Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦) - is China a threat? (II)

(Continuation from this earlier post)

Let's first look at two essays from within China.

1) Pursue for hegemony is NOT the the objective of TGYH (韬光养晦 ≠ 卧薪尝胆) -- the link is to an essay by Wang Yusheng, diplomat and academic, ex-Ambassador to APEC

According to Wang Yusheng, TGYH is a long term strategy. It is not, as Pillsbury has suspected, a tactical ploy. China should always maintain low profile and be humble. Humble is a virtue in Chinese culture. Adopting this strategy is also for the long term benefit of China herself. Hegenomy does not do China any good -- after all, what does US get by sacrificing so much resources and lives in Iraq? Deng's wisdom is quite obvious to the peace loving people and pragmatic business community. However, it is not as straightforward to the hawks in China, or their equivalents in the US. Therefore, from time to time, especially recently, people (in China and also some China specialists in US) debate about what TGYH strategy really is. Mr Wang's article serves as a reminder to the Chinese people about what TGYH really means. He first refuted the misconception that TGYH is a short term (or deceptive) tactical move to buy time, by spelling out the difference between the world today and the ancient China political environment in Warring State Era. From Deng's view TGYH is good for China irrespective of her (economic) developmental stage or how powerful she is.

Deng Xiaoping is quoted as saying "even if China is well developed and has become a strong nation in the future, we will never seek to become a leader, never seek hegemony, never seek a sphere of influence, never involve ourselves with any faction in world politics, never interfere with the internal affairs of other nations." ("即使将来中国强大了,也永远不当头,不称霸,不谋求势力范围,不搞集团政治,不干涉别国内政") As a senior diplomat who is close to the senior leadership, Mr Wang knows the diplomatic strategy in China very well. His quote and interpretation of Mr Deng should be very accurate and should also represent what is in the minds of the present leadership -- unless the current leadership is rejecting Deng, which is a fairly unlikely scenario.

He also points out a few areas of misunderstanding of the rest of the world about China. China does not believe in hegemony or Huntington's theory of culture clashes or Kennedy's rise and fall of power. He asserts that such views are "very western". The wisdom of the world today has surpassed these. Being a hegemon does not necessarily get you the best benefit. China has learned that minding her own business and integrating into the rest of the world is the golden rule to successss. Wang also points out that any effort to pursue hegemony by any country any time in the future will be futile and short-lived, using an analogy that "even if you use all your ten fingers, you cannot suppress ten fleas at the same moment" (一个国家,即使国力超强,十个指头也不可能按住十个跳蚤) (incidentally a corollary is that it is impossible for US to sustain its hegemony as the cost to maintain will evetually drain its resources, thus supporting a school of thought in China that China should be patient and wait for any hegemony to fade back to multi-polarity, instead of confronting it.).

2) Wang Dao (王道 the kingly way) vs Ba Dao (霸道 hegemony)

Xiao Dong's elegantly written short essay (originally published in an overseas Chinese paper in the US) argued from the same perspective as Wang. He first point out that hegemony is an out-dated concept in international politics, and hence should not be pursued by China. He then goes on to discuss the heavenly objective of political achievement, based on the ancient Chinese doctrine of Wang Dao (The Kingly Way). Pillsburyry did an excellent job in studying Chinese theory of statecraft circa 800-300B.C. However, he has focused on the hegemony aspect of the statecraft, and missed the highestst form of statecraft called Wang Dao. Wang Dao basically means achieving the ultimate respect of the world through righteous morality and supported by good ruling, which ensures your winning the hearts of all foreign power and their people. (What US did to Europe after WWII in the name of Marshall Plan was a close implementation of Wang Dao, but Wang Dao emphasizes domestic governance as historically China never bothered about its neighbors) Wang Dao has always been considered the idealistic achievement in China statecraft. Because it is so difficult to achieve, most kings have compromised for hegemony and given up on Wang Dao. It is therefore overlooked by even experts like Pillsbury. Note that Confuciusus advocated Wang Dao and despised Hegemony.

Xiao goes on to argue that Wang Dao is also consistent with the highest form of achievement in Sun Zi's "Art of War" , quoting Chapter 5, "the righteous target and strategy shall be emphasized as the ultimate goal, while the deceptive tactic is (only) auxiliary and complementary to the righteous goal." (<<孙子兵法>>中除了说"兵者﹐诡道也"﹐要"以奇胜"外﹐更提倡"以正合"。) He then quotes Mencius and uses historical facts to show that only the Kingly Way will lead to sustainable achievement, while any hegemony is ephemeral. Finally he concludes that TGYH should never be given up, and should be adopted as a permanent measure, with Zheng Dao (The Righteous Way, replacing the feudal term "Kingly") as the ultimate goal and practice. Only with Zheng Dao will China be able to bring back the glory she once enjoyed in ancient time.

Having reviewed these two essays, both widely quoted in the Chinese media (one of them from a prominent diplomat close to Deng, the other was listed in dozens of prominent web-sites for Chinese military academics and popular web-sites, perhaps as an explicit message to convince those who believe the time for TGYH is up), we should not be in much doubt about Deng's original intention and that such interpretation is the best strategy for China's own good, even thousands of years into the future. Inevitably, there are hawks in China, just like those in US. Therefore, to answer the question "Is China a threat", we need to understand if the aforementioned belief should prevail in China, and if there are abundant fundamental driving forces to ensure that the rational strategist will prevail against the hawks.

(to be continued in Part III)

Wang's essay in Chinese below

具体说来,目前在国际上,我国提出国际关系民主化和发展模式多样化,努力推动世界多极化的发展,主张“和而不同”,要求在联合国框架内解决重大国际安全问题;在亚太经合组织(APEC),提出以承认多样性和自主自愿、协商一致为主要内容的“APEC方式”, 在上海合作组织提出新安全观,在同东盟关系方面,积极推动自由贸易区的早日实现;在反恐方面,既认真进行国际合作,又同有关国家保持一定距离,提出反恐要标本兼治,不应搞双重标准,不能随便给人扣“恐怖主义”帽子;在周边关系方面,积极奉行“以邻为伴,与邻为善”方针,等等,都是中国外交争取在力所能及和可行的范围内“有所作为”。而且,这种“有所作为”,随着中国综合国力的增长和形势发展,在可预见的将来,还要加强。(王嵎生)

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