The Chinese Order and Putin’s Comment on American Exceptionalism
Sun Tzu definitely wrote not so much about “just war”, as he admonished rulers against War, using costs of war as arguments.
Sun Tzu was not concerned with what would justify war. His solution was to end wars as expeditiously and with minimum cost as possible.
He was in a time, about 550 years of continuous warfare in China. There was serious debate in that time about what would be considered “just war”, but there were no good conclusions.
In the end, the only solution was “unification”, as the ultimate solution to end all wars.
Thus, I would argue that from China’s unification, the ONLY valid justification for war were to repel invasion or for unification (both are to protect China’s sovereignty).
Other moral justifications are simply excuses.
This is an insightful comment when viewed in context of how so many Westerners today mock China’s stance on unity and sovereignty. Sovereignty and unity is deemed an excuse to skirt its moral obligations to (Western created and controlled) ideals such as human rights. Both are deemed as pretexts for the government to do things that are substandard by the West’s reckoning.
But this is a perverted way of looking at things. Unity and sovereignty – especially in light of the 500 or so years of Western imperialism and colonialism (still ongoing if you look at the military spending of the Western alliances vs. the rest) – should be among the most cherished ideals humanity should strive for. In perhaps a uniquely Chinese model, peace, harmony and prosperity – the Chinese version of America’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – have always been built on a strong centralized political order. Note, I don’t mean a strong or big state or central government per se, only that authority is clearly vested in the central government, which is then free to rule and delegate as it deems to suit the times. The notion of centralized order, when translated into modern parlance, unity and sovereignty, is intimately tied with Chinese notions of the good and just life.
As China gets more developed and stronger, we will surely see a clearer and more modern articulation of this ideal and worldview. But for now, we live under and need to deal with a Western dominated world of human rights, democracy and freedom. That’s why last week’s speech by Obama touting American exceptionalism and Russian President Putin’s response, written as an op-ed in the NY Times, is important.
In last weeks speech, Obama ended his speech on holding Syria accountable by appealing American exceptionalism.
Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used. America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.
With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Putin concluded his op-ed in NY Times opposing unilateral U.S. military action in Syria by noting:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
It is important for the world to see that the West defined political ideals represents but one religion – one faith. Humanity experience is too diverse to think that we all must march to one song… So Bravo to Putin for calling on an ideology and world perspective build on a blind smugness and dangerous sense of exceptionalism.
It is interesting to see that so many Chinese still rely on Russians to advance their worldview on the political stage (our frequent references to RT stories is but one facet; the reference to Putin’s op-ed here is another). The Chinese are still trying to find their voice on the international stage. However as China rises, the incorporation of Chinese values and worldviews – now for the most part ignored, if not ridiculed – into international political discourse will surely come. The world will change for the better.
The Chinese perspective needs not be universal as China never saw its values and way of doing things ever to be universal for the world – even during the time of history when it occupied the undisputed epitome civilization in the world. But it is an important, perhaps indispensable, perspective. It is high time for the world to open itself to a new symphony of songs beyond the old tired chants to which we have become so accustomed.