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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 12-Apr-2009
New book, "Unhappy China," stokes Chinese nationalism and anti-Americanism.

Web Log - April, 2009

New book, "Unhappy China," stokes Chinese nationalism and anti-Americanism.

Runaway bestseller in China worries Beijing and the west.

It was exactly one year ago today that I posted the article, "Chinese embarrassment and anger grows over Tibet and Olympics."

<i>Daily Mail</i> story referencing "Horrible Chinese thugs"
Daily Mail story referencing "Horrible Chinese thugs"

<i>Der Spiegel</i> story saying, "There's no way people like that should be allowed on our streets."
Der Spiegel story saying, "There's no way people like that should be allowed on our streets."

That was the time before the summer Olympics games in Beijing. Chinese athletes were carrying the Olympics torch around the world.

A London newspaper called them "horrible Chinese thugs," and a German magazine's headline read, "There's no way people like that should be allowed on our streets."

This took place after the bloody riots in Tibet where, from the point of view of the Chinese, the Western media automatically took the side of the Tibetans. The Chinese were furious at the West, and there was so much paranoia on both sides that some kind of major confrontation somewhere was a possibility.

However, an act of nature turned things around, when the horrible Sichuan earthquake in May began a period of international good will directed at China. The good will carried through the Olympics games, allowing them to be an international triumph for the Chinese.

But many Chinese have not forgotten the enormous humiliation that the West visited upon the Chinese a year ago, and now we're beginning to see some of the repercussions.

A new book, called "Unhappy China - The Great Time, Grand Vision and Our Challenges," was published a month ago in China. The book is highly nationalistic, and highly anti-American and anti-West. And the book is a best seller, selling out of its first printing, 100,000 copies, in 11 days.

Here is one published summary of the book:

"A new bestselling book, Unhappy China, is stirring debate in China and alarm in the West because of its aggressive nationalism. Millions of web pages have sprung up to address the book since its release last month. In the book, five Chinese scholars assert China’s impending superiority as the world’s leader, advocate a hard line against their “enemies,” and express dissatisfaction with the West’s treatment of China.

Unhappy China
Unhappy China

The authors, Wang Xiaodong, Liu Yang, Song Qiang, Huang Jisu, and Song Xiaojun, denounce Western influences and specifically deride the United States for being “irresponsible, lazy, and greedy, and engaged in robbery and cheating.” They blame the United States for causing the current global recession. The authors urge the Chinese people to “conduct business with a sword in hand.” They call for the emergence of a group of heroes to “lead our people to successfully control and use more resources, ridding [the world of] of bullies and bringing peace to good people.”

Writing in Southern Metropolis Daily, Jing Kaixuan observes, “When I first heard about the book Unhappy China, I thought it was probably about how laid-off workers were unhappy, or about how peasants who had lost their land were unhappy. Maybe it was about how college graduates searching for work were unhappy, about how stock market investors were unhappy, or about how victims of the poisonous milk powder scandal were unhappy.” Instead, the authors of Unhappy China divert attention away from domestic ills and blame China’s problems on foreign enemies."

Condemnation of the book by Chinese politicians and scholars has been swift.

The state-controlled Xinhua news service immediately published an article with the headline, "Book rallying for social change fails to inspire the masses." They apparently published this article because they were afraid that the book WAS inspiring the masses.

The Xinhau article provides additional information about the book itself:

"The book argues that "with Chinese national strength growing at an unprecedented rate, China should stop self-debasing and come to recognize the fact that it has the power to lead the world, and the necessity to break away from western influence."

The book says "the current financial crisis reflects an overall corruption of the American society.

The book advocates more stern foreign policies.

"We should incorporate retribution and punishment into our diplomatic strategies, especially when dealing with Sino-French relations," referring to the meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama in December last year.

The authors believe ordinary citizens should not be deprived of national development benefits, and that China should have the ambition to reestablish the world order, assume a leadership role among nations and achieve industry upgrading amid the current global financial crisis."

However, the Xinhua article quotes a saleswoman at a book store as saying, "It does not sell well. Few people linger at this section." I guess in China even booksellers have to tell the authorities only what they want to hear.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what's important is not the attitudes of the politicians, but the attitudes of the large masses of people, entire generations of people.

The fact is that this book is extremely popular, and is particularly directed at young people. This means that the book's "message" might well be extremely important in determining the direction in which China is going.

That's why I found it interesting to read a published interview of Shanghai scholar Xiao Gongqin, discussing the nature of Chinese nationalism.

Xiao says that China's nationalism has been "marked by a reactive quality, ... goaded by a sense of tragedy and shame over the Chinese experience in the last century." Presumably this refers to China's bloody civil war (Mao's Communist Revolution), followed by Mao's slaughter and execution of tens of millions of people in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

But now that's changing, according to Xiao. And of course that makes sense from a generational point of view, since young people today have no personal memories of the horrors of Mao's genocidal atrocities.

Before continuing with Xiao, it's worth mentioning that there's a resurgence of interest in Mao going on, at least to judge from the Chinese community in Toronto. This has really been taking hold in the last few months, as the financial crisis has grown.

Just as anxious people in the United States are looking back at President Franklin Roosevelt as a cure for our problems, anxious Chinese people are looking back at Mao as a cure for their problems.

The claim among these people is that capitalism is now proven to be a failure and that Mao was right all along in embracing Communism. However, this is greater than a condemnation of the West. Much of the pro-Mao criticism is directed at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government, for pursuing "reforms" that move toward capitalism away from Communism. These criticisms have been further spurred by numerous stories of corruption and embezzlement in the Beijing government.

Now returning to the interview, Xiao's discussion of "a sense of tragedy and shame" over Mao's massive bloody atrocities in the last century is being eclipsed by younger generations who increasingly look to Mao to save them from the current financial crisis.

According to Xiao, there is a new nationalism, and it has the potential to be extremely dangerous:

"Nevertheless, the form of nationalism represented in this book can no longer be defined in these original terms. Overall speaking, the attitude of Western countries toward China is warmer now than it has been in the past, particularly in the midst of the economic crisis, as the West has looked to China . . . hoping for friendly cooperation, and peaceful development has already become a general consensus among nations. Under this situation, the nationalism as represented by Unhappy China, which persists in striking this menacing tone, cannot be characterized as reactive. I believe that for some time to come this nationalist wave as epitomized by Unhappy China will continue to exist, and foreigners will have to learn to come to terms with this non-reactive form of Chinese nationalism.

What is the character of this new nationalism? Its crucial point is the positing by necessity of an “external enemy,” and this is seen by the authors as a basic condition of China’s existence and development. One of the authors, Wang Xiaodong holds precisely this. He believes that, “any species, if it is not challenged by its external environment, will certainly degenerate.” He finds a root for this new nationalism in social biology. He believes also that China has at present no “selective pressures,” so “everyone believes that things are fine, and that its OK to muddle along, and this makes degeneration unavoidable.” Particularly interesting is this line: “America too faces this problem, and so it actively goes in search of enemies.” I’m not sure, but it seems Brother Xiaodong is actually suggesting that in order for our people to grow strong, China must, lacking “selective pressures,” go and search for “selective pressures.”

I think the logic here can be summed up like this: If external pressures are the necessary condition of the development and existence of a people, if they then lack pressures, they must as a matter of course manufacture these pressures. If this is the argument, then it is both fearsome and dangerous. I really, really hope this is not what the authors mean, but what of the “angry youth” who are more radical than they are? They can certainly seize upon this logic . . . It is in this theoretical logic of nationalism that I see something frightful and dangerous. It does not lie too far, in fact, from bullying racism and jingoism."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what's important about this situation is not that the book was written and published, but that it's suddenly so popular. This indicates a massive change in attitudes, a generational change by the people of China. And if Xiao is right, then it's "something frightful and dangerous," an attitude of "bullying racism and jingoism."

This could quickly translate into some kind of significant change in Beijing's policies.

I make a comparison to the February 19 on-air rant by CNBC market reporter Rick Santelli criticizing President Obama's bailout plan. What was significant about this was not the rant itself -- Santelli rants about something almost every day -- but that the rant achieved "viral" status and spread around the internet. As I wrote in "The mob turns ugly as AIG bonuses come under fire," Santelli's rant signalled a signficant change in public attitudes, and for the first time, the Obama administration was put on the defensive about its entire economic strategy.

Similarly, it's possible that this rapid acceptance by the public of "racism and jingoism" could force a similarly dramatic change in CCP policies. The CCP is one of the most paranoid governments on earth, especially since the massive anti-government Tiananmen Square student demonstrations in 1989, followed by the collapse of Communism in Russia in 1991. The CCP has no particular objectives except for one -- to do anything it can to stay in power. If that means making some policy changes to accommodate the attitudes of the masses reading "Unhappy China," then they will do that.

I'd now like to address two related questions that I hear frequently from web site readers.

Is the US becoming socialist?

This is a question I hear discussed on television, and from readers. Here's how one reader put it:

"I know you try to avoid taking political sides, but I have been quite worried about Barack Obama. I will admit that I am a conservative Republican, and thus predisposed to not trust Obama on anything. I also realize that the Republican party has let us down as of late. I do still support President Bush and respect the difficult job that he did during challenging times.

I believe that Obama is a Marxist, based on his numerous associations (Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright) and some of his "spread the wealth" comments during the campaign. This is my opinion, which admittedly may come from a general distrust of the Democrat party. My fear is that we will have full-scale bank nationalization and will end up with a truly Socialist government by the time Obama is out of office.

I would appreciate your views on if you think this is a possible scenario. I also realize that a depression may make it necessary to to have more socialistic policies for a time until we have some recovery. Those type of policies are very difficult to reverse once they are put in place, however, it would seem."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, any such massive change in economic policy is possible only if the masses of people believe it. No one that I know believes that the US government is capable of running a bank or an auto manufacturer, and there has been a big backlash recently when the Obama administration fired the CEO of General Motors. On the other hand, the Chinese people apparently DO believe that the CCP is capable of running a bank, so there's a big difference between the US and China in that regard.

However, there's another important issue. What exactly is "socialism"? Here's a dictionary definition: "Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy."

It's fairly easy to show, using the mathematics of Complexity Theory, that this system of government is mathematically impossible. For a small population, say a feudal fiefdom with a hundred people, all aspects of the economy could be controlled by a feudal lord. But as the population grows, you need a collection of "regulators," people who decide things like prices, or who make decisions about what will or will not be produced. It's easy to show that as the population grows exponentially, the number of "regulators" has to grow at an even faster exponential growth rate. Thus, as the population grows, soon every person has to become a "regulator," and the system falls apart.

One might wonder what happened in Mao's Great Leap Forward in 1958-59, something that caused the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese. Here's a description:

This was the craziest damn thing. Mao tried to implement it because it was the only way to control the economy with a large population. The whole thing was a disaster when tens of millions of people died of starvation.

That's why, in the decades since then, China has instituted "reforms" that moved the country in the direction of capitalism. That's why Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union. That's why North Korea and Cuba, the two remaining Communist countries, have economies that are still stuck in the 1950s.

Thus, socialism and communism are mathematically impossible as a population grows. It's not possible for any government to control all aspects of the economy. However, a dictatorship can control selected portions of the economy. This is what China is doing, for example. But in this sense, "socialism" and "communism" should not be thought of as economic systems; they're actually political names for dictatorial forms of government. Thus, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, "socialism," "communism" and "fascism" are different names for pretty much the same thing.

So, Dear Reader, for those of you who are worried that President Obama is going to lead the nation into socialism, let me reassure you on two counts: Socialism is politically unacceptable in America, and socialism is mathematically impossible anyway.

China: Civil war or war with US?

I've frequently mentioned in the past that China is headed for a civil war, and at other times I've mentioned that China is headed for a major war with the US. Several web site readers have asked me about this, since they seem to be conflicting.

Actually, they're not conflicting at all. The easiest way to see that is to look at World War II. China was in a massive civil war from 1934 to 1949, and right in the middle, China was in a war with Japan. Unfortunately, there's no law of Nature or Physics that says you can't be in more than one war at once.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, a refighting of the civil war is certain. As I wrote in 2005 in "China approaches Civil War," China has a long history of massive internal rebellions and civil wars, creating bloodbaths that have slaughtered tens of millions of people in a short period of time. These include the White Lotus rebellion that began in 1795, the Taiping rebellion that began in 1852, and the Communist Revolution that began with Mao Zedong's genocidal Long March in 1934.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, China is now about due for its next massive internal rebellion and civil war, and the current financial crisis is exactly what is needed to trigger a new rebellion.

On the other hand, a refighting of the 1940s war with Japan is also inevitable. As I wrote in 2007 in "Chinese commemorate the 1937 Massacre at Nanking (Nanjing)," feelings still run deep in China about the Nanking massacre, as well as the use of Chinese and Korean women as "comfort women" by the Japanese army.

The Chinese have always been grateful for the help that the Americans gave to defeat the Japanese on Chinese territory. However, by "the Chinese," I of course mean the survivors of World War II. Those people are almost all gone now. The younger generations feel no such gratitude; they feel only anger at what they feel is humiliation of China by the West and at the financial crisis, which they blame on the US.

The best seller status of "Unhappy China" marks a potential turning point. It's absolutely certain that the people in the CCP are extremely concerned, and they will do everything they can to defuse the issues. If they succeed at all, it will not be for long.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (12-Apr-2009) Permanent Link
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