The dangers of dim sum history
HISTORY HAS been trotted out recently by both domestic defenders and international critics of Chinese Communist Party rule. But while both groups have stressed the value of looking back roughly 70 years, they have drawn sharply different conclusions from what they see.
When supporters of the regime have invoked the 1930s, they've tended to focus on the Nanjing massacre, the 70th anniversary of which will fall in December. They see that tragedy — the six-week-long orgy of death and destruction after the city fell to the Japanese in December 1937 — as symbolic of how much the Chinese suffered before the communist era as a result of Japan's imperialist aims and the weak Chinese state. The lesson they draw: Keep China strong, even if that requires forfeiting some individual freedom.
Meanwhile, foreign critics of today's China have adopted the Berlin Olympics of 1936 as their favorite historical analogy. They argue that was the year when the international community made the grave mistake — which they insist is about to be repeated with the 2008 Beijing Games — of helping to legitimize a brutal dictatorship. The lesson they draw: Don't ever make deals with repressive regimes.
I would argue that this kind of historical reductionism is not terribly useful, no matter which side is doing it. If one is truly interested in looking backward — not to help Beijing play the nationalism card or to bolster calls for a 2008 Olympic boycott, but simply to understand today's China — it is important to do so in a way that is not so simplistic.
It's true that the 1930s were a fascinating period in China, and one with interesting parallels to our own time.
China was governed in those days by an authoritarian party that had repudiated some key ideals of its first great leader — much as the Chinese Communist Party has today. At that time, the Nationalists had placed founding father Sun Yat-sen's anti-imperialist ideology on the back burner as Chiang Kai-shek made extermination of the communists his top priority. The contemporary parallel, of course, is the Communist Party's abandonment of Mao Tse-tung's anti-capitalist teachings.
Then, as now, this ideological shift did not mean that the regime stopped making symbolic use of its most famous former leader. Mao's giant portrait still looks down on Tiananmen Square; in the 1930s, Nationalist Party officials often bowed before Sun's image.
A Chinese consumer revolution was underway during that period, and new consumption patterns then, as now, took hold first and strongest in coastal cities such as Shanghai.
Another parallel is that in the 1930s, as today, there was a great deal of discontent in the Chinese countryside, which often manifested itself in outbreaks of violent protest. And in both periods, cynicism toward the ruling party was widespread, with many feeling that China's leaders were less concerned with the welfare of the people and the nation than with maintaining their own power.
In the 1930s, the regime invoked tradition in its struggle to appeal to a disaffected population. Specifically, the Nationalist Party invoked Confucian codes of behavior and used Confucian references to social harmony to show that their ideological about-faces didn't mean that they lacked a moral compass. Similarly, in China today, Confucius is once again celebrated as a great sage whose ancient wisdom has relevance for "New China."
Even though all these similarities are interesting and thought-provoking, they do not, unfortunately, provide a simple answer to the crucial questions of where China is heading and how the West should treat it. Despite the similarities, there are also many differences between the eras.
Today's Communist Party, for instance, has a much firmer grip on the country than the Nationalists ever had. Among other things, it does not face an organized opposition party, as the Nationalists did. What's more, the communist regime in China today has overseen years of dramatic economic growth that Chiang could only have dreamed of when he controlled the mainland.
Indeed, China's place in East Asia is now so completely different that something like Nanjing could never happen. Japan poses no military threat, and China is simply far less vulnerable than it was.
It is always tempting to invoke the past to convey a simple message — one that tells us how we should act in or think about the present or how we should prepare for the future — but the actual matchup between "then" and "now" is rarely neat enough to allow for this. (Remember the efforts to compare the 9/11 attacks to Pearl Harbor, even though 9/11 was not an act of war by a foreign government?) History is just too complicated, too nuanced and too contradictory to make any analogy a perfect guide to action.
Historians have to be constantly searching for lessons we can use today. If handled carefully, and not treated as providing a perfect blueprint, even imperfect analogies can be useful. This is because, while history seldom if ever repeats itself, as science fiction author Bruce Sterling noted in a 1998 speech, it does "rhyme" — meaning that old patterns often come around again, just with variations.
But the selective use of history by partisans is too often simplistic and misleading, and we must be on guard against it.
The 'Genocide Olympics'
By Ronan Farrow and Mia Farrow
Word Count: 594
"One World, One Dream" is China's slogan for its 2008 Olympics. But there is one nightmare that China shouldn't be
allowed to sweep under the rug. That nightmare is Darfur, where more than 400,000 people have been killed and more
than two-and-a-half million driven from flaming villages by the Chinese-backed government of Sudan.
That so many corporate sponsors want the world to look away from that atrocity during the games is bad enough.
But equally disappointing is the decision of artists like director Steven Spielberg -- who quietly visited China this
month as he prepares to help stage the Olympic ceremonies -- to sanitize Beijing's image. Is Mr. Spielberg, who in
1994 founded the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of survivors of the holocaust, aware that China is
bankrolling Darfur's genocide?
China is pouring billions of dollars into Sudan. Beijing purchases an overwhelming majority of Sudan's annual oil
exports and state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. -- an official partner of the upcoming Olympic Games --
owns the largest shares in each of Sudan's two major oil consortia. The Sudanese government uses as much as 80%
of proceeds from those sales to fund its brutal Janjaweed proxy militia and purchase their instruments of destruction:
bombers, assault helicopters, armored vehicles and small arms, most of them of Chinese manufacture.
Airstrips constructed and operated by the Chinese have been used to launch bombing campaigns on villages.
And China has used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to repeatedly obstruct efforts by the U.S. and the U.K.
to introduce peacekeepers to curtail the slaughter.
As one of the few players whose support is indispensable to Sudan, China has the power to, at the very least, insist
that Khartoum accept a robust international peacekeeping force to protect defenseless civilians in Darfur.
Beijing is uniquely positioned to put a stop to the slaughter, yet they have so far been unabashed in their refusal to do so.
But there is now one thing that China may hold more dear than their unfettered access to Sudanese oil: their successful
staging of the 2008 Summer Olympics. That desire may provide a lone point of leverage with a country that has
otherwise been impervious to all criticism.
'Genocide Olympics' shame China
FOR the past two years, China has protected the Sudanese government as the United States and Britain have pushed for UN Security Council sanctions against Khartoum for the violence in Darfur.
But the past week has seen a major shift in Beijing's stance. A senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, travelled to Sudan to push the government to accept a UN peacekeeping force. Zhai even went all the way to Darfur and toured three refugee camps, a rare event for a high-ranking official from China, which has extensive business and oil ties to Sudan and generally avoids telling other countries how to conduct their internal affairs.
The credit goes to Hollywood - Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg in particular. Just when it seemed safe to buy a plane ticket to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, nongovernmental organisations and other groups appear to have scored a surprising success in an effort to link the Olympics, which the Chinese government holds very dear, to the killings in Darfur, which until recently Beijing had not seemed too concerned about.
Farrow, a UN goodwill ambassador, has played a crucial role, starting a campaign to label the games in Beijing the "Genocide Olympics" and calling on corporate sponsors and even on Spielberg, who is an artistic adviser to China for the games, to publicly exhort China to do something about Darfur. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Farrow warned Spielberg that he could "go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing games", referring to a German filmmaker who shot Nazi propaganda.
Four days later, Spielberg sent a letter to President Hu Jintao of China, condemning the killings in Darfur and asking China to use its influence in the region "to bring an end to the human suffering there", according to Spielberg's spokesman, Marvin Levy. Soon after, China sent Zhai.
Hollywood vs. China
China's "turnaround" on Darfur links to Spielberg: report
Hindu, India - Apr 13, 2007
New York, April 14 (PTI): China's latest attempts to pressurise Sudan to allow UN peacekeepers in Darfur is
partly a result of the efforts of Hollywood actor Mia Farrow and film-maker Stephen Spielberg, a report has said.
Does China respect Sudan and the Sudanese?
April 13, 2007 06:02 PM
Oh my dear Khartoum, I never thought you will fall in love with Mao’s China. They do not respect Africa.
Just pay attention and see how their leaders and their newspapers deal with our drama.
China has no interest in our people, China is behind her economical boom, she is hungry and thirsty.
she gets our oil while giving nothing back. She loves al-Bashir for her own reasons.
China uses her veto power to back Khartoum.
The Security Council, has been criticised in the West for not using its leverage to force Khartoum to act to stop
violence in Darfur. They decided to put pressure on her through China.
French Politician Urges Beijing Boycott
Thursday, March 22, 2007; Page E02
A major French presidential candidate has suggested that France boycott the Beijing Olympics, in
hopes of pressuring China to stop protecting Sudan from sanctions over military and militia attacks
French Olympic officials expressed surprise at Fran?ois Bayrou's boycott call at a pro-Darfur rally
late Tuesday. At the same rally, the two leading presidential candidates joined Bayrou in pledging
not to host any members of the Sudanese government in France.
That would mark a change in policy: President Jacques Chirac hosted Sudanese President Omar
Hassan al-Bashir on the French Riviera at a summit of African leaders last month.
The Sudanese government is accused of funding militias and allowing its military to brutalize civilians
in a conflict that has killed some 200,000 people and left 2.5 million homeless since 2003.
China -- a U.N. Security Council permanent member with veto power -- opposes any sanctions against
Sudan, where it is the biggest foreign investor.
"If this drama does not stop, France would do itself credit by not coming to the Olympic Games,"
Bayrou told the rally, his office said yesterday.
Chinese Olympic team brawls with QPR
February 08, 2007
LONDON (AP) -- Queens Park Rangers will hold an internal inquiry into a wild brawl during a friendly with
China's under-23 Olympic soccer team, a fight that left one Chinese player unconscious and caused the game
to be abandoned with 15 minutes to play.
Footage of the fight aired Thursday in China, showing China striker Gao Lin throwing punches after being picked
up by a Rangers player. Both players fell to the ground, then others joined the fight.
"That's the style of English soccer," China's Olympic coach Ratomir Dujkovic told the Beijing sports daily Titan.
"But no matter what they do, it shouldn't be a reason for fighting. I am really disappointed. It is not acceptable."
'Kung fu' brawl puts end to China-QPR friendly
February 08, 2007
CHINESE under-21 international Zheng Tao was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital following a brawl in
a match against Queens Park Rangers at the English club's training ground today, according to media reports.
The violent fracas caused Premier League referee Dermot Gallacher to abandon the friendly in west London with
QPR winning 2-1 in the second half.
U.S. should boycott China's Olympics
NEW YORK -- A fascist regime plans to host the Olympic Games. Critics call for a boycott, but the Games
come off as planned. And on the field of world opinion, the host scores an enormous victory.
Berlin in 1936? No, Beijing in 2008.
Now that the Winter Olympics are over, all eyes will soon turn to the Summer Olympics. And that's just what
the Chinese want. Like the Germans of the '30s, they will use the Olympics to showcase their economy --
and hide their repressive behavior.