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Yellow Man’s Burden - The Limits of Power Projection Shown with the Belt and Ro

Popularity 1Viewed 892 times 2017-6-12 01:43 |System category:Life| Yellow, White, Burden, Belt, Road

Some time ago, in the forums of the China Daily BBS, there was a request from the management for folks like myself to take some time to talk about the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’.  It is a rather ambiguous project for the powers to be in Beijing, much like the ambiguous projects the old powers to be in London, Paris, and elsewhere had over the last couple of centuries – an attempt to establish a secure trade network with the world (i.e. the Suez Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, and so on).  I had my reservations talking about this topic – given the amount of ‘chest-thumping nationalism’ that can occur with projects like this.  However, in light of the incident in Pakistan a few days after I typed this article, there is a need to talk – to avoid the narrative of “the Yellow Man’s Burden” creeping into the collective conscience of the Chinese public.

 

This term is a play on “White Man’s Burden” which had its origins during colonial periods that a good deal of the super projects that built the trade networks which still stand today (like the Suez and Panama Canals) – to which said builders viewed the lands used as ‘untamed’ and the local people living there as ‘savages’.  It was up to the colonial powers to ‘educate’ these peoples so that they could contribute to the ‘greater good’ that was whatever that colony had to serve.  Suffice to say to this day there are many areas around the world, China included, that have very bitter memories of what these actions really meant (slavery, plundering of resources, introduction of drugs, etc.).  Along with those bitter memories, however, are memories like the ‘Long March’ and other struggles to drive the ‘White Devils’ out.  It is those that defined the last half of the 20th Century, along with a sense of self determination.

 

Now it is the early quarter of the 21st Century, and the former colonies/savages are now the upcoming powers to be in this very uncertain world.  Yet the tropes, like ‘<insert group here>’s Burden are playing out as they always have in human history.  These powers are attempting to establish their reach in the world, but are for the most part helpless at the ground level if they cannot exert overwhelming firepower.  The locals are viewed as ‘savages’ that need to contribute, while they view these ‘devils’ as something to be driven out.  Some will be crushed and barely remembered, others will resist and eventually to become what will come after the current crop of powers to be.

 

So… what is the answer for the powers to be in Beijing and the people of P.R. China? I would be a fool to say I had a complete answer, but I can serve some basic warnings from parallels in the past.  In the age of nuclear weapons, the ability to emulate the tactics of former colonial empires like the Romans and Mongolians (i.e. slaughter and enslave everyone and simply grab territory) is not an option.  ‘Educating the locals’ is very much a risk, but a necessary evil if more people are supposed to buy your goods and services.  If nothing else, there may be the need to make alliances with previous ‘devils’ and like minded ‘former savages’ to collectively punish those that are trying to make trouble (i.e. establish themselves as another up and coming power).  As with all things involving Harmony, there is the ever delicate balancing act between needs and wants.  However, once achieved, I do not have a doubt in my mind that ‘Road and Belt Initiative’ can go down in human history as a worthy project.

Will there be a similar political cartoon of P.R. China and India in the history books of the 21st Century?

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-6-14 13:30
AIIB, though spearheaded by China, is essentially a financial entity backed by dozens of countries, of which the primary purpose is to fund OBOR projects.
OBOR itself is aimed at facilitating trade between countries, and globalization is widely still viewed as benefiting the world's economy, despite Donald Trump's America First policy. So OBOR is a multi-lateral initiative, instead of a pet project of China.
Does China initiate this mega undertaking to project its power around the world? I don't think this is what China is going after.
Reply Report tradervic 2017-6-14 22:32
Liononthehunt: AIIB, though spearheaded by China, is essentially a financial entity backed by dozens of countries, of which the primary purpose is to fund OBOR proje ...
Make no mistake - these projects have been for the betterment of P.R. China first and foremost.  The powers to be in Beijing have been very naked, and refreshingly honest, about this.  If there was negligible benefits, there would be no backing.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-6-14 22:57
Is it anything odd that China initiates something that would be for the betterment of China? Do you really expect anybody to do something without expecting anything in return?
And please tell me why some of the western countries have been scrambling to join the AIIB? Do they also see opportunities to benefit from something that would happen inevitably against the current globalization setting? The answer is yes, isn't it, my eccentric friend?
If it is a drive that would benefit everybody, why we have to dwell on whoever initiates it?
Reply Report tradervic 2017-6-19 23:57
Liononthehunt: Is it anything odd that China initiates something that would be for the betterment of China? Do you really expect anybody to do something without expe ...
Hm... yet do projects like these really benefit to the 'savage'?  Hate to say, but given the amount of pain that was inflicted by the 'white devil', it is a bit interesting to see how much of a 'yellow devil' is developing.  Regardless, the 'savage' is not going to be going away any time soon.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-6-20 11:00
Is it premature to draw a parallel between what you call "white devil" and what is widely perceived as the future bellwether of globalization?
By the way, do you root for protectionism that is being touted by Donald Trump?
Reply Report tradervic 2017-6-21 21:22
Liononthehunt: Is it premature to draw a parallel between what you call &quot;white devil&quot; and what is widely perceived as the future bellwether of globalizatio ...
Oh?  To the 'Savage', a 'Devil" is 'Devil' regardless of skin/eye/skin color.  As for the question of protectionism... {smile} ...let the games begin.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-6-21 22:08
tradervic: Oh?  To the 'Savage', a 'Devil&quot; is 'Devil' regardless of skin/eye/skin color.  As for the question of protectionism... {smile} ...let the games b ...
Let me teach u what APRIORISM is:
To start out with principles from the first (a priori) and use them as the basis for accepting or rejecting facts is to commit the fallacy of apriorism.  U are a text book example of that. lol.

Moreover, why u dodge the question about your attitude towards protectionism?
Reply Report tradervic 2017-7-6 11:04
Liononthehunt: Let me teach u what APRIORISM is:
To start out with principles from the first (a priori) and use them as the basis for accepting or rejecting facts is ...
Because I have seen both the benefits and the perils that policy can bring.  No country is an 'island upon itself', to which short term gains are swallowed by long term losses.

Anywho... depending on the mods, my next article may actually surprise you.
Reply Report Liononthehunt 2017-7-6 16:07
tradervic: Because I have seen both the benefits and the perils that policy can bring.  No country is an 'island upon itself', to which short term gains are swal ...
The chances you would surprise me are slim to none. As I know too well your mentality on China issues.

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