Century of Self Humiliation | Ilija Dokmanovic
“Hu·mil·i·ate” [verb]: To make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publicaly.
When one studies history, especially a comparative history of China and its interactions with the Western World, it is unavoidable to come across the concept “The Century of Humiliation”. The Century of Humiliation is a term used to describe the condition China found itself in at the latter part of the 19th Century, continuing on towards the mid-20th Century. The European Imperialists set their eyes on the East, particularly China, tempted by the riches and mystery that the Orient World had to offer for these rapidly growing and industrializing nations. This, after all, was the center for manufacturing, trade, and fine goods, and philosophy hundreds, if not thousands, of years before the rise of Europe. That temptation led to European powers scrambling to get a slice of the pie, to the displeasure and detriment of the locals and the Qing leadership.
For the Chinese, European Imperialism was another invading force fighting over the bountiful region, like many other tribes, kingdoms and empires had done so for centuries, like the Manchus, Mongols, or the Japanese. On top of constant invasion from rivals in the region as well as foreign empires, China’s record of internal stability is far from stellar, having over a thousand years of civil wars and conflicts between rival kingdoms and dynasties. To say the very least, it is a nation which hasn’t known peace for a very, very long time.
While European powers would eventually be forced out of the region due to war, economic turmoil, declining imperial power and rising independence movements, China would find itself eventually filling the vacuum of power with Mao and the CCP. Mao, recognizing China’s dire need to play catch up with the rest of the world, made it the mission of the CCP to completely overhaul how China operated, modernize at any cost, and gain a form of vengeance against Western Imperialist nations for the part they played in the Century of Humiliation. It’s a tale as old as time that every nation wants to be the top dog, but few possess the means to actually do it in the current sense.
Napoleon Bonaparte once famously said “China is a sleeping giant… let it sleep”, and with the recent history of Chinese expansion in Central Asia, the Himalayas, Kashmir and the South China Sea, it is hard to argue that China’s ambitions are that of a crusty-eyed, half-asleep nation. Not only territorial expansion, but the pursuit of a New Silk Road funded and controlled by the CCP would be devastating to ocean trading networks, which are vital for Western global influence and power projection shows that China wants to unseat the Western World as the global hegemon, in terms of military, economic, and productive capability.
To most historians or scholars of geopolitics, the aforementioned circumstances would be the perfect preposition for a hot war. But as direct conflicts between great powers have fallen out of fashion or practicality in the last century, especially between nuclear-armed countries, the method of toppling your rivals becomes more insidious; relying on infiltration, subversion, demoralization, and stoking up internal pressures to break the nation from within. This method of waging war was employed and perfected by the KGB, especially for politically contentious issues like the Vietnam War or the civil rights movement. By creating doubt, or shame, or distrust amongst the general public, a nation can be crippled before taking any decisive action against external foes, as it is too preoccupied in establishing its own internal order.
While the times have changed, and the Soviet Union being relegated to the dustbin of history, this method of waging war hasn’t subsided, it’s just found a new home. Chinese leadership realized long ago that they didn’t need to wage a hot war to topple Western hegemony. In fact, they’ve realized that they barely have to put any work in, other than a few nudges in the right direction. For decades, the CCP has realized that the free markets and individual liberty that won the Cold War, can just as easily become our mechanisms for our own defeat.
The outsourcing of labour and manufacturing jobs to China and the rest of the third world have crippled Western job opportunities and internal economic strength. The “opening up of markets” that occurred in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s may have been great for GDP growth for those decades, but it came at a cost: companies were no longer held to a standard of loyalty to their home nation, seeking to expand profits on an international scale instead. China offered the best deals to set up shop for many of these American and British businesses, and, because of a growing culture that lacks moral values or a concept of loyalty, they took the deal with dollar signs in their eyes.
Is it any surprise that companies such as Apple, Facebook, the NBA, Nike, or any of these other popular brands get cold feet when it comes to calling out basic human rights abuses, like genocide? Well, when there are goods being manufactured by the very people being genocided, it doesn’t help to bite the hand that feeds you.
Meanwhile, CCP agents can embed themselves in influential positions in businesses, academia, and political offices where their loyalty isn’t to quarterly profit margins, ‘The American Dream’, or liberation of the “oppressed”; it’s to Xi Xinping and the CCP.
Through decades of ill-thought out policy making, whether it was security agreements to combat the Soviet Union, or by tying our manufacturing industries with China to cut costs, we have allowed our own greed to consume ourselves. Lack of strong moral values has led us to throw out traditions and societal norms in an endless quest for “human rights” that further degrade our own societal cohesion and lead to lack of a strong central identity. Politicians on both the Left and the Right have continually pussyfooted around the idea of having a firm stance against Chinese provocation, lest it hurt the import of cheap iPhones made by slave-labour. Lack of a backbone and a crippling fear of sacrifice has led us to back away from the most challenging matters and conflicts on the global stage, especially at the detriment of millions of peoples lives. Instead, our governments choose to chase after small-time regime changes to keep the cash-flow going, and to pat themselves on the back about “spreading democracy”, even though it hardly ever works out.
The general public, too distracted by cheap entertainment and goods, are led on political goose chases about identity issues on gender and race, paired with a perpetual self-flagellation on the altar of “white privilege” means that they fail to realize the growing threat a world over. The majority of voters, especially young voters, will jump on social-media bandwagons about rare instances of police killing armed criminals, homosexuals feeling discriminated against, or “combating hate” in our own countries, they ignore real issues that are happening every day. It’s trendy, after all, to combat the “cisheteropatriarchy” (who historically are also the main defence against rival tribes and nations) on TikTok.
When we see things like the ongoing genocide of Uighyr Muslims in China, or the breaking of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, or the manipulation and intimidation of supranational institutes like the United Nations and the WHO to look the other way when it comes to Chinese disregard for the international precedent of acceptable behaviour, one can’t help but be sickened. Any sane Western government would have shut down the identity politics debate a decade ago when confronted with this very real international threat. As it happens, Western governments are more interested in pandering to these ridiculous subversive groups for votes, keeping things cheap, keeping people consuming, rather than focus on issues that actually matter.
Meanwhile, China hasn’t backed away, or been brought into the fold as people like Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher had hoped. The strength of the CCP runs deep, and it’s our fault for allowing it to happen. Through their incessant seeking to “bridge the bond” with China, Western leadership economically empowered them at our detriment. Manufacturing outsourced in order to lower prices, allowing Silicon Valley and other core American industries to entrench themselves in the slave-labour market instead of demanding they keep jobs in the West and conduct ethical practices and innovate, and allowing intellectual property theft in order to ease any tension has not only meant that the CCP has had more than enough time to bolster their power regionally, and strengthen their internal security and economy. They’ve also tested how much Western powers will let them get away with, which, after many have refused to lift a finger to even show vocal support for the Hong Kong protestors, is apparently a lot.
In more recent weeks, we have seen just how far Chinese influence exists in the United States. The Hunter Biden controversy has shown that Beijing’s fingers possibly reach even all the way to the White House. If Xi can exert influence over the executive office of the most powerful country in the world, it begs the question of how deep the corruption goes, and who has betrayed our core values as a free, independent, and “incorruptible” democracies in the West.
It makes one wonder whether the people who are leading our nation in politics, business, finance and technology are willingly leading us to a slaughterhouse? But honestly, the majority of people are already too distracted to notice the bolt pistol which is directly aimed at their head.