Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. This axiom could be applied to point out that those who remember history will ensure that victories are repeated, defeats avoided, and offences and insults avenged.
China, we must realize, forever nurtures the remembrance that it was the first and once the largest civilization and the largest empire in history.
It brought us precious commodities like silk, porcelain, paper, and the printing press, along with gun-powder. The Silk Road, from centuries B.C., brought luxury goods to the rest of Asia and to Europe, as well as, it is rumoured, the bubonic plague. The ruthlessness of some of its leaders, notably Genghis Khan with his Monguls, created this huge and finally more-or-less peaceful empire, which led a sheltered existence for many centuries.
Before the West becomes self-righteous about the present Chinese attitude to trade agreements we must remember the trade wars of less than two centuries ago, when Britain forced China to trade in opium, a substance to which the Chinese authorities strongly objected on moral grounds. The degrading Treaty of Nanking, and later the Convention of Peking, were not edifying treaties for humanity.
We need to reflect rather than bluster and posture and demand our “right to trade” with this affronted giant. We need to think carefully when we invoke moral principles. The accumulation of history is not on our side.
China carries the wisdom of prophets from eons ago. Lao Tzu in his “Art of War” pointed out that physical or military violence , causing material damage, is not always the best way to achieve outcomes.
We condemn China for its offering of financial and infrastructure aid to impoverished Pacific nations, but we do something similar when we offer them “protection” from China and other potential invaders. What if China has no intention of militarily invading? We are horrified, but Britain and the United States of America have similarly built their own empires. It is possibly time for history’s reckoning.
We need a new approach to our present dilemma with China. How about we recognize her astuteness, finally apologise for past mistakes and straight-out offences, and try to get along with this great nation instead of sitting in judgment?
China will not rest now that she has been wakened from slumber. We will only aggravate her by poking at her. Let her be. All things evolve. China may evolve into something more moral, as virtuous as ancient Rome might have become if left to be. The barbarian Americans at the gate have been stalled. There is little that can halt the progress of history . We need, instead of preaching and posturing, to teach by example what there remains of good in Western democracy.
In all honesty, our crime, our broken families, our self-indulgence, our wastefulness, our contempt for some others of our own ilk, our wimpishness, are not great achievements, do not indicate a grand moral cohesiveness in Western society.
See yourselves as China sees you. See China as she sees herself. She is a grand statement in history. We belittle her morality at our cost.
A warning: Ships, planes and weapons provide military security, but our moral structures are crumbling . We need to fortify those walls.