China’s Dangerous Arrogance
Image Credit: US Navy

China’s Dangerous Arrogance


China’s rising-power exuberance is becoming a problem.

There’s long been bipartisan policy support in the United States for emphasizing cooperation with China while minimizing competition. President Barack Obama, who has said that Sino-American relations would ‘shape the 21st Century,’ subscribes to this precept. But it was also generally assumed that a re-emerging China would be intelligent and self-interested. Instead, China’s recent diplomatic and military assertiveness, apparently fuelled by overconfidence, is creating consternation—especially over freedom of the seas.

It’s logical that Chinese leaders would want a protracted period of quiescence rather than to draw attention to a gradual military build-up. China’s long history has focused on continental power and China’s eager, ‘let’s-do-business’ attitude has been successful around the globe.

But as China has become more influential, it has also become uncharacteristically assertive in the diplomatic arena. This assertiveness is nowhere more evident than with its naval power, and is prompting many to ask if it is now verging on the reckless, particularly over the South China Sea.

Consider four separate points that on the surface seem unrelated but which all point to China’s insatiable expectations—if not an actual ‘string of pearls’ strategy—in the maritime sea lanes of the Pacific and Indian Oceans:

–Professor Wang Jisi, one of China’s most gifted academics dealing with the United States, wrote this month that whether conflict erupts between the region’s major powers may depend on the role of the two navies;

–Another leading academic, Shen Dingli of Fudan University, extended the logic of the recent official assertion that the South China Sea is a ‘core interest’ of China when he wrote that: ‘When the US ponders the idea of deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, very close to China, shouldn’t China have the same feeling as the US did when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba?’

–A Chinese exchange student engaging in an intensive Washington scholarship programme asked recently whether conflict was inevitable between a rising China and a declining United States;

–And one of the highest-ranking figures in the foreign policymaking of President Hu Jintao’s administration recently waved his finger at a senior US official and said, ‘I know what you’re up to,’ in an apparent reference to US diplomatic engagement with a neighbouring country.

Alone, any one of these incidents could be dismissed. But what’s troubling is that such statements are part of a trend in Chinese statements that go beyond arrogance. How else can one explain China’s willingness to countenance Pyongyang’s deadly mini-submarine sinking of a South Korean naval vessel this spring? China also condemned a planned US-South Korea regional naval exercise designed to send North Korea a warning that its murderous aggression must have consequences.


[...] Questa dichiarazione è stata definita dagli analisti occidentali la “Dottrina Monroe con caratteristiche cinesi”. Come il presidente degli Stati Uniti James Monroe aveva richiesto alle potenze europee di [...]

September 1, 2010 at 15:13

To the authors,

I respect the fact that everyone is allowed their opinion. But if you have to accuse others, please at least provide some proof.

For example, where is the evidence that N. Korea sank the Cheonan?

There is a WHOLE HOST of evidence that contradict the US official version of events. Is it not obvious that these evidence should at least be looked at if you are to make accusations? Simply pushing the evidence aside and bullying everyone into gang attack of a small nation isn’t, and shouldn’t, be tolerated by respectable nations.

I will just list 2 sources here out of many in case your readers are interested :

( **** The 2nd one is very interesting. It is an open letter to Hillary Clinton written by a prominent South Korean expert on the matter **** )

James Noland
September 1, 2010 at 01:31

This: ‘The US has one of the worst Humanitarian records in history.’

I suppose, if you literally ignore everyone else.

August 31, 2010 at 02:42

Maybe it is time to talk about US ARROGANCE!

China should think hard about US’s capability and political will to settle its national debts.

Speaking today in Detroit, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen took on the rare task of declaring what he believed was the “top” threat to America’s national security going forward. It wasn’t Iran, it wasn’t North Korea, it wasn’t even some ill-defined group of factions called “terrorism.” It was the national debt.

“The most significant threat to our national security is the debt,” Mullen insisted, adding that it is “so important that the economy move in the right direction” to pay for more military spending going forward.

Andrew P
August 29, 2010 at 00:34

Don’t confuse apples with oranges. This article is not about land claims (other than tiny islands in the S. China Sea). Contested land claims occur all over the world. It is about jurisdiction over the open ocean, and control of trade routes. I remember when Ronald Reagan had naval exercises done in these waters just to reassert the claim that this area is open international waters. So this contest is nothing new. What is new is that China is rising fast, the US appears to be declining, and China smells an opportunity to make a grab. Whether China is “dangerously arrogant” or not untimately depends on the outcome. If China is successful in imposing its soverignty over the SCS, then it will have scored a major coup not only against the USA, but against the existing international system. It will set a precedent that ends the USA as a global power, and allows China to construct a new international order to its liking. If it ends badly for them, with the People’s Army Navy sitting in Davy Jones Locker, then they were dangerously arrogant. The stakes are incredibly high here.

August 27, 2010 at 00:48

I value my freedoms and dont want the state to dictate what to believe in, what to do, how many children to have, etc etc. Hope you are not a stooge or a countrymen from around the South China sea (traitor).

August 26, 2010 at 13:47

It is funny how China is now being portrayed as the potential aggressor at every front. However, a brief glance through China’s military history showed that China had not established far-flung colonies at distant corners of the world, when it had the strength to do so.

I’d like to ask: ever since the founding of the PRC, has China started any overt wars that led to the increase of its territory?

Frankly, the Republic of China still claims far more territory than the PRC, and its claim includes all of Mongolia, Tannu Uriankhai, Northern Burma, Eastern Tajikistan (all of which the current government of China does not lay a claim to), in addition to Arunachal and ALL of the Spratleys. Now the RoC is supposed to be a western-styled democracy, but it accuses the current government of China of abandoning vast tracts of “sovereign” territory.

Is China really the war-mongering, land-grabbing yellow peril that Western media portrays it to be? Don’t forget that Western countries are still militarily intervening in the affairs of other countries. And the wars that they are now fighting are not a bit justified. Meanwhile the last time China fought a major military campaign was in ’79, at the behest of the U.S. which wanted to use China to teach Vietnam a lesson. If history has taught us anything, it is the Western countries that are to be feared the most. Behind their facade of peace and democracy often lies several carrier battle groups.

August 26, 2010 at 13:31

If you think the Diplomat is biased, try the BBC. Or CNN. In fact, I stopped reading the Economist’s section on Asia because of its surge in blatant and un-journalistic China-bashing articles. The recent articles on China to India, so filled with weasel words, is a perfect example in the decline of the standards of the Economist’s articles.

The Diplomat may be rather critical towards China, but I don’t blame them. At least most of its articles are honest and fair assessment of the current situation in China, based on facts, not opinions and assumptions. And frankly, they are a necessary breath of fresh air to the benighted chauvinistic crowd of Chinese netizens. No, China is not perfect, and there are ways to make it better. Starting with honest discussions of its problems.

August 26, 2010 at 13:25

Please. Your belief in the inherent superiority of the Western system is insularity at its best.

August 26, 2010 at 13:24

I can’t help but remember Winston Churchill’s opinion on India:

“India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator.”

Not difficult to see. Kashmir, Mizoram, Naxal, Gujarat…

August 26, 2010 at 13:20

Too bad the Republicans and FOXNews don’t really want the things that you listed.

August 26, 2010 at 13:18

Do note the fact that the prevailing political opinion of the top echelon of the CCP is for harmony and stability. Absolute harmony and stability. They understand the fact that as long as harmony and stability are present, China will grow and eventually become advanced enough to solve its own problems. In contrast, America, with its stagnant economy and society (I live here and I can feel it), looks more like the one with nothing to lose. It is hardly in China’s interest to start any sort of conflict for the next fifty years. I can’t say the same for America.

August 26, 2010 at 13:11

Yes, it is true that the government hires plenty of lower level cadets and lackeys to troll blogs and discussion boards, but they fester on blogs and boards that the average Chinese citizen would read… i.e. blogs and boards that are in Chinese. I’ve seen a few on the Chinese section of the Diplomat.

But don’t forget that there are plenty of chauvinistic Chinese netizens who voluntarily troll English discussion boards. There are so many of them that I doubt the Party can pay them all. Admittedly they are not always the best informed people you’ll meet online, but that does not make them Party lackeys. So please withhold the personal attacks and also understand the fact that many people are not native speakers of English. But the fact that they can communicate intelligibly in English should win them some admiration: When was the last time that you wrote cohesive Chinese?

August 26, 2010 at 13:04

50 cent party alert (look up the term on

August 15, 2010 at 13:43

The war was over in 1991 because they said it was?!?!?!? Ever heard of WWI? WWII, in many ways, was the next chapter of the same book. Wars don’t stop because someone says “the end”.

The two Gulf wars were the continuation of foreign policy in the region which dates back to colonial rule. but to keep it current, the 2 bush’s administrations were continuations of foreign policy steered by domestics interests. Rumsfeld and Cheney, the most famous or notorious, are called “old dogs” because they have been part of former foreign policy since at least the Iran-Iraq wars.
Personally, after hearing what the head of the GOP mentioned about the afghan war, it would not be hard to think that maybe bush had two interests.
1. beat up the guy who embarrass my pop with the help of my pop’s friends.
2. start a war that is “winnable”

August 8, 2010 at 17:48

Listen, daughter, that story about the continuation of the First War, is nothing more than a BS (that the US in general and Powell in particular, unsuccessfully tried to feed the UN with). The war was over, which was declared on the American television back in 1991, including the BUSH, I mean FOX, channel. So go tell this story, about 1991, to you grand kinds, and as The Diplomat Team stated above, you should only post constructive comments here.

August 5, 2010 at 10:51

Just a friendly reminder to encourage commenters to keep comments constructive, on subject and to show respect for others who take the time to post. We receive many thoughtful and informative comments and try to post a diverse range of views. But to ensure this forum is welcoming for everyone, regardless of nationality or opinion, we do reserve the right to reject personal or aggressive commenting.

Mortimer Sanderson
August 4, 2010 at 17:28

Look, son, I know you were probably not around back then, so you probably are unaware of what transpired during the 1990′s. Because of his failure to comply with the conditions of his surrender in 1991, technically, it is quite arguable that the U.S. was still in a state of war with Hussein when it and others went back to finish the job in 2003. In fact, there were countless times, throughout the 90′s, and, especially, during Clinton’s last year in office, that the U.S. bombed military targets in Iraq. One of the terrible mistakes that Bush (the First) made was to allow hundreds of thousands of Shiites and Kurds to die at Hussein’s hands because he was allowed to remain in power while nothing was done to help them in their struggles against him. For whatever reason -perhaps to scare the world into thinking he was dangerously armed with WMD’s – Hussein never allowed the weapons inspectors the unfettered access they required to confirm that his WMD’s were gone. And perhaps you realize that virtually all of the untold deaths following the 2003 invasion (most of them civilians) were from the bombing campaigns of the so-called “freedom fighters” that your ilk so gleefully supported with your treacherous words and deeds (e.g. your pal Michael Moore). Yes, the Iraq war was badly mismanaged and undermanned (because of the likes of Rumsfeld and his staff), allowing the insurgency to do what Mr. Moore and others like him so commended. Yes, we made a terrible mistake, underestimating the barbarity of the baathists and the islamists (and all the others whom you likely would be proud to call compadres). But making mistakes is not the same as willful maleficence. Your type really makes me sick. And one more thing, you pusillanimous little lackey of the PRC: Free Tibet!

Even Walser
August 4, 2010 at 06:46

What? I am not sure what you actually mean other than to admit that you are in the employ of the Chinese government and that you are paid to refute article negative of China. So what exactly is your point? If you point is that the U.S. also has an active propaganda ministry that is trying to influence public perception globally through the petty use of comment sections. I would say we have bigger fish to focus on.

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