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MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA – CHINA’S UNSTOPPABLE MOVE TO

MODERNITY AS A CULTURAL STATE

By Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.

CHINA IS A CULTURAL STATE, NOT A POLITICAL STATE

China is an ancient country with 5000 years of continuous history and tradition bound. This is
unique among modern political nation states. Notwithstanding that the present Chinese
government has made changes on the political scene, the Chinese remain culturally bound and
strongly influenced by Confucian teaching. The idea of a mandate from heaven, in which there
is always a central authority in the family and the nation that is only weakened by outside
influences, is still alive today. Most Chinese basically are not political activists as long as the
government is performing its job well. Chinese people appear to be less politically active than
others, wherever they live. This appears to be true in China as well as in most Chinese overseas
communities, including San Francisco, where the Chinese population is 40% or more.

However, the mandate of heaven is not irrevocable. This is evident in Chinese history, where we
witness the rise of peasant revolts to overthrow and replace non-performing emperors. This right
to overthrow the non-performing authority was also taught by Mencius, the most renowned
Confucius disciple. In Chinese, the word country has the dual meaning of “nation” and “family”.
So the connection of the concepts of family and country is strong. An authority establishing
social and family order is acceptable, based on its performance.

As a cultural state, China can accept different religious and political entities to exist in different
parts of China. That is why Deng Xiaoping’s proposal of one nation – different systems for
Hong Kong’s return went off without a hitch. This idea of multiple religions and political
systems can work in a cultural state but not necessarily in a centralized political state. China, as
an ancient culture, never created a national religion of her own; instead, she accepted all outside
religions. Most notably, China merged Buddhism from India with Confucian and Daoist
philosophies into various forms of coexisting Buddhism. In time, China will develop her own
top down and bottom up converging democracy. It has to be in her way and on her own priority.
And, it is already happening, according to John and Doris Naisbitt in their 2009 book China’s
Megatrends. Outside pressure will only unite the Chinese people behind her government. This
is witnessed by her people’s response to the 1999 incident of the U.S. bombing of the Chinese
Embassy in Yugoslavia and to the current dispute over U.S. arm sales to Taiwan. Millions of
Chinese internet citizens are writing in to support their government.

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The Chinese way of harmony diplomacy will stand in stark contrast to American aggressive
Smart Diplomacy. We will find China reach out to the world with her traditional friendship and
harmony. The world watched our neo-conservatism, unilateral foreign policy, and War on
Terror during the last decade as an obvious excessive use of military power. It is time to
understand China as a cultural state and not a political state and to turn a softer side in reaching
out to China. We are the most powerful nation in the world; we can afford to show our
magnanimity without appearing weak. President Obama, with his diverse background, has a
unique and definitive opportunity. Lao Tzu has said, “The more powerful, the more one should
be humble”. Let us hope the U.S. and China can reach a harmony consensus through better
understanding.

CHINA’S UNSTOPPABLE MOVE TO MODERNITY

As a cultural state, China will move towards modernity in her own unique fashion. She will
adopt western technology and modern management, but she will retain her long traditional
culture. In the future, large developing nations will modernize in a like manner within the
context of their own ancient cultures. The rise of China after the 2008 financial crisis becomes
that much more dramatic when compared to other nations.

China missed out on the 19th century Industrial Revolution. This time, it is moving with
determination as a Cultural State, and not as a Political Nation State. Soon President Obama will
go to Indonesia and Australia for a state visit. In Indonesia, he will be likely welcomed as a
return of the favorite son and will be told that China’s growth is good for Indonesia. In
Australia, he will hear that, for the first time, a white Anglo-Saxon nation state’s continuing
growth is dependent on China. Despite China’s current economic success, according to Zhao
Qizheng’s February 4, 2010 article in China Daily, China has no desire to export her still-
developing model (see the following Appendix).

Before we go to the story of China’s unstoppable growth, let’s pause for the educated
observation from Larry Summers, our eminent economic adviser to President Obama. In a
February 1, 2010 Charlie Rose interview on PBS, Summers offered the following three-point
summary of his view on the 21st century. First, the most momentous event in the 21st century is
the rise of the developing world, not the current financial crises, as devastating as it may seem.
Second, the most important thing a major nation must do is to empower the growth of the vast
middle class. Without the growth and hope of the middle class, no matter how well a nation does
in policy and strategy, it will be in vain. (Except for brief intervals, the U.S. middle class living
standard has been in decline relative to many nations during the last five decades.) Third, in the
21st century, we must know how to harmonize with the developing world, and most of all with
China.

Summers’ vision seems in all respects a fit description of China’s growing momentum, as
analyzed in brilliant detail also by Martin Jacques’s book When China Rules the World, just
freshly off the press. Contrary to the title of the book, Jacques's final conclusion is that China
will not rule the world. He believes the rise of China will be the revival of the Chinese culture,
and that China, as a Cultural State, will resume its heritage as one of the magnificent
civilizations of the world. (Refer to the book for more details.)

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Martin Jacques also argues strongly that modernity is not necessarily Westernization. This is
true specifically in reference to China, albeit in the 21st century, each developing nation of the
world will move towards modernity in its own way according to its own unique traditions and
stage of development. China is so immense that she will long continue her development, with
the major cities and regions as developed while the rural areas continue as developing regions.
Jacques, with an in-depth analysis to differentiate China from the European Political States, also
defines China as a Cultural State, and not a Political State, because of her long civilization. Of
interest, Jacques points out that China, as a Cultural State, in her development will revisit her
ancient cultural heritage and rediscover her cultural roots, such as Confucianism and Daoism and
all their glorious teachings of harmony. Also, China in her move towards pluralism will invent
her own democracy. Again, this conclusion is supported by the Naisbitts in China’s
Megatrends, which details the top down and bottom up convergence toward democracy that is
emerging in China and is holding the government accountable. (Readers are highly
recommended to refer to China’s Megatrends by John and Doris Naisbitt for an in-depth
objective and informative analysis of modern China’s development.)

Here we will only venture to tell a short story of why China’s move to modernity is now
unstoppable, despite America’s intervention with her so-called Smart Diplomacy. China’s
growth will benefit not only her but also the whole world. Further, China can never challenge
America in military hard power, as opposed to soft power, because she is a cultural state and not
a political nation state. Within China as a cultural state, various political systems are allowed.
Under these terms, Hong Kong was returned to China as one country with two systems. In the
same way, China extends her hand to Taiwan for reconciliation.

The world of China’s growth is unstoppable because of the momentum she has generated and the
vast potential she has created for her continuing growth. Why is it happening so fast, without us
acquiring the right perspective, and catching us unprepared? Our hubristic belief that the so-
called Communist China sooner or later will self-destruct is largely to blame. The Western
media, in its eagerness to be politically correct, still writes with a deeply rooted Cold War
mentality. Haven’t we seen the fall of the Soviet Union so recently? Is China really still
communistic according to our Cold War definition? Will bringing back the Cold War work to
bring down China? The truth of the matter is we Americans took our eyes off the ball because of
our preoccupation with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the last seven years, and during that
time China achieved growth on a scale and speed unprecedented in human history. Now we
have no choice for our future but to harmonize with China for a win-win future mutual growth,
as implied by Larry Summers. In fact, any Smart Diplomacy, in criticizing China’s Internet
management, in selling arms to Taiwan, and in granting the Dalai Lama an audience with
Obama, will only demonstrate to the developing world that we are interfering in China’s internal
affairs — such is the affinity of the developing world with China as the leading developing
nation.

We should learn that we are also losing the U.N. debate on human rights. In her Constitution,
America upholds freedom of speech as an absolute standard. The Chinese Constitution includes
rights of livelihood, education, and medical services, whereas these are regarded by Americans
merely as objectives. In developing countries, all those so-called objectives are very necessary
rights that the government should guarantee the citizens. America holds the original Constitution

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as sacred and not easily amendable and is proud of its heritage as one the earliest Constitutions.
China allows periodic amendment to keep up with her development needs and is thus more
flexible. (China has had four Constitutions plus four revisions since 1954, and each revision has
increased personal rights.)

Indeed, the story of China’s growth, for our own healthy perspective, should be seen as the
simultaneous growth of a massive collection of the Chinese regions of Pearl Delta, Yangtze
Delta, and Beihai Delta and of cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin,
Wuhan, Jilin, Xian, and even Urumqi, among many. Imagine, this is an incredibly large number
of formidable regions and cities that are growing in the tradition of Japan and the four Asian
Tigers with Confucian work ethics. As if this is not enough, the powerful Chinese government
leaders today, sans any political agenda, are single-mindedly focused on bringing 1.3 billion
citizens to the goal of reasonable well being. Their motto is to follow Deng Xiaoping’s teaching
of “Crossing the River by Testing the Stones”. They have no political agenda or any pretention
of offering a model to the world, but only to develop with Chinese characteristics. China is
moving forward as a huge cultural state, rich in 5000 years of continuous history. That is what
we need to prepare for.

AMERICA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA

If the most momentous event is the rise of the developing nations, as said by Larry Summers,
then China is their shining star. Our most pressing national priority is to turn around our middle
class slide into a downward spiral, but not to contain China as our dedicated goal. China’s move
to modernity will benefit the whole world, as we can see. By harmonizing with China, we open
up a vast opportunity for us to grow also. Or else, we will be isolated outside the greatest
movement in the 21st century, the rise of the developing world. All nations have different forms
of prejudices, black, white, yellow, or brown. President Obama has a unique chance to show the
world that America is less prejudiced. Not only will deploying Smart Diplomacy to confront
China not work, it will actually backfire. The developing world will see it as a powerful
developed country practicing information and value hegemony and not harmony.

There has been heavy criticism by the western media that China’s economy grows by a less
desirable autocratic capitalism, because the West believes “modernization” means
“westernization” — there is no other viable mode of modernization. This is how our double
standard passes judgment on China, whereas the Chinese move towards modernity is actually
very similar to the way Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore advanced to modernity during
the 20th century. They all follow Confucius’ tradition along with heavy borrowing of
technology from the West. Their individual central governments exercise strong influence on
their global development and some industries. In China’s case, however, development consists
of a hybrid system of government activities, guiding both state and privately owned industries,
according to Martin Jacques. The Chinese government may still draft 5-year plans, but the
actual administration is passed down to the provinces and cities, as appropriate. The remarkable
Chinese innovation and success is due to the ability of the state-owned enterprises also to go
public and raise private capital and of the private industries at times also to get federal funding.
This two-way flexibility is what turned around the failing Chinese state-owned enterprises and
helped many private industries to flourish. This flexibility is what Deng Xiaoping called

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“Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones” and is quite a stroke of Chinese genius. (It may well
work because President Hu Jintao and much of the Central Committee were trained as engineers,
not as lawyers or politicians, as in America.)

We routinely attack China as having an undesirable political system. But we are off the target.
China is not a political nation state; she is a cultural state. She goes through all measures to
prove her non-interference in other nation’s politics or domestic affairs. She has neither a
political agenda nor a development model to impose on others. China is a cultural state with
5000 years of inscrutable tradition and preeminence. Her ancient cultural influence was
extended mostly through harmony rather than outright conquest. A young dynamic country
cannot subject a long-lasting continuous culture like China’s to broad criticism without
appearing rude and hubristic to other developing ancient cultures. This is particularly true as
China is moving towards modernity in her own way and pace by satisfying her vast middle-class
population. For the record, China has lifted over 500 million poverty-stricken citizens to a
reasonable life from a hopeless state and a desperate need of livelihood, in the shortest time in
human history. That is quite an impressive miracle for the entire developing world to see.

The relationship of China with African developing nations is particularly worth mentioning.
Today China is the largest investor in Africa, according to Martin Jacques. Her labor and
technical teams are also busy working to build badly needed infrastructure in Africa. China’s
help to African nations usually has no strings attached, unlike western help that generally comes
with a political agenda. Despite the western media’s unfair suggestion of Chinese
neocolonialism, China’s economy is very complementary to African developing economies.
That is why African nations will be more likely to side with China in the event of any showdown
between China and America. Traditionally, African nations consider China as their trusted
friend because China delivers what she promises. This is unlikely ever to change. It makes
undeniable logic for all parties concerned that America’s best policy is to harmonize with China
in joint efforts for three-way win-win-win development to help Africa modernize. Unity in
diversity and win-win mutual development is the inevitable tide of the 21st century development
movement.

So far for the last 30 years, the U.S. and China have both operated on the principle of
cooperation, and not confrontation. In the future, it is advisable for both nations to continue their
Harmony Consensus and thus share in the win-win development according to the “Summers
trend” suggested earlier in this essay. Otherwise, America may face being isolated by the
developing world when China plays her developing world card. Currently, the U.S. media is
debating which country is more dependent on the other. Notwithstanding that China is the
biggest lender of our National debt, invariably continuing our hubris, the media conclusion is
that China is more dependent on the U.S. So, America will continue our China bashing — and
why not, we have kept China at bay for the past 30 years since her reform and opening up.
Jacques, in his book, shows conclusively that the developing world in Asia now understands
China’s peaceful intention and that their needs are complementary with China’s needs.

It is well known to the Asian and African nations that Zheng He, the Chinese Muslim admiral,
sailed the seven seas during the early 1400’s in seven expeditions. At the time, China had the
mightiest and most sophisticated navy in all the world. Zheng He’s landings in Asia and Africa

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were friendly ceremonial gift exchanges and ambassador exchanges with the visited nations.
The mighty expeditions never led to occupation and colonization of the lands visited. These
expeditions deeply impressed the Asian and African nations of today that China’s is a peaceful
mentality. Although the West has only begun to give Zheng He credit for his achievements in
comparison to Columbus, his remarkable voyages of the seven seas (at least of the Indian and
Pacific Oceans) finally are well recorded by Gavin Menzies, in his book 1421, The Year China
Discovered America.

U.S. still outspends the world combined on armaments 20 years after the Cold War ended. In his
2010 budget, President Obama again escalated defense spending to increase missiles and F-35
fighter aircraft for ‘security reasons’. This is very disappointing considering that Obama was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Fortunately, all Chinese leaders read Sun Zi (author of The Art
of War), follow the Deng Xiaoping teaching for China “Observe developments soberly, maintain
our position, meet challenges calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, remain free of
ambition, never claim leadership”, and avoid serious confrontations.

China has been a cultural state for the last 5000 years of continuing history. It is rich in
Harmony Philosophy as taught by Confucius and Lao-Tzu; even Sun Zi advised us to win any
confrontation without the necessity of war. We can hope the current disputes between the U.S.
and China, created by U.S. arm sales to Taiwan, President Obama’s coming meeting with the
Dalai Lama, and the Google-incited charges and counter-charges of “Internet Freedom” and
“Information Imperialism”, will not get out of hand. World Harmony can be practiced between
America and China through Harmony Diplomacy, which not only will minimize conflicts
between the two leading powers but also is essential for world peace.

In conclusion, as Jacques summarized in his book, “The West will progressively discover, it will
increasingly find itself in the same position as the rest of the world was during the West’s long
era of supremacy, namely being obliged to learn from and live on the terms of the West. For the
first time, a declining West will be required to engage other cultures and countries and learn
from their strengths. The United States is entering a protracted period of economic, political and
military trauma. It finds itself on the eve of a psychological, emotional and existential crisis. Its
medium-term reaction is unlikely to be pretty: the world must hope it is not too ugly.” Let us
hope that Obama will be the harmony President we elected him to be.

Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.


Director General
World Harmony Organization
info@worldharmonyorg.net
San Francisco, CA.; Feb. 2010
Edited by James C. Townsend

Dr. Francis Fung was born in Shanghai and moved with his family to Hong Kong after the
communist takeover of the mainland. He has lived in the United States for over fifty years now
and is an American citizen, who works to promote U.S .– Chinese mutual understanding. – JCT

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APPENDIX

Scope of 'Chinese model' too wide


By Zhao Qizheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-04 07:48
China's development in the last three decades has been an enticing topic for the
international community. Joshua Cooper Ramo, an expert on contemporary China, was a
pioneer who summarized the reasons for China's economic success. He believed China
had a developmental route that suited the conditions of the nation and the needs of society,
and it sought fairness and growth of quality.
His "Beijing consensus" explanation cited hard work, active innovation, bold
experimentation, incremental progress, accumulation of talent, and resolute defense of the
national sovereignty and interests as the keys to success. "Commitment to innovation and
constant experimentation" was the soul of his Beijing consensus theory that advocates
dealing with problems in a flexible and case-by-case manner.
Many comments since then have extended the "Beijing consensus" to a "Chinese model",
and many works on this theme have emerged. Those authors give different accounts of the
so-called Chinese model from various perspectives. Many of them are fairly objective, but
there are also malicious voices from ideologues who preach the platitude of the "China
threat" and warn of the export of the Chinese model. In fact, neither the "Beijing consensus"
nor the "Chinese model" is brought up by China.

Related readings: The word "model" has an implication of pattern, and


China pledges new efforts to boost may imply that China is to teach other countries.
rural development China does not have that intention, however. Hence,
Chinese leader urges efforts for sound we must be very cautious when using the phrase
recovery, sustained development of "Chinese model". I would prefer to use "Chinese
world economy case" and include the ideas, policies, practices,
People's happiness is the real goal of
development achievements and problems in the process of
China to achieve fast-paced China's development since the foundation of the
development, lasting stability in Tibet People's Republic, especially in the last three
decades. It combines a socialist system and a
market economy. It is a process rather than a status,
since it is still developing.
Some Westerners comment that the 19th century was the British century, since Great
Britain was the master of the ocean. The 20th century was the Americans' century due to
the US' military and economic supremacy.
But the 21st century will be China's century, or at least the Asian century. If the Chinese
century or Asian century means that China and Asia is to revive economically and culturally,
it is a probable scenario. If it implies China is to dominate the world just like the UK and the
US did, then it is a false judgment. Considering China's cultural tradition, contemporary
foreign policies, national power and the will of the people, Chinese hegemony in the 21st
century is merely a fantasy and will never come true. The international surroundings do not
allow for another hegemonic nation.

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Last year, Martin Jacques, a British columnist and academic, published a book named
"When China Rules the World" in which he forecasted that China will be the largest
economy in the world by 2050. Goldman Sachs made an even bolder projection that
China's GDP will be twice as large as the US GDP in 2050. These prophecies, however,
are far too optimistic. Even if they are fulfilled, per capita output of China will still be much
lower than in the US.
But contrary to the appalling title of his book, Jacques's final conclusion is that China will not
rule the world. He believes the rise of China will be the revival of the Chinese culture, and
China will resume its position as one of the magnificent civilizations.
China does not have any motive to export the so-called Chinese model. Any developing
country, in its development strategy, must account for its own national conditions. The so-
called Chinese model is not universally applicable, nor is the development model of any
industrialized country.
Comprehensiveness can only be valid when it is subjected to cultural diversity. For
instance, fraternity, liberty, peace and democracy are universal values. But for different
nations and cultures in different historical stages, specific forms of these values can be
quite different.
Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man, once believed that
the contemporary Western political and economic system is the acme and the finality of
human history, and consequently, that history has ended. He did not consider prospective
innovations in the Western system, and denied the values of the current and future systems
of other countries. Using the Western democracy and free market as the only benchmark,
he ignored varied historical and cultural backgrounds of humanity, and rejected the fact that
the world is diverse. Therefore, his theory does not stand the test of time.
The Chinese case theory is an ongoing process and will be developed and completed.
Though China has achieved a lot, difficulties have mounted, too. Economic growth has
pushed China's environment to the brink of collapse. Economic and social development is
not balanced between urban and rural areas, and among different regions. The economic
structure is too export-driven. Stable development of agriculture and sustainable growth of
rural residents' income have become even more difficult. Many problems dealing with
employment, the social safety net, income distribution, education, healthcare, judicial
justice, public order and others, are yet to be solved. Corruption is still very severe. In face
of numerous thorny domestic problems, China will continue to give priority to its internal
affairs.
China does not admire or expect the status of a superpower. For many years, it has
focused on promoting domestic development and solving its own problems. Along with
ascending national power, China is willing to undertake international responsibility matching
its capability.
For example, in the past China had not participated in the peacekeeping missions of the
United Nations. Now China has offered more UN peacekeepers than any other Security
Council permanent member. China has increased its engagement in dealing with the global
challenges such as climate change, environment pollution, natural disasters, terrorism,
cross-border crimes, drug smuggling and epidemics. Perhaps by the middle of this century,

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when China has become a developed country, it can offer a more profound understanding
of the Chinese case and contribute more to the international community.
The author is director of the foreign affairs committee of the National Committee of the
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The article was originally published in
the latest issue of China Reform.
(China Daily 02/04/2010, page8)