By Tom Plate
China allegedly has at least 1.3 billion people residing within its current ample borders. (But has anyone actually ever counted?) China also has very many problems, as befits such a gigantic country trying to maintain the extraordinary economic success against the downside of a very troubled recent past.
Therefore, it could be regarded as axiomatic that China does not need any more problems, particularly self-created ones. And this is why I —who like many Americans sincerely wish China good fortune — am worried: some of the new problems seem largely self-created. Here are a few problems China doesn’t need and which it could ease by unilateral action. The first is its territorial banging problems. These top my list. It’s having too many quarrels with its neighbours lately.
Here’s an absurd but telling conspiracy theory: That someone very high up in the Chinese governing or party elite is secretly working for the US Central Intelligence Agency and the US Pentagon. How else to explain the pointless and ugly frictions with the Philippines, Vietnams with Malaysia, which is a relatively placid country that generally doesn’t rankle anyone (excepting of course the special case of neighbouring Singapore)?
Something funny is going on. Until relatively recently, all we heard out of the Beijing international-relations publicity machine was “peaceful rising.” The Chinese were saying, in effect, we are not a 21st century version of the former Soviet Union, wishing to subjugate countries around it. We will continue our surge up the global economic ladder peacefully. We like everyone — trust us. That was indeed calming to hear. And I had lots of friends who applauded appreciatively, as I did. But then came all the elbowing and macho-upsizing over territorial rights in the South China Sea.
Defined, vaguely, the SCS is a sort of semi-imaginary chunk of the Pacific Ocean that might be said to take in everything oceanic from the seas of Singapore and Malaysia way to the west of Beijing all the way eastward to the seas around Taiwan, which is always a source of intense interest to alert nationalistic mainlanders. It is believed that under many SCS waters lay buried colossal unexplored caves of oil and gas deposits just waiting to be uplifted and transported for useful refinement. Beijing has been acting — and sometimes appearing to be actually saying — that this vast area is: Mine, all mine! Be careful, Beijing: China, a great historic nation getting its act together, doesn’t need to seem like some adolescent bullying Asian leviathan. It needs to be subtler in its external relations. Only the Pentagon and CIA can gain when more and more scared Asia neighbours are ready to jump into Uncle Sam’s tender embrace. Here’s another problem China really doesn’t need: public disputes with the Catholic Church. Okay, we get it: China’s party and government do not believe in God, and they suspect that anyone who sincerely holds such a belief is either a mental case or a closet subversive. Khaleej Times