Understanding China’s rise

March 14, 2016

Understanding China’s rise

by Niv Horesh, University of Nottingham

The rise of China has created new uncertainties. A crucial question is whether China actively seeks an alternative to the existing US-led liberal regional order. And, if it does, what sort of order would it be?

In 2000, Aron Friedberg warned enthusiasts of multilateralism against exaggerating the ‘pacifying’ effects of regional trade. Friedberg predicted that the more economically powerful South Korea and China became, the more they would seek to undermine Japan’s regional status and eventually confront the United States.

Even if the economies of all three East Asian countries become intertwined, it seems more likely that geo-strategic instability in Asia will increase than that multilateral institutions will successfully bind the region politically closer, the argument ran. An analogy here is Europe in the World War II era: European states preferred cooperation over competition only after much devastation.

There is evidence which suggests that China will join the status quo. China’s enthusiastic acceptance of the Basel banking reforms following the global financial crisis of 2008, its contribution to the Vienna accords resolving Iran’s nuclear question, and its critical role in forging the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change are all evidence of ‘normalisation’.

But there are also signs that China’s claims to ‘peaceful development’ are insincere. Critics of China are quick to point to its reclamation activities, and military deployments, in the South China Sea and the recent announcement of its intention to build a naval facility in Djibouti. China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is cast in the same context as a direct threat to the existing geo-political architecture. And the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative is portrayed as an attempt to drive the United States out of Eurasia.

One might suggest that the three East Asian giants — China, Japan and South Korea — can learn from the European experience and embrace economic if not political integration. But, as Friedberg argued, the dynamics of great power competition often override otherwise sensible, mutually-beneficial strategic choices.

The three East Asian giants today resemble early 20th-century European powers in one important way: none has been substantively re-configured by post-war immigration or the discourse of multiculturalism. Much of the European Union and North America is moving slowly toward de facto multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies with a high degree of population mobility. By contrast China, Japan and South Korea’s national cohesion relies on ethnic identity to a greater extent, with their sense of historical insularity often purposefully heightened by ruling elites.

Still, China’s ‘nation-state’ project is a work in progress. Up to 30 per cent of the population cannot fluently speak Mandarin, the official language. And in Taiwan and Hong Kong, many still reject China’s rendition of modern Chinese nationhood. Efforts at conjuring up a shared sense of Chinese history and citizenry are far from complete. Even as the state promotes China as a unique ‘civilizational state’ that transcends ethnic, religious or ideological tension and is averse to territorial expansion, the top decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remains all-male, secular and ethnically uniform.

Over the past decade or so, China’s ‘nation-building’ project at home has also been subsumed by a historically-hued discourse of New Confucianism. The ancient aura of Confucius has come to play a leading role in revitalising CCP rule and legitimising the Hu and Xi eras. Hu Jintao, the previous President, promoted New Confucianism as a variant of the Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew’s Asian Values discourse of the 1990s that pitted collective rights over individual rights. New Confucianism is now openly promoted by Xi Jinping in a bid to amplify China’s ‘dream’ of a resurgence on the world stage.

Advocates of New Confucianism often cast it as a universalist, non-Western and non-interventionist approach to international relations. But critics describe it as apologia for one-party rule in the guise of engendering a more ‘harmonious society’ — a vacuous portmanteau with which, for example, to inculcate ‘Patriotic Education’ to Hong Kong residents and to pit the CCP’s ‘united front’ politics against America’s ‘dysfunctional’ democracy.

Could New Confucianism rally popular support outside of China and provide a viable ideological foundation for alternative global norms? Much will depend on the authors of China’s new narrative of global leadership, and their ability to craft a fresh universalist message that resonates beyond narrow Chinese ethno-nationalism. The CCP has certainly derived much vitality from the 2008 financial crisis. The ensuing Western crisis of self-confidence was grist to the Chinese meal.

Facts rather than scaremongering and preconceptions should inform analysis of China’s exercise of power on the global stage. Take China’s involvement in Africa, for example. There are currently over a million Chinese workers living in Africa, building what is often dubbed, with unnecessary alarmism, a resource-grabbing ‘New Empire’. The environmental degradation and corruption that Chinese investment in African infrastructure and resources is seen to breed is a cause for much lamentation in the Western popular media. Most visitors to Africa do not expect to witness a Chinese presence there on that scale.

Though China’s projection of power in Africa may be on the rise, it remains far outpaced by Western stakes on the continent. France alone, a formidable colonial power in the past, still accounts for a greater share of greenfield investment in Africa than China. These facts are the backdrop against which China’s rise should be measured.

*Niv Horesh is Director of the China Policy Institute, the University of Nottingham, and Professor of the Modern History of China.

13 thoughts on “Understanding China’s rise

  1. Facts from a Gwai-Lo ‘Propaganda’ outfit:
    Rust Belt Deconomis:

    Stupid Greedy Farangs? Think again. A lot of their so called GDP are ‘magic’ numbers. How do they manipulate their export figures, that even our statistics department can’t condescend to. Different methodology.

  2. China’s OBOR & AIIB are reactive response to attempt to break US containment. But China’s plan to open a military base in Djibouti has given US pundits the chill believing China is attempting to edge out Western influence in Africa and the Mideast. That’s why US raises the tensions in SCS, strenghtens its base at Sembawang in S’pore to create the possibility of dangerous bottlenecks in the Malacca Strait, and thus depreciating the value of China’s possible foreign bases. Other efforts include strenghtening Japan & Taiwan, and their long-standing strategy of pitting Vietnam against China. Taiwan Strait is important as it connects the South China and East China seas. The game is getting more interesting. US plays chess and China plays Wei Chi.

  3. Envy, jealous some sort of the west. Why to contain China? Why not each going for the best one can. When you are the best, does it mean the others not allow to be better than you. The wests have many good values, and China is quick to adopt them. I see it will be the one party system that is to stay in China, the other aspects of the social and economic activity would be 100% western.

  4. I am a Chinese, ethnically speaking. I do want a strong China, albeit a more democratic one. But, situation within China is indeed worrying. Huge elephant in the room.

    Economically and politically speaking, it almost feels like it is on the edge of a tipping point. Social anxiety could not be ignored. Ecosystem has been stretched to the max. Noone knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Noone dare says anything publicly. But, privately, they could tell you everything. Everyone seems to be an expert. Everyone has a story.

    Yet, putting the big picture worries behind, China is a fun place to be. My emotion would go roller coaster everyday simply because of the people and incidents that I would come across. It is charmingly exhilarating. Everything is like a game, a gamble. It is surreal.

    Speaking of which I envy the Singaporeans in Shanghai. The sense of distinct Singaporean commune definitely gives them an edge. Perhaps, even more so than the Hong Kongers and Americans in China.

    Dato Din, do you feel the same sense of energy in Cambodia, with the rapid growth in recent years?
    Given its political stability and a dynamic and very driven Prime Minister who wants progress for his people, Cambodia is surging ahead. I am optimistic seeing changes that have taken place since peace returned to Cambodia in 1998. I have witnessed darker days for Cambodia when I first lived in Phnom Penh in 1992. My message is that good leadership matters.–Din Merican

  5. I am resubmitting the thread I posted late last night, with the last paragraph slightly amended to make it more palatable (but unseemly immodest on my part to correct a great soldier). Present-day geopolitical scruples certainly does not permit the use of the four-letter equivalent of the self-same Japanese people, but believe me I have been scrupulously faithful to General Stilwell’s text (the singular form used twice, and the plural once, as given on page 276). At once, his use of the word reflects the spirit of the destructive human condition of the time and, if you like, the righteous anger of a soldier trying to leave behind for the humanity the pernicious role of a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Chinese even before the Communists arrived to outbid him for mindless slaughter. I am adding further information here, and also something on a woman who has been largely misunderstood by the world, particularly by my fellow ethic Chinese, i.e. Madam Chiang aka Soong Mei-ling.

    Dr Phua, thanks for your link, though sad and disturbing, it reveals only a tiny part of Chiang Kai-shek aka Jiang Jieshi.

    A little bit more of him from the past, and this is as fair an assessment of Chiang Kai-shek as soldier and leader as could ever be given by a friend, rather by someone who thought he and his government were Chiang’s friends:

    Chiang Kai-shek
    I never heard Chiang Kei-shek say a single thing that indicated gratitude to the President or to our country for the help we were extending to him. Invariably, when anything was promised, he would want more. Invariably, he would complain about the small amount of material that was being furnished. He would make comparisons between the huge amounts of Lend-Lease supplies going to Britain and Russia with the meagre trickle going to China. He would complain that the Chinese had been fighting for six or seven years and yet we gave him nothing. It would of course have been undiplomatic to go into the nature of the military effort Chiang Kai-shek had made since 1938. It was practically zero.

    Whether or not he was grateful was a small matter. The regrettable part of it was that there was no quid pro quo. We did what we could, furnished what was available, without being allowed to first ask what he would do, etc. The result was that we were continuously on the defensive and he could obstruct and delay any of our plans without being penalized.

    [I have] faith in Chinese soldiers and Chinese people: fundamentally great, democratic, misgoverned. No bars of caste or religion . . . . Honest, frugal, industrious, cheerful, independent, tolerant, friendly, courteous.

    I judge Kuomintang and Kungchantang [Communist Party] by what I saw:

    [Kuomintang] Corruption, neglect, chaos, economy, taxes, words and deeds. Hoarding, black market, trading with enemy.

    Communist programme . . . reduce taxes, rents, interest. Raise production, and standard of living. Participate in government. Practise what they preach.”

    The above was preceded by:
    “The following selection is taken from The Stilwell Papers, a collection of letters, notes, and a diary written by General [Joseph] Stilwell in China during the war. Some sections are extremely bitter and cynical. Stilwell is merciless in his criticism of Chiang Kai-shek. His criticisms were frequently accurate and perceptive, but less often constructive, yet below his cynical exterior one senses Stilwell’s deep concern for China. His comments and criticisms were prompted not by contempt or superiority. Stilwell treated the Chinese with whom he dealt exactly as he treated his own countrymen, frequently enraging them with his complete candour. What incensed Stilwell was the tragedy that had befallen China and the incompetence of those trying to lead her out.”

    [Pg 272-274 of China Readings 2 – Republican China Edited by Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell: Penguin Books 1968]

    Farther on page 276, Stilwell continues:
    “The Chinese were dominated by the idea that the Japanese were so superior in training, armament, and equipment that it was not practicable to attack them. Chiang Kai-shek has said on many occasions that a Chinese division did not have the firepower of a Japanese regiment, and that three Chinese divisions were not a match for one Japanese division. Naturally, his commanders eagerly accepted this statement as full excuse for running away. A new spirit had to be built up. It was vitally necessary that the fresh contacts should be successful. If they were, we could gradually build up confidence — if not, it would be almost impossible to keep them on the offensive.

    The Chinese had no confidence in themselves. We started to give them some.”

    Now, onto Madam Chiang Mei-ling.

    Chinese Communist Party super-spy Yan Baohang, on the instruction of Zhou Enlai, had embedded himself within the Koumintang intelligence network, and through him, information about Germany’s impending invasion of Soviet Russia was sent to Yan-an. Mao ordered this critical information be sent to Stalin, who then made preparations for the war against the Germans.

    “The Soviet Union thought highly of Yan’s work. A Soviet official stationed in China once said to Yan that his intelligence work was of the highest level and that Stalin knew about him . . . . Days before the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the intelligence service of the Kuomintang deciphered the information about it. Yan learned about the plans and reported to Chinese Communist Party. ¶ The information was sent to the Soviet Union, which informed the US. Meanwhile, the US Navy received the same information from the Kuomintang. Unfortunately, the US Navy underestimated the value of the information and did not prepare for the attack . . . . Yan made a great contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War. In 1995, on the 50th anniversary, President Yeltsin of Russia awarded the Jubilee Medal to Yan and two of his comrades.”

    [Yan Baohang, legendary hero of the Second World War
    How a Chinese Communist Party intelligence agent thwarted a planned German attack on the Soviet Union: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/china-watch/society/11834795/china-communist-party-intelligence-agent-yan-baohang.html ]

    Putting all this in context, it is the cruellest irony for the Chinese people, today, to read about the role the US has taken upon itself to start the Anti-China fire and to fan it just to remain as top dog of the world, and to dance in unison, at this hour, with the party that bombed it almost to smithereens in Pearl Harbour to start the conflagration that we know as World War II. Will the US allow Japan to urge it to start World War III? It would be worthwhile for the war hawks to remember today it is a changed China. Today, it is also a changed Russia, a changed Pakistan, a changed Iran, a changed United Kingdom, a changed Germany, and many more such countries.

    What then is the connection the above narrative has to do with Madam Chiang Mei-ling?

    A few intelligence operatives in Koumintang had suspected Yan Baohang of being a Communist plant, and were determined to eliminate him. One person stood in the way — and she was Madam Chiang Mei-ling. She was powerful enough in her own right to command that no harm should be done to Yan Baohang.

    Madam Chiang Mei-ling, therefor played an immense role during the War for the Allies, albeit indirectly. This role would in no way, guarantee that there would be no ‘pivot to Asia’ thanks to a US which must continue play sheriff to the world, and in the process recruit two deputies, namely Australia and Japan.

    Welcome to a War to End All Wars.

  6. I have no idea what Malaysian Mandarin students (in their late teens in the late 60s ) were allowed to read about China. I was 18 when I landed in the UK in ’66 and those were the student uprising years. We were going to change the world.

    I read all I could about China – especially Han Suyin’s trilogy, The Crippled Tree, Birdless Summer and A Mortal Flower. In fact, I read them twice.

    Sumpitan, I believe General Stilwell recommended to the US Department that she should align herself with the Communists rather than the Kuomintang. The reason why the recommendation was turned down was probably due to Madame Chiang aka Soong Mei-Ling. I might be wrong but I think she spoke and charmed Congress utterly during one of her trips to the US to ask for more war aid.

  7. aitze, you are spot on about Madame Chiang having charmed Congress for more war aid, put succinctly, “If May-ling’s legendary appeal failed with the President, it succeeded brilliantly with Congress.” She was the first private citizen and only the second woman invited to address the Senate and the House of Representatives — the first being Queen Wilhelmina.

    Her exploits in the US in the course of seeking war aid are described in a long chapter found in a massive, 790-page semi-biography titled The Last Empress — Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and The Birth of Modern China by <Hannah Pakula. I have skimmed through only a few main chapters.

    The charm offensive as described by Pakula: “Madame Chiang’s reception, according to Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘marked the recognition of a woman who through her own personality and her own service, has achieved a place in the world, not merely a wife . . . but as a representative of her people . . . I could not help a great feeling of pride in her achievements as a woman . . . She was a person, a great person, receiving the recognition due to her as an individual valiantly fighting in the forefront of the world’s battle.’ ¶ Speaking in slow, deliberate tones, not unlike the aristocratic cadences of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, May-ling had a lovely voice, one that demanded both attention and respect. Moreover, she usually managed to pick the right parable or war story and deliver it with perfect timing . . . it is clear she spoke better than she wrote. As was obvious in her next speech — to the House of representatives — she was far too smart to be caught trying to cater to her audience. She was a dignified public speaker and, according to Tuchman, ‘aroused a greater outpouring of admiration and welcome than anyone since Lindbergh flew the Atlantic’ . . . . She recalled 160 years of ‘traditional friendship between our two great peoples . . . which has never been marred by misunderstandings.’ Looking ahead, she added in one of her more baroque phrases that the Chinese ‘have faith, that, at the writing of peace, America and our gallant Allies will not be obtunded by the mirage of contingent reasons of expediency’. . . . According to the official record of May-ling’s visit, ‘a veritable storm of cheering and handclapping’ followed the end of her address, which was carried live on radio. ‘Goddam it,’ said one congressman, ‘I never saw anything like it. Mme Chiang had me on the verge of tears.’ It was a brilliant presentation, carefully thought out, engagingly presented. If the Chinese are known for face, the substitution of the correct appearance for the reality, the hint for the demand, the effects of Madame Chiang’s two appearances before Congress have probably seldom been equalled . . . . There were many other comments on the lady’s looks. ‘In just a few short minutes, Mme .Chiang had Congress in the palm of her hand,’ noted one lady reporter. ‘Petite as an ivory figurine, Mme. Chiang stands barely five feet tall in her high-heeled American slippers . . . . Her poise is perfect, and she used to good advantage her small, expressive hands. Her movement like her mind, is quick and graceful’ . . . . the editorial in the New York Herald Tribune was typical: ‘The extraordinary ovation which greeted Mme Chiang in the House of Representatives at her entrance and for sentence after sentence of her moving speech — was, after all, a personal tribute to a great individual. The gallantry of her long journey in war time, her wisdom, her dignity, her loveliness have won admiration throughout America . . . . It will be noted that with characteristic dignity Mme. Chiang complained of nothing and asked for nothing — except a better world and a safer future for all of us’ . . . . When a reporter said that he had heard criticism that China was not making use of its vast manpower in the war effort, May-ling replied rather crisply that China’s soldiers were fighting ‘to the extent of the munitions available for them. When more munitions are sent to China,’ she said, ‘more men will fight.’” [p418-422]

    From what I have skimmed through, I have not found any information about Stilwell’s recommendation to the US [State?] Department that Madame Chiang should align herself with the Communists, rather than the Koumintang. That she would have rejected such a recommendation, had it been made by Stilwell, would surprise no one given the deep animosities between Stilwell and her husband, the generalissimo. Stilwell describes Chiang as, “Obstinate, pig-headed, ignorant, arbitrary, unreasonable, illogical, ungrateful, grasping.” “He [Chiang] wants to be a moral potentate, a religious leader, a philosopher. But he has no education! . . . No one tells him the truth — no one . . . He will not listen to anything unpleasant, so nobody tells him anything but pleasant things . . . . He flies into a rage if anyone argues with him.” [p394]

    The generalissimo made attempts to remove Stilwell’s control of Lend-Lease by claiming to Roosevelt that “Stilwell’s responsibilities to two governments were in conflict. Unlike other nations on Lend-Lease, which could use U.S. aid where and how they wanted, China was required to list its specific needs by project and give the list to Stilwell — a procedure that had been devised by the Russians, who wanted to keep Chiang from using U.S. war materials to fight the Chinese Communists. The numbers were not in China’s favor. During 1942, the Lend-Lease Administration allocated 77 percent of available goods to Britain, 17.7 percent to Russia, and only 2 percent to China, of which, according to one member of the House of Representatives, less than one fourth ever even reached the Chinese.” [p400]

    There was no way Madame Chiang could have changed the course of the war despite her heroic efforts — Lend-Lease conditions imposed upon China, and entrenched corruption within the Koumintang which her husband led guaranteed the declaration of a new China on 1st October 1949.

    I lost a maternal uncle who was a major in the Koumintang army — assassinated by a warlord, and he is survived by a younger brother who was a commander of a Koumintang gunboat, who upon return to shore in the final days of the collapse of Chiang’s government was quickly captured by a unit of the Red Army. Interned for five years and trained in prison in marine engineering, he went on to a new career in the merchant navy. He retired long ago, and has since also qualified as a lawyer.

    It was good that Deng Xiaoping outlived Mao — he made many things possible for the ordinary Chinese and he wrought the miracle that we are witnessing now, thanks and no thanks to the U.S.

  8. Sumpitan, I meant to say that Stilwell wanted the US to support the Communists rather than the Kuomintang. He felt that the Communists were sincere in wanting to form a united front with the KMT to fight the Japanese. Whereas the KMT were more interested in fighting the Communists rather than the Japanese.

    If it hadn’t been for Madame Chiang’s Oscar-winning performances in the US Congress, the US might have sided with the Communists.

    History would have taken a very different course indeed.

  9. Sempitan Emas,

    Thank you for such a wonderful write up. It is so rare for us to learn today about viewpoints of what you have shared.

    But, at times, these are exactly what is needed to be heard. Sure hope to learn more from you if you have a blog.

    //There was no way Madame Chiang could have changed the course of the war despite her heroic efforts — Lend-Lease conditions imposed upon China, and entrenched corruption within the Koumintang which her husband led guaranteed the declaration of a new China on 1st October 1949.

    For myself, borned in the 70s, I know I could not learn about knowing how to appreciate and agree with your above suggestion until recent years, as I searched out the little I could find on what my maternal great grand father did, and internalize why he has done what he did while I was in China.
    I wonder how many of my generation and the generation after me understand what you have written.

    For the longest time, I know my maternal great grandfather is a pallbearer of SunYatSen. He is connected enough to even get to retreat to Taiwan after 1949, after sending his two sons out way before that. But, he has decided to return to mainland after a brief stay in Taiwan. Yet, he never did suffer during cultural revolution.

    So in some ways, I have always feared he is one of those who betrayed KMT, probably aligned with groups like Zhang XueLiang.

    But, it turned out he is a liberal. He is one of those last batch feudal scholars. First batch lawyers. Joined Tongmenghui. First generation senator. Found himself in jail for being the third to publicly denounce Emperor YuanShiKai. First batch of landlord who gave out inherited land for land reform. Shared socialism ideal as a KMT member.

    Fought corruption as a senator within KMT as he successfully brought down a corrupt presidentialial candidate who sold opium in Shanghai to fund his political ambition.

    He changed his name to praise the dawn of red sun after February 28 incident. Yet, he never did join CCP all the years in China, as he is recognized as he is still being refered to as one of those meaningless opposition political party members that needs to be there, as recognized by China’s constitution.

    Skipping forward till today. We get to read this news of another person disappearing related to an open letter.

    China has grown stronger, yet still too weak to handle identical issues my great grand father’s generation had to deal with. There is still no democratically elected officials within most of the OneChina.

    A generation dying to create a world without emperor, only to realize the same 荀子,韓非子,李斯ideal from the first Emperor governing policy is still the governing policy of the land 3 generations later.

    What has changed? Perhaps, the same could be said for today’s Malaysia.

  10. Aitze first.
    I get you. Not one book that I have read here or while I was studying in the UK about the history of China vis a vis the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party has very few favourable things to say about Chiang Kai-Shek. Book after book confirm what you have said about Chiang’s main pre-occupation — the defeat of the Communists at all costs — even while he was also trying to battle the Japanese. The Russians who were no fools as they read Chiang correctly, and that was why the Lend-Lease conditions were so drafted that Chiang would not misuse the arms to fight the Communists rather than the Japanese — there is more than an element of deviousness on the part of the Russians as well as the Americans about this — more later on this. The Americans would find Russian scepticisms of war aid to Chiang quite justified later.

    A paper by Stilwell titled Solution in China, [Probably in July 1944] begins with, “The cure for China’s trouble is the elimination of Chiang Kai-Shek.” It is also noted in the book Republican China which I quoted earlier that, “Some who hated Chiang more than they loved China went over to the Japanese; others sought a safe obscurity in a different province, in private business, in the humdrum lower reaches of the bureaucracy. Except for a fortunate few the rest had to guard their every word” — Katasayang does ring a bell for you? [p281]

    “. . . since the American entry into the war, the Chinese had slackened their effort against the Japanese. While they fought on, the Chinese did almost nothing, assuming that the Japanese would eventually be defeated by American strength. Such critics, and Stilwell was among them, claimed that Chiang Kai-shek was reluctant to commit his troops to battle against the Japanese because he was saving them to use against the Communists. It was clear by 1942 that the Koumintang-Communist United Front was faltering . . . . Stilwell soon concluded that further American aid to Chiang would be useless unless it was accompanied by some basic reforms in the Chinese government . . . Inflation, corruption, and starvation were endemic . . . Stilwell decided that the architect of the whole ‘manure-pile’ as he called it, was Chiang Kai-shek. Mutual antipathy rose until finally, at Chiang’s request, President Roosevelt relieved Stilwell of his command in October 1944. [p272]

    With Stilwell out of the picture, conditions grew worse for Chiang even after Japan surrendered — the Russians occupied Manchuria, and what is known between the time the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 and the withdrawal of the Soviet soldiers in March 1946 is: “the Soviets looted most of Manchuria’s industrial plant equipment.” [p280] To be sure, “There were three phases to the looting of Manchuria: The organized industrial looting by the Soviets; the undisciplined pillaging by Chinese civilian mobs; and in between, and less publicized to this date, the organized looting by Red military units. [p287]

    History did not favour Chiang Kai-Shek. “In the spring of 1947 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which had been formally constituted in March under Lin Piao’s command, exploded in a series of quick offensives which left the city-bound Nationalists dazed and confused . . . . The PLA , whose ranks had been swelled with large numbers of defectors from the Nationalist armies, launched the final phase of its Mainland conquest in the beginning of 1948 . . . the Nationalists had been cut to ribbons . . . Chen Yi and Liu Po-cheng took the old city of Kaifeng in Henan. Defeat followed defeat . . . In November 1948 the United States Embassy in Nanking reported that in four battles . . . the Nationalists had lost 33 divisions and over 320,000 men, 85 per cent equipped by the United States . . . In November 1948 General David Barr went on to recommend the withdrawal of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group from China.” [p283-284]

    The rest is history.

    Now back to a sub-chapter of the Lend-Lease story — Benefactor and Beneficiaries — the USA, Britain and Soviet Russia:
    “In February 1945 the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union signed the controversial Yalta Pact in which Stalin was granted concessions in Manchuriain return for a pledge to enter the war against Japan shortly after the defeat of Germany.” [p279].

    We know from official history that the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945 in the closing days of World War II — with the former reneging on a Neutrality Pact it had signed with the latter after defeating it in 1939 in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. We know today the Kuril Islands are now in Russian control and this is disputed by Japan. The Russian’s capture of the Kurils in this last gasp effort must be seen as opportunistic by cynics, but to those who are aware of the current Diaoyutai Islands-Senkaku Islands dispute, this must be seen as a fitting comeuppance for Japan. I have read somewhere that the reason Japan quickly surrendered was due not so much because of the two atomic bombs but the threat of a full-scale invasion by Soviet Russia — Japan by the early months of 1945 had become a spent force.

    The Yalta Pact signs off Manchuria to the Soviets which readily accepted the gift despite that Manchuria belonged to none of the signatories. The entry of the Soviets into Manchuria enabled them to pillage as they pleased, as recounted above. The point to be made here is that it is the United States that was the main mover of Lend-Lease and the Yalta Pact. The United States is also the sponsor of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, signed by 48 countries, and China was spectacularly excluded! The treaty, also known as The Treaty of Peace with Japan, however, states among other issues that “Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril Islands, but it also does not recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the Kuril Islands.” On Diaoyutai-Senkaku dispute, “Both the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) argue that this agreement did not determine the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.” [Wikipedia]

    Perhaps Chiang Kai-Shek’s lasting revenge on the Chinese people is, “According to PRC, Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek failed to protest American decisions with regard to the disposition of the islands because he depended on the US for support. [Wikipedia]

    Katasayang, no I don’t host a blog — I am a free spirit, I browse through books, magazines, journals, and the internet — no end to my fascination with what men and women did in the past, and now, believe me, what lunatics and imbeciles teach me a thing or two — with or without their sunglasses, in suits or wearing plain Tee-shirts — we are in for hard and rough times ahead because many of our businessmen, politicians and civil servants have lost their moral compass.

    I shall sum up the paradox, or if you like, the tragedy of life is that brave, good men and women have been, and will continue to be, led astray by their own ideals which they believed and continue to believe are shared by their nominal kindred spirits leading the way — no, these spirits lead only so far for their own good, then comes the desertion in the best of times, and blood in the worst of times: Georges Danton fell under the guillotine after the French revolution; Trotsky fell by an axe in Mexico after Lenin took power; Adnan Menderes — Turkish Prime Minister hanged by military government; Liu Shaoqi disgraced, abused and killed under orders from Mao, and about the same time, Yan Baohang — the spy who saved Russia — killed by Mao’s murderous Red Guards – the Jubilee Medal presented to him by Russia Yeltsin was received by his daughter; Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – Pakistani Prime Minister hanged by military government; Sadegh Ghotbzadeh — Ex-Iranian Foreign Minister after the 1979 revolution— executed by firing squad.

    Your grandfather was lucky to have survived the tumultuous times during the early Republican days, China under the Koumintang, and China when the Cultural Revolution took place. When I met my only surviving uncle in Guangzhou, the ex-koumintang gunboat commander, I was given horrendous accounts of university students being hanged on trees lining the Pearl River by illiterate Red Guards from rural villages. He too has never joined the CCP. Current stories of corruption in China can give a chill to the bones and the government is promising that it will deal with the matter firmly. Haven’t all third world governments make beautiful promises?

    In conclusion, I will just quote this about Liang Chi-Chao, the famous Chinese reformer. He “enlarged ‘hsin min’ to mean a ‘new citizen’. He argued that old China had developed a high private morality in the domain of family ethics. But it had remained fragmented, deficient in public morality and civic virtue, in the domain of social ethics. Thus he chipped away at the narrow loyalties and family-centred selfishness of Confucian China in the search for collective democracy and a strong nation.” [p15 -The Great Chinese Revolution by John King Fairbank]

    What is truly demoralising is the possible echo of this describing us here [by Liang Chi-Chao]: “In China today only cunning, crooked, vile and ruthless people can flourish.”

    A rising China, yes; a risen China, no, not yet, and not until public morality and civic virtue, in the domain of social ethics are ameliorated by, strengthened and co-developed with, the best of Western learning culture, the pursuit of excellence, ethics, and all the rich religious values from all the great religions of the world. China cannot look inwards. Its present state of development is testimony that the West leads in science and technology, and only through science and technology can China contribute to the world, not by building Confucius Institute all over the world. Another time, another topic, I will have something to say about this “sage”.

  11. Some corrections — should read as :
    a) Not one book that I have read here . . . has favourable things to say about Chiang Kai-Shek . . .
    b) The Yalta Pact signed off Manchuria to the Soviets which . . .
    c) The United States was also the sponsor of . . .
    d) . . . the Jubilee Medal presented to him by Russia was accepted by his daughter. . .

    Back to aitse’s comment of Han Suyin’s trilogy. Yes, the three books were freely available in Malaysia when they were released. I remember vividly Han Suyin describing a particular incident which made her Belgian mother, already insecure in a backward country, totally devastated, perhaps even neurotic after that, when she caught sight of a human head impaled on the fence at the back of a house. Han Suyin wrote frankly and captivatingly, hiding nothing that would expose the decay in the Chinese society. She wrote of beggars and vagrants fighting at the back of her house to be the first to grab their old newspapers to use against the biting cold of winter — the dust bin was unnecessary. This was the China not too long ago, and it amazes me, today, when fellow ethnic Chinese proudly announce that we are the children of a 5000-year old civilisation. Not quite different, one might say, from our local Muslims compatriots who wax lyrical about the Golden Age of Islam — achievements in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, etc, when Europe was still burning witches. Winston Churchill puts it derisively from one of the volumes that made up his History of the English Speaking Peoples, it is a sort of hankering for “remembered glories of the past.”

    One last point on Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s relationship with Yan Baohang who operated in the upper levels of the Koumintang intelligence service. Query: was she aware of Yan Baohang’s double life? We need to remember she was still an elder sister to Madame Sun Yat Sen aka Soong Ching Ling, who by all accounts put China ahead of personal interests, and was deeply loved by the Chinese to the extent that Chiang Kai-Shek never dared order her assassination. History books are silent on her relationship with Yan Baohang, but I personally believe that she knew who he was, but decided that he, rather than those self-serving boot-lickers milling around her hot-tempered husband, should be kept alive — to save China (and Russia, to boot).

    On saving Russia, there lurked in the background a little known hero, a true super spy, who saved Stalin from being killed by a Nazi assassination squad. He led a team to kill Stalin who was planning to visit a summer camp, but advanced information sent to the Soviets helped them kill almost all the main attack members. When the Soviets arrived in Manchuria, after Japan was pushed out, they sought him out but he was not to be found — it is believed that he, as a General in the Japanese army was finally caught and executed. Takeda Takeo was of mixed Sino-Japanese ancestry and grew up in Japan — I can’t remember his given Chinese name.

    We can plan wars and violent campaigns against our enemies. In peacetime, we can devise schemes to outflank our political rivals, but we can never plan everything to the finest details — the truth will out because we can’t pay off everyone, and some just simply cannot be bought.

  12. “In peacetime, we can devise schemes to outflank our political rivals, but we can never plan everything to the finest details — the truth will out because we can’t pay off everyone, and some just simply cannot be bought.” – Sumpitan Emas

    Najib, please note.

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