Why Vietnam, Japan play up 'China threat'

Updated: 2014-05-30 21:32


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BEIJING - A tragic hostility is unfolding in Asia while Vietnam and Japan, who share similar culture heritage with China, see their neighbor much more like a thorn in their sides.

After a Vietnamese fishing boat deliberately entered Chinese waters and collided in a kamikaze-style attack on a vessel protecting an oil rig in China's Xisha Islands on Monday, Hanoi blamed it on China and quickly sought foreign aid to beef up its marine patrol.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe found this a good chance for finger-pointing and eagerly dressed up Japan as a counterweight to the growing influence of China.

This is ironic. Since his Liberal Democratic Party-led government took power at the end of 2012, Abe has been upsetting Asia with his attempts to reverting to militarism.

A good question is why has the term "China threat" been coined rather than "Japan threat"? Here are three key reasons.

Firstly, China keeps emphasizing its special characteristics or differentia from the other states, which creates mystery and makes it easily depicted as an imaginary enemy.

Still today, many Chinese sadly find their national totem of the dragon and the red flag of the country's governing party, both majestic in the Chinese culture, seen as evil or dangerous symbols in the West.

Secondly, within a few decades, China effectively eliminated poverty, and quickly rose into the world's second-largest economy. More disturbing is the fact that all its economic achievements have been made under a political system whose founders had aimed to eliminate capitalism.

Over the past few centuries, the world has been following the Law of the Jungle: the strong get stronger while the weak get weaker. Can China be so different from the previous powers in not seeking hegemony? It is a question upsetting many people across the world.

Many of those who advocate containing China involuntarily make an empirical judgement. It was too bad that Japan was not stopped in the 1930s. So it is time to stop China now, they say.

But believe it or it, empiricism could be wrong. China will never be a second Japan.

With a history of 5,000 years and incorporating diverse culture that they have either created or had imposed on them, the Chinese people have developed a unique perspective on the relationship between man and nature as well as between state and state.

Those familiar with Chinese history know China was the world's most powerful state for a long period of time but it never colonized or invaded any country.

"However large a country is, bellicosity will cause it to perish," goes an old Chinese adage that still resonates nowadays.

To the Chinese people, the path to safeguard world peace is not in the battlefield but in people's minds. Those who are capable of training their mind properly to become compassionate will be capable of securing peace in family, society and the world without resorting to force. And in the eyes of a compassionate person, every individual is equal.

This is why the founders of the People's Republic of China invented an independent, peaceful foreign policy which forbids entering an arms race and alliance with any big power; which maintains all countries, large or small, rich or poor, are equal; and which sticks to solving disputes through dialogue rather than confrontation.

Thirdly, Chinese culture does not encourage evaluation of others, but instead focuses on self-perfection. As defaming others does not glory ourselves, identifying a threat does not make Chinese feel safer.

But take a second look at how the world has been run over past centuries and one will find that people have been used to the logic of picking a rival and finding the sense of security through competing.

Such logic, however, judged by ancient Chinese wisdom, only reflects the feebleness of humanity as it can hardly prove its own value without making something out of nothing.

To safeguard regional and world peace, a feasible and responsible way is to eliminate hostility first and manage not to be deceived by a troubled mind.

To foreigners, China is different but never incomprehensible. Whether China will become a threat or opportunity depends on whether or not an observer can break down bias and empiricism to embrace unfamiliarity with a good will.

History shows that the visions of political leaders have direct bearing on the future of a country. If a political leader chooses to put forward an imaginary enemy for short-term gains or ballots, the well-being of the people will be sacrificed.

And no political leaders are dignified if their people suffer.

A compassionate political leader will not bow to inner fear by stoking up upset but seek to expand common ground and mutual benefits to help peace and friendliness grow.

The violent riots targeting foreign investors in Vietnam this month were appalling. And no doubt the tragedy stems from the untamed public fear of threats or uncertainties. So please beware, "China-threat" advocates, for the good of the people!