Foreign Policy Blogs

Great Power? China Rages Incoherently at Japan and Video Games

Angry Panda

China presumes “great power” status for itself equal to the United States. What has China done recently to demonstrate its readiness for such a role? It has raged incoherently at Japan for a modest increase in military spending and accused a video game of “cultural aggression” against China.

In response to China’s saber-rattling in the East China Sea and the unpredictable behavior of North Korea, Japan recently announced that it will increase defense spending by five percent over the next five years. China, predictably, flew into hysterics. Chinese defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng posted an angry tirade against Japan on the ministry’s website Dec. 21 that stopped making much if any sense at all soon after saying that China was “firmly opposed” to Japan’s increase in military spending.

“Where is Japan’s military and security policy going?” Geng asked, saying that Japan’s military buildup “causes great concerns from Japan’s Asian neighbors and international society.” Here, as in other recent statements against Japan and the United States, China presumes to speak for the entire Asia-Pacific region and indeed all of “international society.” In fact, most of China’s Asia-Pacific neighbors are far more worried about China than about Japan or the United States, and want a strong U.S. presence allied with Japan to counterbalance Chinese power in the region. For China, however, reality is whatever China wants it to be. Like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, China inhabits a geopolitical Wonderland of its own, full of friends and foes that only China can see.

“On the one hand, Japan claimed that it respects freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Geng continued in a clumsy English translation of his statement, “but on the other hand, it repeatedly denied its history of aggression during the Second World War, challenged the post-war international order and hurt the feeling of the people of the war-victim countries…. As a nation that can not reflect on its history, what qualification does Japan have to speak about freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law? How can the country make contributions to the world peace?”

Here, China once again waves the bloody shirt of Japanese atrocities during World War II, which were horrific and which Japan should properly acknowledge. But what does this have to do with the matter at hand or with present-day reality? And how, exactly, has Japan “challenged the post-war international order”? Would this be an “international order” that exists only on Planet China? Japan today is not the Japan of seventy years ago. A democracy whose citizens enjoy full human rights and freedom of expression, Japan is a far more respected member of today’s international community than China, and no one in the region or in the world today (except possibly China) thinks that Japan wants another try at establishing a Pacific empire of its own. Again, most of China’s Asia-Pacific neighbors today are far more worried about China’s imperial ambitions.

Japan’s defense budget is, of course, an internal Japanese matter that the sovereign nation of Japan has the right to decide for itself without permission from China or anyone else. One can easily imagine how China would react if any foreign power were to question or criticize its defense budget decisions. As always, China wants one set of rules for itself and a different set of rules for everyone else, because that’s how it works in a Land of Oz where China wears the magic slippers. Additional reports on China’s anti-Japanese histrionics may be seen at the South China Morning Post, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Diplomat, and Al-Jazeera.

Recently also, China took aim at video game Battlefield 4, accusing the game of “demonizing” China and of “discrediting China’s image abroad and distorting the truth in an effort to mislead young people.” According to a Chinese military newspaper editorial published Dec. 11, the game represents “a new form of cultural penetration and aggression.” An official with the China Public Diplomacy Association quoted in the editorial further said that Chinese people “need to rise up” and “resist video game media that puts China in a bad light.” In the geopolitical Twilight Zone of China’s paranoid imaginings, even a video game is an existential threat.

This is China’s performance recently as a star player on the world stage: Throwing a nonsensical hissy fit at Japan for a modest increase in its defense budget, and calling on the Chinese people to rise up against a video game. Bravo.  As a “great power,” China is clearly not ready for prime time.



Mark C. Eades
Mark C. Eades

Mark C. Eades is an Asia-based writer, educator, and independent researcher. Located in Shanghai, China from 2009 to 2015, he now splits his time between the United States and various locations in Asia. He has spent a total of seven years in China since his first visit in 1991, and has taught at Fudan University, Shanghai International Studies University, and in the private sector in Shanghai. He is also widely traveled throughout East and Southeast Asia. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University with extensive coursework in Asia-Pacific studies. His previous publications include articles on China and Sino-US relations in U.S. News & World Report, Asia Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and Atlantic Community. Twitter: @MC_Eades

Great Decisions Discussion group