• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Thoughts On China

May 2020

There’s a proposition around which, as of late, much of our political discourse has revolved. It holds that the embrace of China—that most populous and ancient of states—by the rest of the industrial, developed world has produced not injurious, but only salutary effects. The embrace of China by the greater world has been, it’s said, an objectively good and meritorious event, the type by which certain epochs on this grand and timeless planet are so propitiously marked. It was, after the long and insufferably depraved dictatorship of Mao Zedong—a ruler to whom, excepting Hitler and Stalin, there’s since been no tyrannical equal—an event upon which the tired eyes of history, still so penetratingly keen in their long and scrutinizing view, would favorably smile.

At long last, that old, massive, and still expanding country—in which, at the time of this writing, over a billion souls reside—was experiencing the novelty of a sudden rebirth. This, it seems, has been an experience for which, despite its limitless size and hardened antiquity, it’s been surprisingly nimbly prepared. Still, one can’t help to notice that this most ancient of empires, that by which, in any meaningful cultural way, both the sunbaked Egyptians and the rhapsodizing Greeks were preceded, would require for its continuation a wholesale rebirth. It seemed to be as old as the soil itself, the very land atop which it unflappably stood. It seemed to be as constant as the breeze by which its temperate climate was cooled. As such, it seemed that the stormy clouds of rejuvenation and the dawning of change were forces to which it was unsusceptible.

It’s clear, despite the sobering influence of these facts, that China has been born anew. Yet this doesn’t mean its national memory isn’t still scarred with the pains of its antiquated slights. China isn’t a nation from whose collective memory the bruises of its troubled past have been totally effaced. It still wears and feels them very near the surface of its skin. It’s still pained by a century of humiliation, a lifetime of exploitation, and a string of embarrassing defeats.

As we’ve discovered, of course, this supposed rebirth proved to be, if not entirely misleading, somewhat incomplete; China, both eldest and newest of nations, paradoxically anciently-rooted and vibrantly-sprung, seems not to have fully immersed herself in the baptismal waters of a refreshed political creed. That tide has not yet turned, and it sits speciously clean in a pool of fetid waste. The vestiges of its communist idealism, the scars of its Marxian frustrations, the aims of its totalitarian crusade, are still palpable to the touch. There is no garb, no shawl, no flowing robe of concealment under which they can hide. These are bumps, still unhealed, along which the Chinese leaders—to whose pious conception, the trinity of Marx, Confucius, and Mao remains a veritable triunal god—rub their yearning fingers. They’re protuberances by whose touch, with a solemn reflection on the past, and a restive thought of the future, a stifled anguish is elicited each and every time.

China’s entrance into our once dignified comity of nations, its acceptance into that grand pantheon of states, was considered nothing, if not good. It was finally joining those virtuous nations, those advanced and refined states among whose highest ideals such exalted notions of mutual progress, reciprocal gain, and universal peace were always reliably to be found. Far from our minds were the possibilities, odious even to conceive, that this once eminent, now fledgling nation of China, to whose hesitant ventures in the swirling winds of capitalism, liberalism, technology, science, and medicine we’d extended so much guidance and selfless good-will, might turn about and do us ill. Clouded by the sanguine outlook of our more hopeful gaze, we didn’t foresee the possibility that China might insult our welcome and plunge into our back its penetrating blade. We didn’t anticipate, perhaps as a consequence of our practiced naiveté, that it might debase our invitation, corrupt our institutions, manipulate our sympathy, and unleash upon our vulnerable and barren breasts an irremediable global plague.

These are but a few of the terrible crimes—legal, humane, and moral—of which that nefarious nation is, at least in the opinion of many close observers here in the West, rather convincingly accused. Undoubtedly, the list could go on, and it very likely should. One could comment, for instance, on China’s genocidal treatment of the Uighur Muslim population. This is a people, a persecuted and cheerless group, from whom the sacred and inviolable rights of worship, movement of person, and expression of thought have been so unjustly shorn. A fascinating and diverse race, the Uighurs are, by their very existence, a deep source of frustration to the Chinese Communist Party, a stick in the eye of the homogenizing impulse by which that unblinking giant is stirred.

The Uighurs, peculiar in many ways, have long clamored for the privilege to express their unique identity and enjoy the traditions and customs of which, with scarce imitation within our outside the boundaries of China, they’re the sole practitioners. In this desire, they’re not at all different from you or me. The difference is that we take for granted the freedom with which we were born—a freedom of whose possibility they have little, if any, knowledge. Inflicting no harm upon those around whom they live, they want nothing more than to contemplate the majesty of their god, exercise the sublime tenets of their religion, and enjoy the lovable relations that they’ve cultivated in peace. This, it seems, is too much to ask of a government by which every idiosyncratic impulse, every divergent view, must be repressed.

As such, the Uighurs are a people, long abused, by whose undaunted persistence the Chinese Communist Party has been so clearly peeved. Residing in the ethnically-diverse northwestern corner of the state, the Uighurs, an anciently preserved race, are now a horribly persecuted people, an ethnic minority to whose sorry plight Western media outlets have been disquietingly inattentive. Millions of them have been detained and involuntarily ushered into concentration and “re-education” camps, places from which, despite all the books of state-sponsored learning and communist mantras with which they’re filled, there’s often no edifying return. Under the threat of coercion, they’re forced into what we might call a position of apostasy—a contorted pose out of which, in the judgment of their god, they can’t easily disentangle themselves. Religious services and festivals (as we see in the month of Ramadan) are events from whose public observance they’re completely barred. Worse still, detainees in these camps have been forced, against the dietary strictures of their holy book, to eat pork and imbibe alcohol—two items, unimpeachable to the palate of the secular man, from which they’re supposed to abstain. These assaults on their human dignity have roused very little international attention—a reality by which my own stomach is turned.

Quieter still have been the lips of the reporters by whom said outlets are staffed when it comes to the news that the Chinese Communist government is forcefully extraditing those Uighur Muslims who’ve taken it upon themselves to seek refuge abroad. It’s an effort to which, with the venal connivance of a number of supine governments (including those of Egypt, Turkey, and Thailand, to name but a few) through whose greedy coffers the splash of Chinese money prodigiously flows, the Chinese have brazenly committed themselves. Essentially, the Chinese government is invigilating the globe, playing police as it scans every corner in an attempt to retrieve and keep quiet its dissidents at home. It doesn’t want the circulation of their stories, the expose of the heinous and unforgivable assaults to which, at the end of the lash of the CCP, they were so unfeelingly subjected. We’re seeing before us, unimpeded and without a pretense of scruple, the making of an affront against humanity—a humanity of which, need I remind you, we’re all an equal and contributing part.

One could speak, as well, on the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the quasi-autonomous peninsula of Hong Kong, a place from which, with a lambent and an iridescent glow among the waters of a discouragingly darkened sea, the sparks of liberty and democracy still shine. May they illumine that benighted and abused corner of the earth forever. It’s sad to think, however, that the future for the Hong Kong we know and love is beginning to look dispiritingly dim. The light that once shone there is flickering, as it stands athwart a growing tsunami and a terrible wind.

One of the more salubrious benefits of the British imperial project, that colonizing endeavor of which, as of late, we’ve become so exaggeratedly contemptuous, Hong Kong has been, since the middle of the nineteenth-century, a bastion of a Westernized state. It’s been a paragon of progress, an epitome of the ideals about which, with so much highly-tuned eloquence, we so often speak. It’s gold in a pile of Socialist dross. It’s republicanism in a place where there’s none. It’s a place in whose soil the seeds of an Anglican brilliance—a brilliance to whose nonpareil wisdom the likes of Locke, Milton, Hume, Gibbon, Burke, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Emerson, and Douglass contributed—had been planted, and one out of which a beautifully mixed cultural flower has since grown. Though nominally Asiatic, Hong Kong has been, since the era of its annexation, much more philosophically congenial to the lofty ideals of the West, those same ideals of which, despite our recent conduct, we continue to be the proud exporters.

It’s this fact, along with its lack of unquestioned power and sovereign control, about which the Chinese Communist Party is so visibly upset. Exasperated by that territory’s endless protests, its intractable demands, and the impudent demonstrations with which, for the better part of a year, each day has been filled, China has grown ever more impatient with the importunities of a liberal Hong Kong. It finds positively nettlesome, perhaps even unconscionable, that territory’s claims to natural rights. It disparages its claims to basic freedom and a guarantee of due process before the law. Both are things without which, given the Chinese preference, a state might just as docilely live. (To note, the Chinese Communist Party has responded, as of a few days ago, with an invidious proposal by which Hong Kongers might be ever more repressed; called, with the tinge of a wonted euphemistic title, the “Security Law”, legislators from the mainland want to broaden the reasons for which a Hong Konger—one alleged of a treasonous, seditious, or nebulously-defined subversive affront—might be extradited and thrown in a Chinese jail—the very likes in which those wretched Uighurs are interred).

The assaults upon humanity, by which, despite our geographic distance, we’re all made collectively to suffer, could be enumerated further. To think, I’ve not even touched upon the worldwide pandemic for which, unequivocally, the Chinese government is originally responsible. This is a disease, probably a result of the careless practice of some technician working at a Wuhan lab, to which one-hundred thousand of our fellow Americans have already succumbed. Worse still, in the coming months, with the return of autumn, more of our infected countrymen are expected to die. The shadowy obscurantism and the arrant deceit with which the CCP approached this virus in its earliest stage (and the shroud behind which it continues to hide its facts) is crime of which we ought forever to be mindful, as we consider the enormousness of our country’s loss.

Still further could the list of Chinese atrocities be unfurled; the unravelling of that piece of parchment would encircle the globe. One could speak of the horrors of the “One-Child” policy, or the “Two-Child” policy by which, as of the beginning of this year, that unique and draconian law has been succeeded. Both are ugly pieces of legislation to which this naturally philoprogenitive race has been forced to submit. Both favor barbarism over civility and eugenics over the variety of life.

Spanning four decades, from the late 1970’s until today, the One and now Two-Child policies have been responsible for untold millions of deaths. They’re responsible, by and large, for the retardation of China’s once illimitable growth—a growth about which, with an anxiety that would make a Malthusian blush, the Communist Party has been so deeply concerned. They’ve led to a mismatch between the sexes, a disproportion that’s resulted in an unloved hoard of tumescent young men searching aimlessly for female mates. However, that for which they search is a ghost; because of the country’s thinly-veiled misogyny and its explicit preference for boys, countless girls (with whom, as women, these men might have coupled) have been prematurely aborted or killed. The men, consequently, have been left in a masturbatory abyss.

These One and Two-Child policies were, what you might call, negative injunctions—akin to haughty ‘Thou shalt nots’. The Chinese Communist Party also enforced positive edicts, if you will, as evidenced by its program of infanticide and forced sterilization. These programs actively mutilated or, in a horrifyingly large number of cases, murdered those on whom they were carried out.

The Chinese Communist government has also made a startlingly determined and macabre effort to harvest ever greater quantities of internal organs, a pile of blood-soaked commodities off of which, in the absence of an arbiter on human rights or an advocate for the dead, it’s profited immensely. Cupidity and depravity, it seems, have overwhelmed any feeling for the sanctity of life—a feeling by which the CCP’s conscience might’ve once been stirred. These vital tissues, these highways through whose lively sinews the pulse of humankind once beat, are being harvested from the flanks of those personae non-grata of whom, just a few lines above, I made mention. From the Uighurs, the Hong Kongers, the recalcitrant women, and the faceless political dissidents around whom the Party can apply its hold, organs are being ripped. Rarely is this harvesting performed as an outright vivisection, but—contrary to the posthumous wishes of those upon whom they work—it’s very seldom done in a voluntary fashion.

Suffice it to say, I count myself among those accusers and skeptics, a generally unforgiving group, to whose joined sense of decency and honor the Chinese government’s actions have been, from the start, wholly anathema. Among this group, I’m perhaps a bit unusual in being an individual who’s saddened by the levying of so grave an allotment of charges against this state, or any state, in consideration of so heinous a list of misdeeds. I fear the people of China aren’t frequently enough distinguished from their government. Those millions, now billions of Chinese citizens upon whom these cruel and barbaric deeds have been carried out have all of my sympathy. Those few at the top, those by whom that nation’s dastardly politburo is staffed, deserve none.

That said, I’m not, as some are called, a China hawk—an epithet which conjures the thought of a jingoistic and menacing bird of prey. Indeed, I happen to shutter at so minatory an image in whose colors so many are painted. Most others, I’ve found, share little in the sentimentality by which I’m so troublingly and inescapably aroused. Few others sense beyond the unpliant threads of that stifling red curtain in which China is draped the suffering of his fellow, brain-washed man. Few others who are critical of the government of China sense the un-freedom, the coerced ignorance, the political chains by which its mentally-immiserated men are bound. Perhaps, rather, I’m not a proper hawk, as such a being ought to be defined, but a dove in hawk’s clothing—a beast whose trenchant words far outpace the flap of his gentle wings.

As such, the proposition with which this article began, that which assumed the healthful effect of the world’s embrace of China, is one by which I’m totally unconvinced. This comes from a place of neither Sino-philia nor phobia, as the Chinese people, imagined in stark opposition to the Communist regime under whose repression they so indefatigably live, is a race for which I have nothing but the warmest regard. One must, if a resident of the Occidental side of this wide world, this increasingly narrowing globe, have a deep-seated empathy for those to whom the Orient is home. For their sake, as well as ours, we must re-consider the wisdom of our embrace of China. It will appear to us a folly—an incontrovertible and deadly mistake. China is a malign actor. It needs reforming if it’s to be welcomed back onto the stage.

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