Wednesday, April 27, 2005
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Open Chinese nationalism thread
I've been remiss in not posting about the surge of anti-Japan protests in China over the past ten days or so, and the official Chinese reaction, which ranged from tacit support at the outset to a hasty, clumsy effort to assuage the Japanese and characterize the protests as part of an evil plot to undermine the Communist Party.
Comment away on the implications. I will only make one observation -- the Chinese government has been extraordinarily maladroit over the past six months. Until recently, the government was keenly aware about the geopolitical anxiety caused in the Asia-Pacific region by its growing economic and military strength. Being a rising, somewhat opaque power is tricky terrain for any state to navigate. Post-9/11, the Chinese had been pretty deft, tolerating the U.S. focus on the Middle East while pointing out to its neighbors, Europe, and even Africa the value of close economic relations with Beijing. Chinese academics have labeled this the "peaceful rising" strategy.
However, in the past six months, the Chinese government has:
I'm curious to see how both the Chinese and the other countries in the region will respond.
Developing....posted by Dan on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM
I agree. China made some strategic missteps this year that have undermined its attempt (real or put-on) at a "peaceful rise." Its move towards Taiwan before the Europeans had finalized the decision to lift the arms embargo might have reflected some cockiness in their underlying position.
What's interesting with these recent protests is whether or not the Chinese can control the forces of nationalism once they are unleashed. Recent paper reports suggest the Chinese are now blaiming the protests on efforts to undermine the Communist Party.
I'm sure Robert Kaplan's piece in the Atlantic on how the U.S. would prosecute a war against the Chinese will provide grist for the mill in the debate between those wanting to take a hard-line vis a vis China and those who believe buttressing the benign forces in China through engagement is a wiser course of action.
In any case, these geo-strategic questions are also overshadowed by currency and energy market questions. Will the Chinese begin to diversify away from dollars to Euros? Will they revalue their currency? Will any or all of these actions precipitate a hard landing in the U.S. economy with broader ramifications for the rest of the world? http://www.roubiniglobal.com/archives/2005/04/greenspan_on_th.html
On the energy front, soaring demand in China for petroleum is leading to a scramble for new reserves and alliances, with the Chinese cozying up to Sudan, Venezuela, Iran, among others. What will Chinese competition over energy do to prices? Will their be broader conflicts with the U.S. and China over competition for resources?
Still other big issues out there with China on textile quotas and the end of the multi-fiber agreement.
The focus on terrorism over the last few years has diverted our attention from developments in China and the region, and I think we are now seeing a readjustment to reflect China's rising significance. Prudence probably demands some careful straddling so as not to coddle the Chinese for egregious expansionism without giving in to hyper-protectionism or aggressive posturing on our own side that seems to bolster the hands of retrograde elements in China's CP.
The Chinese still want to make a good impression before the Olympics in 2008!
I agree completely that the Chinese government has been behaving in an extra-ordinarily ham-fisted way and has hurt ifself badly by its actions over Taiwan. Europe might have agreed to give it arms, now thats not going to happen. I wonder if its related to internal power struggles within the party ?
However, the Chinese government did recently take some major steps to improve its relations with India. So thats one piece of diplomacy that did seem to work for China.
As an aside, I really cannot figure out which is more disgusting: the general refusal of the Japanese government to face up to its disgraceful actions in WW-II, or the even more blatant refusal of the Chinese government to face up to the mass horrors of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
Maybe this is reason the Chinese Communist Party has suffered one million resignations in the last 6 months. See http://english.epochtimes.com/news/5-4-27/28205.htmlposted by: John O on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
While the anti-Japanese demonstrations look scary to us, they might not look so scary to China's near neighbors, who share the Chinese fear of Japanese domination.
This could be a somewhat calculated attempt to deflect Japanese (and therefore partially American) influence while not enraging (and possibly gaining the sympathy of) China's near neighbors like Korea and Vietnam.posted by: Bob McGrew on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
posted by: Ashish Hanwadikar on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Given that China's attack on Vietnam (in 1979) was a heck of a lot more recent than Japan's, I'm not sure why Vietnamese would side with China rather than Japan.
Also, the notion that these mobs on the street represent some way of sneaking in democracy is deluded. Mobs on the street are just that -- mobs. Mobs can be either evil, good or somewhere in between. In this case, the mobs were resorting to violence against an action (Japanese occupation) that while evil, lies in the past and does not warrant violence today. That makes it a rowdy, uncontrolled group of people, not a vanguard of democracy.
The only reason the Chinese began to crack down a little on the mobs was because a) The Japanese had apologized b) The mobs were hurting the economy which is the new God for China.
I don't know where this ridiculous notion that mobs are somehow good and great came from. Yes, a mob can be good when it helps to overthrow a Georgian dictator, it can be neutral ot it can be actively misguided and bad.posted by: erg on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
"prosecute a war against the Chinese"
Okay, now we know that Robert Kaplan has lost the plot.
I suggest everyone here review Clash of Civilizations. What did Prof. Huntington say, we'd have trouble with two civilizations, Islamic and 'Sinic'. Man, what a prediction. Dr. Drezner was absoluuuuuutely correct when he said that if there was a nobel prize for Poli Sci, Huntington would have won it.
Oh, the real stinger is that Hungtington classes Japan as a 'bandwagon' civilization if I remember right. Sooner or later they will follow their big, confucion brother's lead.posted by: gwai lo on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
All three of your comments on the Chinese government began with "Looked..." implying that perception means something. Perception means little nowadays. And to the Chinese, it means nothing.
Recent example of the unimportance of perception- Wolfowitz to the World Bank.posted by: No von Mises on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
I think it's time for the PRC government
And before the PRC invades Taiwan, it
Then again, the PRC still illegally
Well, maybe a boycott of PRC Universities
The protests took place about a half mile from where I live. It seemed clear enough that the government was somehow involved considering the police presence here and the fact that its China.
Considering the level of violence when the Japanese football team beat the Chinese on a questionable call at the Worker's Stadium here last year, there really wasn't much violence to speak of and most Chinese people I talked to about it had no idea what it was about.
That being said however there are few Chinese who will stick up for Japan. They aren't quite as overheated as they can be about Taiwan, but nobody likes or trusts the Japanese. Interestingly, this doesn't come out on a personal level ie Chinese and Japanese get along quite well in social or business settings, but in the abstract all Chinese feel that Japan hasn't sufficiently atoned for their WWII sins.
How this will affect their politics isn't clear. Again, from my experience (and with another 1.3 billion people that I haven't met this should be taken with a grain of salt) people don't have a lot of respect for the government. Nobody sees a pressing need to change, especially since things are so much better now than they were, but also no one thinks that they aren't ruled by a bunch of corrupt autocrats. They just think that on balance they do more good than harm on the big questions.
There is also a growing divide between the city and country people which would make any sort of nationwide consensus almost impossible. The rich people in the cities feel sorry for the poor in the countryside, but they also see them living in their cities and causing a good deal of the crime and inconveniences that lower the quality of city life.posted by: Karl on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Can you ever carry out a discussion on external affairs without bringing your own political biases into it ? In any case, you're delufed.
In fact, a lot of Hollywood liberal types oppose China over Tibet. Remember Kevin Costner's film that was banned in China ? By contrast, it was Murdoch that bowed to China for commercial reasons.
Similarly, few other people talk much about Tibet. Not conservatives, not liberals, nobody.posted by: erg on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Can you ever carry out a discussion on external affairs without bringing your own political biases into it ? In any case, you're delufed.
In fact, a lot of Hollywood liberal types oppose China over Tibet. Remember Kevin Costner's film that was banned in China ? By contrast, it was Murdoch that bowed to China for commercial reasons.posted by: erg on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
On the local front, see:posted by: BoreAmerica on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
"Can you ever carry out a discussion on
No. I seriously doubt anyone else can
Well, you can see where I'm going with
erg also said:
"In any case, you're delufed."
It's good to know someone else can't speel :-}
My gripe was directed against (and I
Your example of "Hollywood liberal types ...
But Academia in general cares little about
And, just to make you happy, I readily
(Don't even get me started on something
posted by: Ted on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Well, we're trying to have an apolitical discussion here on the growth of China's hypernationalism. If you just want to use it to toss around flamebait about liberals, thats your choice but maybe you'll be better served on Free Republic.
And in your original post
Let me amend that
I could also replace "right wing business" with George Bush above, and 'them' with 'he'.
That'll give you an idea how silly your comment was. Incidentally, while I'm certainly no expert on left-wing academics in general, I believe most gave up on China long, long ago, because they don't consider it to be a true Marxist state (which is true -- its more of a 1 party dictatorship with a vibrant capitalist economy and some old socialist industries).
Delufed--> past participle of 'delufe', the act of removing, extracting, or depleting lufa (aka loofah), as in "the reef around Iraklios was delufed, as sponge divers where encouraged by traders to supply the newly opened China market.' (Filipe Cousteau, 1992)posted by: gwai lo on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Q:"I'm curious to see how both the Chinese and the other countries in the region will respond."
A: With naval shipbuilding.posted by: Tommy G on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
As a Chinese resident who personally witnessed the marches in Shanghai, I believe Karl's assessment of the situation is spot on. Many of the upper-middle class Shanghaiese I spoke to were quite cynical about the regime's motives, yet feel that so long as they're given a certain degree of economic autonomy they'll keep their mouths shut.
Will these change? Yes, but not anytime soon. I don't see China going the way of Ukraine, Russia, or Kyrgyzstan. Gradually, the generations that remember how bad things were during The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution will die, leaving those that only recall the relatively prosperous years in power. As these events were only three or four decades ago, it might take awhile for that to happen.
In the meantime, only a major economic crisis or a mass peasant uprising will threaten the CCP's grip on power. We'll just have to kick back and wait and see.posted by: MattSchiavenza on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
A Chinese friend of mine once discussed the "inscrutible Chinese" cliche, and he told me that Chinese people are quite "scrutible" once one adopts a less-"Western" mindset. One should look not at the surface of acts by Chinese to discern their meaning, especially when the government does things that don't make a lot of obvious sense. Instead, try a figure out what message is being sent, or what the actions foreshadow....
To that end my favorite theory re: the surge in Chinese patriotism/nationalism (and why are American's 'patiotic', while everyone we don't like is 'nationalistic'?) is that the government sees patriotism/nationalism as a means of control. The existence/creation/exaggeration of an external threat makes it easier for the government to act in ways that would be otherwise unpopular, and makes it easier to demand sacrifices from citizens.
And China's Taiwan law may be "diplomatic" ways of signalling to the USA to back off on threats against North Korea (its "Taiwan law" can be seen as mini-Monroe Doctrine, which China declaring its right to control its sphere of influence).posted by: p.lukasiak on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
Who Does China Think It Is Fooling?
Apparently, quite a few people. This controversy is centered around two issues: the revision of history, and deference to victims. By fostering these nationalistic protests China's stance is this -- the downgrading of Japanese atrocities committed in World War II from massacres to incidents constitutes an affront to those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese occupation.
But, I find it ironic that the Chinese government, who themselves censor their press and distort their history books, believe that the Japanese doing so is something atrocious. The CCP has no right to claim moral outrage at the official bias present in another country's history books until it clears the official bias in its own.
Which brings us back to the question: well, if they're being hypocritical, surely they must justify their hypocrisy with some compelling rationale. And indeed, they try to. Instead of claiming the moral high ground that comes with a free and open society where events and their impact are debated, and citizens can pursue their own paths to self-realization China is claiming the right of the victim.
Victims are never wrong, and to attempt to defend any party that has committed a heinous crime against humanity leaves one open to the charge of sympathizer, and misanthrope.
But what of the victims of China's own atrocities -- those it commits against itself? The millions of victims who fell to famine during the Mao years, a famine which never got any official attention in the Chinese press, let alone their history books, remain unsung to this day. No one weeps for them, the Chinese do not text each other to stage protests over their government's neglect of such an important event, and yet we in the international community, who can call attention to this disjoint, are similarly glossing over such blatant hypocrisy and browbeating the Japanese for not owning up their past errors. This seems to me a grave injustice and one that ought to be rectified.posted by: Daren on 04.27.05 at 12:44 PM [permalink]
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