China

China Meets Its Own Worst Enemy: Itself

Excessive nationalism threatens the country's potential.

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To achieve any ambitious goal, you have to want it badly enough to work and sacrifice. But there is such a thing as trying too hard. Overzealous pursuit of your heart's desire can end up chasing it away.

The Chinese government may be learning that right now. China, a great civilization brought low by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, has long burned to acquire a global stature corresponding to its self-image.

Its transformation from an economic catastrophe to an export machine has made it a much bigger player in world affairs. But sometimes efforts to assert itself generate not respect and cooperation but fear and resistance.

The decision to establish an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea didn't have to set alarm bells clanging from Seoul to Tokyo to Washington. Other countries have their own along their coastlines, and Beijing can make a reasonable case that it's entitled to one as well.

But the Chinese didn't make the case; they just proclaimed it. The change came in such an abrupt and surprising way as to make it impossible for anyone to cheerfully accept. China failed to consult with its neighbors in advance, took in islands long under Japanese jurisdiction and established rules beyond what other countries impose.

In attempting to expand its reach, the regime got its fingers scorched. Japan not only objected vigorously but mobilized support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes 10 of China's neighbors. South Korea carried out military exercises in the area and told its airlines to ignore the Chinese demand.

The U.S. Air Force sent a couple of B-52s rumbling through the space in an ostentatious show of disrespect. President Xi Jinping had to endure the torture of a Joe Biden lecture. Oh, and if Chinese fighters provoke actual combat with their Japanese and American counterparts, they are likely to be shot down.

How does all this make China stronger and more influential? It doesn't. It repels its neighbors and spurs them to band together. It encourages Washington to retain a big military presence in the Pacific. Those in power in Beijing ought to understand as much, because they usually try to avoid steps guaranteed to cheese people off.

Twenty years ago, as China was building up its military and asserting itself in the region, experts feared it would end up going to war with various nearby countries over territorial claims, or that it would use force to keep Taiwan in line. But neither scenario came to pass. China, unlike some countries I could mention, hasn't fought a war since 1979. Taiwan is as independent, in practice, as ever.

Meanwhile, China has worked to behave like an upstanding member of the community of nations—joining the World Trade Organization, channeling aid and investment to Africa, hosting the Olympics and joining efforts to stop North Korea from building nuclear weapons.

This was a huge shift from the militancy of Mao Zedong, who saw himself as the enemy of the West, defied global norms of conduct and occasionally cackled about winning a nuclear war.

But nationalism can warp the government's judgment, as it did this time. China's rulers might take a page from the history of another country that has often played an outsized role in its part of the world: Germany. Or, rather, two pages.

In the early 20th century, Germany aspired to play a larger role in Europe, and it feared being encircled by enemies. But its behavior, such as building a navy to compete with Britain and forging an alliance with Austria-Hungary, stimulated other nations to coalesce against it, which led to defeat in World War I. Its ambitions destroyed its own ends.

After the fall of the Third Reich, by contrast, Germany put aside narrow national interests and made a priority of respecting and accommodating its neighbors. Its once-terrifying military became a servant of the Western alliance. Through humility and restraint, Germany somehow rose to the point that it is now, in the words of a BBC commentator, "Europe's indispensable power."

The Chinese leaders are doubtless familiar with Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli's adage that it is better to be feared than loved. They shouldn't forget the more pertinent advice of an underrated international relations theorist from Nazareth. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, he said, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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88 responses to “China Meets Its Own Worst Enemy: Itself

  1. But nationalism can warp the government’s judgment, as it did this time. China’s rulers might take a page from the history of another country that has often played an outsized role in its part of the world:

    Wait, I got this, you know who else was nationalistic and played an outsized role in its part of the–

    Germany.

    Shit.

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    1. The Austro-Hungarian Empire?

    2. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick?

    3. Portugal in the 1400/1500’s?

  2. After the fall of the Third Reich, by contrast, Germany put aside narrow national interests and made a priority of respecting and accommodating its neighbors.

    It’s not as if they had much choice.

    1. By the way, which Germany was Chapman referring to?

      1. Demokratische Republik Deutschland, naturlich!

        1. Oops….Deutsche Demokratische Republik.

          Mehr Kaffee, jetzt!

          1. That reminds me, I need to paint up some East Germans for a Cold War Gone Hot game in a couple of months.

            1. Didn’t realize Osprey publish a TT game. I, unfortunately, am wedded to the OTHER TT game, wherein being raped on mini prices is an integral part of the game.

  3. An essay on China’s political philosophy behind its policies that doesn’t meantion the Warring States period or Legalism?

    F.

    And I’m grading on a curve.

      1. meantion v To refer to someone disparagingly (“Steve Chapman wouldn’t know Legalism if it kicked him in his dim sums”)

  4. China’s alt-text shortage appears to coming back to bite them too.

  5. Through humility and restraint, Germany somehow rose to the point that it is now, in the words of a BBC commentator, “Europe’s indispensable power.”

    Because Germany is constantly pummeled with WWII guilt, Britain and especially France have managed to get Germany to set aside its national interest in order to play second fiddle to the weaker France in the EU and give tons money to dysfunctional economies like Greece and Spain. Which liberals at the BBC find indispensable. China should be more like that.

    1. Seemed like in the old days, only the West side of Germany had any WWII guilt, and the East rolled along guilt free.

      1. Guilt is such a capitalist thang.

      2. Seemed like in the old days, only the West side of Germany had any WWII guilt, and the East rolled along guilt free.

        Well I disagree here. The East Germans had it beat into their heads that they were the most reviled and evil beings on Earth for their crimes against Mother Russia. Meanwhile the West Germans had the temerity to declare the partition of Germany after WWII to be illegal, and still laid claim on their lost territories from Danzig to Konigsberg and everything in between. They only relinquished claims to their lost Eastern territories once doing so became a precondition to the reunification of East and West Germany.

  6. “But sometimes, writes Steve Chapman, efforts to assert itself generate not respect and cooperation but fear and resistance.”

    Sometimes, my ass. Anyone who has ever built anything or accomplished anything knows that it must be done in spite of everyone around them. The instant people sense someone is about to be successful, envy and fear inspire resistance and sabotage. Respect and cooperation? Not so much.

  7. While I cannot disagree with the state that Chin is “a great civilization brought low by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries…” it seems that the great civilization of China was brought low any number of times before the 19th and 20th centuries, both by foreign powers and themselves.

    1. The Great Leap Forward would have worked if not for those pesky Capitalists mucking up Mao’s perfect plan. All those associated deaths? Christian influence of course, Christianity is the most lethal religion in the world.

    2. A nation that large and powerful pretty much only brings itself low. The fact that it had weakened itself through corruption and bureaucracy is the only reason foreign powers could manage to muck it up.Sabine Speed & Specialty

      1. I’m not sure how that the cat managed to press ctrl + v, but he did.

  8. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

    Now any word on a class-action suit against the commentators on the PuffHo and Jizz-on-a-bell fora for slandering these poor people?

    1. link to nowhere?

      1. Sorry. The schadenfreude was too much.

        1. She’s gay and she got a Tip probe? Interesting…

        2. She must have gone to Oberlin.

        3. She had previously lied about her service in the Marines, being pregnant by her dad, and having terminal cancer, so while this might be her most licratove lie, it isn’t her first or IMO worst

          1. * lucrative, dammit. Preview is for wusses

          2. * lucrative, dammit. Preview is for wusses

            1. In the same vein as “meantion”, you must now provide us with a definition for licratove.

              1. licratove n The weeping rash on the inner thighs of fat ladies caused by wearing lycra in hot weather

                1. Excellent!

                2. It makes them lycramose.

                  1. A lycramoose is a large hairy northern mammal that like wearing skin-tight clothes.

  9. President Xi Jinping had to endure the torture of a Joe Biden lecture. Oh, and if Chinese fighters provoke actual combat with their Japanese and American counterparts, they are likely to be shot down.

    Sounds like China needs to wait for another hawkish, warmongering Republican administration to come to power before they can get away with that stuff again.

    1. The Democrats have always been more hawkish to China than the Republicans. Combine Progressive elite racism toward the yellow Chinee with blue-collar union economic nationalism and you got Bill Clinton doing his best to piss off the PRC during the 1990s.

      And love him or hate him, the inroads Bush (both of them) made with China via diplomacy were pissed away by a petulant Obama as early as 2008’s trade war.

      1. Did knocking down that intel plane during the Bush years get China a US Army black beret contract, or was that just a fun myth?

  10. China Warty Meets Its Own Worst Enemy: Itself

    1. Only Warty could defeat Warty anyway.

  11. Meanwhile, China has worked to behave like an upstanding member of the community of nations?joining the World Trade Organization, channeling aid and investment to Africa, hosting the Olympics and joining efforts to stop North Korea from building nuclear weapons.

    Yeah they’re superdooper upstanding. They joined the WTO so they can exempt themselves from the rules they help make. They’re buying up the developing African economies for their own self-interest. They earned the right to host the Olympics with a series of bribes and human rights violations. And they’ve worked so hard to stop those North Koreans while simultaneously being the sole pillar of support of the North Korean government’s continued existence. Totally upstanding Mr Chapman.

    1. That passage caught my eye as well. The US is no Switzerland, but neither is China.

      1. Perhaps the U.S. should start thinking about being more like Switzerland or Sweden. Both these countries enjoy a lot more respect than we do. In fact, neutral might be a good word to consider for our future status. We could still be armed to the teeth to protect ourselves. However, all those taxes spent on war could be spend on things like a really viable national health care plan for everyone. If we need to have forces somewhere, instead of everywhere in the world poking our noses in everyone’s business, how about our forces deployed to the border to protect us from the drug cartels and so on? For anyone who does like my comments simply dial 1 800 EAT DUNG.

        1. OK, so we deport an eighth of our population to Liberia? Lincoln tried that, didn’t work.

  12. Of course the United States of America is not nationalistic or anything, so what’s wrong with those naughty Chinese? Ha!!! This article was bad history, or at least bad historical opinion. Don’t forget that Japan caused untold misery for the Chinese during World War II from 1937-1945. Remember the “Rape of Nanking” for which Japan has never apologized. SCREW JAPAN!!!!!

    If I were Chinese I would be nationalist big time. The U.S. gets real stinky about nationalism for itself, but when China does it they get “talked to”. Why is it then that most products flooding the U.S. are made in China? Not to mention all those bucks we borrowed from them to finance our no win war in Central Asia. The United States better think twice about this, and realize that China needs to be our Number 1 friend in the area.

    And how about all that racist shit the Chinese had to put up with when thousands upon thousands of them came to the U.S. during the 19th Century to build our railroads. The Chinese are also some of our best and most educated citizens. Haven’t seen any Chinese-American candidates for President yet. Oh well!!! Guess our racists believe they should stick to Chinese restaurants.

    1. Rearry?

      1. Great rebuttal. Which means that it is time for you to order some Chinese-American Chop Suey and Chow Mein and shove it up your rear end as far as it will go. You can call it a Chinese colonoscopy. Fook you Azzhole!!!!

        1. Does that order come with flied lice ?

          1. All of our “ready to shove” meals come with rice. And of course we would love to infest your body with lice also. However, that will be extra, although the fortune cookie is free.

            1. Ohhhh – I see. I from China, so you think I birrd shitty warr! I do it, but onry because I hate FUCKIONG MONGORIANS!

              1. You are either joking or you are just another racist A– Hole. Nice posting with you moron.

                1. Its a reference to a South Park episode. Sorry to shit on your fun, OneOut.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C….._Not_Funny

                  1. Are you referring to your own South Park Trailer Park Redneck Trash Paradise in Texas?

                    1. Herro Prease!

        2. I guess this is a bad time to mention the film “To Wong Foo…”

    2. “But other countries do it too!!”, and “Country did something mean to us in the past” are not actually valid defenses for modern day international aggression, just as they are not valid for a four year old stealing cookies or punching his brother in the head

      1. Sounds like the real problem is that the entire world is f—ed up!!!

    3. Your hatred of Japan is extremely obvious, so I will just say this for those who might read your comment. Japan has apologized twice in the 1950s, once in the 1960s, once in the 1970s, five times in the 1980s, nineteen times in the 1990s, eleven times in the 200s, and six times in the 2010s so far. I’m sure you will ignore these apologies, dismiss them as not genuine, or some other childish thing, but really the question shouldn’t be “why doesn’t Japan apologize” but rather “how many apologies will Japan have to make until her hate-filled critics allow everyone to move on?” Anyway, all this is not about China becoming a member of the global community, it’s about applying its new-found muscle on its most hated neighbor. Besides, if Beijing keeps people fired up about the awful things that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, perhaps they won’t have time to think about the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward which killed more Chinese, and were arguably more barbaric because they were committed on China’s people by their own government in the name of a failed political and economic structure.

      1. Given the nature of the atrocities committed by the Japanese in China the only sufficient apology would be 1000 simultaneous ritual disembowelments. 731 itself deserves 500 more.

      2. My Kawasaki ZX14 Ninja and Honda XR650 make up for whatever Japan did to China, as far as I’m concerned.

        1. Japan made Harleys in the 1930’s. The company/subsisiary became Rikuo Motorcycles.

          1. *subsidiary BTW plenty of pictures on Google

      3. Correction A Hole!! I do not hate Japan. What I do hate is that they (Japan) has never apologized for the atrocities it committed in China between 1937 and 1945. That’s what is obvious you little crap birdie. Hope you get my message. Also, you might try taking a catch up course in reading comprehension. Have a nice day a wipe.

        1. Somewhere, someone, is crossing a bridge and wondering where its troll went.

          1. And your point is? Or is your post supposed to be a poem?

          2. One other thing RightNut. I have heard the word “troll” used by people of your ilk many times. It is always used to describe people whose opinions people like you don’t like for one reason or another. However, it is also used frequently by your types who usually have nothing substantial to say about anything. It is the retort of stupid people like yourself. It is the mark on your forehead which forever describes you as a f ing moron. Have a nice day dip wad.

            1. I always used that word to describe my neighbor’s wife. She looks like a shaved mini-gorilla.

            2. If someone doesn’t like your opinions, it’s probably more to do with the ranting stream of emotion that flows from your keyboard and less to do with your towering intellect.

  13. For individual rights respecting countries, national interest is defined by their citizens’ ability to conduct free trade and associate with citizens of other countries.

    Chapman’s article here never, once, mentions the underpinnings of a Germany’s or China’s rightful national interest to promote free trade. It is only from this perspective that national interest issues can and should be discussed. It should be obvious that these two countries have legitimate defense issues along with Japan. The national interests of America, Germany, Japan, and now China, don’t clash assuming we are moving toward ever greater free trade–just like individual interest don’t clash when everyone respects individual rights. It is to everyone’s interest to have free trade and protect this trade against common enemies that would want to disrupt it (e.g., North Korea & sundry Islamic gangs.) Defense should rightfully be shared proportionately amongst the trading pardners.

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  15. Yes, Chapman is right in that Japan has held the Diaoyu Islands for some time, however, he fails to mention this territory, along with Taiwan, was taken from China by Japan in the 1895 imperialistic war Japan waged against China. At the end of WWII Japan was supposed to return all lands taken in imperialistic wars since 1895, but now makes claim to some of that. Unfortunately in order to pursue its social and economic war with China the US has decided to back Japan’s illegal claims to these islands. The US media also fails to mention that the Japanese unilaterally declared ADIZ established in 1969 extends not only over these islands but nearly to the Chinese coast. If this had been done to the US some of the racist cretins posting here lately would probably be calling for immediate war with China.

    1. If we’re going in the way-back machine to look at history, then Hong Kong should belong to Taiwan, because it was supposed to revert to the Republic of China, which presently resides on Formosa.

  16. Holy shit, first we have an actual Stalinist during the weekend, now we have OTRTM coming out as an inveterate ChiCommie.

  17. Japanese is a disgusting race.

  18. The 50 cent party has had its say today…

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  20. It’s own worst enemy: itself. That’s kind of redundant. Who else could it’s own worst enemy be?

    1. Irregardless it doesn’t matter because Chapman can’t be reasoned with, and you can’t ply him with reason, regardless. What does redundant mean?

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