Hurt Feelings and China
Even if China isn't likely to be a drop-in replacement for US hegemony in the 21st century, it will certainly be a key player on the international stage. It's useful, then, for futurists to pay attention to the interesting details of how China interacts with other nations.
Ah, it "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." This is the phrase I wait for in every Chinese government statement on matters of international disagreement.
Yes, there is a real concept buried beneath this boilerplate slogan. The concept might be expressed other places as "an insult to the dignity of our nation," or "disrespect for our people and their principles" or something. But it is generally used quite sparingly in other nations' pronunciamentos, because in the end listeners don't find it that persuasive.
Joel Martinsen at the Danwei blog lists the number of times the term has popped up in various diplomatic disputes, and with which countries. The biggest inflictor of hurt to the Chinese people? Japan, unsurprisingly, with "hurt the feelings..." used 47 times in official statements. The US came in second at less than half that number, 23 times. NATO, the Vatican, and the Nobel Committee have all hurt the feelings of the Chinese people more than once, as well.
It's a term that has some resonance in Chinese language and culture, apparently, but as Fallows notes, is less persuasive outside the Chinese borders. Outsiders are unlikely to take the phrase with the intended level of anger; the phrase has great potential for massive miscommunication, and it will be interesting to see whether China learns to speak diplomat-ese, or whether the rest of the world has to learn what China means when it says something odd.
The potential for "hurt feelings" is a two-way street, however.
Shanghaist links to a video of Chinese elementary students reciting a poem; the video is apparently whipping its way around the Chinese Internet, gaining quite a bit of attention and play in China. The poem includes the following lines:
Lead: Earthquakes, shifting back and forth like the positions of Sarkozy, with his dirty tricks, trying to shake the great China
Lead: Did China retreat?
All: No. The Shenzhou-7 launched. We are victorious!
Lead: Pathetic Europe will never stop the insurmountable force of our great dynasty
All: Just the aftershocks from the earthquake would destroy France!
Lead: Do not waver, do not slow down, do not make big changes
Lead: Do not change the flag, Do not turn back
All: Step ruthlessly over all anti-China forces
China and the West both have a lot to learn about diplomatic engagement with each other, it seems.