2015年5月9日 星期六

中國的幻相 Sino Fantasy: Liu Mingfu’s ‘China Dream.’

Sino Fantasy

Readers with even the most casual acquaintance with Asian history or current events in the South China Sea may not recognize the China of Liu Mingfu’s ‘China Dream.’

WE COME IN PEACE: The author argues that China is building a powerful military in order to achieve world dominance without conflict.ENLARGE
WE COME IN PEACE: The author argues that China is building a powerful military in order to achieve world dominance without conflict.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
According to Liu Mingfu, formerly a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army and now a professor at China’s National Defence University, the Chinese are simply “the finest people on earth”—more numerous, more civilized, more harmonious than anyone else and more intelligent than Westerners. They are the foundation of Mr. Liu’s “Chinese democracy,” which in his view explains his country’s rapid rise in the past three decades and why he believes its economy will assume the world’s No. 1 spot within the next 25 years.
Since this means deposing the U.S. as the world’s current leader, conflict will be inevitable. But, according to Mr. Liu, China has never pre-emptively invaded another nation and has no intention to do so. Instead, it will take command without conquering, by creating “a culture that exerts greater influence and is more attractive globally than America’s.”
Nevertheless, a clean-handed and guilt-free China still needs a vast military machine to be built upon the moral high-ground that it occupies. “The more powerful China becomes, the more reliable world peace will be.” Unless, of course, the U.S. tries to block China’s “peaceful rise,” for instance by defending Taiwan. Then there will be war.
In other words, let us do exactly what we want, Mr. Liu is saying, or there will be trouble.


By Liu Mingfu
CN Times, 272 pages, $24.95
Readers with even the most casual acquaintance with Asian history or current events in the South China Sea may not recognize Mr. Liu’s China, although his view that a U.S.-China conflict is inevitable is one of the commonplaces of contemporary political commentary. It might be expected that Mr. Liu would provide some evidence to support his case, but instead, in the manner typical of commentary produced for domestic consumption in China, he merely attempts to hypnotize his readers by endlessly repeating a list of unsupportable generalities.
Indeed, there’s only enough material for a pamphlet in this unoriginal tour d’horizon of the officially approved clichés of Chinese self-admiration. It would be easier to learn Mr. Liu’s main points simply by reading his section headings—what follows each of them typically amounts to little more than repetitions of the same claim using 10 times as many words.
Even when Mr. Liu does advance in the direction of fact, he shows little interest in accuracy and is often easily rebutted: China is not the only country ever to declare a nuclear no-first-strike policy. None of China’s empires lasted remotely as long as the Roman Empire. German is not the only official language of Luxembourg.
Significantly, his claim that China has never invaded another country since it was first unified during the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.) will come as a surprise not only to historians but to any Vietnamese who can remember 1979.
But if truth is the first casualty of Mr. Liu’s war, logic is another swiftly stretchered victim. Mr. Liu machine guns readers with quotes that run the intellectual gamut from Herodotus to Kissinger. The use of a famous name is supposed to be sufficient to clinch an argument. When none is available, throwaway phrases such as “a Chinese expert” or “widely acknowledged by experts”—to add a suggestion of numerical support—will do. Myriad opposing experts go unmentioned and their counterarguments unexamined.
Mr. Liu also a master of the non sequitur. He claims that since a former colony’s official language is often a legacy of its past colonial master, and since there are no countries outside China that have Mandarin as its official language, this is “proof” that China “has never invaded other countries, and never tried to expand its territory.” Never mind that Mandarin is one of Singapore’s official languages, or that the indigenous people of the two Chinese territories of Tibet and Xinjiang, for example, certainly consider themselves to be under occupation.
Terms that are inconvenient for Mr. Liu’s views are simply redefined, with “democracy” being the first victim. When Napoleon conquered his neighbors, he was an invader. But when the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuang, did the same, he was merely “solving the problem of uniting the empire.” Mr. Liu quotes without irony George Santayana’s well-worn saying, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yet he doesn’t consider what happens to those who simply invent history.
This newly translated text appears not to have been updated since it first appeared in Chinese five years ago, and some of its predictions have already been falsified by recent events. “Even if China’s growth simply slowed, there would be serious consequences for the global economy,” Mr. Liu says, as if the world would never let China’s GDP fall below 9%.
Only in the final few pages of the book is the one-party system’s culpability for China’s endemic corruption and inequality admitted, and the assumption that all Chinese speak with the same Communist Party-approved voice finally abandoned.
What Mr. Liu does not say, of course, is that the U.S.-China conflict he predicts and the problems he acknowledges might be avoided by an orderly transition from totalitarian one-party rule to some form of genuine democracy.
That he is commonly labelled a hawk is unsurprising, but the label is inappropriate. Hawks, after all, are noted for their acute vision.
—Mr. Neville-Hadley is a Vancouver-based writer.