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  • A Question About the Middle Kingdom

    Posted by James R. Rummel on March 25th, 2005 (All posts by )

    A reader named Paul Stinchfield left a very interesting question at this post.

    I have seen accounts of Chinese citizens becoming violently enraged at even the most polite disagreement with Chinese policy regarding Taiwan, Tibet, etc. And yes, I mean literally, not figuratively, violent. What do you know about this, Mr. Rummel, and what clues might this give us to what the Chinese government might do?

    For many years Chinese children were educated to hate ‘foreign [capitalist] devils’ as the ruling elite found that fear and hatred of a foreign menace was an effective method of control. (See Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy”.) Now, perhaps, we have a ruling elite which was itself educated to believe the propaganda that an earlier generation of rules cynically implemented.

    I would be very interested in the thoughts of somebody who has actually studied China.

    Iím more interested in military history than current political reality, so most of my studies have concentrated in that area. But there are a few things that jump out when someone takes even a casual glance at China.

    As other commenters have pointed out, China is incredibly fractious. The only reason that this very large, incredibly diverse country doesnít splinter into dozens of smaller states is due to Communist control. An omnipresent and powerful central government dictates virtually every aspect of Chinese life so dissent is always a losing strategy.

    The second reason is a bit more insidious. The Chinese culture is a remarkable blend of arrogant self-regard and raging racism. At the base, it claims that China and itís people are the end-all be-all of human perfection. (An obvious holdover from Confucian thought.) The reason why China hasnít taken itís rightful place at the forefront of everything and everybody on the globe is due entirely to underhanded tricks by non-Chinese, particularly the Western democracies.

    If you look at it in this light, China is surrounded and beleaguered on all sides by cultures and regimes bent on itís total destruction. As long as the Communists can convince enough people of this, then the country will hold together.

    Thatís why democracy is probably not going to happen, at least not for awhile. As soon as people can vote, China will Balkanize and become many smaller countries. Theyíve always had trouble convincing everyone that theyíre a world power, that would sound the death knell for any chance of the greater role in world events that theyíre convinced they deserve. Until the majority of people decide that self-determination is more important than cultural superiority, the Communist government will have a pretty strong hold on the country.

    The Communists use the repatriation of Taiwan as a major justification for their continued control. The only reason the island is outside of their influence, so they say, is because of some of these underhanded tricks that I mentioned previously. Keeping Taiwan a democracy is seen by many in China as a scheme to keep them from gaining the wealth, influence, cultural dominance and glory that they know they deserve simply by virtue of being Chinese. Odd though it may sound, if you disagree with this then they take it as if youíre trying to screw them over in a most personal way.

    Anyway, take all this with a grain of salt. Like I said, Iím hardly an expert on China and my impressions could very well be wrong.

     

    16 Responses to “A Question About the Middle Kingdom”

    1. Tman Says:

      This reminds me of the EU lifting the arms ban post from a few weeks ago. The thing that to this day baffles me was the response from the EU and China, where they basically stated that “hey, we’ll lift the ban, but were not doing it because China wants more weaponry, we’re just doing it ’cause, um, er, ’cause, ahhhh….wait, why are we doing this again?”

      It smacks to me of giving a loaded .50 caliber machine gun to the psychopath with violent tendencies living next to a schoolyard. And then hoping he, you know, doesn’t actually USE it or anything.

      France: Well, here’s our latest cluster bomb, now promise you don’t actually use it, ok?

      China: (giggling) Oh sure Jacques no problem. We just wanted to have one so we could bask in the glory of French military hardware.

    2. Sean Says:

      While historically China has been very fractured, and minority problem continue today, it’s not going to split up. Not even if it were democratic overnight. Something like 96% of the people are Han. Han don’t have problems with other Han, as long as they haven’t spent too much time out in the sun (lighter skin represents success even today).

      Splinter groups would include the Uighyurs, who are being out-populated by the Han very quickly in Xinjiang, and the Tibetans, who don’t stand a chance. China’s rich and has developed these area much faster than would have happened naturally. They are already somewhat self-governing. Perhaps they’d want more autonomy, but I don’t they’d leave at the cost of their hand in the cookie jar.

      Saying “China will Balkanize” is just silly. If you mean, “China’s provinces will demand autonomy on a level comparable to other republics, while maintaining their combined national strength,” well that I might agree with.

    3. Sean Says:

      “I have seen accounts of Chinese citizens becoming violently enraged at even the most polite disagreement with Chinese policy regarding Taiwan, Tibet, etc. And yes, I mean literally, not figuratively, violent.”

      I’ve been involved in several of these types of discussions. The other party is usually some drunken loudmouth with his pals encouraging him.

      The current views on Tibet are sketchy, but they only know that the US has been actively encouraging the separatists (which they have). For Taiwan, they view it as the US strong-arming a weak China into giving up some of its people. They believe they were close to Liberting their brethren (they weren’t), and that the US has interfered without provocation (it has). They also firmly believe that the US is set on encircling China (maybe true), and they’re dead set on preventing the US keep it that way.

      The US has never really justified its intervention during the outbreak of the Korean war. They won’t, unless they’re willing to admit they value a tiny democracy over a large communism (won’t happen). Legally, it was bullshit.

      The Chinese are getting stonger, and feel continuously wronged by the US by these things which happened when they were weak.

      The Chinese textbooks I’ve read tend to stress all of these things. I would definitlely say that they try to keep the wound open. And while I feel that they omit a lot, they don’t falsify anything. In fact, you have to admit, when the Democracy vs. Communist (Capitalist vs. Socialist in Chinese) aspect is removed, what the US did really sucked. It’s sad that nothing can be said about this (diplomatically) on either side.

    4. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      And while I feel that they omit a lot, they don’t falsify anything.

      Isn’t that the essence of propaganda, Sean? Telling part of a story to create a false impression.

      The US has never really justified its intervention during the outbreak of the Korean war.

      Justified to whom? To the Chinese communist party? What you really mean to say is that we never got their permission, correct? We fought the Korean War to oppose the expansion of communism onto the Koreans against their will. Judging from The Great Leader’s results up north, it appears we were justified.

      what the US did really sucked

      Have you received your party membership and Little Red Book yet?

    5. Sean Says:

      Isn’t that the essence of propaganda, Sean? Telling part of a story to create a false impression.

      Yes, it is. There’s very little in China that isn’t propaganda. It’s blatant and not well done (unlike most democratic propaganda). Most Chinese are aware of how one-sided everything is.

      Justified to whom? To the Chinese communist party? What you really mean to say is that we never got their permission, correct? We fought the Korean War to oppose the expansion of communism onto the Koreans against their will. Judging from The Great Leader’s results up north, it appears we were justified.

      Well, we didn’t justify it to anyone, really. “It” being suddenly sending the Pacific fleet to the Taiwan straits… when we had been apathetic to the Nationalists’ plight before. We never even claimed it was a move against mass Communist expansion. The US assumed then that all Communists were the same, and that the Norks’ advance meant that the Chinese were about to advance as well. In the Chinese mind, they had nothing to do with the Korean affair (they did, but only in the underhanded, non-obvious commie way). Imagine it this way: What if during the Mexican civil war, England suddenly annexed Florida? This is the analogy that China brought to the UN, and it fits pretty well.

      Have you received your party membership and Little Red Book yet?

      Right. So because I recognize some US actions against communism as being illegal, I’m a commie. Way to face the issue, guy.

      No, what needs to be done is admit that the US simply values liberal societies more than non-liberal ones. It can’t be done diplomatically, but stop this silliness thinking that everything the US has done is legal and justified. Most of the US’ decisions are based on the idea that Communist opinions simply don’t count. They shouldn’t.

      The US is Captain Kirk: they will break the rules when it doesn’t fit their worldview. Countries are not all equal, and laws aren’t applied equally. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this.

      I DO have a problem with ignorant people denying that any US action could have been illegal.

    6. ATM Says:

      Can you explain what you mean by illegal?

    7. Sean Says:

      Illegal as in sending uninvited warships into another country’s territory. Illegal as in the US had signed multiple treaties and promises during WWII stating that China and Taiwan were one, and should be reunited after the war (before they realized how strong those commies were). Illegal as in obtaining no permission from ANYone, whether it be some international body or Congress, or hell even “popular opinion”.

      Our decision to protect Taiwan came when NK started moving south. We thought it signalled a all-fronts attack by the Communists (it wasn’t). We preferred corrupt autocracy to communism, which is just what we do.

      Also, we wouldn’t have cared about Taiwan if we didn’t realize it threatened our strangle-hold on the Pacific. Then (and now) we controlled everything from Japan down to the Phillipines. If they got to Taiwan, they could interfere with shipping, and eventually break the entire line of control.

    8. James R. Rummel Says:

      I DO have a problem with ignorant people denying that any US action could have been illegal.

      During the recent US Presidiential elections, the Left liked to claim that the US invasion of Iraq was an illegal war. This wasn’t rational, since the US never signed any treaty or acknowledged any law which would have prevented our invasion. They were just trying to voice their outrage without any basis in fact.

      Illegal as in sending uninvited warships into another country’s territory. Illegal as in the US had signed multiple treaties and promises during WWII stating that China and Taiwan were one, and should be reunited after the war (before they realized how strong those commies were).

      Taiwan was under Japanese occupation since before WWII. Any agreement between the US and the Nationalist government was to kick the Japanese out and return the island to Chinese control. The Japanese on Taiwan were repatriated by 1947.

      The Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949, and the US position for decades was that they were the legitimate government of China, with the Communists being illegal usurpers. Relations between the Communists and the US weren’t formalized until Nixon’s famous 1972 trip to Beijing. (“Only Nixon can go to China.”)

      So far as the issue of Taiwan, the US has never signed anything that cedes sovreignity of the island to the Communists. Period.

      Claiming that the US was performing illegal acts by operating warships without permission from the Communists is similar to claiming that a police officer is no better than the criminal he arrests unless the perp actually begs to be taken to jail.

      Illegal as in obtaining no permission from ANYone, whether it be some international body or Congress, or hell even “popular opinion”.

      North Korea invaded, and we had a responsibility to go to the aid of our allies in South Korea. No further justification is needed.

      Even so, the United Nations delivered a mandate that authorized the use of force to oppose the Communists. I don’t much like the UN, but enforcing their mandates was seen as justification for the use of force.

      The foreign policy of the US at the time was called the “Truman Doctorine”, with the stated aim being to oppose the spread of Communism anywhere in the world. Resisting an invasion launched by North Korea certainly falls under this policy.

      Any one of the 3 reasons I outlined above would have been sufficient. When all are considered I have a hard time understanding how anyone could claim that US involvement was illegal due to international law.

      This is different from the domestic view, though. Truman never asked for an official declaration of war from Congress, opting instead to label the use of our military a “police action”. Although the letter of the US Constitution was never broken, there is something to the claim that the Korean War violated the spirit.

      James

    9. Lex Says:

      “.. our strangle-hold on the Pacific.”

      May it last for centuries.

    10. Sean Says:

      Okay, a couple issues:

      the US has never signed anything that cedes sovreignity of the island to the Communists

      It wasn’t an agreement between the US and the Nationalists that Taiwan be Chinese again… it was a series of proclamations, declarations, promises, and suggestions made by many many countries (including the US, UK, and USSR). Yes, its objective was to take the island from Japan’s control. But everything was stated as giving it back to CHINA… not the Nationalists or Communists.

      Claiming that the US was performing illegal acts by operating warships without permission from the Communists is similar to claiming that a police officer is no better than the criminal he arrests unless the perp actually begs to be taken to jail.

      I have a serious beef with this analogy. You’ve already assumed that the US has the law on its side, and that Red China committed a criminal act. It did nothing of the sort. It was winning its civil war. And it was Communist. I won’t address it further.

      North Korea invaded, and we had a responsibility to go to the aid of our allies in South Korea. No further justification is needed. Even so, the United Nations delivered a mandate that authorized the use of force to oppose the Communists. I don’t much like the UN, but enforcing their mandates was seen as justification for the use of force.

      I’ve got no beef with the US going into Korea. Although it was a civil war, enough arguments can be made for intervening.

      However, we’re not discussing Korea, we’re discussing Taiwan. The reason that I mentioned the Korean War is this: when the US deployed troops to Pusan, it was also sending the 7th fleet into the Taiwan straits. Before this, the US was lukewarm towards the Nationalists. Seeing the Communist offensive spurred them to their defense. Except they were two different countries. There was no Asian Communist Bloc, and the countries viewed themselves as quite separate (except for all the crack troops that China sent back to NK a couple months before the offensive).

      Anyhow, would you argue that what the US did in Taiwan was any fundamentally any better then what Red China did in NK? Protecting their team and whatnot?

    11. Jonathan Says:

      The post-war PRC was an anti-American totalitarian dictatorship and human catastrophe. It remains a dictatorship and potential adversary. Post-war Taiwan was a pro-American authoritarian dictatorship that has become a liberal democracy and remains a faithful ally. Why should we be neutral between them? There’s no moral equivalence and we have no obligation to pretend that there is.

      BTW, I invite anyone who thinks that the USA violated “international law” to 1) cite the law, and the forum that controls jurisdiction, 2) show where the USA agreed to this jurisdiction and 3) show how we violated the law. (Helpful hint: (3) is difficult to establish without (1) and (2).)

    12. James R. Rummel Says:

      The reason that I mentioned the Korean War is this: when the US deployed troops to Pusan, it was also sending the 7th fleet into the Taiwan straits. Before this, the US was lukewarm towards the Nationalists. Seeing the Communist offensive spurred them to their defense.

      You seem to have missed it when I mentioned the Truman Doctrine in my previous comment. The stated US foreign policy was to oppose the spread of Communism no matter where it occurred. You’ve already admitted that Taiwan wasn’t Communist when the 7th Fleet was deployed.

      I think I’ll have to side with Jonathan on this one. You keep stating in no uncertain terms that the United States violated some sort of international agreement or law by moving to protect Taiwan from invasion.

      Please tell us what the specific law is that was violated. It’s not necessary to actually state when the US signed on and agreed to abide by the agreement, I’ll do the research for you and find out the particulars. But it would probably be a good idea to find a true example, since it will be obvious if no such agreement exists.

      James

    13. Sean Says:

      There’s no moral equivalence and we have no obligation to pretend that there is.

      Oy. This was my point to begin with. Please read what I’ve written before.

      I’ve simply noted that without making these Democracy vs. Communism appeals (which the US has never done), the US’s case for interfering is weak at best.

      You seem to have missed it when I mentioned the Truman Doctrine in my previous comment.

      The Truman Doctorine wasn’t ever applied to Taiwan until the 7th fleet was dispatched. Truman, and most of the US, didn’t care much about those thugs who lost their civil war. And regardless, the Truman Doctrine was for “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” China didn’t fit those requirements.

      Please tell us what the specific law is that was violated.

      Okay, well there tend not to be any international laws, per se. But agreements and promises?

      Truman said “The United States Government will not pursue a course which will lead to involvement in the civil conflict in China. Similarly, the United States Government will not provide military aid or advice to Chinese forces on Formosa,” (Jan 5 1950) just five months before … you know, he changed his mind.

      Also, I’d suppose where I say “illegal”, it means “where the wronged state can immediately declare war on the offending state for subverting its soverignty and legitimate use of force.” My own interpretation, at least.

      Other statements? “Politically and militarily it is a strictly Chinese responsibility . . . the Cairo agreement and Potsdam declaration and the surrender terms of September 2, 1945, looked to its return to China and the U.S. facilitated its take-over by Chinese troops shortly after VJ-day. [And Taiwan] historically and geographically is a part of China.” By Truman, same speech, I believe.

      So American has openly violated the Cairo and Potsdam agreements… at least until China’s a full blown democracy.

      -

      Also, guys: chill out. We’re on the same side. It’s a Good Thing what the US did. They weren’t left with much of a choice, and it was damn hard to fight Communism. But you can’t pretend that the US hasn’t been two-faced about a lot of stuff.

    14. Sean Says:

      Alright… I withdraw my above off-hand definition of “illegal”. It appears I defined “war” somewhat regressively.

      I really can’t do more research now, but the US had signed agreements to the effect that TW was part of China, which it reneged on. I never intended for “illegal” to as in under a court of law (nothing international really is), but “illegal” as in counter to previous contracts, agreements, and standards (which is the closest you can get to illegal in anarchy).

      While I doubt most people chanting about “illegal wars” could differentiate between the two, they both are nevertheless dangerous.

      I’m done responding on this thread. Tired of my muddled writing. Too tired of being misinterpreted.

      Anyone read “A Man For All Seasons” lately?

    15. Lex Says:

      Sean — You may have been misinterpreted, but I do think people were responding to what you actually wrote.

      Have not read AMFAS lately. BUT, have you read Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Thomas More? Brilliant.

    16. sunguh5307 Says:

      You don’t realize it, but the US was planning to let Chiang Kaishek go to the wind until Korea- a turning point in US-Pacific policy. Up until late ’49 the US was turning a blind eye to whatever happened to the Nationalists- we brought them into the Yalta agreement as a legitimate power at Roosevelts behest (not due to their actual power or legitimacy) and they pretty much blew it. So for lack of interest or guilt, our policy seems to reflect a certain resignation and willingness to step aside and let things be.

      This was before the Cold War really started in Asia. After then, we were obligated to protect Taiwan against Communist expansion. Sure, many ‘nasty’ things were done, but really- just look at the other side. Noted, now let’s move on.

      The Chinese polity, as has been mentioned previously in this post, is actively maintaining a perception of victimization and resentment. What shall these fruits bear in the future?