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Geopolitics

Deconstructing Western Fears Of China

How should the West face the rise of China? Culling some insight from a Chinese review of “Angst vor China” (Fear of China), the latest book by Germany’s best-known China expert.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen arrives last year in Beijing.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen arrives last year in Beijing.
Shi Shiwei

BEIJING - The German journalist and best-selling author, Frank Sieren, is one of the West's leading China experts. His latest book Angst vor China (Fear of China) was published last September in Germany.

Much like his earlier works, this book has a striking and provocative title and covers a large range of topics: nuclear development in China, how the Chinese challenge is affecting the American manufacturing industry, global competition for petroleum resources, China's aeronautic projects, Tibet, China's water pollution and the Sino-US economic relations in the broadest sense. The author uses straightforward language, and a writing style that is strong on storytelling.

Sieren's viewpoint is both consistent and surprising to Chinese readers when compared to the common attitudes toward China we hear throughout the mainstream voices in the West. Utterly absent are the usual suspicion, fear, prejudice and preconceptions. The book argues that the West being forced to face an increasingly powerful country so different in its value system, culture and ideology is actually a good thing for the West.

He describes a China already so strong economically that is now also busy trying to establish its corresponding political position of strength. This is bound to create conflict with the West as it seeks to secure strategic resource supplies to assert its economic development.

Overly optimistic

Nevertheless, China is not an enemy. At most, it's a competitor; and as such, the right strategy for the West is not to demonize or isolate China, but to cooperate with it, and recognize the reality of China being part of the multipolar world. Furthermore, the West should regard the competitive pressure from China's rise as a way to reinforce its scientific and technological innovation and its economic edge so as to maintain its leading economic and political status.

Sieren's book winds up actually exaggerating the success China has achieved up to now. He is also overly optimistic about the future prospects of China's economy. However, his purpose is very clear. He is not judging the Chinese economy and politics as a Western expert or giving suggestions in policy-making, but is telling the West, and in particular the Germans, that China's development is both a challenge and opportunity for the West.

Sieren has lived in China for 17 years. He first worked as the correspondent of Germany's business weekly, the Wirtschafts Woche, specializing in economics. He later became a presenter for the talk show, Asiatalk on Deutsche Welle-TV.

But unlike other European experts on China who mostly come from the sinology departments in academia, Sieren graduated from the Department of Politics of the Free University Berlin. This perspective helps forge his strategic thinking, while his precise Western-oriented values enable him to offer a relatively objective and calm analysis of China's complex reality. He isn't just introducing or interpreting China, but rather speaking directly to the West about how it should face China. And Sieren's driving message is clear: approach this major new world power as a challenge, not a threat.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Chairman of Joint Staff

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