As China becomes richer, it is becoming more nationalistic. A blunt glimpse of that was apparent over the recent Olympic Torch protests. The Chinese public was genuinely angry over world reaction. There is no significant sign that this trend will not continue.
As China gets richer, it also becomes more dependent on foreign sources of materials and energy. It will need an ever expanding military to protect the unimpeded access to those sources. The world has seen this lethal combination many times in the past. Secretary Gates has noticed:
Gates Warns China Not to Bully Region on Energy
By ERIC SCHMITT New York Times
Published: May 31, 2008
SINGAPORE — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a set of thinly veiled warnings to China on Saturday, cautioning that it could risk its share of further gains in Asia’s economic prosperity if it bullied its neighbors over natural resources in contested areas like the South China Sea.
Three years ago at the same lectern here, Mr. Gates’s predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, bluntly criticized China’s swift military buildup. Last year Mr. Gates struck a more conciliatory tone, saying Beijing and Washington had a chance to “build trust over time.”
Mr. Gates seemed to take a third approach in his remarks to a major regional Asia security conference here, seeking to lay down clear markers of continued American commitments to the region while also obliquely criticizing China.
He said that in his four trips to Asia since becoming defense secretary 18 months ago, several countries had expressed concern about “the security implications of rising demand for resources” (translation: China’s voracious quest for new sources of energy) and about “coercive diplomacy” (translation: China’s contested claims of resource-rich territorial waters).
Mr. Gates said there were rewards for playing by an international set of rules in a transparent way. “We should not forget that globalization has permitted our shared rise in wealth over recent decades,” he said. “This achievement rests above all on openness: openness of trade, openness of ideas, and openness of what I would call the ‘common areas’ — whether in the maritime, space, or cyber domains.”
The secretary specifically praised Beijing twice, noting that he had recently set up a telephone hot line with his Chinese defense counterpart and that the American-backed, six-party negotiations intended to temper North Korea’s nuclear ambitions “would not be possible without China’s valued cooperation.”
Otherwise, Mr. Gates spoke in a diplomatic code that his senior aides said would be clearly understood not only in Beijing but also in other Asian capitals and by the hundreds of security experts attending the annual regional conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Mr. Gates and his aides had debated just how blunt he ought to be in his address, which opened the Saturday session. In the end, aides said, he accepted the argument that taking a more direct approach would play to Beijing’s advantage and that a subtler, more indirect tack would win more support among Asian allies.
In the speech he recalled disputes in the mid-1990s between China and its neighbors over competing boundary and resource claims in the South China Sea, tensions that have resurfaced among China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We urged then, as we do today, the maintenance of a calm and nonassertive environment in which contending claims may be discussed and, if possible, resolved,” he said.
Mr. Gates, as he did last year at the conference, said that the United States “seeks more openness in military modernization in Asia. Transparency enhances confidence and reduces competitive spending.”
He also delivered a scolding reference to China’s unannounced destruction of a satellite in January 2007 when he described how the Pentagon handled a similar situation much differently in February, alerting others before shooting down a failing satellite over the Pacific just before it tumbled uncontrollably to Earth carrying toxic fuel.
Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, pushed back during his speech, saying that China was not engaged in an arms race and that its military spending, compared with other sectors of its economy, was “limited and proportional.” In a clear reference to America’s plan to build missile defense systems, General Ma said deploying such defenses “was not helpful” to regional stability.
Mr. Gates made clear that central to the Bush administration’s Asia policy is maintaining American military might and economic sway in the region.
Indeed, Mr. Gates’s first stop on his weeklong visit to Asia was to Guam, where he took a helicopter tour on Friday to review Pentagon plans to spend $15 billion over the next six years to upgrade and expand World War II-era installations to accommodate thousands of additional American troops, and to broaden training missions with regional partners like Japan.
He said Saturday that Washington’s policy also focused on empowering regional allies to defend themselves by strengthening their armed forces and by building more robust economies and open political systems.
This policy is almost sure to endure no matter which party wins the White House in the November election, he said.
He showed an unusual flash on anger in response to a question after his speech about American efforts to deliver relief to cyclone victims in Myanmar, saying the United States has tried 15 times to get the Burmese leadership to allow more foreign assistance, but to no avail.
“We have reached out, they have kept their hands in their pockets,” he said.