Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Realignment of Global Power Part I: China, Japan and Peace in the Pacific

Three recent significant developments in global politic, the anti-Japanese protest in China. US reaching out to India, and United Nation reform, all seem random and unrelated but they all part of the next great shift in global power politic. Massive protests in China against a seemingly minor issue is actually a manifestation of something much more sinister - Chinese ultra-nationalism and Chinese desire for hegemony, in the Pacific and beyond. The visit by Secretary Rice to India and her comment on India as a future "major world power" is an recognition of a realignment and redistribution of power. The reform of the UN is important if not fundamental to the first two issues.

The protests in China is not merely about text book. One prefecture in Japan approved a text that downplay (not deny) Japan misdeed during World War II. Big deal. Why does this seemingly minor insensitivity offend the Chinese so much. Japan have publicly apologized for her past misdeeds on numerous occasions - 17 times publicly and in writting. The protest is not about textbook on Japan past but is about Japan future role in the Pacific. The Chinese, after the abandonment of socialism did not abandon tyranny. China embrace Western capitalism but did not embrace Western democracy. China politically is still the oligarchy of old, but without the legitimacy endowed by the ideal of socialism.

Ruling more than a billion people without their consent is difficult to maintain in the long run - especially when the world is becoming more democratic and the governed are aware of this. The Politburo need a sustainable ideology and like other dictatorial regimes decide to adopt nationalism. This nationalism, like all nationalism, look to the past glory and the desire to relive and revive it. China long to see the reemergence of "The Middle Kingdom," a Chinese hegemony in the Pacific. Japan is seen as a potential rival for this covet role. Further, China resent Japan recent activities when Japan aligning herself closely to the US, on the issue of North Korea as well as sending troops to Iraq, who China consider to be an obstacle to China rise in the Pacific.

As long as the US play a dominant role in Pacific politic and as long as Japan continue to play along side the US, the dream of Sino Imperium will not be realized. The protests were and are not spontaneous display of grass root movement but it was stoked, approved, and encouraged by the Chinese authority. In China, people do not spontaneously protest on the streets. The last time they tried, the Chinese government drove tanks over them. Add this incident to the aggressiveness displayed across the Taiwan strait, the belligerent and bullying attitude concerning territorial water and we have a serious threat to peace in the Pacific. China should be considered a threat, and not because she is powerful, but because she is powerful and undemocratic.

The Politburo play on nationalism is dangerous and has unintended consequence. Nationalism is irrational and dangerous, both to others and the users. Nationalism carry with it the seeds of fascism, xenophobia, and bloodshed. We have seen in the last few decades the devastation cause by it. The genocides committed in Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, the sectarian violent in India are all the consequence of nationalism out of control. Consensus is that the Chinese leadership are pragmatic and merely use nationalism as a tool to improve their domestic standing and to leverage in international arena. But nationalism is a dangerous tiger, particularly dangerous for the rider. The politburo may enjoy riding the tiger now, but they will find that they cannot get off it without being eaten. Pretty soon, it will be the tiger that will dictate the direction of China foreign policy. The prospect of China invading Taiwan is much higher with nationalism than without. It would not even take Taiwan outright declaration of independence to spark conflict. A minor move by Taiwan toward the direction of separation, and the Chinese mass, the same one who protested Japan's textbook, who are indoctrinated to believe in the virtue and righteousness of the "Middle Kingdom," will demand war.

This is why Japan is important if not key in the containment of China's nationalism. Japan is after all a responsible democracy in Asia and an economic powerhouse. It is time for us to expunge all her sins committed 60 years prior. She has been a role model member of the world. And it is time for Japan to step up to the place and share some of the responsibility of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. That is a permanent seat in the Security Council. She after all is more trustworthy of the role and position than that of China or Russia.


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