Wednesday, April 16, 2008

China whines, "Why can't we force people to like us?!"

This whole long mess over Tibet and human rights abuses, brought to a head by the Olympics, demonstrates one important thing: China is an economic power, but not a mature country.

What I mean by this is that Chinese citizens and politicians and diplomats and businessmen have been isolated from the world for so long that they have absolutely no idea how to respond to people disliking them. Of all the expressions of nationalism I have seen, China's is the most hair-raisingly unthinking. The Chinese people have not developed a cultural system to deal with being criticized by other countries.

France floated ideas about a boycott over the Tibet violence, and Chinese citizens reacted by trying to organize a total boycott of French goods. Now, you might point out that French opposition to the Iraq war almost resulted in a harrowing 'Freedom Fries' schism. There is, however, a fundamental difference between the American overreaction and the Chinese. The US wanted support on specific policies, France refused. China wanted other countries to like and respect it, and France refused.

The American reaction was citizens registering displeasure because they felt France was wrong. The Chinese wanted to force France to like them by hitting them with an economic club. They did not want diplomatic relations, or the kind of 'friendship' the US enjoys with, say, Saudi Arabia. They wanted to be liked as a country and a people by the French country and people.

What it does is make China look idiotic. And it happens over and over: another country expresses displeasure at China and gets a huge nationalist backlash from the Chinese. China's big debut on the world stage may go over without violence, but its citizens are building a nasty reputation for themselves as the most childish of all great powers. The 'mature' Europeans often scoff at American enthusiasm and hotheadedness, but even the worst of Americans are being made to look measured and thoughtful by the Chinese reactions.

The USSR never had this problem, even as it far more despised by the West. Neither is it a problem of being non-European. Japan does not constantly overreact. South Korean has indeed had its missteps, but more often than not they're things like attempting to apologize for the Virginia Tech killings, simply because the shooter was Korean. Venezuela does not go crazy when important US spokesmen insult Hugo Chavez.

I suspect that if Kim Jong-Il's regime collapsed tomorrow, the North Koreans would have a similar problem to the Chinese: they've been out of the loop of global discourse for so long, they don't understand how to respond. Eventually the Chinese will toughen up and learn to either take criticism or change. For right now, citizens may be undermining the Chinese government's claim that it's ready to stand tall on the world stage.


Anonymous said...

china is out of the loop, they are juvenile in their reaction. they are flexing their muscle but not in a good way. we should not boycott the olympics for politcal reasons.the world has a short memory. we were unhappy with hitler and there was such talk and protests in 1936, it did no good,look what hitler did after that. if we're displeased then stay on task olympics or not.

let the games begin

xiaoyong said...

I'm a Chinese, and I feel very sorry for some bad and immature reaction of chinese.
But chinese don't want the western people to like them or to hate them. So we don't force people to like us. We only want them to know that they should at least criticize according to fact, or better with good human mind.
Yes, if you want to focus on some people's overreactions, you are illuding people. When you think that we need your pleasure, you are too much elevating yourself. Why don't you think that you force chinese to like western madia by attacking them maliciously and attack the holist point? and force them to like western people when they attack even with violence the holy torch which represent peace, harmony and unity, the human values? And after two centuries of invasion by wenstern countries, now they want human right, but neglecting the great development of tibet and China, both economically and politically, neglecting the darkest time under teocracy and slavery of Dalai Lama, all of these make us question about what they want.
If you don't want to be a friend to me, why whould I?
Even this is very reasonable, but please read the real thought behind these emotions, we will still be open to the world and welcome all the friends from all the places of the whole world, because we believe ourselvs, China including Tibet will still develop in her own way, and this Olympic will be the greatest one.
And welcome to China and Tibet, we will show you a real world.