The Rice-Sprout Song

A few days before I left China, a friend handed me two books by Eileen Chang, an author who for a long time had been on my list but who I never actually got around to reading. I read one of them, The Rice-Sprout Song, on my flight home from China nearly a month ago, and a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about it at least once. Although it came out in 1955 and there’s no need for yet another review, I had to put down a few thoughts.

The Rice-Sprout Song is set in China’s countryside during the early days of Mao’s tyranny, when “land reform” promised the rural poor great hope that would soon lead to the horrors of collectivization, famine and death on a scale that was until then unimaginable. It’s a desolate book about a terrible subject we all know about but have, in all likelihood, never truly experienced, hunger. Its metaphor for hunger is the watery gruel the poor eat for every meal as they slowly starve.

That this was Chang’s first English novel is extraordinary, it is so perfectly crafted, its characters so real and the language assured and perfect. The book has two heroes, a “model worker” in the village, Gold Root, and his wife Moon Scent. After many pages of bleakness, we detect the first hints of joy in Gold Root’s longing for Moon Scent, who has gone to work in Shanghai as a maid. He misses her so intensely he travels to Shanghai, his first time out of the countryside, to spend a few days with her, a sad event marked by Gold Root’s sense of isolation and awkwardness, his crushing poverty contrasted by “bejeweled ladies going to parties in their shiny silk gowns and high-heeled gold shoes.”

Chang tells how a cadre from the city is sent down to their village to live exactly as the peasants do and learn from them, and soon he, too, is starving. Only he has the resources to go to a nearby town and stuff himself with tea-boiled eggs, as he denies the hunger in his reports. He notes to himself that anyone who suggests there is truth to the whispers that the poor are starving will immediately be labeled a nationalist spy and put to death. Gold Root and Moon Scent are both doomed, victims of the insanity that grew out of Mao’s policies. Gold Root is outraged that officials deny that the peasants are starving to death. He will soon pay for his insistence on speaking the truth, dragging Moon Scent down with him.

The oddest character in the book is the village’s leading official, Comrade Wong, a jovial, likable man. Chang devotes many pages to humanizing him, telling how he met his beloved wife and how she left him, describing his loneliness and his knowledge that he will never rise from being a low-level functionary. We think Wong is a good man – and he probably is. But when the day comes that he meets with the starving peasants and tells them each must donate a pig as a gift to the army and prepare rice dumplings for the soldiers, we hate him with a passion. Gold Root cries out that they are literally starving, they have nothing. Wong beams with a wide smile and insists that surely they can accommodate this modest request for their country’s brave soldiers. It is the high point of the book and it marks Gold Root’s descent from “Model Worker” to an outraged, infuriated rebel clamoring for justice. Of course, he will soon be labeled a reactionary, and will be shot to death in the ensuing violence.

The words of my Chinese teacher in Beijing kept coming back to me as I read this book: her telling me how her family grew up hungry, and how no matter what the Chinese government did today, she and all other Chinese would feel unending gratitude that the days of hunger were over. Nothing matters when you are hungry; only food. Today, the Chinese people are no longer starving, and that shift, from starvation to having enough food on the table, was a seismic one. For anyone seeking to understand how the Chinese people can accept a government that censors, steals, enriches itself from the poverty of its people and thinks nothing of their human rights, I suggest they read this book. It doesn’t touch on any of these topics per se, but it shows you all too vividly what life was like not so long ago (and Chang’s account deals with China prior to the great famine; the horror was only just beginning). And then you look at China today, my teacher’s China. No matter what we think of the government, hundreds of millions who were starving saw their situations turn around. For some 200 million or so, their poverty stayed the same or became even worse, but for the vast majority, it was a new world: they had food. As you read The Rice-Sprout Song, it becomes clearer just why the government today is given so much latitude, whether it was the CCP that put food on the people’s tables or their own hard work once Mao’s insanities were thrown on the rubbish heap where they belonged. When you have gone from generations of hunger to having food, you’ve undergone a sea change, a miracle. There has been no other turnaround like it in the history of civilization. So I understand what my Chinese teacher was telling me, whether I agree or not.

Corrupt officials still terrorize the countryside, and perhaps they always will; the exploitation of the marginalized by the powerful is history’s oldest story. What this book does is make palpable the helplessness of China’s rural poor, placing the reader in their freezing huts as the government’s absurd decrees destroy their lives, chipping away at their dignity, ultimately killing them wholesale. In one of its most heartbreaking scenes, soldiers ransack their homes, stealing the very last bits of food they have hidden away. The peasants’ calamity is complete; they have no recourse, no hope, nothing but their hunger.

I read a number of books of China over the past few weeks and will try to put up some posts, hopefully briefer than this one, with my recommendations. In the meantime, if you’ve never read this book, which Chang wrote in English (another source of amazement), I urge you to get a copy. It can easily be read in a day or two, and it will leave you furious, anguished, dumbstruck and horrified. You’ll hear the voices of its characters in your head for a long time to come, and no matter how well you already understand the famine and Maoism and land reform, you will feel like you are right there, living the insanity. That is not a comfortable feeling, but one that will make your compassion for the Chinese people richer and deeper than ever before.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 57 Comments

Richard, welcome back, and what a great post to resume your blogging. I definitely want to read this book now. And I think what you’ve said is absolutely true.

August 28, 2009 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Richard, this is a beautiful review of what I am sure is a beautiful book. Thank you for sharing this obscure gem. I understand and appreciate the argument that your Beijing Chinese teacher was making. It is a valid point. What is political freedom compared to survival? At the same time, I will always remember the secret confession of a friend of mine from China, who said they hated the Communists passionately for what they had done to the country.

August 28, 2009 @ 6:16 am | Comment

Thanks Lisa. This post was percolating for a few weeks. Now I hope I can get into the swinging of blogging again.

August 28, 2009 @ 6:18 am | Comment

Tyson, I SO agree. Almost all Chinese people I know are critical of the party – there are things all of them hate. But most are also patriotic and express a lot of confidence in their government. A contradiction, sure. But then, don’t most Americans feel the same way about their own government?

August 28, 2009 @ 6:30 am | Comment

A very big caveat needs to be attached to this book: it was commissioned as propaganda by the United States Information Service. Being propaganda does not necessarily make something false, but the fact that it is propaganda shouldn’t be ignored.

August 28, 2009 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Richard nice to read a new post. I am sure you are going through China withdrawl/
Hope you are well.
Diane

August 28, 2009 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Excellent post and illustration about the Chinese rationale. The city I live here in the states has a very high Chinese population. I speak a little Chinese and have made many Chinese friends here. Friendships that would allow one to speak openly about their country’s government. I am always shocked at the patriotism for such an oppressive government. Most seem to really despise the censorship more than anything, but almost everyone seems to be quite supportive of Hu and the CCP. I think your starting to help me see why that is.

Hopefully the next generation, the one with full bellies since birth, will try and reform some of the more archaic policies. At this point, the steps are small, but they seem headed in the right direction.

August 28, 2009 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

Cat, I have to admit I had no idea this was written as propaganda and you sure wouldn’t know it as you read it, though now that you bring it up it isn’t inconceivable. as a novel, it’s prefect nevertheless.

Dror, China’s recovery may well be built on air. I believe they are in dire trouble, simply because the math doesn’t work – China cannot sustain its spending without the exports that made its economic miracle possible. However, the food on people’s plates since Deng’s reforms, imperfect and inequitable as they were, is real, and that’s all I am referring to in this post.

August 28, 2009 @ 10:03 pm | Comment

Good to see you posting again, Richard! And thanks for the insightful review, I will have to look for this one.

August 29, 2009 @ 12:23 am | Comment

It may have been written as propaganda, but it beats the pants off what Chinese writers were forced to write according to the proscriptions laid down by Mao at his Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art that governed Chinese literature for decades.

August 29, 2009 @ 5:05 am | Comment

A friend who is knowledgeable on the subject had this to say on the propaganda element, and the book’s being banned in China:

The book (and also the other one The Naked Earth) were written
on a commission basis for the United States Information Services
(which is a CIA front and take the form of the NED nowadays).
This meant that she was given an ‘outline’ but she was free to
fill out the details. The product had to be “acceptable” in the end.
Is that important? Well, you ought to read the book and decide for
yourself.

By the way, The Rice Sprout Song is freely available on the
Chinese Internet. It appears on innumerable websites and blogs,
such that there is no way to delete it everywhere.
Anyone who wants to read it can read it, which makes the ban
even more of a sham.

From my perspective, the CCP would want citizens to read this book and to better appreciate the changes reform brought. On the other hand, the book does make the party out to be obscenely obtuse and blinded by its own ideology, so I can understand the ban (even though the ban, like most bans in China, is meaningless).

August 29, 2009 @ 5:47 am | Comment

What Are the Responsibilities of a Chinese Living in America

Today’s post is about the responsibility of a Chinese living in America. I think all Chinese living in America have the responsibility of helping and enlightening foreigners.

Last year I taught English as a favor to a friend, in a school in Zhuhai, China. And I met a few of the English teachers there, some are from America, some are from Canada. From my observation of them, I find that at first glance, they are very polite, very moral, very courteous, very attentive to others, very loving.

But after a longer and closer observation, I find that they are only that way when in front of Chinese people. That is, when they know there are many Chinese people around, they’ll “act” to behave very moraly, very civilized, very loving. All those foreign teachers always tell some very touching stories, moral lectures, etc to their students, and most of those stories always lead to some lessons about God, about Love.

The reason those teachers do this, is because deep down, they firmly believe that the Caucasian race is of a superior one, a more civilized one, a more courteous one, a more cultured one, a more accomplished one. And the Chinese race, is an inferior once, a less developed, less courteous, less cultured one, and less accomplished one. Therefore, they think they have a moral responsibility to help and improve and englighten the Chinese, and oftentimes they are moved and touched by what they consider to be own selfless acts.

This is of course not new. Every citizen of every third world country can tell you similar stories and feelings. Historically, the steps of a cultural invasion by an emperialist power is first sending missionaries based on the belief that the barbarians need to be enlightened, need to be shown the love of God, the love of modernity. And of course, during their acts of enlightenment, they have done some objectively charitable things. But those charitable acts were with the intention of letting the Chinese people “wake up” and realize: “Oh, look how wonderful and benign and loving those Westerners are, compared to them, we are really just an inferior group of people!”. And those Chinese will start to do a lot of “self-reflections” on why they are not as wonderful as those loving and cultured Westerners. And slowly over many many years and centuries, the idea that Chinese people are simply of a lower class are firmly rooted even in the minds of many “elite” Chinese. And those elite Chinese will want to separate themselves from the regular Chinese, and help the Westerner englighten China further. And of course that led to the first Opium War, the second Opium War, the invasion and looting of the Qing Dynasty by the Western allied forces (otherwise known as the Boxer Rebellion in Western terms).

The reality is of course, the Chinese have a longer civilization, a higher level of development, more courteous, more civilized, more cultured, more loving, more moral, and more enlightened. The West simply utilized some forms of non-renewable energy in the last few hundred years, and is only strong temporarily, from a material point of view. Or, as the famous Western scholar Samuel Huntington said:

[quote] “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” [/quote]

Now, you may say, “Where is your evidence!?!?”. Well let’s look at the military. Look at the number of scandals left by the American military everywhere they are based – frequentg rapes against Japan civilians, hitting Italian cable car in the mountain, crushing Korean girl to death in Seoul, and everytime an American ship docks in Hongkong, there’s bound to be at least one incident of sexual harassment by American sailors in a bar.

Overseas Chinese should have the responsibility in educating and enlightening the Whites, not the other way around. I propose a mental exercise when interacting with a white man. When you see him/her, do not feel like you are talking to a superior thing, instead remind yourself that you are talking to a lower class being, an ape. I often teach this mental exercise to my son, and he now appears to be a fully confident and assertive and handsome young man.

You must often suggest to the Whites they are the wrong ones, the inferior ones, the ones needing enlightenment. No no no, this is not how to be polite, THIS is how to be polite. No no no, God does not exist, believing in God is a sign of backwardness. No no no , this is not good music, THIS is good music. No no no, this is not appropriate familial relations, THIS is appropriate familial relations. No no no, this is not delicious food, THIS is delicious food. No no no, this is not advanced level math, THIS is advanced level math. The more such examples you can point out in front of them, the better it is for you and for them.

Now, you say. Don’t Chinese also need to learn from the Westerners? Of course we do. But I think the best way to learn is through teaching others. In college, I often was asked to tutor students. And I find that when I tutor them, I go through a thorough re-discovery and review of my knowledge and skills, and it makes me understand certain things better. It is a journey of self-discovery and strengthening self-confidence. Therefore, to learn, it is better to teach than to follow, better to correcting others’ mistakes than pretending you are wrong. This is the best way to improve yourself.

Same thing with reading. When you read a book written by a foreigner, just remind yourself that this is a book written by someone with questionable knowledge and skills.

All in all, Chinese living overseas need to constantly remind themselves of this. Without understanding this, we risk lowering ourselves to the same level as the Westerners, and risk being on the receiving end of a missionary, risk being morally debased and losing one’s self-dignity.

August 29, 2009 @ 8:57 am | Comment

It’s such hard work, being Math…

August 29, 2009 @ 9:01 am | Comment

And I actually think he’s…what is it that happens after you’ve gone off the deep end? Cause he’s there.

August 29, 2009 @ 9:02 am | Comment

He had posted the exact same comment in an earlier thread that I decided to take down for a number of reasons. He is definitely in a category all by himself. He writes fairly well, and with undeniable passion. But whenever I read his peculiar diatribes, I’m reminded of what as Alice says in Through the Looking Glass: “Their books look like our books, only the words go the wrong way!”

August 29, 2009 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Tell Math that Chinese are not a race.

August 29, 2009 @ 11:00 am | Comment

There is something on your post does doesnt match. At least in my logic.

The party brought such deep hunger to China and now… you should be grateful to them?

They brought the disaster in the first place, and only after of long years of suffering, destructions of lives and catastrophes they decided/were forced to change the situation.

It is like someone keeps you in cage, make you suffer with deep hunger, destroy your life completely and when he finally decides to open the cage, although not wide open, and give you some food, you should be deeply grateful to him.

Like one of my computer science teachers used to say… It doesn’t compute!
But maybe yeas,.. if you consider a method of subjugating people. A heinous method.

The very system that allowed such madness is still in place, may be it is not so mad like before, but mad still. And it may be easier than one think to return to madness of the past.

August 29, 2009 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

Ecodelta, thanks for the comment. Yes, the CCP brought the catastrophe on with the Mao cult and rigid adherence to ideology over fact. But Deng’s government, with its emphasis on personal wealth, reaching outward and undoing the horrors of Maoism was a very different government. In some ways it was an extension of the old government, in that it still put its choke-hold on power above all else. But remember, the first thing Deng did was put the radical fringe (the Gang of Four) in prison and set China on a far more sane and successful course, undoing the insanities of his predecessor. I cannot say today’s CCP displays anything like the madness of Mao’s. It has its evil side and it does a lot of awful things. But compare that to what it once accommodated – the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, collectivization, the brain death of the world’s largest population – and look at where its people are today compared to then, and I think you have to see some huge and fundamental changes, mainly for the better. Is that a green light for the CCP? Not at all. But the fact that it is now run by engineers instead of ideologues is just that, a fact, and it is considerably different than it was in the 1950s.

August 29, 2009 @ 10:06 pm | Comment

Richard wouldn’t be back if Math weren’t posting on his threads. Hello, by the way – did you have a good flight back to the US? Settled in well?

I think the hunger theme is something you’ve touched on before, if my memory serves me correctly. Those who knew poverty and hardship in previous decades are just happy to have more opportunities. What happens in the future when few people outside of retirement know about a difficult recession, let alone real hardship, is an important point. But for the moment hundreds of millions of Chinese are still glad for what they have, not what they might have.

I’ll have to put it on my reading list.

August 29, 2009 @ 11:20 pm | Comment

Raj, thanks for the comment. It would be impossible for me to have blogged about China for six years without writing at some point about hunger, so I’m sure there are several posts that touch on it. I agree with everything you say, and am nervous about what happens when the economy is less robust. Right now it’s being kept robust artificially, and unlike the US, China’s fundamentals aren’t yet strong enough for a transition back to economic independence (free of government intervention).

The flight back to the US was wonderful. I got a discount ticket on Singapore Airlines business class and was in heaven. Best food and service on the planet; it was like I was in a 6-star hotel for 12 hours. My recent flight to Bali, on the other hand, was hell – 30 hours each way with layovers, all in economy, and I literally thought I was going to collapse at one point when I caught a cold and experienced for the first time what it’s like to fly with a sinus condition. Never again.

August 29, 2009 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

oiasunset, feel free to comment, but if you just want to insult people I won’t tolerate it. If you have a problem with liberalism, state your case. But if all you can do is sneer and mock and insult….

August 29, 2009 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Hhhhmmnmn….. God save us from an engineers led government. I I know that quite well, must work with engineers all day.
;-)

August 30, 2009 @ 12:16 am | Comment

As a long-time resident of Zhuhai (with a rather small number of foreigners) I’m anxious to “root around” a little and see if I can pull back the curtain on our illustrious friend Math.

But what he said could be total B.S. as well…

August 30, 2009 @ 2:00 am | Comment

Great review. Please DON’T make them shorter!

August 30, 2009 @ 4:13 pm | Comment

Math might be related to HongXing! China will never be a great county if we Chinese all have that knid of mentality.

August 31, 2009 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

They are definitely related. This has come up before, and there’s proof they’ve teamed up on other sites to stir up pro-CCP, anti-US passions. They deserve one another. To Math’s credit, he at least knows how to remain polite, without savaging anyone who disagrees.

Dan, thanks for the comment. It’s been a long time.

September 1, 2009 @ 12:06 am | Comment

I don’t know if your teachers thinking is really rational… I mean, yeah, the people were less united as a formal country before CCP and were suffering quite a bit of poverty. But the real hideous damage occurred, as you said, throughout Mao’s specific plot. I think the people were hugely influenced by propaganda and were forced by terrible threats of torture and murder to go along with the scheme. I’m just saying that it was a massive deadly bamboozle, so is it like Stockholm syndrome that your teacher has, or do they simply not know about the fact that the CCP implemented the mass killing?

September 1, 2009 @ 7:19 am | Comment

Did Deng undo the insanities? Or was putting away the Four just a picture of that? How many people murdered? How many plotted that scheme? Was Deng really that different? Deng knew that in order to keep the CCP in power, they really had to let people make money and survive, so he let things change.

But if the CCO has changed so much, then why do they still need to apply so much propaganda and censorship? Why do they still need to misinform and obscure history? Why are they so afraid of losing power if they have really changed? If they had really changed, wouldn’t they act like it by admitting that June4 was cruel and irrational? Wouldn’t they be able to really talk frankly about the cultural revolution and Falun Gong?

I think that the Chinese progressed so much because they were simply allowed to make money, and they are good at that.

September 1, 2009 @ 7:30 am | Comment

Nanjinger, they see the CCP under Mao as a different organism than that under Deng, which isn’t really that far-fetched a notion, despite the similarities I mentioned above in reply to ecodelta. It would be Stockholm Syndrome if they loved their government at the time. And maybe some were so indoctrinated they did. But they didn’t love hunger. They hated that, always, and its relief has meant a new world for them.

If you look at China today and at China under Mao, you see a very different picture and a very different government. When you read the Rice Sprout Song this becomes especially clear (in terms of how difficult a world it was back in the 1950s). I highly recommend it. You’ll see, I believe, that there was very little Stockholm Syndrome at the time. There was a lot of rage and misery. There was huge resistance to collectivization and deep resentment of it. The appreciation of the masses that guarantees the CCP holding onto power for at least the immediate future, if not forever, derives from the overthrow of that old system, from the rejection of Mao (while keeping up the faux homage, of course). The Chinese, in direct contradiction to the Stockholm Syndrome theory, see their post-CR government as liberators who saved them from crushing poverty and starvation, casting the radical villains into prison. Whether they are correct to see this, and whether it is a dangerous attitude that gives their leaders far too much power is irrelevant to the discussion. It just is, and those of us who hope to analyze the phenomenon from a Western perspective will end up flummoxed and mystified. We should all read this book. Especially if we actually believe these victims, starved virtually to death in the millions, loved the powers that were killing them. That notion is false. (They do, to some extent, still love Mao, again to the mystification of anone looking from the outside in. Mao remains relatively untouchable, the government skillfuly protecting his reputation, and casting Madame Mao as the main architect of the CR and determining Mao was only 30 percent malignant.)

September 1, 2009 @ 7:43 am | Comment

Snow, if you don’t think China changed dramatically after Deng came to power, then there’s no use having a discussion. Go to the big cities today and look at their photos from the 50s and tell me there wasn’t a very dramatic change that can be directly traced to Deng, whether we like him or not. I know, China can’t be forgiven for persecuting your beloved Falun Gong, something this blog has criticized for many years, but those evils don’t make the changes – from isolated backwater to major power, from hunger to plenty – any less real. China has a long way to go. Deng helped put them on a better track, as much as I despise much of what he did. Just imagine if Madame Mao had won, and her agenda for complete radicalization had been put into effect. All in all, considering where China was, it has come a long way. It has an even longer way to go, but it’s certainly made incredible strides. How much of that is directly attributable to the CCP is debatable. The improvements are not.

September 1, 2009 @ 7:49 am | Comment

@Richard
Still there is a contradiction. If the modern CCP(V2.0) is considered better than the old CCP(V1.0 or V0.3Beta), why is there such a need of censorship, thought control and clamp down of right defenders?

If they are doing so well, what is what they fear so much?

The CCP repressive actions seems to me go to far if it is sow well considered, or at least not so much despised by Chinese people.

Something does not match here.

September 1, 2009 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

A huge contradiction. If they loosened up instead of going insane every time they were challenged, it would be to their benefit. They are insecure, fearful, irrational and prickly. What they fear is anyone thinking differently, because in their eyes it could lead to a loss of their power. But they’ve always been this way, and there are some signs of improvement, though it’s always three step forwards and two steps back. They’ve definitely become more sensitive to public opiion, and if you look at some of the recent articles in China Daily you’ll see they are allowing scathing attacks that even a few years ago would be unthinkable. They abandoned Green Dam Escort in the wake of a public relations debcle, freed Xu Zhiyong and opened the doors to an unprecedented wave of criticism. See this artice, for example – I can’t imagine anything like that appearing when I first arrived in 2002.

They’re still fearful and paranoid. (I see crap like this and I give up all hope.) And maybe these are token gestures they’re using somewhat cynically as a release valve for an angry public. They also know that their economy is much more fragile than meets the eye, and if it worsens, any unrest could ignite the tinderbox. So they retain their chokehold on what can be said. And most Chinese people don’t care all that much, seeing the censorship as more of a nuisance than anything else, and for many it’s simply the status quo, they expect their government to censor. Most simply don’t care: they can eat and they can get rich. I would say that most have a big gripe with the government and many would go so far as to say they hate it. And they would also not want to change to a different government. Yes, a mismatch, as you say. But that’s their reality, no matter how illogical or bizarre we on the outside may perceive it to be.

September 1, 2009 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

While Mao’s incompetence brought so much suffering within China, Mao will be remembered for uniting China together. Between the fall of the Qing Dynasty and 1949, there were alot of turnoil within China, from civil wars between warlords and the KMT to the Japanese invasion. So from the historical perspective, China was better off when Mao was in power.

September 2, 2009 @ 12:01 am | Comment

@Richard
“They are insecure, fearful, irrational and prickly”
Maybe they just need a Psychologist and some couching courses.

A future business opportunity? ;-)

September 2, 2009 @ 2:27 am | Comment

@pug_ster
If such a disaster is what I have to pay for unity, I prefer disunity.

And who can tell what could be better for CH, more or les independent nations or a centralized state?

At least with decentralized countries the ravings of the powers that be would be limited.

Also The Warring States Period was not so bad.
Iron workings replaced bronze, schools of philosophy and trade.

It may be quite possible that the renaissance, the enlightenment and the industrial revolution would have never taken place in EU if it were a centralized empire.

September 2, 2009 @ 2:36 am | Comment

It was easier for the Spaniard to subdue the centralized Aztec and Inka empires (specially the Inka) than subdue the fragmented tribes North of El Rio Grande. (Mexican border with todays US)

With Aztec and Inka empires, just cut the head and much of the work is done. With the tribes further north, in much of what today is US, after one tribe was subdued, the next one appeared… endlessly.

By the way, shortly after Aztec and Inka empires conquests there was a meeting in the Philippines (Spanish colony at the time) tho discuss if the same trick, a decapitation strategy, could be pulled off with the Chinese Empire…..

Just imagine if they have tried…. and succeeded. ;-)

A Yuan or Manchu dinasty with Spanish characteristics plus possessions in most of America and Europe ;-)

September 2, 2009 @ 3:11 am | Comment

@ecodelta,

You obviously never lived thru a Japanese occupation in China and make jokes about it. My parents told me of stories when my grandparents hid days on out in the woods from the Japanese Army because they don’t want to end up to be like the people in Nanjing. Unfortunately there are people who brought babies and they cry. These babies have to shut up one way or another. Unfortunately, these are the stories you don’t hear much about.

September 2, 2009 @ 4:11 am | Comment

When did I mention the Japanese occupation?

It is more in your mind than in mine.

Also, if you let the horror of the past to project a shadow in the present, you allow that evil to damage the present and future again.

Was it not enough with the damages that were done in the past.

And yes, I know the history quite well.

By the way, remember which country did more to end the Japanese occupation and even went to war because of it?

September 2, 2009 @ 4:18 am | Comment

@ecodelta,

That’s why you don’t understand why so many Chinese are so ‘brainwashed’ to believe that Mao was their savior when the government was formed in 1949.

When you say “By the way, remember which country did more to end the Japanese occupation and even went to war because of it?” You sound like some American Nationalist.

September 2, 2009 @ 4:42 am | Comment

@ecodelta
“You sound like some American Nationalist”

You are off by several time zones……

September 2, 2009 @ 4:52 am | Comment

@richard
I believe they are in dire trouble, simply because the math doesn’t work – China cannot sustain its spending without the exports that made its economic miracle possible.

China is not export dependent. Here: http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=10429271

The Economist is fairly anti-Chinese as well, but they are at least trying to be balanced. Japan and the Tigers are export (and import) dependent, China on the other hand is not so reliant on either imports or exports as they have more natural resources and arable land. What they lack is management and IPR, but they are working on that (faster than GDP is growing).

@hanmeng
It may have been written as propaganda, but it beats the pants off what Chinese writers were forced to write according to the proscriptions laid down by Mao at his Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art that governed Chinese literature for decades.

Wouldn’t this be called, ah, “tu quoque”? I know many posters love brandishing those two words.

@ecodelta
The party brought such deep hunger to China and now… you should be grateful to them?

The basic structure of democratic systems have created famines and race riots in India, disenfranchisement in Brazil, Jim Crow and Native American massacres in America and an economic disaster in Haiti. Things have changed in the last 30, 20, even 10 years.

They brought the disaster in the first place, and only after of long years of suffering, destructions of lives and catastrophes they decided/were forced to change the situation.

It is like someone keeps you in cage, make you suffer with deep hunger, destroy your life completely and when he finally decides to open the cage, although not wide open, and give you some food, you should be deeply grateful to him.

It wasn’t just the CCP that brought disaster, but the corrupt Qing Court, Soviets, Japanese, and American indifference as well as KMT mistakes. So in your opinion, the Chinese should hold an eternal grudge against not only the PRC, but the ROC, and the Japanese, and the Russians, and the Manchus, and the entire Western world?

Or should we just selectively forget, for your sake?

Just imagine if they have tried…. and succeeded. ;-)

Your hypothetical is pure nonsense. The Inca and Aztec collapsed due to disease. The fragmented nations were fragmented because of natural barriers, which of course work on the Spanish just as well as the Natives. If Spain had tried to conquer China, the whole of China would have unified, rapidly modernized, and humiliated them. What China had in the 1600s was a lack of enemies to push them towards heavily militarization.

By the way, remember which country did more to end the Japanese occupation and even went to war because of it?

None? America attacked Japan because Japan attacked America. If anything, America’s embargo against Japan and refusal to support a proclamation of racial equality at the league of nations created tension with Japan.

Japan would have burned itself out by the time they worked their way into inland China.

@snow
But if the CCO has changed so much, then why do they still need to apply so much propaganda and censorship?

To counter American anti-Chinese propaganda, selective reporting and hate crimes.

September 6, 2009 @ 2:42 am | Comment

@yourfriend

Thanks for your friendly answers ;-)

“The basic structure of democratic systems have created famines and race riots in India, disenfranchisement in Brazil, Jim Crow and Native American massacres in America and an economic disaster in Haiti. Things have changed in the last 30, 20, even 10 years.”
No famine in india can compare with what happened in China or Ukraine. Correct me if I am wrong.
No democratic system would produce an famine ordered from the top like in Stalin and Mao era.
Do not understand what you mean about Brasil.
Native American massacres?…. hard to compare with todays situation. That was more a confrontation between two different cultures, you can call it war among two nations. One conquered the other..

Haiti? Hardly a democracy. And Haiti problems lie well beyond the democracy issues.
No functional democratic system would allow such disaster as those that may happens in totalitarian/authoritarian systems. Mistakes can be make of course, sometimes thing can go quite wrong (hitler won the elections), but the tools to prevent them to go too deep are in place and in the hand of the people. Democracy does not prevent mistakes to occur, but it puts the means to let them run away too far, for too long time.
I prefer a Bush for 8 years than a Mao for more than 30.

“It wasn’t just the CCP that brought disaster, but the corrupt Qing Court, Soviets, Japanese, and American indifference as well as KMT mistakes. So in your opinion, the Chinese should hold an eternal grudge against not only the PRC, but the ROC, and the Japanese, and the Russians, and the Manchus, and the entire Western world?”
Agree that the source of CH problems and sufferings go well beyond the CCP. But it is the CCP who is in power now. And has been in power for long enough, and with absolute power!
As far as I know, the Qing are long gone, Japanese no longer occupy mainland China, Russia no longer tutelage China, Manchus are no longer the ruling class… and westerns just buy CH products, they no longer parade in gunboats up and down yangtse river.
If a CEO of a company blames former 8 former CEOs for its poor perfomance and company looses, time then to have 9 former CEOs….

“Your hypothetical is pure nonsense. The Inca and Aztec collapsed due to disease. The fragmented nations were fragmented because of natural barriers, which of course work on the Spanish just as well as the Natives. If Spain had tried to conquer China, the whole of China would have unified, rapidly modernized, and humiliated them. What China had in the 1600s was a lack of enemies to push them towards heavily militarization.”
It was just a funny though if you allow me, History fiction if you prefer, nonsense if you like. Not really serious.
On the other hand,I do not agree with disease as cause of collapse of Inca and Aztec. There were hefty battles before the collpase.
The way mexico was conquered was using the help from subjugated tribes against their masters, the aztecs. Much help came from the very indians.Ever heard of Malinche or of the Toltecas?
The incas was a lucky coup. The Spaniards were able to capture the emperor with at ruse. The Inca Empire was very centralized. In heavily centralized structure, like in chess, take the king and you win, or almost win.
Yes, disease was severe, and mortatily huge, but it came later. It destroyed the fabric of indian society later on, making easier for spaniards to strengthen their domination. The results of those diseases can still be seen today in Indian populations.
About CH. There was really that meeting in the Philippines… I dont think it would have been succesful. Technological diference between Spaniss Empire and CH Empire was not so great, if any at that time. Besides the Spaniard would not have had any mystic advantages as they had in America. There they were believed to be Gods or Gods messengers. Very handy in a war..
And China would be resistant to disease, the fabric of society would have hold.
But China was conquered several time by external forces. Mainly nomadic tribes.
I was just wondering what would happen if CH had been conquered by Spanish …nomadic tribes… instead. Just historical fiction, but interesting to explore the consequences.
Just imagine an empire that extended from Europe, Asia to America. The invaders eventually absorbed into Chinese culture, but providing them with world wide view.. possessions and deep blue see navy.

“America attacked Japan because Japan attacked America. If anything, America’s embargo against Japan and refusal to support a proclamation of racial equality at the league of nations created tension with Japan.”
America, more precisely the US, imposed an oil embargo to Japan as result of its war against CH. Japan could not ignore that embargo, there were two options, bend or attack the US and European powers in the area to gain access to the resources it needed.
There are some conspiracy theories that says the US really provoqued Japan attack through the embargo. I do not agree with those theories.
You may not have been taught that part of history at school but the sympathy towards China at that time in the US was very grea. Regrettably isolationism was stronger.. until Pearl Harbour. Still there were US volunteers fighting in CH. Maybe you know something about Cheanault´s Flying Tigers. (By the way, a new movie is coming end of this year about them from a CH director)
About the war, the US could have directed their main military efforts towards Europe theater, the main menace, leaving the pacific theater beyond Hawai to the japanese. But the US choose otherwise.
What would be of China today if the US fighting did not figth the Japanese all over the pacific and eventually into their own islands?
The Japanese could have succeeded in conquering all of China.
Would Russia have come to the rescue after the fall of Germany? Would we have now still a Japanese dominated China?
Maybe CH kids would have had to study in Japanese at school! CH people would be experiencing what Tibetans experience today, and Uighurs too…

“Japan would have burned itself out by the time they worked their way into inland China.”
With the Russians busy with the German army and without the American fighting the Japanese in the pacific? I dont think so.
China would have been burned down by the Japanese. To the ground. Its people faring not better than what Hitler had planed for the Russian people if he had won the war in the Eastern front.. subjugated, slaved and…when necessary exterminated. And there would be again an Emperor in CH, a japanese emperor.

September 6, 2009 @ 8:00 am | Comment

That was more a confrontation between two different cultures, you can call it war among two nations. One conquered the other..

Guess that applies to Mao’s “class struggle” too.

No functional democratic system would allow such disaster as those that may happens in totalitarian/authoritarian systems.

And I guess no no functional dictatorship would allow something like India’s massive malnourishment rate either.

I prefer a Bush for 8 years than a Mao for more than 30.

But I’d prefer Hu Jintao over Andrew Jackson and Bush for 8 years, or whatever leaders are causing India to have so much poverty.

and westerns just buy CH products

And try to destroy China (as well as Arabs, Slavs, etc), but other than that you’re right.

But China was conquered several time by external forces.

Only with the help of Chinese defectors.

What would be of China today if the US fighting did not figth the Japanese all over the pacific and eventually into their own islands?

That means Japan would be bombing the US with impunity, because it was of course Pearl Harbor and not China that brought the U.S involvement. Great sympathy for China? Practically no one cared. Back then non-whites were not human to America. There was no Marshall Plan for China.

Would we have now still a Japanese dominated China?

And Siberia. And possibly Russia. Possibly all of Europe.

CH people would be experiencing what Tibetans experience today, and Uighurs too…

You mean massive subsidies and discriminatory policies in their favor? I really doubt that.

China would have been burned down by the Japanese. To the ground.

Nope. Japan simply would not have enough resources. Their supply lines were already greatly strained by the time they pushed past the coast.

September 6, 2009 @ 12:28 pm | Comment

I don’t intent to deny that there is less hunger in China than during that particular ridiculous massacre. But, over the years, massacre after massacre, lie after lie, the CCP clinging to power at any cost to the people (over course having to make concessions when the people push) I just wonder what these people have been through mentally.

I think the CCP is up against a wall now, and if people criticize it, there is little that it can do since everyone seems to be watching. If they publicly attacked as in the case of the ’84 attack, countries might just go to the human rights tribunal (not cause they care, but because they are tired of being owned by China and might find in this a way to get out of some debt somehow…??) I just don’t think the CCP has the power left to actually do a full scale stifle and then deal with the after effects as it did in ’84 and the CR etc.

Richard, you said it would benefit the CCP to let people be free to criticize and know more truth. Sadly, I have to disagree. I think if they let the people have the truth, justice would follow, and I think they have committed crimes that you do not realize. So I think they will be pushed and pushed against their lies until the light shines on reality in China, well that’s how I see it anyway.

Of course, I’m not so much focusing on the money situation of China, more the truth and justice situation.

September 7, 2009 @ 7:07 am | Comment

Snow, I have to confess, I don’t understand a word of your 2nd paragraph in the comment above. Literally, not a word. Human rights tribunal? Where can I find them? Do they have a toll-free number? What are you referring to? A human rights pane people can appeal to and use it to get out of the debts they owe China? I am seriously missing something here. Either that, or you’re speaking in tongues. And those references to 1984 – do you by any chance mean 1989?

Snow: Richard, you said it would benefit the CCP to let people be free to criticize and know more truth.

Just curious, but where did I say this? This is what I actually said above:

“If they loosened up instead of going insane every time they were challenged, it would be to their benefit. They are insecure, fearful, irrational and prickly. What they fear is anyone thinking differently, because in their eyes it could lead to a loss of their power. But they’ve always been this way, and there are some signs of improvement, though it’s always three step forwards and two steps back.”

And I stand by that. It would be to their benefit to not go insane when they are criticized and lock people up and be perceived as frightened helpless thugs.

Ferin, thanks for the Economist link. I hope to get around to a post on that topic soon.

September 8, 2009 @ 6:10 am | Comment

If you already know this book is commissioned by the NED, then why read it with some passion? You already know it’s a book with clear political agenda.

Are you also paid for by the NED?

September 9, 2009 @ 5:48 am | Comment

I didn’t know until someone pointed it out, and I certainly didn’t hide it. The book stands on its merits and on Chang’s track record as a gifted novelist and deeply insightful observer of China. And yes, I am paid by the NED. But keep that between us, okay?

September 9, 2009 @ 5:53 am | Comment

Then you should work harder. NED is cutting its budget due to the recession, used to be 50cents/post, now it’s 30cents/post. I heard this from the Falun Gong people. That’s why snow is working so hard these days.

Watch out ,layoffs will be coming.

September 9, 2009 @ 6:16 am | Comment

@hongqi & richard
Once again an ad hominen logic fallacy to discredit an opinion

September 9, 2009 @ 1:19 pm | Comment

Ad hominen, and other logic fallacies, were already known to be unnappropiate replies in a discussion well before the foundation of the Han dinasty. :-P
Some people seem to be not much up to date with this.

September 9, 2009 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

I would be very surprised if philosophers like Mencius had not hear about these logical fallacies in his time, or at least discovered them all by himself.
And also disagree with it use in a discussion.

September 9, 2009 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

Richard, nice piece. Missed your blogs while you were away. How is it to be away from China. I live and work in Guangzhou and am reading up on China as well. reading Real China by Gettings now.Good read. A bit old , but is an English one with some good, relevant detail. Looking forward to more from you.

Vinod

September 9, 2009 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

HQ, you can’t talk like that here.

Richard

September 9, 2009 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

Richard’s GFW system in operation. A quite Polite and intelligent Piece of AI software. You should sell it to the net nanny.
Need some polish though, sometimes it sounds a little HALish.
;-)

September 9, 2009 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

Richard,

What I was trying to say was that the CCP can’t go all out, above ground because it is in a position of interdependence, and so has to at least seem responsible to laws and people.

By right tribunal I was referring to international laws and the UN. I guess I don’t exactly know how they work, but I do think the CCP has restraints on it from the outside whether it be about trade etc. or legal consequences…

Yeah, I meant June 4, ’89

“If they loosened up instead of going insane”, same genral principle, no?

September 12, 2009 @ 6:46 am | Comment

The difference, Snow, is I say more openness would help the Party, you say it would hurt. But I think we exhausted this topic.

September 12, 2009 @ 7:03 am | Comment

Hi, Falun Dafa Hao…

http://www.freedomforchina.blogspot.com

facebook group : Freedom For China – next time, your on facebook come check us out! we need all the members we can get, tell a friend!

Human Rights Music about China collected from around the world…alternative rock and all sorts, I really hope you will like it.

Goodness,
Zub

February 5, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Comment

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