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China: How Americans Should Relate
September 18, 2020
by William P. Meyers

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We are the Bad Guys

I am not a fan of Chiang Kai-Shek, the former dictator of China and later of Taiwan, but allow me to quote a remarkable summary of 19th century Chinese history from Hollington Tong's biography of Chiang:

"Weighing most heavily against the Manchu regime was the humiliating century-long record of Chinese defeat at the hands of the foreign powers. A dynasty whose reigning Emperor, Chien-lung, could scoff contemptuously at George III of England when, in 1793, his envoys proposed bilateral trade relations, had been reduced to the ignominy of complete surrender to the Westerners in the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1860, the undeclared war with France in 1885 and the crowning national humiliation of the Boxer War of 1900. It had submitted to total defeat at the hands of resurgent Japan in 1895. The dawn of the Twentieth Century saw it exercising a steadily declining national sovereignty, limited by extraterritoriality, enforced foreign concessions, foreign trade preferences, the burden of ruinous indemnities and even foreign occupation of strategic Chinese soil."

Bummer. The richest nation on earth in 1800, reduced to chaos and poverty by 1900. You may not see the role of the United States of America in the decline of Imperial China. After all, in 1800 we had barely started taking the continental United States. But a more detailed look at history shows that American merchants, including Franklin D. Roosevelt's grandfather, participated in the illegal opium trade that led to the mentioned Opium Wars. American troops joined with Japan and European nations in the invasion of China in the Boxer Rebellion. In the 20th century America gradually took over the role of interfering in China's sovereignty from Japan and the British Empire.

On the other hand, the American defeat of Imperial Japan, which effectively ruled China in World War II, did set the stage for Chinese independence. But instead of going with the American puppet, Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese people chose to unite under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party. America was staunchly anti-communist, so instead of recognizing reality, we helped Chiang set up a rebel province on the island of Taiwan.

Come 2020 and China is a major economic power again, second only to the United States. So how should we treat China?

One might ask, and gain enlightenment from, the mirror question: how would we want to be treated, if China had acted like the U.S. for 200 years? For instance, if China has seized one of our states, set up a puppet there, and defended it militarily?

While many of China's problems of the 1800s were inflicted by outside nations, the reason they could inflict them had to do with China's internal weaknesses. The economy was not upgraded to compete with the manufactured products of Europe. Science was subverted by tradition and superstitious religious beliefs. The government was in the hands of one family, which had bred a line of idiots that make even Donald Trump seem relatively smart.

Returning to America, Trump and many others, sometimes including Joe Biden, blame American troubles on China. Particularly the decline of American manufacturing. But American factories were being closed in the 1970s when China was still looking inward, led by their equivalent of Trump, Mao Zedong. They were being closed by automation, by moving to nations with cheaper labor forces, and because our capitalist class was corrupt and lazy, preferring to make money only when it was easy.

America criticized China for being Communist, and demanded they become Capitalist. So around 1980 they started trying out capitalism, and over a couple of decades got quite good at it. They started, at first only occasionally, kicking the asses of American capitalists.

And our capitalists responded the way any bully would: by whining. By blaming anyone and anything but their own lack of competitive skills.

Any loss of jobs in America should be blamed on one group of people: our capitalists. Or perhaps that should be extended to the brown-nosers around them, the politicians and press that do their whining for them.

I like democracy, I really do. But I cannot deny that the Chinese Communist Party unified China and, despite trade rules that unfairly advantaged the older manufacturing powers, built up their economy to be a world competitor.

I think Americans should seek a reasonably fair economic playing field, not just with China, but with the other advanced, rich nations of the world. When we fail in competition we should criticize ourselves and determine a way to do better. We should not blame the competition.

The truth is that the world needs to pull together as a whole to confront the realities of the 21st century. For that, the United States and China must cooperate.

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Copyright 2020 William P. Meyers. All rights reserved.