Forget Covid-19: Fear China
By Gwydion M. Williams
Theft has always been a normal part of International Law.
The terms Annexation and Conquest are more commonly used. The difference being that annexation is administrative, and may also apply where you actually have no control.
Annexation is widely seen as illegal.[A] Conquest is not, if the war was legal.
But what’s the difference between theft and criminal violence on the one hand, and actual annexation and conquest on the other?
The lack of a real and honest system of International Law.
The United Nations and various International Courts exist, of course. But they are neither real nor honest.
The five main creators of the United Nations in 1945 were given the Veto. They can prevent effective action and even official condemnation of acts that might be seen as criminal.
Including their own criminal acts.
Diplomats also have Immunity. There was a recent scandal in Britain when the wife of a US official used it to escape probable prosecution for dangerous driving after killing a young Briton. That loophole may now be closed, but the general rule remains.
But I’d also assert that this imperfect order is much better than a complete lack of order.
A set of imperfect habits and conventions make life safe for most people. Wars waged in the name of International Law have mostly been disastrous.
Anti-authoritarian attitudes are common for the Western Left. Particularly from the 1980s
Defeat on vital social and economic issues have happened to the Western Left since the 1980s. I’ve always felt there was a connection.
Likewise China’s success – leftism with no problems about using authority.
Market forces have proved much more oppressive and unjust than even bad state controls. Which China has hung onto.
And violence and trickery are even more authoritarian and arbitrary than bad policing.
People like to believe in Criminal Paladins who will set things right. Perhaps a few of them even exist outside of fiction. But certainly not many. Too few to be commonly useful.
I prefer to stay within the law. Do so even though ‘legal’ need not mean honest or just.
Or not honest or just by modern standards, which have changed a lot in my lifetime.
Born in 1950, I see most of the changes as a success for the left. A long run of defeats for Centre-Right values as they were at the time.[B]
Sadly, much of the left dislikes the notion that they ever might have won. Or could ever do so, short of some transcendental Socialist Revolution.
Generally sneer at actual socialist revolutions, for the crime of achieving something but not everything.
Prefer protest to victory.
Pride themselves on a policy of don’t take ‘yes’ for an answer.
But it is also true that the law as it stands may be bad.
Criminalisation of homosexuality was legal in various countries, until the law was changed. Or where a new law-code was proclaimed that didn’t mention it: this happened after the French Revolution. Also in the Soviet Union, ambiguously, until Stalin in his general tightening-up brought it into line with the European norm.
George Orwell might have approved of that aspect of Stalinism. His writings include many instances of bitter hostility to male homosexuality.
Or perhaps I should apologise to Orwell’s ghost for suggesting he might have approved of anything.
Regardless, homosexuality was technically illegal in the Republic of India till 2018, under 19th century laws after British conquest and annexation of most of the subcontinent. No one was ever punished for it: most Hindus view it as normal, though perhaps low-status or disgraceful. Gays and lesbians now seek equal status, but are still denied it.[C]
You muddle your mind if you talk of ‘The Law’ as if it were something clear and beyond dispute.
Slavery was legal until banned. The USA had to fight a war to criminalise it. If the Confederate capital Richmond had fallen in 1861, as nearly happened, slavery would have remained legal. Lincoln tried to ban slavery from the Territories: portions of the USA that had not been admitted as fully-fledged states. But only after General Lee broke the Siege of Richmond and scored other significant victories did Lincoln risk the Emancipation Proclamation. He freed all slaves in States that had illegally seceded. He also allowed African-Americans to join the army, which badly needed fresh troops.
The North was broadly racist: blacks had been allowed to volunteer for previous wars, but the North initially wanted to be clear that there was no question of equal rights. Slave states that had not seceded kept their slaves until a Constitutional Amendment at the end of 1865. Other amendments created technical racial equality, including voting rights. But this was substantially untrue until the 1960s, and is still not entirely true.
After some brief efforts to gain non-white votes, the Republicans under Trump have confirmed themselves as the party of White Racism.
Lincoln and most of the other founders were White Racists. One of the objections to slavery was that it undermined the all-White and mostly north-west European society they sought.
Most Northern states before the Civil War had legal inferiority for anyone not counted as White. They broadly did not want them.[D] Oregon specifically excluded them.[E] California tried to exclude Chinese,[F] and murdered almost all of their Native Americans.[G]
Left-wing writer Ursula Le Guin had parents who knew Ishi, the last Native American from an exterminated tribe. But in none of her works did she try tackling the awkward matter of people very generous and sharing to their own, but hostile and even murderous to outsiders. Which is actually the human norm.
Philosopher David Hume noted that monarchs as Heads of State have a preference for treating all of their subjects equally. Non-socialist democrats more often want equality among their own and exclusion for strangers.
Queen Victoria and many British aristocrats wanted to include loyal non-white subjects. Those below them in the hierarchy were keen on White Privilege and prevented it.
The Centre-Right and even many on the Left like to present Leninism as a system of tyranny existing for no good reason. But the West only officially repudiated White Racism when it was in danger of losing the Cold War in the 1960s and 1970s.
One instance: the US space program is now mixed by race and sex, but every single candidate for the Moon Landings was a white male. Mostly with names and appearance suggesting ancestors from north-west Europe.[H]
Since well before they were defeated by Britain in the First Opium War, no Chinese government has been guilty of either annexation or conquest.
The terms get falsely applied to Chinese reunification, based on borders accepted by all other sovereign states. Or China is called aggressive in disputes over rival claims to borders where authority had never been clear. There was a lot of this up till the early 1970s, when Nixon made peace. It then went quiet, and most disputes were settled by each side taking some. India, which has never yet compromised on any of its claims, was the grand exception.
The final dynasty of Imperial China had done a lot of conquering up to the late 18th century, though mostly recovering territory that previous dynasties had ruled.
Both Vietnam and Korea settled down as nominal subordinates. They sent tribute when they felt like it, got back gifts in return, and viewed such trips as a grand adventure.
The previous Ming Dynasty had tried to conquer Vietnam and failed: one reason for ending the Ming Voyages.[I] The Ming had also helped Korea defeat a Japanese invasion, though Koreans did most of the actual fighting.
Real control was applied over Tibet, Mongolia, Xinjiang and a part-Tibetan region called Qinghai. Officials called Ambans appointed by the Central government had considerable power.
Incidentally, Qinghai is where the current Dalai Lama was born. It was ruled by a Muslim warlord who recognised the Central Government. His family had to learn Tibetan when he was elevated.[J] He was the younger brother of an important clerical official, and was chosen with the strong backing of the Central Government.[K]
Note also that all versions of Imperial China were multi-racial, just as the Roman Empire was. Only the Mongols and the 19th century European invaders tried ruling China without adopting most of its culture. The Mongols gave this up part-way through the rule of Kublai Khan. (Disputed Great Khan from 1260, and Chinese Emperor from 1271. Diminished Song-dynasty rivals lasted till 1279.)
The Western term ‘Chinese’ can be applied both to the majority Han nationality, or to any citizen of what they call Zhongguo.
Maybe China should change its official English-language name to Zhongguo, just as it switched names like Peking to Beijing in 1979.
It would dispose of the notion that Ethnic Minorities are not really Chinese. Almost all non-Han accept and cherish their status as part of Zhongguo.
Incompetent leaders have to find someone else to blame.
So do elites that grab far more than their share.
The Western elite has been grabbing far more than its share since the 1980s. Overall growth has slowed. But it has been an Economic Miracle for the richest 1%, and especially the richest 0.1%.
So fear of outsiders is necessary. And with a docile media, the same facts can be recycled to spread several separate sets of fears.
Soviets in Afghanistan were a terrifying threat. This was nearest to being a real issue, even with the Soviet system falling apart. Islamic extremists were fattened up by the West to oppose them.
Little Iraq, saved by the West in 1987 when their aggressive war against Iran had bogged down,[L] was reinvented as a terrifying threat in 1990. Some over-clever fools fantasised about creating docile pro-Western Arab regimes in place of Secular Nationalism.
The sudden emergence of new waves of Extreme Islam was treated as utterly unexpected.
More than once.
Smashed societies were supposed to generate docile pro-Western regimes. The actual emergence of bitter foes happened almost every time, yet is always ‘unexpected’.
With the decline in socialism in the Republic of India, a bitter anti-liberal version of Hinduism emerges. Very unexpected.
With the decline of socialism in the former Warsaw Pact, bitter anti-liberal versions of nationalism emerged. Catholic in Poland. Secular in Hungary. In Ukraine, heroizing men who did their best to fight as allies of Hitler in World War Two.[M] Very unexpected.
And when the West messes up, it is unacceptable for powers not obedient to the West to take on the same foes and win.
China faced a long-running violent separatist movement in Xinjiang. Originally mostly secular, but increasingly Extremist Islamist. Sending forth warriors to oppress the more moderate and authentic Muslims of Syria.
China respond just like every state under threat. If one sticks to proven facts, they did it more moderately than the USA did in a series of ineffective suppressions. Tyranny.
China has always accepted the loss of territory given away in various Unequal Treaties. Treaties signed during China’s decades of weakness. Ending with Chiang Kai-shek accepting that the well-established Mongolian People’s Republic had replaced the former Chinese territory of Outer Mongolia. He later reneged on the deal and the nominal Republic of China on Taiwan still claims it. But Mao later confirmed that he made no claim to anything that had officially been given away by a previous Chinese government.
This does not include western portions of the Tibetan Plateau, which India claims on the basis of its questionable claim to all of Kashmir. Pakistan, which has the better claim, has also accepted China’s claimed borders.
India abolishing Kashmiri autonomy was correctly described as aggressive by Western media. But China making some modest moves to reassure Pakistan is also described as aggressive. Most reports ignore the earlier Indian move.
China’s acceptance of lost territories does not include the islands of the South China Sea. Imperial China saw them as extensions of one of its southern provinces. Chinese fisherman used them.
Before modern times, only Vietnam made a rival claim. The Wikipedia describes it thus:
“China first asserted sovereignty in the modern sense to the South China Sea’s islands when it formally objected to France’s efforts to incorporate them into French Indochina during the Sino-French War (1884–1885). Initially, France recognized Qing China’s sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, in exchange for Chinese recognition of Vietnam as a French territory. Chinese maps since then have consistently shown China’s claims…
“In 1932, one year after the Japanese Empire invaded northeast China, France formally claimed both the Paracel and Spratly Islands; China and Japan both protested. In 1933, France bolstered their claim and seized the Paracels and Spratlys, announced their annexation, formally included them in French Indochina. They built several weather stations on them, but they did not disturb the numerous Chinese fishermen found there…
“The French [in 1945] tried but failed to dislodge Chinese nationalist troops from Yongxing Island (the only habitable island in the Paracels), but were able to establish a small camp on Pattle (now Shanhu) Island in the southwestern part of the archipelago.
“In 1950, after the Chinese nationalists were driven from Hainan by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), they withdrew their garrisons in both the Paracels and Spratlys to Taiwan…
“In 1956 the PLA reestablished a Chinese garrison on Yongxing Island in the Paracels, while the Republic of China (Taiwan) stationed troops on Taiping Island in the Spratlys. That same year, however, South Vietnam reopened the abandoned French camp on Shanhu Island and announced it had annexed the Paracel archipelago as well as the Spratlys. To focus on its war with the North, South Vietnam by 1966 had reduced its presence on the Paracels to only a single weather observation garrison on Shanhu Island. The PLA made no attempt to remove this force.”[N]
In 1974, just one year away from collapse, South Vietnam tried to expand their power. Possibly they wanted to offer useful bases to the USA. But they were defeated:
“Following the battle, China gained control over all of the Paracel Islands. South Vietnam protested to the United Nations, but China, having veto power on the UN Security Council, blocked any efforts to bring it up…
“After the reunification of Vietnam in April 1975, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam publicly renewed its claim to the Paracels, and the dispute continues to this day. Hanoi has praised the South Vietnamese forces that took part in the battle.” (Ibid.)
Something like Covid-19 had been long warned about. Probably a virus beginning in bats. Probably transmitted by unhygienic markets in which fresh meat and freshly killed wild animals were mixed.
China was one offender, but there were dozens of others.
A proper inquiry into the entire pandemic is promised, once things get back to normal. The World Health Organisation has so far left it open where blame might lie.
They did strongly back China’s quick and intense lockdown, which was the sort of thing they had long said was needed.
China soon controlled the pandemic.
Europe chose to ignore WHO advice and treat China’s lockdown as senseless authoritarianism. And paid a price, with most governments then following China’s example.
Sweden tried other policies, and had far more deaths.
Britain was slow to react, and far more have died than need die.
The USA under Trump was very much worse. Genetic studies show that most of its infections came from a virus variant found only in Europe.[O]
After the Soviet collapse, the USA seemed to be targeting Japan as its next rival. But then Japan stopped growing so fast: I have wondered if this was an intentional policy.
The USA also got diverted to an amazingly foolish and failed bid to remake the Islamic World to Western standards. A cause they have not abandoned despite the massive suffering they have inflicted. Despite everything going in the opposite direction.
They also wanted to remake China. But were hopeful that the party leadership might do it for them, with minimum cost and bother.
They are now learning better.
China successfully avoided the Middle-Income Trap. Went beyond cheap simple goods, or goods designed in the West.
Huawei equipment had been checked and found OK for normal use. And then suddenly became unfit for use anywhere, when Trump needed a diversion from his many failures.
France will not entirely reject Huawei, who are cheaper and better.[P]
But for Britain and the USA, everything Chinese is suddenly poisonous.
And they seem to think that if they get tough, the Chinese will suddenly see how inferior they are. Will abase themselves before Western values.
Contrary to what most Westerners think, Mao’s China was not a disaster. It grew faster than Britain or the USA, despite hostility from the USA from the beginning, and from the Soviets from the late 1950s.[Q]
The whole strategy is based on a basic misunderstanding.
So thank you, Juan Chang and Jon Halliday, authors of Mao, the Unknown Story. Your efforts to serve the New World Order has done far more damage to the West’s hegemony than you formerly managed as sycophantic praise-singers for China and North Korea.
Specifically, Madame Sun Yat-Sen by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, 1986, which is not mentioned at all in their 2012 book on Mao. And Korea: The Unknown War by Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings, 1988.
Sun Yat-Sen’s widow backed Mao, and may well have been behind the famous visit by Edgar Snow to Mao’s red base. I’ve written of this in an article you can find on-line.[R] This includes Chang and Halliday’s report of an incident I found significant:
“Powerful emissaries were sent to berate her – and threaten. Among them was the former secretary to Sun and ex-leftist, Tai Ch’i-tao:
“As Tai left, he said: ‘if you were anyone but Madam Sun, we would cut your head off.’
“Ching-ling smiled. ‘If you were the revolutionaries you pretend to be, you’d cut it off anyway.’”[S]
To me, this was definitive for a very brave lady. But Chang and Halliday treat it as if it were no more significant than a comment about how you’d like your tea.
Their work reminds me of the story attributed to Field Marshal Moltke: hard-working stupid people are a menace to their own side.[T] And in politics, it extends to those who are clever in a way, but keep on making foolish judgements.
[O] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/new-cdc-report-confirms-first-covid-cases-in-ny-came-from-europe-other-states/2518796/, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8534281/CDC-confirms-coronavirus-spread-NYC-Europe.html
[S] Soong Ching-ling, Penguin Books 1986, page 71.