Chinese academic Zi Zhongyun (資中筠) once lamented how little China had changed over the previous 100 years. In the late 1800s, the country was controlled by the empress dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) and the Boxer rebels. With the recent nationalist campaigns against South Korea and South Korea’s Lotte Group, their modern-day heirs have entered the stage.
Beijing has often tried to unite its people by playing the anti-imperialist card and retelling its history of being ravaged by Western imperialist powers. However, it has never felt the need to reflect on its own history of invading and bullying countries.
Even today, when dealing with South Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar and other neighbors, Beijing cannot hide its arrogance, as if it were still the suzerain it was during the Qing Dynasty.
In a naked threat to South Korea, a Chinese state-owned media outlet said: Considering its “extremely limited resources, over-developed domestic markets, total reliance on exports and political chaos, this peninsular country is allowing the US to take advantage of it while offering itself up as cannon fodder, offending China and Russia, befriending distant countries and attacking close neighbors, exerting itself for the sake of someone else without getting anything for it.”
Meanwhile, Beijing claims it has a number of countermeasures against Seoul’s installation of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, including a high-level personnel reshuffle, terminating economic cooperation and increasing diplomatic pressure, adding that “every single one of these measures could turn the clock back 10 to 20 years in South Korea.”
A Chinese state-owned media outlet even tried to intimidate South Korea by saying it should heed the last words of Qin Dynasty prime minister Li Si (李斯), who — before he was executed by being cut in half in Xianyang City — famously said that he wished he could go rabbit hunting with his son and hound in his hometown.
Whatever the powerful do, others will follow. In China, where people are expected to be patriotic regardless of age, even children have to show their love for the country.
Several elementary schools in China have organized large-scale “anti-Lotte” demonstrations, mobilizing all faculty members and students. At those events, elementary-school students shout slogans such as “refuse snacks, boycott Lotte, love China.”
Their voices — childish, but loud as thunder — can be heard from far away and for days. If the South Koreans flirting in TV shows heard those sharp and long cries, they would probably be shivering, scared to death.
Cixi and the Boxer rebels failed to eliminate all Westerners and anyone thought to be related to the West. They only brought more calamity and humiliation upon themselves and China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who appears determined to make China one of the world’s great powers, has called on the entire population to “roll up their sleeves” and work on bettering the nation, but can his patriotic followers help him achieve his goal?
Bluff and bluster is not going to make South Korea submit to China, and threatening to kill will definitely not earn Beijing any respect from other nations.
If the Chinese Communist Party were to mobilize the public to rob a Lotte Mart, many would happily oblige, because who would not love to be called patriotic when stealing and robbing?