Why are people afraid of a powerful China but not a powerful US?
—Asked by a Quora User
Asim Qureshi, MA Physics, University of Oxford
People are FAR more afraid of a powerful US than a powerful China.
According to a 2013 survey asking nearly 70,000 people in 65 countries, so this survey is as comprehensive as you get, nearly a quarter of those surveyed said the US is the greatest threat to world peace.
For China it’s 6%.
Remember, this is before Trump.
Why is the US feared so much more than China?
China exerts its influence on the world by doing business, of mutual benefit, with other countries.
The US exerts its influence by bullying, supporting tyrannical dictatorships, and waging illegal wars.
BTW I’m a huge fan of many aspects of the US. But not its foreign policy…
Rinat Abdekadir, I’m a Kazakh-Chinese who was born in Xinjiang.
I know many pro-American writers will try to emphasize their supposed moral supremacy over China but the truth of the matter is:
Rising powers are always looked upon with suspicion and fear.
Just look at what happened with Germany rising:
Look at what happened with Russia:
Look at what happened with Japan:
Look at what happened with America:
Many will say: China border disputes!
The South China Sea border disputes have been there since the 40’s, Vietnam has gone on a building and militarizing spree over the span of 30 years. China really only started to get hate when China became powerful enough to enforce their claim.
In fact, almost all of China’s border disputes have remained frozen for the god knows how long. Border dispute isn’t actually the real reason why people are afraid.
The real reason why they are afraid is because China is an abnormally powerful country in a neighborhood of country’s who are far less powerful than China, everyone in South America and the Middle east was afraid of the US when the US was an abnormally powerful country in a neighborhood of country’s who are far less powerful than America because this is what they did:
(Chinese are going to dominate the SCS!)
(China is going to steal the land of her neighbors!)
Basically, there is no indication that China will be any different from any other rising powers. I have to call out annoying Chinese jingoists for sometimes having the exact same annoying moral supremacy complex over Americans, Chinese unfortunately cannot convince her neighbors not to be afraid of her. History shows whenever an ascendant power remains unchecked, bad things happen.
The Americans however are lucky, America because it has been dominant in America for so long people there have basically lost their resentment against America – Anonymous’ answer to Why do Latin American countries hate the USA?. Mexico lost 1/3 of its territory and its chance of becoming a major world power along with it, do Mexicans hate the US? No, because Texas has been gone for so long nobody cares anymore. If China had hegemony in Asia since 1950’s and controlled the Paracels since then, Vietnamese wouldn’t hate Chinese right now because they would’ve forgotten about it by now.
Also, there is the point that American hegemony is sort of an extension of European hegemony, which has been here for a long time so people in general have internalized it which is why anti-Americanism in South America is no longer as strong as it was in the 70’s or the 80’s. Chinese hegemony hasn’t been in Asia for the past 200 years, no one is used to it. So American hegemony is sort of preferred in the way in a race you’d prefer having a car you already know and drive quite often rather than a car that is new and untested.
Mike Shim, I like checking out other people’s bubbles
This is actually a very interesting question. The deeper subtext of your question resists facile replies like that China is not a democracy or that the Chinese government is deeply corrupt or that it has a very poor human rights record. For much of the same complaints can be lodged against the US. The subtext of your question also points to what is probably the correct answer.
- The US is not just a long-term world superpower but also an extension of Western hegemony that’s dominated the planet for the past 300-500 years (depending on how you view its relationship to Asian countries). So the world is accustomed to a form of domination that is most recently represented by the US. In particular, it’s accustomed to the sort of political justifications introduced during the so-called “Enlightenment.” So the West, as a whole, would feel more comfortable with the latest permutation of itself than anything radically different from itself.
- The opinion-makers of the world who count are themselves chiefly members of the Western media and universities. Think BBC, NY Times, Harvard, LSE, etc. And these functionaries share, at a very deep level, a number of presuppositions about government, economy, and global policies, that automatically favor Western hegemony. I mean that, for the most part, these people either cannot see outside their Western box or feel constrained to avoid voicing clearly anti-Western views.
- People in Western countries, and in countries with well established pro-Western credentials (e.g., Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan), tend to favor the status quo; since, at some level, they realize that they benefit from supporting the status quo. So, short of some grave calamity, they see very little incentive in supporting any radical change in the status quo. Emergence of Chinese hegemony might be such a radical change. But this is also true in countries that may not be particularly pro-Western (e.g., Pakistan) since the devil you know is more predictable than the devil you don’t.
- Finally, the Chinese themselves have experienced an important reason why everyone else fears their emergence and fears less continued US dominance. Old Colonialism is to stick your flagpole on someone else’s land then order the natives around or kick them in the teeth if they don’t obey. New Colonialism is much more subtle. New Colonialism poses normative obstacles to certain practices in favor of others. Obstacles will be posed, for example, if you pursue clearly socialist policies–in the world media, at the UN, through military or clandestine intervention, etc. However, if you pursue market-oriented policies, new markets will open up, international money will fly in, etc., and you will be rewarded. Over time, a country that may have once overtly opposed Western-style policies and practices may wind up becoming an internationally acceptable approximation of Western norms and standards. China itself may eventually become such an approximation. Like Japan and S. Korea, China may increasingly become something that looks enough and feels enough like a Western country that, perhaps eventually, the rest of the world will feel comfortable enough letting China have a go. Of course, if history serves, that probably means China will have to invade Afghanistan at some point and flush, like, $1 trillion down the toilet. But empire does have its disadvantages.
Enrique Pareja, logical intuitionist.
Because we already know what a powerful US is like (speaking from the perspective of a westerner). And there is a Spanish saying: “Más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer”: “A known bad thing is preferable to an unknown good thing”.
EDIT: The English equivalent is “Better the devil you know” (thank you, Joe!).
Quoted from https://www.quora.com/Why-are-people-afraid-of-a-powerful-China-but-not-a-powerful-US