Note from Blog host: Troy Parfitt’s closing statement of about 500 words appears first. To read Lloyd Lofthouse’s closing statement, you may have to scroll down this page.
Closing Statement [Parfitt]:
I would like to thank Tom Carter for suggesting and facilitating this debate. But most of all, I would like to thank Lloyd Lofthouse. True, this is his website, but Lloyd’s been key in getting this organized, and has been nothing but helpful, positive, and polite.
Between the episodes of verbal jousting, which hopefully have kept you interested and entertained, we’ve communicated amicably about China and related topics, which is great. Two literary publications have refused to review my book, one citing arrogance, the other controversy and bigotry. It’s a sign of the times (you have total intellectual freedom to say anything you want, except things people don’t want to hear), so good on Lloyd for being so tolerant of someone like me, whose views on China have little overlap with his.
China is a complicated subject, and because debate about it is so divisive, it’s sometimes difficult for people with only a casual interest to sort fact from fiction. To come to any kind of understanding, you’ve got to spend a lot of time reading about China, and it helps enormously to understand Mandarin and travel or live there.
The West has some serious problems; it always has and it always will. Somber problems are normal for human societies; we’re a troubled species. In light of Western inadequacy and hypocrisy, it’s tempting to see China as a land of answers and alternatives. China can appear as the great Other: the feminine to the West’s masculine; grace to aggression; cultivation to calculation. But that’s a romanticized construct located in the recesses of the Western psyche, with little basis in reality.
That’s not to say China isn’t a noteworthy subject; it’s a fascinating one. Nevertheless, determined and altruistic cadres, heroic Communist leaders, an overriding system of guanxi, a citizenry instilled with the wisdom and morality of Confucianism, a harmonious society, a glorious past, and a mission to help neighboring states, are concepts that exist largely in people’s imaginations. They are myths, both Chinese and Western, that mainly block the view.
People like myths; they’re easy to latch on to; easy to remember; they cover up what isn’t flattering; they justify, and can make you feel good. But they won’t bring anyone closer to understanding what China is, how it got that way, and where it might be headed. To do that, one needs to research, observe, and apply critical thinking. Counter evidence cannot be denied, dubious sources should be treated as such, and a sense of fairness must always be employed. Once you’ve got a working theory about China, its nature, and so on, you must test that hypothesis constantly; that’s how you’ll discover the wonderful and terrible truth.
Again, I’d like to thank Tom and Lloyd for setting this debate up. It was good for me to defend and reflect on my ideas, and China is such an important topic; debate about it is crucial.
Thank you very much.
Closing Statement [Lofthouse]:
In the prologue of Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People, the author says few in the West understand the Chinese and their culture. He writes, “It is difficult to deny the Old China Hand (Note—foreigners that lived or are still living in China) the right to write books and articles about China…”
Lin Yutang says that only one in ten thousand of these “Old China Hands” understands China, while the other 9,999 results in a “constant, unintelligent elaboration of the Chinaman”. He mentions Sir Robert Hart and Bertrand Russell as examples of the few that understand China.
At the urging of Pearl S. Buck, “My Country and My People” was written and then published in 1935 and what Lin Yutang wrote then is still relevant today.
Pearl S. Buck writes in the book’s Introduction that when China was “not able to meet the dangerous and aggressive modernity of the West… They forced out of existence the old dynastic rule, they changed with incredible speed the system of education, and with indefatigable zeal they planned and set up a scheme of modern government”.
This metamorphosis of China that we have witnessed in the last few decades has almost eradicated severe poverty from more than 70% in 1949 to 2.5% of the population today in addition to the growth of a modern, Western style urban consumer middle class that is still a work in progress. This transformation took a literacy rate of 20% in 1976 and increased it to more than 90% today.
In 1949, we witnessed an element of that transformation as Mao declared war on Confucianism and then again as the age of Mao gave way to Deng Xiaoping’s “Getting Rich is Glorious” era, which turned China into the world’s factory floor. Then in 1982, China wrote a new constitution and started a process to reinvent its legal system to be more Western in its structure and laws.
I thank Mr. Troy Parfitt for his participating in this debate. However, he is not a Sir Robert Hart or Bertrand Russell.
In Part 1, he claimed that “face” was a license to behave however one pleases, which is not the case.
He then inferred that because Jonathan Spence never mentions Mao’s war on Confucianism in his biography of Mao that it never happened.
Yet, Henry Kissinger in On China made it clear that Mao was passionately and publicly anti-Confucian. Zhou Enlai even told Kissinger that Confucianism was a doctrine of class oppression.
Parfitt’s “gossip” includes his opinion of “Confucianism”, “face”, “Guanxi”, the “Mandate of Heaven”, corruption in China, and Mao being a monster that deliberately caused millions of deaths from a famine, which took place during the Great Leap Forward in a few of China’s provinces.
As Lin Yutang says, “It is difficult to deny the “Old China Hand” the right to write books and articles about China… Nevertheless, such books and articles must necessarily remain on the level of the gossip along the world’s longest bar.”
Return to the Discussion with Troy Parfitt – Part 11, author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas“, or start with Part 1.
See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
Subscribe to “iLook China”
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page.