Courtesy Reuters

China and the World: Self-Reliance or Interdependence?

The issue of China "joining the world" is an old one. There have long been contacts between China and other civilizations, yet the Middle Kingdom was for most of the time either superior or passive (or a blend of both) toward others. And once they discovered Chinese civilization, Europeans for their part often took China for fantasy rather than reality. Voltaire, like foreign self-styled Maoists today, tried to join China to the world philosophically by finding preferred universal values there, using reluctant China as a distant lever against a close-at-hand society he disliked.

If the question of China joining the world used to be one for armchair theorists of culture, it is today a hard political, strategic and economic issue. We need to know how far China will keep herself under the banner of "self-reliance" in order to assess the prospects for global interdependence. Mao Tse-tung laid the foundations for a modern China-thus in touch with the world. But he insisted on a China true to herself-thus apart, at least in spirit, from the world. Where will the emphasis lie tomorrow?

Consider what is at stake:

-The People's Republic of China (PRC) has nuclear weapons instantly deliverable to most of Asia and most of the Soviet Union.

-The shape of Southeast Asia's future will depend a great deal on whether or not China sustains cooperative relations with the smaller countries around her and with Japan.

-The U.S. anxiety over the power of the Soviet Union would be intensified by any Chinese initiative leading to détente between Moscow and Peking, equally so by any forced or voluntary withdrawal from the international scene on the part of a defeated or shattered China.

-Chinese policies on international trade, finance, aid, and environmental issues have become of substantial international concern.

China's cherished principle of self-reliance was highlighted by the terrible earthquake around Tangshan in Hopei province last July. All foreign offers of help were declined, including one from the International Red Cross. Was

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