In his new book (Shifting Superpowers: The New and Emerging Relationship between the United States, China and India, January 2010) Martin Sieff shows how China has over the past 170 years gone through wild shifts every 20 to 40 years between openness and engagement with the outside world. There have also been murderous xenophobic outrages that caused the death of many millions of pro-Western Chinese.

Sieff writes on Fox News on March 18, 2010, that the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s resulted in the worst civil war in human history. Between 20 to 40 million lives were lost before it was finally suppressed. It was followed by an era of political misery and humiliation. After that China opened up to Western investment and technology. Then the 1900 Boxer Rebellion erupted, when thousands of Chinese Christians were killed.

After the Chinese revolution during the 1920s and 1930s there was an opportunity for transformation of the country to democracy under Chiang Kai-shek. Sieff does not rightly understand what happened when the murderous civil war initiated by Mao Tse-tung. He wants to place Chiang in the same tyrannical class as Mao. The recent book by Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo – Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China (2009) shows that it is the vision of Chiang that drives the modernization of China, not that of Mao.

Mao defeated Chiang in December 1949, who then established the Republic of China on Taiwan, a model for the modernization of China. Mao proceeded to cause the death of around 80 million people on the mainland.

In 1972 President Richard Nixon established a strategic partnership with communist China and to a great extent abandoned Taiwan. After the death of Mao it was time for a new turnabout. China embraced some sort of state capitalism.When the Soviet tyranny started to crumble in 1989 thousands of student’s demanded democracy in China. They were massacred.

After that the pendulum turned the other way and somehow China managed to convince America that it was OK with endless balance of payment deficits. As sovietologists had predicted during the Cold War with the Soviet tyranny now the Chinese tyranny would become more democratic and liberal, some China “experts” believed. Like with the Soviets it has never happened.

Sieff believes the pendulum is once more swinging towards violence, economic crisis and anti-Western nationalism. Corruption is rampant and the Chinese banking sector is full of bad loans. There is a growing gap between the coastal provinces and the poor interior. An economic crisis or conflict over Taiwan could trigger the new swing. It could topple the present leadership and replace it with a xenophobic faction of the Chinese Communist Party and the military. It has happended before with Taiping, the Boxer Rebellion, and Mao’s tyranny turned into Cultural Revolution.

It is time to rethink on China not only in the United States but in Europe as well.

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