Sunday, October 9, 2011

Problem of Chinese "Militarism"


Those of you who read FT might remember special analysis on 29th of September titled "A show of Force". The analysis provided snapshot of ongoing changes (positive or not) within the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). China has indeed staged some genuine "show of force" in recent years such as embarrassing Robert Gates by testing their new stealth jet on the day of his visit or showing off their newly refurbished aircraft carrier. For many Americans and those brought up in the age of American hegemony in Asia-Pacific may feel very uncomfortable to hear such news, but then I couldn't help wonder actually where, when and how all this started in the first place. So did some personal research.

The recent changes in PLA could be seen as part of so-called 'militarism', a type of assertive nationalism policy backed by military. The concept of militarism was first introduced to Chinese audiences in the early 20th century by relatively unknown Japan-educated Chinese scholar called Liang Qichao. Liang Qichao
(Liang QiChao: Not Happy at all....)

In his book "Explanation and Glossary of China's Bushido Spirit" published in 1904, he openly declares that purpose of this book is to attempt to emphasis the importance of militarism thinking in history in response to continuous weakening of China. He believed that hundred years of Chinese culture which favoured "scholar-bureaucrats" over "warlords" have undermined the competitiveness mindset of Chinese people and hence why Qing Empire is declining. On that tangent, he argues that the reason for Japanese success lies in their Bushido spirit - fight till death, survival of fittest and life as warrior - and that Chinese should copy that.

Quite understandably, his argument was well-received by many revolutionaries of the time who wanted to create their own version of stronger China in the backdrop of falling Qing Empire. However, the problem is that, it seems like many of current Chinese Communist Party official and PLA officials have grown love with slightly more radicalised version of Liang's idea.

(to be continued)

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