In traditional political discourse of China, the diametrically opposite philosophies of the “Way of the King” (wangdao) and the “Way of the Hegemon” (badao) are often juxtaposed to underline the superiority of the former. To put it in succinct terms, the Way of the King is informed by benevolence, natural justice and moral ethics; people would assent to the ruler’s visions with alacrity. In contrast, the Way of the Hegemon is marked by fear, naked power and violence; people would acquiesce to the ruler’s point of view reluctantly and with great resentment.
In its relations with the rest of the world, is present-day China exercising wangdao or badao? It is apparent that China has many “sensitivities” and the feelings of the Chinese people can be hurt rather easily.
Far from being a shrinking violet, the injured Chinese regularly punished other states that had the temerity to insult China’s pride and dignity by diplomatic and economic means.
Thankfully, there haven’t been any actual wars waged by China against its perceived enemies in recent years but the threat of violence is never far off.
As the country flexes its muscles on the international stage, it may wish to consider moderating its tantrums to make itself more likeable. Western powers and Japan bullied China without mercy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but a resurgent China should show the world that she has the graciousness to not do to others what others have done to her.