Japan from the inside out

Who do the Chinese remind you of?

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, July 30, 2011

SO, who do the Chinese remind you of? In the most recent post on his website, historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote, “China 2011 reminds me a lot of Japan 1935.”

Prof. Hanson is certainly capable of making a convincing case to defend that assertion, but others focus on the same time period while looking to a different continent. For example, here’s Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea discussing Chinese rhetoric in defense of the country’s aircraft carrier program, while quoting a Reuters article that quotes a Chinese publication:

Does anyone else find this sort of rhetoric eerily similar to what the Nazi press said about Britain and France in the 30’s?

China’s humiliations at the hands of Western powers in the past centuries “left the Chinese people with the deep pain of having seas they could not defend, helplessly eating the bitter fruit of being beaten for being backward,” said a front-page editorial in the paper.

Military analyst J.R. Dunn quotes American Sen. James Webb:

Senator James Webb (D-VA) told David Gregory on Meet the Press three weeks ago that he thinks the US is facing a “Munich moment” with China in Southeast Asia. While no exact analogy is on the horizon to the original Munich moment – Neville Chamberlain proclaiming “peace in our time” after agreeing with Hitler to the partition of Czechoslovakia – Webb’s larger point is that China’s career of aggression in the South China Sea needs checking.

The historical parallel she sees is not Munich, however:

Perhaps a better analogy would be calling the current situation in the South China Sea a prospective remilitarization-of-the-Rhine moment. In any case, Webb is right that there are things to worry about.

These analogies aren’t new. Wrote novelist and author Mark Mordue in 2008:

I have no doubt these Games are the most significant and politically dangerous since the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Hitler and the Nazi Party sought to use those Games as a propaganda tool for resurgent German nationalism and racist notions of Aryan superiority, and with it Germany’s right to rule the world.

Historical equations, of course, always lack nuance. But the parallels between Berlin 1936 and Beijing 2008 remain odiously apparent. Chinese nationalism is rampant, the poison by which the so-called Communist regime sustains its right to govern today. Underlining it is the racist Han Chinese sensibility that Tibetans, Uighurs and other minorities are lower-grade humans and “barbarians” — as are we Western “long noses”. Talk to any semi-educated Han and you will hear all about China’s phenomenal 5000 years of culture; dig into that talk and you will understand how the past 100 years of Chinese turbulence and misery are the fault of the West.

Now take another look at that excerpt Joshua Stanton found.

We already have a good idea of how the Chinese would treat the world’s barbarians — i.e., the rest of us — because we already know that their treatment of Chinese citizens constitutes a crime against humanity.

Chai Ling is an eyewitness:

Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have both properly criticized China’s one-child policy for contributing to infanticide. It is a charge that even some of the propagandists in China’s totalitarian regime would not dispute. The government plasters a number of chilling slogans throughout China that are short on nuance. “Better 10 graves than one birth,” reads one slogan. “Abort it! Kill it! Terminate it! You just cannot give birth to him or her,” reads another official sign written on a long red banner stretched across the entire side of a building.

She adds:

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in just 10 years there will be 30 million to 40 million more boys than girls under the age of 20 in China. To put that number into perspective, China will have as many young men who will never marry — “or bare branches” — as the entire young male population of the United States. This does not bode well for a country where the crime rate has almost doubled in the past 20 years.

It’s worth accessing that link for the explanation of the accompanying photograph alone.

It’s also worth remembering that the Chinese authorities put Liu Xiaobo, the country’s first Nobel laureate, in jail just for signing this.

Heck, it’s no longer possible to sing a song in a Chinese bar without looking over your proverbial shoulder:

Next time you visit a Karaoke bar in China, you will be contributing to the government’s data bank on what song is causing more people to swing and tap their feet and which ones are flops…Though the ministry did not specifically mention it, the system will also help the government keep a watch on whether any one is playing songs that are politically dangerous or espousing anti-national causes in Tibetan dominated areas or the Xingjian region, which is witnessing a violent separatist movement.

It wasn’t so long ago that some principled Americans stood up to the Soviet Union. To ask whether today’s Americans are capable of taking the same principled stand, however, is to answer the question. Here’s Prof. Hanson again:

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines have one eye on China, and one on Washington—and therefore are increasingly terrified. One of three things will happen: our shaky allies will demand a higher U.S. profile in the region, and new assurances of safety under the U.S. nuclear umbrella (all quite unlikely); or they will go nuclear and, unlike North Korea, their missiles will work like Camrys and Kias; or they will make face-saving accommodations with the Chinese that will result in a new version of the old Co-Prosperity Sphere…

Richard Fernandez explains why an American response is unlikely:

It has now become quaint, even Quixotic, to put the interests of one’s country over personal and party concerns. “Love,” John Le Carre once wrote, “is whatever you can still betray.” And what can moderns still betray? It is now far easier to turn one’s back on an unloved birthplace, the affection for which is now regarded as a kind of bigotry. Today’s political class is far more comfortable owing allegiance to itself. What affection it has left over has never been weighed (in) the crucible of choice. And maybe all that amounts to is a hill of beans. Perhaps that is why concerns about “Munich” have so little resonance today.

He also explains the Americans’ practical concerns:

(O)ne of the reasons the administration may be reluctant to resist China more vigorously is because they are looking to borrow more money from Beijing to make “investments” and stimulate the economy for 2012. A key reason why the administration wants assurances from Congress that it will not hinder the further servicing and expansion of debt is to calm China, which holds so much of it.

It’s dangerous to look for symbolism in all the wrong places, but this story comes close enough to symbolizing the current Sino-American relationship to merit awarding the author a cigar:

(T)he fastest growing and now No. 1 export category is–“Scrap and Trash.”

According to data provided by the U.S. International Trade Commission, Chinese imports of U.S. cast-offs (scrap metal, waste paper, and the like) surged by an eye-popping 916 percent over the 2000-2008 period, with most of that expansion occurring after 2004.

Perhaps not many observers will judge this a suitably glamorous role for America to assume on the global stage. But one might take comfort in the thought that if there is one thing that Americans still excel at producing, it’s trash.

Just as some in the West once thought the Soviet threat was right-wing militarist hysteria and that threat to world peace was All Our Fault, some think the Chinese should be emulated rather than criticized and confronted. Michael Barone describes the phenomenon:

The dwindling number of readers of The New York Times were treated Wednesday to a column by Thomas Friedman extolling China’s “one-party autocracy,” which, he told us, “is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people.”

China’s leaders, he reported, are “boosting gasoline prices” and “overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.” All, of course, in the cause of reducing carbon emissions, which so many luminaries assure us are bound to produce global warming and environmental catastrophe.

The word limit of his column apparently left him no space to regret the Chinese one-party autocracy’s Internet censorship, forced sterilizations, imprisonment of political dissenters and the like. Even so, Friedman declares that “our one-party democracy is worse” than the Chinese model.

Never mind that the idea of Green China is a load of codswollop:

(I)ntermittent wind and solar cannot compete with coal or gas, because they are not reliable sources of dispatchable, peak-demand power, and never will be unless someone invents a magic battery. For investors, this is why a gas power plant promises higher returns than a wind or solar facility, even allowing for the subsidies wind and solar power enjoy. And this is why China is going to continue to build fossil fuel energy over renewable energy at a ratio of better than 50 to one for the foreseeable future, even as they create a new export industry to sell wind turbines and solar panels to politically driven markets like ours.

The author, Stephen F. Hayward, also notes that this is part of a pattern:

(T)here are reports that many of China’s new windmills aren’t even connected up to their electricity grid; like their ghost cities with empty high rises, office buildings and malls, China apparently is putting up windmills just for practice.

It isn’t accurate to use the term “apologists” for people who think China is a positive rather than a negative model:

China has proven that birth restriction is smart policy. Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the planet.

We’ve seen this before, too. Here’s Malcolm Muggeridge on the antecedents of Friedman and Diane Francis, the author of the Financial Post article:

It’s something I’ve written and thought about a great deal, and I think that the liberal mind is attracted by this sort of regime. My wife’s aunt was Beatrice Webb, and she and Sidney Webb wrote the classic pro-Soviet book. “Soviet Communism: A New Civilization.” And so, one saw close at hand the degree to which they all knew about the regime, knew all about the Cheka [the secret police] and everything, but they liked it.

I think that those people believe in power. It was put to me very succinctly when we were taken down to Kharkiv for the opening of the Dnieper dam. There was an American colonel who was running it, building the dam in effect. “How do you like it here?” I asked him, thinking that I’d get a wonderful blast of him saying how he absolutely hated it. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “You never get any labor trouble.”

This will be one of the great puzzles of posterity in looking back on this age, to understand why the liberal mind, the Manchester Guardian mind, the New Republic mind, should feel such enormous sympathy with this authoritarian regime.

It’s no longer a puzzle for people with the eyes to see, because now we have more data extending over a longer period of time. They feel sympathy with those regimes — any of the kissing cousins of the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, or today’s China — because that is who they are and that is what they want. Thomas Friedman and Diane Francis know that Liu Xiaobo was jailed for demanding precisely the same rights they already have. It is reasonable to conclude that they think those rights aren’t as important as progressivist efficiency. That’s another one we’ve seen before:

(Woodrow) Wilson believed that under progressive government the individual must “marry his interests to the state.”


Nothing even in Europe equaled the degree and intensity of American political absolutism during its brief period in the Great War. General Ludendorff acknowledged American initiative in this respect when, in a last great effort at German victory, he instituted “War Socialism.” Lenin’s War Communism, with its thicket of centralized agencies of regulation or ownership, was indebted to what America did first and so successfully. Mussolini’s early structure of Fascism in Italy, with its powerful national agencies controlling factory production, labor relations, the railroads, took a leaf from the American wartime book of three years earlier. The blunt fact is that when under Wilson America was introduced to the War State in 1917, it was introduced also to what would later be known as the total, or totalitarian, state.

After all, look at their heroes:

(I)magine if a Republican had held political prisoners like Wilson did, or interned Japanese Americans the way FDR did.

Speaking of their heroes, perhaps that’s another reason the American heirs of Wilson tread so lightly with the Chinese:

President Obama ostentatiously invoked the (racist eugenicist imperialist) progressives of the University of Wisconsin as an inspiration for his campaign.

Is there a better description of China today than the three words inside the parentheses?

Here’s another description of the Chinese, courtesy of Mark Steyn:

If the IMF is correct (a big if), China will be the planet’s No. 1 economy by 2016…The world’s economic superpower…will be a communist dictatorship with a largely peasant population and legal, political and cultural traditions as alien to its predecessors as possible.

Now imagine this “economic superpower”, a nation whose political behavior at home and abroad consists entirely of the most dire negatives, standing astride the globe as a colossus — when the term of the winner of the next U.S. presidential election ends.

How will it end with the Chinese this time? Here’s what Joshua Stanton thinks:

All of this nationalist rage will probably have a terrible ending, and the potential damage to humanity is even greater than it was in 1939.

When it’s starting to look like it all might happen again, when credible people are writing that “China at times has felt like the end of the world”, hoping that he’s wrong isn’t enough.

Who do the Chinese remind me of? A lot of people.

This song is dedicated to all the fascistos from the flower in the middle of the universe and their clique of useful idiots

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11 Responses to “Who do the Chinese remind you of?”

  1. Marellus said


    I really liked this piece. Can you write more articles like this ? I must admit that I’m not that into Japanese politics. But then again your observations on that topic did help me with this exchange on facebook :

    Him :Is here anyone who knows a good way to prevent from a cockroach entering a room? #in_eng 誰かゴキブリが部屋に侵入するのを防止する良い方法知らない?#​in_jap

    Me : … put a picture of Kan Naoto on the door …

    Him : haha, but it works against a japanese cockroach and an american cockroach despises him 😛

  2. Marellus said


    Forgot to add. This Japanese gentleman is studying music in New York.

  3. Harry said

    ”one-party autocracy,” which, he told us, “is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people.”

    Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the plane”

    These people scare me.

    Have they learn anything from the train crash in China?

  4. nagoya said

    Not trying to support the criminal gang running China, but …

    “SO, who do the Chinese remind you of?” Let’s see, how about what became the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, the US, circa 1925? Of course, the countries around China want the US as a balance. Mexico and Canada would like the EC or the UN to offset the power that the US uses against them. This is nothing new; it’s just power politics. In any case, it’s the US that is likely to provoke problems because it is in such decline, and it’s hard to imagine the power elite going down without a fight.
    N: Thanks for the note.

    how about what became the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, the US, circa 1925?

    Americans in 1925 had popularly elected governments from more than one party and people could have as many children as they wanted. Besides, you’re about 20 years too early on the American manifestation of power.

    Mexico and Canada would like the EC or the UN to offset the power that the US uses against them.

    American ships are ramming Canadian vessels in the St. Lawrence seaway to establish dominance in the area, and are illegally setting up oil platforms in the Gulf of California?

    Could you provide us a definition of “empire” and explain how it applies to the United States? And why the US is to be used as a comparison instead of, say, Great Britain and France?

    Also, please note that I did describe the similiarities in political philosophy (not geopolitical strategy) shared by the Chinese and some in the West, including the US.

    it’s the US that is likely to provoke problems

    It’s clear that in East Asia, the Chinese are the ones already doing the problem provoking with everyone.

    – A.

  5. Tony said

    Canada wants the UN to offset the power of the US? That’s not only new to me but a load of beaver poop too. What organization is less powerful than the UN, particularly if it’s actions are not supported by the US, as this would be. As for going to the EU, oh yeah, I’ve noticed Canada really restricting it’s trade with the US and attempting to curry favour with Euope. Not sure if that statement is fantasy or delusion but it certainly isn’t truth.

  6. nagoya said

    If you don’t think the US has an empire, then what do you call it? How many countries have US bases in them? I would call an empire a country that routinely refers to a sphere of influence that is far away from its shores. So, if the US considers North Africa or Indonesia to be an interest that it has to fight over, then that seems imperialistic to me. If China bombed one of those areas and tried to install a favorable regime, how would you view it? You would say that proved how aggressive and evil the Chinese regime is, wouldn’t you?

    I think Mexico and Canada have been in favor of multilateral deals as a way of limiting the leverage of the US. You may disagree. It’s true that the UN is useless, and was a poor example when compared to, say, the WTO. In any case, all small governments want an alliance or something to balance the weight of a powerful neighbor. This is only common sense.

    Tony, The statement about Canada restricting its trade doesn’t make sense to me. Canada wants the trade, it just doesn’t want what it sees as one-sided deals pushed on them. This is why Canada likes deals to include Mexico, and is talking about the Caribbean and Central America as being part of the deals, too.

    I disagree with the premise that China is provoking people much. They think time is on their side and are just trying to gradually build up their position. It’s Japan and the US that are in decline, and are thus getting nervous. The Okinawan incident was a case of Japan not doing what Koizumi had done to avoid making an issue out of it. The danger to all of us is still there. China feels that it should be the dominant country in East Asia, and the US and its allies are against this. I just think the Chinese strategy is to do this economically over a period of decades, not with a military approach.
    N: An imperial nation physically occupies other nations and dispatches people from the home country to rule those other nations. It has *absolute authority*. An imperial nation confiscates all the resources and wealth of the other nation and uses them as it sees fit, for its own benefit first, and for the ruled nation secondarily, if at all. The imperial nation establishes the legal system in the other nation. That is an empire, and the United States has, with few exceptions, never been involved in it. Without absolute control, there is no empire.

    If the United States were an imperial nation, there would have been no purple thumbs in Iraq.

    Your definition of an empire is the degraded one used in some circles today. The same degradation has occurred with the word racism. Words mean things, and empire does not mean what you want it to mean.

    What I would call American behavior is beside the point. Whatever it is, it is not imperial.

    Tony is Canadian, BTW.


    – A.

  7. Tony said

    I won’t be speaking for Mexico here, I’ll let someone else do that if they want but as for Canada.

    Yes, Canada wants trade deals beyond that of America but what country doesn’t? More trade leads to a better and stronger economy. But Canada’s interest in Caribbean is nothing new nor is it a safety measure against American power. Historically Canada has long been involved with Caribbean nations and one of those reasons was promoted by Britain to limit American “influence” in the area but another reason that Canada jumped at the chance was that it was a way for Canadian investors to make money. Besides, this way both Canada and the Caribbean nations could engage in a favoured activity of keeping income in their own pockets and away from the colonial master. More recently in the 1960’s and 1970’s Canadian mining companies were the largest investors in the old Jamaican bauxite mines, the major investors in Jamaican sugar cane plantations and today if you get a chance to walk down any business street throughout the Caribbean you will see how prevalent Canadian banks are there in the financial sector. In fact, in a way it is surprising there hasn’t been a strong anti-Canadian movement in much of the Caribbean when considering all the influence Canada has there.

    I called you out on the exaggerated claim that Canada and Mexico “would like the EC or the UN to offset the power that the US uses against them” because I am not sure what you mean by “power”. What power has the US used against Canada? One can say that Canada has long been weary of American economic and cultural “influence” but that is a far cry away from “power”. You would have to show how America has used its power against Canada. Are there any examples to back that up, where Canada had to acquiesce or face dire retribution? For example I can illustrate how Canada has at times gone against the American wishes, much to the consternation of the American government, such as examples # 1 & 2) Canada not getting involved in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars despite American pressure, example # 3) Canada sponsoring and being the first signature to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines despite America’s opposition and example # 4) the fact that Canada will not extradite convicted murderers back to states where they are likely to receive the death penalty. Example # 5 Canada continuing trade with Cuba over the past 52 years since Castro’s revolution despite America’s embargo, #6 Canada recognizing the nation of China, despite Nixon’s over the top reaction and example #7) Canada giving free refuge to American draft dodgers during the Vietnam war, again, completely going against American demands and wishes. So there you have 7 examples in 5 minutes of writing. So, enlighten me, how could Canada do any of these things if America had “power” to use against it?

    And while I know I am repeating myself here, “influence”, yes, Canada has always been aware of and a bit afraid of too much American influence but that is not the same as being afraid of American “power” being used against us.

  8. nagoya said

    re: “Without absolute control, there is no empire.”

    I would argue that Britain did not have absolute control over many of its colonies, yet it was an empire, and proud of it.

    re: “and empire does not mean what you want it to mean”

    Perhaps, but I doubt that your use of terms is necessarily correct. I seem to recall that you were a “progressive”, right? I was using empire as a shorthand way for describing what is very difficult to describe, and you seem to be unwilling to do. The American system of influence over the world is sophisticated, and has been relatively benevolent, but it most definitely involves throwing its weight around at times, sometimes through its influence in the financial world through control of the dollar or access to the US market, and sometimes with more direct use of force, whether assassins or no-fly zones and special forces. I am more than willing to use a different term, and regularly do, but none of them are simple and without drawbacks.

    All of this discussion or disagreement over terms was in the context of China’s use of power, and my view that America regularly more than carries its weight on the international stage, and that is the direction China is heading in 15 years. So, if and when China does the same things in Africa or Central America that the US has done for decades, it would be appropriate to use the same terms then.

    OK, I exaggerated, but would have thought that influence was a key part of power. I was not trying to imply that the US regularly assassinated Canadian politicians or blockaded Canadian ports. My limited understanding of Canadian politics is that there are a lot fewer cases of Canada standing up to the US now than, say, 35 years ago. I also think that the bigger issue is economic, while your examples are of more symbolic value to those in DC or NY. I really doubt very many in positions of power in the US care about capital punishment or how Canada views it. In fact, the right-wing politicians or leaders of groups who might care about the issue are glad that Canada does this as it gives them something to posture over. Similarly, it gives the left-leaning equivalents in Canada something to be proud of and show that they aren’t the US.

    Your request for examples of where the US made a public demand seems a bit unreasonable. It would be very harmful to US interests to anger Canadians over some direct and public demand, such as “at least 50% of the oil contracts or production in Alberta must involve American companies”. These kinds of things have to be done privately. If Canada behaved unreasonably, then something like the hearings and media barrage that happened to Toyota would take place. A friend of mine was involved in the political/mafia Rezko world of Chicago back in the 1970’s and ’80’s. It was all about threats and deals, kind of a paradise for folks like Rahm Emmanuel, and the Toyota example was kind as nobody got hurt.

    In any case, I’m fairly ignorant of Canadian matters, and am more comfortable discussing Mexican issues. And there is no doubt in my mind that it is almost genetically in Mexicans that they should try to play others off against American companies or the American government whenever possible. All to prevent the US from gaining a dominant position over their political system. As the famous Mexican quote goes “Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the US.”

  9. Tony said

    I’m not sure that influence is a key part of power but without a doubt America does have direct and indirect influence on Canada, although that could be said about many countries. Still, Canada does not look to the U.N. to curtail that influence, nor do we look to the E.U., We tend to try and deal with it ourselves, sometimes successfully and sometimes hopelessly. By the way, not all the examples I gave occurred 35 years ago, the Iraq war is significantly more recent and Canada not extraditing convicted murderers to states that impose the death penalty happens every year.

    My request for examples of American power used against Canada was not unreasonable, you made the statement that America does this. I just asked you for examples to back up your statement. If you can’t then such a statement cannot be taken seriously which undermines the argument you tried to make about America in the first place. I’m not saying your wrong, it’s just that you have no examples to substantiate your claim where as Bill has provided some.

    Just say’in.

  10. nagoya said


    The Iraq war stance was relevant, and wasn’t decades ago. That’s true, though I thought that was part of the deal that Canadians would go to Afghanistan and the US would agree not to pester them about skipping Iraq. So, was public support in favor of going into Afghanistan? If not, then a case could be made that US pressure had something to do with the decision. The capital punishment issue does not bother the Obama administration or Wall Street or K Street, at least in my opinion. Try going to the Beltway and arguing that it is annoying one of those groups.

    Your request for examples of America leaning on Canada may be reasonable, and I can’t quote any, though I seem to recall a few incidents where the US told Canada that they would have to do various things to fly over US airspace or enter US airports, which would be quite crippling to Canadian businesses if they were banned, and I’ve heard from others about “strong requests” in military matters but I don’t remember what they were, and they may not be public issues anyway. I am aware of quite a few cases of the US leaning on different countries in a big way due to personal connections of family and friends, but it is unwise to discuss these things in a public forum. Besides, perhaps unlike Bill, I just consider it to be the way the world works – political philosophy is more of a sideshow or theater to distract the masses. If Sarkozy is angry about broken oil contracts in Libya, he is going to be a lot more supportive of attacking the Libyan government. And it’s not like others, such as Medvedev, are anything other than opportunists themselves over the issue. The US led system since WWII has been relatively benign, and largely based on enlightened self-interest, but it still seems to me like seeing how sausage is made.

  11. Tony said

    The Canadain public was overwhelmingly in favour of going into Afghanistan and overwhelmingly against going into Iraq.

    In regards to the death penalty, its not the fact that Canada does not have one, its the fact that Canada refuses to extradite suspects or convicted murders from Canada to states where they would face the death penalty. That is in the U.S. eyes an area of international law yet are powerless in trying to get Canada to do what they want.

    So rather than trying to justify your initial statement, lets just say that Canada is “not” looking to the U.N. and E.U. to offset what you imagine to be American “power” which you falsely stated is used against it. Instead, Canada normally works very closely with the U.S. and shares much the same views except on a few issues that are deemed important for the Canadian public. In which cases Canada usually opposes America despite American pressure.

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