Wednesday, March 29, 2006

China Military Build-Up Destabilizing Asia? Not really.

A Japanese think tank blames China's military buildup for destablizing the region:

China’s growing military strength and its tense relationship with Taiwan are major destabilising factors in East Asia, according to a strategy report issued on Monday by a think tank affiliated with Japan’s Defence Ministry.

Ties between Japan and China are at their worst state in decades, strained by disputes, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine. Beijing sees the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honours convicted war criminals along with the country’s war dead.

Koizumi strongly criticised China’s stance on Monday, saying the shrine issue should not stand in the way of summit meetings between the two nations. "I still don’t understand why China and South Korea criticise my visits to Yasukuni," Koizumi told reporters. "I am an advocate of friendly relations with China and South Korea." Koizumi reiterated that he visits the shrine to pray for peace and honour the dead, not to glorify militarism. In an annual report on East Asian strategy, the National Institute for Defence Studies, a government-funded think tank, warned of China’s military buildup and its growing pressure on Taiwan under independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian.

The clash of nationalisms in the region -- Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese -- is the massively destablizing force. In turn the factor underlying that is the bankruptcy of Communism as a legitimating factor for the Chinese government, and the resultant stoking of Chinese nationalism that in turn means trouble for all the small countries around China, including Taiwan. It seems that at last the Communist Party is going to go the way of all barbarians who have traditionally invaded China: it is going to be swallowed by Chinese culture -- in this case, by Chinese nationalism.

The fact is that the military upswing -- also taking place in Japan -- is just a symptom of the deeper structural changes going on caused by China's growth, increasing natonalism, and the looming decline of the US. It is interesting to reflect on this in light of the controversy caused by the closing down of Bingdian (Freezing Point) for the publication of an article criticizing China's empty-headed nationalism (which looks a lot like right-wing nationalism in Japan)....

Professor Yuan's article begins by observing that after the Cultural Revolution people explained their violent excesses by bitterly commenting "we grew up drinking wolf's milk." But in looking through middle school history texts, Yuan was stunned to find "our youth are still drinking wolf's milk!" The textbooks' treatment of key nineteenth century incidents make his point. The authors present the Taiping rebels and the Boxers as patriotic and heroic precursors of revolution. The crimes of the British in the Second Opium War (1858-1860), such as the burning of the Summer Palace in 1860, are correctly characterized, he says, but the texts fail to hold the Qing government responsible for its own obstinate and criminal acts, which are simply described as patriotic. Yuan concludes that these views are not in the true spirit of China's revolution but represent the "poisonous residue of the vulgarization of revolution." He exorts his readers:

You should not underestimate the consequences of this mis-education. It is against commonsense and rationality to distort the historical truth in the name of the "revolution"...the direct ill effects of praising the Boxers were exposed during the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guard setting fire to the British consulate is the replica of the Boxers' action; the mania to eliminate all foreign things in the "Anti-Four Olds," "Anti-Imperialism" and "Anti-Revisionism" campaigns had the same logic as the Boxers' desire to destroy the foreigners.

He goes on:

The logic presented in the above textbooks is no different. Their common points are: 1) The current Chinese culture is superior and unmatched. 2) Outside culture is evil and corrodes the purity of the existing culture. 3) We should or could use political power or the dictatorship of the mob to violently erase all the evil in the field of cultural thinking. To use these kinds of logic in order to quietly exert a subtle influence on our children is an unforgivable harm no matter what the objective intent was.
As an attack on unthinking natonalism, the Professor's paper is an attack on the foundations of government legitimacy in China. As an added bonus, by criticizing the Qing and pointing out that they were imperialists as bad as any (other) foreigners, the good Professor also undermines the Chinese claim to Taiwan, since it is based on Qing imperialism (no ethnic Chinese emperor ever ruled the island). No wonder they shut down Bingdian.

No comments: