In Monday’s column “U.S. must not be blind to China threat,” Matthew Klein referred to the general Chinese antipathy toward Japan and the West as “irrational” and “petty.” After reading his piece, however, I found that the most irrational ideas on this issue were those presented in Klein’s article itself.
Regarding the Japanese, Klein assumes that China’s antipathy toward Japan stems from its defeat in the Sino-Japanese War, which occurred over 100 years ago, and the continued rise of one of its “former vassal states” — never mind that Japan had not served as a vassal state since the later part of the Ming dynasty. While I appreciate his in-depth research into and analysis of Chinese history, he does fail to mention the major crimes against humanity inflicted on hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens by the invading Japanese army throughout the course of World War II, such as the Rape of Nanking and the human experiments conducted within Unit 731. To add insult to injury, the Japanese government continues to neglect these details in its history books, and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid annual homage to a Japanese veterans’ graveyard where several major war criminals happen to be “honorably” interred. Current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just this weekend suggested that “evidence does not support the historical consensus that Japanese soldiers coerced Chinese and Korean women into sexual slavery and prostitution” at soldiers’ brothels throughout the occupied territories despite volumes of historical documentation, and confessions of Japanese soldiers themselves. These events seem to me a much more substantial explanation for the “petty and “irrational” antipathy many Chinese people feel toward the Japanese.
Klein is correct in assuming that we are, in many ways, economically dependent on the Chinese, just as we are economically dependent on the OPEC countries, but let’s not forget that without U.S. demand, the Chinese market would collapse much more quickly than ours might without Chinese supply. As regards to sovereignty, I have yet to hear of a bill blocked in Congress so as to not upset China. Indeed, we’ve regularly gone out of our way to piss them off, such as when Congress blocked their legal attempt to buy out Unocal, or when the United States accidentally bombed their embassy in Yugoslavia on May of 1999.
The idea that China’s peacetime military buildup is “unprecedented” is quite simply absurd. Chinese military spending is still a mere fraction of what our own government spends either in peacetime or in war. Furthermore, the Chinese remain decades away from being able to challenge our own military supremacy. Klein’s central assumption seems to be that the main goal of the Chinese government is to supplant the United States as the major global hegemony. This strikes me as needlessly paranoid. A rising power such as China is a potential threat to U.S. interests, but there’s no evidence that it is a definite antagonist. We risk turning it into one if we needlessly alienate the country because we can’t stand competition.
China’s “lucrative investment contracts” with various developing nations throughout Africa and Central Asia can be much more easily explained by the need for natural resources to fuel its economic growth than it can by any imperialist pretensions.
Finally, the whole “North Korea as a puppet state distraction for the Chinese” notion seems just needlessly complicated enough to merit the title of conspiracy theory. If the Chinese are willing to go to such lengths to distract the United States from its true regional interests, why would they engage in such brazen actions as publicly demonstrating their ability to shoot down our satellites? The Chinese government’s tacit support for the brutal regime of Kim Jong-Il can be explained much more rationally if we simply consider the nervousness of Chinese officials when faced with the prospect of millions upon millions of starving North Korean refugees pouring into their already overpopulated country should the North Korean government be allowed to collapse.
Our country is in a bind today with regards to the war in the Middle East because the people at the top did not understand the culture of the regions or the interests of their governments. As a result, our troops today are mired in sectarian violence, suicide bombings, anti-Western sentiment, and God knows what else. Our present dilemma was caused by our leaders acting upon mere hunches or suspicions without nearly enough research, knowledge or rationality. I think Mr. Klein’s article is a perfect example of this behavior.
Brian Hauss is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.