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Don't Underestimate Our Competitor � China

In my book, RETURN TO THE MIDDLE KINGDOM, the heading of the 7th chapter is: Blending Confucius, Lincoln, and Marx, in which I explain what kind of society that Sun Yatsen, with the assistance of Eugene Chen, tried to create. It would be a harmonious society (Confucian conception summed up in the ancient classic, BOOK OF RITES) in which there would be "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people" (Lincoln), and there would be no inequalities of wealth (Marx). Of course they need cash to realize their vision. Where would the money come from? They would use trade to earn it from the West to build a "socialism with limited capitalism." This is the prototype of the "socialism with Chinese characteristics," coined by the Communist Party after they decided to switch Marx economy to marketing economy in late 1970s.

And then a new, momentous development occurred last year. The Chinese Communist Party held a conference, and announced that their goal was to build a harmonious, Xiaokang (middle middle-class in American terminology) society. Given their former goal was to build a communistic society, this play of words is of great significance. They also got both terms "Harmony" and "Xiaokang" from the Confucian classic, BOOK OF RITES, just like Sun Yatsen and Eugene Chen had done in early 1920s. "Harmony" means that they are going to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. "Xiaokang" means that they are striving to make all the people live comfortably.

Important as their announcement is, I don't see that we here pay any attention to it. China seemed always to take us by surprise. When they succeeded to switch the Marx economy to marketing economy, we were surprised why they were more successful than the Russians. But if we knew a little more about Chinese history, we would know the idea of "using trade to earn capital from the West to build a socialism with limited capitalism" had been in the making for more than 60 years, long before the Communist Party put it into practice in the early 1980s.

Every American politician from the president down declares that China is our competitor and we must win. But how can we win if we don't know with whom we are competing? More important, how can we win without coming to blows? The great military strategist, Sun Zi, said two thousand five hundred years ago: Know yourself, and know your opponent, and then you'll always win.

Confucius said that reviewing the past in order to know what to do in the future. My book is personalized history, but it has ties to the present day. It covers a period in which China began its troubled relations with the West, in particular, the United States, and it ends when there was hope of the two reconciling. I present the book at a time when the United States, now more than ever, needs to build a relationship with China in areas where the two countries share common interests. The co-existence in peace and in friendly competition between the United States and China will benefit each country as well as the world. Otherwise the consequence is unthinkable.

Submitted by:

Yuan-tsung Chen

Yuan-tsung was born in China, and immigrated to USA in 1972. Her first book, THE DRAGON'S VILLAGE, (was published by Pantheon, and) its Penguin paperback sells an average of 3,000 copies per year since 1981. Her latest book (nonfiction), RETURN TO THE MIDDLE KINGDOM, is now available through the Union Square Press of Sterling Publishing. Visit Yuan-tsung Chen.


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