- Rana Mitter
- Professor, University of Oxford
Due to the increased tension with Taiwan, once again everyone’s eyes are on China.
Many wonder what time President Xi Jinping wants to see his country. Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the past. China is now a world power. This was something that could not have been imagined a few decades ago.
Sometimes China mobilizes power through its alliances with the outside world, such as the signing of the Paris climate agreement. And sometimes it also means competing with the outside world. Such as the Belt and Road Initiative, also known as China’s Silk Route Project.
In more than 60 countries, China is developing a network of infrastructure development projects under this program. The countries joining the project have so far not received loans from Western countries. Nevertheless, many things are being asked on the world stage against the rise of China.
When the United States signed the Occus agreement with Australia to block China, Beijing criticized it. China has warned Britain that harboring people fleeing Hong Kong due to strict national security law could have repercussions.
China has threatened Taiwan that it must be prepared to connect with its mainland. President Xi Jinping has put China much stronger on the world stage than his predecessors.
In the past, even Mao Zedong, China’s supreme leader during the Cold War, did not present China in such a strong way. But what can be seen today, its roots are hidden somewhere in the past. Some of these are very old and some are recent events. We will look at five such things next.
For nearly two thousand years, Confucius’ philosophy continued to influence the lives and way of life of the Chinese people. Confucius outlined a community based on the morals that people knew about their place in society.
The organization was based on status, in which adults had a sense of benevolence for the younger and were considered responsible for caring for the weak. The Confucian way of life was a part of Chinese society during the rule of the Chinese imperialist dynasties until the 1911 revolution.
But as soon as the last emperor of China was ousted from power in this revolution, feelings against Confucius and his legacy began to emerge. In addition to the radical forces, members of the New Communist Party were also involved.
Mao Zedong was one of these communists. During his tenure (1949 to 1976), Mao continued to speak out against traditional Chinese philosophy. But back in the 1980s, Confucius’ philosophy returned to Chinese society.
This time the Communist Party was in favor of it. The party described Confucius as an outstanding personality who sent a message to contemporary China. In today’s China, ‘reconciliation’ is seen as a ‘social value’. This is part of Confucius’ philosophy.
Another aspect of Confucius’ philosophy is often discussed in China’s international relations, which is’ benevolence ‘. This policy of China is believed to have an impact on China’s relationship with the outside world.
Yan Shwedong, a professor at Tsinghua University, has written a book on how China should try to establish ‘philanthropic power’ instead of ‘domination’. Professor Yan Shvetong compares this to the United States, saying its role in philanthropic matters is minimal.
Xi Jinping’s idea of a ‘global society with a shared future’ can also be found in Confucius’ philosophy. Ji Jinping goes to Kufu, the birthplace of Confucius, and quotes his words in public.
‘Century of Shame’
The history of China in the 19th and 20th centuries still influences its thinking about the outside world. China has been witnessing the Opium War since the mid-19th century. Western powers used their power to open the doors of China.
This period from 1840 to 1940 is remembered in China as the ‘Century of Shame’. During this period, China had to kneel before the attacks of the European powers and the Japanese. During this period, China had to cede Hong Kong to Britain and Manchuria, located in the northeastern region, to Japan.
In addition, China had to offer a number of legal and trade concessions to Western countries. After World War II, the then Soviet Union sought to establish its influence in China’s border areas of Manchuria and Xinjiang.
Because of these experiences, China began to view the outside world with skepticism. Many recalled the time when China became part of the World Trade Organization in 2001, when foreign powers controlled China’s trade with the help of ‘unfair’ agreements.
Today’s Communist Party has vowed never to allow the same situation to occur in the past. In March this year, after a heated argument between Chinese and US negotiators in Alaska, China accused its hosts of hypocrisy and bullying.
Xi Jinping’s China did not support the idea of escaping as some outside forces were watching.
The Forgotten Alliance
Sometimes even positive things hide positive messages. China learned a similar lesson during World War II. When Japan attacked him in 1937, he was confronted alone.
But after the Japanese attack on the US port of Pearl in 1941, Western powers opened their faces in the Asian plains. In those days of war, more than 10 million people were killed in China, but it imprisoned more than five million Japanese soldiers on its land.
China often talks about its heroism in history books, movies and television. Today, China presents itself as part of an ‘alliance of anti-fascist forces’ with the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union.
He wants to remind the world that he is the winner of the world war against the alliance of Germany, Italy and Japan. China also attaches great importance to the historical role of the leader of the Third World under Mao.
In this connection, the Bandung Conference between non-Western powers in 1955 and China’s role in the construction of the Tansom Railroad in East Africa in the 1970s are mentioned. The Communist Party of China also uses modern history to realize its importance.
But at a time in the same history (1958-62) that event was not mentioned in present-day China, despite the severe famine caused by devastating economic policies. Meanwhile, China also saw some modern wars.
Last year, when relations between the United States and China were tense, new films were made to commemorate the 1950-53 Korean War. China calls the struggle a “war of attrition against the United States.”
Marx and Lenin
Marx and Lenin are deeply rooted in China’s political ideology. This can be seriously felt during the Xi Jinping era. In the 20th century, Mao Zedong and other prominent Communist Party politicians discussed the principles of Marxism.
For example, at the beginning of Mao’s rule, millions of landowners were killed in the name of the concept of ‘class war’. In the way of life of Chinese society, ‘class difference’ is seen in a bad light. Even today, in the political language of China, ideas of socialism and anti-capitalist ideas are found.
The impact of Marx’s principles can be clearly felt in the regular discussions on the contradictions of Chinese society in Kiksi, the ideological branch of the Chinese Communist Party.
The rivalry between the United States and China can be seen through the prism of Marx’s theories. Xi Jinping’s China presents it as a conflict. This also applies to the economic forces of Chinese society. There are contradictions to that too.
Taiwan has also been a major problem for China. He says Taiwan is a rebel province, annexed by Chinese territory. The last century of Taiwan’s history speaks to the politics of China.
In 1895, after a fierce war with Japan, China had to leave Taiwan. After this, Taiwan was a Japanese colony for half a century. After this, between 1945 and 1949, the mainland of Taiwan and China was briefly annexed by the Nationalists.
During Mao’s rule, China failed to take the island under its jurisdiction. The then US President Truman would have allowed Mao to do so, but the Korean War began in 1950 and China joined North Korea in the war against South Korea.
Due to this development, Taiwan became a major ally of the Western powers during the Cold War. Mao Zedong attacked the coast of Taiwan in 1958, but ignored him for the next 20 years.
After the resumption of US-China relations in 1979, both sides agreed to adopt a united China. But the two countries do not agree on which government in Taiwan or Beijing will be considered the legitimate republican government.
It has been 40 years since this happened. Xi Jinping insists that integration will take place soon. Taiwan’s close ties with the mainland remain skeptical of Hong Kong’s future and China’s harsh rhetoric.
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