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Monday, April 21, 2014

Yellow peril no more

Jaime R. Vergara

It was the fear of the yellow peril (the Chinks in the American Pacific West Coast that threatened newly arrived wagon train Europeans that culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) that created our current Immigration Service when a commissioner’s office was lodged in the Treasury Department in 1892 to curb the increase of immigration no longer from Europe and Africa but from Asia.

Sinophobia remains with us as seen in the intensity of China bashing in the last U.S. presidential election. More Americans do not trust China compared to the Canadians, Brits, and Aussies who have more trusting ones than those that do not. Japan hates China’s guts, and the feeling is reciprocal. Japan accuses China of using history to engage in Japan bashing. China is still waiting for Japan’s apologies for the atrocities it committed in Manchukuo, Shanghai, and the rape of Nanjing.

The crisis over the Diaoyuo islands only intensifies the historic animosity. China’s term for a foreign devil is Riben Gau Zi (Riben is the Chinese word for Japan). The Japanese pirate of old, the marauding Wokuo, is the term for a thief and one not trustworthy at all. In Dong Bei, a granite stone park in Shenyang known as Jiu Yiba, 9.18, the date of the 1931 Mukden incident—comparable to our 9/11—heralds daily its "day of humiliation."

A gory and gruesome movie of Qi Sanyao, 7.31, depicts Japan’s biological atrocities in 1937 when it experimented with patients subjected to surgery without anesthesia. "Forgiveness" is not a known category on both sides of the Bei Hai!

Outgoing President Hu Jintao and partner in the standing committee of the Politburo Premier Wen Jiabao, however, articulated the current theoretical base of the Gong Chang Dang (CPC), which is "scientific outlook on development" in the attainment of democratic socialism with Chinese characteristic. Now that is a jargon-laden statement, if I ever saw one. The Chinese are known for indirection through abstract and general terms, for words are still magical to the ears, and one need not express what would pass for a critique to expose contradictions.

Hu Jintao took the path of harmony throughout his watch, and for the theoretically curious, that was defined as being people-centered earth-friendly as the policy across the board. He got somber, however, when confronted with the reality of corruption within the ranks of the Party, and the dismal disparity of income distribution brought about by the traditional deep cleavage between the urban and rural communities.

The current constitutional narrative goes like this: Marx/Lenin-thought zeroed on the international unity of the workers of the world as the basis of the proletarian revolution, but helpful as the ideology’s dialectical materialism was in liberating China from the stranglehold of dynastic feudalism, it was the agrarian peasant in Mao-thought that fueled radical change. Mao is an aggie from Hunan, as opposed to Zhou Enlai’s Shanghai urban refinements and Dong Bei’s industrial sophistication. Ideologically, Mao stayed with the countryside, against the grain of history, which led to the nightmare of the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

But China does not negate its predecessors, so Deng Xiao Peng’s economic reform and opening up to market forces did not to contradict Mao-thought; it supplemented it. Ditto for Jiang Zemin’s subsequent "three represents" that finally led to the current Politburo policy of balance and harmonious relationship of the Hu and Wen tandem.

Comes now the mighty seven of China’s collective leadership. The designation of the "paramount leader" remains with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, soon-to-be President when Hu’s term ends at the National People’s Congress in March 2013, but the charism that went with the title during Mao Zedong and Deng Xiao Peng’ times are no longer emphasized. President Xi, married to popular folk singer Peng Liyuan, promises to be a more pragmatic, informal, and approachable problem solver.

We missed in our earlier prediction of two of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Our forecast of seven made five: Xi Jinping as General Secretary, Li Keqiang as Premier of the State Council, Yu Zhengsheng as Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Zhang Dejiang as Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Wang Qishan as First Vice Premier. Li Yuanchao as Secretariat Secretary and Vice President, and Wang Yang as Secretary of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection did not make the list. Liu Yunshan of Neimenggu, and Zhang Gaoli of Tianjin did. The Politburo did pare down the membership from nine to seven.

Netanyahu of Israel is trigger-happy in Gaza against Hamas, and Iran hosts a conference for the Syrian combatants. Obama domestically faces a “financial cliff” and vows to pass on the cost of stability on the rich rather than continue burdening the muddled middle with taxes. Meanwhile, Egypt inaugurates its elected President the first of December.

The admixture of hope and despair continues. Uncle Sam will be served well if it heeds the balanced voice of "trust but verify" rather than the vicious tones of those who will unleash violent discord. There is no yellow peril in the neighborhood!

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