Erik Ringmar 2012-02-28

  • Yuanmingyuan

    A Disneyland for one person, the Emperor.

  • Second Opium War, destroyed by French/British troops bringing civilization.

  • Parallels to modern European nations (including US) bringing civilization to Iraq, etc.

  • Yuanmingyuan as a symbol of shame: Europeans for destroying it, Chinese for being unable to stop it.

    • Speaker believes this is a problem; no shame should be felt. A dangerous problem.

    • Victor Hugo's letter "Expedition de Chine (Expedition to China)" denounced the action, "barbarians".

  • Why was it destroyed? Symbolic value. Where the emperor lived.

  • In 1860, 39 Europeans taken prisoner by the Chinese, to the Yuanmingyuan, forced to ketou.

    • Precipitated relatiation, the compound must be razed.

    • [Erik still uses the old pronunciation of kowtow.]

    • Speaker sees 1860 as a pivot of history:

      • From alternatives to a European-dominated world to One World. [possible criticism of IB?]

      • The Chinese model has different kind of relations between states.

    • 1862, China starts a foreign office, starts teaching foreign languages to its youth.

  • The identities created in 1960 of Europe=superior, China=inferior, are bad, really bad.

    • Keep us from having good relations, make us do bad things to each other.

    • European responsibility for the world has continued in many forms, results: not so great.

    • "The consequences, I think, have been disastrous." for victims and for Europeans.

      • Photos of Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, Bush Jr.

    • Chinese drive to modernize, to become like the Europeans, "declared a war on themselves"

      • Photos of Korean War, GPCR propoganda, Deng.

    • Condescension, Orientalism, hard for Europeans to relate [Speaker's European liberalist bent.]

    • [What is European? Why is the US considered European?]

    • "What can you do?" with the two disfunctional identities? How can we talk to each other like equals?

    • Europeans don't recognize their own condescension.

      • Victor Goess(?), Hugo(?)/Orientalism.

      • Traditional, conservative attitudes in Europe.

      • Richard Cogdon(?): cannot spread our ideas with military means.

    • Chinese suffering from an inferiority complex.

      • What can we do for them? [Hah, irony.]

      • Why should China be ashamed, if in 1960 the country did not exist? Only an empire.

      • It was about the Manchus.

  • CCP de-emphasized the "nation", stronger connection with classes, borderless: "working class", "laborers"

    • Yuanmingyuan played no role in this narrative of the working class.

    • What happened with the actual compound? Deserted, people moved in, farms, factories, amusement park, garbage dump.

    • In 1990, rediscovered, being fixed up, made into a monument of national humiliation.

      • Ruins are being "built" back up, so you can experience them and be appropriate ashamed.

  • A new story of legitimacy was required around 1990, when other communist regimes were falling.

    • Working class was disappearing, needed to be replaced: by story of the nation.

    • Schoolbooks rewritten.

  • Speaker believes we have come to another, post-modern turning point.

    • We don't have time, attention to become familiar with the past, with history.

    • Skepticism toward grand narratives of the working class, of the state; we don't belong.

    • "And I think that's really good."

    • "What I would like to see happen... that we forget history."

  • Yuanmingyuan is a lovely, delightful place now. A place of the present, not of the past.

Q. YMY story as a way to push people forward, stay in power?
A. Exactly, but price has been too high. This is the story of nationalism.

Q. How is this expressed in the west?
A. Pretentious advice, government officials going all over the world, taking this position for granted.

Q. Euro crisis, do we need an attack on one of our symbols? Would an attack on Brussels create a real European Union?
A. In Europe, choice is between conservative and radical views. Liberal barbarians were very aggressive, to sell things to the Chinese. Very similar choices in the Iraq War, Blair/Bush centrists who go to war for their beliefs. Not sure then, whether I'm a progressive or a conservative. Respect the Chinese on equal footing.

Q. Will narratives become harder to convince people of?
A. Yes, and it's a great thing! Narratives ask you to make sacrifices [and that's bad, implied]. Grand history has been reduced to Facebook comments: lonely, but it's a better world. Maybe it's actually a good thing to get rid of history.

Q. How do you see reaction, then, to 9/11?
A. The Chinese have been seeing YMY as a symbol of the nation, but only since 1990. [Europeans did all along.] The alternative to the nationalist narrative after 911 (they hate "US") is to treat 911 as a crime, rather than an act of war. Let the police deal with it.

Q. Everyone is a part of society, strength in unity. Without strength, will be subjugated to other groups. Singapore vs Japanese, similar. Spending money on defense by SGP even though they are stronger than their neighbors.
A. This is exactly the problem: the language of weak and strong, us and them. "We have to change, we have to modernize, we have to become different from what we are." China is not good enough. Forces uprooting, "you have to do this, pay this price." The price is too high.
Q. In recent history, the weak are always subject to the strong. [It's a valid point, the Speaker's argument is just a fancy "can't we all just get along?", old, rehashed]
A. You keep using "us", "we".
Q. What's an example of Chinese inferiority complex having bad consequences?
A. May 1919 movement, throwing out traditional culture, confucianism, wholesale adopting the western soul. Deng Xiaoping a process of the same caliber. We have to become civilized.

Q. Chinese also go to war. It's not only the West that destroys. Taiping Rebellion was second bloodiest conflict in the world [uh, not in the world, in * China*]. Why don't the Chinese accept their own fault?
A. Chinese were doing it to themselves, taking on the role of destroyers. The link is modernization. We have to understand ourselves and why we act this way.
Q. Condescension happens all over the world, it's human nature, not a European invention.

Q. Europe is diverse, China is also diverse, not homogeneous. Nationalism isn't going to hold: travel, internet...
A. British were very aggressive; the Dutch were very willing to trade, ketou'ed, got along fine. The British couldn't accept that the Chinese represent a different kind of society.

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