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March 25, 2010

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Superpower responsibilities

Over millennia, China remained an unrivalled central empire in East Asia. China maintained a splendid civilization peerless in this region and expanded its influence far and wide.

The Roman Empire and the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) in their heydays, and the Islamic Empire and the Chinese Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) rising in the 7th century, all enjoyed advanced civilizations. The vessels in the fleet commanded by Zheng He in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in the early 15th century crossed the Indian Ocean and were superior in design and performance to ships such as the Santa Maria, which Zheng's contemporary Christopher Columbus sailed in his historic trans-Atlantic voyage. Of course, all interpretations of history are open to opinion.

After the Roman Empire collapsed because of the massive migration of Germanic people, the spiritual legacies of its civilization were inherited by the succeeding European world. In comparison, even after the Chinese empire was conquered by other ethnic regimes, like the Yuan (1271-1368) and the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, those ethnic groups were eventually assimilated into the Chinese civilization and subsequently became the driving forces that carried forward that civilization.

The Chinese civilization continued with the vicissitudes of dynasties and changes of regimes, repeating the 150-to-200-year historical cycle from one dynasty to another with insurrections in between.

A sudden change took place in this cycle in the 19th century. Although the decline of the Qing Dynasty was nothing unexpected in historical terms, it coincided with the invasion of East Asia by Western powers, led by Britain. Different from traditional civilizations that depended on manpower and horsepower, the Western civilizations that boomed after the Industrial Revolution were propelled by engines to extend their influences across continents and oceans. This industrialized civilization was the first that turned the earth into a smaller world. For non-Western societies, this ascendancy proved a tremendous challenge. Thanks to its promptness in understanding Western civilization, the island country of Japan soon modernized and rose to the same status as Western powers.

Since Deng Xiaoping's initiation of the policy of "reform and opening-up," China has made rapid progress. Thanks to its outstanding economic growth over the past 30 years, China has once again grown into a big central power in East Asia and indeed the world. Even the global economic crisis that started in 2008 failed to disrupt China's progress. Instead, it gave China the opportunity to exhibit the great resilience of its economy.

Soon World Expo 2010 Shanghai China will begin. This is not only an exposition for the world to celebrate China's great progress in the past 30 years but also an opportunity for China to show the world that it will rise to a superpower status equal to that of the United States by the middle of the 21st century.

What kind of superpower China becomes will not only affect its own future but also the destiny of global development this century. I sincerely hope this World Expo will send the message that however powerful it may grow, China will never run roughshod over any other country and will exhibit honorable conduct and high moral standards that foster global prosperity and happiness through economic and cultural exchange.


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