China's confidence in its economic development is turning into "national arrogance", according to a group of Chinese scholars.
In a set of articles published in a state newspaper, they said that China might have lost its traditional virtue of being modest and become intolerant.
And they questioned whether the world was misreading China or whether China itself was to blame.
The cause lay in a refusal to accept some universal values, they said.
China is definitely changing. It is now the world's second largest economy after the United States. It has the biggest foreign exchange reserve - about $2.5 trillion (£1.6tn).
And it is seen by the rest of the world as being more assertive, whether with regard to climate change or disputed claims in the South China Sea.
There has been a clear surge of nationalism inside the country. The ancient Chinese tradition of keeping a low profile seems to have been abandoned.
In the group of articles published by the International Herald Leader, a newspaper affiliated to the state news agency Xinhua, the four authors say aggressive and belligerent voices fill the nation's media and intoxicate popular thinking.
One of them, Mr Ye Hailin, says: "The huge achievement made during 30 years of reform and opening-up has brought about unprecedented material wealth for the nation.
"At the same time, it's inevitably contaminated us with unprecedented conceit and arrogance."
In a materialistic society, the authors say, the nation has lost its soul. The root cause, they say, lies in China's self-claimed uniqueness.
Another of the authors, Yang Rui - a presenter on China Central Television's English channel, CCTV 9 - earlier this year wrote a book entitled Who Is Misreading China?.
He argues: "The outside world would doubt our system even more if we harped on about the unique situation in China in defence of our values, which are not universally applicable."
The unorthodox but more balanced comments are particularly remarkable against the backdrop of China's strong reaction to the changes in the US strategy in East Asia.
In recent weeks, a barrage of verbal attacks were followed by naval exercises by the Chinese fleet in the South China Sea.
The international community will now watch the debate closely, to see whether it will lead to any changes in China's behaviour on the world stage.
- 11 August 2010
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