Thursday, November 04, 2004

UK Guardian on the nation state

November 3

"Strength in numbers" UK Guardian October 23

http://www.sulekha.com/news/nhc.aspx?cid=406567

This is an interesting perspective and I agree with the premise that the nation-state's obituary is a little premature.

While it is true that power is inexorably shifting away from the European Union -- partly a function of aging and partly of internal dissent -- Martin Jacques does go a little ga-ga about China. I suppose this is not suprising considering that the Guardian is a left-wing paper, and China is about the only Old Left success story there is these days.

But I take exception to the quote from Jared Diamond that Jacques nods approvingly to. Diamond, although he does make a lot of good points in "Guns, Germs and Steel", tends to be irritatingly focused on the (sometimes imagined) glories of South-east Asia (esp. Papua New Guinea) and China. I think he is simply ignorant of Indian culture and civilization. For instance, according to him Indian languages are derived from Sino-Tibetan, which is a fairly absurd proposition. Unlike the other five or six large (in population) nations, India has a distinct, unbroken cultural heritage going back at least 5,000 years. This is despite the best efforts of Muslim and Christian imperialists.

In contrast, China is a Han tyranny, a monoculture that is not sustainable in the long run: for instance, look at the riots last week where Hui Muslims revolted and 150 people were killed. If you applaud China's cohesiveness and attribute it to the Han majority, then you are pretty close to endorsing racism (you have to be a non-yellow Asian and live in Singapore or Hong Kong or Shanghai to understand Chinese racism: they are as racist and color-conscious as they accuse the Japanese of being). There seems to be an imperial-hangover tendency on the side of the Old Left to admire China's successful and brutal colonialism: sort of like, sigh, in the good old days, we used to do this too!

Besides, China's cultural continuity has been decisively broken by the Marxists. The only thing that remains from the olden days is a rather alarming sense of imperialism: a new 'manifest destiny' if you will. You see this in practice in colonial attacks on Tibet, the Spratlys, Mischief Reef, Senkaku Islands, and now the attempt to claim Korea as theirs. You folks in the West are deluding yourselves about China, just as some of you (Kim Philby leaps to mind) deluded yourselves about the Soviet Union. We Asians know the beast better. This is a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship, and "China's peaceful rise" is a smoke-screen.

I am copying Martin Jacques on this mail as well. Mr. Jacques, I am a columnist for rediff.com, India's largest web portal. My web page is www.rediff.com/news/srinivas.htm

Rajeev

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