July 29, 2012

The Tragicomedy of Errors: China, British Imperialism, and the Opium Wars

Julia Lovell finds something funny in the Opium Wars

Great Britain has many reasons to feel great about itself. Its empire was the largest in history and covered over a fifth of the world's population. It had more colonies than any other European power. It came, it saw, it divided, and it conquered.

It raped and it reaped, it slaughtered millions of people, massacred entire populations, and caused civil wars with impunity. Racism was its state policy. It sucked the life out of its colonies and reduced them to what we now call third-world nations. It drew and redrew boundaries and created whole new countries randomly on a whim. Most conflicts in the world today can be traced back to British Imperialism: the Kashmir issue, the Sino-Indian border dispute, Tibet, Palestine, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sudan - the list goes on. 

Yes - Great Britain can be proud. It had the largest empire in the world. It had managed to keep its European competitors in check. There was no known threat to its global dominion. It seemed that Great Britain was destined to rule the world.

July 7, 2012

Quote of the day: Mapping a lie

Were you using the wrong maps again?

- Ma Xiaotian, deputy head, PLA General Staff

The US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade remains a stark reminder of how US actions can go...well, largely the way it wanted them to. Not so much the attack itself, which had "accidentally" gone awry, but the American government's control over the reporting of the attack in the media, which went exactly as the US and NATO wanted it to go, most of it blindly parroting the US view.

According to the US government, the attack was the result of "bombing instructions...based on an outdated map".  Ma Xiaotian, referring to a NATO attack that killed 25 Pakistani soldiers last November, made the above priceless remark at a recent meeting of US and Chinese officials last year.

Absolutely priceless. Must've taken the wind right out of their sails. 

I wonder why this didn't reach the mainstream press. Did the US government suppress it? It can if it wants to. The bigger question is why the Chinese press didn't pick up on it.