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China and Popularity Contests

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
November 24, 2011
The Diplomat


Now that U.S. President Barack Obama has completed his victory lap in Asia and is safely ensconced (or is that mired?) in Washington's political mess, the Chinese are busy recalibrating their message to the region. After watching the United States once again get voted most popular, the message from China seems to be twofold:

First, the United States is not one of us. As Tsinghua University scholar Tao Wenzhao writes in the China Daily, "East Asian countries have to face another thorny issue: How to deal with the United States in their push for regional integration. Despite being a non-Asian country and despite lying on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. has been on high vigilance against East Asian integration that in its eyes could lead to its exclusion from the region's affairs." Or, as Premier Wen Jiabao noted at the East Asia Summit, "East Asian countries are capable of solving the [South China Sea] dispute by themselves."

Second, we have more money, so you should be friends with us instead (or, by the way, you'll be sorry).

The Global Times manages to evoke insecurity and arrogance all at once. In a series of opinion pieces, the newspaper both boasts of China's strength and threatens those who don't see things China's way.

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