From Confucius to ?Confoundus? and back to Confucius?this has been the alternating pattern of Chinese history throughout the ages. Today China is with ?Confoundus?. ?Such is the everlasting law of the sequence of prosperity and decay,? says Ssu-ma Ch?ien, China'sgreatest historian. The expansionist itch is back with China.
Tyranny?this has been the lot of the Chinese people, and oppression followed oppression. ?Why do you week?? asks Confucius to a woman sitting at the grave of her kins in a mountain fastness. She says that all of them were killed by a tiger. ?But why don'tyou leave such a fatal spot?? asks Confucius. Because, she sighs: ?There is no oppressive government here!?
?The picture I have in mind of primitive China,? writes Clennell, in a thoughtful book ?The Historical Development of Religion in China? is no Arcadian idyll of the Golden Age of Yao and Shun, but a very hard and cruel state of society where human life was held terribly cheap. It is said that for every stone in the Great Wall of China, a Chinese lost his life! And the Wall, 4000 miles long, was built by the worst tyrant of Chinese history to prevent the nomadic attacks on China. A people who could allow this to happen must be inhuman. They must bereft of all sensibility.
Do you know, Dear Reader, that Red China sacrificed more than thirty million Chinese for its so-called ?revolution?? Perhaps it was cheap at that price, for China'sambition was no less than world domination.
Are we ready to cope with this China? We are not. We are still living in a ?fool'sparadise? as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru said in 1962. We still think that China can one day be a peaceful neighbour!
For years, China lived in a world of its own. Nature and history made it insular. The Chinese hated their neighbours. And they hated the rest of humanity, too. They called them barbarians.
The Chinese had little interest in God or religion, or anything speculative and metaphysical. ?Not yet understanding life, how can you understand death?? asked Confucius. And a Chinese told a Christian missionary that the troubles with his body were enough and that he would not want to add to them the concerns of his soul. In any case, he said, he had not seen his soul.
China is a land of the mandarins and the mandarins worked by the book, ?Laws abound and evils multiply??this has been more true of China. The mandarins have ruled over China for 500 years. There is no place for the contemplative life in China. Confucius advocated worship of ancestors and the State.
War and weapons brought glory to China. The Chinese crossbow was the most advanced weapon in the ancient world. The Romans copied it. No wonder, China produced a number of militarists (philosophers). Sheng Yang was one of the first. He, like Hobbes, thought of man as an evil being and set about to rule over China through rewards and punishments, more often by punishments. Chin Shih Huang-ti, the builder of the Wall, was their exemplar.
Between the Chou'sand the Manchu?s, the first and last of the dynasties of China, there is a period of 3000 years and China alternated between peace and war, between expansion and contraction. Peace brought it prosperity, war brought it expansion and strife brought it nothing but universal ruin. Famines struck from time to time and the Chinese learned to live on anything they could get hold of including rodents and barks of trees. And it was the job of the court historians to record what was of China'sinterest. That is what has made the Chinese long in memory, but short in gratitude.
Buddhism entered China as early as the second century BC. But the Chinese never took to Buddhism with any enthusiasm. It remained ?foreign? to them. They did not like the Buddhist monks, who lived on society. And they certainly opposed the Buddhist doctrine of Ahimsa, which went against the Chinese tradition of militarism. The picture of a peaceful China was propagated by the Jesuit Fathers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The mandarins encouraged such belief.
Mao was a great admirer of Shang Yang. ?Power comes out of the barrel of a gun?, he said. He was not afraid of the nuclear war. He said China could afford to lose half its population. Do you know why? Because, he says, the loss can be replenished in no time! Here is a country on which the theory of deterrence does not seem to work.
What is America'sgame? America is a Pacific power. It wants dominance over Asia. It blocked the ambition of Japan. Now it is the turn of China. But will America take on China? Not likely. The price will be too heavy. In the meantime, it enjoys the benefits of China'scheap economy. China is subsidising America'slife.
Do we Indians understand China? I have my doubts. We are still living in the ?fool'sparadise.?