A long time ago, it was customary for representatives of states to pay tribute to the Chinese emperor, who “ruled all under heaven.” The tributary system, as it was known, “acknowledged” China’s place at the center of everything. From a Chinese perspective, everything outside China was lower in the hierarchy.
For a number of reasons, including politics and geography, China lost steam around the time that Europe, led by Britain, embarked on the Industrial Revolution. Warlordism and colonialism ensured that for the next 200 years or so, China would stay behind while the West, and then Japan, modernized.
This period turned into an existential wound for the Chinese, and in it lie the seeds of its behavior as it rises anew. Nationalism is not enough to explain the sense of exceptionalism that characterizes the Chinese leadership’s view of itself. Something more, something fundamental, perhaps stemming from its thousands of years as a civilization, is behind this.
Whenever Beijing claims that the actions of others are “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people,” it taps into that feeling of Chinese greatness.
The modern age, however, cannot easily accommodate the tributary system of old that Beijing seems keen on resuscitating. For one, the world has transformed and, in theory, if not application, the global system is no longer regulated by a hierarchy based on biology or theology — in other words, no “race” is paramount and no head of state is godlike.
This raises questions about the willingness of many heads of state to countenance Chinese exceptionalism, which is giving rise to a neo-tributary system on a global scale. Rather than treat China as an equal, states bend over backwards to avoid “angering” it, and in so doing encourage more childishness.
For obvious reasons, China should be embraced as a major developing nation and given a place at the table that is commensurate with its importance. It is in no one’s interest, however, to inflate Beijing’s sense of importance. What China needs as it continues its rise is a degree of humility, but this will only develop if other nations maintain their dignity.
When US President Barack Obama gives Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama the cold shoulder (the first time since 1991 that a US president will not meet the spiritual leader while he is in Washington) lest meeting him anger Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) ahead of the Obama-Hu meeting next month, it sends the wrong signal. If there is one place where the president of the most powerful country in the world should do as he chooses, it is on US soil.
The same could be said of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who snubbed the Dalai Lama during his trip to Taiwan last month, or of Taiwan’s — and now perhaps New Zealand’s — refusal to allow Uighur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer to visit.
China’s rise is extraordinary, if not unprecedented. But there is nothing supernatural about it, nor is it a symbol of superiority — Han Chinese chauvinism notwithstanding. China’s rise also comes at great cost: grave human rights violations, environmental degradation and support for repressive regimes.
The more accommodating the world is to Beijing’s sense of superiority, and the more it tries not to anger China, the greater China’s tendency will be to regard itself as above criticism.
There is no reason why Obama should not meet the Dalai Lama. Unless he, too, is willing to kowtow before the Chinese emperor.
An old Latin adage reads: Si vis pacem, para bellum. Translated it means: “If you wish peace, then prepare for war.” This adage has many variants and claims to authorship, but what is most important is its message for a peaceful Taiwan. Why should Taiwan prepare for war? The reasons are many and obvious. Certainly, such preparation is not because Taiwan wants war or is a warlike nation. Instead, the answer is found in its neighbor, China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a one-party state, is ambitious and troubled — and that combination makes war a viable option,
Unless Hollywood movies like Greenland, Deep Impact, and Armageddon have predictive powers and a rogue space rock is heading our way, stopping Chinese Communist Party expansionism is likely to prove the single most challenging and dangerous problem of our lifetimes. How can the United States, Taiwan, and other liberal democracies prepare for and prevent attacks from China? How can Washington bolster Taipei’s confidence when it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a real country and, so far, lacks the political will to make major adjustments to its ossified China policy and Taiwan policy? How can Taiwan make itself heard on the world stage when
Hypersonic weapons are defined as armaments capable of traveling at speeds faster than Mach 5 and can be broadly classified into two types: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The former are launched into the upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles. The vehicle is then separated from the booster to maneuver, or glide, toward its target. The latter can be launched from a jet plane or rocket to reach supersonic speed before igniting a scramjet engine to achieve hypersonic speeds. As the US engages in a great-power competition with China and Russia, all three countries are racing to field hypersonic
As a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, I frequently get asked how quickly the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might overrun Taiwan if it invaded before 2040. My answer is that the PLA will not be able to take over Taiwan within that time frame, because the more eager the PLA is to complete the task in a short period, the more likely it would fail — and fail big. Having a slim chance of winning is what keeps the PLA from taking action. From time to time, some PLA leaders or keyboard fighters make threats — one of the