‘The chinese dragon breathes fire’ is just one example of the many fear-inducing metaphors for China. They often oscillate between worry and respect, and usually have something to do with size, mass, economic clout and political influence. And the underlying reason is almost always a fear of being backed into a corner oneself.
China’s development is breathtaking and worthy of superlatives. In just a few decades, the country has transformed itself from an isolated and agriculture-based planned economy into a first-rate production and export hub. It has fought poverty, is now the world’s second largest economy after the USA and has demonstrated enormous innovative strength. What is more: China has transformed itself from a recipient into a donor country, from a largely inward-looking nation into a global power with leadership aspirations – while maintaining an air of both fascination and mystery.
Reason enough for us to take a closer look at the ‘China phenomenon’. Even if it is unusual for akzente to focus on just one country. Especially since Germany’s traditional development cooperation with China ended in 2009. Our rationale is that, as a development organisation that operates across the world, China’s ambitions often affect us directly. Whether in development projects in Africa, in global climate change mitigation, or in international trade or supranational health issues – without listening to and recognising China’s perspective, it will not be possible to find solutions to the major challenges of our time. It is therefore all the more important, in our opinion, to take a closer look at this still widely unknown actor on the international stage; critically and sympathetically, but also objectively and discerningly. And to refrain from jumping to the same, often short-sighted conclusions. We hope that this issue of akzente can contribute to this.
China expert Professor Eberhard Sandschneider explores the misconceptions and illusions about the country in his analytical essay. One of his conclusions is that China will not allow itself to be stopped or limited. He therefore recommends engaging with this internationally active and self-assured nation in as informed and constructive a way as possible. And, from GIZ’s perspective, I would like to add in this context: while actively upholding our values and, where necessary, defending them.
To cast as wide a light as possible on China, this issue’s ‘In focus’ section includes not only an essay on the country, but also an interview with Chinese economist Zheng Han as well as a report on electro-mobility and countless surprising views, facts and figures about China and its people. We hope this will open your eyes to one or two new and perhaps surprising things about China. Because, in the words of the Chinese philosopher Confucius: to think and not study is dangerous.