Home > Analysis, Uncategorized > 汉武帝还是唐太宗 习近平陷入保守主义?/On History

汉武帝还是唐太宗 习近平陷入保守主义?/On History

Upon reading the article at dwnews.com on 12/31/2014, it triggered memory over 2 years ago when I was in Lhasa, after visiting Potala Palace, recovering from altitude sickness, and watching CCTV 10, about Taoism and analysis of history. For those who can’t read Chinese, the articles analyze the two dynasties when China was at her zenith, Han and Tang and the two great emperors, one used Confucianism as governing principle and downgraded other schools of thought, the other followed the principle of Taoism, which allows multiple paths of enlightenment. it obliquely criticizing Xi for following the Han emperor in censoring Gmail, questioning the conservative trend in whether it betrays a sense of inferiority complex or/and overconfidence. It questioned whether the attempt at isolating China from internet with Great Fire Wall be counterproductive.
I was excited in Lhasa because the TV program in Taoism was a real fresh air at the jointure of leadership changes. In China, history is more than history, it reflects on present as much as it’s about history. After all Cultural Revolution started with criticism of a historical play, the dismissal on an honest official (General Peng) by emperor (Mao). It mentioned Han Wudi, the great Han emperor, the year before he died he issued an edict apologizing to the nation on his own failures, which was unprecedented before or since in world history. Tang Taizong faced an invading army from west in front of the gate of his capital, signed a humiliating compromise treaty, yet within a few years absorbed the tribes that attacked. I was thinking of Mao, on his failure to change human nature. When he compared himself against great historical figures in his poetry, what China would have been, if he has the humility of Han Wudi to confess his own failures, and Tang Taizong’s foresight and not enter the Korea War.
History being what it is, those musings of alternate histories are for science fiction. I do agree with Xi in reigning in the excesses of Capitalism, of corruption, and yes, censorship. For even in the West, where profit reign supreme, there are still boundaries such as child pornography and terrorism. I do hope the revivals of Confucianism is tempered with Taoism, on live with nature in harmony, a greener future.

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  1. Black Pheonix
    December 31st, 2014 at 11:55 | #1

    I think Xi is opening to studying various different philosophies, not just Taoism. And this is good.

    Dogmatic pursuit of any 1 philosophy can be close-minded and dangerous for China.

    I heard recently, that China and Japan are finally coming to some minor “understandings” on Diaoyu dispute. Even if Japan doesn’t want to admit it publicly, I think the door is cracked open.

    Whether history, strategy, or fortune, Xi should be commended for this result, which did not come with a costly military conflict.

    His administration did respond to Japan proportionally regarding Diaoyu, and managed to contain the escalation without losing sovereignty rights for China.

    Perhaps this is part of Taoism that he learned from, Balance, and not be in a hurry to reach for victory.

    Japan under Abe, unfortunately, seems to have missed this moral lesson.

    Abenomics is still failing, and yet, Abe still put up the pretense that he and Japan are still “winning”.

    *Indeed, the greater lesson for China may be, that this is the Chinese Century already. But China and Chinese should not be in a hurry to reach “victory” still.

    We must conserve our strengths and continue to grow. Settle for balance against those who would want to dominate or control us, let them wear themselves out.

  2. January 1st, 2015 at 11:32 | #2

    I am not sure you have heard of this site, but I highly recommend it. http://www.guancha.cn/

    Unlike, dw which likes to parrot western press opinion, it has a clearly distinct independent character. As for Mao’s poetry, I am sure you meant this:

    北国风光,千里冰封,万里雪飘。
    望长城内外,惟余莽莽;大河上下,顿失滔滔。
    山舞银蛇,原驰蜡象,欲与天公试比高。
    须晴日,看红装素裹,分外妖娆。
    江山如此多娇,引无数英雄竞折腰。
    惜秦皇汉武,略输文采;唐宗宋祖,稍逊风骚。
    一代天骄,成吉思汗,只识弯弓射大雕。
    俱往矣,数风流人物,还看今朝。

    Mao actually mentioned 5 famous emperors, lamenting their short comings and felt that heroes of today compare favourably to them. The original dw article is here.

    However, I would greatly disagree with this opinion piece which used Han Wudi and Tang Taizong as example. First of all, Liu Che wouldn’t possibly become an emperor if not for having a very ambitious and calculating maternal grandmother. And I am sure you know how Li Shimin came to the throne. To top it off, both emperors have predecessors which greatly build up the country for them, they inherited a China that was already prosperous and strong. They simply make it richer and stronger.

    Nevertheless, they were both plagued by very serious successor issue. One of the main reason for Liu Che’s guilt was that his own crown prince has to die, pretty much in the mould of Absalom, son of David. To compare them to Mao Zedong is not exactly fair. Tang was facing a much weaker nomadic opponent where Li felt that it is much cheaper to pay them off then starting a war with them. China has no such option in Korea when US armed forces already landed on Taiwan. And the reason both these emperors were called great is because they eventually settle the border disputes victoriously with force, thus securing the border and allow China to have peaceful development. This is the major factor that make them stand out!

    The article is obviously wrong when it states that Li Shimin practiced an open an accepting policy while Liu Che did not. During Liu’s time a Han citizen is free to travel outside the Han’s controlled territory. Although war was constant with the various nomadic tribes, inter-marrying and Han people serving in Hun tribes were very common. the reverse is true too. During Li’s time, initially Tang citizen are forbidden to travel outside, for example Xuanzang has to risk the death penalty to travel to India. Of course, Tang on the surface is much more open as much as 20% of its official has minority last name. Li’s grandmother and main consort belonged to the minority groups. This is a legacy of the Sixteen Kingdoms period (304 to 439 AD) where China was invaded by many nomadic tribes and don’t have a central government.

    l feel that the author of that article is simply trying condemn China’s action in banning gmail but failing to point out gmail reluctance to abide by China’s law. The use of subjective phrases like over confidence or inferiority complex should have rang the alarm bell. The quoting of both Han Wudi and Tang Taizong out of context with obvious dishonesty is simply trying to mislead the readers.

  3. N.M.Cheung
    January 1st, 2015 at 17:58 | #3

    @Ray
    Thanks for the link, I will definitely check on it. I wasn’t agreeing the theme of the article, but it did got me thinking on the issues of history. I may not agree with all of Mao’s decisions, but he definitely was a great poet.

  4. JackTan
    January 1st, 2015 at 18:44 | #4

    @Ray
    somehow I can’t see the link of your recommended website, will you pls provide me with the link as well? Thanks!

  5. N.M.Cheung
    January 1st, 2015 at 19:53 | #5

    @JackTan
    It’s guancha.cn.

  6. JackTan
    January 2nd, 2015 at 01:02 | #6

    @N.M.Cheung

    Wow, i guess great minds think alike, i’ve been following this site since its inception. It is indeed a rare diamond …

  7. Black Pheonix
    January 5th, 2015 at 12:38 | #7

    @Ray

    Every government can be said to be progressive and conservative at the same time, because it is not possible for any government to be unchanging in all aspects or changing in every single aspect.

    Afterall, every government must deal with new things, forced to change to react in some aspects. And no government would rationally change things that are working well for no good reasons.

    While I think banning Gmail should have been done a long time ago, (since Google didn’t seek a business license in China), I would point out, this is not a ban of Gmail in PRC.

    If China updates its internet filter system (Great Fire Wall), and it breaks Gmail access, that’s just tough luck. Google chose to not work with the Chinese government on this issue, and PRC is not obligated to consider Google’s software compatibilities.

    (No more than Google is concerned about privacy rights of those who DON’T use Gmail).

  8. January 5th, 2015 at 20:39 | #8

    @N.M.Cheung
    Yes, it is impossible to be agreeable on simple things, let alone complicate national, foreign or economic policies. I do feel that Mao is one of the greatest Chinese poets of the 20th century. However, he didn’t make my top three Chinese poet list. My favourite is 李白, 李煜,蘇東坡. I doubt Chinese poetry will reached the height of Tang or Song again, as complete mastery of Chinese language and history is needed. It is almost impossible for any modern person to devote time exclusively in this regard.

    I also want to point out the play you had mentioned in your writing. It is 海瑞罷官 and it is interesting to read up on this historical character. However, it is a spark rather than the actual beginning of the CR. Historians marked the beginning of CR to a speech given by Deng, chaired by Liu in 1966.

    http://baike.baidu.com/view/2817779.htm
    http://15269682.blog.hexun.com/66285105_d.html

  9. ltlee1
    May 6th, 2015 at 06:11 | #9

    Han Wudi “issued an edict apologizing to the nation on his own failures.”
    “All under heaven are innocent except me, your emperor.”
    Is this humility? Or is this the pretext for totalitarianism?

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