Sascha Matuszak: New War May Reveal New Superpower

On this 52nd anniversary of the founding of this magnificent nation, not much transpired. Girls dressed up as they always do and pranced around this or that stage. Men toasted each other, bought stuffed toys for 200 yuan, pretending to be rich. Pink ballons were the rave this time around. The balloon hawkers stared into the night and waited for the revelers to pour out of the clubs and another chance to make a few yuan. Dirty young girls and boys followed me around trying to sell flowers on the main sqaure. Don't worry, the cripples and the flower hawkers will be gone by Wednesday, said a police officer. They don't fit in with the celebration.

The Chongqing Public Security Office was very busy putting the stamp on outgoing visas last week. People were headed to South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and Hawaii. Chinese have a little money these days and they must be tired of watching foreigners walk by with huge bags and cameras while they sit and make noodles, cook pork and play mah jiong.

The Midautumn Festival fell on the same night as National Day this year and CCTV made sure we all knew it as they aired the same tired celebrations – the old recycled costumes, dances, songs, speeches – that are always shown and re-shown every holiday and every weekend. The celebrations competed with the report that Jiang Ze Min and Pakistani President Musharraf spoke on the telephone.

This report was aired every hour on the hour until I could recite Jiang Ze Min's statements of solidarity and coopoeration in the Central Asia. China also provided Pakistan with 10 million RMB (about $1.3 million) as a token of appreciation and friendship. The two countries have a lucrative trade in arms going as well as several joint-projects, including port facilities and a railroads.

This strong relationship has made China a key player and a potential source of information in the new war. The US has even decided to ignore Shenzhen-based Zhongxing Telecom and Huawei Technologies work in Kabul, Iraq and Serbia. Seems the new war extends only so far – aiding and abetting are restricted for Muslims while Beijing dismisses reports of cooperation as "working level" relationships.

Perhaps China is the new indispensable nation. Businessmen here are taking English courses in record numbers in anticipation of the foreign businesses which are soon to arrive. As China is a new WTO member, these businesses will have unprecedented access to Chinese markets deep in the interior as well as along the coast. The accession process shows that China is a special case: requirements strictly enforced on other countries were waived and a grace period for many key industries was established to allow China time to absorb all the incoming foreigners. Agricultural subsidies actually increased under the WTO agreement.The terms of the agreement, no matter what US politicians say, were set by the Chinese.

There aren't many countries out there that can build fibreoptic lines in Kabul and Baghdad, sell fruit at really low prices, sell arms to Pakistan and dictate terms to the US. But the New World Order is slowly taking shape and China – although politically still spouting laughable lines about Mao Ze Dong Thought, Deng Xiao Ping Theory and Jiang Ze Min's incomprehensible Three Representations – will be at once a strong ally and a strong rival.

The people are already spending big money, talking about big money and taking trips every chance they get. Tourist spots in the past reserved for foreigners and tour groups are seeing increased numbers of families, couples, documentary filmmakers, freelance photographers, travel journalists along with the businessmen.

Chinese never thought of themselves as inferior, no matter how poor how backward the cities of the West may be. Now this feeling is acquiring beef in the form of affluent Chinese doing what the foreigners do. I met an 18 year old girl who spoke perfect Englsih and very good Italian. She'd traveled all over Europe and spent a summer in the States. If this girl were American, I'd have been surprised but not overly so. The fact that she's from South Chongqing, a very poor part of town, makes her story astounding.

I told my students that their children would be doing the things I am doing now, traveling around and working in different countries, learning different languages. But now I believe it will be much sooner than that.

This new war has changed the face of the world. Rumsfeld has finally found his Satan and the Armies of Light and Darkness can now be assembled. America is searching the globe and marking out enemies and allies and neutrals. Where China stands will be of great importance. Chinese are increasingly rich and with this wealth comes increased confidence, optimism and nationalism.

These sentiments do not make for a lapdog like Britain. They are the ingredients of a superpower.

Sascha Matuszak

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