Who's afraid of the big bad China?

As Xi Jinping is announced as the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party, it's time to reevaluate our not-so special relationship with China

Share
Related Topics

The fifth generation of leaders, headed by Xi Jinping, is very likely to oversee China begin a new era as a world superpower, but will we ever see pictures of David Cameron and the charismatic Xi Jinping with their top buttons undone taking in a game, sharing cosy telephone calls or even Sam Cam and Xi’s famous folk singer wife sharing fashion tips over coffee? Some may be sceptical about this bond being formed as we treat China in a rather British, standoffish manner with scary, evil, Fu Manchu images ingrained in many minds.

Obviously the UK has many historical ties to the US and a ‘ special relationship’ might seem like the natural progression of this. However, in the current economic climate and with the current world power shift, it is time for the Camerons to start hobnobbing with the Xis.

China is still a very foreign distant place in the Far, Far East that many in the West do not understand. Part of the reason for this is China's phenomenal economic growth and the perceived shift in power, but these fears lacks consideration.

I know from first hand experience, working in a fashion sourcing company in Shanghai, that China is itself also being competed out of the market on cost by other emerging economies such as India. However, there are not the same negative feelings in the West towards India. Is this because India is much more familiar? The old imperial ties, and the many British citizens of Indian descent living in the UK, mean we are much more accustomed to their culture and customs. We are not exposed to Chinese culture and customs in the same way and when we are, it is often in a negative light, such as Channel 4’s recent Dispatches programme.

Another daunting element is China's extremely complex and tonal language. About 840m Chinese speak Mandarin as their first language yet only 375m people worldwide speak English as first language. As China continues to do well economically, there has been a flourishing interest in the language from students keen to further their future careers. I remember winning a debate, while a student of Mandarin at university in China. The topic was whether Mandarin would become the new lingua franca. To make my case, I only had to ask the many foreign students - from the US, Europe, Russia, Asia and Australasia, why they had decided to come to China to learn Mandarin, when many of them hadn’t mastered English first.

Chinese culture and politics are quite rightly a world away from our own, but not necessarily fundamentally wrong.

China, if predictions are correct, will be the first global superpower for centuries that is not Western and does not use English as a first language. Chinese culture and politics are quite rightly a world away from our own, but not necessarily fundamentally wrong. We, in the West, judge Chinese ideologies on Western principles, but this can be a reflection of Western arrogance and ignorance. Western yardsticks are used to condemn the lack of freedom of expression when there are actually millions of conversations on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging site and many outings of corruption by Chinese netizens. There is always more that could be done, but we must bear in mind that China is continually growing, developing and changing.

The Chinese government has emphasised its ‘peaceful development’ but its inward looking policies and previous unwillingness to become involved in international affairs are partly to blame for the lack of understanding from the international community. However, Hu Jintao’s government successfully managed the global economic slowdown especially during the financial crisis. The stability of China remains crucial to the economies of the West and the world. The struggle is for the West is to accept and relinquish some of its power on the world stage. As China continues to open up I have no doubt that we will become more accustomed to our slightly distant neighbours. It’s time to stop being scared of the rising power in China, that we have no experience in our history of dealing with, and prepare for future generations to understand China better. The West cannot change China but it can try to influence and advise the burgeoning power. For many reasons we may never have a ‘special relationship’, but we can learn to be more understanding.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor