Tags: China | Wants | Its | Space | Leading | Nation

China Wants Its Space As a Leading Nation

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

Hong Kong was handed back to China four years ago when the British flag was lowered after a century and a half as a crown colony. The "one China, two systems" agreement had been guaranteed by China for 50 years. Last year Hong Kong's economy grew 10.9 percent. The global economic downturn will lower the projected growth rate to 4 percent for 2001.

Tung, a knowledgeable Chinese expert who spent 10 years in the United States where his children were born, is a former shipping tycoon with a multibillion-dollar fortune "You won't find anyone (in China) who wishes to expand and absorb more land and more people," Tung said. "It would be useful for scholars on both sides to figure out where they wish to be 50 years from now and then work back from there. That's what the U.S. and Europe did 50 years ago, and their respective objectives were achieved beyond their wildest dreams."

"The relationship between the United States and China is, without question, the most important in the world, for both powers and also for Hong Kong and Taiwan," Tung said. "There may be some in America looking for new enemies, trying to portray China as the next Soviet Union, but let me assure you that the PRC is not an enemy or adversary of the U.S. (and) not even a rival."

Pressed on the American perspective of China as a strategic competitor, Tung said it was incumbent on concerned Americans to look back at the last 200 years of Chinese history. Since it was founded 225 years ago, he explained, "the United States, with the exception of a brief setback during the Depression in the 1930s, has been a storybook of successes and triumphs (that has) made it such a great and wonderful country. (But if you) look back at China's last 200 years, it has been a long, steady decline punctuated by humiliations ... and every time China lost a war, it had to make territorial concessions, such as the loss of Hong Kong to Britain and Taiwan to Japan, and pay war reparations.

"So a very poor China gradually became poorer, and the Chinese people felt they had been violated and their dignity lost and their territorial integrity trampled on. So it is perfectly normal that the Chinese people's most fervent wish is to see a strong China that is respected the world over. If America had suffered China's fate, that, too, would be the overriding United States objective."

Asked for his thoughts on China's handling of the April 1 incident over the South China Sea, when a Navy. EP-3E surveillance aircraft had to make an emergency landing on Hainan island, Tung replied, "How would the United States have handled a similar incident off its coast with a Chinese aircraft forced to make an emergency landing at a U.S. Air Force base? My view, which is widely shared by knowledgeable Chinese experts, is that China has no wish to conquer other places. Their priority and only objective is getting on with their economic progress. Neither does China wish to challenge the United States, nor for that matter does it have the ability to do so."

"America is not being told to move over, but to make room for China as a respected and responsible member of the community of nations," Tung said.

China's long economic boom has drained much high-tech talent from both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Winston Wong, the son of a Taiwanese tycoon (whose Formosa Plastics is one of Taiwan's biggest companies) and the son of Jiang Zemin, the president of China, have launched a $1.6 billion venture to make integrated circuits in Shanghai. Roughly 300,000 people, mostly middle managers, have moved from Taiwan to mainland China. Shanghai, now a close rival of Hong Kong, is the destination of choice.

In recent weeks, two top Taiwanese officials have visited Beijing. Chen Po-chih, chairman of Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, talked with Jiang on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing. A top Taiwanese opposition leader of the Kuomintang also received a warm welcome in Beijing.

Tung has signed off on a "three cities forum" with the mayors of Taipei and Shanghai to be held in Hong Kong later this year. Hong Kong is the principal conduit for Taiwanese trade and investment (some $50 billion so far) in mainland China. Some 200 Hong Kong business executives, including 100 in the tycoon bracket, led by the government's No. 2 official, Donald Tsang, are in the remotest parts of western China this week to explore investment opportunities.

China and the two capitalist systems of Hong Kong and Taiwan are weaving a web of mutual interests through trade and investment.

Asked about the detention and deportation of some Falun Gong members when Jiang was in Hong Kong (May 8-10) for the Fortune Global Forum, Tung said, "We have every right to bar people who come to Hong Kong solely to demonstrate and disrupt or disturb an important international economic forum. This does not breach freedom of expression and association for the people of Hong Kong as guaranteed by our basic law for 50 years from the 1997 handover."

What is Falun Gong? "First of all," Tung said, "it is not about religion whose freedom is guaranteed by our basic law. It's a bit of a cult. Many have been willing to die for it, and I was shocked to see cultists willing to burn themselves on Tiananmen Square (in Beijing). It is eerily reminiscent of the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana. That, too, was a mix of cult and politics. Obviously, we're watching them very carefully here. I don't want them to do irreparable harm to Hong Kong."

Falun Gong is a legally registered organization in Hong Kong.

This week a Chinese-born American citizen and business professor, Li Shaomin, arrested last February, was formally charged by China with spying for Taiwan. Asked to explain the detention of Chinese-born U.S. residents - in one case a three-year prison sentence was handed down - and U.S.-linked academics, writers and business people that has prompted the U.S. State Department to warn Chinese-born Americans against travel in China, Tung replied: "We are talking about a handful, but there are tens of thousands in these categories who have returned and who are perfectly happy working and traveling in China. I think we should all remember that the spy business is thriving around the world."

Did he mean the CIA and Taiwan intelligence? "I'm not going into specifics," he said, "but spying has existed from time immemorial."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Hong Kong was handed back to China four years ago when the British flag was lowered after a century and a half as a crown colony. The one China, two systems agreement had been guaranteed by China for 50 years. Last year Hong Kong's economy grew 10.9 percent. The global...
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Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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