There is much interesting news this week about how China’s bullying of its neighbors is perceived in other Asian nations, including South Korea. An AP report describes how China’s predatory hegemony in the Pacific has (as I suspected it would) alienated other Asian nations and isolated China itself.
A more interesting item, noted in The Washington Post, is a graphic of Pew Research polling data from Asian countries showing that majorities (or strong majorities) throughout the region are afraid of China’s bad touch. In all, 83% of South Koreans, 85% of Japanese, 84% of Vietnamese, and 93% of Filipinos are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that “territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to a military conflict.” Most shockingly of all, 62% of Chinese agree.
Taiwan was not surveyed.
I’d be interested in knowing why Pew thinks it was able to get an accurate and honest sample of public opinion in China, and whether the result means that a pacifist streak lies latent, beneath China’s recent displays of obnoxious nationalism. You can read Pew’s full results here. Last year’s survey didn’t ask exactly the same questions, so it’s hard to make a direct year-to-year comparison, although the percentages above were generally higher than the percentages of respondents who, in the 2013 survey, said that territorial disputes with China were a “big” or “very big” problem in their country. In South Korea, the percentage rose from 77% to 83%.
America’s image abroad — sit down for this — isn’t particularly shiny, either. Most Africans love us, but Europeans hate us because of drones and Snowden, Russians hate us because of the Ukraine, and the Muslim world hates us the most of all, although the survey regrettably failed to ask whether this is because we’re stealing their rain, covered up Israel’s assassination of a disobedient JFK, created AIDS in a secret CIA laboratory, released killer mosquitoes in Pakistan, or stole their babies to harvest their organs, all of which are perfectly acceptable responses.
Meanwhile, the Asan Institute has released new survey data showing that although South Koreans have a generally favorable impression of Park Geun Hye’s recent summit with Xi Jinping, “more Koreans think Seoul needs to work harder on its security cooperation with Tokyo and Washington,” than before the summit.
In a survey conducted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 59 percent of respondents picked Japan and the United States as the countries Korea needs to increase security cooperation with, up from 57.1 percent in a survey conducted in March.
In March, 29.8 percent picked China as the country to boost security cooperation with, which dropped to 26.5 percent in July.
Likewise, 59.6 percent of respondents said that Korea has to strengthen cooperation with the U.S in July compared to 24.9 percent who thought cooperation should be boosted with China.
In March, 56.9 percent of respondents thought Korea’s should boost cooperation with Washington while 29.4 percent thought cooperation with Beijing should be strengthened. [Joongang Ilbo]
The shifts are modest, but still remarkable in light of China’s uncharacteristically skillful courting of South Korea, Japan’s recent unforced outrages against South Koreans, and the South Korean press’s coincident blindness toward China’s sexual exploitation of Korean women and its chronic priapism for inflammatory anti-Japanese stories.
Although the Korean reaction to the summit was favorable, it was less favorable than the reaction to Park’s visit to Beijing last year.
As they say, in crisis, there is opportunity. These results add further weight to my advocacy of a Pacific military alliance to contain China and preserve peace in the region now that Xi Jinping’s grabby hands have landed China on Asia’s sex offender registry and conclusively refuted the “peaceful rise” theory. China today resembles nothing so much as Japan in the 1920s.