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China: United States Begins ‘Pacific Century’, Online Nationalism Follows

Most of China's popular blog portal sites have sections for military news, often buried below panels for entertainment and love/relationship stories. Starting roughly in October with the quiet story that India continues to build up its presence along the border with China, posts on military topics seem to have grown in number and prominence on major blog hosting sites, reaching a peak this past week with reactions to United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama's Pacific swing, which wrapped up in Indonesia on Saturday.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao insists that China is a good neighbor, but much of what's been written in many recent blog posts and comment threads sort of suggests otherwise.

Earlier on Wednesday, Obama's assertion while in Australia that he doesn't fear China became the headline in Chinese reports of his plans to expand US military presence there, and has had emotional comments voted to the top of comment threads on sites such as Tencent [zh], where readers are usually a mix of the liberal and cynical:


Obama speaks with too much arrogance. What China needs now is someone like Zhuge Liang [zh] in his early years.


All you cowards in China, please stop talking, you embarrass us to death and you piss me off!!!!
I'm crying over China's lost territory! I'm furious about America's debt! And I'm brimming with rage at these traitorous comments!
I'm ready to draw my sword for the Chinese nation………..

Obama didn't explicitly say this past week that his recent moves are aimed at checking Chinese power in Asia, but Chinese nationalist sentiment has taken them not just as confirmation of a larger strategy to encircle China, but also an expanded approach.

Australian writer and international affairs scholar Yang Hengjun wrote on that [zh] this week:



If the United States is to take on China, military encirclement will be part of that, and it just happens America has military strength freed up from ten years in a war on terror. None of this is good for China. Twenty years of expansive economic grown should have prepared us for relative peace on the international stage, but if policymakers in Beijing get the childish idea in their heads that there's need to prepare for war and start tightening belts like the former USSR did, militarizing and becoming aggressive, then they won't be far from going down the same road that the former Soviets did. 

At this point in history and in this international climate, I don't think that war between China and the US is impossible, but rather that it will be war in the economic sense. The true war that will be fought will be an economic war, or an ‘economic cold war’. Deploying troops is just one part of America's overall strategy. What will determine who wins or loses is the economy, whether people's standard of living is increasing, whether or not the public is satisfied, popular support, etc. The key confrontations will be over things like values and soft and smart power.


Unless I'm mistaken, the first shot in the economic war between China and the US has already been taken. In fact, we can already see that the US is now attacking on all economic fronts. We've left behind the era of “China Can Say No“, and are now entering the period of “The World Has Begun Saying No to China”.

And from comments on Yang's blog post:


When will the Chinese people finally be able to stand up and receive respect?


Our soft power needs to win over America's, and win over our own hearts and minds.


The US has gone from hope for China to disappointment. The only thing Chinese people know is that American navy ships have entered the Pacific, that Hillary went to the Philippines, that Obama spoke in Australia and that US troops will be stationed there. What we don't know is why they've come or who brought them here.

All of ASEAN, it seems, but the Philippines in particular, as it took aim at China during last week's summits in Indonesia.

“Since the US is serious about this,” reads the comment voted most popular (by a large margin) on a Tencent story on Hillary's recent commitment to provide military support to the Philippines if it's ever attacked, “then we'll meet them head on. We won't allow being put through another century of humiliation, even if it means killing Americans.”

Now bloggers are posting possible conflict triggers and resolution scenarios to mainstream blog portals, not just the regulars at the usual nationalistic niche online communities. On his Phoenix blog, Shi Weisong writes that as the number of disputed territories grows, China needs to start getting proactive in finding ways to prevent a crisis. Military presence needs to be strengthened, he writes, and military and economic means need to be used to rope in neighboring countries and keep them from leading the US on.

North Korea can keep keep South Korea distracted and be used as leverage against the United States and, similarly, movement toward reunification with Taiwan will take away America's advantage. As for the South China Sea, Shi writes, we need to find an opportunity to strike as well as an appropriate opponent, a role which suits the Philippines.


The entry of American power into East Asia can't be prevented, and won't be. An encounter with the US and, in it, how China will ensure its own interests and strategic space—particularly as surrounding countries move in—is something China won't be able to avoid.
Cover image borrowed from Wikipedia user Bazonka.

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