by Milo Clark
(Swans - February 26, 2007) Tackling PRChina comes down to finding the key to the flagpole while chasing a greased pig.
My first inclination was to concentrate on today's economic and political situations. To do so, I have to pick up the blinders prevailing in any discussion of PRChina, indeed China. And to acknowledge that the PRChinese picked up the cudgels set by imperial and nationalist predecessors.
Some call it human rights; others notice the basic fallacies in the ethnic arguments; more sputter and change the subject to Wal*Mart imports.
The western borders of contemporary PRChina (Peoples' Republic of China, aka Communist China) bunch up against Mongolia, Turkestan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Ladakh, and India.
Most of these places are an ancient conglomerate of peoples, tribes, clans, religions, sects anchored deeply in twisted histories of great complexities little known outside. There are names such as Uighurs, Taranchis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tatars; there are places which they called Turkestan. All looked west through Central Asia to the Turkic homelands north and near the Caspian Sea with which they identify, in which their languages are rooted. They name their ethnic ancestors as (Russian) Kalmuk. Sprinkled amongst them are the remnants of White Russians, Czarists who fought and then fled the Bolsheviks out past Siberia. The survivors of these peoples are now less than fourth class citizens of PRChina.
Some outside have heard snatches about the ancient Silk Roads which once linked west with east. These traverse vast deserts and cruel mountains still daunting to travelers.
The PRChinese areas are Sinkiang (Xingiang), which simply means West China, and what was once Tibet. Some outsiders have a vague awareness that the PRChinese upon seizing power conclusively in 1949 almost immediately sent troops west to secure again these vast expanses of most inhospitable geography.
We may know something of the invasion of Tibet and the ruthless suppression of Tibetan culture and its mainly Buddhist religion. Few know of the Moslem peoples of East Turkestan, who fought a bitter rebellion, the Ili Rebellion, and enjoyed a brief period of independence in 1944-1949. Collapse of the Nationalists aided this effort, which was put down as a first order of Mao's accession to power.
The core of China's eastern peoples is Han Chinese. Historically, the further west, north, and south one went, the thinner the Han population.
Early on, Mao determined to repopulate the west with Han. Therefore, to understand the vicious impacts of Mao's strategy on the indigenous peoples of what is now PRChina, it is critical to know that these peoples are rooted in ethnicities with little, mostly no grounding in Han.
Extensive archeological, ethnographic, and anthropological research, which began primarily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and confirmed by modern DNA testing, shows that the peoples of western China have virtually no connection or relationship with Han. They look further west to Turkic roots.
For your trivia collection, in terms of DNA, the Tibetan peoples relate most strongly to the Hopi of southwestern US of A, two peoples who chose to isolate themselves in harsh environments. Bering bridge anyone?
Also understand that what Mao began in terms of eliminating the Tibetans, their culture, and religion was also applied ruthlessly, cruelly, and viciously to the Uighurs, Kazakhs, Tajiks, et al., scattered along the old Silk Road areas to the north of Tibet, although these areas were once under Tibetan hegemony, a fact that further denigrates the PRChinese claims. Tibet historically was never part of either imperial or nationalist China.
For many if not most of these peoples their religion of choice is some version of Islam. Much like the old Bon religion of Tibet was incorporated within Tibetan interpretations of Buddhism, the old religions of the various tribals of the region are melded into local Islam.
For comparative purposes, Hitler's holocaust killed roughly six million Jews, about a million Roma, and several hundred thousand undesirables such as homosexuals. In Mao's depopulating of the thinly populated western areas of PRChina, estimates vary from a bare minimum of ten million to a top of as many as thirty million deaths. Destruction, seizure, expropriation, transfer to Han control are in proportion. There is no way to know the actual totals. Consider that the last government of Tibet census before 1949 was approximately six million.
Mao and his successors have been most thorough in opening the lands to Han Chinese. Some estimate that there are barely two million ethnic Tibetans today. Uighur and Turkic peoples uprisings still come up now and then. All of this with barely a ripple on the international conscience, too.
And there comes the rub about the emergence of PRChina on the international economic and political scene. PRChina has been growing in GDP terms at double digit rates for the last decade or so (10.7% in 2006). Pundits expect similar growth in the next decade.
Wal*Mart, which once prided itself on stocking goods made in the US of A, now quietly imports thousands and thousands of items from PRChina. Wal*Mart is not alone in selling goods made in PRChina.
PRChina long ago eclipsed Japan as supplier of choice to America's retailers. The trade deficits involved in American consumption profligacy escalate to match. PRChina now holds over USD One Trillion in US Treasury instruments. The leverage involved in terms of manipulating the once US of A economy is almost beyond imagination, which may explain why so little is mentioned about it in tightly restrained American media.
Recent articles in The Financial Times report that PRChinese economic authorities are planning to diversify their holdings. They are going to use some unknown percentage of their US Treasury holdings and other trade surpluses to buy assets throughout the world. In part, they are not going to add to their Treasury holdings but invest strategically. A very intelligent direction.
They know they must move cautiously or risk devaluation of their USD position as well as risk reducing sales to the US market. A delicate and very sophisticated balancing act.
While retaining a communist political facade, PRChina now out-capitalizes the Capitalists. Ironic, no?
Another recent event getting attention is the successful downing of an aging weather satellite by a PRChinese space shot. What may be most significant about this success is that it was on the first try, whereas similar efforts by the US military and NASA have dismal records of success while consuming immense resources.
Recognizing that the economic future of the world is a function of control of resources and related assets, the PRChinese, knowing their weaknesses in these areas, have been scrounging the world to secure deals for oil and minerals, etc. They are paying political homage as well as above market prices hedging the future thereby.
Iran is signing massive delivery contracts with PRChina. PRChina is supporting Iran in the UN and elsewhere.
In Africa, PRChina is strongly involved with Sudan. They vigorously defend the Darfur genocide of Sudan's depraved President Al-Bashir as a small token of their relationship. They are also strongly entrenched in other African oil countries such as Angola. The PRChinese are financing, engineering, and constructing (with PRChinese people) infrastructure projects throughout Africa.
Similar efforts are underway and proceeding strongly in South America, Venezuela being only one notable case.
Needless to say, PRChina is a major factor throughout Southeast Asia. Joint efforts are in process with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Kampucha (Cambodia), Myanmar (Burma) and, intriguingly enough, with the Republic of China, aka Taiwan. American hegemony is being supplanted very strongly here as well as throughout the world.
Presently, the once US of A remains the world's economic behemoth. Even in manufacturing, America still leads proudly. PRChina, overall, now ranks maybe sixth or seventh among world economies, but gaining, needless to say.
In terms of developing capacities and capabilities, PRChina graduates engineers at all levels of academic prowess and degrees at rates many times those of US and European schools. In fact, a preponderance of technical students in US schools, colleges, and universities are from PRChina.
US, European, Japanese, Taiwanese, Southeast Asian, and Korean firms are pushing and shoving to open facilities, research centers, think tanks and factories in PRChina. The PRChinese are firm in requiring significant technology transfers and local equity participation before approving projects. All lust for access to the billion-plus Chinese gradually being made into consumers.
What is not being invented is being borrowed. A classic case is the sale of IBM's personal computer business to Lenovo. Taiwan is rushing to export its electronics skills and processes to PRChina. Cheap labor is massively seductive. Labor rates are moving up, though (roughly 25% in 2006).
The authorities of PRChina are well aware of the immense population pressures upon them in terms of job creation. Experts estimate that 25,000,000 new jobs are required annually to contain the situation.
Reports of unrest, political actions, and riots are escalating each year. The Chinese peoples are restless. Most of the advances from recent decades are concentrated in the eastern and coastal regions back of Hong Kong, around Shanghai, and in other rapidly urbanizing areas. Strong efforts are being made to open factories and facilities further west.
The far western areas with which this comment opens are vast repositories of resources. The forests are being stripped, mines opened, rivers diverted, wells drilled, all in massive efforts to meet present and expected requirements of voracious industries.
Staffing all these efforts now are Han Chinese displaced from overpopulated east and displacing the indigenous peoples: a successful strategy, however implemented. Earlier many of these efforts were worked by political prisoners, slave labor subjected to heinous practices. One lead mine was reported to be proud of starving to death 12,019 prisoners.
As noted above, political relationships and long term contracts around the world are also being sought and consummated.
PRChina hardly needs a military confrontation eventually to meet and to surpass the once US of A. They need only to keep their forces moderately up to date to provoke panicked reactions and run-away budgeting of the US military.
China-bashing is a two edged political sword. Overeager and rambunctious politicians decrying PRChina stealing local jobs run into consumers happy with lower prices of Chinese goods.
And, yet, by draining American resources on a senseless war and such, the once US of A virtually ensures a reduced presence in the world, a weakening hegemony, and eventual humiliation. Imperial successions are a well-known factor in Chinese history. Americans may now get their turn.
In decline, all that may be left is war. All that present American politicians guarantee are meaningless rhetoric, endless war, leadership vacuum, and a gutted future.
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