Sixteen of the world’s top 20 polluted cities are in China; was that true during the Qing era as well? Wealthy privileged landowners are gone; privileged business tycoons and their princeling sons supplant them. Progress? The oligarchy has proved it can move quickly both in Tiananmen Square and the Olympics, but still harbors the belief that transparency is not necessary. Its “benevolence” and care for progress should be taken for granted and trusted just like that of past emperors.
If this is supposedly China’s century, why do snakeheads still exist? Why do those fleeing not wait till their golden age comes? What is their flight saying?
The past 100 years of suffering in China have basically been China’s doing; foreign powers cannot be blamed for the power struggles of would-be emperors within. More was destroyed in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution than anything ever done to the Summer Palace by foreigners. Who shoulders that humiliation? The great helmsman Mao Zedong (毛澤東)? The destruction he wrought still cannot be faced because he supported the myth of the eternal return of the Middle Kingdom. Mao’s great famine? Do not talk too openly about that. That Mao is responsible for more Chinese deaths that the 30 million Chinese killed in the war with the hated Japanese? Ignore that as well.
Can current corruption be rooted out by the fiat of the politburo? Without transparency and the rule of law there is little chance of that. Simple fiats will not change the inner soul of the people. Does anyone remember when Mao outlawed prostitution — the “invention of the West?” How long was it eliminated? Did Mao and those around him practice what they preached?
The new century of humiliation continues right now in China. Sun is honored in the breach, but his wishes are ignored; people have no more say in replacing the oligarchy than they did in replacing an emperor. Han rule has been restored, but is a new Dream of the Red Chamber being created?
China’s neighbors are becoming more aware of is its hegemonic ambitions, so what does this mean for a democratic Taiwan? China’s 19th century of humiliation is present here only in the minds of some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) waishengren (外省人) who fled here decades ago. The humiliation that Taiwanese need care about is how they recently had to suffer 40 years of White Terror and martial law under those waishengren and that some of them still want to bring Taiwan under the “benevolent humiliation” of China’s oligarchy. Think about it.
Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.