The Republic that Wasn’t

October 23, 2013

Taiwan was a republic in name only until its first open democratic election in 1996; Chiang Kai-shek [1887 - 1975], the president-for-life that the United States supported, was a brutal dictator and a mass murderer.

I knew about Chiang Kai-shek being responsible for the Shanghai massacre of 1927—also known as the White Terror. It was this atrocity that launched the Civil War [1927 - 1936; 1946 - 1950] between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party. Before then, both parties were part of Sun Yat-sen’s Chinese republic. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, and it was his death that marked the beginning of the end of the republic he was building with several political parties.

Sun Yat-sen believed that three different political systems could co-exist: Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism.

Then by accident, I stumbled on a Blog about the “228 Massacre” in Taiwan in 1947 when Kuomintang soldiers under orders from Cheng Kai-shek slaughtered 30,000 Taiwanese citizens. It was the first time I’d heard of this incident. Source Blog: Patrick Cowsill

In comparison, when I Googled “Tiananmen Square protests”—about the so-called 1989 Massacre in Tiananmen Square—I discovered that, “Several hundred civilians have been shot dead by the Chinese army during a bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest in Peking’s (Beijing) Tiananmen Square. Source: BBC

However, the Tiananmen Square protests did not start as a democracy protest—democracy was not a subject of the incident until college students joined the protests a few weeks into the incident started by Chinese workers protesting corruption in the government.

The “228 Massacre” was also a protest about government corruption in Taiwan.

Here’s what the BBC had to say about the Taiwan incident, “The event was an uprising sparked by the beating of a female vendor by authorities for selling untaxed cigarettes. Between 18,000 and 28,000 people are said to have been killed in riots and a subsequent crackdown.” Source: BBC

Compare the language.  When it was about the Communists, it was a “bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest” but when the killings were committed by an American ally ruled by a brutal dictator, it was “an uprising…sparked by the beating of a female vendor by authorities.”

Of course, we will always remember the man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Have you forgotten what happened in Taiwan yet?  If that man had stepped in front of a tank in Taiwan, he would have been road kill.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The History of Chinese Poetry

October 2, 2013

Traditional Chinese Poetry is very similar to Western poetry.  Lines in Chinese poetry may have a fixed number of syllables and rhyme was required, so ancient Chinese poetry resembles traditional English verse and is not at all like the free verse in today’s Western culture.

Modern Chinese poets have written in free verse, but many still write with a strict form.

In the end, the form is not as important as what the poem says. Western poetry often focuses on love while painting an image of the poet as a lover.

Influenced by Confucius and Taoism, the ancient Chinese poet shows he or she is a friend—not a lover and often paints a picture of a poet’s life as a life of leisure without ambitions beyond writing poetry and having a good time.

According to legend, this Chinese poet killed himself to protest the corruption of the time, and it is said that the Dragon Boat Festival was named to honor his sacrifice.

Battle
By Qu Yuan (332-295 B.C.)

We grasp our battle-spears: we don our breastplates of hide.
The axles of our chariots touch: our short swords meet.
Standards obscure the sun: the foe roll up like clouds.
Arrows fall thick: the warriors press forward.
They menace our ranks: they break our line.
The left-hand trace-horse is dead: the one on the right
is smitten.
The fallen horses block our wheels: they impede the
yoke-horses?”

Translated by Arthur Waley 1919

Note: The translation process from Mandarin to English would insure that the fixed number of syllables and rhyme required  of a traditional Chinese poem in its original language would not survive, but the contextual meaning should.

Discover China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 5/5

January 9, 2012

Now that we know more about the United States and Hawaii, where Sun Yat-sen lived as a teenager, his concept of a republic would have been very different from what the American democracy looks like today.

In addition, members of the U.S. Senate were not elected to office by the popular vote until 1913 when the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was amended to provide for direct popular election of senators, ending the system of election by individual state legislatures.

If Sun Yat-sen were aware of the details of America’s political history and its limitation by the time he left Hawaii at the age of 17 in 1883, the republic and/or democracy he envisioned for China probably would have excluded many from voting—including all women.

In addition, by 1903, when Sun Yat-sen returned to Hawaii looking for support for his dream of a future republic and/or democracy in China, Hawaii was no longer a republic but was a territory of the United States—not a state—and its people were not considered American citizens.

The republic and/or democracy Sun Yat-sen might have imagined for China may possibly have included at last one House as a National Congress with its members appointed by the elected legislatures of each province, and women would have been excluded from voting and possibly considered the property of men as women were in the United States at that time.

In fact, it is possible that Sun Yat-sen would not have considered organizing a republic and/or democracy where the citizens elected China’s leader with a popular vote of the people since Hawaii’s Constitution of 1864 charged the legislature, not the people, with the task of electing the next king, who was King Kalākaua—the one forced to sign the 1887 Constitution four years after the young Sun Yat-sen returned to China.

Now that we know the differences between then and now, it is easier to accept that the Chinese Communist Party’s 1982 Constitution created a government in China closer—and maybe even better—than what Sun Yat-sen might have imagined for China.

How could Sun Yat-sen have envisioned a republic and/or democracy similar to what the United States has today in the 21st century?

In fact, under a Sun Yat-sen republic, children in China might still be considered the property of parents as they were in the United States until the 1938 Federal regulation of child labor in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Before 1938, parents in the US had the right to sell their children into servitude and/or slavery depending on which state one lived in.

In addition, writing of the merits of a republican or representative form of government, James Madison observed that one of the most important differences between a democracy and a republic is “the delegation of the government [in a republic] to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.

When James Madison wrote this, the number of US citizens allowed to vote in federal elections was limited to white property owners (excluding Jews), which represented about 10% of the population of the US in 1776, which was similar to the voting rights in Hawaii during most of Sun Yat-sen’s life.

Return to The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 2/5

January 6, 2012

Another question Parfitt asked in in his comment to Comparing India and China’s Potential for Economic Growth was, What about China’s debt problem? Would that hinder it [China] in its supposed race against India?”

I doubt strongly that there is an economic race between India and China. If it is perceived that one exists, we may thank the Western media circus for that, since the media often compares the annual growth of India’s GDP with China’s.

The answer to Parfitt’s question leads to another question that should have been asked instead.

Will India’s corruption [50% of GDP], poverty [25%], literacy rate [61%] and debt problems hinder it in its supposed economic race with China? Source of facts used: CIA Factbook

By comparison, literacy in China is 92.2% and those living below the poverty line according to the CIA Factbook represent 2.8% of the population.

India’s GDP [Purchasing Power Parity - PPP], according to the CIA Factbook, was about $4 trillion dollars in 2010 but its public debt was 50.6% of GDP. It’s reserves of foreign exchange and gold was $287.1 billion [this is the same as a savings account], and its external debt was $316.9 billion, which shows us that India owes more money than it has in its savings account. In addition, it has been reported that corruption in India is worse than China.

By comparison, China’s GDP [PPP] in 2010 was more than $10 trillion and its public debt was 16.3% of GDP, its savings account held almost $3 trillion and its external debt was $519 billion.

Another point of comparison is the US GDP [PPP], which was $14.66 trillion with $14.71 trillion in external debt and a public debt of 62.9%, while its savings account holds $132.4 billion.

With these numbers, which country is in the best shape economically to face challenges at home and globally in the near future and in the long run?

I replied to Mr. Parfitt’s comments and there was another reply from Alessandro, a regular visitor to this Blog. The reason I’m writing this post is the IGNORANCE Factor, which plays far too large a role in the circus of American politics and public opinion, which is often inflamed by the biased opinions of individuals such as Mr. Parfitt.

Continued on January 7, 2012 in The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The two-faces of Confucius – Part 2/5

December 21, 2011

Before we look at the two-faces of Confucius, let us learn something from a New York Times Opinion piece by Eric X. Li, Counterpoint: Debunking Myths About China

Li says there is a common myth that because China does not hold elections that its rulers do not have the consent of the ruled.

However, “According to the Pew Research Center” Li says, “the Chinese government enjoys popular support that is among the highest in the world.The Chinese people’s satisfaction with the direction of their country was at 87% in 2010 and has been consistently above 80 percent in recent years.”

Compare the popularity of China’s government to that of the US government and its people, and we discover that, “Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress receive highly negative job ratings. Just 23% approve of the job Republican congressional leaders are doing, while 67% disapprove. Ratings for Democratic leaders are not much better: 30% approve while 61% disapprove…” Source: Pew Research Center


Common Misconceptions  About China

Li also debunked the myth that China is an authoritarian state in which the party’s political power is concentrated and self-perpetuating.

He then tackled the myth that China’s restriction on freedom of expression stifles innovation. Li says, “Some of the most successful IPO’s of Internet companies on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq have been Chinese startups…” and “China’s share of scientific research papers published in recognized international journals went from 4.4 percent in the period between 1999-2003 to 10.2 percent in the period between 2004-2008, now just behind the United States.”

In addition, when it comes to claims that the Communist Party’s authoritarian rule leads to widespread corruption, “By Transparency International’s account [the lower the number the less corruption there is], China (78) ranks higher than India (87), Philippines (134), Indonesia (110), Argentina (105) and many more, and tied with Greece (78), barely below Italy (67) — all electoral democracies.

Apparently, China’s one-party system is less corrupt than many democratic countries.

In conclusion before moving on to the two-faces of Confucius in the next post, David Gosset in Common Misconceptions About the Chinese World says, “The level of individual freedom enjoyed today by its citizens has no equivalent in China’s past, and the effort to establish the rule of law will bring more social, economic and political improvements.”

Continued on December 15, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The two-faces of Confucius – Part 1/5

December 20, 2011

During our debate, when Troy Parfitt wrote, “The essence of Confucianism is obedience,” and “The strains of despotism in these native [Chinese] ideologies speak to communism’s appeal,” I knew he was wrong.

The complexity of Confucianism is much more than just about obedience.

However, to understand Confucianism, it first helps to discover how wrong many Westerners are about so many things when it comes to China, which may explain Mr. Parfitt’s confusion.

To discover the depth of this ignorance, we will explore a few examples before focusing on the two-faces of Confucianism.

The China Law Blog says, “My mother thinks that people in China still ride around on bicycles wearing those green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. While there are still a lot of bicycles, especially in Beijing and Shanghai—where they are proud to wear their silk pajamas while riding their bicycles and smoking at the same time—there are not many people wearing those green outfits.”

Note from Blog host: In 1999, before I first visited China, I thought pretty much the same about the green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. Then I arrived in China and discovered there is a reason that Shanghai is called the Paris of Asia, and it has to do with fashion.


Misconceptions about China

At eChinacities.com, Sarah Meik shared, “8 Common Misconceptions about China Debunked“.  If you want the details, click on the link to Sarah’s post. You might learn something.

Then Fred Dintenfass posted, “3 Things I Misunderstood About Chinese People Before I came to China.”

Fred says, “It is way too easy to generalize, to see a Chinese person spit and decide that all Chinese love to hock loogies in the street… I knew the media here was state run. I knew people might be cautious about expressing their political opinions. What I didn’t realize is that young people in the cities are content.”

Then at The Tree of Mamre, we learn from “China Owns Most of the US Debt, and other Misconceptions“.

“Misconception: Most of what Americans spend their money on is made in China.

Fact: Just 2.7% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services. 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on American-made goods and services …”

“Misconception: The United States owe most of its debt to China.

Fact: China owns 7.8% of U.S. government debt outstanding.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Not Rule the World” – Part 12/12

December 8, 2011

Note from Blog host: Troy Parfitt’s closing statement of about 500 words appears first. To read Lloyd Lofthouse’s closing statement, you may have to scroll down this page.

Closing Statement [Parfitt]:

I would like to thank Tom Carter for suggesting and facilitating this debate. But most of all, I would like to thank Lloyd Lofthouse. True, this is his website, but Lloyd’s been key in getting this organized, and has been nothing but helpful, positive, and polite.

Between the episodes of verbal jousting, which hopefully have kept you interested and entertained, we’ve communicated amicably about China and related topics, which is great. Two literary publications have refused to review my book, one citing arrogance, the other controversy and bigotry. It’s a sign of the times (you have total intellectual freedom to say anything you want, except things people don’t want to hear), so good on Lloyd for being so tolerant of someone like me, whose views on China have little overlap with his.

China is a complicated subject, and because debate about it is so divisive, it’s sometimes difficult for people with only a casual interest to sort fact from fiction. To come to any kind of understanding, you’ve got to spend a lot of time reading about China, and it helps enormously to understand Mandarin and travel or live there.

The West has some serious problems; it always has and it always will. Somber problems are normal for human societies; we’re a troubled species. In light of Western inadequacy and hypocrisy, it’s tempting to see China as a land of answers and alternatives. China can appear as the great Other: the feminine to the West’s masculine; grace to aggression; cultivation to calculation. But that’s a romanticized construct located in the recesses of the Western psyche, with little basis in reality.

That’s not to say China isn’t a noteworthy subject; it’s a fascinating one. Nevertheless, determined and altruistic cadres, heroic Communist leaders, an overriding system of guanxi, a citizenry instilled with the wisdom and morality of Confucianism, a harmonious society, a glorious past, and a mission to help neighboring states, are concepts that exist largely in people’s imaginations. They are myths, both Chinese and Western, that mainly block the view.

People like myths; they’re easy to latch on to; easy to remember; they cover up what isn’t flattering; they justify, and can make you feel good. But they won’t bring anyone closer to understanding what China is, how it got that way, and where it might be headed. To do that, one needs to research, observe, and apply critical thinking. Counter evidence cannot be denied, dubious sources should be treated as such, and a sense of fairness must always be employed. Once you’ve got a working theory about China, its nature, and so on, you must test that hypothesis constantly; that’s how you’ll discover the wonderful and terrible truth.

Again, I’d like to thank Tom and Lloyd for setting this debate up. It was good for me to defend and reflect on my ideas, and China is such an important topic; debate about it is crucial.

Thank you very much.

Troy Parfitt

Closing Statement [Lofthouse]:

In the prologue of Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People, the author says few in the West understand the Chinese and their culture. He writes, “It is difficult to deny the Old China Hand (Note—foreigners that lived or are still living in China) the right to write books and articles about China…”

Lin Yutang says that only one in ten thousand of these “Old China Hands” understands China, while the other 9,999 results in a “constant, unintelligent elaboration of the Chinaman”. He mentions Sir Robert Hart and Bertrand Russell as examples of the few that understand China.

At the urging of Pearl S. Buck, “My Country and My People” was written and then published in 1935 and what Lin Yutang wrote then is still relevant today.

Pearl S. Buck writes in the book’s Introduction that when China was “not able to meet the dangerous and aggressive modernity of the West… They forced out of existence the old dynastic rule, they changed with incredible speed the system of education, and with indefatigable zeal they planned and set up a scheme of modern government”.

This metamorphosis of China that we have witnessed in the last few decades has almost eradicated severe poverty from more than 70% in 1949 to 2.5% of the population today in addition to the growth of a modern, Western style urban consumer middle class that is still a work in progress. This transformation took a literacy rate of 20% in 1976 and increased it to more than 90% today.

In 1949, we witnessed an element of that transformation as Mao declared war on Confucianism and then again as the age of Mao gave way to Deng Xiaoping’s “Getting Rich is Glorious” era, which turned China into the world’s factory floor. Then in 1982, China wrote a new constitution and started a process to reinvent its legal system to be more Western in its structure and laws.

I thank Mr. Troy Parfitt for his participating in this debate. However, he is not a Sir Robert Hart or Bertrand Russell.

In Part 1, he claimed that “face” was a license to behave however one pleases, which is not the case.

He then inferred that because Jonathan Spence never mentions Mao’s war on Confucianism in his biography of Mao that it never happened.

Yet, Henry Kissinger in On China made it clear that Mao was passionately and publicly anti-Confucian. Zhou Enlai even told Kissinger that Confucianism was a doctrine of class oppression.

Parfitt’s “gossip” includes his opinion of “Confucianism”, “face”, “Guanxi”, the “Mandate of Heaven”, corruption in China, and Mao being a monster that deliberately caused millions of deaths from a famine, which took place during the Great Leap Forward in a few of China’s provinces.

As Lin Yutang says, “It is difficult to deny the “Old China Hand” the right to write books and articles about China… Nevertheless, such books and articles must necessarily remain on the level of the gossip along the world’s longest bar.”

Return to the Discussion with Troy Parfitt – Part 11, author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas“, or start with Part 1.

See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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