|China enters the G8 big
By Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING - Long claiming to be a champion of the
developing world, China is making its first appearance
at the meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized
nations in June - a sign of a shift in its foreign
policy from being a revolutionary power to a major world
China's need to repair the international
damage caused by its initial mishandling of the severe
acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak provides the
immediate background for President Hu Jintao's meeting
with the leaders of G8 countries.
say the real motive behind China's acceptance of the
invitation to a meeting of developing countries on the
sidelines of the G8 annual summit is that it needs an
alternative platform to the United Nations Security
Council, where it holds a permanent seat.
obvious that acting solely from the position of a UN
Security Council member, China can no longer make its
voice heard to the best of its interests," observed
Zheng Yu, international-relations expert with the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The functions of
the UN Security Council have been continuously
restrained. The Group of Eight is now the international
arena where all matters of economic, political and
security importance are decided."
ago, China rejected an invitation from Germany to attend
the G8 annual summit as an observer, maintaining its
communist stance that the group is a "club of the rich".
But since 2001, a series of subtle political
moves has highlighted how China is shaping a new image
of itself - no longer as a communist power supportive of
guerrilla movements but as an emerging world player
wishing to converge with other world powers.
Launching a charm offensive as Asian neighbors
harbored suspicions of its rising clout, China last
November signed an agreement that would create a
free-trade zone by 2010 with the 10-member Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The agreement puts
China at the forefront of a zone that would be the
third-largest in the world after the European Union and
the North American Free Trade Agreement.
has also abandoned its once-virulent anti-US rhetoric,
joining forces with the United States in its global "war
against terrorism". While opposing the US-led war
against Iraq, China is now actively trying to
participate in the rebuilding of the oil-rich country
and has dispatched a special Middle East envoy as a sign
of its intention to expand its influence in the region.
"China has been on the rise for more than 20
years. But what makes these three years special is a
combination of economic and military power that has
given the country a new confidence," said Robert Ross, a
political scientist from Boston College. "China's
self-assessment is undergoing a change and Chinese
leaders are getting briefings on China being a rising
power," Ross told a meeting of the foreign press in
Not surprisingly, an offer by visiting
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin last month
for Hu to attend a pre-summit meeting of the G8 in Evian
on June 1 was accepted promptly. The summit itself is
from June 1-3.
"We believe this meeting is
necessary at this moment and very important," Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said on
Tuesday. She presented China's decision to attend the G8
meeting as an effort to enhance dialogue between
Southern and Northern nations.
"We believe this
initiative is a very important opportunity for the
leaders of South and North to exchange views on the
development issues of the world," Zhang said.
But while China maintains that it will attend
the G8 meeting holding up the banner of a leader of the
developing world, Beijing is well aware that its
interests now lie with the world of developed countries,
represented by the G8.
The G8 comprises the
United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada,
Japan and Russia - all of them major economic and trade
partners of China. A year after China joined the World
Trade Organization, and two decades after it began
allowing foreign companies to invest locally, the
country has become an indispensable part of global
China is the fastest-growing major
economy and the leading exporter in the developing
world. Its economy ranks sixth in size in the world,
according to World Bank figures.
"There is no
need for China any longer to feel the humiliated victim
of the imperial world from the beginning of the 20th
century," Ye Zicheng, professor of international
relations at Beijing University, told the Southern
Weekend newspaper. "And the Group of the Eight is not
the 1900 Eight-Power Allied forces that burned and
ransacked Beijing either."
Experts say the
example of Russia, which evolved toward greater
participation in the G8, has given China a good deal of
enlightenment on how to gradually transform its image as
a communist country with isolationist politics.
Parallels are also being drawn between Hu and
former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the
first head of the Soviet state to attend a G8 meeting in
1991, just months before the Soviet Union disintegrated.
Hu's attendance at the G8 meeting will mark his
first official appearance at a world forum since he was
anointed Communist Party leader in October and state
president in March.