[Viewpoint] Chinese insult not to be taken lightlyThe east coast of mainland China resembles a bow, with the Yangtze River as an arrow. As Chinese say, they are emerging with the dashing spirit of an arrow shooting from the Yangtze to the Pacific Ocean.
The Chinese believe in the power of China.
But what would happen if the arrow crosses the West Sea and falls instead on the Korean Peninsula? If China becomes not a mere military and economic power but a spiritually great civilization, will it remain as a strategic partner of Korea? Or will it turn out to be a giant elephant pushing at the border?
This unsettling question is raised as our neighboring giant celebrates the 60th anniversary of the new China.
On Oct. 10, the state heads of South Korea, China and Japan met at the state guesthouse in Beijing. After the summit with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
For the meeting with Hu, three tables were arranged in a triangular shape. However, President Hu was sitting at the center of a table across from President Lee and Prime Minister Hatoyama, who were sitting together on the opposite end. The one-on-two arrangement continued at a state banquet.
The arrangement was a nearly unprecedented breach of protocol in international diplomacy and is quite a diplomatic gaffe.
Though the United States is a superpower mightier than China, the U.S. president would never treat the Mexican and Canadian leaders in this manner.
Would China do the same if the U.S. president and the British prime minister were invited?
The one-on-two sitting arrangement is even more insulting to Korea. Officially, the Japanese emperor is the head of state, so Japan might not feel so slighted by the reception the prime minister received.
However, it is different for Korea, whose head of state is the president. The state head of Korea should sit one-on-one with the head of China. It was a summit meeting, not a job interview.
China argued that the space was too limited to accommodate a triangular table. If so, the Chinese should have chosen a more spacious venue. They also claimed that the one-on-two arrangement was not against protocol since Hu was sitting closer to the exit, the lower seat of the room. However, one cannot tell which table is closer to the exit from a photo, and no one pays attention to the door.
What the world saw was the Chinese president sitting at the center and dealing with both the Korean president and the Japanese prime minister at the same time.
Was China not aware of the impact? Beijing might be expressing its supremacy by intentionally creating such an abnormal protocol.
In the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the tomb of Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War.
In front of the grave of Mao Anying, son of former leader Mao Zedong, he said, “The country has become powerful, and the people are happy now.” And it’s true. China has become a world power. Yet, China’s involvement in the Korean War was a ethically wrong decision.
The Korean War was the first aggressive war to spread the socialist revolution started by the Communist bloc since World War II. China’s entry into the war meant participation in the aggression and a challenge to the international community and the United Nations.
The participation of the Chinese army resulted in over 1 million deaths and casualties of civilians and soldiers. If China had stayed out of the war, the Korean Peninsula could have been unified under the system of liberal democracy before Christmas of 1950.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin took off his shirt and showed off his muscles, Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic and Poland, were reminded of the claws of a bear.
Koreans are wary of the talons of a dragon.
China has already tainted the history of Gojoseon, Goguryeo and Balhae with the so-called Northeast Project. Koreans remember that Chinese citizens in Seoul had beaten Koreans during the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics. Korea is the most civilized and the most harmless country among the neighbors of China.
Korea hopes for a win-win result and is ready to applaud the flight of the dragon. But China must not treat the leader of such an important and friendly neighbor impolitely. Such an action is not becoming of a powerful nation.
And Korea needs to be firm if we want to be treated as a dragon by China. It is painful for citizens of Korea to see their president being placed in such a compromising situation.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin