Winning over neighborsThe mention of China seemed to make him upset. He said that the Chinese people didn’t know how to respect others. “They are only interested in making money and don’t care about the local economy.” “They demand to change the contract when their circumstances change.” The interview with K.K. Hlaing, chairman of SMART Group, in Yangon, Myanmar, ended with criticism of the Chinese.
China has been investing in Myanmar for the last 20 years, providing a lot of money and pursuing cooperative projects. Nevertheless, the Burmese feel extremely negatively toward the Chinese. And Myanmar is not the only one. I visited Ulan Bator in Mongolia, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and Hanoi in Vietnam to find businessmen and officials felt similarly.
We don’t even need to discuss the Philippines and Japan, which are in territorial disputes with China. Even the people in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which supposedly belong to “one China,” are wary of the Chinese.
When a giant power emerges in the bloc, the neighboring nations feel threatened instinctively. When the balance of power is broken, a war is brewing. The East Asian region has experienced that part of history more than once, so the countries are anxious. As economic dependence on China increases, the level of vigilance elevates as well.
How can China become a respected power? Professor Pham Si Phan of Hanoi University said that China needs to “give generously and take less.” It is the last of the nine requirements to become a great nation - according to Confucius. Professor Pham emphasized that it is not about the amount of goods exchanged but winning the hearts of neighbors. He added that China would never become a great nation if it cannot win respect from neighbors.
The keyword of Chinese foreign policy is “power.” It wants to establish a “new type of relationship” with the United States based on its newfound stature and the foreign visits of Chinese leaders. Beijing paradoxically takes pride in the fact that it has behaved like a big power.
However, it has yet to make efforts to address the anxiety of its neighbors. As a matter of fact, there are increasing concerns that China is trying to make friends with distant nations while trying to conquer neighbors.
It is suspected that China is building a relationship with the United States in order to take control of Asia.
Chairman Hlaing said China used to enjoy monopolistic status in Myanmar but is now competing against the United States. Myanmar is inviting the United States to check China.
Having declared a “return to Asia,” the United States is striding boldly. It’s not just Myanmar. The change is happening across Asia, and people should certainly take note of the developments.
*The author is director of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Han Woo-duk
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