CHINA IS BACK! Return of the “Central Kingdom”

China has already passed Germany and Japan in the race for economic superpower status, and is in the early stages of closing in on the United States-not only in productivity and financial strength but also in the overall accumulation and creation of scientific knowledge, technology, military power, and political clout.

There are the usual self-styled prophets who predict that the forces that have been unleashed in China are likely to have a “black hole” effect, with the whole economy spiraling downward and ending in chaos, but I believe that view is short-sighted and self-defeating.

I believe that much of the future of the civilization of mankind will be fundamentally influenced by China and its billion-plus people. In fact, it is already happening. Chinese influence is now being felt around the world in virtually every country-on a scale that will soon make the post-World War II emergence of Japan as an economic superpower seem piddling by comparison.

There are demographic, economic and cultural reasons why the Chinese will play an increasingly significant role in the affairs of the world-reasons that no other country can match, and this makes the story of the emerging China of special interest and importance.

To understand and appreciate the role that China will play in the future of the world it is necessary to know a number of key facts about the history of the country, beginning some 5,000 years ago.

One important historical note is that Zhong Guo (Joong Gwaw), the Chinese name for their country, means “Central Country” and refers to the fact that since ancient times the Chinese regarded China as the center of civilization and looked upon all other countries as tributaries inhabited by barbarians.

Belief in the “Central Country” view suffered a serious blow when China was overrun and virtually colonized by Western powers in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the idea did not disappear from the psyche of the people. It is now being rekindled-politically, economically and militarily.

While the Zhong Guo syndrome remains an important part of the mindset of the Chinese it is not the primary force for change that is now driving the country. That element-the personal freedom that the Chinese now have for the first time in the history of their country-has evolved from the fact that from the beginning of China’s history as a nation-state until 1976 the thinking and behavior of ordinary Chinese was controlled by imperial governments and deeply embedded cultural beliefs that prevented them from thinking and behaving as individuals.

These two factors made it absolutely mandatory that the Chinese repress and limit the physical, emotional, and sexual desires that are common to humanity, and to live more or less as mindless drones as directed by the emperors and traditions that had built up over the millennia.

THE EMPERORS AS GODS

One of the primary keys in the development of this kind of culture was the early deification of the rulers to the point that they became known as “the Sons of Heaven (Gods!), who acted as intermediaries between Heaven and humans, and were answerable only to Heaven.

Philosophers such as Confucius, who was born in 551 B.C. and died in 479 B.C., taught that absolute obedience to seniors, immediate superiors and emperors was the highest morality.

Confucian philosophy was based on ritualized etiquette that was designed to make every person think and behave properly according to his or her particular class. Obeying these rituals became the moral standard of China, and led to make-believe, play-acting and deception becoming an important part of the character of the people-because that was the only way they could survive.

Ordinary Chinese did not have the right to decide things for themselves. In a broad sense, their only reason for being was to serve the interests and needs of the emperors. Ancestor worship and an emphasis on the past became the hallmarks of Chinese culture.

Building on the philosophical foundations prescribed by Confucius and later scholars the imperial court and provincial mandarins developed a form of governmental bureaucracy that became more and more ritualized and hidebound as time passed.

Only a small percentage of the population became educated, and the vast majority lived at a subsistence level. Over the long centuries there were extraordinary inventions [the compass, gunpowder, paper] and technological innovations in architecture, engineering, arts and crafts. But these amazing and far-reaching developments did not result in emotional, intellectual or spiritual freedom for the bulk of the population.

CATACLYSMIC ENCOUNTER WITH THE WEST

Traditional China, with all of its hidebound bureaucracy and limitations on the thinking and behavior of the people, survived into modern times. There had been incursions into its heartland by outsiders over the millennia, but all were eventually absorbed into the mainstream of Chinese life.

It was not until the coming of Westerners who had gone through the Industrial Revolution and bypassed the Chinese in virtually all areas of human endeavor that the traditional culture came under attack, and was incapable of dealing with the technologically advanced nations of the West.

The encounter with the West led to a long series of student uprisings, civil rebellions and finally a revolution that ended the reign of the imperial court at the beginning of the 20th century.

Sporadic fighting between imperialists and nationalists continued until 1927 when Mao Zedung launched his communist revolution against both the nationalist and imperialist forces. This struggle was still going on in 1937 when Japan invaded China, resulting in the nationalists and the communists joining forces to fight the Japanese.

As soon as Japan was defeated by the Allies and withdrew its forces from China, the communists and nationalists renewed their war. In 1948, with massive support from the Soviet Union, Mao’s communist forces began a major campaign to totally destroy the nationalist forces, led by Gen. Chiang Kai-shek who was supported by the United States.

Despite aid from the U.S., Chiang Kai-shek and his followers were no match for the communists, and to avoid the complete destruction of his forces, he and the remnants of his army (with many of their families in tow) fled to Taiwan in 1949, leaving Mao master of the mainland.

MAO ZEDUNG AS THE NEW GOD

Mao Zedung was a brilliant strategist as well as a powerful writer and poet who resembled the warlords of an earlier time, but his vision for a new China knew no bounds. He began a crash program to destroy the ancient culture that had ruled the country for more than four thousand years, and rebuild a new society based on communist ideology.

Some of the reforms instituted by Mao were admirable and positive. He made women equal with men under the law, launched land reforms that made millions of farmers owners of their own tiny fields, made it mandatory that Mandarin (the language of Beijing and the northern area of China) be taught in all schools as the national language, and more.

But his efforts from 1958 to 1962 to modernize the economy and turn China into an industrial power virtually overnight-epitomized by what he called the “Great Leap Forward”-was an abject failure that resulted in the death of 20 million people, unimaginable suffering for more millions, and a virtually complete breakdown in the economy.

In 1966, in a last-ditch effort to stave off complete failure, Mao inaugurated what he called “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”-a campaign to literally eradicate all vestiges of the traditional culture and society and rebuild the country as a Marxist-Lenin paradise. To help promote this revolution, his communist cohorts, led by Lin Piao, published a small book made up of quotations from his many speeches and writings on his philosophy and plans for remaking China.

Entitled Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, this little red-covered book quickly became the “cult bible” of the communist movement, selling 700 million copies and turning Mao into a kind of god-figure.

Mao turned the vanguard of his cultural revolution over to the youth of the country who formed a huge number of “Red Guard” groups to carry out his goals.

The youths, by this time angry and disillusioned by the chaos around them, began a 10-year long campaign that became an orgy of humiliation, torture, death, imprisonment, and slave labor for members of the educated class. Children were induced to become spies, turning their parents in for such things as owning books and having eye glasses. Libraries, museums, schools, and religious artifacts were burned. Extraordinary efforts were made to eliminate all references to the teachings of Confucius.

Millions of city dwellers were sent to the countryside without advance preparation to work as peasants, with millions of families separated from each other. No one was immune to the rampages of the Red Guards and their backers in the communist government. Even Deng Xiaoping who had been a lifelong ally of Mao on the highest order [and was later to become the chairman of the communist party and make the famous declaration “to get rich is glorious!”] was purged from his high position and exiled to the countryside. His son was thrown from an upper storey window by Red Guards and crippled for life.

THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION BACKFIRES

The so-called Cultural Revolution did not end until after Mao died in 1976, by which time his reputation as an infallible “god” had become irreparably tainted. Shocked into some semblance of rationality, the ruling members of the communist party recalled Deng Xiaoping from his exile and restored him to power.

Far more open-minded and pragmatic than Mao (which was what got him exiled in the first place), Deng began promoting the reconstruction of China along more capitalistic lines-and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

But the memories of the holocaust-kind of tragedy inflicted on China by Mao and the Red Guards was to forever change the mindset of most Chinese. From 1976 on, the stories told by survivors of the labor camps and prisons were beyond the imagination of most people. Many of the Red Guards, by then in their 20s, had become disillusioned with the revolution and regretted their actions.

One of the unintended consequences of this incredible period in China’s history was that it turned most people against the Communist ideology, and from then on most of the urban population who were members of the party remained members because that was often the only way they could get and keep jobs.

THE POWER OF PERSONAL FREEDOM

The new China that arose from the death and destruction inflicted upon the country by Mao was unlike anything ever seen before. For the first time in the history of the people they had some freedom to help themselves as individuals-and millions of them set out to do just that despite the extraordinary restrictions and handicaps placed on them by the still ruling Communist Party.

In an incredible demonstration of the power of even limited personal freedom millions of Chinese-with their pent-up energy released for the first time in the history of the country-began an all-out effort to build rich, new lives for themselves without thinking about political labels.

THE BIRTH OF A NEW BREED OF PEOPLE

By 1986, just 10 years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, there were millions of entrepreneurs in China-and thousands of them had become millionaires. Today, China is awash in millionaires and the number of wealthy people is growing exponentially.

Urban Chinese born in the 1980s and later grew up in a new world-a world so different from the past that they became a new breed of people, virtually identical to freewheeling Americans in their lifestyles and appearance. By the year 2000, Chinese cities in the eastern portion of the country had modern and futuristic buildings and high-end shops and stores that were astounding to even the most sophisticated visitors.

For those who had visited China between 1976 and 1986, the evidence of affluence was mind-boggling.

LOOK OUT, WORLD!

But the Westernization and modernization of the face of China does not mean that all of the cultural traits that have made the Chinese a formidable people for thousands of years have disappeared.

Their traditional work-ethic and their obsession with getting an education have been retained, and now that they have achieved the freedom to utilize all of their talents in the pursuit of success their combined energy and efforts have become an irresistible force.

Another traditional trait that has survived into modern times is their extraordinary ability to distract, entertain and please foreigners. This is a factor that Western businesspeople, diplomats and politicians should keep in mind when they are dealing with their Chinese counterparts.

Most foreigners who visit China are impressed if not overwhelmed by the size of the country, by the number of people, by its amazing history, and by what the Chinese have accomplished since 1976, and are far more susceptible than usual to being flattered and manipulated.

The Chinese have more than enough going for them, and it is not wise to give them an extra advantage out of a sense of politeness and attempts to demonstrate goodwill-no matter how genuine these feelings.

Copyright © 2011 by Boyé Lafayette De Mente. All rights reserved.

South African History (The Ending of Apartheid) – Part 7

The introduction of apartheid policies coincided with the adoption by the ANC in 1949 of its Programme of Action, expressing the renewed militancy of the 1940s.

The Programme embodied a rejection of white domination and a call for action in the form of protests, strikes and demonstrations. There followed a decade of turbulent mass action in resistance to the imposition of still harsher forms of segregation and oppression.

The Defiance Campaign of the early 1950s carried mass mobilization to new heights under the banner of non-violent resistance to the pass laws. These actions were based on the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi.

A critical step in the emergence of non-racialism was the formation of the Congress Alliance, including the Indian Congress, the Coloured People’s Congress, a small white congress organisation (the Congress of Democrats) and the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

The Alliance gave formal expression to an emerging unity across racial and class lines that was manifested in the Defiance Campaign and other mass protests of this period, which also saw women’s resistance take a more organised character with the formation of the Federation of South African Women.

In 1955, a Freedom Charter was drawn up at the Congress of the People in Soweto. The Charter enunciated the principles of the struggle, binding the movement to a culture of human rights and non-racialism. Over the next few decades, the Freedom Charter was elevated to an important symbol of the freedom struggle.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), founded by Robert Sobukwe and based on the philosophy of Africanism and anti-communism, broke away from the Congress Alliance in 1959. The PAC slogan ‘Africa for the Africans’ was strongly pan-Africanist in nature.

The State’s initial response, harsh as it was, was not yet as draconian as it was to become. Its attempt to prosecute more than 150 anti-apartheid leaders for treason, in a trial that started in 1956, ended in acquittals in 1961. But by that time, mass organized opposition had been banned.

Matters came to a head at Sharpeville in March 1960 when 69 PAC anti-pass demonstrators were killed. A state of emergency was imposed, and detention without trial was introduced.

The black political organizations were banned, and their leaders went into exile or were arrested. In this climate, the ANC and PAC abandoned their long-standing commitment to non-violent resistance and turned to armed struggle, waged from the independent countries to the north.

Top leaders still inside the country, including members of the newly formed military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), were arrested in 1963. At the ‘Rivonia trial’, Mandela, Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and others convicted of sabotage (instead of treason, the original charge) were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The 1960s was a decade of overwhelming repression and of relative political disarray among blacks inside the country. Armed action from beyond the borders was effectively contained by the State.

The resurgence of resistance politics in the early 1970s was dramatic. The Black Consciousness Movement, led by Steve Biko (who was killed in detention in 1977), reawakened a sense of pride and self-esteem in black people. News of the brutal death of Steve Biko reverberated around the globe and led to unprecedented outrage.

As capitalist economies sputtered with the oil crisis of 1973, black trade unions revived. A wave of strikes reflected a new militancy that involved better organization and was drawing new sectors, in particular intellectuals and the student movement, into mass struggle and into debate over the principles informing it.

The year 1976 marked the beginning of a sustained anti-apartheid revolt. In June, school pupils of Soweto rose up against apartheid education, followed by youth uprisings all around the country. Youth activism became the single most effective arm of the politics of resistance in the 1980s.

The United Democratic Front and the informal umbrella, the Mass Democratic Movement, emerged as legal vehicles of democratic forces struggling for liberation. Clerics played a prominent public role in these movements.

The involvement of workers in resistance took on a new dimension with the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the National Council of Trade Unions.

Popular anger was directed against all those who were deemed to be collaborating with the government in the pursuit of its objectives, and the black townships became virtually ungovernable. From the mid-1980s, regional and national states of emergency were enforced.

The Inkatha movement, which from 1979 became increasingly oppositional to the externally-based liberation movement, played a straddling role in the 1980s. Stressing Zulu ethnicity and traditionalism, Inkatha claimed a mass following in the rural areas of the KwaZulu homeland.

Its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, carved a distinctive niche for himself, refusing ‘independence’ for KwaZulu but squeezing patronage from the apartheid State by casting Inkatha in the role of loyal opposition. The State sought to use Inkatha structures as surrogates in its war against the liberation movement.

Battles for turf between Inkatha and the ANC became a very destructive accompaniment to South Africa’s transition to democracy. Developments in neighboring states in the face of mass resistance to white-minority and colonial rule, notably Portuguese decolonization in the mid-1970s and the abdication of Zimbabwe’s minority regime in 1980, left South Africa exposed as the last bastion of white supremacy.

The Government embarked on a series of reforms, an early example being the recognition of black trade unions to stabilize labor. In 1983, the Constitution was reformed to allow the coloured and Indian minorities limited participation in separate and subordinate Houses of Parliament. The vast majority of these groups rejected the Tricameral dispensation but it was nevertheless kept intact by the apartheid regime.

PW Botha further modified the Westminster constitutional model by instituting an executive presidency and doing away with the function of Prime Minister. In 1986, the pass laws were scrapped. These initiatives went hand-in-hand with the militarization of society and the ascendancy of the State Security Council, which usurped the role of the executive in crucial respects.

Under the states of emergency, a comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy was implemented to combat what, by the mid-1980s, was an endemic insurrectionary spirit in the land. At the same time, the international community strengthened its support for the anti-apartheid cause. A range of sanctions and boycotts was instituted, both unilaterally and through the United Nations (UN).

FW de Klerk, who had replaced Botha as State President in 1989, announced at the opening of Parliament in February 1990 the unbanning of the liberation movements and release of political prisoners, notably Nelson Mandela.

A number of factors led to this step. International financial, trade, sport and cultural sanctions were clearly biting, even if South Africa was nowhere near collapse, either militarily or economically.

These sanctions were called for in a co-ordinated strategy by the internal and external anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The ANC, enjoying wide recognition as the foremost liberation organization, was increasingly regarded as a government in waiting. International support for the liberation movement came from various countries around the globe, particularly from former East Bloc and Nordic countries as well as from the Non-aligned Movement.

During the 1980s, the ANC moved its headquarters from London, England to Lusaka, Zambia. The other liberation organizations increasingly experienced various internal and external pressures and did not enjoy much popular support.

Internal and external mass resistance continued and it was obvious that Botha’s strategy of reform initiatives combined with repression had failed to stabilize the internal situation.

To outside observers, and also in the eyes of growing numbers of white South Africans, apartheid stood exposed as morally bankrupt, indefensible and impervious to reforms. The collapse of global communism, the withdrawal of Soviet and Cuban support for the MPLA regime in Angola, and the negotiated independence of Namibia ­ formerly South-West Africa, administered by South Africa as a League of Nations mandate since 1919 ­ did much to change the mindset of whites. No longer could whites demonize the ANC and PAC as fronts for international communism.

White South Africa had also changed in deeper ways. Afrikaner nationalism had lost much of its raison deter. Many Afrikaners had become urban, middle class and relatively prosperous. Their ethnic grievances, and attachment to ethnic causes and symbols, had largely waned.

A large part of the NP’s core constituency was ready to explore larger national identities, even across racial divides, and yearned for international respectability. Apartheid increasingly seemed more like a straitjacket than a safeguard. In 1982, disenchanted hardliners had split from the NP to form the Conservative Party, leaving the NP open to more flexible and modernizing influences. After this split, factions within the Afrikaner elite openly started to pronounce in favor of a more inclusive society causing more friction with the NP government, which increasingly became militaristic and authoritarian.

A number of business, student and academic Afrikaners held meetings publicly and privately with the ANC in exile. Secret talks were held between the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and government Ministers about a new dispensation for South Africa with blacks forming a major part of it.

Inside the country, mass action became the order of the day. Petty apartheid laws and symbols were openly challenged and removed. Together with a sliding economy and increasing international pressure, these developments made historic changes inevitable.

Tron: Uprising Soundtrack Release

The soundtrack for the Disney XD animated series TRON: Uprising will be released by Walt Disney Records in digital format on January 8, 2013, according to an announcement by the company. The TRON: Uprising soundtrack will be released only in digital format and includes 16 tracks composed for the series by Joseph Trapanese, along with remixes by David Hiller, 3OH!3 and Opiuo and a new song called “Rezolution” from Hollywood Records recording artist Cole Plante.

Trapanese is a veteran of the Tron franchise, having worked with Daft Punk on the score for the 2010 film Tron: Legacy, where he arranged Daft Punk’s music using his experience in film scoring and orchestration to translate the duo’s ideas to the orchestra. The collaboration was a successful one: the soundtrack made the top 10 chart and sold over 500,000 units, earning a gold certification. Based on their experience with Trapanese on this project, Daft Punk recommended him to Disney to compose the score for Tron: Uprising.

Joseph Trapanese’s score for TRON: Uprising draws elements from Wendy Carlos’ score for the 1982 film and the score composed by Daft Punk for the 2010 film. The score for Uprising uses adaptations of the synth patches developed by Daft Punk for Tron: Legacy, but expands on the sonic palettes and musical motifs of the film while still paying homage to what has gone before.

Trapanese has said that the writers of Legacy and the creative team working on Uprising worked together closely in order to give the series a distinct feel which is connected to the Tron films at the same time. He added that being given a framework of ideas to work with along with the creative freedom to take things in new directions was one of the most rewarding things about the project.

Trapanese produced a cinematic-style score for the series which is a perfect fit for the animation style of TRON: Uprising. The series is set in between the original 1982 film and the 2010 Tron: Legacy and tells the stories of the denizens of The Grid. TRON: Uprising is made using CGI, but with a visual language which harks back to traditional 2D animation and of course, the films. The series stars Elijah Wood as Beck, Emmanuelle Chriqui as Paige, Mandy Moore as Mara and Bruce Boxleitner returning as Tron.

Trapanese says that one of the biggest challenges of scoring the series was that opposed to the film, there were nearly 7 hours of footage to work with, rather than just over 2 hours. Additionally, Trapanese had to work with a world which wasn’t constrained by the physical limitations of human stuntmen and stuntwomen and real-world special effects, which added another layer of complexity to the project. The remixes featured on the TRON: Uprising soundtrack were chosen by Trapanese and are by artists he feels represent the world of the series; the Cole Plante track is described by Trapanese as a work inspired by and in reaction to the score of the series.

Joseph Trapanese has spent his entire life in music, having begun playing both piano and trombone as a child, even performing with the New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall. He studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music and attended graduate school at UCLA in their Music for Visual Media program, where he won the first Jerry Goldsmith Award in 2007.

After completing his studies, Trapanese began working as an orchestrator on the popular Showtime series “Dexter”. He has also worked on television programs and films including “Fast Five”, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” and “Butter”.