China: August 28, 2003


The Dragons Dawn: China as a Rising Imperial Power: Possessing a brutal history of foreign invasion, rape, and occupation by expanding Asian empires, most notably the Mongols under Genghis Khan, modern China has developed a sense of cultural pride through feelings of ethnic revenge and in notions of national expansion. Such an upsurge in patriotism can essentially be seen in such factors; however, in order to fully understand China as a rising power, other aspects of growth must be considered within its full international context.

Increasing Defense Expenditures and Territorial Expansion

In 2000, China increased its defense spending to 13 percent of its gross domestic product, followed by another augmentation to 17 percent in 2001. One analyst observed that recent purchases by Chinese generals tend to emphasize power-projection forces to apply military power at a distance. Though the actual reasons are decreed as protective measures by the Chinese government, some correlation can be drawn to recent maneuvers, such as its claim of 80 percent of the South China Sea, which is against international law, and by its direct colonialism over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, also in possession of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. A former Philippines defense minister called this a creeping invasion when asked to comment on its possible ramifications. China has also laid claim to the Philippines Mischief Reef and has established military installations on four other disputed reefs; moreover, has been a notable increase in Chinese naval traffic around the Philippines territories that makes many countries uneasy that China may want to resume the imperial status it had in earlier centuries, according former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Furthermore, the Japanese government has reported that Chinese military vessels sail into Japanese waters approximately 20 times per year. This has prompted the Japanese Defense Ministry to begin a massive project for mapping its coastal seafloor to observe Chinas growing fleet of submarines. This is not to mention that Japan moves 70 percent of its crude oil and fishing through the South China Sea, of which China has called for the immediate eviction of foreign military vessels or vessels owned by foreign governments and used for noncommercial purposes that violate the laws and regulations of China.
The Peoples Republic is currently gaining a number of territories through aged treaties as well, such as Britains Hong Kong in 1997, Portugals Macau in 1999, and some former Russian territories in 1997.
In 2000, China forged a pact against terrorism, drug czars, and Islamic radicalism and has been helping Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan with security problems. Some analysts believe that this is a move to establish more authority in Asia and challenge the traditional U.S. dominance since World War II. This can be seen in an ancient Confucian tenet that calls for leading by example, not by force.

China as the Middle Place

The Chinese have traditionally seen themselves as the center of the world due to their history of occupation by foreign invaders. In fact, the Chinese word for China is Zhong Guo, which literally means Middle Place. In addition, the Great Wall symbolizes its sense of being besieged, as it had been conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan (1167-1227 A.D.), the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan (1260-1368 A.D.), and by the Manchu Dynasty (1911 A.D.) from a northern invasion after the reestablishment of Ming control. It has also been under the de facto control of Japanese, European and American commercial imperialism throughout the 1900s. As one Chinese general puts it, This was a period of humiliation that the Chinese can never forget. This is why the people of China show such strong emotions in matters concerning our national independence, unity, [and] integrity of territory and sovereignty.
According to the Chinese government, the U.S. is worried about Chinese economic and political growth, and thus is trying to encircle it with bases and alliances. Chinese nationalists point to its recent support of India (because China has been giving blueprints for nuclear arms to Pakistan), its recognition of Vietnam, its sales of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, its support of Japan as an economic powerhouse, and its support of a unified Korea under Seoul. Likewise, U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan gives them evidence to support their cause against Western dominance, according to one Tsinghua University professor. It should be noted, however, that China supported the war in Afghanistan.

The Taiwan Dilemma

It can be asserted that Chinas extravagant claims over the South China Sea are part of a plan to ultimately unify with Taiwan. James R. Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China, stated, [Uniting with Taiwan] would end what China feels to be a blockade on its abilities to control its surrounding seas. To them, Taiwan appears to be a Western military stronghold that is impeding its cause of Asian dominance. Moreover, China sees Taiwan as its own territory from its profligate cultural history; that is, Taiwan was originally part of China before the Communist revolution, and the original government of China fled to Taiwan upon defeat. Both the Communist and the former government believed that there was one China, but they disagreed as to who was in control.


There is a high possibility that China will one day dominate Asia through its military, economic, and political influence. Its Confucian doctrine of leading by example is currently being supplemented by a slow military expansion into islands that are not highly visible on the world stage, thus not diverting much attention to its actions. Moreover, its nuclear weapons (though not numerous) act as a deterrent from the UN or the U.S. from taking multilateral action in the area. As Chinese General Mi Shenyu puts it, For a relatively long time it will be absolutely necessary that we quietly nurse our sense of vengeance. We must conceal our abilities and bide our time. -- Geoffrey Cain




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