Globalization in China Challenges and Opportunities

The world today is a global village, especially with the increasing need of people to interact through social, economic and political forums. The world faces challenges like terrorism and global warming, which can better be tackled through concerted efforts amongst nations. And some challenges that affect one country spill over to other countries across the globe, an example being the recent economic recession that began from the U.S. and affected the global economy. This makes it imperative for any nation on the globe to collaborate with other nations, socially, economically and politically in what has come to be referred to as globalization. In this discourse we focus on China and the opportunities and challenges that the globalization and western culture have brought to the countrys culture, economy and politics.

Globalization in China
Chinas globalization history is better understood in line with its social, economic and political history. In ancient times, China was a very open society and established considerable trade relationships with the rest of Asia and Europe. China exported to West Asia and Europe products made of its famous inventions of paper, printing, gun powder and compass. In 1949, a new government led by the Communist Party was established in China and between that year and 1977 China was a relatively closed society. This was in spite of the many diplomatic ties between China and countries in Asia, Africa, east Europe and Latin America (Globalization and China, Gao).
However, its economic tie with the rest of the world was very limited. Chinas chief economic foreign partners were the Soviet Union and other socialist economies during the 50s. And with the split of Soviet Union after 1960, Chinas principal ties were in the Third World and with a few individual capitalist countries. Its relative isolation from the core of international economic activities in the early 70s enabled it to escape the early onslaught of the processes of globalization. It was involved neither in the breakdown of the Bretton Woods nor in the two oil price shocks of the decade (Globalization and China, Gao).

The founding leader of the New China, Mao Zedong died in 1976, bringing an end to the 10 year long cultural revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, the focus of the Chinese government was ideological warfare and class struggles, rather than economic development. In 1977, Deng Xiaoping took over and in 1979 he enacted the policies of economic reform and opening up to the outside world (Globalization and China, Gao).

Globalization has undoubtedly brought with it numerous challenges and opportunities which all countries, especially the developing ones, have to grapple with and China is no exception. In fact, being the most populous country in the world, it is remarkable that China has undergone globalization at a rapid pace over the past two decades. When Xiaoping opened Chinas doors in the late 70s, it was not expected that China would be integrated to the rest of the world at such a dramatic pace (Yongniang, 1).

Nevertheless, globalization is still a complicated process in China (Zhang, 27). Even though there are varied scholastic understandings of globalization in regards to the Chinese case, there are three assumptions that underpin the whole debate. For one, the majority of Chinese elite apparently believe that the trends of globalization are inevitable and that there is no alternative to them (China and its Reaction to Globalization, Gu).

Secondly, most Chinese scholars are grounded in the belief that globalization is not only an economic process, but also a political and social process. This is in the sense that globalization is a process in which the pressures of free flow of international capital are forcing changes in the national domestic structures, creating novel strata relations and are waking new individual consciousness (China and its Reaction to Globalization, Gu).

Far from that, many a scholars in China concur with the observation that globalization has definitely confirmed the failure of the Stalins assumption on two parallel world markets. To these scholars, globalization is a complete triumph of the free market economy over other economic models, like those espoused by the former Soviet Union. The free market, with its power to allocate resources effectively, is seen as the key factor that is generating this historical triumph (China and its Reaction to Globalization, Gu).
Impact of Globalization on Chinas Economy
The economic success that China enjoys today is directly associated with the liberalization and globalization and, each aspect of globalization has brought China further success (Overholt, 1). Previously, before embracing reforms, China had an autarkic economy, opposed the global economic order and the major global institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank (Overholt, 3).

Currently, China has adapted not just foreign technology and foreign corporate management, but also to a wide variety of foreign institutions and practices. These include international accounting standards the British, U.S and Hong Kong security laws a central bank structure modeled on the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. China has also adopted the Taiwan style of regulation for portfolio investment and an economic development plan whose model is the same as those in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan (Overholt, 5)

The returns that China has reaped from opening its markets to the world are not only reserved to its participation in globalization. Any country that embraces globalization invariably draws the gains that globalization brings with it. As mentioned by Zhang, globalization provides greater trading and investment opportunities, higher standards of living, a more open national economic system and, a more powerful and comprehensive state capacity (26).

In his paper titled, Globalization of the World Economy Potential Benefits and Cost and Net Assessment, Intriligator also concurs with Zhang when he states that globalization is better understood to mean an increment in world wide trade and exchanges and an increasingly open, integrated and borderless international economy. He adds that there has been a remarkable growth in such trade and exchanges, not only in the traditional international trade in goods and service, but also in the exchange of currencies in capital movement in trade transfer people moving through international travel and migration and, in the flow of information and ideas.

According to Intriligator, one measure of the extent of globalization is the volume of international financial transactions, with some  1.2 trillion flowing through New York currency markets every day, and the volume of daily international stock market transactions exceeding this enormous amount.
 In china globalizing the country in an economic sense has been an integral part in the post-Mao reforms. The principal aim of the reform was to integrate China into the international community. At the outset, the international integration became an important force that catalyzed reforms and the subsequent implementation of the open-door policy (Yongniang, 3).

Yongniang further explains that, after the reformist leadership legitimized capitalism as a way of promoting economic growth in the early 90s, the tide of globalization became irreversible. Since then, not only has globalization generated its own dynamics as the reformist leadership took the advantage of the situation to depend on globalization to overcome difficulties associated with domestic reforms (3).

The initial phase of economic reforms in China started with the agriculture sector. This immediately resulted into a rapid growth in the agricultural produce and therefore, a sharp rise in incomes for the rural people. As agriculture productivity soared, greater agriculture surplus was available for non-farm development. This in turn, led to the growth of townships and village enterprises, from which, some emerged as the driving force of Chinas economic growth (Yongniang, 3).

 After the agricultural sector had accomplished its initial reforms, the leadership switched to reforms in the industrial sector in the urban areas (Yongniang, 3). The reformist government increased the authority of local officials and plant managers and also permitted a wide variety of small-scale private as well as public enterprises in services and light manufacturing (Globalization and China, Gao).

Worth noting is that, industrial reforms have been facilitated by Chinas link to the outside world. Other reforms of the countrys economy like the revamp of the foreign trade system ended the monopoly of the state trade corporations over the export-import business, and thousands of Chinese companies could now trade internationally (Yongniang, 3).

Besides, the setting up of economic zones (SEZ) and the opening of dozens of coastal cities to foreign businesses instantly led to an influx of foreign capital, which was lured by many preferential policies towards foreign-funded enterprises (Yongniang, 3).

These reforms spurn China into a strong economical footing on the global scale. Guthrie states that China has accomplished in 25 years what many developing nations have taken a quarter of a century or even more time to achieve for the better past of the last two and a half decade, China has had the fastest growing economy in the world, sustaining double-digit figures for much of 80s and 90s. Throughout the 80s Chinas Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at annual average rate of 10.2 percent  a level that was only equated by the growth rate of Botswana. Then from 1990 -1996, the average annual growth rate was 12.3 percent, the highest rate of any country in the world at that time (4).

In 2001, Chinas GDP was 1.2 trillion, being the seventh in the world, the U.S., Japan, German, France, U.K. and Italy and, today, non-state economies account for more than 40 percent of the countrys GDP. In 1999, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program issued a report which pointed out that the number of poverty stricken people was increasing in many parts of the world but in China, exception being in China (Globalization and China, Gao).  

How Globalization Changed the Political System in China
Naturally, globalization is regarded as a political process. When a country is set against an open international economic system, it invariably faces many political issues. Developing countries like China are facing more difficulties in dealing with their political reforms. The problems that they have to solve include the promotion of political reforms at the same time maintaining social development and the improvement of efficiency and considerations of fairness (Zhang 26).

As pointed out by Overholt, China was the worlds most important opponent of globalization before its government chose to embrace reforms. It opposed the global political order and instead believed that global disorder was profitable. Under Mao Zedong, China actively promoted insurgencies in most of its neighbors and, in much of Africa and Latin America (3). But today China has managed to transform itself from being the worlds greatest opponent of globalization and greatest disruptor of global institutions to become a committed member of those institutions and advocate of globalization (Overholt, 1).

This shift was necessitated by the consciousness of the fact that in order to tap into the economic and political gains available around the globe, a country needs to integrate rather than seclude itself. As observed by Zhang, globalization is a concept of security to the Chinese, which can both meet the demands of modernization and also help to maintain stability and order (26).

As a result of China opening itself up to the rest of the world, its political structure has undergone some tremendous developments, especially from the global perspective. China has transformed itself from a policy of self-reliance and suspicion to that one of openness and integration. With its membership in the WTO and other major world and regional organizations, China has subsequently become an integral part of the world community (Yongniang, 1).

However, Yongniang notes, the Chinese states appears to have remained affixed to its traditional Leninist form and, this helped raise the question if the economic globalization of will translate into political democracy to China (1). Already, globalization has weakened the power of the Chinese state in some areas and, the state has responded to its declining power consciously in some cases and unconsciously in others (Yongniang, 2).

In essence, the Chinese state has not merely played the role of the fire brigade, reacting passively to the negative consequences of economic transformation and globalization. Instead, the state has rather adopted a proactive approach to re-make the state system. These conscious actions have not only modernized the Chinese state but also strengthened the power of the state in many aspects (Yongniang, 2).

Influence of Western Culture on Chinese Culture
Recognizing the benefits that come with it, China does not prevent economic globalization from penetrating the country, for it helps to stimulate the development of the Chinese economy. However, this reception is not the same on the cultural front. China tries to prevent its culture from being globalized or homogenized. If anything, the globalization of culture, by no means, lies in the homogenization of culture but also in making a variety out of different cultures and literature (Ning, Globalization and Culture).

Undoubtedly, the western culture has helped change the complexion of the Chinese culture in both subtle and overt ways. A 2005 report from China Daily said colorfully coiffure Chinese youth dressed in up-to-the-minute grunge listening to rock music as they walk, or sitting in a group discussing last nights NBA league match are common sights in Chinas large cities.

The report further pointed out that in the 20 years since implementation of the reform and opening-up policy, the youth in China have ostensibly embraced the Western culture they eat at one of the 600 McDonalds, flock the NBA League and Italian Soccer League matches and, watch Hollywood rather than domestically produced films. In fact, Hollywood earns one billion Yuan, this representing the greatest part of the Chinese film market, whereas Chinese cinema goers spend approximately, a measly 20 million Yuan on locally made films (China Daily).

 In a survey at the coast, among middle school students about the most popular sports and entertainment personalities, Michael Jordan came first with 26percent, followed by Jacky Chan with 18.6 percent.  In fact, middle school and primary school students are particularly prone to Western fads, the majority of them more enamored of Harry Potter and Finding Nemo than any domestically produced books or animated cartoons (China Daily).

As if not enough, the youthful preference for Western leisure pursuits extends to holiday celebrations. Amongst Chinas numerous traditional festivals, only Spring Festival is unanimously observed by both young and old. The others, such as the Lantern Festival and Dragonboat Festival, are overshadowed by Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Valentines Day and Christmas (China Daily).  

However, this influence by western culture has not permeated all sections of the social life in China. Not every youth has absorbed the western culture wholesale. Some family values are still held dear despite the peoples exposure to the liberal social mores of the western culture.

As highlighted in the China Daily report, a 2000 survey in Beijing showed that only 30 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that Its fine for lovers to have sex whether or not they intend to marry. But the proportion of participants under the age of 20 agreeing with this sentiment was 16 percent higher than those above the age of 30. This brought to the fore the concern about Chinese youths apparent unconditional acceptance of Western culture, with many fearing that it would lead to moral decadence.

Everyone in China, young and old, acknowledges that Western culture has indeed influenced the lifestyle and values of the younger generation. But this influence suffers some limitations. With the high development of the media culture, young people have more contact than ever with foreign culture. There are close to 87 million internet users in China, most of them being young people (China Daily).

Coupled with the openness and diversity of our modern society, this means that the youth seek their cultural orientation within the ambit of Western culture. In contrast to the Chinese youth of the 80s, who wholeheartedly allied themselves with the liberal trends of their time, todays young Chinese have a moral rational stance over western culture (China Daily).

This influence does not begin and end with the young people in China. Its tentacles have reached all the sections of the Chinese society.

In sum, by opening itself to the world, China has gained more than it ever dream of if it remained an introvert nation.


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