Wednesday, September 29, 2021

America has much to learn from China

Two recent stories hardly mentioned in the mainstream western media illustrate the major differences between China’s way of doing things versus the American way and suggest that the U.S. has much to gain by learning from China. The first story has to be with evacuation from Kabul at the end of the forever war in Afghanistan. China’s embassy notified their citizens in latter part of June to prepare to evacuate from Afghanistan. In mid-July, a charter plane from China picked up over 200 of their citizens and flew them to Wuhan. These passengers disembarked and were held in quarantine for two weeks for observation before being allowed to depart for their final destination. Thus, Chinese citizens living in Afghanistan avoided the chaotic, panic driven departure that the world witnessed at the end of August. True, China has much fewer people to evacuate than the U.S. but the orderly way China managed the evacuation raises a critical question. China anticipated Taliban’s takeover How was it possible that China could anticipate the Taliban’s return to power and control while the US failed to do so? The Americans had advisors working with the Afghan government, thousands of troops on the ground and a network of intelligence gatherers and informers. Yet, the US did not see the impending chaos and if an orderly exit was planned, it was incompetently implemented. One possible explanation, though not necessarily the only explanation, is that China was not in the country as an occupier but as a friendly potential investor. The Chinese did not order anyone around and they tried to get along with everyone. They talked to the local Afghans as peers. In so doing, they understood the local conditions much better than the occupying forces of the western powers. It’s difficult for the West to understand that China does not have a history of resorting to conquest and occupation to have their way. In the early 15th century, China’s naval fleet was the mightiest in the world. Led by Admiral Zheng He, his flotilla of several hundred ships docked and interacted with over 40 rulers and states from present day Indonesia to India to the east coast of Africa. Each of the seven voyages took over two years to make a round trip as the Chinese sailors had to rest on land and wait for favorable seasonal winds before they can resume sailing. The sailors would settle on shore and live among the local people in peace and exchanged knowhow in farming techniques and crops to plant that would be useful for their journey onwards. The Chinese traded goods with the people everywhere they landed. Even though Admiral Zheng’s armada carried a formidable fighting force, they did not seek conflict but extended diplomacy and friendship on behalf of the Emperor from Beijing. Some local royalty went on board at Zheng’s invitation and embarked on the journey to visit the imperial court in Beijing. Throughout China’s history, the middle kingdom was recognized as a great civilization and the seat of culture. People far and wide came to China to study and learn. Every so often, parts or all of China were overrun and occupied by martial nomadic people such as the Xiangbeis, Khitans, Mongols and the Manchus. In every case, the invaders soon adopted the Chinese language, values and traditions. Within a few generations, they were assimilated and lost traces of their own ethnic origin. To assume the inevitability of the so-called Thucydides trap between a rising China and the reigning America is to fail to appreciate that China is not derived from the foundation of western civilization, a civilization that depended on conquest and enslaving its neighbors. From its history, China has learned the value of peace and harmony over war and conflict and avoid zero sum outcomes. Another story not reported is how Laos has so far avoided the Covid epidemic. Laos being among the economically least developed nations has no access to vaccines. What they have is deep respect and belief in traditional Chinese medicine, TCM. Laos saved from Covid by Chinese medicine Laos invited a noted TCM authority, Professor Duan Guangping from China to lead the effort to develop a protocol to prevent the spread of Covid and a treatment for those that become ill from the coronavirus. Duan and his team of Laotian TCM experts studied the 3000 herbal plants indigenous to Laos. Drawing from twelve ancient Chinese recipes for anti-epidemic and for treatment of serious illness, Duan’s team selected likely potions of herbs that would do the job. Within one month, Duan’s team had finalized the recipe that proved 100% effective in preventing the patient from contracting Covid. Thus, the Laotian government called the formulation the “Chinese vaccine.” The government launched a massive effort to search and collect the necessary herbs, and a factory was built to manufacture billions of doses of the herbal vaccine. From the beginning of research to production took three months. The Laotian population was quickly given the herbal medication and rendered safe from the virus. Foreigners entering Laos were also given the medication as a preventive measure. A handful of foreigners entered Laos with Covid symptoms and were treated with the Chinese herbal medication. Their fever was down in 24 hours and all the symptoms gone in three days. Since the herbal formulation was based on locally available plants, that were widely available and inexpensive, Laos was saved from the ravages of Covid at very little cost. The country also did not experience any interruption of normal economic activities associated with the Covid epidemic. A grateful Laos president Bounnhang thanked China for sending Dr. Duan and declared that one expert in Chinese medicine drawing on the unique efficacy of TCM had saved the entire country. Dr. Duan has given the honorific title as the Sun of Laos. In recent days US president Joe Biden is reported to have called China’s president Xi Jinping and proposed a face-to-face summit meeting. Xi’s reply was “no,” at which point the White House denied that the telephone conversation ever took place. Biden does not understand China That Biden called Xi is a clear indication that Biden is beginning to realize that his decision to follow the strategy to confront China established by his predecessor Donald Trump is not working to the US advantage, but he still does not understand China. Whether it was China’s first meeting with Secretary Antony Blinken in Anchorage or subsequently with visiting Deputy State Secretary Wendy Sherman or with Special envoy John Kerry, Beijing’s message remained the same. Namely, China will not let the US pick and choose the issues to cooperate and other issues to compete and confront with China. The Biden administration cannot go around the world blackening China’s reputation and recruiting allies to counter China’s influence as if in another cold war and expect collaboration on other global issues. Without mutual respect, there would be no trust and no point of any summit conference because nothing productive can come forth from such a meeting. Since Washington insist on designating China an adversary, only the Biden White House can decide when and if China should no longer be considered an adversary but a powerful collaborator to resolve all the challenges the world has to face together.