Tackling China: Why Western Nations are at a Cultural Disadvantage

By Kenneth Happel

Meeting the Chinese Threat

Part One

In modern American discourse we often hear some warnings that tackling the emerging Chinese superpower will be more difficult than we expect. Sometimes their political system is pointed to and the comment made that they do not have to face real elections. While both are true, these beliefs are actually a problem. Ever since Marco Polo came back from China, the West has had a completely incomplete and, in the current geopolitical situation, dangerous idea about China, its intensions, and its view of us. This has led to a political reality in which the former Soviets are incorrectly considered a greater and more immediate threat than the Chinese.

We face two real and immediate challenges. The first is how to bring an awareness to the American public and political class about the nature of Chinese society and why it is going to be extraordinarily difficult to blunt their obtaining world dominance. The second is to find an effective multi-administration strategy to defeat their efforts to destabilize the political system of the United States. This is a two-part piece that opens up the difficulties to and necessary elements of our solutions based upon personal experience in China.

I had the opportunity to work with the Chinese over a multi-year period. I was able to meet Communist officials all the way up to their joint chiefs and their central committee. My China trader was the head of a international trade. As part of an internet project, I and my employees were able to travel to every part of China from the coastal regions to Urumqi and Kashgar. Along the way, we discovered that almost all our Western understandings of China were completely incorrect.

The Chinese have a 9,000+ year written history that lives for them in everything they do. This identity is so deeply rooted that its component pieces form an immutable base for their interpretation of all life events, including political. There are no European equivalents. The Middle Kingdom is called that because they see themselves as always having been, since the beginning of all conscious being. All other cultures must come to them for they are at the center of civilization. An emperor has always ruled, and the structure of society has always been the same. The emperor owned all land and the entire population that worked it on his behalf. All his administration came from the land-peasants he owned. The lowest social class was the business class. To be an entrepreneur was the lowest form of human endeavor. As a result, the emperor’s Army, that controlled the safety of the roads and borders, became the ruling part of the business class. The army functioned both as bank, police, and judicial system. In many cases they owned all or a substantive part of every business.

While we see all social evolution through our eyes and concepts of social and political participation, those concepts have absolutely no cultural home at all in Chinese culture. They view themselves as the only culture that has always been, that has always survived, that has always dominated in the end. Their idea of winning a fight for domination may involve decades to centuries of strategic and tactical effort. They see such efforts as short compared to their 9,000-year timeline. They also see themselves as now busy with returning to their former dominance. In terms of geopolitical influence, to reestablish the Middle Kingdom where the world has to come and have its plans blessed.

I was surprised when I discovered that, not only were the average Chinese not upset by Chinese communism but actual internalize it as a new way of choosing the emperor. A brilliance of the current communist government was to add to Chinese culture an explanation of how the devastation of China by the Japanese and the rise in wealth and dominance in the West could be explained. Western Colonial Imperialism was explained as what happens when the business class is allowed power. Instead they created the idea that the Chinese worker “middle” class was justified by their centuries of culture and amplified by the Communist image that all other socialist countries had sold out. When the current theory of two economic systems one government/people was developed, the Chinese government created the largest increase in standard of living that has ever occurred on earth.

The process of taking people with one set of clothes, one dish and one utensil, as the total of their possessions and turning them into semi-skilled workers experiencing a growth in yearly income from some $200 a year to between two and four thousand dollars per year took five to seven years. It involved multiple state provided living quarters and involuntary work assignments as people were taught how to live with running water, kitchens, and toilets. By Chinese standards, the average person was becoming rich. By our standards, the corruption and largess of the rulers was thought to surely create social upheaval. By their standards, the emperor was earning his right to be emperor. When ready the two economic systems will vanish, but the one Communist government will not.

My China banker started my social training by explaining the Chinese see themselves not only as the original culture, the only group whose identity has never changed throughout history, but also sees itself as one people. Within this unity of identity is an abhorrence of in-group conflict and an imperative for polite and respectful interaction. As a result, if you are seen to lose face because of disrespect or conflict you are literally disowned by the society, no matter what your excuse is or how correct your point. He explained that during the day I should never openly disagree or “make a point”. I would lose face or cause someone else to lose face and that, in their society, in some ways, was worse than murder. That whatever points needing resolution would be handled in the evening during social drinking, since whatever was said (within limits) under the influence was considered innocent or forgivable.

During an evening drinking session, a Chinese general caused me to have an epiphany about how deep this cultural identity was. A Dutch banker was explaining the story of Noah from the Bible to a general in the People’s Army. As the story went on, the general became ever more visibly reserved. Finally, he asked, “Do you mind telling me when [the] flood happened”? When the banker said 5,000 BC the general turned visibly stressed, became agitated and said, “Most terribly terribly sorry, have written history to 7,000 BC – no flood.” He liked the banker and was horrified that because the Chinese have the longest written history, he KNEW, because he is Chinese, that the story of Noah was untrue and saying that to his friend’s face even in that drinking environment could be seen as an insult, a loss of face, and the end of their relationship.

The point is that you can fully expect that all dealings with the Chinese occur on their terms and within their culture. That all actions have a pecking order and that goes for nations. That their view of regaining dominance is real and will simply go on until achieved or stalemated. You can expect that they will do anything, without moral compunction, to achieve their goals and save face within their society.


Part Two

Part One ended with you can fully expect that all dealings with the Chinese occur on their terms and within their culture. That all actions have a pecking order and that goes for nations too. That their view of regaining dominance is real and will simply go on until achieved or stalemated. You can expect that they will do anything, without moral compunction, to achieve their goals and save face within their society.

I wanted to expand upon the last, the idea that they will do anything, without moral compunction, to achieve their goals and save face within their society. Seeing themselves as the oldest continuous national identity on Earth, the oldest race, the oldest culture and the single society that has always existed, the Middle Kingdom, that all other cultures must come to with deference to history, allows a social identity that has little compunction about its values being correct.

The idea that they see themselves as racist or wrong for the internment of Islamic peoples in China is completely wrong. The entire idea that a religion could have as its basic principle the destruction of the Chinese state is simply seen with anathema from the view that China is the one country that has always maintained its identity from the beginning of written history. The religion’s elimination is seen as justified. We are not able to understand a society that has nearly 3 males for every female of the same age because of the widespread killing of female babies at birth. This is not considered a moral problem. Most of what we think of as moral imperatives just do not mean anything remotely like our view of them within their context.

The Chinese response to the Covid-19 outbreak is a case in point. If it was an error, that error represents a loss of face on the part of the Communist version of the emperor and his staff, so an excuse had to be found that relieves them of the responsibility and relieves the Chinese society of losing face. So, at first, they covered-up the breakout and condemned hundreds of thousands to death around the world. Do you hear an,” Oops”, or an “I’m sorry that it has happened”? No and you will not. This is why the Chinese have done serious work to eradicate and censor mention of their own Chinese internal report that the sickness breakout did not come from the “wet market”. The report said the first infected person was an animal caretaker in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who went shopping in the wet market. It also mentioned that the wet market actually did not have the type of bats Covid-19 came from, so it never could have been the source. The point is that the report made China negligent and validated the reports from our embassy that the Class-4 Wuhan Institute of Virology isolation facility was not working up to required standards. I read that internal report when published on January 10, 2020 by the South China Institute of Technology. Within weeks it was erased from public online sources. Numerous searches for its text or articles about it yielded one article in the UK Guardian and one in the Washington Post. Not able to find the original text I posted both articles to my Facebook page. Facebook promptly informed me that Facebook’s “fact checker” had determined these were fake news and blocked their viewing completely. I failed at finding a way to protest or redress their fact checker’s inaccuracy.

So why would Facebook block fact in favor of embracing a Chinese propaganda position. The Chinese investment in Facebook and its advertising revenues, not to mention the political bias of Facebook owners and workers, were a simple reason for Facebook to remove and censor newspaper articles and posts about the report (including mine) until the Guardian Newspaper in the UK and the Washington Post demonstrably printed that Facebook had censored them and “embarrassed” the Chinese government over it. Then, suddenly, Facebook stopped blocking it. I found the original text that a friend had downloaded and posted it. In the meantime, social media including Facebook kept on saying that it is not censoring commentary. Since social media is the prime communication platform for political discussion that currently exists, social media bias and its ability to be influenced effectively ends free communication of political thought and information between Americans.

The Chinese simply see us as too weak and unable to work as a cohesive group to ever defeat their intensions. They know how to use their money to buy influence. The know how to use their takeover of our manufacturing to threaten us. The example of them threatening to withhold supplies for Covid-19 patients and health workers if we did not stop exposing their culpability in the virus outbreak should terrify us all. We are going to have to adapt or lose our economic and political freedoms. We are in a cold war with China, unless we adopt a multi-party and multi-administration strategy around the following, we will lose.

  • United bipartisan political messaging and a need for political unity on China are going to be more critical than ever before in our history and outweigh all the other challenges our society faces.
  • Social media must become become the American public square and forced to allow open discourse to Americans. It also must not be allowed to become a media tool for competing foreign national interests.
  • Communist Chinese monetary and cultural influence of academic institutions and curriculum needs to be eradicated.
  • A separate print or broadcast news media must be created that is “just-the-facts” and their sources. It must inherit the legal journalistic protections because it will be our source of common facts. All other news media must lose their protections as news media and become opinion media open to liability.
  • A national policy restricting High-tech interaction with or supply to American industry must be established. Fundamental national interest supply-lines in communications, data, healthcare, defense materials and space technology must be replaced with American original sources. We need to influence our allies to do the same.

The Chinese will try to manipulate and own all of these elements and more. Our future is up to us.