domingo, 7 de febrero de 2016

Why do we care so much about China?


Why do we care so much about China? It’s obvious why our Chinese friends here focus their attention on the present and the future of their homeland. But what about the rest of us?

The man who taught me the most about China was Dr. Walter Judd, who lived and worked in South China and then North China for a decade. Asked why China is so important, he would stretch out his hand and say, “Here is Asia: my palm is China, the Middle Kingdom; my fingers are the nations branching out from China—Japan, Korea, Indochina, the Philippines, and Indonesia.”

When China is at peace and accepts the idea of freedom and democracy, Dr. Judd would say, then all of Asia is at peace and lives in freedom. But if China builds a mighty military machine and tries to bully its neighbors, then all of Asia is threatened.

The same analogy can be applied internationally. China is at the center of global commerce and trading. It competes with the US, Russia, Japan, Germany, and the EU, among other nations. If China abides by the rules of fair trade and international law, the world is at peace and accepts China as an integral member of the community of nations.

But if China is aggressive, and not only in economic matters, then the world becomes uneasy and troubled. That is why what China does matters to everyone.

And if we want to understand China, we must understand the central role of the Communist Party in the management of China’s affairs.

So, here is a brief history lesson of China and the Party.

Beginning in the 1920s, China suffered through a brutal civil war between the Red Army of Mao Zedong and the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek. By the early 1930s, Chiang had gained the upper hand and instituted a promising program of reconstruction and economic development for the new Republic of China.

Mao holed up in Yunnan in northern China, seemingly no longer a factor in Chinese affairs. Then came a turning point in Chinese and world history—the Japanese invaded China in 1937, starting the Sino-Japanese War. Chiang and Mao reluctantly joined forces against a common enemy.

For the next eight years, the Nationalists bore the brunt of the Japanese invasion, sacrificing the lives of an estimated 2 million Chinese soldiers, but tying up as many 1 million Japanese troops. The Communists also fought, but mostly as guerrillas and when they could engage with a smaller enemy.

Again and again, the Japanese extended peace offers to Chiang but he rejected every one, confident that his strategy of “trading space for time” would eventually wear out the Japanese.

Mao’s strategy was revealed in a secret directive published a decade later: “The Sino-Japanese war affords our party an excellent opportunity for expansion. Our policy should be 70 percent expansion, 20 percent dealing with the [Nationalists], and 10 percent resisting Japan.”


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