Recently, my wife bought me a copy of Henry Kissinger On China. She said if you read anyone that is not Chinese writing about China, Henry Kissinger is the only Westerner to trust. The reason, she explained, was that the leaders of China trust and respect few in the West.
However, Kissinger is the exception, and from what I’ve discovered since 1999, I don’t blame most Chinese or China’s leaders.
I haven’t read that far into the book but Kissinger’s Preface has a revealing quote in it.
Kissinger said, “American exceptionalism is missionary. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world. China’s exceptionalism is cultural. China does not proselytize; it does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China.”
What Kissinger didn’t say, which I may discover later as I read further into the book, is that America is spreading more than its spiritual, ethical, and moral values but is also importing its middle class unsustainable, consumer, debt-ridden, fast food, disease ridden lifestyle, which is more popular outside America than US cultural values.
The Economist for May 21, 2011 reviewed Kissinger’s book and said, “The Western politician who understands China best tries to explain it–but doesn’t quite succeed.”
In fact, it isn’t easy to overcome the Western prejudices that refuse to accept that people from other cultures are different from America and the West, which may be one reason why The Economist is so cynical and critical of almost everything they write about that does not fit their British cultural bias.
Another example is when a friend and expatriate living in China sent me a link to a Site called The Middle Kingdom Life written by a person that lived and taught at universities in China for seven years then left feeling bitter and disappointed, because China didn’t measure up to what he felt it should be, which is a reaction that has a lot to do with that American obligation to spread its values to every part of the world (even when other countries and cultures are not interested in those American and/or Western values).
Then another Blog I follow (but hold little respect for) sent me a notice that someone had left a similar comment.
That other Blog is called Understanding China, One Blog at a Time (should be “One Post” at a Time).
One Blog at a Time doesn’t understand China or the Chinese and is another emotional, biased rant criticizing China for not being a mirror image of American culture and does not take into account that China is a different culture with a different history and is still a developing third-world country with a large segment of its population that, until a few years ago (as early at the 1980s), lived as people had for centuries with a medieval lifestyle—meaning no electricity, no running water, no schools, no toilets, no sewers, or paved roads, etc.
It seems that little has changed from the 19th century when Robert Hart was the same as Kissinger is today to the Chinese except that today China stands on its own feet and is powerful enough militarily not to be bullied to cave in to Western demands to change the Chinese culture due to that American (and Western) obligation to spread its values to every part of the world, which may explain why we are fighting Islamic fundamentalists that wants to destroy Western Civilization.
That same Western missionary zeal (from Europe) that drives America today destroyed the Aztecs and Incas, enslaved tens of millions of Africans, colonized North America leading to the American Indian Wars of the 19th century, started two Opium Wars in China, killed a quarter of a million in the Philippines, meddled with Japan’s culture leading to World War II in the Pacific and China where The Rape of Nanking took place, invaded Vietnam where millions died, fought the Korean Conflict, and imported American values with nation building by invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
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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