Questions We Should Be Asking Ourseves About China, But Aren’t
Involuntarily, the People’s Republic of China provides pundits with the most perplexing historical, political, economic, social, environmental, and ethical quandary of modern times.
Bulging at its borders with a nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, what was once a sleeping giant is fully awaken and now prepares itself to rumble through the rest of the global domicile in search of what it wants and needs to survive and prosper. Yes, this is a scary day that’s now only in its earliest morning phase. What China demands to satisfy its insatiable appetite for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and the potentially devastating environmental havoc the pursuit of such longings are expected to wreak on the remainder of the world’s population — is likely to be the most crucial international crisis of the 21st Century. READ MORE HERE
Yet for all the ”Great Leap(s) Forward” China has made towards what most would agree is an inevitable emergence as a global superpower, the nation remains a conundrum of internal conflicts. Considerable disharmoney stems from this coveted trading partner tattoed with a very dark past, which it still has failed to either address or rectify. It’s a bloody past rife with deliberate, fully intentional state-sanctioned periods of mass murder and genocide which to this day remain almost beyond our comprehension by sheer numbers and misery. Just how wicked China’s (relatively recent) past has been is finally beginining to leak out — as more archives open up, people begin to speak out, research is conducted, and books are written which ultimately become history’s verdict. Finally, the world is becoming not just fully aware of the human devastation that took place not too very long ago, it also now knowingly deals face to face with many of the monsters and descendents of those who actually made it happen, and with such morbid efficiency.
For those who think China’s crimes happened too long ago to matter today, think again. Many of the most loyal foot soldiers who enabled the bloodiest regime in the history of the world not only remain very much alive. Quite a few are actually in power. In government. In various ministries. In business. In the military. In vritually every sphere of modern Chinese society. Anyone aged 65 to 75 still in China likely played some role in one of the cruelest purges of the 20th Century, which is really saying something when one considers what happened in Europe a generation before. Basci math reveals they were likely part of the notorious Red Guards, violent bands of tens of millions of Chinese young people (then, mostly in their teens and 20s) who left no life unturned in the application of Mao’s appalling musings to every sphere of society. Speaking a foreign language could get one tossed into prison. Musical instruments and phonographs were destroyed. Books were burned. Anything not conforming to Maoist ideaology was methodically eradicated. And of course, millions were died, nearly 400,000 in the summer of 1966 alone by one reliable estimate.
I’m speaking of the Cultural Revolution, also known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, irrefutably the widest and most comprehensive reign of terror in recent memory. Concentrated during the years 1966-1969 when much of the West was immersed in a political and social renaissance of transformation, China moved backwards, purging all those suspected to be enemies of the state or those who dared to question its twisted ideals (whether guity or not). It was a national campaign directed by Mao himself which ruined an immeasurable number of lives, causing unspeakable levels of human misery. And, it’s mostly forgotten – virtually unreported and unknown in the West as we clammer to make business deals with all those who beat teachers to death, destroyed historical articfacts, forced suspects into slave labor and generally performed the bloodiest tasks willingly and without apology or retribution. Oh sure, a few scapegoats were humiliated in the Gang of Four trials which took place after Mao’s death. But this was akin to taking a toothbrush to a battle zone.
Now some 40 years after the terror partially ended, we’ve let them all go, thus abdicating any moral ground in the pursuit of justice. Indeed, we forget because that’s what we almost always do. Justified by pragmatisim and geo-political expediency, we too often forget that the biggest crimes can’t be carried out without little people, and lots of them, faithfully carrying out all the dirty deeds. A long time ago, the civilized world made a collective determination that “following orders” simply wasn’t a good enough explanation to absolve individual crimes conducted under the power of the state nor would such a defense abdicate us all of inherent responsibiilties we have as human beings. If such an ethical barameter applies to the West and the rest of the previous century’s worst oppressors, then it too must apply to China. Even today, as the guilty walk free and even rule.
But it doesn’t.
The worst amnesiacs of all are the American Capitalists, now eager to turn the USA into a nation of Wal-Marts where Chinese-made products can be sold by the trillions, and a considerable portion of its citizenry have no other option than to assume the unenviable role of sweatshop serfs. For common Chinese, one boss has been replaced by another and in terms of living standards, it’s hardly mattered whether the means of production were controlled by Maoists or Capitalists.
Some argue that China is a very different place now than it was back during the worst purges of Mao when tens of millions were dying of deliberate starvation, not brought about by famine or war, but rather by a national policy that viewed common citizens are nothing more than livestock. Unlike the mind-boggling horrors commited by his close cousins, Stalin and Hitler (and later Pol Pot), much of which took place during war, China’s very worst cimes against humanity occured in peacetime, totally unnecessarily. Moreoever, unlike his contemporaries in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where the very worst crimes took place out of the public eye in gulags and camps, virtually all of China’s horrors occured in the public eye, out on the streets, in schools, in homes, in the cities and villages of the 70 million or so who are estimated to have been murdered, plus hundreds of millions more of felt the unremitting effects of constant terror.
As if immesurable numbrs of dead bodies aren’t enough to warrant Western awareness, then consider the psychological devastation caused by a half-century of absolute totalitarianism. The very character of the Chinese soul has been utterly transformed, the essential qualities of personal joy largely expelled from the national DNA. While we often look at the Chinese at methodical, robotic, and humorless, given its cruel past and the knowledge of what is must have been like to live in constant fear, where the allocation of food was used as a weapon, where no individual rights existed, and where state-sanctioned terror was a way of daily life, can we really have expectations that this populace will be like those of us who have had life so easy?
And this might very well be the worst tragedy of all, that 20 percent of the world’s poopulation nearly had its spirit broken. As bad as the Koumintang (KMT) period of Nationalist China was before Communism came to power with its rampant corruption and failure to care for the needs of the common citizenry, most accounts of that time (by Westerners) describe China and its people as full of life and joy. It was a place where art and culture flourished, only to be expunged from the national character a generation or two later. Only now is that old spirit starting to return.
And so lest we forget as we purchase our Chinese-manufactured goods, marvel at Shanghai’s glistening uber-modern skyline, or envy what’s happening in Hong Kong and Macau, that beneath the ground lies the ashes of tens of millions who needlessly perished, paving the way for what’s a modern day miracle of transformation. Let us also not forget that to this day, the bloodiest ruler in world history continues to receive constant veneration by the state. Just look at the portrait of Mao, which continues to hang proudly in Tiananmen Square.
What a disgrace to humanity. What an affront to decency. That Mao continues to be celebrated by the world’s most populace nation, even given the indisputable horrors this monster created.
Would we be so eager to trade with a nation where the portraits of Stalin or Hitler are displayed in its cooridors of state? Sadly, I suppose that if the profit potential is big enough, no matter who or where, I shudder to contemplate what I believe is an obvious answer.
The point of all this is to remember. As China increasingly plays a bigger role in each of our lives and the planet, let’s not forget all those terrible crimes commited during the years that many of you reading this were very much alive — all that blood, all those screams, all those voices now silent, who can’t call out for justice, who therefore in their abcence must rely on those of us now to do it for them.