A week ago, the Chinese government put on a massive display of its military might. Ten years ago, when I must have watched a similar parade, I wrote this. I had totally forgotten about it. Obviously, China’s growth in strength and prominence has been even more impressive in the past 10 years.
Only, it has now become a bigger ogre. It is bullying nations with a mix of wealth, economic power and guilt pangs which it instills in the minds of the global communities. The historical bullying of China by the West has now been “weaponised” (?) so that it is wielded with retributive intent, to extract favourable treatment.
The Chinese I meet here in Melbourne, appear to have little engagement with its troubled past. The brutal regime that was the Kuomintang, the communists’ early subservience to the Russians and the rise of the peasantry to usher the monstrous Mao to be its latter-day emperor, all give modern China an ugly base. The economic power provided by Deng’s modernization initiatives did little to taper the rough edges that China projects to the world at large. In fact it probably exacerbated the vision of the ugly Chinese. Street after street in suburb after suburb here in Melbourne, the vulgarity with which the Chinese rich parlay their moola, jars shamelessly. Maybe it’s a subconscious effect that shuts out the ugly past, but in not turning its mind there the ugliness appears to have transmogrified. Mao’s mass murders have turned into Xi’s opulent louts.
All that has done is make the Chinese even less likeable now. Up until maybe 20 years ago, it was the ugly Americans that we all loved to hate. Today, the Chinese have beaten the Americans, at least in that space.