [J2] faith (including ideology) and can project power on a global scale to protect those interests. It does not refer to those states which are only rich financially, or have nuclear weapons, or have large populations and land[J3] . In other words, GDP and FER advantages are not enough for a nation to claim to be "on the rise", much less a "great power."

Many countries in the world today enjoy a much higher GDP per capita than China, but are not considered great powers that dominate world affairs. For example, there are nations whose absolute GDP figure and per capita figure are both higher than China but they do not have much say in international politics. At least in the foreseeable future, Japan is not likely to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Further, countries such as India, which has a large population and the Middle Eastern and Gulf nations, which are rich in oil, and Russia, which is large in area, abundant in resources and nuclear warheads cannot be considered to be "great powers."

It is easy to be a "power" in a certain region or a certain field, but hard to be a "power" that projects influence in economics, politics, military, science and technology, culture, and value system to the degree that it exerts far-reaching impact on the world. A comprehensive appraisal of multiple indicators and strengths must be made before determining if a country is a "power" that plays such a significant role in international affairs that it will always influence the world's trends, change the international order according to its will and can serve as a role model for other nations to admire and learn from. In other words, it is powerful both materially and spiritually, in both hard and soft strengths.

In this sense the western media's playing up of China being on par with the United States, and thus becoming a "world-managing community" is undoubtedly a well-calculated strategy that aims at compelling China to take on more responsibilities and obligations and killing the 'China's rise' with[J4] tender flatteries.

As to how and in what fields China is strong and how far China can go in the future, the Chinese people must be clear-minded. In fact, what the Chinese need to consider is not what China has done or achieved, but what China lacks - what is the Achilles ' heel of China's rise?

This is a painful question to answer, but to avoid it will prevent China from truly rising. Even if China has a GDP that has surpassed Japan's, and she has built her own aircraft carrier, successfully launched a manned spacecraft and landed on the moon, China still cannot live up to the definition of "power" since the GDP and FER are not almighty[J5] . If China does not develop her comprehensive strength in other aspects, her leading position in the economic field will be temporary. And if China does not find a solution for its Achilles' heel, she will never reach the status of being a great power.

I. What is China Lacking?

What do I mean by "comprehensive strengths in other aspects?" The list of answers to this question would be very long. But in fact, this question can be asked in two other ways: "what is the weakness that hinders China's development?" or "what is China most lacking today?"

As to what is lacking, many people would think of things like energy resources, the bottleneck for China's future development. Some would say the global market, energy, and science and technology. Others would refer to the legal system. It is true that these are all indispensable and vital elements for China's future development, but they are merely results of an analysis of the material and technical levels rather than actual deadly weaknesses[J6] .

If we look back on how China has attempted to maintain its standing in the world throughout its thousands of years of history, and how other powers rose in history, we can see that the key factor that determines China's future development lies not in the realm of the material, but in the realm of the spiritual. What is China most lacking in the 21st century? Faith! China is suffering from serious flaws in its spiritual life and morality which are in essence, matters of faith. In this area of faith, the Chinese are experiencing a serious void and confusion. It is time to light the spiritual torch that shines over the road of development for the nation and the country.

The reason why Chinese society has seen an abundance of outrageous and ridiculous phenomena, with little corresponding uprightness is not because we are short of money. Rather, it is because we have lost our faith. Like a house covered with gold powder, we are only enjoying the glory of appearance. While the core of the value and belief systems that buoyed the Chinese spirit in the past has been destroyed, we have not yet made the innovations necessary to develop and maintain new core value and belief systems for contemporary Chinese. When the old faith was destroyed, but a new one not yet built up, the imbalance between the spiritual and the material which is caused by a spiritual emptiness and moral void becomes increasingly salient.

Though China has made ostensible achievements in terms of material development, material prosperity cannot fill the void of spirit and faith. Running out of fresh fuel, the light of the spiritual torch of the Chinese is dimming. In fact, the light from the spiritual torch is even too dim to show direction and provide the necessary cohesive force for a nation composed of various ethnic groups, multiple social classes, and different interest groups, let alone being bright enough to shine through the darkness and light up every corner of the world. How can such a country rise to the position of great power?

In other words, for China to rise to the status of a great power, she has to answer the following question: What is the spiritual pillar, the core value and belief system for the Chinese people? As to the question, "what do we believe in today?" the official answer is well known since everyone has repeated it many times on numerous tests from elementary school to college. However, if you take into consideration the actual situation of Chinese spiritual faith, this is a pressing question that has existed for a long time, but has been deliberately avoided. It is the question of what constrains China's rise from the inside, and to a certain extent, determines the fate of China's future development.

Today, whether or not we have the willingness or courage to admit it, we know that the ethical principles in our society have gone awry. Ethical problems derive from problems with the value system, which in turn derive from spiritual problems. This shows us that the belief system put forth by the authorities for years now exists in name only. Unfortunately, due to complex considerations, Chinese authorities and the media are not willing to admit such a fact and discuss it openly. Though our daily lives are filled with increasingly startling social problems (Shanxi black brick kiln incident[I], Hebei Sanlu tainted milk scandal[II], Hunan Luo Caixia case of college admission being replaced[III], Guizhou and Sichuan official visiting underage prostitutes scandal[IV], Zhejiang Hu Bin drag racing case[V], and Hubei Deng Yujiao case[VI]), the media are only ardent about reporting the stories rather than analyzing their root causes. In the few instances where they do touch on the causes, they do not attribute them to the loss or lack of spiritual faith and will therefore not really get to the root causes of the incidents. Of course, the authorities treat these as isolated incidents that are not representative of the society at large. If they are forced to consider these problems from the perspective of faith, they tend to trace them to "a small number of people's"lack of adherence to the repeatedly stressed core value and belief system, the lack of a "revolutionary outlook for life and values,"and the loss of the Communist ideal and faith.

However, they will not address why their long-term and large-scale propaganda campaigns have not helped such a large "small number"set up their "revolutionary outlook for life and outlook for value."They have only watched the drastic increase in crimes and the devastating downturn of social morality. Our media rarely faces these questions directly or comes straight to the point: why is it that the core value and belief system that the authorities repeatedly propagate do not work? Do the Chinese, who have simply solved the problems of food and clothing, in fact hold any value or belief system? What exactly went wrong with the faith of the Chinese? Do we believe that there are in fact no problems with our faith or do we merely consider the problems insignificant and not worthy of our study. Where is China going and how far can she go?

Surely we can pretend that these problems do not exist and continue to maintain the now-expired value and belief system as the standard answers for student exams. However, doing this is no more than covering the roots of all the problems to postpone the day when the contradictions are brought into the open. In fact, the re-occurrence of mass events such as the Weng'an incident show clearly that the internal contradictions have already deteriorated and started to surface. Self-deception and avoidance are not helpful. If China avoids dealing with the question of faith, she will never become a real power. The question of faith and the future of China are connected. Anyone who cares about the fate of China and desires the rise of China must face it, think about it, and answer it.



[I] See AsiaNews.it, 15/06/2007 Enslaved children working in brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan

[II] See: 17/09/2008 Three babies' dead, over 6 thousand ill from poisoned milk and 17/02/2010 For years, Chinese dairies made melamine-tainted milk products.

[III] In 2009, the student Luo Caixia denounced a classmate for having stolen her identity documents. The father of her classmate, a police officer, had produced false documents to get his daughter into college.

[IV] In 2009, the young 20 year old Hu Bin, organizing car race among friends, killed one person. But the police defended him because he is the son of one of the richest personalities of the Party in Hangzhou.

[V] See: 09/06/2009 Almost heroine status for young woman who killed official who tried to rape her

[VI] It was an open revolt of the entire population of the city after the drowning of a girl and police attempts to cover up the incident. See.: 01/07/2008 Unrest in Guizhou as public security tries to buy the silence of the victim's parents.



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