As China has grown in power, many have sensed the disturbing anger that it shows. This anger saw two publications, China Can Say No and Unhappy China — both exuding a pathological nationalism and demonizing other countries — become national best sellers. To quell concerns other countries may have about this anger, China first said its rise to power was to be a peaceful one and then later turned around to say that it was not going through a peaceful rise to power at all, but was instead merely experiencing peaceful development.
Many people believe that only a very small number of extremists in China harbor this anger and that because the Chinese leaders are extremely aware of it themselves, they will continue following former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) policy of “hiding one’s capacities and biding one’s time.”
Former Chinese minister of foreign affairs Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) recently questioned where the talk about China’s rise to power has been coming from. Li asked how China could be considered to have risen to power given that it ranks 94th in the world in terms of GNP per capita and 83rd in terms of life expectancy. He added that all the talk about China’s rise to power was an attempt by other countries to place China on a pedestal from which they could knock it down whenever it suited them.
While Li’s remarks may have eased the minds of some people, we have witnessed the way China has been acting over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台). It has been in total opposition with many of its neighbors over the islands, as well as with the US. It has also shown total opposition to countries traditionally viewed as being “strong” and “imperial” like Japan and the US, as well as with countries traditionally viewed as being “small” and “weak” like the Philippines and Vietnam.
China’s extreme opposition has shown everyone just how “angry” it and its rise to power truly are. This also reflects how the concept of China’s “angry” rise to power has grown from being an idea proposed by a few extremists into an extremely proud mindset that now dictates the nation’s international policies and actions.
Beijing says that tensions are being caused by the US, which, in its attempts to contain China, is encouraging the restoration of Japanese militarism, as well as the use of “weaker” Asian nations to rebuild the “blockade of island chains” between key strategic islands in the region. Is this really how things are?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, East Asian countries were eager to say goodbye to the unhappiness caused by the Cold War and the old world order. Although the US had no intention of fully removing its troops from East Asia, countries in the strategically important island chains had their own ideas.
In 1991-1992, after protest from the Philippines, the US first withdrew from Clark Air Base and then its naval base in the Subic Bay in Luzon. From 1998 to 2008, former South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun promoted pro-China and anti-US policies, as well as policies of reconciliation with North Korea. During this time, South Korea and the US got into heated disputes over the construction of military bases and the command over forces in the South.
In 2009, the Cabinet of former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed developing closer ties with East Asian nations, with Japan falling out somewhat with the US over the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa.