China and it's maddenly lack of self introspection

Dan Carlin comments on one of his podcasts that a nation only changes when the “tipping point” of violence has been reached. 

I’ve spoken in the past of the need for China to develop a sense of introspection.   The talent for self-reflection, with the goal of moral betterment.  All nations, great or small, young or old, just like people, need this ability to not just better it’s people’s sense of social progress, but perhaps ultimately, to survive.

(for a couple of years now I've spoken of "my opus" it is....)

The ability as a nation to “lay on the couch”, so to speak, is a necessary condition.  Without it, there can be no lessons learned from the Past.  No ability to swerve around obstacles in the Future.    Thus no reform, no sense of regret. 

What is a necessary condition of introspection and self-reflection?  I believe there are two:  a free press, and the infliction of great social upheaval, so great that the “social order” itself of a “nation” has been upturned.   And as a result the way a nation views itself changes. 

Contrary to what I’ve led many of you to believe, China is not immune to introspection.  It has already had two bouts of major introspection this century The first was during the chaos and poverty and rise of the warlord after WW1.   Only the brutal conditions of China during this timeframe created an environment conducive to the rise of the Communist Party.   Has anyone ever noticed Communist Parties don’t tend to do well in relatively prosperous nations? 

The other was the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.   But the CCP while knowing full well it was not living up to expectations only went half way in its reform.  It banned any further Cult of Personality.  It limited its leaders to two terms, and rehabilitated a lot of other folks as well.  It even decided Mao was only 70% right, but 30% wrong in his decisionmaking.     Well, that introspection was behind closed doors, and that’s the problem.   Introspection cannot necessarily be top down, but bottom up.   That is, the people have to be pissed off.

The problem with introspection is that it is hit and miss.   Or not public enough to bring about change.  It is not allowed to be too public much less publicized.   And in places like China, that kills all the momentum.   Which ironically pins real change more and more upon a major cataclysmic event.  Such as those below.  It may not come immediately, or if it does, the lessons may be forgotten.   Sometimes it is successful and does indeed bring about change.   I speak of White America’s racial relations with Black America on one hand, which underwent such a deep transformation in the 1950’s and 1960’s that many of my generation find it hard to believe “an America like that” actually existed than.     

And on the other hand I speak of Vietnam, the “honorable mistake”, which “only” took nearly 60,000 American lives to realize, and finally allowed people to understand that patrician, better educated government officials really are not any smarter than you or I, they just “look better”.  

Yet the lessons learned from introspection with Vietnam were quite plainly forgotten by others, and thus we had Iraq, and Libya, and Syria, and on and on and on.   Perhaps because our leaders felt as long as casualties were low, it would be “alright”.    To this day, American deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 are still lower than those on 9-11.   Those in all the Mideast since 2001 lower than a single year in the Vietnam War (1966).

Great social upheaval in the American 60’s, where American college students would protest anything, also indirectly led to the end of the military draft,  as well as to improved social justice for American minorities, such as with the Voting Rights Act.   In sum, every country has its own successful story of what national introspection can bring.     

Still the political process can either help or hinder such a thing, regardless of the type of government.  Democracy is slow to bring change, as it is process driven.   Outsized influence can also be corrupting, which is why there are still no new gun law reforms in America.    Regardless of the amount of self-reflection, change can still be blocked in disheartening ways. 

But more disheartening is when a nation with a history of turmoil, and the ability to change, still refuses to do so, when change does not serve the self interest of the powers that be.    Make no mistake; China can change when it chooses to do so.  Those of us that saw the anti Falun Gong campaign in Beijing in 1999 were astounded with how quickly, and well organized this drive was and the sect was quickly shut down.    TV and Print both were ruthless in their efficiencies. 

There are many examples of nations reinventing themselves, in the name of introspection.    I want to list a few obvious examples.   These societies changed for the better.  It is interesting to note how this change was brought about.    In my view, all relevant to the Chinese Condition today.

The American South

One nice thing about national reflection is the potential reversal of a “way of life”.    Thus, I bring you the American South.   Its ways, its customs, its beliefs, were nothing more repugnant than that of the Germans with the Jews later.   Since before the founding of America, the South had its “negro problem”.    It took the ability of the people to see the British occupation as a bigger problem, however and the fact that America’s best generals and politicians were from Virginia, a pro slave state, to belay the issue.  For example, everyone knows both Washington and Jefferson held slaves.   

Perhaps the American South knew something we did not?  Britain actually banned the slave trade in 1807 and outright slavery itself within the British Empire in 1833.   Still, it flourished in America unscathed until the very last day of the American Civil War in 1865.   It wasn’t enough that astute Americans saw the inevitable outbreak of war long, long before it actually began.  The decades leading up to war was only so much jockeying. 

In this time of chivalry, when war was full of honor and glory, there was no such thing as a gatlin gun, and no one knew of Matthew Brady.  Photography as an historical witness was not yet realized.    The American South believed it had a god given right to own slaves, but the bottom line was the abolishment of slavery would cause the Southern Elites to become less profitable, and they were willing to fight to maintain it, and were more than willing to spill blood to preserve it. 

The South truly believed it had God on its side.   With them, there would be no compromise.   They were a blessed people, and it took a war of total destruction, and the complete devastation of The South to “convince” The South to abolish slavery.   Nothing short of economic misery and cultural humiliation could have ended slavery in The South.   Nothing but Total War.      Not compromise, not negotiations.    Only unconditional defeat could fundamentally change how life was lived in The South.  18% of all Southern Males between 13 and 43 died in this war.   I dare say no Western country will probably ever have such a casualty rate again.

However, thanks to a lenient North, and the want for reconciliation, the North quite frankly looked the other way for a hundred years further before the Black Man was able to see further social progress.  That is, the North treated The South more like a wayward brother, than a resolute enemy.   
There were no reparations.  Few trials, and fewer executions. So while Slavery was abolished, the “mentality” of the South remained intact for another 100 years.   As such, there was too little introspection.  Why?  Because Wayward Brother knew that Big Brother would never kick it out of the House.   I dare say today, with the passing of our grandparents, have the holders of the last vestiges of Jim Crow left the scene.   And introspection taken its place. 

Weimar Germany

I need to dwell carefully here, as I do not know if the Germans felt themselves the center of Europe or not?   I do not know if Germans actually knew what was happening around them, ie the extermination of the Jews.  I do know the Germans felt they were militarily and perhaps culturally superior to the rest of Europe.   In short, Germany did not become dangerous until it drank the koolaid.   

What is beyond doubt is this military tendency of the Germans to wage wars in Europe came to an end only with utter devastation and ruin.    The rise of Hitler in the thirties, his open campaigns against the Jews, though perhaps not the extent, were all public knowledge.  His ability to inspire a nation unparalleled.   The willingness with which the German Army rampaged across Europe is all too well known.   Would the Atomic Bomb have been dropped on Europe if the opportunity was provided?   I don’t know.   But I do know Hitler was never going to accept any accommodation with the Allies.  

Even through the destruction of nearly every German city, and the merciless advance of the Soviet Army upon the German population, there was no surrender.   (Even when the Russians were already in Berlin!)   Only with the suicide of Hitler did peace come. Then came hunger and the urgency to rebuild.  Introspection is not a one day event.  German introspection has lasted for decades, through both the cinema and written record.   Only then was the German Nation able to look itself in the eye and change.   It is a nation unrecognizable from the 1930’s and 40’s.   It is the financial powerhouse of Europe, and a responsible neighbor.   A strong, powerful and confident country, for all the right reasons.  But self-reflection and social progress did not happen overnight.  It took total and utter defeat for it to come about. 

Imperial Japan 

Japan is an easier story to tell.   At least to me.  The Japanese were more savage, brutal and less merciful than any army in recent times save that of the Red Army versus Germany.    They operated under a veil of “Asian Nationalism”, albeit under the old guise of “with Japanese characteristics”.     

For some reason, the Japanese had a lust for China, a greed and a wanting that could only be salved by savagery and violence.   

Japan wanted to be King of the Hill and it got its wish.   Alas, Japan could have abandoned China if it wanted too, but Face and a short fuck name Tojo dictated otherwise and the die was cast.   America saw Japan’s ascendance as early as the time of Theodore Roosevelt, and there was nothing it could do about it, because while  Japan could not give up China, America could not give up the Philippines.   

And the Japanese People went along for the ride.  Wildly in support of “Japan’s Destiny”, to Hell with the consequences.   The grip of the Japanese Military was so tight upon society it took not one but two A bombs to bring about surrender, and that was only after a coup was averted at the last minute.

If not for the A bombs the Allies would have had to invade Japan.  It would have got messy.   Kamikazes would swarm the beach. 

Those of us that have lived in Japan all wonder how Japan was what it was:  an unrepentant, psycho jail warden and cold blooded killer…a lootist that stripped anything of value from every little country in Asia for its own whims. 

Only cold blooded murder on such a large scale as the A bomb could have ended the war as quickly as it did.   (The Tokyo Fire Bombing didn’t do it.) And what happened?   The Japanese had a serious turn on the couch that lasted decades.  A pacifist constitution has been in place since the end of WW2 and is only now thanks to China’s threat slowing being modernized, ie torn up. 

Would Japan have changed on its own?  Nope.  It took a country that figured out a way to “out brutalize” Japan itself.   It is ironic that only a higher level of violence could defeat Japan.   America had realized long before that “talk” was not going to win anything.   And after surrender Japan was on the verge of mass starvation until the outbreak of the Korean War saved its economy.    Only than could Japan find the time to “reflect” on why it “had all come to this”.    

Of these three examples I think China will resemble more the American South.  Japan and Germany have their crazies, but no one questions that only the complete annihilation of their armies and devastation wrought upon the people was what finally woke these peoples out of their hallucinated state of delusion.   In essence they had to get the shit kicked out of them in order to see clearly. 

And this will never happen with China, and that is the problem.  And that is why there is no hope for positive change within China not only within our lifetimes but quite possibly those of our children as well.   Unless China does something stupid like attack Taiwan or deliberately sink an American carrier, nobody is going to be “kicking the shit” out of China anytime soon.    Only a colossal and humiliating military defeat, or economic collapse could bring about social upheaval within the Heavenly Kingdom.  The legitimacy of the government, like those of Japan’s and Germany’s, would only than be called into question. 

The pride, the sense of destiny will not only continue to exist but continue to grow.  There are 525 million Chinese under the age of 30.   These people have never known a China without McDonald’s or Starbucks.  They do not know a China that was weak or poor or could not travel to Hong Kong, much less travel abroad.    They are a confident China that probably will not listen to people of my time, or of their grandparent’s generation, reminiscing about when China was “poor” or “backward”. 

They only see one direction, and that is up.  Yet their expectations have no context.   So these Youth cannot temper their expectations.   They are too busy thinking of Wealth, and how to get ahead at the expense of their neighbor, to stop and reflect.  They know nothing of this吃苦, that is a stage all Chinese are supposed to “go through”.    In short, they will have nothing “to reflect” about.   It’s a perfect storm, really. 

Like in most countries, there will be no serious widespread introspection in China until it’s too late.  The only question is what will be the cause, and how will all of us be affected?


  1. Hopefully this is just part one, because the last two sentences are the ones that really matter. The penultimate sentence is one of human nature (people still denying global warming) and systematic (Southern WAY of Life). How are these two things working together to prevent introspection and change in China? And the last sentence is about fissures, those divisions in society that could widen out of the system's control. I've already posited that 剩男 could be one such fissure and that a land war could be the system's response. It's a crazy-sounding hypothetical, but, to me, plausible. Other fissures, and the human response to them so as to maintain the system, would make a good part two. Smiley face emoticon.

    1. Mike, you are depressing me.
      I remember(for those that do not), that you believe China may deliberately start a war with it's neighbors simply to reduce it's 剩男. But with who? India, yes? China actually could have taken all of Siberia and Mongolia if it so desired, in the 18 century and before. Probably could use that land now.

      Dude, I just wrote approx 2300 words. This will prob stay as is:-(

      "Human nature" is what bothers me. China is rapidly approaching an emotional state in my view akin to America in the 1890's, ie a thirst for "adventure". All it needs is a leader to publicly advocate one.

      Imagine if China had a Putin? Someone who is not afraid to anger the American President and as direct as Putin?
      China's youth knows little of hardship and thanks to relentless CCP teaching, feels a need to reclaim it's destiny. What will be the pathway towards accomplishing that?

  2. The analogy to the Old South is pretty good. However, China has an additional problem of having a "face-based" society. This makes backing down at crucial times very difficult.

    On the hand, Southern society was more complex than the Antebellum and Post-War Jim Crow image. There was a urban/rural split, regional split (deep south, west, border states/northern south), class split (landowners/poor whites) etc. This is similar to China today. China is not a monolithic being like it is often portrayed in Western media.

  3. Yep, dead on. The South I would argue however, was also a "Face Driven" society, which led to it's stubbornness and pride. The complete destruction of the South from War was necessary. And even then the Southern Way of Thinking took over a 100 years to disintegrate. I need to be careful here though.

    It's important for readers outside of America to understand the South is probably the most vibrant part of the USA today, and interracial dating is quite common. Please do not use this post as a crutch for understanding the Modern South today.

  4. "Like in most countries, there will be no serious widespread introspection in China until it’s too late. The only question is what will be the cause, and how will all of us be affected?"

    Reading in 2020. It's time for you to revisit many of your old topics. Looking forward to the content ahead.

  5. I agree....I really do! I wish my readers would also do the same! Thank you!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

KTV in China

The worst sex I've ever had with China Girl is with China Wife

Pros and Cons of a Chinese Wife