November 16th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Extinction Rebellion: So, it's goodnight to us and a big welcome to mega-bucks

EDITORIAL A second chance to secure Australia's future

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Early UK election will be another Brexit vote

CANBERRA OBSERVED Struggle is on not to let censorship have the last word

GENDER POLITICS Children are being given drugs that are dangerous even for elite athletes

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Thoroughbreds are literally racing for their lives

POLITICAL COMMENTARY Tony Abbott continues faithful to the broad Liberal church

MILITARY HISTORY Timor-Leste a free nation 20 years after INTERFET

CLIMATE SCIENCE V XR Is a tipping point close or is the emergency contrived?

RENEWABLE ENERGY Whatever happened to the World Solar Challenge?

ASIAN AFFAIRS How long has China's Red Dynasty really got?

HUMOUR Vote 1 for the Troposphere

MUSIC Genre fatigue: Jazz rock arrived with a bang, left with a whisper

CINEMA Terminator: Dark Fate: The heart that makes us human

CINEMA Ride Like a Girl: Celebrating family, faith and fortitude

BOOK REVIEW Quirky look at grand-scale egoism

BOOK REVIEW Clear critique of flaws of globalism



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

South Park Calls Out Transgender Takeover of Women's Sports

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How long has China's Red Dynasty really got?

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, November 16, 2019

Since paramount leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed, “to get rich is glorious”, the economic revolution in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has lifted 850 million people out of absolute poverty, a great social achievement.

This, however, is relative. The people to benefit most are those with an urban hukou. A hukou is a residence permit. The middle class, as we understand the term, constitutes some 12 per cent of the population, almost exclusively residents of big towns and cities. The country dwellers are referred to as Lao Bai Xing, or Old Hundred Names. There are relatively few surnames in China, so Lao Bai Xing came to mean the rural population, mainly the peasants.

Despite a generation of break-neck economic growth, the two-thirds of the population who are migrant labourers, peasants, industrial labourers or agricultural workers have been left behind. Migrant workers without a hukou have no insurance, no guaranteed place to live and no guaranteed access to education for their children, who are left behind in their home villages. The only time these migrant workers return to their home villages is at Lunar New Year, when half of China is on the move in one of humanity’s greatest annual migrations

How realistic is the notion that China’s Red Dynasty will collapse? Probably more so than most people think. Industrial production, even before the trade war with the United States, was stagnant, at its lowest level since 2004. Economic growth in 2018 was 6 per cent, way below the 9 per cent average since 1989.

Most Westerners see only the modern metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, the most advanced cities in China. It is almost impossible for first-time visitors seeing these great Westernised cities not to be impressed. But there are many more progressive second and third-tier cities we seldom hear of, such as Dalian in Manchuria and Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province in central China, which both have populations in the multi-millions.

Once the ruling dynasty loses the “Mandate of Heaven”, it will fall. The Mandate of Heaven is a political and religious doctrine. Since ancient times, holding the Mandate of Heaven has been used to justify the rule of the Emperor.

A just ruler would rule peacefully and harmony would reign. A legitimate government would be predicated on justice and prosperity. The gods would smile on a just ruler. Natural calamities such as famines, droughts and floods would indicate that the Emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven and that the dynasty would fall. (Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was prone to claiming a “Mandate” for his policies.)

The great dynasties endured for centuries. The Han Dynasty, which was contemporary with the Roman Empire, ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD, with a brief interregnum. The Han Dynasty lent its name to the Han people, which is the world’s largest ethnic group, over one billion strong. Chinatowns are called Han Ren Jie, or Street of the Han People.

The other great dynasty was the Tang Dynasty, which ruled from 618 AD to 907 AD, with a brief interregnum. The Chinese often refer to themselves as Tang Ren – Men of Tang.

Other examples may be more apposite to the current situation. The Yuan Dynasty ruled from 1271 AD to 1368 AD. It was established by Mongol invaders. Genghis Khan was Emperor. One of the Mongols’ guests was Marco Polo, who framed Western perceptions of China for a millennium. The Mongols were aliens. Their dynasty lasted less than a century.

The history of China is a tension between the empire and the peasants, or the hierarchy and the ruled. Until recently, 90 per cent of Chinese have lived in the country, often on their own land, to which they are linked by ancestral ties going back generations. When the peasants rebel, the empire is threatened.

One question that is frequently asked is, why was the Ching Dynasty, which endured from 1641 AD to 1911 AD, overthrown in the Xinhai Rebellion (1911), when so many other attempts failed?

The Ching Dynasty was regarded as a foreign government, led by the Manchus, who were horse-soldiers, living on the grasslands to the northeast of China. This area is referred to as Manchuria, or Dongbei (the East-North).

The Taiping rebellion (1850–64) broke out in South China. The leader was a Christian who believed himself to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The aim was to establish a Heavenly Kingdom on earth. The Taiping Rebellion was one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of the world. At least 20 million people died; some estimates are that 70 million people died in the rebellion. The Western powers supported the Ching Emperor in his battle with the rebels. If they had not, the rebels may have succeeded.

The Xinhai Rebellion (1911) succeeded more or less by accident. The purported leader, Dr Sun Yatsen was nowhere near the site of the rebellion.

The rebellion spread like wildfire and the rotten Manchu regime collapsed. Following the success of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Northern Expedition, China had an era of peace and prosperity.

After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (1937), Japan invaded North China and later attempted to conquer the whole country. China did not see peace until 1949, when Mao Zedong declared victory at Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, declaring “China has stood up”.

One might ask: “Why, after a generation of solid growth, should the Government of China collapse?” But China is not as solid as it seems. Forty per cent of the Chinese people, mainly the rural poor, still live in poverty.

Xi Jinping has declared himself “leader for life” but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is riven by infighting. It’s not easy to control the world’s largest organisation, with 89 million members. The two main factions are the “red princelings” – offspring of revolutionary era heroes, among whom is President Xi – and the tuanpai, who have come up through the ranks of the Communist Youth organisation.

Are the Chinese suited to democracy? A generation ago, it was a common belief that democracy was not a natural state for China. But “island China” on Taiwan has been a successful self-governing entity for a generation. This Chinese society made the transition from strongman rule to a vibrant democracy without bloodshed.

Can we hope for the same on the mainland? The Republic of China on Taiwan had far-sighted rulers who knew that prosperity and justice required democracy. Let’s hope that we see a new, democratic Mandate of Heaven in mainland China.

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