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West's anti-China rhetoric reeks of hypocrisy

Those nations, which divided China for plunder, continue to pour more and more opprobrium on it, which, by an incredible means of projection, becomes understood as an aggressive power, supposedly hellbent on upsetting the ‘international rules-based order.’ The hypocrisy is astounding


| Pearls & Irritations

NEWCASTLE - The direction from whence comes most of the anti-China rhetoric in the world today is hardly surprising. It reeks of hypocrisy.

Much of it emanates from the very nations responsible for the dividing up of China into spheres of influence in the late 19th and early 20th century.

It is as though Britain, Germany, France, and Japan still cannot accept that the country they, along with Russia, once divided into spheres of influence, to be exploited, now having put the ‘century of humiliation’ behind it, dares stand on its own feet.

Particularly trenchant has been the criticism of Great Britain, the land whose rapacious greed led to its using military power to open Qing China to exploitation.

That greed it satisfied by foisting massive amounts of opium upon the Chinese people, so to balance its trade with China, as it had nothing else needed by ‘the Middle Kingdom.’

To put it bluntly the British operated as ‘drug lords.’

When China tried to stop the trade of a good, which Britain itself had banned in its own domain, the British response was to declare war, not once but twice, to defend the trade.

During the second of these wars in October 1860, the thirst for vengeance on China was not seen to be sufficiently acquiescent.

So much so that the British, along with French troops, burned and looted the wondrous Summer Palace or Yuanmingyuan, described by the French writer Victor Hugo as, ‘one of the wonders of the world’.

The palace was so large, covering more than 3.5 square kilometres, it took 4,000 men three days to destroy it. The destruction of the Palace buildings was total.

Not everything was destroyed however, with thousands of exquisite artworks, sculptures, porcelain, jade, silk robes, elaborate textiles, gold objects and more being looted, finding their way to museums (UNESCO lists 47) around the world, where they still sit.

By the end of the Opium Wars, some 50-60,000 barrels, weighing an average of 63.5 kg each, were being shipped into China annually, a figure which continued to rise over the next three decades.

It is estimated that around 10% of the Chinese population became addicted to the drug.

Have any of the nations involved for these heinous acts apologised?

Has any restitution been offered to China for the actions taken, including a return of artworks looted from the Yuanmingyuan?

No, instead those nations, which divided it for plunder, continue to pour more and more opprobrium on China, which then by an incredible means of projection, becomes understood as an aggressive power, supposedly hellbent on upsetting the ‘international rules-based order.’

The hypocrisy is astounding.

The double standards are found again in Western criticism of China over Xinjiang.

Supposedly China is involved in actions against the Uyghurs, that merit the use of emotive words, normally associated with Nazi Germany; ‘genocide’ and ‘concentration camps.’

Strange indeed is the type of genocide supposedly being unleashed upon the Uyghurs, given their population growth.

Much of this criticism comes from lands linked with British colonial expansion, Britain itself, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, countries tightly linked in the ‘Five Eyes Agreement.’

Each of those lands themselves are marked by genocidal practice.

And I use the term, not in the loose sense it is often applied to China, but rather in its tight technical sense for Britain, and the British colonialists in each of those domains had a clearly stated aim to destroy the pre-existing Indigenous peoples.

In my homeland, Australia they were held, by the doctrine of ‘terra nullius’ (empty land), to not even exist. That fiction legally held in Australia until 1967!

In passing we should note the total silence of those Muslim majority lands, co-religionists with the Uyghur people, concerning this supposed egregious violation of rights of their fellow believers.

The analytical psychologist Carl Jung wrote much about ‘projection,’ a process in which we project our wrongs and failures on to others.

We do this without embarrassment being unaware we are doing so, blind to the double standard.

We are likely even to feel a certain sense of self-righteousness and moral purity in our doing.

Current Western understandings and perceptions concerning China present, I believe, a classic instance of such.

Given that many of these lands understand themselves as being shaped by Christianity the words of Jesus are singularly appropriate.

‘Before trying to take the splinter from another’s eye, remove the log in your own.’


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Richard Jackson

Mr Queripel makes a few good points about British imperialism. But to portray China in the 1830s as some sort of innocent state does a disservice to that Empire's history in the preceding 100 years.

With the assistance of French Jesuit mapmakers and manufacturers of artillery, the Manchu Qin imposed something rather worse than humiliation on the Qinghai, Tibetan, Kalkha Mongols and especially the Dzungari populations.

(In the last case they wiped them out - in a sad alliance with the Uighurs by the way - which is something the Uighurs may nowadays regret.)

This all more than doubled the size of the Chinese Empire. Further, while the sun has indeed set on the British Empire, the Chinese Empire, now under new management, continues to flourish.

Chris Overland

Mr Queripel's article is, in essence, an argument that because the British and European imperial powers once did bad things in China then this effectively disqualifies them from pointing out that China and Russia are now doing similar bad things.

He uses the term genocide to describe murderous behaviours of former European imperial powers which, although sometimes very bad indeed, were very rarely genocidal in a literal sense.

There are innumerable examples of the use of brute force to suppress dissent and opposition to European imperialist expansion. This reflects very badly on those who ordered and carried out such activities but does not mean that such behaviours by modern powers, such as Russia in Ukraine, ought not be identified and the perpetrators punished.

Mr Queripel's arguments are fallacious because history demonstrates that all imperial powers, irrespective of their country of origin, do bad things in pursuit of their political and commercial interests. There is, in short, plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the activities of the world's great powers.

The hypocrisy referenced by Mr Queripel is the stock in trade of nation states, as is selective amnesia about the sins of the past. He is right to point to these things but wrong to infer that the western powers are the worst or only practitioners of hypocrisy in relation the behaviours of other powers.

An intelligent approach to understanding the modern world requires looking past the hypocrisy, distortions, lies and bad faith displayed by the various players and seeing what is truly motivating them. Failure to do so necessarily leads to misunderstanding what is really going on.

Russia's egregious misunderstanding of the situation in Ukraine and the western world more broadly led it to embark upon a catastrophic war which, even if it wins, will inflict utter disaster upon the Russian state, probably for several generations.

History is littered with examples of this nature.

My hope is that the leadership of China will not fall victim to the hubris and self-delusion that all too often accompany the acquisition of great power and so repeat the errors of the past. They have before them the examples of America's serious strategic overreach in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Russia's in Ukraine as clear warnings of what can happen.

Sadly, the long and dismal history of great powers suggests that China will probably fail to avoid such errors so the only real question to ask is how much damage will be done in the process.

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