I’ve seen a few blogs point to this new opinion piece by Henry Kissinger, where he conclusively proves that he has absolutely no knowledge of history, and is willing to spout whatever fiction he needs to make his point.
His basic argument is quite simple, that we should stop worrying about China. They are in no way a potential threat, militarily or economically, and people who bring up the possibility of conflict with China are just misguided. Here is some of his logic.
China’s emerging role is often compared to that of imperial Germany at the beginning of the last century, the implication being that a strategic confrontation is inevitable and the United States had best prepare for it. That assumption is as dangerous as it is wrong. Military imperialism is not the Chinese style. China seeks its objectives by careful study, patience and the accumulation of nuances.
It is also unwise to apply to China the policy of military containment of the cold war. The Soviet Union was the heir of an imperialist tradition. The Chinese state in its present dimensions has existed substantially for 2,000 years.
Ok, let’s consider his claim for a second. The comparison is amazingly easy to make. Here is a map of China’s Han dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220AD, contrasted with the modern borders of the Chinese and Mongolian states. For those weak at arithmetic I will point out that 2000 years ago is smack in the middle of this period.
So how do the borders line up? It seems to me that China is about twice as big now as it was then. Let’s note some of the territories controlled the People’s Republic of China that were not part of the Han Dynasty. Well, missing from the map of Han I see:
Mongolia (inner and outer)
And there are also a number of areas that we could consider China proper that weren’t part of the Han state, particilarly the provinces north of the Great Wall, as well as a large region in the south-west near-oh, and of course Taiwan itself!
Oh, but according to Kissinger:
ll major countries have recognized China’s claim that Taiwan is part of China. So have seven American presidents of both parties, none more emphatically than President George W. Bush.
Yes of course. Thank you for the correction. Let’s look at the most recent public statement President Bush has made about Taiwan.
When asked in an interview with the Fox News TV Channel, “Do we [the US] still stand by an agreement, Mr. President, that if Taiwan is ever invaded, we will come to the defense of Taiwan?” Bush said: “Yes, we do. It’s called the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Let’s look at another example of brilliance from Mister Kissinger.
America needs to understand that a hectoring tone evokes in China memories of imperialist condescension and is not appropriate in dealing with a country that has managed 4,000 years of uninterrupted self-government.
Oh yes, China’s 4000 years of uninterrupted self-government. That would include such self-government as the:
Liao Dynasty 907-1125 established in what later became Mongolia by the Khitan tribal leader Abaoji. Liao’s territory included a great deal of Chinese land and people south of the Great Wall region (ancient the Wall itself had crumbled at this point-the modern one was built several centuries later to replace the ancient Han dynasty structure)
Jin Dynasty (1115-1234)-an empire ruled by the Jurchen people, who invaded from the northeast and conquered the entire northern half of the Song dynasty
Ok, so neither Jin nor Liao actually took over all of China, you may be thinking. Well, out of the three final dynasties that ruled China before the Republic of China finally defeated the old Imperial state, twoof them were governments ruled by foreign invaders!
Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368)- aka the Mongolian empire. Genghis Khan (Timüjin)begins the conquest of north China, and his grandson Kublia Khan finally finishes the job, making the vast Chinese empire only a part of the vast Mongol empire. Under Mongol rule, ethnic Chinese (often called ‘Han’ in memory of their glorious ancient empire) were legally second class citizens in every level of society.
After the Yuan government in China collapsed native Chinese rule was restored by the Ming.
In 1616 the descendants of the earlier Jurchens, who had recently renamed themselves the Manchu tribe, invaded part of north China and established a dynasty called the Later Jin, which in 1636 became the Qing dynasty, that like the earlier Yuan was a so-called conquest What is meant by this term is a dynasty in which an invading minority establishes control over territory, much like colonialists throughout the recent pre-modern history of most of the world.
So why exactly does Kissinger use utterly false information about Chinese history to make his argument? Well, he does admit
Before continuing on this subject, I must point out that the consulting company I chair advises clients with business interests around the world, including China. Also, in early May, I spent a week in China, much of it as a guest of the government.
at least he isn’t concealing his interests. If he had any subtlety about him then his BS might just be a little less transparent.
Thanks to Danwei for pointing out the article.