THE TYRANNY OF CHINA’S HISTORY
[Welcome to this Monday’s edition of TTP Archives, to reprise a TTP article of years ago and to ask what you think how it applies to today on the Forum. ‘The Tyranny of China’s History’ was originally published on December 1, 2004. It’s now almost 20 years later, and sure enough, Chicom is still stuck in the past – not just of two decades ago, but twenty two centuries ago. Yes, it’s that goofy, spooky and crazy dangerously so. As always, the TTP is anxious to know what you think about this, especially this week’s TTP archive. See you on the Forum.]
TTP, December 1, 2004
Chinese, written and spoken, is my candidate for the weirdest major language on earth.
At the Monterey Institute, where US diplomats are taught foreign languages, it takes on average 600 hours of instruction to be fluent in a European language such as French or German, 1200 for Arabic – and 2400 in Chinese.
(This means, of course, that for China and the world to communicate, Chinese must speak English, as the world will never speak Chinese).
Beyond the technical difficulties lie far deeper problems, resulting in a grossly myopic view of China’s history and future. The one buried most deeply is the way Chinese grammar reverses time: the past, in Chinese, is in front of or before you, while the future is behind you.
Chinese culture is oriented towards the past, reading Chinese history through a distorted lens, and stubbornly attempting to apply illusory lessons to the present.
This is precisely what China’s military and government leaders are doing with their strategy towards America today.
There is a maddeningly ubiquitous quote attributed to American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) that is the opposite of the truth: “Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The truth is: Those who believe history repeats itself are doomed never to learn from it.
The trick is to recognize historical patterns, and know how to apply them to the uniquely different circumstances of what is happening now. (Just as a doctor applies his store of medical learning to you as an individual patient, and doesn’t treat everyone the same.)
The bottom line is that history is stochastic – it is a series of uniquely unrepeatable events, like your own life.
Of all the billions and billions of human beings who have lived, are alive now, and ever will live, none of them will have a life identical to yours.
The total aggregate of all those lives (i.e., “history”) is equally singular.
Thus duping oneself into thinking that history is actually repeating itself in any given context is an incredible mistake – and very dangerous when the context is the national security and military strategy of one’s country.
Specifically, the geniuses who run China’s military believe that the “Warring States Era” or Chan-Kuo experienced by China from 475 to 221 BC is being repeated today on a global stage.
Typical is the assertion of the head of China’s National Defense University’s Strategy Department, Liu Chungzi, that the world today is “amazingly similar” to Chan-Kuo.
So – a collection of seven barbarian tyrannies led by petty warlords (the “states” of Han, Wu, Zhao, Chu, Chi, Yan, and Chin) thousands of years ago all trying to bloodily conquer each other for no other reason than lust for power, is “amazingly similar” to competition between China and the US today.
A world totally lacking in individual freedom and democracy (remember: there has never been a war between two genuine democracies), nor international law and organizations applying treaties and rules accepted by nations world-wide, is “amazingly similar” to America’s War on Terrorism and the contemporary “clash of civilizations.”
The repetition of history, Chunzi and his colleagues argue, is that the most powerful of the seven warring states at the beginning (Wu) ended up the biggest loser, while the weakest at the start (Chin) won out at the end, with Chin warlord Shihuangdi becoming China’s first Emperor and bestowing the name “China” upon the unified country.
Thus mighty America will eventually succumb to China in an actual repetition of history.
Believe it or not, this is the way these guys think. What’s “amazingly similar” is how their minds run in the same primitive ruts as the warlords of millennia ago. Foreign countries are rivals to be conquered or made to submit: not just America, but Russia, Japan, and India.
There must be unceasing struggle for control of resources – which is why China has recently made a huge oil deal with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and last month invested $500 million for a nickel mine in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
There must be an unrelenting sub-rosa war against the United States, a massive intelligence offensive, the wholesale theft of US nuclear warhead designs (then scream “Racism!” when their agents are caught).
There must be similar wars on other rivals, such as planning the seizure of the entire South China Sea (through which passes 80% by value of the world’s shipping) from the Philippines and Vietnam, and of Russia’s Far East provinces.
But time is running out. The future, which China’s rulers fantasize will be merely a repeat of the past, is going to devour them.
Christianity is rapidly becoming the principal alternative to Communist morality. Vast numbers of Chinese are practicing Christians: within 20 years China will be the largest Christian nation on earth. Democracy is rapidly becoming the principal alternative to Communist one-party rule.
The Chicoms are terrified of both.
That’s why they oppose democracy in Iraq, in Ukraine, in Burma, in Vietnam, in Hong Kong, that’s why they are constantly arresting pastors of China’s Christian House Churches. It’s a losing battle.
We may be sickened by the assault on Christianity in America by the Unholy Trinity of Academia, Hollywood, and the ACLU, but it’s on the march in China (and elsewhere like Africa).
Yet America is also in a race against time with China. The triumph of capitalism resulting in the monumental explosion of wealth over the last twenty years in China is one of the great economic successes ever. This triumph is creating an enormous middle class hungry for democratic freedom and Christian spiritual fulfillment.
That’s the good news. The bad is that China faces staggering social, economic, and environmental problems (see China’s Three No’s, Behind The Lines, May 7, 2004).
If these problems get so bad they verge on collapsing the economy and social order, the only way for the Chicoms to stay in power will be to create a hysteria of jingoistic nationalism directed at a foreign devil (Taiwan, Russia, us – they have a menu to choose from).
The challenge, then, is to democratize and Christianize China as quickly as possible. Such a strategy is the best way to replace conflict with cooperation between China and America, and to enable the Chinese to at last overcome the tyranny of their own history.