Fix Beijing… and You Fix the World

China has had a tough past few centuries, especially compared to the easy, pleasant flow of modern North American history.

Northeast Asia: where China abuts the world. 

There have been roughly 250 years since the British in North America broke off from the British back in Britain. This was the U.S. Revolutionary War (1775-1783), which was a result of the French & Indian War (1754-1763), which was itself part of the greater, global Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). It was a regional war within a continental war within a global war. Briefly, local intellectual-aristocrats were moved by the Enlightenment and saw a chance to make a quick buck. The U.S. Northeast/ Ontario-Quebec area was more or less a geographic island in global terms, so the polities there were able to get ahead pretty fast without being invaded. Kill all the native inhabitants, and… results? Ta-da! Today’s U.S./ Canada. 

During this same period of time, however, there has been a wide range of states and governments in what we call “China”. Even today, there’s mainland China, the ethnic concept of Han China, China Proper and its 18 core provinces, the Qing Empire and its newly acquired lands in Mongolia, Tibet and, of course, Manchuria, the independent country of Taiwan, and the two ethnically Hakka British city states of Singapore and Hong Kong. Even little Macao, too… oh, and you could argue that Wenzhou should be independent just like Hong Kong, what with Wenzhou’s unique history, language and culture. In short, there are many “Chinas”.

Official Republic of China (ROC) maps are curiously optimistic.

All of these Chinas, as a whole, have gone through a ravenous string of civil wars, secessionist movements, wars with foreign powers, revolutions, modern civil wars, social campaigns, and disasters both man-made and natural. In such circumstances, it’s difficult to live and survive. It’s difficult to move assets forward through time (i.e., make investments). Think of Aleppo and Raqqah, or Mosul and Kirkuk, today, and then multiply that by about 1 or 2 billion, with flows of internally displaced refugees and loosely controlled bands of soldiers; killing everywhere. Think of the USSR invading Prussia, Pomerania and Nazi Germany, and then multiply it by about 1 or 2 billion, with rape, pillage, murder and plunder… and this all goes on for 250 years; until about May 1980*, to be precise.

Then and now: the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone opened in May 1980.

Today, around 18 percent of humanity lives under Beijing rule, the most on Earth. The ethnic Han Chinese — speaking Mandarin (Beijing), Wu (Shanghai, Zhejiang), Yue (Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macau, “Cantonese”), Min (Fujian, Guangdong) and about six other spoken varieties — are the largest ethnic group in the world, and most of them live under Beijing rule. This community has suffered ordeal after ordeal; worse than the Jews, worse than the Armenians. (Only Africans in the Americas have had it worse than the Chinese.) And it was mostly committed by themselves; mostly, but not all. Such ravenous self-destruction can be detrimental to a society’s ability to function properly, especially when you have to come to terms with the Rise of the West™ and the realization that your worldview doesn’t matter or exist anymore; and you have to do all this in less than two or three generations, while adopting technology from outside your social-worldview.

All of this helps to understand the many problems that stem from Beijing today: environmental, democratic, free press, executions, trustable laws, property rights, ethnic cleansing, polluted and untrustworthy food & ingredients, an unearned permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council, support for dictators around the world, shady and shoddy labor practices, no freedom of expression, quick-fix solutions to everything, no respect for industrial depth or ability, bullying diplomacy concerning democratic neighbors, lax oversight of infrastructure construction, crony capitalism, the divided Korean Peninsula, the lack of independence in Taiwan, Tibet-Qinghai, Xinjiang and Mongolia-Nei Mongol, the suppression of human rights in Hong Kong, the suppression and control of Chinese-language press and media across the West, the vast amount of corruption that causes Ferrari and Lamborghini dealers in Vancouver and Melbourne to study Mandarin, the litany of government lies, especially about history, and — finally — the brittle male pride that permeates official Beijing pronouncements in the Global Times and the People’s Daily. All of this stems from Beijing. If we were to fix Beijing, we would fix the world.

To Fix Beijing: Healing, Understanding

Heal Beijing, and we might be able to fix Beijing. Healing requires understanding. So… why is Beijing such a child? Why does the government in Beijing behave so obtusely, dictatorially and childishly on the global stage?

Short answer: because the clique in power has no stake in the modern, liberal, free, globalist future, only in one-party totalitarian dictatorial control; personal power over the wellness of the people.

Long answer: it’s complicated.

One path toward understanding this is to look at China’s recent history. This is what today’s essay is about. Death haunts China and humanity is cheap, whether under the Qing, under Mao or today. With so many humans, life is cheap. Politics and power are savage. Male pride is willful and petty; and personal, too. Your father’s job is what guarantees your job (#xizhongxun #xijinping). Mainland Chinese society has yet to modernize; has yet to confront the Rise of the West™. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all been able to face the Rise of the West™. Those societies are modern, powerful and rich. Mainland China, on the other hand, has yet to do so. (Hong Kong and Singapore have successfully faced the Rise of the West™, too, but it was just a tiptoe for them because they are simply British-Hakka cities with no agricultural sector of entrenched landlords blocking land reform, and because they inherited their English-language, their financial regulatory bodies, their physical geography, and their government bureaucracies.)

Back to the comparison with North America: since the U.S. Revolutionary War/ French & Indian War/ Seven Years’ War in the late 1700s, North America has only had one small war again the U.K. (1812-1815), one major civil war (1861-1865) and one cross-border war (1846-1848), as well as a continual undeclared war against all the people in North America who didn’t come from Europe, i.e., the First Nations. That’s only three wars and one ethnic genocide. (World War I, World War II and the Pacific War were not fought on North American soil and were not fought tooth-and-nail among the suburban houses of Springfield or Peoria.)

China, on the other hand, has seen at least five anti-dynastic civil wars, three secessionist movements, two wars with the U.K. (the most powerful country in the world at that time), two wars with Japan (second-most powerful country in the world at that time), one war with the U.S. (most powerful country in the world at that time), three revolutionary civil wars, four “social campaigns” (which are essentially purges by another name) and two minor border skirmishes.

[Much of this analysis was inspired by historian S.C.M. Paine.]

In rough chronological order, they go as follows.

Anti-Dynastic/ Anti-Manchu Civil Wars

  1. The White Lotus Rebellion (1796-1804)
    • basically a tax protest combined with a millenarian cult
    • at least 100’000 dead
  2. The Eight Trigrams Rebellion (1813)
    • again, a millenarian cult, but this time combined with personal intra-Beijing politics
  3. The Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864)
    • south China
    • possibly the most violent war, ever, in human existence
    • a millenarian cult, with religious, nationalist** and political goals
    • This is similar to Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: it sought to upturn all of “Chinese culture” and everything that that represents; but, it was combined with a millenarian cult war spreading over 14 years of warfare
    • 70 to 110 million dead
  4. The Nian Rebellion (1851-1868)
    • north China
    • local gangs around Beijing try to seize political, economic power
    • triggered by environmental damage***; “kill the rich, aid the poor”
    • at least 100’000 dead
  5. The Triad’s Red Turban Rebellion (1854-1855)
    • south China
    • local gangs around Guangzhou try to seize political, economic power

Secessionist Independence Movements

  1. Miao Rebellion (1854-1873)
    • The Miao people’s revolt in the south in Hunan and Guizhou (Kweichow)
    • followed prior Miao independence movements in 1735-1736, 1795-1806
    • tax revolt, ethnic tensions, poor administration, poverty, competition for land
    • around 3 million dead, out of population of 7 million
  2. Panthay Rebellion (1856-1873)
    • The Hui people, who are Muslim, revolt against Manchu and Han Chinese rule in the southern province of Yunan
    • around 1 million dead
  3. Dungan Revolt (1862-1877)
    • The great Muslim rebellions in Xinjiang and the three western provinces abutting Mongolia, roughly Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai
    • tax oppression lead to ethnic, religious tensions
    • around 21 million dead, most due to famine

Wars With the U.K.

  1. First Opium War (1839-1842)
    • nominally, the U.K. just wanted to sell drugs; at a deeper level, however, the Rise of the West™ was now hitting East Asian shores after previously hitting, overwhelming and sinking:
      • Turkey (decline and modernization of Ottoman Empire 1789-1908)
      • Egypt (French occupation 1798-1801, Muhammad Ali 1805-1882)
      • Iran (Qajar Dynasty 1789-1925)
      • India (Company rule 1757-1858, British Raj 1858-1947)
    • indemnity & extraterritoriality; U.K. nabs Hong Kong
    • around 21’000 dead
  2. Second Opium War (1856-1860)
    • U.K. attacks again because initial victory in 1842 wasn’t accepted by Manchu-Qing royalty in Beijing
    • October 1860, France & U.K. burn, loot Qing Summer Palace
    • Rise of the West™, with its guns, germs and steel; organized Modern War capability; Modern War economic structure; industrial warfare

Wars With Japan

  1. First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
    • featuring Li HongZhang (李鸿章) (1823-1901), one of the most interesting characters in modern Chinese history and a key player in China’s response to the Rise of the West™ (and to the Rise of Japan™, too); compare and contrast with Ito Hirobumi (伊藤 博文) (1841-1909); one very tall and handsome, one very short and ugly; one tea drinker, one whiskey-lover; one man honorable, one man a womanizer; one man “classic”, the other one “modern”. It was these two men who had to face off over control of Seoul and during ceasefire negotiations
    • fought over Korean Peninsula
    • this is the Rise of Japan™
    • over 36’000 dead
  2. Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
    • featuring Chiang KaiShek (蔣介石) (1887-1975), another one of the most interesting characters in modern Chinese history and a key player in China’s response to the Rise of the West™ (and to the Rise of Japan™, too); compare and contrast with Mao TseTung (毛澤東) (1893-1976)
    • this is also what some people in English call “World War II”

Wars With the U.S.

  1. Korean War (1950-1953)

Revolutions & Civil Wars

  1. Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901)
    • anti-foreign, anti-colonial, anti-missionary
    • Japan and Russia capture Beijing
  2. Phase I Communist vs. Nationalist (1927-1937)
    • also called the “Chinese Civil War”
  3. Phase II Communist vs. Nationalist (1945-1950)
    • also called the “Chinese Communist Revolution”

Social Campaigns

  1. Great Leap Forward (1958-1962)
    • industrialization, collectivization
    • coercion, terror, systematic violence –> mass killings; 18 to 55 million deaths, depending on which statistics you choose
    • a very expensive disaster
    • Mao loses power
  2. Great Chinese Famine (1959-1961)
    • 15 to 45 million dead, depending
    • adverse weather conditions, social pressure, economic mismanagement, radical changes in agriculture imposed by government regulations
  3. Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
    • purge capitalism, kill traditions, burn violins, burn books
    • Red Guard groups formed around the country; factional struggles in all walks of life, purges, personality cult
    • public humiliations, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labor, sustained harassment, seizure of assets/ property, executions
    • Mao regains power, reimposes “Mao TseTung Thought”
  4. Down to the Countryside Movement (c. 1965-c. 1975)
    • forced displacement, urban youth to rural regions

Border Skirmishes/ Maneuvers

  1. Sino-Indian War (Oct.-Nov. 1962)
    • China invaded, made a statement, and then withdrew from half the territory it grabbed
    • concurrent with the Cuba Missile Crisis (Oct. 1962)
  2. Sino-Vietnamese War (Feb.-March 1979)
    • China invaded, made a statement, and then withdrew
    • nominally in response to Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1978, which Vietnam did to save Cambodia from its Khmer Rouge

Of the above, the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864), is thought to have been the bloodiest thing ever to have happened to humanity. The leader thought he was the younger brother of Jesus and about 32 million humans died throughout its course. This is worse than the USSR-Nazi war, the second-bloodiest thing to ever happen to humanity.

Another one of the above, the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), has estimated losses of between 20 and 35 million. That’s give-or-take an Australia, or so. It’s also what’s called “World War II”, and that doesn’t include the Japan-U.S. Pacific War (1941-1945), which was a sideshow of a sideshow. 

Of the above-listed 22 “Chinese” conflicts, two took place on the Korean Peninsula, and at least one of them was fought mostly on the Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria. So 19 of them took place in what can be called China. Try to imagine U.S. society today if there had been 19 U.S. Civil Wars that had taken place across and around the Mississippi, the Prairies and the Rockies, and then three more U.S. Civil Wars that had taken place in Chihuahua and Ontario.

All of this is to say that China has had a rough past couple hundred of years, much more complex than the relatively simple — and almost linear progression — that we’ve had in Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Ottawa. 

Having a proper understanding of history would help Beijing to heal. Once Beijing heals, then it can begin to fix itself, and, as the title of this essay says, fix Beijing and we’ll fix the world. 

Any questions? Please come see me during office hours. 🙂


Recent Chinese Dynasties: Few of Them are Actually “Chinese”

The Manchus conquered the Han people between 1618 and 1683. This “Qing Dynasty” set up in Beijing is officially dated 1644 to 1912. As part of their seizure of the throne, the Manchurians also invaded the Joseon kingdom in Korea twice. At first, due to geopolitical and realpolitik reasons, and due to its own internal divisions, the Yi family that sat atop the Joseon throne remained loyal to the outgoing Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). So the Manchus had to march across the Korean Peninsula twice (1627 and 1636) to teach their southern neighbor a lesson. The Yi family stayed on the throne and switched allegiances to the new man in Beijing. For the Manchurians, having Joseon onboard was critical. Joseon Korea lended gravitas and authority to the savage outland bar-bar-barbarian Manchurians who descended upon the civilized Han and Korean worlds. The Qing subdued Joseon, but then borrowed its noble aura and allowed its Yi family to continue ruling.

The Manchurians, from out of the northern steppes, were not, however, the first outland ethnicity to rule over the Han Chinese Over just the past 1’000 years alone, various sections of the Han Chinese world have been ruled over by the by Khitan, the Jurchen/ Manchus, the Mongolians, the Koreans, the Tibetans, the Tangut, the Vietnamese and by four ethnically Han dynasties, too, including today’s Communist Party of China

KhitanLiao (907-1125)
Kara-Khitan (1124-1218)
Jurchen/ ManchuJin Dynasty (1115-1234)
Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)
MongolianMongol Empire (1206-1368)
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
KoreanShilla (668-935)
Balhae (698-926)
Goryeo (918-1392)
Joseon (1392-1910)
TibetanTibetan Empire (618-841)
HanTang (918-907)
Song (960-1279)
Ming (1368-1644)
PRC (1945~)
TangutWestern Xia (1038-1227)
VietnameseAnnam (679-939)
Dai Viet (1054-1804)

China: 100-year Summary

  • Begin with the May Fourth Movement in 1919.
  • Move on to the fact that the CCP was founded under Comintern auspices.
  • Sun YatSen’s greatest legacy was to combine a.) Han ethno-nationalism with b.) USSR organizational knowhow.
  • Borodin instructed the CCP to work with the KMT, so it did.
  • The CCP only won the subsequent civil war because Imperial Japan had destroyed the KMT (see Operation Ichi-go, April-December 1944).
  • Japan had to withdraw back home in August 1945 to escape the advancing USSR hordes streaming southward across Manchuria. Japan hides under U.S. skirt, bamboozles MacArthur, keeps stolen wealth. 
  • No Chinese forces ever defeated Japan, though the KMT came close a few times.
  • The CCP played no role in itself seizing power. It was just the last player left standing because it had hid out during the KMT-Japan battles.
  • So the CCP was given victory in the civil war in May 1950… and then promptly got into a war with the U.S. on the Korean Peninsula (1951-1953). Stalemate. Not much happens. Oh, wait! Mao’s eldest son is killed in an air strike. He was a Russian-Mandarin translator for the top Chinese general, and the U.S. bombed their location.
  • Then touch on the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962)
    • industrialization, collectivization
    • Mao loses power
  • This causes the Great Chinese Famine (1959-1961)
    • 15 to 30 million dead.
  • But wait! Mao’s not out, he’s only down!
  • In comes the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
    • purge capitalism, kill traditions, burn violins, burn books
    • Mao regains power.
  • This causes the Down to the Countryside Movement (c. 1965-c. 1975)
  • Finally, we get some wisdom in July 1962 during a speech about agriculture.
    • “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white. If it catches mice, it’s a good cat.” — Deng Xiaoping
  • A bit of this. A bit of that.
  • Then we get to Tiananmen Square in 1989… and we can leave it at that.
  • Don’t mention the 2019 police state in Xinjiang.
  • Don’t mention Tibetan independence.
  • Don’t ever mention Taiwan, a thriving, vibrant democracy with a free press, freedom of religion, progressive social policies and a strong military.

Go see “Wolf Warrior 2” (2017). It will tell you more about China today than this entire essay. 

*The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone opened in May 1980. It was a forebringer for the greatest increase in human wealth and happiness ever seen on Earth:the great Han Chinese move from the countryside to the city.

**Remember: the Manchu weren’t Chinese.

***Might environmental damage trigger a regime change in Beijing again?

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