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China Looks to Technology, Diplomacy for Future

The People's Republic of China has come a long way since its founding in 1949, going from an impoverished state to an economic powerhouse. In the coming years, many Chinese expect technology and greater international involvement to establish their country as a world leader.

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In thinking about where modern China is headed, it is important to recognize how far it has come. Since the late 1970s, China has been moving on a path of economic growth and development that has lifted half a billion people out of poverty.

Now its big coastal cities are filled with gleaming high-rises and factories that churn out clothes and computers. As the country celebrates the 60th anniversary of the modern republic, the government is looking to encourage similar growth in the rest of the nation.

Business leaders and economists say most of China's new growth will come in smaller inland cities and underdeveloped rural areas. And the government wants much of that growth to be based on technology - everything from new green energy sources to computers to pharmaceuticals.

China media expert Rebecca MacKinnon says telecommunications is one industry that could fuel growth. She says Beijing is encouraging the roll-out of new generation 3G mobile services. The Chinese government and industry see the Internet as a big opportunity.

"It's not that the government fears peasants going online, it wants everybody to go online because that's going to make one heck of a lot of money for China's telecommunications sector," she said. "This is really interesting because not only is the Chinese Communist Party planning to survive in spite of the Internet, it's planning to survive because of the Internet."

MacKinnon says China's ambition extends beyond domestic growth. She says the government hopes China will develop innovative technology that it can sell to other developing countries.

With new economic power, and a growing ability to influence multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, China is becoming a leader for the developing world.

China is calling for better representation for developing countries in global economic institutions. Currently developing countries hold only 43 percent of the voting shares in the International Monetary Fund, and 44 percent for the World Bank. Assistant Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao thinks this should be changed.

He says developed and developing countries should each have equal voting shares in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

At the same time, China says that developed and developing countries have very different responsibilities on other issues.

One example is reducing carbon emissions. President Hu Jintao has said China would generate 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources within a decade, but the government still has not set binding targets. China says it will not sign any deal until developed countries promise to subsidize developing countries' carbon-reducing efforts.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke spoke in Beijing recently about the hazards of China's position.

"It's been said that it's unjust to ask China and other developing nations to drastically reduce their carbon emissions, when countries like the United States have spent 150 years using coal, oil and other dirty fuels to grow their economies," he said. "That's an understandable point, but one of no concern to Mother Nature. She doesn't discriminate between carbon that comes from the United States or China, Europe or India."

Secretary Locke says fighting climate change will create jobs and provide opportunities to develop and sell new technology. He calls that a "win-win" situation, which would be good for China's future and good for the world.