Chinese Wisdom

Zhou en Lai …

Posted on September 20, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |


Dag Hammerskjoeld – (himself considered as one of the Great Men of the 20th Century n renowned for his classic work -‘Markings’) – considered Zhou as possibly the Greatest Diplomat of the Last Century.

Dag’s assessment, ““It is a little bit humiliating when I have to say that Zhou En-lai to me appears as the most superior brain I have so far met in the field of foreign politics. So much more dangerous than you imagine because he is so much better a man than you have ever admitted”.

Now an incident –

During a meeting in Geneva, Zhou en Lai, the Chinese PM, found himself in the same room with with John Foster Dulles – US Secy of State.

Zhou politely offered to shake his hand, but Dulles rudely turned his back and walked out of the room, saying “I cannot”.

Zhou was interpreted by onlookers as turning this moment of possible humiliation into a small victory by giving only a small, “Gallic-style” shrug.

Furthering the impression of Chinese urbanity and civility, Zhou had lunch with British actor Charlie Chaplin, who had been living in Switzerland since being blacklisted in the United States for his radical politics.

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China – the Future ? …

Posted on August 20, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

China’s history of unpredictability goes back a long way.

Tyler Cowan in Bloomberg –

Is the rest of the world getting China wrong yet again? Maybe the country is not doomed to live out unending top-down rule. What is history, after all, but the realization of the wills of countless unpredictable human beings.

Past mistakes about China are too numerous to mention. When it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, many thought China would liberalize. Since Japan, Taiwan and South Korea had all gone on to become full-fledged democracies after periods of autocracy, the pattern was clear: Once they were fairly wealthy, the growing middle classes demanded a say in their government. At the time, it hardly seemed crazy to believe China might go down a similar path.

That turned out to be wrong. It was also conventional wisdom, circa 2010, that China was due for an economic crack-up. That didn’t happen, either.

China’s history of surprising outsiders goes even further back. Before 1979, it was hardly obvious that China would undertake serious economic reforms and usher in the longest and largest period of economic growth in world history.

The Chinese Communist Party — which itself had presided over the deaths of tens of millions in the famines and chaos of the Cultural Revolution, shocking even those most skeptical and pessimistic about its intentions — just did not seem open to liberalization.

The party’s very existence was in a sense surprising, as Karl Marx predicted that successful communist revolutions were mostly likely to come in industrial capitalist societies. But in China the party took power in what was largely an agrarian society.

Earlier yet, it was hardly obvious that a country as large as China would lose the Opium Wars so decisively to a relatively small British naval fleet, and end up having to cede Hong Kong. Nor was it widely understood in the 17th century that China was undergoing a new age of stagnation and would be so radically overtaken by the West.

All of which leads me to quote perhaps the wisest single statement  ever made about China: “China will always surprise us.”

Or consider Hong Kong. Not long ago it was practically a cliché that Hong Kong was a territory of apathetic, spoiled wealthy people, not very committed to self-rule or democracy. That too has been shown to be false, as 1.7 million people took the risk of participating last weekend in a peaceful anti Govt march.

Of course, very few Westerners predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, or for that matter the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s and the subsequent rise of Islamic radicalism. So I have become a little skeptical of the latest groupthink about China — namely, that China isn’t going to liberalize again. To be sure, there is plenty of evidence for that view.

But has China suddenly become so predictable? Are events there now no longer contingent on the exercise of human will? Modern China is one of the most unusual and surprising societies humankind has created. There are no good models for it, nor are there data from comparable historical situations.

There is, unfortunately, a tendency for Westerners to impose superficial narratives on China and the Chinese, often based on scant observation. One current example is the cliché of the hardworking Chinese student; the reality is more mixed.

Not so long ago the cliché was that China could copy things but not innovate on its own; China is now far ahead of the U.S. with its retail payment system, and is threatening to become the world leader in quantum computing and parts of the biosciences. And of course there was the hoary cliché in 19th-century America that the Chinese were lazy, shiftless and addicted to opium.

The deeper reality is that China, like all of the world’s major civilizations, is large, complex, and hard to understand. This is not to say that generalizations about China are always wrong — only that, just as past narratives have been wrong, so might be current ones.

For myself, I don’t have a coherent story about how the Chinese might move to greater liberty in the next 10 to 15 years. But I do think the actions of the current regime can be read as signs of vulnerability rather than entrenchment. Taiwan and Hong Kong, despite its current crisis, remain strong examples of the benefits of liberalization.

Meanwhile, the notion of the internet — even with censorship — as a liberalizing force has been too quickly dismissed, especially in an America that has fallen out of love with Big Tech.

Which leads to a reality even deeper than China’s unpredictability: people’s continuing capacity to respond to current events and shape their futures for the better.

As you listen, watch and read about China, keep in mind this essential human quality.

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Tiananamen – Story for All Time …

Posted on June 1, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Mao was Mao And Zhou was Zhou – But No One Thought Deng, Zhou’s Disciple, would Go This Far –

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China Bans Wikipedia …

Posted on May 30, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Stephen Harrison

Censorship of encyclopedias has a long history. In the 18th century, Denis Diderot and other authors of the famous Encyclopédie were denounced as heretics for suggesting that knowledge stems from observation and reason rather than religious tradition or papal authority.

In 1752, the French king’s council issued a stop order on its distribution on the basis that the publication was “destroying royal authority and encouraging a spirit of independence and revolt,” a prophetic statement just three decades before the French Revolution. 

Blocking a website appears to be the 21st-century equivalent of these encyclopaedic press injunctions, and Wikipedia has dealt with more than its fair share.

China first blocked the Chinese-language Wikipedia in June 2004 before the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. Before 2015, countries could even block specific articles because Wikipedia was running on an HTTP protocol. Iran, for example, blocked Articles deemed undesirable for political, religious, or sexual reasons in 2013, including Harry Potter actress Emma Watson’s page.

But since Wikipedia switched over entirely to HTTPS in 2015, a nation’s only censorship option has been to block entire language versions. 

Turkey went ahead and blocked all of Wikipedia in April 2017, citing a controversial law to ban websites in the name of “national security.” 

Turkey has so far been the only country since the full implementation of HTTPS to institute a long-term block across all languages – at least until the latest developments with China.

As Omer Benjakob reported for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Turkish officials reached out to Wikimedia several times in 2017 to request that content be changed in two Wikipedia articles: “State-sponsored terrorism” and “Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War.”

As a matter of policy, Wikimedia does not interfere with its community-written encyclopedia projects, so Turkish representatives took matters into their own hands. As one Turkish official tweeted, “This content was not allowed to be edited. … Therefore, entire Wikipedia content had to be filtered.” 

 By contrast, China appears to have blocked the site without forewarning.

Wikimedia noted in its statement, “We have not received notice or any indication as to why this current block is occurring and why now.”

The silent approach seems to be customary for Chinese officials, who have blocked thousands of websites including the BBC, the New York Times, Quora, Reddit and Amnesty International.

Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has increasingly soughtto use the Great Firewall to maintain a unified “Chinanet” that reflects the party’s express values rather than diversity of opinions.

China’s banning of certain American, Japanese and European domains has helped domestic companies grow. 

Nine of the world’s 20 largest internet firms, by market value, are now Chinese, including Baidu and WeChat, which have grown exponentially partly because they have been sheltered from Google, Facebook and Twitter.

But it seems unlikely that China is blocking Wikipedia across all languages simply to provide its homegrown company with an advantage.

The Chinese-language internet encyclopaedia Baidu Baike, owned by Baidu, already has millions more articles than Chinese Wikipedia, which has been blocked since 2015.

When Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales met with Cyberspace Administration of China chief Lue Wei later that year, Wales said Wikipedia’s blocked status did not come up. But spoken or not, the key difference is openness to censorship.

Unlike Wikipedia, Baidu Baike removes content when directed to do so by the Chinese government. 

 That’s where the circumstantial evidence of the 30th anniversary of the violence in Tiananmen Square becomes too compelling to ignore.

Back in 2009, during the 20th anniversary, internet references to the demonstrations were strictly censored. When Chinese internet users searched for “June 4” on the Chinese search engine Baidu, they would receive a message that said, “The search does not comply with laws, regulations and policies.” 

With today’s prevalence of online translation tools, it would be much easier for Chinese citizens to read content from other encyclopedia editions.

Advances in translation software might explain why the government felt the need to expand what was previously only a block of the Chinese (Mandarin) edition.

Since Wikipedia is collaboratively written by a decentralised group of editors, the Chinese government is also unable to control the narrative or the nomenclature.

On the English-language edition of Wikipedia, for example, there have been fiery debates between editors about whether the events of 1989 should be referred to as the “Tiananmen Square massacre” or the “Tiananmen Square protests.”

The current English Wikipedia article uses the latter title, but devotes substantial space to describing the death toll and “the extent of bloodshed in the Square. … ”

It’s foreseeable that potentially millions of Chinese citizens would have been curious enough to conduct some basic internet research in the months and weeks leading up to the anniversary of the events at Tiananmen Square, and that they would have preferred to use a source that wasn’t censored by the government.

Now, by design, many of them will be unable to.

When Turkey blocked all editions of Wikipedia in 2017, there was some expectation that the censorship would be short-lived. The country’s previous blocks were often limited in duration, such as a two-week block of Twitter in 2014.

But Turkey’s block of Wikipedia has now lasted more than two years and is a lose-lose situation for humanity at large. The anti-censorship organisation Turkey Blocks recently tweeted, “The block of #Wikipedia in #Turkey is not only annoying, it means Turkish citizens are essentially self-excluded from writing their own history or expressing a Turkish point of view in millions of articles that chronicle our age.”

Wikimedia made a similar point in its recent statement: When one country cannot contribute to the internet’s knowledge ecosystem, “the entire world is poorer.”

Already there is a Wikipedia entry describing China’s recent censorship of all Wikipedia. Let’s hope this Wikipedia article is soon updated to describe the block in the past tense, and that the revised version will soon be accessible globally without restriction.

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South China Sea …

Posted on March 14, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

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The Chinese – A Positive …

Posted on March 4, 2019. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

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India vs China n Chess vs Go …

Posted on December 19, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career, Indian Thought |


Satellite map of Chumbi Valley, Doklam region. Credit: Scribble Maps

Here are dictums for would be Napoleons —

Talking of Strategy vis a vis Tactics – the Guy said the former is what you do to handle the Mom n the latter is what you do to tackle the Daughter ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………And talking of Plans, this is what he thundered – “If the Enemy does this then your plans must ensure he gete ‘F…..d’ Right Royally but if he does the Alternate, then your plans must ensure that he gets ‘B……d’ – Good and Proper…

And By Jove – if he does what You have not thought of —- then be prepared for him to do Both to You!!!

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Chinese Freedom of the Press …

Posted on July 15, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Re Current China – US Trade War –

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Doklam to Wuhan …

Posted on July 7, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career |

The Wuhan understanding was accomplished so subtly by China that India’s seasoned opinion-makers seemed to have missed the brilliant manoeuvre. They were left wondering why after the Wuhan visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was excessively cautious in his keynote address at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Instead of underlining the strategic intent of the new Indo-Pacific theatre nomenclature which recognised India’s reach beyond its borders and the emerging Quadrilateral (Quad) narrative, Modi sought to downplay Chinese apprehensions by saying ‘it was not directed against any country.’

Since the genesis of Wuhan lies in the Doklam crisis, a recapitulation is in order. Talking exclusively to me on condition of anonymity in the Chinese embassy on July 10, 2017, a senior official made the following points:

“We reached out to your (Indian Army) local commanders thrice to discuss matters, before starting the road construction on 16 June 2017 in Doklam, which belongs to China. But we got no response.

On June 18, the Indian side blocked our construction party by bringing nearly 200 soldiers about 180m inside our territory in Doklam, and hundreds of soldiers were reinforced behind in layers as back-up.

China does not want war but wants to solve the problem by diplomatic channel. However, we will not stop construction on our side. You (India) have always misjudged China even when we always reach out.”

His parting shot was: “You overstate your strength”.

This is precisely what India, and especially its army leadership, had done by mistaking battle (or tactics) for war (series of battles).

Unable to grasp the complexity of modern war because of the lack of military reforms, the Indian army informed the National Security Advisor that the disengagement of the two troops was the end of the crisis.

Feeling victorious, it did not occur to India at that moment that except for the Japanese ambassador in India, no country (especially the US which has elevated India to ‘major defence partner’ status) even murmured against China in support of India’s position.

Once Chinese build-up in various domains of war started within months of the tactical crisis, its tangible assets like new roads, aircraft hangers, military construction and missile firings in Tibet informed India that it had bitten more than it could chew.

China, it was clear, had the capability to fight a non-contact war (through its space, cyber, electromagnetic domains, its range of accurate cruise missiles and armed unmanned vehicles), which India could not match.

Once the reality hit, Modi, who did not want a bigger Doklam before the 2019 general elections, sought and met President Xi Jinping for the informal Wuhan summit. Undeniably, China’s military coercion – which is always supported by credible military power – had won the day for China without it even firing a shot.



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1962 War – Chinese Preparation …

Posted on June 22, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

Image result for photos of Mao and Zhou

China went to war against India in 1962. But the planning began much earlier The Indo-China war began on October 20, 1962.

A new book states that it was China that decided to go to war, ‘China’s India War: Collision Course On The Roof Of The World’, Bertil Linter, Oxford University Press. 

Mao sent altogether 80,000 Chinese soldiers to Ladakh and the eastern Himalayas to attack India. Supply lines had to be established and secured to the rear bases inside Tibet.

China depended entirely on human intelligence collected by its agents in the field, which would have taken time in the North-East Frontier Agency [NEFA]’s rough and roadless terrain. But China’s agents would also be confined largely to areas where the local population spoke languages and dialects related to Tibetan.

Consequently, the areas where the Chinese launched their attacks were carefully selected, and contrary to what many researchers, including those from India, have assumed, relatively limited.
There is a common misperception that the PLA overran most of the NEFA and reached the lowlands at Bhalukpong, which now marks the state border between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

Bhalukpong was abandoned and the PLA’s last encounter with Indian troops was at Chakhu, a small town near Bomdila, south of Rupa. In the eastern most valley, they did not go much farther than Walong, and the incursions into Subansiri and Siang in the central sector were relatively minor.

There were also areas where human intelligence operations had been possible before the war and where the Chinese, through their Tibetan interpreters, were able to communicate with the locals who stayed behind once the PLA crossed into the NEFA.

Although the Indian Army had retreated from all its positions in the northeastern mountains, it is significant that the PLA did not venture into areas of  NEFA populated by Mishmis, Apatanis, Nyishis, and other non-Tibetan speaking tribes because no ground intelligence had been collected from there before the meticulously planned war.
There were also other preparations that the Chinese had undertaken before the attacks in October 1962. Indian brigadier John Dalvi, who was captured with some of his men on October 22, 1962 and remained a prisoner of war in China until May 1963, has recorded the events in his book Himalayan Blunder: The Angry Truth about India’s Most Crushing Military Disaster.
Brig Dalvi was able to observe how meticulously the Chinese had prepared their blitzkrieg against India.
He discovered that the Chinese had erected prisoner of war camps to hold up to 3,000 men and found out that interpreters for all major Indian languages had been moved to Lhasa between March and May 1962.
Not only had tens of thousands of troops been redeployed to the area to be acclimatised to the high altitudes of the border mountains well before the attacks took place, but thousands of Tibetan porters had also been recruited and forward dumps had been established all along the frontier.
Even more tellingly, Dalvi noticed that the Chinese had built a road
strong enough to hold 7-tonne vehicles all the way up to Marmang near the McMahon Line.
All this,  Brig Dalvi wrote later, “was not an accident and was certainly not decided after 8th September 1962. It was coldly and calculatingly planned by the Chinese.”
While it is not inconceivable that the final order to attack was given a week or so before the PLA swung into action (which would make sense from a tactical military point of view), it is also important to remember that the 1962 War also had nothing to do with the establishment of an Indian Army post in one of the remotest corners of the subcontinent.
That could be seen as a pretext, but even then, at best, a rather flimsy one. Even Mao Zedong had told the Nepalese and the Soviet delegations before and after the war that the issue was never the McMahon Line or the border dispute. China thought that India had designs for Tibet, which, in the 1950s, was being integrated into Mao’s People’s Republic.
At a meeting on March 25, 1959, only three weeks after the outbreak of the Lhasa uprising and as the Dalai Lama was on his way over the mountains to India, Deng Xiaoping, then a political as well as a military leader, made China’s position clear: “When the time comes, we certainly will settle accounts with them [the Indians]”
And, according to Bruce Riedel, one of America’s leading experts on US security as well as South Asian issues, probably as early as 1959, Mao decided that he would have to take firm action against Nehru.
Zhao Weiwen, a South Asian analyst at China’s premier intelligence agency, – the Ministry of State Security – wrote after the war in 1962 that “India ardently hoped to continue England’s legacy in Tibet” and that Nehru himself “harboured a sort of dark mentality”.
Those factors, Zhao argued, led Nehru to demonstrate an “irresolute attitude” in 1959. And that “dark mentality”, US-China scholar John Garver quotes him as saying, led Nehru to give a free rein to “anti-China forces” in an attempt to foment unrest in Tibet to “throw off the jurisdiction of China’s central government”.
According to Garver, Mao was also present at the same meeting as Deng in March 1959, and the Chairman said that India “was doing bad things in Tibet” and therefore had to be dealt with.
Mao, however, told the assembled members of the inner circle of the Chinese leadership that China should not condemn India openly for the time being. Instead, India would be given enough rope to hang itself, quo xingbuyi bi zibii, literally “to do evil deeds frequently brings ruin to the evil doer”.
China was waiting for the right moment to “deal” with India. But first, it needed precise and accurate intelligence from across the border.
Findings by Nicholas Effimiades, an expert on China’s intelligence operations, reveals that the Chinese began sending agents into the NEFA and other areas two years before the military offensive.
“The PLA gathered facts on India’s order of battle, terrain features, and military strategy through agents planted among road gangs, porters and muleteers working in border areas.”
These agents, Effimiades states, “later guided PLA forces across the area during offensive operations…junior PLA commander – disguised as Tibetans – had reconnoitred their future area of operation.”
‘Two years before the military offensive” began in October 1962 means at least a year before the Forward Policy was conceived, which makes it hard to argue that India’s moves in the area provoked China to attack.
Furthermore, the date, October 20, 1962, for the final assault after years of preparations was carefully chosen because it would coincide with the Cuban missile crisis, which the Chinese knew about before hand through their contacts with the leaders of the Soviet Union.
With Soviet missiles on Cuba, the Chinese were convinced that the USA would be too preoccupied to pay much attention to a war in the distant Himalayas.
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