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A Secret Letter from Beijing(21 posts)

A Secret Letter from Beijingczardonic
Mar 25, 2003 2:47 PM

For those who would immediately dismiss anything put in writing by a Chinese official, note that this letter contains criticism of Chinese politics and admissions of its failures. Moreover, some wisdom trancends its source.

"I do not approve of the conduct of our politics in many respects — you know my true sentiments in matters such as democratic freedoms. But there is a difference between a strong nation — and one that is merely powerful. It is important to understand it. . .China is not as powerful now as it one day will be. But it is making itself strong. America is now powerful, but it is making itself weak. . .It is isolating itself internationally at precisely the moment it should be maturing as a world leader."
Mar 25, 2003 3:06 PM
And right now, China is being a lot smarter about world politics than anyone, including the United States. There may very well come a day where we will find ourselves in the position that France finds itself in. I doubt it will come to pass in our lifetime, or even our children's lifetime. But, if we don't wise up...and set a FAIR and IMPARTIAL standard for conduct for ourselves and the world...we are probably someday going to be playing the same tune as France, that of a nation and government that literally got dropped in the road race of world affairs.
I like your statement of... FAIR and IMPARTIAL standard ...PdxMark
Mar 25, 2003 3:40 PM
for conduct for ourselves and the world... it speaks well to what has been bugging me, and I've not stated so concisely.

Economically, the decade or two growth projections for US and China show China catching the US in total economic size in 20 years or so, to the extent 20 year economic projections are worth anything...

It's interesting to consider the difference between an eventually very strong Chinese regional power, militarily, and US global power. It seems being a regional bully (if that's how it plays out for China) will be safer than being the global cop, in terms of the numbers of peoples likely to take umbrage...

Maybe our unipolar world will last just 15-20 years... after which we get to squabble with China over who gets to buy Middle Eastern oil... us pulling from the West, China pulling from the East.
Mar 25, 2003 3:52 PM
A fair and impartial US has nothing to fear from a fair and impartial body of international law and diplomacy. It says a lot about the US that we simply don't believe that such a thing can exist.

It is also interesting how we tend to view the international community with the same jealousy and suspicion that the average American views his or her own community.
China takes the longview,sn69
Mar 25, 2003 5:05 PM
and perhaps that's a subset of a cultural tradition based on anscestor worship and the tennants of reincarnation. It's taken them the better part of the last 30 years to rid the country of most of Mao's putrid philosophies of cultural neutering, and they are really starting to emerge as a leading global power.

Nonetheless, their national strategy (yes, I've read it...don't ask) states very specifically that, within 25 years, they expect to have territorial dominance of what they label the "First Island Chain." They define that chain in the appendices, and it's essentially everything from Sakalihn south to Sumatra, including the Phillipines. There's no way that can be construed as anything but hegemonic,...not by our wapred standards or anyone else's.

Still, there's been a very subtle strategy at work on both sides since the mid-1970s, one that has gained momentum since Ping's death. Basically, they and us have become so economically interconnected that it has become bad for business to make war with one another. Small comfort, perhaps, but there are larger ramification. I believe based upon "things" I've read recently that China intends to squeeze N Korea to behave themselves. That, combined with recent militaristic overtures tempered with economic offerings by Japan and Taiwan, will probably sate Il's lust(s). I don't forsee a war with N Korea unless they lob a missile or come south. ...And China has a LOT to do with it.

Here's some intriguing food for thought. As a possible allignment reality within our lifetimes, it's becoming increasingly probable that the Pacific Rim and the US will economically unite in financial opposition to the EU. Hmmm.

The world is changing...that much is certain.
True, but I'm not sure its for cultural reasons.czardonic
Mar 25, 2003 5:22 PM
China has simply been around for a long, long time. Is 30 years really so long to steer a billion people in a new direction? Anyway, there's no doubting that if the Chinese posess some greater degree of perspective, it is because they have centuries of thier own mistakes from which to learn.
True, but I'm not sure its for cultural reasons.sn69
Mar 25, 2003 5:32 PM
I think in the context of the degrees to which they have suffered as a people and a nation in the past 50 years, yes, they are progressively steering a new direction. ...But, it's with the longview in mind and the realization that instant gratification doesn't work as well as a intuitively-laid foundation. I'm not sure if things would be progressing this rapidly if Mao hadn't purged so many during the Cultural Revolution. That left a taste in the mouths of younger generations that lingers still today. Average estimates suggest as many as 300 million might have died in the purges. That's astounding...basically the population of this country plus some. Wowsers. The degree to which the peasantry suffered was amazing.

And, now, as the subsequent generations of peasants continually stream into the urban areas in search of economic certainty and gain, they bring with them the racial memories that their various ethnicities were oppressed with abandon by Mao's regime.

At the same time, business has become so profitable, that the few old-schoolers remaining have realized that nothing is permanent and that the teachings of Mao were largely flawed. Here's part of the equation lost on the likes of Pat Bucchanon and Rush--China is far more of a capatilistic republic than it is a communist totalitarian state.

My sources of information, incidentally, come largely from the various essays of retired ADM Pruer, who was sent there as the ambassador by Clinton after he retired as CINCPAC. The Chinese thought very highly of him, and he has shared some keen insights into the socio-economic culture that has evolved there.

In terms of their cultural history, I find them fascinating. To think that they made it to this continent more than a thousand years ago is remarkable.

...Now...if we could just get them to lighten up on Tibet. Oh, and were you aware that they too have an insurgent Fundamentalist Islamic group in the Western Provinces with strong ties to Al Qaeda?
The Western Provinces.czardonic
Mar 25, 2003 5:51 PM
I wasn't aware of it, but it comes as no surprise. When you think of the scope of that country in terms of history, population and territory, nothing is surprising.
Huge country with varried ethnicities,sn69
Mar 25, 2003 6:05 PM
the size of which is lost on our relatively homogenous make-up (by way of comparison). And to think, while the so-called enlightened West wallowed in the filth of the middle ages ("Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Elp, elp, I'm bein' repressed."), China lived in a technologically advanced, culturally enlightened society that flourished without the church. The Tibetan issue and Mao notwithstanding, I have so much respect and awe for the Chinese. In fact, I once got to do a brief exchange on one of their Navy ships. Remember what I said about the military ethos? It transcends borders (well, usually). They were delightfull.
I've only studied them peripherally.czardonic
Mar 25, 2003 6:30 PM
Japanese history was my focus, which of course is permeated with Chinese influence. Comparatively, Chinese history is almost intimidating in scope.

Good thing we modern Western civilizations barged in and showed them how to do things properly [tounge half in cheek].
Opium Wars...dumb beyond description.sn69
Mar 25, 2003 6:44 PM
One of my best Commanding Officers ever made "Sand Pebbles" a mandatory read for every officer and chief petty officer in the squadron. His theory was that everyone needed to understand the full ramifications of foolhardy foreign policy.

OK, now I realize that this is totally cliche, but in spite of my shunning of most television, I have to admit that I'm a big Iron Chef fan and I devour just about any anime I can get my mits on.

Who's the big dork? I am.
Ryouri No Tetsujinczardonic
Mar 25, 2003 6:51 PM
I used to watch Iron Chef when it was broadcast on the local "ethinc programming" station. I can't take the dubbed version, so I haven't seen it in a long time. Do they still make iced cream out of every featured ingredient?

Dork? I got a B.A. in Japanese so that I could read manga.
Mar 25, 2003 7:02 PM
You are fluent in it, huh?

My only time there was in Sasebo, returning from my last deployment. We--the Constellation Battle Group--were scheduled to forgo Japan, but their goverment requested our presence as a "great white (gray/rusty) fleet" sorta presence to make North Korea pause. Dunno if we did that, but I was smitten with Southern Japan and lamented the day we left. It was breathtaking scenery and I must have spent half of every day in restaraunts pointing to foods and dishes. I can't wait to return.

As for the manga/anime, I openly admit that I was raised as a Speedracer kid in the early 70s (the violence of which my Mom attributes to my military strong man ambitions, or so she says), and graduated to Starblazers and Robotech before eventually falling for the darker side like Cobra, Appleseed, the real Macross and such. Hell, I've even got Akira on DVD and ride my bike on the fluid trainer to it. Dork dork dork dork dork loser. Still, my VHS collection was always the most popular right behind anything Jenna Jaimeson on the carrier. (Hey, 5000 + guys on a ship for 6 + months...what are you gonna do?)

And, yes, ice cream and/or sorbet seem to appear in every episode still.....
Oh, and that's not the worst of it. . .czardonic
Mar 25, 2003 7:20 PM
I have still haven't actually traveled there! Next year, next year. . . (or at least before my speaking ability atrophies completely).

Robotech started it all for me. I now have the entire series (the Harmony Gold version shown on American TV) on DVD. If you haven't seen Metropolis yet, that's an great one too (IMO), as is Spirited Away (though its not in the hard-boiled Sci-Fi genere). Jin-Roh is another newish one that i'd be interested to hear a your perspective on.
Jin-Roh...I'll look it upsn69
Mar 25, 2003 7:25 PM
Hirobi was one I was keenly interested in as I finished college, but my heart still lies with the Harmony Gold version of Robotech. That story (all three) had a lot of life to it, if that makes any sense. Also, Roy Fokker's Skull Squadron was actually a Navy fighter squadron, VR-84. I still lurk on the various Macross/Robotech boards.

Incidentally, have you ever heard of an American anime series called "Tigers Of Terra, Families of Altered Wars?" It's by an Air Force guy named Ted Nomura, and it's terrific. I've never finished collecting the seried, but, thankfully, the two back-to-back storm in NOLA this summer didn't take my collection.
Found J-Rsn69
Mar 25, 2003 7:42 PM
Tryin' to take my mind off the other post. Looks fascinating, alternative histories and such. I'll have to see if Best Buy carries it--they actually have an enormous anime section.

If this is your gig, then you'd definitely like Tigers. It's all about altered histories and replete with accurate military and futuristic mecha.
Watched it again last night.czardonic
Mar 26, 2003 11:21 AM
My one criticism is that it feels a bit slow -- could have used a few more action scenes. However, the "atmosphere" of the thing is very well rendered, and the whole para-military police theme is apropo to our current predicament.

Never heard of Tigers, but i'll look it up.
Definitely go before it's too late...The Walrus
Mar 26, 2003 11:28 AM
I spent 3 weeks there (mainly in Kansai) about 2 decades ago. I travelled on my own, getting by with my 1 year of Jr. College Japanese; you should certainly have no problem. Just don't spend all your time in the large cities looking for manga (come to L.A. for that...); buy a JNR rail pass and go to the smaller cities and towns out in the country, or better yet, hook up with one of those bicycle touring outfits. I spent most of my time visiting the castles and temples and shrines, and it was wonderful. Wish I could go back...

Best not to underestimate the atrophy of language skills, though. The funny thing is, it works both ways--a friend worked at a Japanese book store, had been here for 4 or 5 years and was forgetting all his kanji, and I had to help him write...that had to be galling.
Ryouri No TetsujinAlpedhuez55
Mar 25, 2003 7:41 PM
An old friend of mine is an editor at Marvel and worked in their Manga and Anime division. I used to work tables with him at comic conventions. I also used to send him porn when he lived in Japan ;) I used to be a collector myself but sold most of it when I went back to college.

One kind of anime movie I loved was "Twilight of the Cockroaches". It has some great war analogies in it. I actually did a paper on WW2 and Japanese Pop Culture in college. Then again, I also quoted Bruce Lee in Philosophy classes!!!

Encore Action is showing a lot of Anime movies at the moment too. It is amazing what they turn into ice cream on Iron Chef. Someday I want to cook a dinner entirely from things from the show.

As for Chinese situation. The quote was a good one. I think they need to embrace the reforms they started a little more. Things cannot always change overnight, especially in a country the size of China.

Mike Y.
Ryouri No Tetsujinsn69
Mar 25, 2003 7:51 PM
Just to solidify my dork status, I'm also a big Spidey and X-men/X-factor fan. I also managed to save most of my X-men "Phoenix" saga 'zines, although I lost a couple. Fortunately, my signed Todd McFarlane Spidey #1 survived the floods. Most of my Spawns didn't, however. Sh!t.
Ryouri No TetsujinAlpedhuez55
Mar 25, 2003 8:09 PM
I used to have the entire run of Ironman. I got a good deal on 1-20 and after that, I just filled in the gap to 200. My prized posessions that I kept are a couple of original art pages from Frank Miller Daredevils and a pencil scetch from Joe Ryan that is a split image of Tony Stark and Iron Man.

I sold most of my collection in 1991 & 1992. Still buy some from time to time but not too much. Never got into the "X" books though. I was a big Ninja Turtles & B&W Indie fan for a little while. I made a killing off of selling my Valliant Books at just the right time. It really helped my pay for college and could not have went back to school when I did without selling them off.

Mike Y.