China’s skirmishes into the South China Sea is an attempt to get at oil and natural resources. Yes, that’s part of the story at least. But more importantly, it is designed to challenge the US. However, they know that they can’t outright challenge the US, which is why they’ve been pussyfooting around, and picking at the US’ allies.
What do they want from these damn rocks far away from their own coast though? Ultimately, it’s respect. They have woven the idea that they have been victims, from the 鴉片戰爭 (Opium Wars), to the 甲午戰爭 (First Sino-Japanese War), the 義和拳匪亂/庚子事變 (Boxer Rebellion), 抗日戰爭 (Second Sino-Japanese War), and everything in between.
Today isn’t the day where I dissect why this victimization mentality is dead wrong, though. The thing is, the people believe the victimization mentality, and it’s useful to use nationalism in controlling your own people. But by dishing out this narrative, it leaves the people and the government wanting one thing: Respect.
They believe that by challenging the US militarily, they can gain respect. Being viewed as a bully doesn’t matter to them, because they believe it is a “God-given” right, after they have suffered for so long. They believe once they are on top of the world, no one has to agree or like them, but they will have to “respect” them.