Do Not Let Beijing Hijack Chinese Civilization in This Cold War

CommentaryThe Chinese regime consistently makes appeals to the greatness of the Han civilization to bolster its legitimacy. The Chinese people and the global community must always discount the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to accomplish this. Instead, they should see the CCP for what it is—a communist dictatorship. In this respect, there are two major similarities between the historical Cold War with the Soviet Union and the current one with China. First, during the Cold War, there were two major blocs, and each bloc possessed a Western ideology—liberalism and Marxist-Leninism—respectively. The fight concerned which Western ideology would dominate and which vision of a global future would. Therefore, this conflict is like the Cold War’s struggle between democracy versus tyranny. It is a struggle between two Western ideologies, liberalism and communism. A Lithuanian demonstrator stands in front of a Soviet Red Army tank during the assault on the Lithuanian Radio and Television station in Vilnius on Jan. 13, 1991. Thirty years ago, the Baltic republic of Lithuania declared independence, heralding the start of the break-up of the 15-member Soviet Union, which imploded in Dec. 1991. (STF/AFP via Getty Images) Thus, the global community cannot permit the CCP to cast this struggle as one between the West and the Han because it is not one. On one level, this is not dissimilar to what the Japanese did with their call for Pan-Asianism, “Asia for the Asians,” and their appeal from 1940 to create the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” with the “spiritual essence” of a superior Asian civilization fighting a titanic struggle with the crude, vulgar, and materialistic civilization of the West. The Soviets did it with Marxist-Leninist ideology—to help the Soviet Union was to aid the workers of the world fight their capitalist oppressors. This was the duty of all politically correct people. Of course, the Soviets had many allies, sympathizers, and fellow travelers upon which they could depend, which helped to make them a formidable competitor. Nevertheless, unlike the Japanese or Soviets, the Chinese regime advances its attempt at domination with a civilizational mask and so hopes to frame the cold war between China and the United States and its allies—Australia, India, and Japan—as a struggle against the Han civilization. The confrontation is with the CCP’s odious ideology and is not one with the Chinese people. Again, there is another useful contrast with the Soviet Union. The Soviet population and leadership, certainly after the “last Bolshevik” chief of ideology and the Communist Party’s Second Secretary Mikhail Suslov, who died in January 1982, no longer believed that their struggle against the United States was to create communism to liberate the workers of the world. In essence, the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies did not believe their ideology, which was a profound weakness. The fact that the Chinese regime is dependent upon an appeal to the greatness of China before 1949 is a testament to the CCP’s weakness. The Chinese military’s new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can reportedly reach the United States, are seen at a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China in 1949 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images) The second reason this cold war echoes the previous one is that the CCP is appealing to the world’s population through the narrative that to aid communist China is to support the epitome of art, culture, philosophy, politics, science, and international order. This is a major theme of Beijing’s “common destiny of mankind” narrative. The Chinese regime’s appeal is that the world can unite behind what is purportedly the world’s greatest civilization. The message will be far broader than the Japanese appeal for “Asia for the Asians” or the Soviet appeal to the purported science of Marxism-Leninism, the historical role of the working class, the advance of Hegelian-Marxist history, and the Hegelian-Marxist “March of History.” Global support for China will create a better one for all people. That is a more powerful global message than any the Japanese or Soviets advanced, as it will not be immediately identifiable as a disguise for the Chinese regime’s dominance and thus subjugation of the world’s peoples. As with the Cold War, there is a strong political divide between democracy and totalitarianism. The Chinese will frame their civilization—and the messages derived from it—as benign universal appeals to further the global advancement of all countries under the principles of Han civilization. The message will not be combative on its surface. Moreover, another message flows logically if implicitly from the first: that is, the Columbian era is over, the West has led the world for three centuries, and it alone is responsible for the global political and environmental troubles the world

Do Not Let Beijing Hijack Chinese Civilization in This Cold War

Commentary

The Chinese regime consistently makes appeals to the greatness of the Han civilization to bolster its legitimacy. The Chinese people and the global community must always discount the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to accomplish this.

Instead, they should see the CCP for what it is—a communist dictatorship. In this respect, there are two major similarities between the historical Cold War with the Soviet Union and the current one with China.

First, during the Cold War, there were two major blocs, and each bloc possessed a Western ideology—liberalism and Marxist-Leninism—respectively. The fight concerned which Western ideology would dominate and which vision of a global future would.

Therefore, this conflict is like the Cold War’s struggle between democracy versus tyranny. It is a struggle between two Western ideologies, liberalism and communism.

Lithuania
A Lithuanian demonstrator stands in front of a Soviet Red Army tank during the assault on the Lithuanian Radio and Television station in Vilnius on Jan. 13, 1991. Thirty years ago, the Baltic republic of Lithuania declared independence, heralding the start of the break-up of the 15-member Soviet Union, which imploded in Dec. 1991. (STF/AFP via Getty Images)

Thus, the global community cannot permit the CCP to cast this struggle as one between the West and the Han because it is not one. On one level, this is not dissimilar to what the Japanese did with their call for Pan-Asianism, “Asia for the Asians,” and their appeal from 1940 to create the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” with the “spiritual essence” of a superior Asian civilization fighting a titanic struggle with the crude, vulgar, and materialistic civilization of the West.

The Soviets did it with Marxist-Leninist ideology—to help the Soviet Union was to aid the workers of the world fight their capitalist oppressors. This was the duty of all politically correct people. Of course, the Soviets had many allies, sympathizers, and fellow travelers upon which they could depend, which helped to make them a formidable competitor.

Nevertheless, unlike the Japanese or Soviets, the Chinese regime advances its attempt at domination with a civilizational mask and so hopes to frame the cold war between China and the United States and its allies—Australia, India, and Japan—as a struggle against the Han civilization. The confrontation is with the CCP’s odious ideology and is not one with the Chinese people.

Again, there is another useful contrast with the Soviet Union. The Soviet population and leadership, certainly after the “last Bolshevik” chief of ideology and the Communist Party’s Second Secretary Mikhail Suslov, who died in January 1982, no longer believed that their struggle against the United States was to create communism to liberate the workers of the world.

In essence, the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies did not believe their ideology, which was a profound weakness. The fact that the Chinese regime is dependent upon an appeal to the greatness of China before 1949 is a testament to the CCP’s weakness.

Epoch Times Photo
The Chinese military’s new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can reportedly reach the United States, are seen at a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China in 1949 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The second reason this cold war echoes the previous one is that the CCP is appealing to the world’s population through the narrative that to aid communist China is to support the epitome of art, culture, philosophy, politics, science, and international order. This is a major theme of Beijing’s “common destiny of mankind” narrative.

The Chinese regime’s appeal is that the world can unite behind what is purportedly the world’s greatest civilization. The message will be far broader than the Japanese appeal for “Asia for the Asians” or the Soviet appeal to the purported science of Marxism-Leninism, the historical role of the working class, the advance of Hegelian-Marxist history, and the Hegelian-Marxist “March of History.”

Global support for China will create a better one for all people. That is a more powerful global message than any the Japanese or Soviets advanced, as it will not be immediately identifiable as a disguise for the Chinese regime’s dominance and thus subjugation of the world’s peoples.

As with the Cold War, there is a strong political divide between democracy and totalitarianism. The Chinese will frame their civilization—and the messages derived from it—as benign universal appeals to further the global advancement of all countries under the principles of Han civilization. The message will not be combative on its surface.

Moreover, another message flows logically if implicitly from the first: that is, the Columbian era is over, the West has led the world for three centuries, and it alone is responsible for the global political and environmental troubles the world confronts.

Notably, these ills are largely caused by the legacy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism for China and its negative impact on the rest of the world. Indeed, the rest of the world should never hesitate to call attention to this fact and the great costs the CCP imposes on the planet and its population.

The Biden administration has been reluctant to employ ideology in the struggle against the CCP. The weight of the confrontation will compel them to recognize that this conflict is and must be perceived in political terms—freedom versus tyranny. Framed in this manner, the United States has prodigious advantages over the Chinese regime—if it chooses to use them.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Bradley A. Thayer is a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China and is the co-author of “How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.”