April 17, 2020,
When I was just a little kid, growing up in the late 1930’s in Ferguson, Missouri, I slowly became aware of the fact that anyone who had a ‘German’ name was going to be in trouble. Hitler’s forces were invading every country to the east of Germany and my country didn’t want anything to do with that problem but, ‘Germans’ were becoming a hated nationality. Then, on December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and now, we had two nationalities to hate, Germans and Japanese. Although my Mother was of German extraction, she had married my Father, Louis Christen, whose predecessors had come from a little province in Switzerland (Peffecon, in Canton Schwiess) to the United States in the early 1840’s. Thus, with a Swiss name, I was immune from the ‘country of origin’ hatred during World War II. It took a very long time before the average American (me included!) understood that neither the German nor Japanese people were really ‘bad’ people. However, thanks to the war-crimes trials, there was no doubt that many members of the military and governments of both countries were truly evil individuals and the people of those countries, and ours, suffered greatly because of them. Then, because of leaders like Generals George Marshall and Douglas McArthur, we Americans helped rebuild those war-torn countries and provided food, clothing, fuel, and financial assistance to help their people rebuild their societies. The lesson we all learned (the hard way) was to beware of evil leaders but don’t blame the people they miss-led (who usually had a gun pointed at their heads if they voiced disagreement) who had to suffer through their ‘leader’s folly. Punish the evil leaders but help and care about the people who suffer, in their country and other countries, because of them.
The people of Russia have been cursed with both evil or inept leadership (and, sometimes, the combination of both) for centuries. It is almost impossible to ‘see the face’ or assess the character of an average Russian (other than through that country’s great writers) now, when all we see and read about in the media for most part of the last two decades is a Russian ex-KBG member turned arch-criminal named Vladimir Putin. It is interesting that the first leader of Russia after the revolution was a ‘Valdimir’ but his family name was Lenin. He ruled Russia from 1917 to 1924 and was followed by Joseph Stalin, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1924 to 1953. The Russian people might have won their part of WWII but lost their freedom, and millions lost their lives in the war and in the Stalin ‘peace’ that followed. Khrushchev and Gorbachev did their best to break the Stalinist mold but it turned out to be a weak and impermanent effort. And now, only a few decades later, the Russians have Valdimir Putin as their leader. During Putin’s time in office (about 20 years-so far), the Russian economy has slowly and steadily weakened to the point where the average Russian citizen has grown despondent of ever seeing ‘better times’ ahead. Russia is now considered to be in a ‘Gangster Economy’ and Putin and his friends, the gangster elite of Russia, are now running the country. Quite possibly, his main reason for staying in power and his efforts to belittle America is his fear of being lynched if his regime is overthrown in a people’s revolution (engineered by the CIA) like the one which occurred in Libya. Putin is carefully and expertly walking a very thin line between staying in power or facing a people’s revolution to depose and, probably, kill him. Vladimir Putin is an evil leader but that doesn’t make the Russian people evil, or bad. I’ve known only a few Russian ‘ex-pats‘ in my adulthood and they were all wonderful, intelligent, and creative people. Again, the lesson that should be obvious is: ‘don’t blame a country’s people for the evil of their leadership, especially in a country where ‘he who has the guns, rules!’
And, all of the above leads me to deal with the current epidemic of nationality hatred being fueled by our current ‘find-a-scapegoat–to-blame-for-his-personal-errors’ President, Donald J. Trump. If ever there was a country where its’ leadership has swung often and violently between the extreme polarities of good and evil, it is China. And, there is absolutely no way to cover the incredibly long and complex history of China’s leadership in its’ thousands of years history in one third of this blog—about 333 words—but it might get easier if I try to deal with only the last One-Hundred and Ten years.
Doctor Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) is considered the ‘Father of Modern China’. both in mainland China and Taiwan. Dr. Sun is credited with developing and leading the eventually successful revolution by the Chinese people against the Quin dynasty which occurred between 1910 and 1915 and the battles for party control and control of China, continued for decades thereafter. The official date of the success of that revolution (really the date of the Wuchang Uprising which lead to their Declaration of Independence) is now called Double Ten Day 10-10-(1911) and is celebrated in both China and Taiwan. That date is the Chinese equivalent of our 4th of July. Unfortunately that date didn’t mark a clean break with the past—except for the end of the Quin dynasty—but marked the beginning of almost 40 years of internal strife including: Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist army battles against the Northern Warlords, then battling a Japanese invasion, Mao Zedong and his Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) battling the Northern Chinese Warlords and defeating them, and finally the war between Chiang’s Nationalist and Mao’s Communist forces which only ended On October 1, 1949 when, with the assistance of the United States Army, Navy, and Airforce, Chiang and his Nationalist Army grabbed every piece of art (or anything of value) that they or the US forces would carry for them and they (and the art) were all shipped to Taiwan—where Chiang Kai-shek and his army took control of the country. I was only 15 years old when this happened and the only thing I clearly remember about that time was our General Stillwell calling Chiang, “Peanut Head!” Obviously, General Stillwell didn’t have a very high estimate of Chiang’s ability to lead an army or a country. China, and then the Republic of China, became the People’s Republic of China.
Mao Zedong ruled China like an absolute dictator from 1949 to his death in September 1976. As Mao aged he also mentally deteriorated, and as that condition progressed, his latest wife, (Jiang Qing) who was referred to as Madam Mao, or Madam Chairman, began to assume control of the country in his name. She led what was called the ‘Gang of Four’ and they, using the authority of Chairman Mao, initiated the Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to Mao’s death in 1976. The Cultural Revolution marked a decade of total chaos, incredible death, and destruction of the society of the Chinese people and far overshadowed any possible good Mao, and the Communist Party, had done for the people of China. One historian estimated that Mao ‘s regime was responsible for the death of over 45 Million Chinese.
Deng Xiaoping followed Mao and he spent his entire term (1978-1992) fighting for releasing China from the restrictions of Mao and allowing the Chinese people to be able to accept entrepreneurial opportunities of working with the entire industrial world. Deng ‘opened’ China to the world market. How well did that change work out? Within the next four decades, China went from being a totally bankrupt nation to the number one manufacturing economy in the world, replacing the United States of America which had, for many proceeding decades, been holding that ‘medallion’. How did this happen? I believe it was due to the combination of good leadership and a great people. How did the United States lose its’ medallion? I personally believe it was due to a combination of bad leadership and a confused people. (As an aside: I’ve written a book about this which is still in manuscript form, Titled Watching: the Destruction of the American Middle Class—and the loss of our #1 position as an industrial economy- to China.)
As I expected, trying to explain the history of the leadership of China (and the corollary of what happened to the Chinese people) during the past Century in 400 words or less has turned out to be an impossible task. Perhaps next week I’ll be able to return to the matter of trying to convince my readers NOT to blame the people of a country for the evil or stupidity some of their leaders. However, before closing this blog, I want to turn the issue of how we judge others around to ask: How do you think other countries’ people are judging Americans during the reign of Donald J. Trump? Are all Americans con-artists, liars, ego-maniacs, and misogynists? (I kept the list short on purpose). Think about it. Maybe I’ve written enough to make my point?
Copyright, April 17, 2020, Louis J. Christen