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From imperial subjects to national citizens

As regards the situation in Τibet, I’ve said elsewhere that history is a slippery ally when forced into the service of contemporary political disputes.

Let’s set aside the Mongols for a moment. They ruled an empire that stretched from Korea to Kiev, so one could use the Khans to make all kinds of territorial claims. Yuan (1279-1368) rule was extremely short in duration anyway, and most of the territories outside China proper were beyond Ming (1368-1644) control for nearly 300 years.

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) is a good place to start as the Manchus did maintain garrisons on the Τibetan plateau while administering the region through local elites. The Qing rulers, great patrons of Lamamism, consolidated their rule by maintaining cultural and religious ties with Τibet beyond mere military occupation. They also–generally but not always–ruled with a light touch, allowing relative autonomy in religious and cultural matters, which suited the situation quite well. The Qing Dynasty was, after all, a large, multi-ethnic empire, and maintaining order and peace in outlying territories was the utmost concern.

The problem is that the PRC is a nation-state, and the demands a nation-state places on its people are different than those of an empire. It is not enough that Tibetans merely pay taxes and not revolt, they must also identify with the nation-state first and foremost, with other cultural and religious aspects secondary to the demands of modern state building. Empires want to be respected, nation-states want to be loved. That’s a sticky wicket the Qing never had to face.

It’s not surprising that when we look at the world’s hot spots we see the legacies of colonialism and decolonization. As empires give way to new forms of political organization there is resistance and tension. Modern states attempt to preserve the territories bequeathed to them from empires of old, while subject peoples seek greater autonomy and even independence.

Unfortunately, history is a poor arbiter of who gets what, and too often (as in the case of Τibet) history becomes warped and carved, tugged and torn, by states and separatists, to suit the political demands of a contemporary crisis.

My own views on the situation are consistent with my views on China in general: I believe the citizens of Τibet, as with those in the rest of China and the world, should be free to speak and write and criticize without fear of censorship or government suppression, and to demonstrate peaceably if necessary. They should be able to worship and participate in cultural practices as they see fit, to be educated in the language of their choice, and to be able to pursue these rights in free, unbiased, and independent courts. When those are accomplished, whether Tibet remains a part of the PRC, becomes an independent state, or ends up something or somewhere in between, is a matter for the Tibetan people and the PRC government to then resolve peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.

53 Comments on From imperial subjects to national citizens

  1. Loyal RSS reader // March 20, 2008 at 9:38 am //

    Excellent post.

  2. @Jeremiah

    I believe you are ignoring a whole section of Qing history from Muslim rebellion of 1862 and 1877, Yaqub Beg invasion and Zhao Er Fang’s 1910 expedition to Tibet. Nation building process got kick into high gear from that point on. Xinjiang made into a province. Eastern Kham absorbed into Sichuan. Amdo became part of Qinghai province. Century old ban on Han migration to Manchuria lifted. Han settlers are encouraged to move into Mongolian grassland, Xinjiang and Tibet. PRC is just a not quite finished product of this nation building process that got started in late Qing.

    There is lot of hypocrisy by people all over using history to justify their present actions. In truth, history is a prostitute, used and discarded at will by people to suit the need of the moment.

    We are all taught as children about certain moral values and how to behave. But relation between nation states are govern by competition, power and self-interest and nothing more. A pretty good model of this is the reality TV show “Survivor”. It’s not about honor or justice, but a game to come out on top.

  3. “… a matter for the Tibetan people and the PRC government to then resolve…”

    I feel that something is missing in your utopian prescription for the Tibetan issue.

  4. Cao Meng De,

    That’s a very good point, though one could also argue that such events suggest an abortive attempt to transition from empire to state, an attempt that in part, demonstrated, and even hastened, the passing of the Qing from the stage.

  5. Excellent post. The equation of Qing rule with CCP rule, and the implication that when China rules other peoples it is somehow different from other empires, have both always troubled me.
    However, your insistence that Tibetans only have the right to peaceful protest also seems rather utopian, as cc said. Is it realistic to expect anyone to keep turning the other cheek when they are denied even the right to peaceful protest? Can you really say, if you were in the same circumstances, that you would continue to only use peaceful methods? Clearly attacking innocent civilians is wrong, but given that many, if not most, rebellions against injustice also commit injustices, it seems unfair to apply harsher standards to the Tibetans. To me, it’s like criticizing the Polish for war crimes against Nazi Germany. Maybe the Tibetans are violating their own high standards, but would you be willing to give up a struggle against oppression for the sake of an ideal- especially one that hasn’t gotten you anywhere for 50 years?
    @Cao Mengde,
    The most disturbing thing about this isn’t the CCP’s seemingly restrained response, but the belief many Chinese have that world politics is just like “Survivor”. Believe it or not, most people outside China have abandoned this sort of Social Darwinist thinking, and now associate it with past imperialist policies which no one with a modicum of sense of morality would now advocate.

  6. J B, speaking of a “utopian” outlook: “…Believe it or not, most people outside China have abandoned this sort of Social Darwinist thinking, and now associate it with past imperialist policies which no one with a modicum of sense of morality would now advocate…” certainly seems to ignore the behaviour of the US govt for the past eight years. In fact, I would argue that this administration demonstrates a moral equivalency with that of the CCP. Add to this the behaviour of Russia under Putin, and I think we have social darwinism thinking, and the resulting behaviour, at the nation state level by the three largest current powers. Perhaps I misapply your quote, and you truly mean only “most people”, and not their governments.

  7. JB,

    Actually not many of my fellow Chinese think like me. If we both ended up surviving a plane crash in the Andes, I will probably whack you first and use your body as source of protein until help arrives, but that’s just me.


  8. “Unfortunately, history is a poor arbiter of who gets what, and too often (as in the case of Τibet) history becomes warped and carved, tugged and torn, by states and separatists, to suit the political demands of a contemporary crisis.”

    Is Wen agreeing with you when he said:祖宗不足法, not to follow the methods of the ancestors ? This releases him in following Chinese history. Hopefully we will be blessed by not hearing about the 5000 years of Chinese history from now.

  9. Rick: When did anybody feel that Bush and Putin represents the opinion of the 6 billion people on earth outside China ? Only CPC can claim they represent the opinion of 1.3 billion people. No other political entity would even hint that is the case. The best they can do is to say the represent the majority of the people in their own country.

  10. “to demonstrate peaceably if necessary”

    Shouldn’t “necessary” be replace “possible”. When violence is necessary, so is peaceful demonstration. But when peaceful demonistration is not possible, there is no other choice.

    When Gandi was fighting the English, peaceful demonstration was effective, and therefore sufficient. However, when freedom fighters are facing the situation where peaceful demonstration is not possible, much less effective, the only other “peaceful” alternative is resignation to the violence of your opponent.

    The expulsion of journalist from the area is a very clear message China is sending to the world that it is doing something unspeakable. We still have no idea what it is. Remember what the Russians did during the WWII against the Germans and Polish – it took decades for those stories to come out, after USSR was dismantled. We may have to wait much longer for the real Tibet story to come out. May be even longer than the Poland story.

  11. Rick,
    Yes, I mean people, not governments- find me someone in the US, especially someone with an education, who thinks the US should use its power to aggrandize itself with no thought for others. They exist, but I’m guessing they’re a minority, and frankly, neither you nor I can discount the possibility that even Bush, when he invaded Iraq, actually did hope to make it a democracy. Anyway, I agree that it’s somewhat utopian, but it at least places some limitations on our more morally challenged leaders. There is no way Bush could have found support for attacking Iraq if he did not create the perception of an Al Qaeda link and make serious efforts to establish democracy, and I personally doubt the war would have been acceptable if Iraq was ruled by someone any less cruel and invasion-prone as Saddam Hussein. The most common defense of the war I’ve heard so far isn’t “well, we got a lot of free oil,” but rather “well, at least it’s better than it used to be.” (I opposed the war from the start, for the record.)
    Those who do believe in using violence for anything other than self defense, like Cao Mengde here, I would usually consider cold-blooded and perhaps just a little unbalanced… Empathy for others, and an unwillingness to hurt others unless under duress, is what I think makes us human.

  12. i’ve always thought that if one’s own citizens were driven to the point of taking up arms (or rocks, or molotov cocktails) against one’s government, that said government probably ought to be forced to call snap elections for autonomy or secession.

    i note that you slipped past the jinsha wars of the early-mid qianlong era. i can’t not pick nits, you know, it’s congenital.

    mostly, i’m surprised that noone has tied the ethnic violence in lhasa to chinese historical precedents in anti-colonial violence in the 19th century. on the one hand, it’s sad for the bystanders caught in the wrong place in the wrong time, but the overall dynamic is rather predictable.

    not sure that people outside of china have turned away from social darwinism either, J B. last i checked, america was still happily slaughtering iraqis and afghans and scattering the rest to the winds while patting themselves on the back for bringing “democracy.”

    not that that makes it any easier for the tibetans, of course.

  13. @Jeremiah

    “That’s a very good point, though one could also argue that such events suggest an abortive attempt to transition from empire to state, an attempt that in part, demonstrated, and even hastened, the passing of the Qing from the stage.”

    Wow, Damn, Jeremiah, you have a way with words. I believe that you have just succinctly summarized the late Qing in this one sentence. Even though we probably have very different worldviews, I am always impressed by your insight shown on this blog. Looking forward to your next entry.


  14. @JB,

    I will paraphrase that dolt Jiang Ziemin.
    You are ” too simple, too naive”
    You have to realize that not all people think like you.

    If you want to know what strategic thinkers in US view the world, here is a Youtube clip of China Threat Debate of a speech by John Mearsheimer.

    Mearcheimer is a well-known international relations theorist and the leading proponent of a branch of realist theory called offensive realism.
    Listen to what he has to say about Great Powers competition.

    Now he is one honest American I have a lot of respect for. I actually agree with much of what he says. The only difference between him and I is that he stands for American interest an I stand for Chinese. The road ahead for Sino-American relations will be interesting, indeed.

  15. Wu Ming:

    The parallels with the anti-imperialist resistance of the late Qing is quite striking, and I’ve seen a few references dropped to The Boxer Rebellion on various boards. It’s an idea that is probably worth a post of its own, given my research interests, etc. Thanks for putting it out there.

  16. Regarding the right to demonstrate versus the right to take up arms, in the post I was listing what I saw as basic rights. I believe obviously that people everywhere have rights beyond those I outlined above. While I’m generally a pacifist, I’ve also never been a member of an oppressed minority, so I’m willing to accept other perspectives on this issue, and I will suggest that those who deny people the basic rights of speech and peaceful protest may one day find themselves with nastier forms of resistance on their hands.

  17. Cao Meng De,

    Our worldviews probably are not as far apart as you imagine, but thanks for the compliment and your commentary.

  18. Jeremiah, this is actually a comment related to your recent article on the China Beat website titled “Prejudice Made Plausible? Foreign criticism and Chinese sensitivity”. If anything, recent western media coverage of Tibet riots only make more Chinese think the West is fundamentally against China and Chinese. Initial reports especially played down or ignored the ethnic violence against Han and Hui Chinese and most of them assumed the worst from the Chinese government. I know the news blackout by the CCP is also responsible, but I start to think there are some legitimate arguments to be made about the idea of “the West against the China” in light of these coverages. Can this simply explained by it is easy to enforce perceptions than report new things, or they are somethings more cynical going on here?

  19. Wu Ming,
    Agree on the comparisons to late Qing China- I already have dropped a Boxer Rebellion reference in a comment on another blog.
    As for the US, I think saying the US is “slaughtering” Iraqis and Afghans is a bit of an overstatement- are they lining them up and shooting them on the spot? Are they purposely bombing civilians? Even if they were, most Americans, including myself, have no reason to believe this, and I doubt there are many Americans who would accept the wars if they believed this to be the case.
    Anyway, I responded to Rick’s similar point in my previous comment.
    As for Cao Mengde, clearly not all people think like me, but like I said before, I’m talking about most regular people, not political leaders. And something tells me even political leaders aren’t all like this guy. If you were to come up with some poll or something from a reliable source that said, explicitly, that most Americans supported the wars solely for the sake of American interests, then I will disregard the fact that know one I know is for the war, and that I have yet to hear a commentater or politician, conservative or otherwise, support the wars for any reason other than self defense and helping Iraqis.

    However, the main point is that social Darwinism is something that should be rejected, as it encourages war and discourages cooperation, and as we’ve seen with Sino-American relations so far cooperation can help both sides. I doubt war would do either side much good.

  20. chris

    I was pretty shocked to view the CNN interview with Richard Gere. While Richard Gere droning on about Chinese “Oppression”. In the background, they keep on playing video clips of Indian police manhandling Tibetan protesters over and over again. There was no explanation that what is shown is actually scene from Tibetan protest outside Chinese consulate in India. Instead we see images of screaming protesters being dragged away by police to police vans while Richard Gere condemn harsh Chinese responses. This was before anybody had any footage or confirmed reports from Lhasa. I knew CNN, New York times etc tend to report China from the same simplistic moral angle. But I must say I was shock to witness this kind of crude media manipulation worthy of Xinhua. Did they think their viewer so dumb that they couldn’t tell the difference between Chinese and Indians?

    That said, I don’t believe that CNN staffers intentionally misled the Western audience for the purpose of turning them against China. Like Xinhua reporter, these people are merely tools. Like how Clinton campaign release cleverly edited video of Obama’s pastor to the Fox news to make him seem like a extremist. Very willing tool, for sure. Various anti-China groups had use Western media outlet to shape public opionion over the years,

    I for one don’t believe “the West against the China”, maybe because I am used to the language that the Western Media use to report on China. China and West have largely mutual beneficial trade relationship despite the large perception gap.

    However in terms of natural resources, especially that of oil, the competition is real.
    When US congress blocked Chinese purchase of Unocal the fifth largest US oil company with most of its asset in Asia, you could say that’s a case of “US against China”. Or when US government had the galls to crank up pressure on China over Sudan oil after it just blocked the Unocal deal, it’s “US against China”.

    I was surprised that during vote on PetroChina divestment at the Berkshire Hathway shareholder meeting, both Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger pointed out that it was hypocritical of that US to criticize China over Sudan oil after the Unocal fiasco. That these giants of finance even at their advanced age could see so clearly what most people in US had fail to understand really impressed me, also reassure me that my investment in Berkshire Hathaway is in capable hands.

    What suprise me even more is that one member of PetroChina divestment group is a State Department employee and he keep on invoking US policy during his speech to persuade the shareholders. So maybe there is some kind of conspiracy going on.

    If you are interested in geopolitics AND can figure out a way to access Youtube, there is a great documentary titled China vs US: The battle for Oil that gives a rather object assessment of this competition.

  21. J B

    If you read my original comment, I clearly state that relationship between nation-states….

    I don’t know where you are getting this idea that I am talking about regular people.

    Damn, the state of American educational system nowadays…

  22. JB,

    “I have yet to hear a commentater or politician, conservative or otherwise, support the wars for any reason other than self defense and helping Iraqis.”

    Ah…may I suggest you should read more?

    Please research Alan Greenspan and what he thinks is the real reason for Iraq war (yes he supports it).

    Jeez Luis “too simple, too naive”!

  23. I think you are missing my point, that your personal amorality is dangerous. I feel that a necessary prerequisite for governments to not oppress others is for their own people to have a sense of empathy for other human beings- which I feel is innate in human beings. I brought up “most people outside China” (I should’ve just said “most people”) to point out that for most people, who are usually not well-represented by their governments even in democracies, attacking and oppressing another people solely for one’s own benefit is not morally acceptable. In a way, this was always so- even Hitler had to stage a Polish attack on Germany to justify an invasion. The only hope for changing government’s attitudes is for the people’s attitudes to change- who else could possibly change the government?

    As for Greenspan (everyone else- sorry for dragging Iraq into this!), I think you should take a closer look at what he actually said- he felt the oil had to be secured for world markets, not just the US, and in addition to that he exonerates Bush by saying it was not a major factor in the decision to start the war- something the author of the linked article, who himself isn’t exactly known for making presidents look good, seems to confirm.
    This all doesn’t matter though- Greenspan is not a politician. and he certainly was never elected; he therefore only represents himself. Furthermore he is an economic specialist, not a political commentator.

  24. JB,

    Yo, listen dogg, I be trying to learn you sumthing, aight. Next time, somebody try to learn u sumthing, you open your eyes and listen, aight.

    An remembah, you no my preacher.

    The difference between average Chinese and average American seem to be that the Chinese KNOW that he/she is being fed propaganda therefore more inclined to seek out alternative source of information to get at the bigger truth whereas the American is barely even aware that she/he is being served a bunch of hogwash disguised as politically correct news therefore he/she ingest the hogwash without question.

    Youtube had been unblocked for you. Go watch this documentary China vs US: The Battle For Oil. Open your eyes and listen, ya hear.

    As for my personal amorality, yes it’s personal. And you obviously are clueless as to who real Cao Meng De is, hahaha. Well, that’s your homework.

  25. Who the real Cao Mengde is is beside the point, and anything on YouTube is definitely propaganda.

  26. I think the term ‘Social Darwinism’ might have been misused, or certainly overused, in some of these earlier comments. The behaviour spoken of could be better characterized as ‘Anti-social Darwinism’! More seriously, the ruthless and amoral pursuit of narrow self-interest in national policy (or in the behaviour of individuals) is better denoted by ‘Machiavellian’, I think.

    The whole notion of ‘Social Darwinism’ is based on misperceptions or wilful perversions of Darwin’s ideas anyway. Darwin frequently stressed the ‘survival value’ of co-operation, particularly amongst human beings – “In the long history of humankind (and animalkind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

    Individuals or nation states who take only a narrow or short-term view of their interests misperceive those interests and end up harming themselves in the longer term.

    Sadly, the competition for natural resources (and especially non-renewable resources, and most especially oil) is one of the things that does still tend to make governments put their blinkers on. I think Cao is basically right on this, that competition for – and potential conflict over – the control of dwindling oil resources is the major source of tension in international relations today, particularly between the US and China. We should strive to ease that tension. And we certainly shouldn’t let it carry over into other trade and diplomatic issues.

  27. How much of America’s oil comes from the Middle East? About 10%, and about half of that from the single country Saudi Arabia, while the bulk of America’s imported oil needs (less than 50% is imported) comes from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. American sources vary according to the pipeline price; when it’s profitable US sources are tapped, excluding the strategic reserves (well, Clinton did tap that source once).

    The view that “control of dwindling oil resources is the major source of tension in international relations today, particularly between the US and China” accurately describes the Chinese public viewpoint as most believe the US in Kosovo and Iraq is to secure oil. That does not accurately explain US involvement in either country. In Kosovo the US acted because Europe couldn’t find its way to initiate a humanitarian mission and in Iraq because the US rightly understood the overthrow of that brutish dictatorship could result in a democracy to serve as a model for the other brutalized and so radicalized societies in the region (the failure to do so is America’s own; I’ve mentioned the reasons for failure before here).

    More, the simplistic reduction of human affairs to greed and power may satisfy low intellect but grossly ignores the complexities of human affairs. How would someone know that? Well, just read history. And the inherent tension between the US and China is not about oil, it’s about a China which sees the US as the very obstacle to its advancement and the US which sees China as the very threat to the stability reached with the collapse of the USSR. Tension is inherent in the relationship, and each is coming to gradual accomodation with the other by understanding neither the US or China will disappear for the convenience of the other despite best efforts. For example, the US tried to initiate the Chinese government into “rule of law” but the Chinese are following the Singaporean example of “rule by law”, yet another guarantee that tension will continue.

  28. @JB and others
    Speaking of empathy,
    Read this first person accountby a Shenzhen girl who chose to live in Lhasa.

    From ESWN:

  29. @ScottLoar

    I want to make one thing clear, I am not a spokesperson for Chinese people. My views expressed here are my own.

    I don’t believe you are spokesperson for the US government either.

    I agree tolerance happens when tow party realize neither is going away and they have to live together.

    “US which sees China as the very threat to the stability reached with the collapse of the USSR.”

    Are you speaking Pentagonese? You sure speak like the US Navy or US Air force when they need more American tax payer money to fund expensive big-budget toys that might come in handy in a big conventional war.

    None of which, btw, is very useful to help you win 4th generation warfare which is war you are fighting now and more than likely to be the wars you will continue to fight in the future.

    China is and acts like a status quo power because she needs a peaceful environment to develop internally.

    We don’t have military bases in Mexico or Canada. Nor do we need to. Uncle Sam seem to be doing a pretty good job as a global cop, and he takes blame for it too. Works for us, doesn’t cost us a cent.

    Yes, the New world order after the collapse of Soviet benefits us and we would like to see it continue.

    Even though some forward thinking Pentagon strategist would like to see China share the burden of maintaining world order, it’s probably not gonna happen. You see we are quite comfortable in the present arrangement. US take on all the risk while we enjoy the benefit of Pax-Americana.

    Too bad the financial strain on running a global empire will probably kill off US, but hey it’s a risk we are willing to take : )

    About Mexican oil, better check your production figures from Cantarell oil fields. Warning, it’s not pretty.

    Canada and Venezuela have the world’s largest non-conventional reserves. Only one of them to which US may have unfettered access right now.

    Production cost of producing a barrel of oil from Canadian tar sand had risen 300% in last 3 years
    more the rise in the price of a barrel of crude.

    Tar sands production of approximately 1.0/mbd in 2005 also used 0.72/bcf (billion cubic feet) of natural gas. Very energy expensive processs and also release much greenhouse gases. Tar sand production can only be sustain by VERY high oil prices.

    Venezuela’s Orinoco basin though has much more cheaply produced heavy crude.
    But as Chinese ambassador to Venezuela pointed out Spanish (if you watch the youtube video from above), “There exist some delicate relation between Venezuela and United States right now.”
    But he added, ” surely these two intelligent parties will work it out among themselves”

    Chavez will probably continue to throw a bone or two at US. That’s why I still maintain oil investment in Venezuela via an American company.

    Trust me, Cheney had the right idea going into Iraq. The neocons at Project for American Century got the “vision” thing. Man, do their implentation suck.

  30. “I want to make one thing clear, I am not a spokesperson for Chinese people. My views expressed here are my own.”

    Yes, I know that. But what’s the next several hundred words about? Oil? The US? Neocons? Canadian tar sands? The Chinese ambassador to Venezuela? What?

  31. Scott, there are certainly a range of strategic concerns underpinning relations between the major powers, but oil is surely the No. 1 – and has been for the last hundred years. American may have high domestic production and healthy reserves, but it’s still a gas-guzzling nation, and it needs to import a lot of oil. And for sure, there are lots of reserves waiting to be found, and lots of new technologies being developed to make it feasible to tap previously unprofitable reserves, but most of the existing reserves could be running low inside a few decades. That is a huge concern to the governments of almost every nation, especially those that have the highest oil consumption.

    Cao, I can sympathise with the view that China should leave that whole ‘World policeman’ shtick to the US, but I’m not sure that this is the official stance of the Chinese military or the government – maybe just your own view? Policy papers I’ve read all tend to suggest that increasing participation in international relief and peace-keeping operations is seen as an important way for China to enhance its reputation overseas and ‘gain face’ at home. It’s also probably a good way for the generals to keep their budgets high without appearing too hawkish. Moreover, missions of this kind – even if they involve little or no actual shooting – sharpen operational efficiency in a way that any number of training exercises seldom will. The PLA hasn’t really had that much of experience of proper shooting wars (I suppose the invasion of Vietnam would have been the last one: nearly 30 years ago, and the PLA didn’t come out of that too well), but humanitarian missions are a reasonable substitute in facilitating its drive to modernize.

  32. German news station have apologized for mistake in reporting while CNN refuted claim that their “journalism” is anything but fair and balanced.

    From ESWN:

    Germans considering their act of contrition toward Jewish people and Israel after World War II has my outmost respect unlike some of our neighbors.


    I don’t speak for the the Chinese government, really : )

    Unfortunately, there are many people in the current Chinese government, even military, who are eager to join the “international order”.

    I don’t view that as a positive development when Deng Xiao Ping’s guideline of keep your heads down and develop internally has worked so well.

  33. @JB

    In view of recent Western Media coverage even after more facts are know (Jame Mile’s account, for example), I am starting to think maybe there is conspiracy going on.

    After all it was then CIA Director William Colby who said “The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.”

    Why would CIA have bone to pick with China? beats me.

  34. Cao, the whole point is that this kind of international engagement can help internal development (at least of military capability – but that in turn can lead to develop of military industry, etc.). This kind of operation involves China in some expense, but little risk of casualties or military overextension that would compromise its ability to respond to threats at home – so “keeping your heads down” hardly seems apt.

    And it was Deng who ordered the invasion of Vietnam. Perhaps it was after that that he decided it was better to “keep our heads down”?

  35. Froog,

    I am not opposed to sending some peace keepers to Niger Delta. You are quite correct that these kind of operation involves China in some expense, but little risk of casualties or military overextension.

    What I am firmly opposed to is proposal of Thomas Barnett , who I greatly respect for his intelligent analysis by the way, that China should partner up with US secure the world in some kind of Sino-American Condominium. Many calls of the West for China to be a more “responsible” power implicitly imply this.

    America is a great country that serves an shiny beacon of hope, freedom and prosperity to many people around the world. American citizens enjoy much of what’s great about America. But people who live on the peripheral of American empire do not. Most so-called anti-Americans do not hate her freedom or prosperity but what America is doing to their country.

    I don’t wish China to go down that route. Yes we will absorb former parts of Chinese empire such as Tibet and Xinjiang into the new nation-state of China. But there is no need to extend ourselves beyond.

    In this phase of globalization, America is using her might to ensure open access to markets and resources. We will gladly partake the peace dividend, courtesy of US Navy.

    You see, we are currently quite cozy living under Pax-Americana. There is no need to replace it with Pax-Sino-Americana.

  36. Regarding Vietnam. As much as I think Deng is the man(na) from Heaven in Post-Mao China, I don’t think Vietnam War was neccessary base on what limited info we know about it.

    On the plus side, it did expose what damage Cultural Revolution had done to China’s professional arm forces. Hence the drive for military modernization that is still underway today.

  37. Cao, some interesting things there on Barnett’s blog – though I find him long-winded and a terrible stylist (that mish-mash of Pentagonese, biz-speak, and IT jargon – ugh!).

    He seems to be talking not about China taking a similar military role to America (or even directly cooperating with America), but about China helping to defuse potential troublespots with exactly the kind of diplomacy/investment/cheap construction offers it is using in much of Africa and SE Asia.

    I don’t think that could ever have worked in Iraq – but it’s worth thinking about for ‘the next Iraq’.

  38. american wars over control of ME oil isn’t about american oil consumption so much as strategic control of everyone else’s oil (and the ability to deny it, should things get tense). seems pretty obvious to me, at any rate.

    if china is smart at all it’ll ease off the boot on the throat han chauvanism within china and allow both autonomy and genuine multiculturalism (hey, a guy can dream), and refuse to follow america down the self-destructive path of global empire. my guess is that they stupidly won’t do the first and will kinda pursue regional hegemony but not meddle as much globally as the rather messianistic americans have.

    please, china, do as we say, not as we do. it’s bad enough with one rogue superpower, but noone needs more of them.

  39. Wu Ming,
    I think a thirsty man digs a well, in the first instance, so that he can drink.

    If he’s then got way more water than he needs, his second thought is,”Hey, now I can decide who else gets to use this water.”

    I think domestic consumption needs are the main driver, and wider strategic plans are – I hope! – way, way, way further down the list. When you start thinking in terms of “how can we shut off oil supplies to the guys we don’t like?” that’s when things get TENSE.

    I don’t doubt that there are some hawks in Washington (and Moscow and Beijing) who take this kind of view, but I hope it’s not yet the dominant philosophy of any of those governments.

  40. Wu Ming,

    I must say that you and Jeremiah offers some of the best insight that I’ve seen seen in the China expat blogosphere. I always manage to learn something new from your posts.

    Sometimes I wonder why not more people could see things as they are like you guys do.

    But hey, I guess we can’t ALL be smart.

    Ideally China would just transform herself internally like a Chinese version of US with democracy and genuine respect for multiculturalism.

    I just don’t see how that could be accomplished in short and medium term. So I don’t think it’s that “they stupidly won’t do the first” but rather “they won’t be able to do the first”.

    I agree with everything else.

    btw. I always wonder, is “Wu Ming” like Nameless as in the movie “Hero”?

  41. Froog ,

    If you do some research on Project for New American Century, whose member includes Rumsfeld, Wolfowiz, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and other who is who of Bush administration. You will see that Wu Ming is right

  42. Froog ,

    btw, I largely agree with your characterization of Barnett’s writing.

    (that mish-mash of Pentagonese, biz-speak, and IT jargon – ugh!)


  43. “american wars over control of ME oil isn’t about american oil consumption so much as strategic control of everyone else’s oil (and the ability to deny it, should things get tense). seems pretty obvious to me, at any rate.”

    There are 13 OPEC members on four continents, which is well beyond the ability of “a global empire” to control but, say, can you tell me which of those OPEC countries is under the control of the US? Well, can you give me any example of an oil-producing state which is under the control of the US? I thought oil was a commodity sold on the open market, and even those producers not under OPEC still followed market prices? Yeah? Well, tell me, who is paying tribute to the “global empire”? What is the specie paid? Oil? Is the US funding any part of the US military in Iraq by confiscating and selling Iraqi oil? C’mon now, don’t be coy, just give me the facts.

    Also, any other bogey-man we should watch out for or is that America’s singular role as “rogue superpower”?

    P.S. I’m waiting for “fascist” to creep into your next posts.

  44. @ScottLoar

    Scottie, you really made it too easy this time.

    “can you tell me which of those OPEC countries is under the control of the US?”


    “Well, can you give me any example of an oil-producing state which is under the control of the US?”


    I know you are a patriot. But you got start use your head, otherwise America really stand no chance if all American patriots think as you do.

    My children and grandchildren would eat your children and grandchildren’s lunches.

  45. Whoa, I bring up Iraq to make a point totally unrelated to why the US went in and whatnot, and look what happens…
    Just a quick response to Froog,
    good point, I was throwing that term around quite a bit… I was specifically referring to the belief that nations have to struggle against one another for survival, and that hoping for peace is not only futile but foolish. I guess this is not exactly social Darwinism, but I think it does spring from social Darwinism, in that many people felt China was being “selected against”, and that led many Chinese to feel world politics was a dog-eat-dog struggle which China has to win, or risk extinction.

  46. No, Iraq is not under the control of the US, neither the administration nor control of the country and certainly not the infrastructure and oil spigots. Iraqi government acts independently of the US and the premier of Iran visits.

    And now for the quiz? How much Iraqi oil did the US import (in % of oil imports by the US) before the war? And now?

    Yes, I know you earnestly want a great China, a dream the Chinese have had since the 1920’s, but I see little foundation for it in your ramblings. Your children may still be out to lunch.

  47. I’ll do your homework for you.

    These are US imports of Iraqi crude oil and petroleum products per 1000 barrels:

    1998 – 122,518
    1999 – 264,764
    2000 – 226,804
    2001 – 289,998
    2002 – 167,638
    2003 – 175,663
    2004 – 240,191
    2005 – 193,987
    2006 – 201, 886

    Of the 96 countries from which the US imported crude oil and petroleum products in 2006 Iraq is number 12 in volume. To give narrow minds (“it’s all about oil”) a wider perspective look at some other imported sources in 2006 per 1000 barrels:

    Algeria – 239,959 (next on the US hit list?)
    Nigeria – 195,048 (US smooth moves in Africa?)
    Saudi – 534,143 (they must love us?)
    Venezuela – 2,989,479 (a US stooge?)
    Canada – 858,839 (no place to sell?)
    Ecuador – 101,457 (+ seafood = coup d’etat?)
    Mexico – 622,048 (more illegal immigrants?)
    Russia – 134,646 (“the rope to hang ourselves”?)

    You remain blind to the fact of Iraq, this is a war of ideologies, but that cannot conform to your idea that greed and control over others is the prime animator of human affairs, even though such peurile sentiment directly conflicts with the human social animal living in cooperative societies. I suggest a basic reading, The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley, Penguin Books, 1996 or anything similar.

  48. Corrigenda:

    Venezuela – 517, 947
    Non-OPEC – 2,989,479 (OPEC -2,013,603)

  49. ScottLoar,

    Matt Ridley is a great author. I also have a suggested reading for you. Selfish Genes by Richard Dawkins, if you really want to understand the prime animator of human affairs.

  50. cao meng de – it is indeed wu ming like “no name” or “anonymous,” but i chose it a couple of years before zhang yimou’s movie came out.

    as for scott “america does not control the [puppet] government of iraq” loar, my sole response is merely to point out to those watching this thread to the number of american military bases (or military presences in foreign bases, or american carrier fleets) scattered across the globe, and their proximity to major oilfields. i don’t have the time to engage in a mindless flamewar with someone so disconnected from reality.

  51. Why, when the Manchus fell from power, weren’t the other peoples that made up the former Qing, such as the Mongols, Tibetans, or Uighur, “entitled” to rise up and declare their independence as well, like the Han did? That was a question I often wondered when studying early 20th century Chinese history.

    What I always found odd was that many early 20th century revolutionaries like Sun Yatsen and Zou Rong, possessed an obvious, often vitriolic disdain for the non-Han groups of the Qing dynasty. Many of Sun Yatsen’s early speeches focused heavily on the “otherness” of the Manchus, and how Han Chinese were oppressed by them. Yet when the Qing disintegrated, and the Han majority assumed power, there seemed to be an about-face. The groups which had long enjoyed privilege under the old Qing order, such as Manchus, Mongols and Tibetans, were no longer cast as the “other,” but rather as belonging to China — a “China” constructed by the Han majority. No longer did Sun emphasize the alien nature of the Manchu, they were now an integral part of his republic.

  52. @Everlasting

    good question. The answer is ….. that is politics for you

  53. Perhaps I am missing something as regarding what “history” is and “part of” is. but as chronicle of events, say history, may present disputes as to what happened. Then the historian must engage in evidence weighing, credibility, authenticity, and can give his opinion, draw a conclusiong, as to a “fact” Booth shot Lincoln, Mudd’s involvement was as a doctor facing an injured stranger. Asking the question “is Tibet part of China?” calls for an opinion only as “part of” hasn’t been defined. Then whatever opinion is given “it is” “it is not” “it is unclear” is used to justify, legalize, recognize whatever [it is early saturday morning and there are fireworks out side and I’ve not had quite enough caffeine to want to engage this in any final way] that the current Chinese state has legal authority over the territory and people/s present in the territory. That is a legal point and that’s a bit different. Call me naive on this but don’t call me any other names! Happy Belated New Year/s [Western and Chinese]. I came across this blog and it is of interest to me as Tibet, Taiwan, Gaza, the Hawaiian Islands [relax] and praps others present legal sovereignty issues that can easily be discussed at one sitting. My lens is history and international law.

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