“The Chinese nation has never overstepped the limits required by its natural growth, and at no time has it used military force to expand.” This is a statement that sounds wildly inaccurate even for an individual with little knowledge of Chinese history. In the past, military force was practically the only alternative for nations that were seeking expansion. Most of the new territories had to be conquered through war and this is something that Chiang Kai-shek seems to be ignoring in his statement on natural growth.
This can be proven using early and even more recent examples of Chinese expansion. The above president by the Chines president is not factually true, historical records and evidence show that China used and uses force to protect and expand its influence.
The Chinese empire was officially formed in 221 BC after the king of the state of Qin conquered all the other states before proclaiming himself as the first emperor who is remembered as Qin Shi Hangdi. Ever since this first conquest that led to the unification of China as an empire there have been more than ten subsequent conquests conducted by the various ruling dynasties including Han, Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties. Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese history would clearly show the numerous invasions that they had to suffer with the various Chinese dynasties over the years and especially between 221 BC and the late 14th century.
Between 110 and 184 BC, the Han-Nanyue wars took place. In these wars, China was then referred to as Han China while Nanyue was considered a tributary to the Han. The nobility of Nanyue however were not as cooperative with Han as they were expected to be and eventually they rebelled. This is what led to over 80 years of unrest between the Nanyue and the leadership in Han China. The Trung sisters are remembered for having led the rebellions against the Han China although they were eventually killed. To conquer the territory again and end the long periods of unrest, many battles were fought until Nanyue was once again safely under the control of the Han.
Dian also suffered in the hands of the Chinese. This expedition was led by Tang Meng in 135 BC. Emperor Ming and Emperor Huang are also remembered for their work towards the eventual assimilation of Dian into Chinese territory after countless military campaigns that saw a significant number of lives being lost not only to the war but also to illness. Most of the soldiers lost their lives in the course of the unrest that followed the military occupation of the new territories, with eventual success being experienced under Emperor Huang who always encouraged the conquered territories to be culturally assimilated by sharing their own cultures while also experiencing the culture of the rest of China.
In 109 BC, the Han attacked the Gojoseon Kingdom and led to its collapse as they took over the territory. This is another example of military force in territorial conquests that led to the expansion of the Chinese empire. There are countless of cases like that of the Gojoseon who were simply forced into extinction as they became a part of the Chinese empire with little memory of their initial sovereign identity. China has over the years used this vast experience at territorial conquests to become of the largest and most powerful military units in the world.
Dongyue and Minyue
Historical accounts show that emperors in China were involved in inter-clan rivalry. Han China was allied to Nanyue in 135 BC when Minyue decided to invade Nanyue. When Han was called in to help, they obliged by sending an army to Nanyue’s rescue. Eventually, Minyue surrendered and Han was expected to leave since the work they had been called in to do was successfully complete. Soon after however there was the Han-Nanyue wars in which Han requested the help of the Minyue army. The help did not come, and Minyue became a target for annexation by Han after the Nanyue altercations. Later on, Han annexed both Dongyue and Minyue thus taking them into Chinese territory and once again using military force to expand the empire.
Late 19th , 20th , and 21st Centuries
At this time in history, most of the international community was undergoing some level of imperialism with the powerful states seeking to increase their power by conquering other states. China was at the time under the Qing government and this leadership was not shy of using the military to control its interests in the region. Taiwan and Tibet were the main targets during this period, although the nation could argue that in either case they were simply trying to liberate either country from external influence. The Tibetans were under the British while the Taiwanese were under the Dutch. The Chinese government in either case fought against the foreign occupants in order to integrate the two nations into their own, thus in the end contributing to their expansion agenda with the clear use of the military.
During the World Wars, China fought vigorously against Japan in a power struggle for the Asian region. The attempts at claiming Japanese territory may not have succeeded but that does not mean that China did not try to use their military to expand in the region. Until the present day, China continues to have territorial disputes with Japan especially in the South China Sea area where there are too many other countries claiming intrusion. Of all the nations in the South China Sea, China can be seen to have the strongest military presence with the construction of artificial islands that help to project Chinese power onto the countries that could rightfully claim those areas on the sea. China has used its advanced technology and military presence to claim thousands of square feet on the sea in the recent history and they continue to do so with no consideration for the impact that the resultant tension has on the neighbors and the international community.
In July 2013, Chinese warships were spotted navigating the Japan. For the longest time, China has been interested in expanding its claim on the South China Sea while also refusing to be contained along the First Island Chain. China is a military superpower with its sophisticated weapons and any presence in territory that is known to belong to another country raises anxiety and could result in a border conflict. The US, China’s immediate neighbors, and many other nations in the international community are consistently threatened by the Chinese military because it is well-known that China uses its military to claim territory that is not naturally theirs. This further disputes the claim that the nation grew naturally to its current state. The Chinese military continues to be one of the most feared in the world based on the number of territories the country has historically claimed using this military force. And as the weaponry gets more advanced with technological improvements, China simply becomes more formidable as a bully in the international community.
In 2014, there were also some rumors about a planned attack on Vietnam as retaliation for the nation’s resistance to China’s maritime goals and objectives which in this case are likely to infringe on Vietnam’s autonomy on their maritime jurisdiction. China has been at loggerheads with both Vietnam and the Philippines for a long time with the contention being sea boundaries. China has increasingly ventured too close to these nations making the respective governments uncomfortable and weary of a potential military invasion of the territories on land as well. The presence of Chinese warships too close to the shores of either Vietnam or the Philippines is a considerable threat to the nations’ use of their maritime space. Fishermen and tourists would be heavily limited as they are not under the protection of the government once they venture into Chinese territory. In this case, it can be noted that the Chinese government is still using the military to expand on the sea, possibly having run out of tactics to expand on land.
Over time, China has shown time and again that they have the military capacity to start trouble with their lesser neighbors without fearing repercussions from any powerful state. In reality, the power that China’s military wields can only be rivaled by the US and Russia, with the rest of the countries being more like small players in a large and dangerous playing field. If one is to state that China’s expansion has been natural, they would have to disregard the history of conquests and annexations that color Chinese history from all the way back in Ancient China and later on in Imperial China.
Modern China has also had military campaigns against Korea, Japan, India and even Vietnam among others just to claim or fight for a territory. This means that Chiang Kai-shek’s statement that the Chinese nation never oversteps the limits that are required by the concept of natural national growth are false. This nation has used military force too many times in both recent and ancient history to expand their jurisdiction and control larger amounts of land and now they have shifted their focus to the sea. If it were possible, one would worry about China’s ambition to conquer the entire world especially considering that they have the military capability to destroy most small nations.