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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “The danger of a single story”

Hat tip to reader, perspectivehere, in sharing this important perspective (through our Open Forum) from the continent of Africa, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, where in this 20-minute talk to a TED audience, she warns against a dominant Western narrative about other peoples on the planet. It’s called, “The danger of a single story.” Adichie’s words must be spread. As perspective rightly noted:

This is one of the problems that Hidden Harmonies is trying to address is to present voices that are different from and challenge the one-sided stories we often see in the western media about China.


Especially as relates to China and Africa’s relationship, the Western media have been propagandizing it as one of neo-colonialism. The truth could not be further. For an informative debate, head over to Ray‘s recent article, “Debunking Myth of China exploiting Africa Again!

Or as this individual from Ghana said at a talk (at the 51m34s time in the video) by Eric X Li, Africa can decide for itself. He said China has shown Africa much more respect than the West and in many instances Africans find that alone to be even compelling to work with the Chinese.

  1. Wayne
    March 14th, 2012 at 02:19 | #1

    I just have this to say. This chick is hot booooty! And she sorta knows it.

  2. Baz
    March 14th, 2012 at 02:32 | #2

    You like your jungle booty eh Wayne… Why am i not surprised?

  3. Wayne
    March 14th, 2012 at 03:05 | #3

    Fucking racist comment by Baz. Not fucking surprising from this Uncle Tom (unless he is actually white – which would not surprise me).

  4. pug_ster
    March 14th, 2012 at 19:36 | #4

    Talking about Dangers of telling of a single story, this video of ‘Kony 2012’ is nothing but a propaganda film. I agree that Joseph Kony is a bad person and should be put on trial. But the way they are doing this is a classic white man’s burden response. I mean that Joseph Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for years but US has sent advisers there to get rid of him. And Kony’s Lord Resistance Army is only numbered at around 200. Maybe some governments within the neighboring countries don’t want him prosecuted. Also, recently, there are discovery of oil in Uganda. This sounds more like a campaign to liberate Uganda’s oil and Kony is nothing but a sideshow.

  5. perspectivehere
    March 19th, 2012 at 06:05 | #5

    This excerpt from the 2006 Alison Lawton film, Uganda Rising (narrated by Kevin Spacey) is very informative.

    “Colonialism in 10 Minutes: The Scramble For Africa”.

  6. March 20th, 2012 at 12:57 | #6


    Thanks for this.

    I can imagine someone pointing out the current day atrocities and say: see genocide. Africans are backward, they fight amongst themselves and commit the worst crimes. The U.N. – under the leadership of the West – is justified in intervening and imposing order.

    What do I see?

    Yes, you may see genocide (ethnically motivated killing or threat of killing) – but pronouncing genocide does not fix any of the problems. To really understand the problem is to go back in history and see that the cause of many of today’s problem is the colonial legacy of the politicization along ethnic lines.

    Seen in the light, the people of Africa must decide for themselves. Do they want to be slaves of their past and continue to be divided along lines handed down through colonialism – or do they have the imagination and resolve to build a unified people that works to tear down these lines.

    Having an external power – especially biased ones – impose solutions to me is not the solution. The solution must come from the people. Simply pronouncing genocide doesn’t fix anything – especially genocide itself is a politicized term and can be defined to define any conflict anyways…

  7. perspectivehere
    March 21st, 2012 at 13:05 | #7


    I’ve been reading Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt, and it puts the genocides of the 20th century in perspective as an outgrowth of what had already been going on in the British colonies.


    “This revelatory new history punctures the still widely held belief that the British Empire was an enlightened and civilizing enterprise of great benefit to its subject peoples. Instead, Britain’s Empire reveals a history of systemic repression and almost continual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one—of slavery, famine, battle and extermination.

    …Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, there was resistance. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott chronicles the backlash. He shows, too, how Britain provided a blueprint for the genocides of twentieth-century Europe, and argues that its past leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale. In tracing this history of resistance, all but lost to modern memory, Richard Gott recovers these forgotten peoples and puts them where they deserve to be: at the heart of the story of Britain’s empire.”

    The author provides a brief summary here:
    “Let’s end the myths of Britain’s imperial past”

    Here is a review in the Guardian:

    Here is the author speaking of the need to take into account the stories and viewpoints of the descendants of colonized and enslaved peoples of the British empire:

    “Richard Gott: Former colonies are absolutely right to blame Empire for their problems – IQ2 debates”

  8. Wayne
    March 22nd, 2012 at 16:37 | #8


    Thanks for the heads up about that book, will check it out.

    I also recommend Mike Davies “Late Victorian Holocausts” about genocidal British policies in India late 19th Century.

    As Noam Chomsky once said, so called ‘freedom’ or democratic rights within a country is utterly uncorrelated with the way that same country conducts itself overseas.

    In fact Britain was a remarkably ‘free’ society for the 19th Century. Indeed Karl Marx used that to his advantage. But in the colonies, Britain behaved in a manner little different from that of Nazi Germany.

  9. March 24th, 2012 at 00:27 | #9


    I want to clarify about why it is important to see that the root of what some might call “genocide” resides in colonial post. The point is not to pass the buck and blame the West for problems in Africa today. The point is to point out that simply pronouncing superficially “genocide” does not solve the problem; it is the politicization of groups against groups – along ethnic lines – that started with colonialism that is – and that must be called out and understood for today’s so-called “genocide” to be stopped.

  10. perspectivehere
    March 24th, 2012 at 01:01 | #10


    Thanks for the reference. Mike Davies’ book looks very interesting. I looked into it and found a chapter excerpt online, describing the actions of the British in causing millions of starvation deaths during the Great Famine of 1876-1878 when India was a British colony.

    The behavior of the English rulers of India during this famine reminds me of the actions taken by the English government during the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, when over a million Irish died of malnutrition while Ireland was exported grain for the profit of its English rulers.

    It is chilling the level of depravity the English were capable of, with nary a thought. The culture of cold, calculating brutality towards Indians and Irish is truly astounding; it boggles the mind that anyone can defend this culture of death by claiming that it brought benefits to the local people.

    Excerpt here:

    Chapter 1: Victoria’s Ghosts

  11. Silentvoice
    March 24th, 2012 at 03:27 | #11

    They felt it was okay to do all that because the ‘natives’ were seen as less than human, uncivilized… the heathens who were who they were because of some crime committed in their past lives against God.

  12. Truth from Facts..
    March 24th, 2012 at 03:59 | #12

    “The behavior of the English rulers of India during this famine reminds me of the actions taken by the English government during the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, when over a million Irish died of malnutrition while Ireland was exported grain for the profit of its English rulers.”


    “Communist Party officials falsified reports that stated record harvests; grain was shipped from provinces with masses of starving peasants to warehouses in the cities were it either rotted or was exported abroad to earn scarce hard currency; and tens of thousands of peasant were killed for resisting government policies.”

    Whats the difference, apart from your denial of the latter???

  13. March 24th, 2012 at 04:30 | #13

    Another drive-by…ughh…

    “Truth from Facts”: If you had spent more than 5 minutes on the site, you would’ve noted that nobody here denies the Mao years were terrible. In fact, it’s not just on this website, all Chinese would tell you the Cultural Revolution was bad for the country. However, the excesses of the Mao years is a fundamentally different topic from colonialism. Anyone with some commonsense and understanding of the English language would be able to see that.

  14. perspectivehere
    March 24th, 2012 at 04:38 | #14

    Here is a posting on a blog “The Scientific Indian”, by Selvakumar Ganesan, who lives in the UK:


    “The apathy and greed of Colonial rulers had a hand (directly or through inaction) in many famines. With that introduction let me pass you over to George Monbiot’s review the book Late Victorian Holocausts at Guardian where he points out the amnesia that surrounds the Empire’s massacres, especially the famines in India in late 1800s (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/dec/27/eu.turkey).

    Quote from Monbiot review:

    In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

    As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought”. The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceeding three years, at least 1.25m died.”

  15. Wayne
    March 24th, 2012 at 05:18 | #15

    @Truth from Facts..

    The GLF was of a totally different nature from colonial engineered famines.

    The GLF was a result of mistaken policies and the bad consequences of well-intentioned policies. Whereas there was nothing well intended about British policies in India, or the British flooding China with Opium….unless of course you talk of the ‘well intended’ motivations of the British to enrich themselves.

    Much of the problems of the GLF can be attributed to some of the worse climatic conditions in an entire century – there was drought, rainfall, flooding on a massive scale. This is a fact ignored by anti-China hacks such as Frank Dikotter, Jung Chang, and even Yang Jisheng. But there is ample documentation, for it, including verification from Western sources. I refer you to Cormac O’Grada’s book ‘Famine – a history’ for details of these. Minqi Li describes also convincingly explores the impact of natural disaster on crop yields as contributing to up to 50% of the decline in grain production during the leap years.

    While there was significant starvation in certain provinces such as Sichuan and Anhui, overall there is little evidence of the type of genocidal mass starvation that occurred in India under British rule.

    What happened was there was an overall increase in mortality during these years, and this mortality was higher than in previous years. This of course means there were excess deaths caused by poor policies, planning, and natural disaster. There was a general degradation in human health and well-being that caused excess deaths — not all through outright starvation.

    However even according to the worst estimates (those of Dikotter and Chang), the average annual crude mortality during the years of the GLF were around 25/1000 (refer to Mao the Unknown Story, and Dikotter’s Mao’s Great Famine).

    In 1949, crude mortality was 38/1000 per year in China (Bannister). In British India just before independence, crude mortality was about 35/1000 per year. Obviously objective conditions, as bad as they were during the GLF, were better in the China of the GLF than they were in pre-revolutionary China or colonial India. Even if we take the likes of Jung Chang and Frank Dikotter at their word.

    What happened of course was there was a dramatic decline in mortality in the PRC from 1949 to 1958. This of course meant that the elevated rates during the GLF are compared with the relatively low mortalities just before 1958. And that is where you get your ‘massive’ deaths from, and Mao accused of being a mass murderer.

    What is interesting of course is that the mortalities of the next four big Asian countries in 1960 (all comparable to China as these were largely agricultural, poor and backward lands), were as follows:

    Bangladesh (East Pakistan), 24.56, Pakistan 23.14, India 23.52, Indonesia 22.57/1000 per year.

    The average annual mortality in China (based on the worst estimates of Dikotter and Chang) are between 24 and 25/1000 per year.

    Therefore we can conclude. The GLF were the most difficult years in the history of the PRC. Yet conditions during the GLF were far better than before the revolution. And they were typical of other developing nations of the time.

    The reason why India’s rulers, and the other rulers of other developing countries at the time, are not accused of ‘genocide’ etc, is because they did not have nearly the same previous decline in mortality prior to the period of China’s GLF, and therefore the high death rates in India, Indonesia etc are not considered to have caused excess deaths.

  16. Wayne
    March 24th, 2012 at 05:56 | #16

    In fact the most dramatic rise in health and literacy in human history happened during the Maoist era.

    The facts are plain for all to see.

    China’s population doubled under Mao. Perhaps the most rapid increase in population in China’s history.

    Yet fertility declined dramatically under Mao. Chinese women in 1950 were having well over 6 children on average. By 1976 they were having under 3 on average.

    But still the population exploded under Mao —why?

    Obviously because there was a huge decline in mortality and an incredible increase in life expectancy.

    It is these gains in human health, and also literacy upon which Deng could work his reforms.

  17. Wayne
    March 24th, 2012 at 06:07 | #17

    China after 1949, experienced first a significant improvement in health, literacy, industrialisation and wealth. China in 1976 was better off than the CHina of 1949, and of course the China of today, in spite of still huge problems, is better off than China in 1976.

    Whereas the British systematically looted India (and China), and enacted policies which resulted in hundreds of millions of excess deaths. Famine was relatively rare in India before the arrival of the British.

    Noted Indian economist, B M Bhatia:

    As B.M. Bhatia writes in his 1967 book, Famines in India: “From about the beginning of the eleventh century to the end of the eighteenth there were 14 major famines in India.” This is roughly two per century. Under the period of East India Company rule from 1765-1858 there occurred 16 major famines, a rate eight times higher than what had been common before. Then, under the period of British Colonial Office rule from 1859 to 1914, there was a major famine in India an average of every two years, or 25 times the historical rate before British rule! The rest of the world’s population was growing due to technological progress, but the population of India remained at approximately 220 million for over a century prior to 1914.


  18. perspectivehere
    March 24th, 2012 at 06:11 | #18

    @Truth from Facts / Silent Chinese / Wayne

    Much more work needs to be done on the causes of the GLF, particularly the global economy in which China was situated.

    Prof. Shu Guang Zhang, Professor of U.S. History and International Relations at the University of Maryland, has written a book called “Economic Cold War: America’s Embargo against China and the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1949-1963”.

    In it, he concludes that “the disastrous Great Leap Forward and Anti-Rightist campaign were in part prompted by the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.”


    This stands to reason. We have seen that economic sanctions in other countries since the 1990’s, such as Haiti and Iraq, have had enormous impact on causing hunger in the countries that suffer them. That is the whole rationale of economic sanctions – by imposing trade sanctions, this prevents the country from acquiring the goods needed for its survival, causing the people and the economy to suffer, with the objective that the regime would collapse.

    A reviewer of the book, Tao Peng at Minnesota State University, Mankato put it thusly:

    “Zhang contends that the “indirect” influence of the embargo (p. 268) was far-reaching. To meet the challenge of the U.S. sanctions, Zhang argues, Beijing was forced to centralize its political system and economy, emulating the Soviet model. He also avers that the embargo contributed to China’s radical political and economic campaigns, which plunged the country into disasters. He makes a convincing case that the Great Leap Forward movement was partly inspired by the embargo. The sanctions, he writes, fostered Chinese leaders’ determination to “exceed” the British and “overtake” the Americans within a decade and to smash “blind faith” in foreign powers by drastically increasing the output of heavy industry (p. 218).

    More important, Zhang demonstrates that the embargo played an important role in the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s. Although numerous factors helped to precipitate the collapse of the Beijing-Moscow alliance, Zhang pointedly emphasizes the economic factor. The prolonged U.S. embargo, he argues, led to Beijing’s overdependence on Moscow’s support and assistance. This reliance on Soviet aid not only caused China’s growing discontent with the USSR’s heavy-handedness in the alliance relationship but also placed an ever greater burden on the Soviet Union’s overtaxed resources. Conflicts gradually replaced cooperation, and the alliance finally collapsed under the strain. In this sense, Washington’s “wedge strategy” through the embargo proved successful in the long run.”

    So according to Zhang’s view, the “success” of the US economic sanctions against China was to lead to increased economic pressure on both China and the Soviet Union, leading to the USSR’s eventual collapse.

    However, the US geopolitical policy had enormous implications for China’s economy and governmental system. It is not wrong to consider that US policy had a role in creating the conditions for hunger in China during the 1950’s.

    A provocative area of study for political scientists, historians and economic historians to tackle would be to tie together the various strands of history to answer the question of what impact US economic sanctions had the GLF. PhD thesis, anyone?

  19. perspectivehere
    March 24th, 2012 at 09:05 | #19


    “The point is not to pass the buck and blame the West for problems in Africa today.”

    I think the point is to first understand what happened. I think people in English-speaking countries like the US are quite uninformed about the history of Africa or Asia. As a result, the “single story” dominates – whatever happens to be the issue du jour.

    Only by understanding what happened can people interpret today’s events with the right context and intelligence.

    The reason for looking at the British empire is that it has directed policies against other countries and peoples all over the world for its own benefit for over 400 years, and it was due to the British opium wars that the “unequal treaties” and semi-colonial status of China began in the 1840’s.

    It seems impossible to understand today’s world without first understanding how we got here.

    And hearing the voices and stories of those around the world who we don’t often hear from will help us to put things in perspective.

  20. raventhorn
    March 24th, 2012 at 12:34 | #20


    I agree.

    I don’t think China or Chinese are “passing the buck” on the GLF and CR, we know we are all responsible ultimately to what happened to us. (Thus, it is also pointless to blame it all on the “Communists”).

    But that doesn’t mean that we ALONE are responsible for GLF and CR.

  21. March 24th, 2012 at 20:51 | #21

    perspectivehere :
    @Truth from Facts / Silent Chinese / Wayne

    I’m not the same poster as Silent Chinese. 🙂

  22. raffiaflower
    March 25th, 2012 at 20:48 | #22

    `Although numerous factors helped to precipitate the collapse of the Beijing-Moscow alliance, Zhang pointedly emphasizes the economic factor.”
    USSR was already at serious risk of imperial over-reach. Its resources were drained primarily, not by China, but by the maintenance of its Eastern European empire.
    The Soviets had raided Manchuria for Japan’s industrial infrastructure after the enemy’s defeat, stripping China of much of its manufacturing base.
    In return for grudging aid and “advisors”, the northern neighbors demanded political and economic subservience (Soviet hegemony) – not something that Mao Zedong, or generations of patriotic Chinese who fought invasion and plunder, had signed up for.
    China’s fears about creeping Soviet neo-colonialism were kept in the closet during the honeymoon period of the 1950s. The open rift was eventually characterized as a struggle for ideological supremacy, but the back story was also about resistance to Soviet domination.
    The exaggerated超英赶美 slogan at the same time was adopted as a rallying call to symbolize that, not only would China’s spirit be un-bowed by Western bullying, it would overcome its imperialist tormentors.
    The serial political campaigns that issued forth, from then, were a reaction to American-led mischief, and also Soviet hegemony.
    China was truly between the proverbial rock and hard place during the Cold War; yet it courageously steered a free course that enabled the country to deal, on its own terms, with the West when it re-opened its doors.
    China was not a `card’ to be played by US against the USSR; it played its own hand, and has played it well.
    This sprawling, contentious independence emerged from the “creative chaos’ that also inflicted great pain over prolonged periods on the people. But, in cautioning against a redux of those times, it’d serve well to remember that the legitimacy of China’s values, its aspirations – as a people or government – does not need the endorsement of the so-called “international community’’.
    Mao’s legacy is mixed, but his well-preserved backbone should set an example for China’s future leaders in their engagements with the raptors of the global commons.
    As for the extinct Soviets, they miscalculated China’s dependence on their patronage. They needed China more, as their Eastern buttress, and as part of a pan-Communist economy that would have strengthened the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe.
    Instead, the Soviet economy ossified quickly in the era after advisors were pulled out of China and both countries clashed along the Amur; it collapsed with the Berlin Wall while China has surged ahead from there.
    It was the USSR’s refusal to acknowledge China as an equal – which, in turn, might have compromised Moscow in the eyes of its satellites – that seeded its own eventual destruction.
    So the claim about USSR as the main crutch for Mao’s China is dubious, imo.

  23. Wayne
    March 25th, 2012 at 21:14 | #23

    Thanks Raffiaflower—awesome post.

    My own feeling is only a maverick and out of the box leader like Mao could have kept China independent, and not just another Soviet satellite.

    I agree completely with “But, in cautioning against a redux of those times, it’d serve well to remember that the legitimacy of China’s values, its aspirations – as a people or government – does not need the endorsement of the so-called “international community’’”

    I would also say that there is one thing we can learn from the Russians today. They respect their history and will not have their history dictated to them by outsiders. While they do not want a return to communism, most have pride in their Soviet past and will not be made to feel ashamed of that past by outsiders (to paraphrase Putin).

    We should never let Westerners dictate to us their version of our history, and we have nothing to be ashamed of when we look at the broad sweep of the Chinese revolution, one of the greatest and most pivotal events in world history.

    It is through the misrepresenting of PRC history, that the West wants to de-legitimise the PRC in the eyes of Chinese people, and demoralise us to the point where we think that only white people can save us, and that we will beg for Western intervention.

    The orientalist discourses on Mao and the Chinese revolution which abound nowadays in the West resonate so well with Westerners precisely because these narratives are an indirect endorsement of Western colonial rule.

  24. March 26th, 2012 at 00:16 | #24



    The split started to appear in 1954. In Mao’s own words:


  25. March 26th, 2012 at 00:24 | #25

    I also want to add that the crushing of the uprising in Poland and Hungary is a warning to China. The CPC viewed the Soviet very negatively after that. However, western press/historians actually try to pin the blame on China by saying that it is the former that suggest using force to put down the uprising.




  26. raffiaflower
    March 26th, 2012 at 19:00 | #26

    thanks, Wayne.

    The 1949 revolution is undisputed as one of the watershed events in history; Henry Kissinger is said to have praised Mao for having “`changed China’’, at which the Chairman modestly demurred for having “changed only a few suburbs of Beijing’’.
    But the self-inflicted pain in the following decades shook the faith and enthusiasm of the people for the system.
    The upheavals are still within living memory, so debate about the events isn’t just academic in China. It takes time to heal all the wounds.
    But for China-bashers, the turbulence of the first 30 years is obviously a propaganda goldmine; a whole corps of Chinese writers (usually female, haha,Wayne!) has also whored itself with I-survived-the-CR accounts for Western audiences.
    Western-educated Chinese with no or little familiarity of history buy too easily into the twisted narrative of China as, by nature, a dysfunctional/inhumane/uncivilized society.
    While most Chinese, still beholden to the false belief of the superior Westerner, are hapless against the smug assumptions of them by brainwashed foreigners.
    Again, time is the only solution, for some people to see the 1949 revolution with fresh eyes.
    The short answer, to those who keep putting China down, is that every revolution has devoured its own children.
    The French Revolution did, leading to the white terror. So did the American Revolution, which wasn’t complete until a bloody Civil War to keep the shaky union together.

  27. raffiaflower
    March 26th, 2012 at 19:03 | #27

    Ray, I think Mao was chary of Soviet intentions for China, even before 1949.
    The biopic Founding of Republic highlighted a scheme to divide the country between the Nationalists and Communists. A strong united China was never in interests of the big powers anyway.
    The idea was probably to let the warring parties exhaust themselves – by not giving much help – fighting to a stalemate, and then split the country along the Yangzi in a peace settlement under two spheres of influence.
    Mao naturally shoots down the idea. So does Chiang Kai-shek; when his son suggests seeking the “approval’’ of USSR and US, Chiang retorts that “ it’s not that complicated. Knowing Mao,he would never agree’’.
    Besides Chiang could not bear the cross of 千古骂名; China had not been divided since Song times.
    Too many secret pacts were made by the Big Two at Yalta.
    True or not, the point of this particular conspiracy theory is that China today – despite near-superpower status – must remain vigilant to safeguard its sovereignty.

  28. March 26th, 2012 at 22:26 | #28

    It was Comitern misdirection of the CPC that almost caused it to be wipe out. Stalin was the direct head of the Comitern. Mao only come into prominence during the long march where the CPC barely survived. The Soviet Union which was isolated by the rest of the world needed friendly nation too, so building up the ROC as a buffer again Japan was in its interest.

    The Chinese Military Academy cannot be founded without Soviet help. However, Comitern also supported union and labour movement in major industrial cities across China. It was the combine Communist and Nationalist army that started the Northern Expedition to unite China again. After taking Shanghai, Chiang, wanting the support of the industrialists and launched a bloody coup against the CPC on 12 April 1927. It is more or less a massacre as Chiang used a lot of triad members to do the job. Chiang made the famous statement “宁可错杀一千,不可放过一人”. Although some historians attributed that to Wang Jingwei.

    Then on 1 Aug, the Red Army launched a counter coup which failed. It is under this backdrop that Mao made the famous statement “Political power comes out of a gun barrel” pretty much the same conclusion as Sun Wen. His originals words are actually “要非常注意军事,须知政权是由枪杆子中取得的”
    The Soviet Union ceased supporting Chiang after the coup and even put his son (who is studying in Moscow) under arrest. Chiang with his new source of income seek military exchange with Germany. However, it was ended around 1938 after pressure from Japan who is the bigger and more important ally of Germany. The Japanese invasion of North Eastern China in 1931 also changed the situation and the Soviet Union then came back into supporting the Nationalist by supplying tanks and aircraft to fight the Japanese. Soviet volunteers even flew with the Nationalist. Then Japan managed to sign a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union in 1941 and the latter ceased supporting Chiang again. A declaration regarding Mongolia and Manchuria was made. The Soviet Union pledged to respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of Manchukuo, while Japan did the same for the Mongolian People’s Republic.

    After Pearl Harbor, it is the US that got behind supporting the Nationalist again. The most famous being the Flying Tigers and the eventual Lend Lease aid although US support for Chiang started earlier but it was more or less on a clandestine and much passive basis. The Soviet Union was invaded in June 1941 and was fighting for its own survival so it is totally out of the picture until 1945. Under the Yalta agreement, the Soviet forces liberated Northeastern China. Instead of giving the cities to the CPC, it actually forced them out and gave those cities to the KMT.

    However, it is more complicated than that. Because as soon as the Japan surrender was announced the CPC send in almost half its politburo members and an army of around 100,000 strong into NE China. This is where fate played a trick on the lives of many. An elite nationalist army that was seas lifted from Burma and was supposed to be the Chinese occupation force of Japan. The communist move caught Chiang and the American off guard and this army was sent to NE China instead.

    While all this was going on, Stalin was pressuring Mao to negotiate with Chiang while Truman was pressuring Chiang. At that time any side seen as breaking the peace would receive the wrath of public opinion in China or abroad. So both sides were forced to the negotiation table. But negotiation break down. However, to be fair both the US and SU do not want to see a Chinese civil war. The only support the SU gave to the CPC was handing over captured Japanese weapon which was supposed to be shipped back to Russia as scrap (The local CPC managed to negotiate the release of the weapon after finding similar weight of metal scrap for exchange). The official consensus of the Soviet side was that only the ROC government of the KMT was recognized.

    As soon as the Soviet troop left the Nationalist troops occupied most of major cities in the south of NE China. The communist occupied smaller cities in the north where the nationalist supply line cannot reached. Both the US and SU actually abstained from actively supporting any side. The biggest support the CPC got was from the newly founded DPRK which supplied hundred trailers of supply by rail.
    It is obvious that many sides were pulled into China for their own interest. On top of that the French and British also have concession in China. So in reality both the CPC and KMT was limited by what they can do since the 1920s due to so many external forces being involved. The biggest failure of Chiang was actually his inability to unite the many factions in the KMT or tackling corruption in his immediate circle. The CPC was able to come united under a single command and fight for a single goal and emerged the ultimate victor.

  29. March 26th, 2012 at 23:04 | #29

    Fascinating stuff, Ray. Reading history books is so much work. I think I like these digests more.

  30. raffiaflower
    March 27th, 2012 at 05:29 | #30

    Ray, thanks. Chiang Kaishek’s turn on the Communists in 1927 was prompted by pressure from local businessmen and also the foreign capitalists who dominated Shanghai, according to the late Indian Prime Minister Nehru writing from jail to Indira Gandhi. His letters were a potted history of past and current world affairs, including China’s travails at the time.

  31. March 27th, 2012 at 19:34 | #31

    Summary is fine but then you would missed out all the steamy details.

    Chiang actually arrested Communist cadre in the military academy a few years earlier but released them after other KMT factions objected. Yes, Chiang finally found the support he need to get rid of the communist in 1927.

    Comitern also made a big mistake by ordering the CPC to start revolution in the cities using the labour class. They failed to see that China is 9/10 rural at that time.

    Can you give more detail of Nehru’s writing?

  32. raffiaflower
    March 28th, 2012 at 00:19 | #32

    Ray, Nehru’s letters to Indira are compiled in his Glimpses of World History…all written in the 1920s/30s, a book handed down from a relative who passed away long ago. But now gone, gone as well…a silverfish diet, lol!!
    But I think Amazon might have re-issued it in soft cover. I Googled once.
    Actually Nehru sympathized with China’s plight under Western imperialism, as India then was in the same boat. He believed that communism was alien to the free-wheeling, inquisitive Chinese spirit – but empathized with the nationalistic fervor of those who embraced it to raise China from its torpor.
    Today, he’s proven right, of course.
    I think some commentors mis-understand Nehru and the extent of his involvement in the aggressive Forward Policy. Naturally Nehru’s seminal sympathies could not get in the way of India’s interests when he became PM; besides his handlers were drawn from Hindu nationalists and British-indoctrinated operatives, and his political survival depended on their support.
    Perhaps China understood that Nehru’s hands might have been tied; thus a short, sharp shock to teach the war hawks in New Delhi a lesson – but not to topple Nehru. And it wasn’t a stretch for China’s military resources at all, lol!
    But that’s my own take on history; India’s strategies/objectives in its relationship with China have also become vastly different.

  33. perspectivehere
    April 2nd, 2012 at 08:45 | #33

    silentvoice :

    perspectivehere :
    @Truth from Facts / Silent Chinese / Wayne

    I’m not the same poster as Silent Chinese.


    Sorry! My bad!

  34. perspectivehere
    April 4th, 2012 at 00:58 | #34

    From the “untold stories of marginalized persons of color” department, I’ve started reading Madeline Y Hsu’s “Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943.” It’s a great book, very very interesting tale.


    “This book is a highly original study of transnationalism among immigrants from Taishan, a populous coastal county in south China from which, until 1965, the majority of Chinese in the United States originated. Drawing creatively on Chinese-language sources such as gazetteers, newspapers, and magazines, supplemented by fieldwork and interviews as well as recent scholarship in Chinese social history, the author presents a much richer depiction than we have had heretofore of the continuing ties between Taishanese remaining in China and their kinsmen seeking their fortune in “Gold Mountain.”

    Madeline Hsu is Associate Professor, Department of History and Director, Center for Asian American Studies. University of Texas at Austin. and regarded as a “Top Young Historian” by the History News Network:

    This remarkable young scholar has 3 short videos at the UT site about Early Chinese Immigration. She notes that the first immigration laws in the U.S. targeted Chinese.

    1. Chinese immigrants and the first U.S. immigration laws

    To get around those laws, some chinese immigrants posed as Mexicans!

    2. http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/08/02/hsu_border_views2/

    3. http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/08/02/hsu_border_views3/

    “In 1892, Congress passed the Geary Act which required that all Chinese who had entered the United States legally carry a document called a Certificate of Residence. This is a precursor to the contemporary green cards.
    All Chinese had to have these documents on hand. If they did not have the document, they were presumed to have entered illegally and were subject to deportation. And, this changes the game of border enforcement.
    It means that those who are in the United States feel vulnerable and are at risk. It also highlights this problem that only Chinese were required to carry these documents, and, so, there was a racial basis. All Chinese were considered to be suspects for illegal immigration until they had proved otherwise.”

    We need more scholars like Madeline Hsu to research and tell these stories.

  35. perspectivehere
    April 4th, 2012 at 01:27 | #35

    Madeline Hsu’s research specialty within Asian American studies is Chinese diaspora and transnationalism. She took part in a conference in 2010 in Hong Kong which describes this area as follows:

    “The study of Chinese diaspora and transnationalism is a growing field in Chinese American Studies, historical anthropology of south China, and global and interdisciplinary perspectives of overseas Chinese. The Asian American historiography has undergone a level of maturity and growth over the past few decades exploring various paradigms of exclusion, identity formation, transnational resources, and political culture (see the four volumes edited by Sucheng Chan) in understanding Chinese American experience especially during the Exclusion Era and the Cold War.

    Cultural Studies have placed Asians in the Americas in both an historical and contemporary global disaporic framework which focuses on hybridity and multiplicity of identities that challenge the hegemonic discourses of assimilation and nationalism. On the other hand, organizations such as the Association for Asian American Studies, the International Study of Chinese Overseas, and other academic endeavors of international migration and ethnic studies have witnessed increasing collaborations among scholars in presentations and publications.

    Meanwhile scholars from universities in Hong Kong, the Pearl River Delta, Fujian as well as Southeast Asia have also established academic institutes and joint research projects for the study of emigrant communities (qiaoxiang) in China.

    Yet the American-based scholars and the Hong Kong-South China based scholars have mostly worked on Chinese American diaspora from their own vantage points without reconsidering the various nodal points of border crossing and transnational histories.

    This conference, organized by the American Studies Program from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (SMLC) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), will bring together some of the leading scholars from the US, China, and Hong Kong in the field of Chinese American transnationalism and diaspora studies.

    The participants would consider new patterns and themes of scholarship in Hong Kong, the Wuyi (five counties) region and in North America about the important flows of people, resources and ideas between South China and North America over the past two hundred years.

    These historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and literary and cultural critics will examine a host of topics relating to Chinese American identities in the United States and the globalization process in southern China.”

    See: http://www0.hku.hk/smlc/files/transnationalism.pdf


    The PDF document mentioned above has several interesting research findings. For example, Professor Haiming Liu, California State University, Pomona, has researched the origin of General Tso’s chicken! This dish was invented by Hunanese exiles from Mainland China to Taiwan, who then re-immigrated to the United States post-1965.

    “General Tso’s chicken, for example, was a famous dish in Hunan cuisine in Taiwan but few people had heard of it in mainland China. Hunan cuisine in America was an interesting piece of transnational culture because it illustrated the development Chinese regional cuisines in Taiwan and their remigration to the United States. A food tradition spread out of its native place following human migration. Such cultural transmission needed legend of its origin, collective memory of the immigrants who carried the tradition, and the consumers’ recognition and endorsement. As Chinese food tradition passed on from one generation to another and from one place to another, it constantly experienced modification and reinvention in order to meet the need of new market and the taste of new customers. This was especially true of Chinese food overseas. For nearly half a century since 1949, there was little social contact, cultural exchange or communication between Taiwan and mainland China due to the political rivalry between the Communists and the Nationalists. Regional Chinese cuisines in Taiwan were actually made according to the collective memory of those mainlander Chinese who left China for Taiwan in 1949. During this process of cultural reproduction, some classical dishes were modified; others were lost. Still others may bear similar names of their counterparts in mainland China but could be slightly or considerably different in ingredients or cookery. Some new dishes such as General Tso’s chicken were also invented. Local conditions and taste undoubtedly impacted the flavor of Hunan cuisine in Taiwan. Cultural preservation and reproduction became simultaneously cultural invention.”

    There are other interesting topics summarized by the scholars in the PDF file, each of which could be a topic for Hidden Harmonies.

    In fact, a suggestion to the organizers of this website – could you invite scholars to present their research to this audience? I think similar to your interview of Prof. Ann Lee (which was quite good) I think if done properly and respectfully (so perhaps the organizers would need to police trolling comments more carefully), this could really help to create discussion on interesting topics. Perhaps a “scholars corner”? Or “new books” / “new research” corner?

  36. perspectivehere
    April 4th, 2012 at 02:59 | #36

    @Kelvin Ator

    Is this a serious comment?

    The point Hsu is making is that Chinese were singled out in 1890s by the Geary Act – having to carry documentation was imposed on Chinese but not on any other race or nationality. This form of singling out made Chinese more burdened, vulnerable, marginalized and excluded than other groups. Any Chinese person could be subject to its terms.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geary_Act

    “The Geary Act was a United States law passed in 1892 written by California Congressman Thomas J. Geary. It extended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 by adding onerous new requirements.

    The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year of hard labor. In addition, Chinese were not allowed to bear witness in court, and could not receive bail in habeas corpus proceedings.

    The Geary Act was challenged in the courts but was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in an opinion by Justice Horace Gray, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 13 S. Ct. 1016. 37 L.Ed. 905 (1893), Justices David Josiah Brewer, Stephen J. Field, and Chief Justice Melville Fuller dissenting.”


    The Geary Act … outlined provisions that required Chinese already in the U.S. to possess “certificates of residence” (as well as “certificates of identity” after the McCreary amendment was added) that served as proof that they entered the U.S. legally and had the right to remain in the country. The certificates of residence contained the name, age, local residence, occupation, and photograph of the applicant. The act placed the burden of proof of their right to be in the U.S. on the Chinese themselves, denied bail to Chinese in habeas corpus proceedings, made it the duty of all Chinese laborers in the U.S. to apply within one year for a certificate of residence, with a duplicate kept in the office of the Collector of Internal Revenue, and suitable penalties were prescribed for any falsification of certificates. Another of the Act’s provisions required two white witnesses to testify to a Chinese person’s immigration status. If any Chinese laborer within the United States without this certificate of residence was “deemed and adjudged to be unlawfully in the United States”, they could be arrested and forced to do hard labor, and be deported after a year. This was the first time ever illegal immigration to the U.S. was made punishable by such a harsh degree.”

    “racial basis”

    The US Supreme Court case, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 13 S. Ct. 1016. 37 L.Ed. 905 (1893), speaks of “chinese race” and “race” is used multiple times in the opinion to discuss the relevant law and facts.

    “Harden up people, life’s tough”

    Have you considered that the laws mentioned above happened at the same time as anti-Chinese riots took place throughout the American West where hundreds of Chinese were killed and driven from the land?






    On the afternoon of October 31, 1880, a mob descended on Denver’s Chinatown. Within hours the mob destroyed businesses, residences, and killed one Chinese resident. Denver’s riot was one of 153 anti-Chinese riots that swept through the American West during the 1870s and 1880s. Because so few Chinese settled in the Great Plains during the nineteenth century, however, the Denver riot was one of two major anti-Chinese incidents to strike the region (the other was in Calgary in 1892).

  37. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 16:42 | #37


    No, it’s the same troll who spammed the same stupid argument over and over again.

    And that goes for the same political justification for anti-Chinese racism as somehow excusable because it’s “based on nationality”.

    NO, that’s an EXCUSE by Westerners, just like ALL past racism were justified based on a number of other characters.

    These EXCUSES are the continual proof of modern racism in modern Western society, to whitewash history, to erase racism by painting it as something benign.

  38. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 17:48 | #38

    Racism and Racists in the West are not concerned with the exact classification of their victims, because the central dogma of Racism and Racists is a simple equation. It is not about which Race is perceived to be weaker, but rather that the Racists’ own perceived Race is the Supreme.

    Thus, in the history of Racism of the West, many victims are mixed race, because it doesn’t matter if the victim is half-white, he becomes the victim because he is perceived as NOT belonging to the superior race of the Racist. And Racism is often not defined by skin color, because the most obvious perception of alien-ness is based upon culture, speech, mannerism, as well as skin color. Even White Jewish people can be often victims of “Racial antisemitism”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_antisemitism

  39. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 19:04 | #39


    rac·ism (rszm)
    n. 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

  40. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 19:19 | #40


    “The opposition of a European “West” to an Asiatic “East” has its roots in Classical Antiquity, with the Persian Wars where the Greek city states were opposing the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire.”

    The origin of the notion of “Western civilization” is rooted in the self-perceived Racial origins of the “West”, thus further evidence of RACISM built into the self-proclaimed “West”.

    No one else gave them the term “West”, they gave it to themselves, out a sense of racial superiority.

  41. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 19:43 | #41


    “The key points in the 2004 volume are worth summarizing: (1) Racism, Isaac maintains (Invention, p. 23), is “[a]n attitude toward individuals and groups of peoples which posits a direct and linear connection between physical and mental qualities. It therefore attributes to those individuals and groups of peoples collective traits, physical, mental and moral, which are constant and unalterable by human will, because they are caused by hereditary factors or external influences, such as climate or geography.” (2) The prototype for this way of thinking was “invented” by Hippocrates and Aristotle during the fourth century B.C.E.

    Thus, those who identify themselves as part of the “Western civilization” are indeed taking on the self-perception that they are the true lineage of the Greeks and the Romans and simultaneously being also superior because they inherit the traits of the Greeks and the Romans (the original “Westerners”).

    Not surprisingly, US, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia, all at 1 point or another at their height of power, evoke their historical similarity to the Greek and Roman institutions, cultures, and in effect, publicly proclaiming themselves as the NEW masters of the “West”.

  42. raventhorn
    April 4th, 2012 at 19:58 | #42

    also evident from above, the modern self-proclaimed “Westerners” are unconcerned with the FACT that they may not even be related to the Greeks and the Romans, from whom they proclaim their similarities of institutions and cultures and moral standards, and yet use what they perceive as “their own morality” as the basis of their self-perceived superiority of their own political and cultural institutions.

    Thus, racism in the “West” is born of self-delusion in the form of a self-racial identity grounded in fiction.

    While in reality, much of Christian Europe rejected Greek and Roman philosophies, and burnt Greek and Roman texts during the Dark Ages, and it was the Muslims who saved most of the Greek and Roman texts that were later re-translated and re-introduced into Europe.

  43. zack
    April 4th, 2012 at 23:08 | #44

    you’ll definitely see this correlation of racism in none other than the squealer/goebbels/chief propagandist of “the west” in historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson, who explicitly supported the Dubya Bush admin’s mandate of unilateralism also happened to view the UK/US relationship as that between ancient Greece and Imperial Rome.

    Never mind that ethnic greeks and italians in both countries are viewed through stereotypical eyes and with such disdain. Anglos would definitely make a distinction between ethnic greeks and italians and their own pure white selves.

  44. raventhorn
    April 5th, 2012 at 16:05 | #45


    Another example of Racist undertone in the self-proclaimed “Western culture” is that Jesus Christ was almost always depicted as a White man, (who apparently saved the also White Romans), when in reality, Christ was born in the Middle East, and almost certainly a person not of Greco-Roman or even European descent.

    His appearance in self-described “Western histories” have been altered (white washed literally) to make him more fitting to the “Western” self-image. whereas Judaism and Islam were made to look more alien, and unwelcomed in the “West”.

    All because the Roman emperors adopted Christianity and decided to turn Christianity more “Western” in public image.

    I mean, why else would White Roman Emperors find it unthinkable to worship a brown skinned “God”, and had to “photo-shop” all the Christ portraits?!

    But of course, the inconsistency must continue further in the past: Abraham, David, Moses, and all other major figures of Judaism must also be “white washed” in the books.

    Afterall, how could a White Jesus descend from a group of non-white Jewish people?

  45. perspectivehere
    April 5th, 2012 at 22:53 | #46

    raventhorn :
    “The opposition of a European “West” to an Asiatic “East” has its roots in Classical Antiquity, with the Persian Wars where the Greek city states were opposing the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire.”
    The origin of the notion of “Western civilization” is rooted in the self-perceived Racial origins of the “West”, thus further evidence of RACISM built into the self-proclaimed “West”.
    No one else gave them the term “West”, they gave it to themselves, out a sense of racial superiority.

    I don’t think you need to go back as far as classical antiquity. The key period to look at is the beginning of European colonization of the newly “discovered” Americas coupled with enslavement and shipping of Africans in the sixteenth century. The English and later British were the most successful at this national business enterprise, which they later extended to Asia.

    This article / essay explores the concept of “justification” – how did the English justify their aims and actions? I think as you read it you will see a lot of themes and arguments used then still resonate today. The name “Richard Hakluyt” is not well-known but he is regarded as the father of English colonialist propaganda.

    Discourse of Western Planting: Justifying the Movement
    by Elizabeth Wambold

    (1) Written with the intention of persuading Elizabeth I to provide financial support for colonization in the New World, Richard Hakluyt the Younger’s A Particuler Discourse Concerninge The Greate Necessitie And Manifolde Commodyties That Are Like To Growe To This Realme Of Englande By The Westerne Discoueries Lately Attempted, Written In The Yere 1584 (known most commonly as Discourse of Western Planting) is one of the most extensive and important pieces of propagandistic literature to emerge from late 16th century England – a virtual “tour de force of colonial promotion” (Horning 372). Touching upon a wide range of topics, Hakluyt carefully construes popular English concerns and interests to make a case for the validity of expansion and the overwhelming promise of positive rewards. The ideas and propositions he outlines deal with a “range of national problems which he proposed to solve by means of a brand of colonial adventure that presented itself as virtually risk-free, at least to the crown” (Scanlan 31). The relative ease and confidence with which Hakluyt presents his plan is the result not of a naïve, idealistic mind, but rather is the product of a thoughtfully constructed political agenda. Looking at this document through the framework of “justification literature,” that is, having to do with the representation and validation of overtaking a land that is already populated with people, Discourse of Western Planting gives a keen insight into the ideology of the Elizabethan mind. Through the presentation of the material, what is and is not included or acknowledged, and the depth of coverage, this document brings to light issues that were central to English interests.”

    For example, the Native Americans are to be used as a utilitarian tool in England’s competition with Spain:

    “(7) This desire to close off or compete with the Spanish is an underlying theme in almost all of what Hakluyt writes. The Spanish are considered by the English as the ultimate enemy, and anything that can be done to injure them is viewed as beneficial to the English. It is primarily through this framework of competition with Spain that Hakluyt deals with the question of the Native Americans. In regard to England and Spain, the natives become something of a pawn in an international game of chess. Hakluyt constructs the natives as a tool that can be manipulated and used by the English to either benefit them (by helping them pull ahead in the competition with Spain) or, failing to do that, at least hurt the Spanish. His attitude towards the natives is utilitarian, presenting them as something to be constructed as the English see necessary, and then utilized to their fullest advantage.”

    Part of the strategy is to convert the natives to Protestantism in opposition to Catholic Spain. However, there is another strategy – fomenting rebellion by highlighting descriptions of Spanish atrocities towards natives:

    “(10) Hakluyt’s means of utilizing the natives against the Spanish is not solely through religion, however. He uses descriptions of Spanish atrocities committed against the natives, primarily from Las Casas’s accounts, to fuel the already present hatred between the nations and suggest ways in which the Indians can be used against the Spanish. In part eleven of Discourse Hakluyt suggests that the English use these atrocities to their advantage and incite the natives to rebel against the oppressive Spanish, saying “the Spaniardes haue exercised moste outrageous and more then Turkishe cruelties in all the west Indies, whereby they are euery where there become moste odious vnto them whoe woulde ioyne with vs or any other moste willinglye to shake of their moste intollerable yoke” (Quinn, Discourse of Western Planting 52). While this statement is supposedly about the injustices one people is capable of inflicting on another, Hakluyt does not set it up as a plea for humanity. Instead, he plays upon sympathies for the natives only to the degree that it will help the English in their struggle against the Spanish, demonstrating that the English were “not very sympathetic towards the Amerindian, and when the English proponents of American colonization did develop such a sympathy, it was only temporary, and more a response to necessity than to philosophic commitment” (Pennington 176).”

    All these strategems have a depressingly modern ring to them; the essay demonstrates how this practice dates at from the sixteenth century.

    But the actual interactions of the English with the natives are especially telling, and again sound very familiar:

    “(18) Hakluyt’s Discourse sets the stage for many attitudes that will carry over into the English/native relations of the actual settlements. In particular, a mixing of this feeling of cultural superiority with the view of natives as utilitarian will continually emerge and be the root cause of many of the settlements’ problems. The way these issues play out together in Roanoke creates an interesting tension. While the settlers feel themselves to be generally superior to the natives, it is an undeniable fact that they were often dependent upon them for survival; “a basic weakness of the English in Virginia was their reliance upon the Indians for food: corn and fish, especially. This reliance developed as a cause of friction” (Porter 227). The settlers, unable to self-sufficiently provide for themselves, were often in the position of pressuring the natives to provide them with food and other forms of material assistance. In this, way, they view the native as a functional tool, there to be used as they see fit.

    (19) The result of casting the natives in this way has two different but related effects. In terms of the colonies’ survival, the most important result was the natives’ reaction to the English’s use of them. Unlike the docile, obedient, accepting natives that Hakluyt paints, the Roanoke natives were not willing to play the role of provider, instead actively resisting the English demands. In terms of psychological consequences, the Roanoke colonies’ use of the natives sets up an interesting paradox. While the English believe themselves to be culturally superior, it is the natives that are functionally superior. The English reliance on them proves their own weaknesses and shows them, at least in one way, as being inferior to the people they consider secondary.”

    There is much more in this essay. The English settlers relied on the natives, kidnapped them for their own purposes, but despised them. The first settlement at Roanoke failed. A later settlement came, expecting to rely on the natives again for survival. The second settlement was surprised that they were not greeted with welcoming arms by the natives. This is perhaps because some of the cruelties that the first settlement had towards the natives was censored, so the second group was unaware of the real things that had gone on:

    “(20) While the lack of food was in many ways the main instigator of problems, poor misplaced goals and poor judgment on the part of settlement leaders also heavily contributed to the colonies’ troubles. The first colony, which set out in June of 1585, was led by Sir Richard Grenville. Shortly after arriving, however, Grenville returned to England for supplies, leaving Ralph Lane, his second in command, in charge. Although the colony was in somewhat of a constant struggle for food, Lane led expeditions for precious metals and pearls, often times kidnapping natives and forcing them to act as guides for him. Many natives felt they were severely mistreated by Lane and resented the colonists for this; “There is little doubt that Lane’s actions inflicted long-term damage to the relations between the colonists and the inhabitants” (Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke 121). Bad feelings such as these were not to go away with the colonists when they abandoned the settlement in June of 1586. Instead, they would return to haunt the next group of settlers.

    (21) The second attempt at settlement began in July of 1587 when John White and 12 assistants returned with over 100 settlers to the site of the previous settlement. Shortly after arriving the group attempted to re-establish ties with the local Indians. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated, due in part to the fact that “some of Lane’s cruelty to the Indians may have been silently censored, which meant that the next group of colonists […] had less than realistic expectations about their possible relationship with Americans around them” (Kupperman, Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony 104). Though apprehensive, the Croatoan Indians eventually agree to rekindle old relations and provided the English with information about other tribes that had been sporadically attacking them, in one instance even resulting in the death of one of White’s assistants. As an act of retaliation against these tribes, White and his men attacked one of their villages, only to learn that they had attacked the friendly Croatoans by mistake. In all of these instances, English ideas about natives as utilitarian come into play. Whether it be to obtain food, learn about the country, or gain knowledge about other tribes, the English treated the natives as if they were there strictly to act as their resource. The overall poor handing of the situations points to the negative and dismissive attitude with which the English viewed the natives, an attitude which was to help mold the severe tensions between the groups.

    (22) Although Discourse of Western Planting is intended as a practical guide to colonizing in the New World, it is full of much deeper implications. Discourse opens the door to an understanding of the Elizabethan mindset that informs all English action and interaction in the New World. By looking at what is outlined in the document and how it is done, we can use Discourse as a sort of frame through which to read the motivations behind actions and incidents in the colonies.”

    All this gives a very useful view of the English mindset towards “native” peoples everywhere they established colonies over the subsequent 400 years — as utilitarian tools to be used to pursue their national objectives, coupled with resentment towards their dependence upon them (refusal to interact with natives as equals).

    As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

  46. raventhorn
    April 6th, 2012 at 17:21 | #47


    The point is, Racism is based upon a BELIEF that the Racist holds with a perception/self-delusion of the superiority of the “self-group”, further based upon some rather illogical notion of “race” that they can’t even define for themselves.

    I mean, the term “the West” is a nebulous term that doesn’t even mean anything, as many self-proclaimed “Westerners” admit. And yet, they continue to identify with that notion of the “West”.

    They may make up excuses such as “West” is not a race, but by all evidence, “Westerners” identify themselves as some kind of “race”.

    *Thus, Hispanics are not considered part of the West (By self-described “Westerners”), even though Hispanics are majority Christians with language and cultural customs from the Spanish and the Portuguese.

    It’s a bit ironic that some “Westerners” excuse themselves with “West is not a race”, because they don’t even consider why their own leaders call themselves by that label that they can’t define.

    It’s a bit like a Racist asking non-Racist people to explain the logic of Racism, and then turn around say, “well, since you can’t explain Racism to a Racist, you obviously don’t understand Racism, and then how can you condemn Racism?” (Ie. since you don’t know what “the West” is, then how can you condemn “the West”?)

    ANSWER: RACISM is BS, “the West” is a BS term, both are made up BS, made up by the BS’ers themselves. Because they are BS terms, the BS’ers who made up the terms and live by those ideological concepts should be condemned for the BS.

  47. April 7th, 2012 at 02:46 | #48

    Good point. The earth is round so technically there can’t be a starting point where there is an absolute east or west. You need to travel east to go from China to the US, and to go to India residents of both countries have to go west. So in reality, east/west exist only in relative geographic context. Sort of how European want to differentiate themselves from the others by calling themselves European. Europe does not exist in geographic sense but rather only in mindset of men. In the US, you have noted this funny practice as some Europeans are Caucasian, while others are classified as non-Caucasian European (Hispanics). Because associating with the successful is common human nature, most Indians and Iranian preferred to be labelled as Caucasian rather than Asian in the US “classification” system.

  48. raventhorn
    April 7th, 2012 at 05:15 | #49

    Here are a few books on “the West” in “the West”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_the_West, by Patrick Buchanan

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/civilization-niall-ferguson/1100482736, Civilization, The West and the Rest.


    http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/personal/reading/spengler-decline.html, the Decline of the West.

    *you can see a pretty consistent paranoid about the “decline” of “the West” in all of these books.

    Oh, I’m sure some will still say that people on this forum are making up the concept of the “West”??!

  49. raventhorn
    April 7th, 2012 at 05:40 | #50

    In contrast, the “Middle Kingdom” name for China denotes the historically CONTINUOUS geographic Chinese Nation in relativity to itself, Ie. the term remains accurate as far as geographic border of a nation, defined through diplomacy and wars as conventional borders are defined.


    It is not used to denote some nebulous undefined group of people.

    “The West” apparently shifts its location in the World, depending which self-proclaimed “Westerner” is in superior power. (If you want to be technical, the British proclaimed that they are the West, when they put themselves at true West, Longitude 0, or “PRIME MERIDIAN”. The modern Greenwich Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851, at the height of the British Empire. Thus, officially shifting the “West” from Rome, the Capital of the Romans).

    Before that, the Germans proclaimed themselves the Holy Roman Empire, shifting the West from Rome to Germany.

    *In contrast, China’s “middle” remains in the geographic location between the Yellow River and the Long River, the “cradle” of Chinese civilization, also called the “Middle Origin”, EVEN though the Zhou Dynasty, Qin Dynasty, Sui, Tang, etc. had capital at the Western border of China of their times.

    Xian, the Capital of Qin, means “Western peace”.

  50. Roger Ramjet
    April 7th, 2012 at 06:01 | #51

    So you address 2 points raised in a post, but delete the actual post which raised them.

    [moderated to remove personal insult]

  51. raventhorn
    April 7th, 2012 at 06:09 | #52

    We address our own points, and deleted SPAMS. Nothing cowardly in deleting SPAM.

    If our points addressed the Points in the post, then there is nothing else in that post worth displaying.

    *As we have repeatedly stated, comments with repeated personal insults will be deleted as SPAM. If you have “points”, raise them. Otherwise, you don’t have “points”, you are repeating SPAM.

  52. raventhorn
    April 7th, 2012 at 16:29 | #53

    A very common racist attitude in the West is reflected in the simple concept of “Love it or leave it.”

    Ie. what we in this forum have heard continuously over and over again from many in the West: “If the West is so bad, why are you here?”

    The underlying assumption of that statement is, of course, the “West” must be great, and those who go to the West must go there to worship and live in its superiority.

    But why would any one assume that travel and residency places have anything to do with any kind of superiority?

    Fact is, people move all the time.

    but apparently to some in the “West”, even the direction of other people’s travel is an indication of their own superiority as a group of people.

    So if I choose today to wear a shirt that have the same color as some one in the “West”, I must admire their fashion sense??!! Ridiculous.

    Ego? Pride? Arrogance? Racism.

  53. April 7th, 2012 at 18:32 | #54

    People migrate for many different reasons. Today, it is almost a fact that most immigrants to the rich and developed nations are seeking a better material life. Even in poorly developed countries, there are rich people who live in neighbourhood which is clean, safe and luxurious. In a way, this is the simple pursuit of most people. Let’s face it, developed countries through centuries of development has the biggest middle class anywhere in the world. The largest immigrant group to Japan are from China. Does this mean most Chinese love Japan? However, those Chinese who emigrated there definitely think their move is worthwhile. Same for those Chinese who moved to HK during colonial days. Most Chinese there has no love for the British colonial government. But the British is able to provide a stable and safe (relatively to mainland China) living condition and above all economic prospect. There is inequalities, racism in HK but it still considered a worthy trade off for those who moved there.

    Today, few from the developed countries emigrate, although their descendents are the biggest immigrants to Americas and Australasia. This does not mean that Europe is a hell hole during the 15th to 19th century, rather people seek prospect in land that has better material prospect and different lifestyle. Today, we see capital and investment from those countries going to poorly developed to mildly developed countries. To the extent that it totally dominated the industries there. Would the same racist use the argument “Love it or leave it”. The reality is most developed countries are so short of natural resources that “free trade” has to be enforced if not the economy of most “rich” countries would suffer a severe blow if movement of mineral, energy resources, and even finished goods are restricted from “poor” countries to “rich” ones.

    Going back to the title theme of the article again, we routinely hear of “Chinese colonialism” in Africa. However, only 13% of African oil going to China (2009), compared with the 33% to US and 33% to Europe. This figures come from http://www.chinaafricarealstory.com/2012/01/africas-new-au-building-how-many.html

    Please bear in mind that US and Europe combined has only half the population of China. What does this picture tell you?

  54. Wayne
    April 7th, 2012 at 18:59 | #55


    You have hit on a very important point. The fact that it is mostly non-white peoples who move to white countries and not the other way round, gives white people this conceit that they are the best people in the whole world.

    The reason why non-whites move to white countries is because people move for greater economic opportunities and have done so throughout all of human history.

    Non-whites do not move to white countries because they want to be white or live white. They move to white countries because these same white countries have through the age of imperialism become the places where the wealth of the world concentrated.

    Non-whites move to white countries, because remaining in non-white countries basically means you have no choice but to become slaves and servants of white people, in this globalised economy we now have.

    You don’t get many Saudi Arabians, or Japanese, moving to white countries. Why? Because these two places are rich.

    But you get Iraqis and Afghanis trying to get into white countries. Why? Because these two places have been made into hell-holes —by white countries.

    And why do Chinese go to the West? Because China was pauperised by over a century of Western imperialism, and is still poorer than the West.

    And the ancestors of those same white people who say “Love it or leave it” to non-white people, did not exercise this attitude when they met the native Americans.

  55. April 7th, 2012 at 19:22 | #56

    Not exactly true, Europeans are actually the biggest migrators in history. However, I agree with your last line argument.

  56. raventhorn
    April 7th, 2012 at 19:46 | #57

    Ray :
    Not exactly true, Europeans are actually the biggest migrators in history. However, I agree with your last line argument.

    Or the cause of migrations to Europe.

    Afterall, they enslaved MILLIONS.

    Current estimate for the transatlantic slave trade, sometimes called the “African Holocaust”, is about 12 MILLION Africans displaced by “Western slave trade”.

    The slave traders were, in order of scale: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and Americans.

    *also, From the 1490s when Christopher Columbus set foot on the Americas to the 1890 massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee by the United States military, the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere may have declined, the direct cause mostly from disease,

    from as many as 100 million to 1.8 million.

    A decline of 98.2 million people!!

  57. Wayne
    April 7th, 2012 at 20:56 | #58


    I agree Ray. I was referring more to very recent times, ie since immigration was made non-discriminatory in 1965 (for the US).

    In the 19th Century, and early 20th Century, there were huge numbers of white migrants, and a Chinese exclusion act to keep out Chinese.

    Yes, if you look at the percentage of Anglo-Celtic people in the world who live outside of their indigenous places, it would be approaching 70 to 80%.

    Whereas only a tiny percentage of Sinitic peoples live outside of China.

    Whites are the biggest migrators in world history, yet they often hypocritically point to non-white peoples asking non-whites why they migrate. Its rank hypocrisy.

  58. perspectivehere
    April 7th, 2012 at 22:56 | #59

    Let’s take a look at the view from one of the foremost scholars of African American Studies, Molefi Kete Asante, Professor at Temple University, where he founded the first PhD program in African American Studies.

    This talk, given in 2007, highlights the creation of the concept of the “white race” which is tied in to the need to create a legal category of “black race” to justify turning them into property and capable of becoming objects of “chattel slavery”. The word “chattel” is a legal term meaning “personal property”.


    “The implications of the chattelisation of Africans

    There are two implications of the chattelisation of Africans: (1) the invention of the white race, and (2) the commodification of the African. In the first instance, out of a heterogeneous group of Europeans who did not claim to be of the same race, and as Smedley understood, did not perceive themselves in a common way, there was invented, Allen argued, a new reality, “the white race” (Smedley, 1999; Allen, 1997). What the slavers knew that they had in common was that they were not black. So long as they could not find any African in their ancestry they could become a part of this new creation, a formation of white people who were a reaction to the blackness of the enslaved Africans.


    But Africans were troublesome chattel, a fact that made a lie of the idea that we were not human and could not think. In many ways enslaved Africans assaulted the system of enslavement and sought to bring the system down.

    Of course, in recent years what we have now seen is that whiteness has become a property in the same racist societies that gave us blacks as chattel property (Feagin, 1997). There is a great difference between the two forms of property, however. In the case of the property rights of whiteness one is speaking of privilege based on the acquisition of whiteness. In the United States there was a time when only English, German, and Scandinavian were whites. Over the centuries Italians, Irish, Hungarians, Jews, and Turks have become white, meaning essentially that they have participated in the privilege structure of a racist society.

    On the other hand, the commodification of Africans established a pattern that would become the fundamental method of transferring wealth in a capitalist society. Who could accumulate wealth by dispossessing Africans? The whites could do it because they had acquired the privilege of whiteness regardless of their origins by virtue of the chattelisation of Africans. Thus, accumulation by dispossession became one of the principal ways Africans in the United States were systematically constrained and restrained, economically, socially, and psychologically.

    Vast wealth from the European slave trade fuelled the British economy at the same time that Africans were being reduced to things. A commodity could have no rights, no feeling, no sentiments, no religion, and no thoughts. While it is good and decent that this year Britain celebrates the bicentennial of the British abolition of the slave trade by marking the end of slavery with stamps, exhibitions, speeches, and memorial services, one still asks, if slavery was wrong, irreligious, and immoral in l807, why not in 1707 or 1657?”

  59. perspectivehere
    April 7th, 2012 at 23:19 | #60

    zack :
    you’ll definitely see this correlation of racism in none other than the squealer/goebbels/chief propagandist of “the west” in historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson, who explicitly supported the Dubya Bush admin’s mandate of unilateralism also happened to view the UK/US relationship as that between ancient Greece and Imperial Rome.
    Never mind that ethnic greeks and italians in both countries are viewed through stereotypical eyes and with such disdain. Anglos would definitely make a distinction between ethnic greeks and italians and their own pure white selves.

    George Monbiot was a housemate of Niall Ferguson’s at university, and wrote this essay in 2004 to criticize Ferguson’s “new and terrifying myth of power”.


  60. perspectivehere
    April 7th, 2012 at 23:29 | #61

    Ray :
    Not exactly true, Europeans are actually the biggest migrators in history. However, I agree with your last line argument.

    One of the biggest sources of large-scale migrations of Europeans was “transportation of convicts”. This was primarily carried out by the English/British government:


    The numbers going to the thirteen British-American colonies was significant: almost 10% of all immigrants from 1700 to 1775 were convicts.

    “Of the 585,800 immigrants to the thirteen colonies during the years 1700-1775, about 52,200 were convicts and prisoners (9 percent of the total). During these same years, slaves by far constituted the largest group of immigrants (278,400; 47%), followed by people arriving with their freedom (151,600; 26%) and indentured servants (96,600; 18%). Note that almost three quarters of all the people arriving in the American colonies during this time period did so without their freedom.

    These numbers account for immigrants arriving in America from all countries during these years. When the numbers arriving in America from Great Britain are examined in isolation, the percentage of immigrants who were convicts is of course much higher. From 1718 to 1775, when the Transportation Act was in full force, convicts accounted for one-quarter of all immigrants arriving in the American colonies from the British Isles.”

    The American colonies were in part a “dumping ground” for Britain problem citizens, and the practice of “Transportation” fueled the 18th century version of the prison-industrial complex:

    “There were many winners in the practice of transportation. Convict merchants, who specialized in moving this form of human cargo across the Atlantic, made a fortune. Plantation owners were also beneficiaries of this form of punishment by taking advantage of the cheap labor that convicts provided. There were risks, to be sure. Convicts with ill temperaments could disrupt plantation life, and many convicts jeopardized plantation owners’ investment in them by escaping and running away. Even so, planters quickly bought up convicts almost as soon as they arrived in port, because they were such a bargain. The British government probably benefited the most. Not only was it able to empty its jails of convicts at minimal cost, but it could pass their convicted felons off on someone else and forget about them as soon as they set foot on American shores.

    The convicts, for the most part, were the losers. Some of the transported convicts ended up thriving in their new setting. Many, however, died during their trip overseas before they even arrived in America. Others were mistreated by their new masters once they did arrive. Most of them, uprooted from their family and friends in England and shipped off to a strange land, either ran away or served out their terms before disappearing into obscurity.”


  61. raventhorn
    April 8th, 2012 at 05:11 | #62


    Numbers speak for themselves, and the “West” was responsible for the largest scaled ethnic cleansing style migration policies.

    Even today, US is talking about kicking out 11 million “illegals” as a form of ethnic population control. Seriously, look the other way when the farms hire the migrant workers for almost slave wages, but afterwards, want to kick them out??!

  62. perspectivehere
    April 10th, 2012 at 13:04 | #63

    Some recent reading about the Pioneer Column (1890) of the British South Africa Company to Mashonaland (home of the Shona people) confirms to me a common tendency about British colonization around the world:

    (1) British colonists seek to erase evidence of civilization in the peoples they conquered or enslaved to play up its benefits to the subject peoples and places. Or to quote South African travel writer David Fleminger, “The white Rhodesian government (like the apartheid regime) tried to suppress anything that suggested black people weren’t stupid”.

    (2) Traces of Chinese culture seem to turn up surprisingly in the most unexpected places.

    The story begins in 1890 with Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company which raised a force called The Pioneer Column in efforts to annex the territory of Mashonaland, later part of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Rhodes had signed a treaty with Matabele King Lobengula, in 1888, giving him rights to mining and administration. Rhodes assembled a small group of approximately 500 colonists and fighters and entered the territory in June 1890. After proceeding about 650 km into the area, they set up camp, raised the British union flag, and claimed the territory for Britain on September 13. They then founded several towns and gave land away to each colonist for settlement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Column

    The effects of this expedition is described by a modern British history as a kind of blessing, to bring the area into the “capitalist Christian West” under a “new elite” and a “new moral order”:

    “The effects of the Pioneer Column were immense. With one act the destiny of the territory was changed forever. Mashonaland and Matabeleland ceased to be the poorly developed backwaters they had slipped into since the subsidence of the Mwenemutapa state about 500 years earlier and were irreversibly propelled into alignment with the world of the capitalist Christian West. A new elite snatched control from the Iron Age monarchy which had formerly held sway and retained power through demonstration of overwhelming technological superiority along with a towering confidence in its achievements. A new moral order was also imposed that has dramatically altered the culture and beliefs of the indigenous people.” (Wikipedia citing The Cambridge History of Africa: From 1870 to 1905 v. 6)(1985).

    During the expedition, the team came upon ancient stone ruins. After the area was brought under control, Rhodes appointed a team to study the area and hoped to find gold. Some gold artifacts were found and Rhodes set up the Ancient Ruins Company to exploit the commercial possibilities. Rhodes and everyone else was convinced that the ruins were built by an ancient foreign people (like the Phoenicians). A later researcher to the site, a freelance journalist and antiquarian named R.N. Hall excavated the area, destroying much of the archeological information in the process. The first professional archeologist visited the site in 1905 and shocked the world by declaring that the ruins had been built by a Mashona king just a couple of hundred years before. “The monument caused great controversy amongst the archaeological world, with political pressure being put upon archaeologists by the government of Rhodesia to deny its construction by black peoples.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Zimbabwe#cite_note-0

    Traces of Chinese pottery were found at what is now called the “Great Zimbabwe” ruins. Blue and white porcelain shards when reassembled form about a third of a dish from the sixteenth century Ming Dynasty. These suggest that a great trading center and civilization existed there:

    “What is evident is that Great Zimbabwe has tremendous significance for black Africa. Its origins are undeniably African, and cannot be co-opted into a racist mythology as past historians have tried to do. On the contrary, the artefacts – Chinese celadon, Arabian glass, Persian faience, gold and ornaments demonstrate that a society with trading links lived here generations before Europeans exercised colonial domination.”


    One of the things I think all peoples should do, as a corrective to the erasure of African culture by 400 years of slavery and colonialist conquest, is to learn more about this history, to accord the proper respect for the achievements of African peoples and their diasporic descendants. To the extent that we benefit today from “modern science and technology”, we should not forget that it was the blood and toil of Africans that provided the means for capital to be accumulated so that this science and technology could be financed.

    Also, from a Chinese perspective, imagine if British slavery and colonization of the scale of Africa had taken place in China and all that was left for future visitors were the ruins of the summer palace in Beijing? Would people not conclude that no culture existed in China? And the myth would take root that Chinese are a primitive and savage people, without culture, suitable for civilizing via enslavement and colonization?

    Why do people so readily accept such myths about Africans?

  63. perspectivehere
    April 10th, 2012 at 13:38 | #64

    A brief introduction to the Shona people can be found here, with a short (1 minute) video about the Great Zimbabwe Site, narrated by student archeologist Munyaradzi Sagiya:


    “The Shona are the builders of Great Zimbabwe, which is the largest stone structure of pre-colonial Africa south of the equator. The word Zimbabwe literally means “stone dwelling” in the Shona language. Thus, Great Zimbabwe is appropriately named because it is indeed a great stone dwelling.”

  64. perspectivehere
    April 20th, 2012 at 08:57 | #65

    Review finds thousands of papers detailing shameful acts were culled, while others were kept secret illegally
    18 April 2012


    “Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.

    Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.

    The archive came to light last year when a group of Kenyans detained and allegedly tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion won the right to sue the British government. The Foreign Office promised to release the 8,800 files from 37 former colonies held at the highly-secure government communications centre at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire.”

    This is an illegal coverup and destruction of colonial government documents. Why hardly any reports about this in the US or English press?

    As far as I can tell, the US mainstream media is not reporting the story except for a few reports that these files mention Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr. For example, see ABCNews: Secret UK Files List President Obama’s Father.

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