中国还有没有“朋友”? – Does China still have “friends”? – English

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Feng Qingyang: famous brand strategy expert. Currently CEO of Huiying World branding agency. Senior writer for ‘China Business’, ‘Economic Observer’, ‘Sales and Marketing’, ‘International PR’ and other front-line media.

When we open the newspaper, or turn on ‘News Simulcast’, we often read or hear about “China’s old friend, this or that country”, but slowly, the countries of which can be said to be “old friends” are fewer and fewer. We also discover that whenever country leaders go abroad on official visits, it’s always accompanied by donations and free aid. This makes people produce questions like, “China is indeed pouring out money everywhere, but why does this charitable China have almost no friends?” A few years back China offered aid to Vietnam, but now it is encroaching on China’s territory in the South Chinese Sea. When the earthquake hit Japan, China mobilized the entire nation to support it, and yet Japan regards China as its greatest threat; though China has expended countless lives and the entire nation’s strength to protect North Korea, not only has it never shown thanks, but instead it’s appetite gets bigger and bigger…

What are friends? So-called ‘friends’ are partners who stay true when trouble strikes. When China needs help most, they will help us. But now, we basically have no such true friend. All that surround us hide knives in their smile, and leech off friends when secretly helping others; they are shameless, insatiable, greedy “friends”. Let’s go ahead and divide these “friends” into three categories.

First category: those hiding knives in their smile

In this category, the most typical case is Russia. Russia and China often act like friends face-to-face but backstab each other. When bullied by America, Russia makes us the scape-goat. When America bullies us, Russia may also hit us when we are down. Why does it peddle heavy weapons to Vietnam and India? And why does it wantonly raise prices on weapons when it sells to China? Russia shows the heart of a villain, so can we still expect them to become our friend?

On one hand, Russia wants to strategically ally with China against the United States; but on the other hand, it sells its best weapons to Vietnam and India, allowing them to impede and oppose China. On the surface, it wants to maintain consensus with China in the UN Security Council, but on the other hand, when voting on Syria and Lybia, it twice decided to abandon Gaddafi and Assad without first notifying China, letting China be extremely isolated in the Council. At face value, it’s a good friend of the Chinese people, but it’s wary of China at every moment, always ready to plant a knife in China’s back.

Other examples are Vietnam and the Philippines: on the one hand, they need Chinese assistance and access to the large Chinese market, but on the other hand, they are in conflict with China over territorial issues; the Philippines even accepted Chinese loans, and then went out to buy weapons while engaging in a dispute with China about the South China Sea. When they need your money, or when they need the US to sell them weapons, they’ll smile to your face and tell you you’re a big country, but at the same time they’re thinking of carving you up.

Second category: those who eat food from our hands

Like North Korea, which is like an ever-hungry wolf. In 1989, amongst global sanctions against China, North Korea abstained from the vote at the United Nations; in 2000, the 27th Olympic Games were organised in Sydney because North Korea gave its vote to Australia, leaving Beijing to lose by 45 – 43 votes. Not only that, but before North Korea sets up on doing something major, it typically won’t notify China. This happened for nuclear testing or the six party talks, leaving China in a passive position. Now that the country is facing a domestic crisis, it has to rely on China, causing the relationship to appear close on the surface, but below the surface, it is dangerous and unreliable.

No matter how much aid in money and cereal China gives each year, and no matter how many soldiers China sacrificed for North Korea (and beyond the Korean War, China sacrificed many soldiers to defend Korea against Japanese pirates during the Ming and Qing dynasty), in its heart, North Korea won’t recognize China as an older brother. And therefore in their history textbooks, the victories in the war against Japan and the US is entirely presented as their own. Apart from the moments when they need money or food, this ‘wolfish little brother’ is fundamentally even more unbalanced than a big brother. When it does something big, it doesn’t necessarily warn China in advance, but when it turns its back to someone for a wipe, then that’s always China.

Third category: those who see China as nouveau riche

For the US, the EU, Japan, in the eyes of these developed countries, China appears as a nouveau riche. They look down on the virtue and integrity of the nouveau riche, and believe that the character of the nouveau riche cannot keep up with mainstream society. And so, they always talk about market and economic cooperation, but also always keep a close eye on human rights issue. They and other countries all around the world have their eyes on the money in the hands of that nouveau riche, but they don’t recognize the nouveau riche’s mainstream values.

Today, both in the Islamic world and in the Western world, China has no real allies. When I look at a map, I fear that China is the only large country with such a bad surrounding environment: on the North, Sino-Russian relationships are duplicitous; to the East, Sino-Japanese relationships are mutually exclusive; the small countries in the South look to China with indifference, and to the South also, Sino-Indian relations are increasingly tense; and to the West, war prevails in every country…

Most countries believe that China is just a fool, a piece of meat up for grabs, and they want to take advantage, 不得白不得. But China’s financial resources are limited, and it’s impossibly to spread the money in a perfectly balanced way. Therefore, when countries receive aid, it is not always consistent. Instead, they believe that this makes their relationship with China different, and so, and when one of their request is not met, they threaten to break off the relationship – in such conditions, how can they become a friend to China?

Experts say that in the territorial disputes with neighbouring countries, the cause is uncertainty about China’s sovereignty. By comparison, the US, Russia and other world powers have never had a vague concept of sovereignty, and furthermore, they were good at building relations with their neighbours. And so, to have true friends in the world, we must first clarify our sovereign relationships, we can’t have ambiguities. This way, we will know what we want, and what we can give up, and this way we could have friends.

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French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]