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China’s Dream

Posted March. 26, 2010 03:01,   


After the Song Dynasty of ancient China was overthrown by the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia in the late 13th century, Zheng Sixia, a Song poet and painter, began sitting and lying toward the south where the Song Dynasty was once located to express hostility toward the Yuan Dynasty. He even used the pen name “Sohnam (toward the south).” When he drew orchids, he did not draw the soil because he thought the soil “was stolen by barbarians.” In a poem, he said, “I have a dream of recovering the center of a field with one accord.”

When asked by a Taiwanese reporter on the conflict between China and Taiwan on March 18, 2008, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said, “I sincerely dream of making China a strong nation through unification.” The book “The China Dream” by Liu Mingfu, a professor at National Defense University of China, is drawing global attention for saying China, which has surpassed Japan in GDP to become the world’s No. 2 economy, can dominate the world. The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said, “China should hide its power to wait for the right time.” Liu apparently thinks that time is approaching.

The “balance of power” theory prevailed in the Cold War era, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union confronted each other. The two superpowers had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world and prepared to guard against attacks from each other. They achieved a “balance of horror” under the perception, “If you attack, I will counterattack.” The theory lost its appeal after the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact collapsed. Replacing it was the theory of power transition, which deals with when the balance of power will break and who will emerge as a new power.

Liu said, “China wants to say no to the United States,” repeating what Tokyo Mayor Shintaro Ishihara said Japan should do in 1989. By saying so, Ishihara gained political influence. Liu suggested that China and the U.S. compete for the world’s top position by going their own directions while avoiding a head-on collision. In this way, however, China cannot become the sole superpower, according to the theory of power transition. To become the lone superpower, a country must lead the world in all aspects including military and cultural power and the ability to help other countries. Faced with the reality that the Song Dynasty could not beat the Yuan Dynasty, Zheng dreamed of recovering his land. Liu seems to want to do the same.

Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (hoon@donga.com)