The Chinese people should be very proud of the civilization their ancestors have created. It is a huge contribution to the world. And we have not even fully recognized how big a contribution it is, as the values of many things the Chinese have created have yet to be discovered.
However, somehow, the Chinese have lost their pride. They feel such a great need to prove that they are actually not inferior, that they can be as wealthy, powerful, and militarily strong as everyone else.
Not everything can be bought, and not every problem has a military solution (I agree with Obama on this one). Your contribution to the world is not measured by the amount of wealth you have been able to accumulate. Your pride is in what you have contributed to the world, not how big a share of the world’s wealth you have been able to secure.
Just because other people do not know what is good about what the Chinese have created does not mean that the Chinese should forget about what they have and try to measure themselves up against other people’s standards.
In keeping with the thousands of years of Chinese tradition of providing solutions to all kinds of problems the human race has faced, China should continue working on finding solutions to new problems the human race is facing, rather than try to prove that China is superior and deserves more.
The belligerent China you see today is not the China with thousands of years of civilization. China has been ruled by “northern barbarians” (if I may use this phrase the same way they use the phrase “southern barbarians” to refer to people from southern China and Vietnam) for the last few hundred years. They were not the people who created the Chinese civilization. They conquered China and became the rulers of China. Like Western rulers and perhaps all other rulers, they are more greedy and less creative . And they look down on creative people because creative people are usually not as wealthy. They value wealth more than creativity. They have not learned the core values in the Chinese culture, yet.
Xi Jin Ping is only partially correct to say that China is peaceful and that “there’s no gene for invasion in Chinese people’s blood”. (I am just quoting. I do not think there is any gene for invasion. How to handle things is a cultural thing, not a genetic thing, although northern people are generally more energetic and so more aggressive than southern people.) Not all Chinese are aggressive and unreasonable, only some. But they are the ones who are at least dominating the Chinese media and the Internet forums right now. And as we have found out in the past, what is said repeatedly in the media is what guide people’s actions. That’s is why China is aggressive rather than peaceful as some Chinese would hope or as the Chinese leadership is insisting.
One thing the Chinese on various Internet forums like to do is to insult Vietnam and Vietnamese, anyway they can, to the point that they are insulting themselves while trying to insult Vietnam.
One of the insults they have repeatedly tried to throw at Vietnam is that Vietnam forgot the fact that China had helped Vietnam to drive the Americans out of Vietnam. What they themselves forget is why China helped Vietnam to drive Americans out of Vietnam in the first place. Even now, China still does not hope to see Americans back in Vietnam.
Another insult they try to throw at Vietnam is that Vietnam is now letting Americans back in after having fought so hard to drive them out. Is China off limit to Americans now? China has shaken hands with the Americans since 1972. China has received huge amount of investment and is still hoping to receive huge amount of investment from the US. Why is it a shame for Vietnam to have any relationship with the US?
The Chinese on the Internet are like insult generators which are throwing insults non-stop. There is not much that they can contribute to a debate. What is worse, they generate a lot of ill wills toward China by throwing insults at other people. Is it what the Chinese have been trying to build their country up for – so they can insult other people? I guess the Chinese have been feeling greatly humiliated by some people and have been trying hard to improve their status so they can humiliate other people to gain some sort of psychological balance.
It may seem oversimplifying to say China under Xi and Li is similar to US under Bush and Cheney. But there are indeed quite many similarities between the two. Domestically, housing prices in China are forbiddingly high for most working people. Internationally, China is bullying weaker countries that happen to be in conflict of interest with China.* Both of these two problems will hinder China’s development into the most powerful country in the world, as China has desired, just as similar problems have brought US down from being the most powerful country in the world.
So now, we have a world in which these two countries are both quite strong, but neither is strong enough to lead the other. There will be sort of a breakdown in world order. Since they have both been proven to be undeserving of the title of a world leader, we have to look elsewhere for world leadership. UN member countries will have to be more assertive, more proactive. We can not wait for a big country to lead. Smaller countries doing the right things and being united will be able to lead the world also.
* Japan is weak in China’s eyes because of Japan’s bad past reputation which resulted from Japan’s past aggression, and Japan’s bad current reputation which resulted from the Japanese government’s refusal to acknowledge Japan’s wartime past.
A lot has been said about China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi’s trip to Hanoi. While it is good that they have at least met and talked, one day of talk is not going to get a dispute that has been around for so long settled. At the most, what they were able to accomplish was to make their accusations right in front of each other, not in the absence of each other. However, I guess that is where it has to start.
I am not sure if they will really be able to settle their disputes among themselves though. China has always had a strong sense of superiority and entitlement over Vietnam. With that, it is hard for China to go into a negotiation with the right attitude. So I doubt it that any dispute will ever be settled among themselves.
For China and any ASEAN country to settle any dispute among themselves, China needs to see the settling of disputes as opportunities to build relationships that will benefit both countries, not as opportunities to get rid of problems for China and get what China want. If everything China does is only aiming at benefiting China, very soon, the world will run out of things for China to grab. You have to grow vegetables to have vegetables to harvest.
I do not think so. I do not think the disputes between China and ASEAN countries should remain a power struggle as they have been from start. China has been wrong to think that she can just ignore the laws and her ASEAN neighbors’ protests because she is so much stronger than them militarily. It will also be wrong to force China into settling the disputes with her neighbors with the threat of the use of force by the US or Japan. Two wrongs do not make a right here also.
What is needed is for the world community – the UN – to stress the rule of laws – to urge China to respect the laws and her ASEAN neighbors. If we only rely on the threat of the use of force, China will continue seeing it as a power struggle. She will not feel right to be forced into accepting something. She will either not accept it or accept it without seeing what her mistake was.
By the way, to understand how China’s action in the dispute between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea is against the laws, please read this article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non profit organization in Washington DC.: China-Vietnam Tensions High over Drilling Rig in Disputed Waters.
A lot of people do not understand why China is pushing Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, countries that are in partial control of strategically important regions in the Pacific, into the arms of Uncle Sam, the very one who China is accusing of stirring up tensions in the Asia Pacific region.
In fact, the reason is very simple, and that could be why people can not believe that is it. China simply does not have respect for these countries (probably because they are much smaller and they are Asian – Asians are target of discrimination everywhere, even more so in Asia). All China can see is that these countries are in her way, but that she should not have to tiptoe around them, and that she can just demand that they must respect her.
You can not look at it from an intelligent perspective. You can not judge whether it is smart or stupid for China to do so. It has to do with emotion, not intelligence. China is being driven by passion rather than guided by wisdom, just like the US was, under the leadership of George W. Bush, when it invaded Iraq, except that the US did it in the name of helping the Iraqis.
The Chinese, who are subjects of discrimination by all kinds of people, are rather prejudiced themselves. In fact, most people I know are prejudiced. People’s views of other peoples are shaped by their own experience, what they are told by others that they know, the media, and their governments’ propaganda. When you check against this list, you can find it easy to understand why people in one country can be very prejudiced against people in another country.
A lot of Chinese are trying to convince the Vietnamese that unless Vietnam has Russia or the US as her protector, she will not be able to fight against China, that having the US as her protector will be bad for Vietnam given the past and present relationships between Vietnam and the US, and that Russia will not come to Vietnam’s defense any more.
But Vietnam did not have a protector for the roughly one thousand years when China tried to conquer Vietnam, and yet China failed to conquer Vietnam. So why does Vietnam need to have a protector now?
I wonder why China’s education in humanities and social sciences is so behind that the Chinese are now still holding all these ancient believes concerning how the world should operate.
The world has come up with so many new mechanisms to deal with all kinds of social problems and conflicts, including setting up international bodies such as the UN. And yet, the Chinese are still handling things with a very old mindset. I guess as long as they continue to move up in the rankings on many fronts, they do not find the need to update their knowledge in how to handle things in the world, yet.
A common mistake lots of people make is that they think they can pay for everything, including security and obedience. That was why the US had the confidence to have started so many wars. We have seen how the huge amount of money the US has spent on the wars, including the “war on terror”, has not brought the security and obedience that the US has desired.
Now the Chinese are making a similar mistake in the dispute with Vietnam in the South China Sea. They think that they can buy everything, even sovereignty. They have been stubbornly hoping against hope that Vietnam will cede her territory as long as she gets a share of the profits from oil drilling, and have been making their obsession with this idea known through the media and postings on various Internet forums.
China may just see oil in the part of the sea being in dispute with Vietnam. But Vietnam may see fish in there. And, while oil can be depleted, fishing is forever. To China and Vietnam, that part of the sea simply means different things. If you see something as your livelihood, it is hard to let go of it. It is hard to measure it in terms of money.
What also makes it difficult for China to pay for some of the islands being in dispute with Vietnam is that China got some of those islands by killing scores of Vietnamese (over 100 of them in total). Although people now have insurances to pay for their death, it is still quite hard to measure anybody’s life in terms of money. In the meantime, death has the power to galvanize people like nothing else. No amount of money can make people forget about it.
By the way, sometimes I wonder if the Chinese really think that they can buy sovereignty or they just want to shame the Vietnamese into dropping some of their claims in the South China Sea altogether. That is another false hope by the Chinese. Since Vietnam did not press their claims just to get a share of the profits from oil drilling, there is no way China can shame Vietnam into dropping the claims. You can not force a shame onto someone else. Shame can only result from an action that has been taken by oneself. Vietnam has never asked for a share of the profits from oil drilling. How can anyone be ashamed of something that she has never done?
You can say that the Chinese are now just imitating what Westerners did at the first half of the last century. Look at the image below of a sign in front of a restaurant in Beijing, the capital of China. By the way, does it want to remind people of what kind of insult the Chinese receive in their own country in the first half of the last century? Do these Chinese think that the insult the Chinese received back then was acceptable?
I guess money can not buy decency or civility or intelligence, just as money can not buy happiness.
What should be noted is that this kind of uncivilized behavior is actually the result of the use of derogative language by the Chinese government when criticizing Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. In China, there seem to be little distinction between official diplomatic language and Internet chat room language. If government officials, who dominate the air waves and the Internet news, can not lead in civility, who can?