No truly global world order has ever existed. What passes for order in our time was devised in Western Europe nearly four centuries ago, at a pease conference in the German region of Westophalia, conducted without the involvement or even the awareness of most other continents or civilizations.
The Westphalian pease reflected a practical accomodation to reality, not a unique moral insight. It relied oin a system of independent states refraining from interference in each other's domestic affairs and checking each other's ambitions through a general equilibrium of power. No single claim to truth or universal rule had prevailed in Europe's contests. Instead, each state was assigned the attribute of sovereign power over its territory. International politics shifts, basically affected by changes in the balance of power. Of all factors for the changes of balance of power, what is unique to modern international society since the 19th century is the economic growth of a single country that can bring change to the balance of power.
With the Treaty of Westphalia, the papacy had been confined to ecclesiastical functions, and the doctorine of sovereign equality reigned. What political theory could then explain the origine and justify the functions of secular political order? In his Leviathan, published in 1651, three years after the peace of Westphalia, Thomas Hobbes provided such a theory. He imagined a "state of nature" in the past when the absence of authority produced a "war of all against all". To escape such intolerable insecururity, he theorized, people delivered their rights to a sovereign power in return for the sovereign's provision of security for all within the state's borders. The sovereign state's monopoly on power was established as the only way to overcome the perpetual fear of violent death and war.
The internatinal arena remained in the state of nature and was anarchical because there was no world sovereign available to make it secure and none could be practically constituted. Thus each state would have to place its own natinal interest above all in a world where power was the paramount factor. The peace of Westphalia in its early practice implemented a Hobbesian world. A distinction must be made beween the balance of power as a fact and the balance of power as a system. Any international order must sooner or later reach an equilibrium, or else it will be in a constant state of warfare.
Unlike classical examples, such as annexation of other territories or the formation of alliances, this kind of change is invisible for the outside world, and it is hard to determine the point of time when a country has begun presenting a growing threat. China was the center of its own hierarchical and theoretically universal concept of order. This system had operated for millennia basing itself not on the sovereign equality of states but on the presumed boundlessness of Emperor's reach.
In this concept, sovereignty in the European sense did not exist, because the Emperor held sway over "All Under Heaven". He was the pinnacle of a political and cultural hierachy, distinct and universal, radiating from the center of the world in the Chinese capital outward to all the rest of humankind. The latter were classified as various degrees of barbarians depending in part on their mastery of Chinese writing and cultural institutions.
Meanwhile, China has had a bitter experience in Asia. The Ching dynasty, which had its eyes opened following the Opium War, reorganized the nation and proudly built a formidable North Sea Fleet. Of all of Asia's historic political an cultural entities, Japan reacted the earliest and by far the most decisively to the Western irruption acoross the world. Situated on an archipelago some one hundred miles off the Asian mainland at closest crossing, Japan long cultivated its traditions and distinctive culture in isolation.
Possessed of ethnic and linguistic near homogeneity and an official ideology that stressed the Japanese people's divine ancestry, Japan turned convinction of its unique identity into a kind of near-religious commitment. Japan set out, with studious attention to detail and subtle analysis of the balance of material and psychological forces, to enter the international order based on Western concepts of sovereignty, free trade, international law, technology, and military power-albeit for the purpose of expelling the foreign domination. After a new faction came to power in 1868 promising to "revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians," they announced that they would do so by mastering the barbarians' concepts and technologies and joining the Westphalian world order as an equal member.
China, however, failing to realize Japan’s rapid rise since the Meiji Restoration of 1868, did not change its perception of Japan as a miniscule state until the year before the war. That resulted in its defeat in the war 1894-5, invited interventions of western imperialistic powers, and its semi-colonization over the next several decades. With the exception of Japan, Asia was a victim of the international order imposed by colonialism, not an actor in it. China's size prevented it from full colonization, but it lost control over key aspects of its domestic affairs.
Anti-Japanese demonstrations in China have a history that dates back to the 1919 May Fourth Movement, which was a popular campaign against the warlord-led government of that time. Meanwhile, anti-Japanese campaigns following the May Fourth Movement stoked anti-Chinese feelings in Japan. Before that, Japanese intellectuals who supported Sun Wen and other leaders of the Republican Revolution (1911) cherished a sense of camaraderie in the Chinese revolution. Those campaigns, however, revived Japanese nationalism. An anti-Japanese campaign in China stimulates the Japanese sense of patriotism. That’s how popular sentiment on both sides plays out. Recent anti-Japanese protests are likely to cause a similar backlash in Japan.
We know that nationalistic outbursts on both sides led eventually to war. In the meantime, the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) carried out an overt campaign of “offense and contempt” against Japanese residents in China. Prior to the Manchurian Incident (1931), Chinese mounted their version of an intifada against Japanese for example, refusing to sell food, stoning women and children, and abusing them. As a result, many Japanese left China, putting in jeopardy Japanese interests gained after the Russo-Japanese war. That situation continued, more or less, until the outbreak of the Lukow-Kiao (Marco Polo Bridge) Incident of 1937, although some Chinese politicians were determined to avert a clash with Japan, such as Wang Chao-ming, who tried to defuse the bomb. The experience in this period, however, does not, and should not, offer much of a lesson for today’s China.
China today is a great power in its own right. There is no reason whatsoever why the country should use such mean methods to assert itself. The Boxer Rebellion (1900) marked the first time that Chinese had demonstrated against foreigners and foreign powers. The Chinese were angry that their country had become half-colonized. But, to my knowledge, such xenophobia was a rarity in the four millennia that China ruled the world. To be blunt, antiforeign demonstrations seem to mirror an inferiority complex, a sense of powerlessness.
China shifted direction to military buildup in 1997. China’s economy has been growing rapidly since it launched the reform and open-door policy in 1978. Under Deng Xiaoping, China proclaimed a nonideological foreign policy and a policy of economic reforms that, continued and accelerated under his successor, have had a profound transformative effect on China and the world. The country began making serious efforts toward military buildup in 1997, the year after tensions rose over the Taiwan Strait. China’s military budget has shown a double-digit increase for almost two decades. However, it has accomplished true double-digit growth excluding inflation only since 1997. Also, a large portion of China’s military budget was explained as requirement for supporting the enormous army in the country. It is assumed, however, that the country has reduced the number of troops by 500,000 since 1997 and that the resources for the 500,000 troops have been used instead for modernizing the military.
In this vein a top Chines military official, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff Qi Jianguo, wrote in a major January 2013 policy review that one of the primary challenges of the contemporary era to uphold "the basic principle of modern international relations firmly established in the 1648 'Treaty of Westphalia,' especially the principles of sovereignty and equality." At the same time, an element of implicit threat is ever present. China affirms explicitly, and all other key players implicitly, the option of military force in the pursuit of core national interests. Military budgets are rising. China’s military threat is an everyday topic in the world. China is challenging Westphalian order as an outdated imperialistic country. HongKongers are about to be victims of China as well as Tibetan, Uhigurs, and South Mongolian.