|The Chinese are coming. Let's greet them.|
Jérôme Monod International Herald Tribune
TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2005
PARIS I was in China recently to participate in the Boao Forum on China's "peaceful rise," the country's foreign policy mantra that was announced a year earlier. First as an entrepreneur, then as a politician, and more recently through the Fondation pour l'innovation politique (Foundation for Political Innovation).
Indeed, the question now is not whether China is rising, but whether the rise will be peaceful.
Let's not dream: It will take 20 years for nuclear energy to supply even 4 to 5 percent of China's demands for electricity, while renewable energy will always be marginal.
As a consequence, China will consume energy from traditional sources, especially oil and coal, and it will seek to procure energy by all possible means in Central Asia, Iran, Africa or Latin America.
It will form new alliances, some of which may be in conflict with the West.
Furthermore, China's quest for energy resources and its subsequent involvement in regions with conflicts could create a destabilizing bottleneck effect. This is evident in China's increasing search for energy resources in Central Asia, a political zone already congested with a growing post-9/11 American presence, with a Russian and Indian re-engagement and with Saudi Arabian and Pakistani regional linkages.
Hence the issue goes beyond energy. China will need to convince the international community that its "peaceful rise" is not limited only to areas where its own vital strategic interests are not threatened. In the 19th century, Europeans went to war over raw materials. Times have changed, but the tides may not have.
Then there is the question of the trajectory of China's rise. What does China really want? Do we know? Does China know? Every great civilization brings an idea to the world. What idea would China bring?
The West believes it has a historic destiny. But it is not certain what China aspires to be and what it would choose to portray to the world. China's new alliances with India and Europe, and its distancing from certain other regions, clearly demonstrate a wish not only to exist in the world, but to be at the helm of world affairs.
Choosing to remain contained within itself would have been an excellent alibi for a peaceful rise. But China's defiance of the isolation of the Middle Kingdom poses a challenge to keep the rise peaceful.
We must help China overcome these challenges. Engagement with China will ensure that we ourselves remain in the game. It is not just a single country that is rising; a progressive regional integration will result in the rise of a continent. And we must remember that this is the continent that contains the greatest portion of mankind.
China should not be treated with hostility, lest Thucydides be proved right when he said that when one thinks of the other as an enemy, the other becomes an enemy in reality. Let us look at China as a partner instead of a potential rival.
Our goal must be to help integrate this new emerging pole in a multilateral discourse. It seems to me that Europeans, who hold little potential for conflict with China, have a particularly significant role to play in establishing this dialogue.
Europe's encouragement for China's vision of multilateralism was reflected in the European Union's early call for China to join the World Trade Organization - in which France played an important role - and in the call for an end to the embargo against arms exports to China. Cooperation should be placed above sanctions, and the past must vanish before the future.
But to hold a dialogue, we need to know each other. The people - and above all students, entrepreneurs, cultural figures, academics and politicians - must meet and come to know each other. China would then cease to seem exotic; it would become familiar.
(Jérôme Monod founder and honorary chairman of the Fondation pour l'innovation politique, was chairman and chief executive officer of the supervisory board of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux from 1980 to 2000.)