[Viewpoint] China’s just a big bullyWe are living, it is said, in the G-2 era, a bi-polar world with two superpowers. Others say we’re in the Asian Century. China is at the center of both of those descriptions.
China’s importance has risen enormously. A recent report said China’s gross domestic product for the first half of this year will reach $5.538 trillion. If this is true, then the amount will surpass Japan’s estimated $5.199 trillion. China’s GDP will be the second largest after the United States.
China’s power, of course, does not end with its economy. It has now become big enough to face off against the United States in diplomacy, military, culture and sports.
After the Cheonan’s sinking, China also warned South Korea that it wouldn’t be able to make any kind of effective response without Beijing’s cooperation. On the subject of sanctions against the North, Seoul had to seek Beijing’s approval, and that has made China appear even stronger.
In the era of American and Chinese hegemony, we can only be concerned about Korea’s future. That is the perspective of people who view China from the outside. But, if we look at China from the inside, the situation is a little different. China is just another big country.
When I was studying in Beijing a few years ago, a friend of mine who was moving out from an adjacent building packed up his last few boxes and called a taxi.
But a security guard of the apartment stopped the taxi from entering the compound. He told my friend that he couldn’t leave the apartment because he hadn’t given notice to the guards.
He had, of course, but the guard on the previous shift had forgotten to alert his successor. My friend protested and told the guard to check with his colleague, but to no avail.
As frustration grew, my friend and I grabbed the hands of the guard and told him to get out of our way. In response, he lay down flat on the ground as if stricken.
I immediately regretted our actions. All my friends who had lived in China for a while had warned me to never make physical contact with a Chinese person during a conflict.
The guard had been faithful to his duty, but now foreigners had touched his person, and we were in a whole new situation.
In less than five minutes, about 100 neighbors gathered around us. Within 10 minutes, a police car and ambulance had arrived. Although we told the cops that we had only grabbed the guard’s hands, they didn’t listen.
We were escorted to a police station, while the guard boarded the ambulance and went in a different direction.
At the police station, no one talked to us. Two hours later, we were summoned by the police chief. The guard was at his side, holding 20 X-rays. The police chief asked us: “Do you want to be investigated or pay compensation?”
We emptied our wallets to pay compensation for “making physical contact with a guard.” As we stepped out of the police station, the chief growled at us: “China is a country governed by laws.”
In his famous critique of the Chinese - “The ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture” - Taiwanese author Bo Yang described the Chinese people as arrogant and prone to bluffing. The author said those two characteristics give the Chinese the illusion that they are the best and the strongest. The book confessed the negative effects of Sinocentrism.
The author also wrote that the Chinese have a tendency to only look at jobs (or profits) and not people (social values). The analysis was accurate. After the Cheonan sinking, China chose to defend the North for its strategic gain, rather than to seek the truth.
Last week, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, posed a question, asking if the U.S. is ready for China’s emergence as a superpower on the international stage.
Although the expressions were polite, the implication of the question was, “Let’s have a showdown.” It was a declaration that China will make a grand rise as a superpower, surpassing its earlier self-description of a country engaged in a “peaceful rise.”
The United States did not reply.
A few days ago, an incumbent major general of China said, “China’s military might has grown inevitably. The Chinese people’s displeasure toward a plan to hold a U.S.-South Korea joint military drill in the Yellow Sea with the U.S.S. George Washington has not been resolved.”
The United States, once again, did not respond.
Between the questioner and the non-replier, who is stronger?
Gordon G. Chang, a lawyer and author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” wrote in his book that China becomes garrulous when its fears turn to anger, because it does not want to show the weakness hidden behind its bluster. He concluded that there is a long path ahead for China, stretching beyond the 21st century, unless it refines its society.
*The writer is the national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi Hyung-kyu