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Nikkei Editorial

Harmony, not hegemony, is right path forward for China

70th anniversary offers chance to begin moving away from Xi's hawkish stance

Members of the People's Liberation Army march in the 70th anniversary parade in Beijing on Oct. 1.   © Kyodo

In its seven decades of existence, modern China has developed to an astonishing degree. Since the launch of the "reform and opening up" program in 1978, living standards have risen, and the rapid growth that ensued has transformed China into the world's second-largest economy.

But the government's markedly hard-line stance toward other countries under President Xi Jinping has aggravated tensions with the U.S., creating a source of uncertainty in the global economy. Beijing should use its 70th anniversary as an opportunity to place its highest priority on forging a more harmonious relationship with the rest of the world.

In a massive military parade on Oct. 1 in Beijing to mark the occasion, China put its latest intercontinental ballistic missile on public display for the first time. The multiwarhead Dongfeng-41 has sufficient range to strike anywhere in North America. Showcasing this military trump card was a shot across Washington's bow.

But the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear that it will not tolerate Beijing's plans to catch up with America economically and militarily. China's rapid strides in military technology have escalated the two powers' battle for supremacy. Both sides must show self-restraint.

Three decades ago, China stood at a potential crisis point. Beijing violently suppressed protests by students and other pro-democracy activists in June 1989, leaving many dead. The Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany came down five months later, and communist regimes collapsed one after another.

The Chinese Communist Party survived thanks to the double-digit economic expansion created by "reform and opening up" and the spreading of its benefits to the public. Now that the days of meteoric growth are over, China needs stable international relationships to ensure sustained long-term growth.

Xi has called for building a "community of common destiny" with China leading the way. Declaring itself a superpower and charging headlong toward the No. 1 spot, while ruffling the feathers of other nations in the process, is not a smart way to go about it. Beijing would be better off aiming to become a dignified nation respected by the rest of the world.

On Oct. 1, a bullet fired by Hong Kong police during clashes with protesters struck and wounded a high school student. This incident, the first injury from a live round during the demonstrations, has further fueled international concern about the situation.

To keep matters from deteriorating further, China should take the greatest possible care to ensure the "one country, two systems" framework, which grants the territory a high degree of autonomy, is truly working.

Relations between Japan and China, long strained, are now improving. In a video message congratulating China on its 70th anniversary, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touched on an agreement to have Xi visit the country as a state guest during cherry blossom season next year. Regular reciprocal visits will be key to building a stable relationship that is not at the mercy of U.S.-China ties.

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