As China rises, its people grow arrogant

14:10, September 03, 2010      

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Three decades of reform have led to a rapid increase of wealth in China, and this in turn has also made the Chinese people arrogant. The Chinese people are no longer modest. They talk about Seoul and Tokyo with contempt and even boast that Beijing and Shanghai, the two biggest Chinese cities, could rival New York and Paris.

Meanwhile, the Chinese people are no longer tolerant of criticisms. While some countries criticize China shows its force too easily, Chinese respond that it is because those countries do not want to admit the fact that China is growing in strength. When some countries say China's strategic purpose is not clear, they respond that those countries do not understand the philosophy of hiding one's capacities and biding one's time.

While some countries suggest China should pay more attention to environmental protection, they reply it is hypocritical of those countries to infringe on China's legitimate right to develop after they themselves have produced so much pollution during their industrialization. To sum it up, in recent years, the Chinese people have formed such a fixed way of thinking: China is misunderstood by the whole world.

They are demonstrating an unprecedented toughness toward these criticisms. Behind this toughness is the narcissism formed after three decades of rapid development.

Domestically, the Chinese people believe that through the work of policemen and demolition teams they can maintain both social stability and economic growth. We believe our environment and resources could provide an unlimited material basis for the economic miracle. We believe that water poisonous enough to kill fish is harmless for human beings. We start to believe our development model is unique. Since China is the only country that has realized such astonishing economic achievements in three decades, there must be some Chinese model, though we cannot say clearly what it is exactly.

Correspondingly, in the international arena, Chinese people emphasize that world peace and China's rise are not mutually exclusive. They insists that other countries should abandon the logic that a strong country will inevitably seek hegemony and believe in China's good will, despite the totally different lessons seen in the history of international relations in the past 400 years.

In fact, the way China has achieved its rise is not unique. The factors leading to China's success have already been mentioned by others long before. China just has done its best with these factors. But what China has accomplished actually bears huge potential of social instability and is built on expensive environmental costs.

China's uniqueness is not well-grounded, but the Chinese people have established the self-confidence that may be unique across the world. This self-confidence is becoming arrogance and pride, which used not to exist in the blood of the Chinese nation. It is eroding the sense of the nation and polluting both its internal and external environment.

To treat this disease is not difficult as long as the Chinese people can admit they are not unique but one of the multiple countries on earth. For those things that other countries failed to do, China cannot achieve either. For instance, China is unable to maintain a growth rate of 8 percent in GDP beyond the bearing capacity of the environment. Nor can it maintain social stability while the gap between the rich and the poor surpasses what the public can stomach.

As Chinese people, we can be confident, but never arrogant. We must respect the rules, admitting that the development of China has its conditions all the time, both at home and abroad. It is neither possible for China to overdraw the social and natural costs domestically, nor is it possible for is to pursue its growth and peace at the same time internationally without repercussions.

The author is Ye Hailin, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences


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