The West is Doing China No Favours by Rushing to Apologise for Every Perceived Slur

On The Guardian’s blog, writer Ma Jian calls on Western corporations and governments to become true friends to China, in the Confucian sense, and stop apologizing:

All this makes me think of a book that came out in 1996, by five Chinese authors, called China Can Say No, a fierce attack on the United States for its supposed attempts to demonise China and restrain the growth of its economy. Urging China to stand up to the “US bullies” who, it alleged, had sabotaged China’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and host the 2000 Olympics, the book was welcomed by an increasingly confident and prosperous nation, and became an instant bestseller. Twelve years on, China’s place as a world economic power is assured. China not only can, but does, say “no” to the west, and it is demanding apologies for every perceived slur. How is the west responding? Wrong footed, it has repeatedly made abeyances to the tyrannical regime, and said sorry.

…Confucius said, “There are three friends that do good, and three friends that do harm. The friends that do good are a straight friend, a sincere friend, and a friend who has heard much. The friends that do harm are a smooth friend, a fawning friend, and a friend with a glib tongue.”

Instead of fuelling China’s paranoia, the west should try to understand its causes: the legacy of past humiliation at the hands of colonial powers, and the cynical fanning of nationalist sentiment by a communist government searching for legitimacy. It should stop glibly apologising for opinions that differ from those of the Xinhua News Agency. For 60 years, the Chinese people have been denied the right to question political orthodoxy. Critics of the state are condemned as “China bashers” or “enemies of the people”. But that is China’s problem, not the west’s. The Chinese state only wants friends who say what it wishes to hear. But if China is to become a more just and harmonious society, it will need genuine friends who speak their minds with passion and principle.

Read two more recent opinion pieces by Ma Jian here and here. Read about his new novel, Beijing Coma, via CDT.

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