Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Middle Kingdom

In the past, the people of Chin thought of themselves as the Middle Kingdom. Did not the Great Khan come to conquer them but instead was conquered by them? Did not Marco Polo come adventuring to find out their secrets like pasta? And after a long freeze, Nixon did not come also. All came to China, seeking answers to problems or new horizons to explore or conquer.

Today they proclaim themselves Marxist but the country is still immersed in the thought of the world revolving around them as they milk the white cat of capitialism. Does not Wal-Mart buy many products from there? Many of the Japanese anime toys now are made in China. So too are electronic devices. The dragon is ascending and feeling its way into leadership again.

While beneath the shimmering scales of the splendid dragon lurk problems. Hong Kong SAR has seen its democratic institutions subverted and replaced in contravention of the treaty the PRC and UK signed when England turned the colony over to China. Hong Kong's status as an Asian tiger might be in decline as the Chinese Yuan becomes more valuable than the Hong Kong Dollar. Last year the Chinese auto industry produced 2 million more cars than their economy could absorb. Now it looks like China will be drilling off the Florida Keys in Cuban waters for oil. Meanwhile the Chinese effort at controlling their rising population, 1.4 billion or so, will soon start to cause severe stress on Chinese society as millions of men will find no wives to marry and their families will face extinction. Will China's neo-Mao/Marxist central controlled culture collapse when this happens or will they look to their neighbors with less than pure motives?

What brought all of this on? It was a combination of things. Reading about Red Ken in London thinking Mao was a jolly good bloke for stopping the binding of womens' feet in China. What is binding you say? It was custom in China to start tightly binding a woman's feet together as a child so when she was a young adult she was walking on the tip of her toes and heel since tiny feet on women used to be a cultural turn on for the men, talk about being an unwilling fashion victim. Reading about the falling value of the HK Dollar. Always finding things in Wal-Mart labeled Made in China. And talking with Queen Mulan on Guild Wars about the problems facing China like the cultural imperative of having sons to inherit things and take care of parents in the era of the 'one child' population law which is causing many women to abort their unborn female children. Yes the law has been lessened in farm areas to allow another child but the effect that is coming is far too many men and not enough women.

Truthfully the first time I really became aware of this tragedy in China was when I read Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age' in which we see a few far-sighted Chinese elders in this alternate world seeing where this law will lead. So they secret and hide thousands of unwanted Chinese girls and set about educating them using a bootleg copy of a high tech education device disguised as a capitivating interactive story book. In the end as a resurgant Celestial Kingdom chases the gwailo from China; the young girls, all around 12 years of age and a third of a million strong, follow their Princess Nell to the West and leave China behind.

Right now mainland China seems strong and ready to confront the United States, but their world view is still shaped by the concept that they ARE the Middle Kingdom and everything orbits around them. They dress up their Marxist regieme with trappings of capitalism but in the end China is still very comformist as many workers still go to work in the plump looking Mao suits. And the mandarins in the bureacracy and military continue to create their own little empires. China will win some impressive economic and possibly political victories in the coming years but their Middle Kingdom attitude and looming numbers of military age men looking for wives could radically change that. With the attitude being the worst bane for them as they miss opportunies to further their interests. And like at the turn of the last century that saw the Chinese rise up in the Boxer Rebellion in a pitiful attempt to prove to the world they were still strong, we just might see another spasm of such as they see what they view as their rightful opportunites slip through their grasp. Stephenson postulates such in his book as China rejects the West while using Western technology to chase them away.

And where does this connect with me. Probably the new character I am running on Guild Wars since friends have joined me online and I needed a character closer to their starting level. This time around running a Monk/Mesmer and since was in an Oriental frame of mind and thought of Chinese warrior monks - Hong Kong action flicks of Michelle Yeoh running through mind. So created an Asian monk and boy is she tiny. Doing this brought up an aggravating thought. In Guild Wars one can customize things like your character's face, well there is only one Asian face which means there are alot of female monks running on Guild Wars who look alike. *sigh* Talk about reinforcing stereotypes. Maybe Factions fixes this but not spent the $50 for it. And if I wanted to be truly pendantic, in old China there were very few female monks as they tended to become Buddhist nuns and sequestered from ordinary life. But hey, it allows me to run this monk. She is right now Lvl 5 and her name is Tien Yuk. So gaming continues apace.

P.S. Gwailo means foreigner in Chinese.


Anonymous said...

I sort of makes you wonder.....what will be the outcome of a war between a rock (China) and a hard place (Islam). I already think that the U.S. is becoming insignificant in the world, with all of it's governmental corruption and moral degeneration. How long before we become the Europe of today?.........or maybe we already have.


myrtus said...

Andy, China has always been tight with Muslim countries because they have a lot in common as far as politics, they have similar oppressive regimes and they both hate Israel and Jews in general.

Hey Anna, from what I understand gweilo is a derogatory term for foreigner.

Anonymous said...

"Andy, China has always been tight with Muslim countries"

That is probably true Myrt, but how do you think that China will react when the Muslims push for the conversion of the Chinese infidels to the "One Religion"? I don't see it happening.


Anna said...

AndyJ, how have we slid? Getting deep but with all the stupid grasping at power seen n Congress this year maybe the bums will get tossed. And may their successors be wiser.

What does the PRC think of Islam inside its borders, what it thinks of Falun Gong and Christianity - it is an enemy. But like the USSR, the PRC is willing to use people it despises if it furthers its national goals.

Myrtus, in Mandarin all words that can be used for foreigner are derogatory. Goes back to being Middle Kingdom thinking. Though the reddish-blond haired Celtic mummies along the silk road causes the PRC acute mental indigestion since it seems those Celts might have brought technologies to China the Chinese thought they created.

An example of this kind of thinking in China is reflected in Karl Eskelund's book 'My Chinese Wife' in which he recounts the hurdles he had to surmount in China as a university student to win the hand of a very well off Chinese woman. He not only had to serenade her, but convince her family a foreigner would make a good husband. He accomplished both and they went home to Holland where they had to deal with the German occupation. Though even that had humerous moments as when the Germans would knock on their door to look around and she would answer. The Germans would think she was one of their Japanese allies and would get real polite.

And people tend to forget, unless the Dhali Lama pops up somewhere, that the PRC invaded the tiny country of Tibet and continues to occupy it while trying to destroy Tibetan culture.

Is the US relevant still? To the PRC, as a source of technology to steal, the US is relevant. But the PRC has an achilles heel and tha is oil. Not only are they ramping up off Florida for oil but in Central Asia. Anyone puts a crimp in China's increasing thirst for oil, look out. Even if it offends their Muslim allies, if those fields in Central Asia are threatened by Islamic fanatics, who knows how China will react.

The culture that will survive is the one that can dream and adapt while still being itself. At least that is what I think.

Anonymous said...

Ah, good, a three part answer...Anna, you stated that maybe this year the bums will be tossed. Don't count on this. The stupidity of the American voter is incalcculable refrence the continued re-election of Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, et al. As long as the pork flows, these idiots will get elected. A good example I could throw out is the primary election we just went through last month. I got the ballot and there was only one candidate for every post except for two. Now how is that an election? The congresscritters have made the elections so slanted to the benefit of the incumbant that a newcomer has almost zero chances of un-seating one. And if by chance a newcomer does happen to get elected, the prevailing ecology of corruption and graft freezes out anyone who really does want to make a difference. As I have said before TERM LIMITS. The founding fathers did not foresee a lifetime politician like we have had.

This thirst for oil is an amazing thing. Back in the 70's we were being told that oil was a finite entity and that in 20-30 years we would be out of oil if we continued using it at the rate that we were doing. Actually, there is probably more oil around than the world can use. Russia is supposed to have the largest deposit of oil in the world, why are they buying oil from Iran and other countries. and with the VAST expanses that China has, please don't tell me that there is no oil under China. I would be willing to bet that their deposits are larger than Russia's. Look at the deposits we have in this country. If we didn't have the eco-freaks, we could probably be self-sufficient from middle eastern oil. I even read an article postulating that oil is not a dwindling resource, but is even now being replenished by the earth. Don't know the validity of that hypothesis but, there seems to be a lot of it still around when were supposed to be out of it by now.

And to answer the question on how have we slid, the simple answer to that is "look around". I've lived through the last half of the 40's, the 50's, the 60's, etc. never in my memory can I remember the almost complete decay of morality and decay that I am seeing in recent times. Even the "wild and free 60's" with all of the drugs and free love cannot compare to the present rapid decline (Even though, the 60's and 70's seem to be the starting point of this decline). A good example is our education system. It is said that a college graduate today has the basic education of a junior high school student from my youth. My wife teaches at the college level, and I have seen some of the essay papers that she has to grade. God have mercy. These are college kids and they cannot even construct a simple sentence or project a coherent idea. Students who are not being taught the basics (reading, writing and math), teachers who cannot teach (Some who cannot even pass basic competency tests) and parents who are oblivious to their child's education or just don't care, after all it's the school's responsibility to turn out completed products are the basic problems.

I don't know, maybe I'm seeing things with a longer time line and am able to compare what it was to what it is now that makes me so pessimistic and more afraid, not for myself, but my kid and grandchildren. I don't know, but to me, things are just not right.


Anna said...

Or we could move to an even longer viewpoint and realize there is an ebb and flow in history. Greco-Roman civilization flourished for hundreds of years. Even after barbarians and Muslim conquerors it bounced back as the post-Renaissaince Western world we grew up in.

Whether our civilization can survive rogue nations with biological or nuclear weapons, that is another matter. It is in our own selfish interest to prevent nuts from getting their hands on such. One has to look at Libya[the could have a contender] and North Korea[the imminent danger to PRC, S Korea, Japan, and the US] to understand this.

Those who ignore it are condeming themselves and their neighbors to a future painful death.

Now if we can convince the Middle Kingdom it is in their interest to muzzle Lil Kim da Killah Dictator. Along with the gutless EU to confront Iran with more than words to see if the internal cracks of Iran's population are big enough to toss the mad jihadi from power to save themselves.