A book published last year by Angela Duckworth called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance points to the preoccupation the West, and United States in particular, has with the underdog or the person who overcomes all odds to succeed. American icons Steve Jobs and Tom Brady are the archetypes of the gritty success that many Westerners value.
China, on the other hand, could not care less about American grit, and if the US, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union, Southeast Asian countries and anywhere else China takes a national interest in don’t understand this equation, they are doomed to be enveloped in the Chinese stratosphere.
The American post-World War II liberal order isn’t perfect, but nations that fall under the sway of China and the Communist regime’s whims should jettison their infatuation with Donald Trump and wake up to a new, Chinese hegemonic reality.
These illiberal thoughts were best explained by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s response to complaints over his country’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference when he said: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.” He said this in front of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who at the time was the frontrunner to be the next US president.
The leaders of the US and China continually butt heads because both countries see themselves as exceptional. Chinese exceptionalism is actually more sweeping than America seeing itself as “a bright city on a hill”.
Writer Harry Gelber surmised in his 2001 book Nations out of Empires how the Chinese defined civilization as the Han people or nothing at all, and President Xi Jinping in his 2014 book The Governance of China wrote “that China’s continuous civilization (over 5,000 years old) is not equal to anything on Earth, but a unique achievement in world history”. Xi has a point when it comes to national longevity, but his country’s claim to exceptionalism is questionable.
Does the world, and particularly Southeast Asia, want a rules-based system like that which has restrained the US since World War II or a Chinese-type system that plays into a Darwinian-Nietzschean level of geopolitical behavior where the strong master the weak? The answer sometimes isn’t cut and dried when you consider the success Singapore has enjoyed under its authoritarian system, and certainly the Chinese since communist economic liberalization with firm state control that was instigated under Deng Xiaoping and continues unabated today.
Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained in an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine last year how China’s long-term view is overtaking Western shortsighted behavior:
One of the things that fascinated me about the Chinese is whenever I would have a conversation with them about international standards or international rules of behavior, they would inevitably point out that those rules were made when they were absent from the world stage.
One admirable trait of the Chinese government is its willingness to speak about World War II atrocities and how that experience still affects its geopolitical behavior. There are drawbacks, though, to this continued behavior, as evoked during Shanghai-based venture capitalist Eric Li’s TED Talk that reminded the audience of “China’s civil war, being dismembered by foreign aggression during World War II, but now they are the second-largest economy in the world, an industrial powerhouse and its people live in increasing prosperity”.
Samuel Huntington’s essay “The Clash of Civilizations” explained that cultural fault lines are the issues defining the post Cold-War order. And while this explanation has been helpful in dissecting the fissures between Western and Islamic values, it has been less successful identifying the gaping differences between China and American systems.
Huntington elaborated on the differences between a Western (US) versus Asian (Chinese) mindset when he wrote: “The very notion that there could be a ‘universal civilization’ is a Western idea, directly at odds with the particularism of most Asian societies and their emphasis on what distinguishes one people from another.”
This deep, enduring conflict will persist unless addressed and comprehended. Chinese values are different from, say, those of the EU and NATO in regards to human rights, religious freedom, limited government, the state setting economic policy, and the concept of time and history. Europeans also have a point when they criticize Americans for their short national history compared with those of European nations and China, which measure their concepts of time in thousands of years.
China’s culture is utterly different from Western-style rugged individualism. The Chinese term for “individualism” is gerenzhuyi, which suggests “a selfish preoccupation with oneself over one’s community”. An admirable trait that has religious overtones and gives the Chinese people further value is when they insist “upon a harmonious community and obeying Confucius’ first imperative: Know thy place”.
American historian Richard Hofstadter explains how Americans understand Western values without ideology, whereas the Chinese believe order comes from hierarchy and if it is not obeyed, they invite chaos.
Another laudable sentiment, but it’s China’s foreign-policy dictum that should questioned.
China’s conception of government and its foreign policy have the potential for lethal hegemonic activity. What NATO, the EU, most of Southeast Asia and the United States don’t seem to comprehend is the strategic patience inherent in China’s thinking.
If harassing the Philippine island of Thithu using Chinese naval vessels and Coast Guard ships doesn’t gain immediate advantages, then use long-term, strategic behavior to gain objective strength over the Philippines and draw it away from its traditional ally – the US. Seemingly the Chinese now use foreign policy and geopolitics the way a weiqi (Go) master dominates the center of the board to conquer an opponent.
Unfortunately for all of Asia, the US suffers from what Gore Vidal called USA, the United States of Amnesia. Americans are short-term problem-solving thinkers by nature, and the Chinese are the exact opposite – to Southeast Asia’s detriment. China’s leaders, including Xi, exhibit these traits in abundance: patient, domineering behavior, long-term thinking, and comfortably waiting out problems using management skill over resolving the matter in question.
The Chinese, unlike the Americans and their European allies, would have never pulled out of Iraq. The US formerly had long-term strategic traits like the Chinese when they stayed in Germany, Japan and South Korea to ensure worldwide peace and prosperity.
The Chinese have skillfully since 1949 waited out the supposedly rogue nationalists of Taiwan. Xi, if cornered, would insist that Taiwan is a part of China, even an integral piece, and China will tighten the noose economically, militarily and socially to bring them back into the fold.
But this false Chinese notion of rationality has played out dangerously on the world stage, with the evolving dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, demanding that Vietnam stop energy exploration on its Vanguard Bank, and the Doklam standoff with India. The India dilemma has coincided with China’s propaganda war to pull Bhutan closer to Beijing instead of traditional ally New Delhi, unveiling the true nature of China’s strategy.
Many foreign-policy experts believe the US and China are advancing toward a Thucydides’ trap, but China is too smart and sophisticated for that to happen. What Beijing is now achieving is a Hobbesian jungle that involves areas like the South China Sea, patiently pushing aside smaller countries while entangling the US, Japan and South Korea in a tug-of-war with China’s proxy, North Korea.
When China makes these moves it does so with a keen eye on geo-strategic placement (an example is a new overseas base in Djibouti to counter India’s Indian Ocean dominance), diversified mineral wealth and using gains at others’ expense for potential Chinese exploitation.
Henry Kissinger wrote in his 2011 book On China of the Chinese term shi, which means “the potential energy or momentum inherent in any circumstance at a given moment comprising geography, terrain, weather, balance of forces, surprise, moral and many other elements”.
Kissinger elaborated that the Chinese planner spends his time “observing and cultivating changes in the strategic landscape”. That is exactly what is taking place in the border dispute with India, attempting to conquer the South China Sea and displacing the US out of Southeast Asia with a phony nuclear threat involving North Korea while the Chinese manifestly prop up Kim Jong-un’s regime with expanded trade.
The results would seem inevitable, that China will clash with its neighbors who seek their own sovereignty, and certainly with the US, but there are solutions that the Cold War proved will work. Deterrence backed by a modern, three-pronged nuclear umbrella can stop the inevitable, and it should begin with Japan and South Korea having US nuclear weapons.
While China would have every right to be furious at such a ploy, Southeast Asian countries and the US have that same prerogative given unrestrained Chinese hegemonic behavior. Authoritarian regimes deserve a response.
Realize as well that China isn’t full of ideologues, but its leaders are still communists and understand one thing – strength combined with power – and the US and its allies should press onward with South China Sea “freedom of navigation” patrols and energy exploration and support India’s confrontation with China over Bhutan.
Meet the Chinese with unabashed power, precision and an unconstrained military buildup in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. This isn’t a war cry, but if the Chinese want realpolitik, then freedom-loving or at least sovereignty-loving nations should deter them, because they aren’t backing down. China’s geopolitical moves indicate that its leaders have swiftly gone from playing chess in a conventional sense to playing a game of never letting their country be ransacked as it was in World War II ever again.
The world had better take notice and adjust its thinking accordingly.
Regarding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands it was Japanese aggression which resulted in Japan gaining control over the islands. Now China is disputing that ownship. What is wrong with this?
On Vietnam’s energy exploration in the Vanguard Bank, the China-ASEAN code of conducts should apply.
To support India on the Doklam standoff where it is clear that India trespass into area under effective Chinese control and in breach of international law would invite chaos in international relations. It would be extremely unplatable if the Chinese will to use similar pretext to invade others. China’s effort to woo Bhutan is legitimate. Why the fuss? Bhutan is a sovereign nation which is a member of the UN. She should be free to enter into whatever foreign relationship she deems fit, without interference from third party.
The Chinese are not exceptional and are no claiming to be exceptional. They are saying that theirs is a big country and not to be messed around. They want to make sure there is no repeat when the foreign powers ransacked their country.
The new Chinese base in Djibouti is to make sure the Indian can’t threaten their SLOC and trade lifeline. These are all legitimate given the hostility of the Indian and American.
If China threatens India as she has been doing for a long time, India will surely hit back China and this is going to be the new norm. Indian public had enough of China and can not take it any more. If China wants to start the war, please do that by all means and India is ready. India can not leave Bhutan alone to be swallowed by China later under the pretext of some old historical claims like Tibet. Doklam is a Bhutanese territory and China has no business to be there and thats it. China can bark for another 1000 years but facts won’t change. Indians will hit all Chinese interests if war is imposed by China. Chinese govenment is an evil force and needs to be dismantled for world peace. Communist ideology has no place in civilised world.
I think it was more of a concern to think about the hegemonic rise of the USA in both social and economic sectors rather than Chinese growth. Chinese are more peace loving than american ..
Yes ISIS and China are the only two peace loving entities in the world. capturing Tibet was peaceful and supressing religious rights of Muslim uighars too is peacful. Most shameful is the supporters like you who can not utter even a work when muslims are supressed in China.
Rajendra Kumar actually u don’t have any idea of ISIS, the brutal killers American Agents black water who killed housands of innocent peoples . u can’t understand this game. Americans are using isis And they are their agents. Sometimes the Americans drops food stuff mistakenly to Isis fighters sometimes they do air raid on their opponent mistakenly and it’s happening with consistency. What msg does it gives????
Rajendra Kumar I honestly feel sorry for how your media is providing you with so much misinformation. In 1998 Bhutan and China agreed in principle that the two areas of disputed border areas in the north would be ceded to Bhutan and the two western areas would be ceded to China. The only reason this border disput continues to occur is because India won’t let Bhutan have direct diplomatic relations with China. If the Indian government truly cared about Bhutanese autonomy and sovereign rights then it would allow them to have an independent foreign policy which serves their own interests. The fact that India can bully a sovereign country so thoroughly and diplomatically isolate it from the rest of the world, yet at the same time claim to be defending its sovereignty is a sick joke.
Who’s responsible for China’s rise? None other than the US under Nixon.The US is blinded by short term gains and uses to regard China as the "elephant in the room" due to its size and population. All the US sees was a huge market and huge profits for US corporations and overlooked the fact that China has a history of expansionism and hegemonism.
Kissinger was an idiot in pandering to China and gave the wrong signal that the US was withdrawing from Asia leading to China invading and occupying the Paracels and using it as stepping stone for invading the Spratly. Historically, the southernmost limit of China’s territory is Hainan Island, as described in Chinese maps published before 1949.
The PRC was created in 1949. Xi Jinping gave himself the goal of glorifying the PRC centenary in 2049 by the seizure of the South China Sea and displacing the US as the world’s most powerful country.
Nice rhetoric but that’s only speaking from the perspective of a supporter of a waning hegemon America. Whatever the author is emphasizing the prospects of a hegemon China is exactly what America has been doing for the last century n people are still fighting hard the denial of empires come & go as a cycle n that’s unavoidable
Jason Jean : Its Chinese media which is in the full time business of spreading misinformation. Indians don’t go by media reports but by historical facts and ground realities. Look at the number of statements coming from Chinee officials vs Indian officials and anyone can tell who has gone crazy. While China is doing all the talking, India is just acting firmly on ground.
Muhammad Zubair Don’t tell me that we Indians don’t know about Jihadis of all shades being produced by Pakistan and supported by China. It was Pakistan who started Jihad industry and USA just outsourced it for Afghan war. Don’t blame USA. Balme Paki jihad factory which exports this product under different names.
Creater knows how to destroy as well. USA has all the handles to put China in right slot.
A fine example of exceptional world view masquerading in a pseudointellectual manner to self convince himself the correctness of his righteous, indulgent, indignant protest at the way the rest of the world see the realpolitik. Using many trigger words to try ignite the reluctant and frankly unconvinced players not only in Asia but an increasing numbers of the so called American allies. A prime example is the assertion that China wouldn’t have pulled out if China had invaded Iraq which is a complete distortion of reality : China would NOT have invaded Iraq in the first place. Should have stick with furniture, Todd but I suppose jobs are hard to come by nowadays.
What a joke. Chinese hegemony coming from US? This is a link showing all the countries in the world US has committed hegemony on and this doesnt even include the Monroe Doctrine fallout https://www.indy100.com/article/usa-american-army-invasions-police-actions-overseas-dod-defense-war-troops-deployment-marines-7908611
Rajendra Kumar what are you smoking? China has never intervened in Bhutan’s affairs. Now contrast this wil bullying of Nepal by India because they didnt like the new Nepal constitution. India blockaded the Nepal border which was the only place they could get fuel and goods. Now Nepal is demanding China upgrade their roads to Nepal so they dont need to depend on India anymore.
The US is trying to make amends for past mistakes and is trying to find a solution to the South China Sea, to find a way to evict China from the SCA without causing a military conflict. War is destructive, nobody wants that. It’s better to maintain peace and properity which the region has enjoyed since WWII.
The 1953 San Francisco Conference was convened to decide what to do with the islands vacated by Japan in the SCA and the Republic of Vietnam was awarded legal custody of the Paracels and the Spratly. After the defeat of France at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the Geneva Conference resulted in a partition of Vietnam into two, with the commies in control of the north and the Republic of South Vietnam in control south of the 17th parallel including the Paracels and the Spratly. China (PRC) was a signatory of the accord and when it invaded the Paracels in 1974, it committed an illegal act.
Hanoi has not submitted its case against China before the International Court in the Hague like the Philippines have done because it’s in a weak position, the islands being under the juridiction of the South Vietnamese Government. The commies in Hanoi were traitors in seeking the help of an eternal enemy, China, in a fraticidal war against the south. The US is now promoting the return of the former Republic of South Vietnam as the legitimate owner of the SCA islands and the commies in Hanoi seem receptive to the idea.
Hanoi has now accepted that the Republic of South Vietnam and its army are true identities in its latest publication of the History of Vietnam and no longer addresses the Republic of South Vietnam in derogatory terms. There is talk of political reform in Hanoi toward a multiparty democracy incorporating elements of the former South Vietnamese government so that Vietnam can inherit the legitimacy of ownership of the SCA islands. The US is pushing in that direction and maybe organising a new Paris Conference like the one in 1973 in which the PRC was one of the signatories of the treaty recognising South Vietnam’s custody of the SCA islands.
China will be forced to vacate the Paracels and the artificial islands they illegally built in the Spratly for pain of sanctions by the UN. Without trade, China will certainly suffer and see their silk road of the sea vanish.
"Does the world, and particularly Southeast Asia, want a rules-based system like that which has restrained the US since World War II or a Chinese-type system that plays into a Darwinian-Nietzschean level of geopolitical behavior where the strong master the weak? "
So can you plase tell me, how did the "rules-based system" restrained US from invading Iraq/Vietnam/Panama/grenada? how did the "rules-based system" restrained US from carry out dozens of coups all around the world, regime change all over the world, causing millions of death and countless destruction?
I’m being serious now, please answer this question.
Rajendra Kumar You Are Not Good Enough To Blame Chinese Risk Comparing USA …Just Go Back To History Of USA Involvement…Fool.
Powerful nation has the right to engage with neighbors like China and we have seen in the past 1962 war. So we Indians need to come together to become what we are ment for. And Pls China should not forget what India has given them… Buddhism. Now no more role of big brother will be accepted. Let’s boycott Chinese product every single day. Let’s start with this fight.
This article sounds hypocritical. What about the ready hegamon, USA?
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