Most of China's popular blog portal sites have sections for military news, often buried below panels for entertainment and love/relationship stories. Starting roughly in October with the quiet story that India continues to build up its presence along the border with China, posts on military topics seem to have grown in number and prominence on major blog hosting sites, reaching a peak this past week with reactions to United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama's Pacific swing, which wrapped up in Indonesia on Saturday.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao insists that China is a good neighbor, but much of what's been written in many recent blog posts and comment threads sort of suggests otherwise.
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama's assertion while in Australia that he doesn't fear China became the headline in Chinese reports of his plans to expand US military presence there, and has had emotional comments voted to the top of comment threads on sites such as Tencent [zh], where readers are usually a mix of the liberal and cynical:
I'm crying over China's lost territory! I'm furious about America's debt! And I'm brimming with rage at these traitorous comments!
I'm ready to draw my sword for the Chinese nation………..
Obama didn't explicitly say this past week that his recent moves are aimed at checking Chinese power in Asia, but Chinese nationalist sentiment has taken them not just as confirmation of a larger strategy to encircle China, but also an expanded approach.
Australian writer and international affairs scholar Yang Hengjun wrote on that [zh] this week:
At this point in history and in this international climate, I don't think that war between China and the US is impossible, but rather that it will be war in the economic sense. The true war that will be fought will be an economic war, or an ‘economic cold war'. Deploying troops is just one part of America's overall strategy. What will determine who wins or loses is the economy, whether people's standard of living is increasing, whether or not the public is satisfied, popular support, etc. The key confrontations will be over things like values and soft and smart power.
And from comments on Yang's blog post:
“Since the US is serious about this,” reads the comment voted most popular (by a large margin) on a Tencent story on Hillary's recent commitment to provide military support to the Philippines if it's ever attacked, “then we'll meet them head on. We won't allow being put through another century of humiliation, even if it means killing Americans.”
Now bloggers are posting possible conflict triggers and resolution scenarios to mainstream blog portals, not just the regulars at the usual nationalistic niche online communities. On his Phoenix blog, Shi Weisong writes that as the number of disputed territories grows, China needs to start getting proactive in finding ways to prevent a crisis. Military presence needs to be strengthened, he writes, and military and economic means need to be used to rope in neighboring countries and keep them from leading the US on.
North Korea can keep keep South Korea distracted and be used as leverage against the United States and, similarly, movement toward reunification with Taiwan will take away America's advantage. As for the South China Sea, Shi writes, we need to find an opportunity to strike as well as an appropriate opponent, a role which suits the Philippines.