All posts by Maitreya

About Maitreya

http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/author/maitreya-bhakal/

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

  Julia Lovell, in her new book The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China, finds something funny in the tragedy

Great Britain has many reasons to feel great about itself. Its empire was the largest in history and covered over a fifth of the world’s population. It had more Asian and African colonies than any other European power. It came, it saw, it divided, and it conquered. It raped and it reaped, gleefully slaughtered millions of people, joyfully massacred entire populations, regularly caused civil wars, flattened countless cities and towns, and destroyed whole civilizations and dynasties with pleasure. It sucked the life out of its colonies and reduced them to what we now call third-world nations. It drew and redrew boundaries and created whole new countries randomly on a whim. Most of the conflicts in the world today can be traced back to British Imperialism – the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan rivalry, the Sino-Indian border dispute and India-China rivalry, the Tibet issue, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sudan – the list goes on.

Yes – Great Britain had reason to feel greatly proud about itself. It had the largest empire in the world. It had managed to keep it’s European competitors in check. There was no known threat to its global dominion. It seemed that Great Britain was destined to rule the world.

And then it all came tumbling down. Sometime in the past century, the great Island Story crumbled to pieces, and the empire followed. Slowly but surely, the empire on which “the sun never sets” went out like a cigar puff. Today it finds itself with as much geopolitical influence as an American missile base. Once great, Great Britain is now America’s top bitch – a tart of a nation that can be ordered to suck America’s coattails whenever required. The relationship between the two countries is much like that between a dog and its master, or as they call it in public, a “special relationship“. Continue reading The Tragicomedy of Errors: China, British Imperialism, and the Opium Wars

The Economist and the South China Sea: It is “complex” if I can’t understand it

 

The Economist is often held prisoner by its own prejudice arising from its whatever-China-does-internationally-is-wrong stance, and a recent article on the South China Sea disputes proves it. Behold the latest offering from intellectual dungeons of the The Economist: “The devil in the deep blue detail”.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the newspaper warns against the dangers of viewing the dispute through cold war lenses, and then proceeds to do exactly that.  In a nutshell, the article can be summed up as follows: China is the bad guy. (Of course, that applies to most articles about China that it publishes).

Five reasons why China will not invade Taiwan, and an analysis of Cross-strait Relations

‘So solidly built into our consciousness is the concept that China is conducting a rapacious and belligerent foreign policy, that whenever a dispute arises in which China is involved, she is instantly assumed to have provoked it.’

— Felix Greene, 1965.

When a superpower is engaging in full hegemonic and supercilious display, another country with slowly increasing economic clout and rising international status can raise apprehension. When countries are used to a bigger country that is settled for some years in a bullying position, someone starting to come close to that bully’s level of power, however remotely, has the potential to raise various concerns.

This rise is often wrongly construed as a zero-sum game – the newcomer challenging the bully’s position. In such a case, the existing bully, in its efforts to manipulate popular conceptions about the comparatively-unknown newcomer, will (hypocritically) spread the myth that the newcomer is, and always has been, overtly aggressive. If this myth-making and spreading is successful, even to a small extent, it can negate the effect that the newcomer might have in compensating for or balancing the bully’s hegemony and its hubris. The newcomer’s assurances about its peaceful rise will then be dismissed as deception. The focal point of the bully’s containment policy will be to encourage and manipulate various types of pawns against the newcomer. If such pawns already exist, then they will be fostered and strengthened, and in case they don’t, new ones will be created (Or as Stephen Walt terms it, “a competition for allies”).

Continue reading Five reasons why China will not invade Taiwan, and an analysis of Cross-strait Relations

India v/s China: We’ve got Facebook! What’ve you got?

An interesting analysis in TIME magazine, to the extent that it tries to be an analysis:

And don’t forget to check out these two accompanying arguments, one for India and one for China:

I plan to blog about this general issue sometime soon. Right now however, I just can’t help commenting on just two points for the time being, particularly because many westerners have humongous misconceptions about these issues. Almost every article on the topic contains at least a reference to these two fallacious points.

Continue reading India v/s China: We’ve got Facebook! What’ve you got?

All your Schadenfreude are belong to us?

 

Lecturing others amounts to schadenfreude
Wait. What?

 

An interesting phenomenon seems to be in the air. With the current financial crisis in America and unrest in Britain, it appears that multiple western media outlets cannot resist the temptation to interpret China’s and other countries’ responses in terms of “schadenfreude“. Although not as amusing as accusing the politburo of smoking weed, it certainly has all the qualities that characterize the distinct flavours of garrulous western reporting about China and Asia in general.
In response to the crises in Washington, Xinhua, in a much cited phrase (One that the international media has gone completely gaga over), called upon the US to “cure its addiction to debt” . This was interpreted by The Economist as schadenfreude, claiming that “regional celebrations” have erupted in Asia over the debt crisis. Continue reading All your Schadenfreude are belong to us?

India at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 and its significance in Sino – Indian Relations

In the midst of the concrete and steel jungle that is the Shanghai World Expo, stands the Indian Pavilion, the ‘greenest’ of them all, built entirely of environment-friendly materials, showcasing India’s unique brand of Culture, History and Soft Power and offering an unprecedented opportunity to further improve Sino-Indian relations and India’s Soft Power in China.

The Expo has finally come to China. A largely forgotten event in most parts of the world, it has been rejuvenated, on a scale in which no other country could even dream of. A record number of 192 countries and 50 organizations have registered, the highest in the Expo’s history. Most people hadn’t even heard of the expo before it came to China.

The verdict is clear – The Expo needed China as much as China needed the Expo.

Continue reading India at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 and its significance in Sino – Indian Relations

A Brief History of the Sino-Indian Border Dispute and the role of Tibet

On 3rd July 1914, as Ivan Chen made his way down the steps of the Summit Hall building in Simla, he must have been aware of mixed feelings rising up inside him.  He had done something which would have far reaching repercussions; and which would for years be remembered by many people on both sides of the Sino-Indian border, albeit in very different ways – He had just left the Simla conference.

After refusing to sign the agreement himself, he was made to sit in a separate room, and behind his back, was signed  one of the most controversial and bizarre treaties in human history – The Simla accord.

For over a century, the intricacies of the border between India and China/Tibet have baffled scholars. In fact, the plot leading to the Simla conference and beyond actually plays just like a thriller movie or book. The sheer complexity of this problem can be judged by the fact that 36 rounds of negotiations have taken place between India and China at different levels since 1981; but they have yet to reach a settlement.

You Scratch My Back, but I Won’t Scratch Yours

The two Asian Giants are still not able to figure out the line which divides them – in the longest running border dispute in modern history. This dispute offers interesting lessons on how to, and how not to, handle boundary issues. The analysis of Chinese behavior in the negotiations is doubly important given China’s perception in the west of it ‘flexing its muscles’, and China’s theory of ‘Peaceful Rise’.

About a century ago, Sir Henry McMahon, the then British Foreign Secretary, took a think red pencil and sketched a line between India and Tibet on a map – a line which has resulted in the two most populous nations in the world going to war, costing more than 2000 lives; and which has created enormous mistrust on both sides, especially in India.

Consequently, on 3rd July 1914 was signed one of the most bizarre and controversial agreements ever known to man – The Simla accord, the complexities of which have yet to be unraveled.
Continue reading You Scratch My Back, but I Won’t Scratch Yours