Three Heads Talking of China

On April 24, 2010, I attended a panel at the 2010 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The topic was “China: The Next Superpower?” The experts were Richard Baum, author of China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom; Zachary Karabell, Superfusion, and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Baum is an expert on politics; Karabell on money/economics, and Wasserstrom on history.

Wasserstrom said that China is not the older country. The PRC was sixty-years old while the United States was more than two hundred.

Both the Communist Civil War and the American Revolution rejected colonialism then both expanded into other countries and territories to become world powers.

Richard Baum

Baum added that the cultural differences are significant starting with Confucianism, which expresses Collective Rights instead of individual rights as in America.

Karabell mentioned that there was a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance between the United States and China.

Zachary Karabell

Many in the US believe China is unfair in world trade and that Americans lose jobs because of that.

However, China’s trade with the world is about even between exports and imports and what China buys from the United States keeps many Americans working.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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Note: This post first appeared on iLook China April 30, 2010 as post # 278. This revised version reappears as post # 1084.

3 Responses to Three Heads Talking of China

  1. Alessandro says:

    Sorry Y Chan, but u’ve taken all your history lessons wrong..the chinese revolution and civil war, both started long before 1949 (Mao was not even known at the time, Sun Yat-Sen committed many errors – that led him to lose power and control over the new republic quite fast -, and it was him, cause the western powers didn’t help the new republic as he asked at first – as usual for them -, that was forced to turn to USSR for help, and USSR gave that help, asking in return to not not attack the chinese communists). To state that not Chiang nor Mao were politicians is just ignoring history and talking only ideology.
    As for the fact that many in the west only care about the last 60 years of China’s history for their own political agendas, I more or less agree with u.

    Dr. Wasserstrom statement that “Both the Communist Civil War and the American Revolution rejected colonialism then both expanded into other countries and territories to become world powers” find me in complete disagreement..the american revolution did actually expand to other countries (the mexican wars for example), but I fail to see how what he erroneously call the “communist revolution” did so…unless we want to keep on with historical falsehood of the so called “invasion” of Tibet. That is suit a political agenda

  2. Y Chan says:

    Sorry again they are WRONG.

    What Jeffrey Wasserstrom said is completely misleading.

    The Civil War between Mao Zedong (Communists) and Chiang Kai-shek (Nationalists) cannot be compared to the US independent war.

    The Chinese civil war in 1949 was straightly a power struggle between two dictatorial political parties and had nothing to do with colonialism. Both Mao and Chiang were in fact warlords, not statesmen nor even politicians. All they know was “power come out of the gun barrel”.

    And so, the war in 1949 was to replace a dictator with another dictator. Today, one dictatorial regime learned the lesson and had gone the democratic route whils the other regime remains more or less the same. Both regimes on each side of the Taiwanese Strait however had brought material improvements to the Chinese people.

    Dr. Sun Yet-sen who lead the Chinese revolution against the Qing dynasty one hundred years ago was indeed a statesman and a politician. The 1911 revolution was to overthrow a corrupted Monarchy to establish a Republic, and that could be loosely compared to the American Revolution. Unfortunately, the Republic of China faces so many problems (the Nationalist Army beared the blunt of Japanese invasion) that it gave way to Mao’s forces in 1949.

    “Scholars” in the West only care to talk about 60 years of Chinese history (out of 5,000 years). It is a deliberate ignorance, to suit their own political agenda (eg, on Tibet issues).

    • Y Chan,

      You misinterpreted what Jeffrey Wasserstrom meant.

      “Both the Communist Civil War victory and the American Revolution rejected colonialism then both expanded into other territories and/or countries to become world powers.” This is what Wasserstrom said and he was correct.

      Just because the Chinese Civil War between 1926 and 1949 was a power struggle between two dictatorial political parties doesn’t mean it wasn’t also a war that rejected colonialism when the Communists won.

      Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalists (KMT) represented the colonial powers, which had been in China manipulating commerce and politics since the Opium Wars. When the Nationalists lost and retreated to Taiwan under an umbrella of US military protection while being armed by America, which was a continuation of colonialism. If the KMT had won, the colonial powers would have continued to dominate the country to this day from their bastions in Macau, Hong Kong, Shanghai, etc. Instead, in 1949, the Communists rejected and ejected all of the colonial powers from China and the colonial influence that had dominated China since the Opium Wars.

      Colonialism with the support of Chiang Kai-shek rejected Communism in 1926, when the KMT attacked the Communists in southern China then in Shanghai where the KMT and the Green Gang rounded up all the Communists and union leaders/members that could be found and shot or beheaded them to end the labor movement. Colonialism was behind that.

      After the Qing Dynasty lost the two Opium Wars and again in 1900 foreign troops from the major colonial powers invaded China to put down the so-called Boxer Rebellion, which was the colonial powers maintaining control over China. Although the Manchu emperor ruled China, the real power in the Middle Kingdom was the British Empire, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and the US. After the Opium Wars several Chinese cities became colonial cities. As an example, Shanghai was divided up into foreign concessions policed and guarded by British, French and American troops.

      The same treaty also forced China to let Christian missionaries go anywhere they wanted to convert Chinese to Christianity, which eventually led to another attempt by the Chinese to throw out the colonial powers in 1900 but that failed as did resistance to the colonial powers during the two Opium Wars.

      China was invaded by colonial powers, fought three wars with those powers, and lost. When Mao’s Communist Armies won the Civil War in 1949, all colonialism was rejected and all foreigners were forced to leave China and all Western colonial religions were repudiated and stamped out of existence.

      That was Communist China’s rejection of colonialism. That is what Jeffrey Wasserstrom was talking of. As for expansion into other territories. The reoccupation or invasion (depending how you see it) of Tibet is considered expansion. The war with India over borders was another sign of expansion.

      Then you bring up Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who I have written of several times in this Blog, insinuating that I do not know who he is. I suggest that you read every post that has been published on this Blog here before you comment further.

      I also suggest that your knowledge of English is limited and you do not interpret properly to understand the context of what you read.

      In fact, the American Revolution did not start out as a rejection of colonialism since originally all the colonists wanted was some representation in parliament, a say in how they were ruled by the King. When the British Empire rejected that demand, the colonists rebelled leading to a rejection of colonialism when the US won the rebellion and became a nation.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

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