This made my evening. WSJ's China Real Time asked people on the street in what looks like Beijing whether, in the aftermath of the events in Yemen, China should start flexing its muscles.
I think the most interesting responses were given when the reporters asked: Do you see a day when Chinese troops will fight in wars abroad like U.S. troops do? Would that be a good or bad thing for China?
Nearly all of the surveyed Chinese citizens said that China would not grow aggressive and would not fight abroad. One student responded by framing her answer in moral terms: "If you send troops, you will also bring some of your values along, and that’s not a good thing."
Another citizen answers: "I don’t think China will send troops to fight in wars abroad. There are more likely to be conflicts nowadays in an economic sense, such as trade war or something."
There's also this stereotypical, sort of amusing answer from one medical worker:
No. Chinese are timid. Plus our technology and military are not so developed now. Everyone is busy making money. Who has time to concern themselves with the affairs of others?
A 32-year old woman gave a similar answer, in fact: "We should get rich ourselves and then help drive the development of neighboring countries."
Another intriguing question was: What about when China doesn’t have an economic interest? Should it still help resolve conflicts abroad?
A teacher gave an economist's answer to this query: "No, we shouldn’t. China is now still a developing country. Our GDP per capita still lags behind other countries. We should solve our own problems first."
A respectful sentiment was expressed by another respondent: "They can tell us if they need help. Going ahead and helping them without asking isn’t a good thing to do. After all, it’s their home country."
All sensible opinions. It seems like most people had an intuitive aversion to anything ambitious. As always, there must be exception though. Among the people who were interviewed, one lady did say that the Chinese should tougher "like Putin."