Sunday, August 18, 2013

(Fuqiang) Wealth and Power and How the Chinese used Humiliation to Become a Great Power Again

Today, China has fuqiang  (Wealth and Power), but what drove the nation to achieve it was the concept of humiliation. This was well documented and explained in Orville Schell's and John Delury's Wealth and Power.
The Qing Dynasty was the ultimate villain ,run by Manchurians who had overwhelmed the Ming Dynasty (which were Han, the race that is 94percent of Chinese people) and eventually turned what was formally a great country into the "Sick Man of Asia." But they didn't do this alone and when Britain fought the opium wars to force the Chinese to accept the importation of opium it was just a matter of time before the dynasty and the self respect of the Chinese people went down the tubes. (It's interesting to note that opium was illegal in the British Isles while they were forcing it on the Chinese people.)
Imagine a country that for 5000 years had thought of itself as the Middle Kingdom (Zhongguo), and the center of advanced thought, having to accept signs on their own mainland barring "dogs and Chinese" from entering parks run by foreign governments.
For a proud people focusing on humiliation drove them night and day to throw of its yoke.Although it took a very long time (from the 1860's to today) the concept of humiliation was the final driver of Chinese reemergence as a Great Power. They talk particularly of Mao's admiration for the thought of Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei. What is interesting is that at one point all these philosophers, from Wei Yuan on, eventually decided the Chinese people could not be counted on to run their country. While some saw Chinese freedom as an evolutionary process in the end Mao Zedong decided everyone had to believe as he did and came up with the Rectification process to make sure everyone adhered to his political thought and none other.
It's an admirable thing to watch how China has returned to become a major player on the world stage. However, I hear many Chinese still say that the Chinese people can't govern themselves.
It seems clear that many of our assumptions in the United States about nation building have been foolish. An Iraq or Afghanistan functioning as a democracy seems as remote as ever. Perhaps all those Chinese scholars were right, but I wish the Chinese people could have the freedom I enjoy.

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