[Editorial] China`s misguided nationalism
The Chinese move to incorporate the Goguryeo Dynasty
into its ancient history is absurd, but beyond that it is also alarming because
it appears to reflect a trend of rising nationalism in that giant country.
Unfortunately, there is growing evidence of the nationalistic trend these days
in China`s official and private behaviors, and that is generating concern among
China`s neighbors over the emergence of new hegemonism and expansionism Many
China watchers noted Chinese fans` wild, unruly rooting for their national squad
during the recent Asian Cup soccer championship - particularly their show of raw
antagonism toward Korean and Japanese teams. In a country where few spontaneous
popular actions are seen, this outpouring of public sentiment is understood as
resulting from surging national pride among the people, combined with their
competitive mentality toward more economically advanced neighbors.
China`s leaders deserve credit for creating a national atmosphere in which
people`s confidence in their own economic gains, sprinkled with a certain
antipathy toward foreign competitors, has kept them from making demands for
rapid democratic progress, a theme feared since the events at Tiananmen Square a
decade and a half ago. The peculiar academic effort, called the "Northeast Asia
Project" which is focused on rearranging ancient history to claim China`s
control of Manchuria millennia ago, is apparently part of such an endeavor.
In Beijing`s official circles, new emphasis is being given to the national
theme of "rich nation, strong military." This goal was introduced during the
16th general convention of the Chinese Communist Party and was again presented
by President Hu Jintao to the 15th educational session of the CCP political
bureau last month. Hu stressed to top party cadres that defense capabilities
should be increased in tandem with economic power to promote national interests
in a competitive world.
Hu`s emphasis on strong armed forces, which some viewed as a challenge to the
power of Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin in the complex leadership
structure in Beijing, is an expression of China`s new policy to take a more
aggressive stance on defense and external affairs on the basis of its economic
strength. The new policy direction is reflected in China`s appreciable efforts
to help settle the North Korean nuclear arms problem through the ongoing
multilateral talks in Beijing.
On the other hand, China has expressed increasingly vehement criticisms about
Japan glossing over its past history and recent "provocative" acts such as Prime
Minister Koizumi`s frequent visits to the Yasukuni war shrine. These can be
understood as a legitimate reaction to Tokyo`s aberrations, but China`s own
tampering with ancient Goguryeo history is simply deplorable and intolerable.
Beijing`s obliteration of Korea`s entire history up until the 1948 founding of
the Republic of Korea on its government Internet website in response to Seoul`s
official protest is an infantile action.
Despite its long history, China in a sense is a young country in terms of
economic development and democratic political maturity. To this growing nation,
we are willing to offer a sincere recommendation regarding its national course,
for its own benefit as well as for peace and prosperity in the East Asian
Externally, Beijing should try to exercise leadership in the region more
spontaneously to create a viable East Asian community and enhance
forward-looking economic and security cooperation to counter the European and
American blocs. Pursuing this lofty objective would be a good use of China`s
newly earned economic might and political clout.
Internally, the Beijing leadership should prepare quietly for democratic
development, from local party representation to the center, to meet the growing
public demand that is foreseeable as a consequence of economic advancement, and
avoid disastrous upheavals.
In pursuing these worthy policy goals, the Chinese authorities must find no
room to engage in such useless and counterproductive activities as denying a
neighboring country`s historical origin.
(Korea Herald 2004-8-13)