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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/20/16

China, through a glass, clearly

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Message Moti Nissani



China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations[Print Replica] Kindle Edition

by Jeff J. Brown (Author) / 719 pp / Punto Press Publishing

Reviewed by Moti Nissani, Professor Emeritus, Wayne State University

For a long time, I have been trying to satisfy my curiosity about China. I read as much as I could--in English and Spanish. I attended a scientific conference in Beijing, and although my Chinese colleagues were happy enough to talk about science, they were disinclined to talk about politics. I read Chinese literature in translation and worked in a small town in central China for a few months. I learned, for instance, that some ordinary Chinese are capable of remarkable acts of disinterested kindness. My lungs suffered the consequences of Chinese pollution. However, I never got close enough to a proper understanding of China--let alone to be able to write about that country or its future contributions to the world.

Jeff Brown's book, China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations, helped me close that gap.

For one thing, Brown is fluent in Mandarin and was thus able to rely on both external and internal perspectives to construct his narrative. Brown has also lived and worked, in "the belly of the beast" for 13 years. As well, Brown travelled extensively in China, an experience recounted in his 2013 book, 44 Days Backpacking in China. He is at home in China, America, France, and North Africa, and is thus poised to give a multicultural inside look into Chinese society, politics, and culture.

Brown writes passionately, from the heart, and does not hesitate to unmask powerful scoundrels. He obviously finds many things to admire about China, and feels that it, along with Russia, provides our best hope for a better world and for escaping the hypocritical tyranny of the Western Princes of Power (his name for the Controllers of the Invisible Government). And yet his reporting is objective, often balancing the pluses and minuses of Baba Beijing (Father Beijing--Brown's nickname for the benevolently-authoritarian Chinese government).

China Rising consists of three interwoven parts, each complementing and reinforcing the other: The USA and the West, Chinese politics and culture, and the joys and frustrations of living in China.

Brown rightly insists that to understand China, we must understand the West and, in particular, Brown's home country, the USA. He forcefully reminds us of America's rigged elections, corrupt political culture, and sunshine bribery. The real controllers of the USA, he rightly observes, are not its titular leaders but the Princes of Power. These Princes do not shy away from assassinations, from viciously and needlessly impoverishing and enslaving their own people, from scandalously contaminating our information sources, and from risking all of our lives with their reckless nuclear brinkmanship.

One of the most touching parts of the book is Brown's own gradual awakening to the Machiavellian realities of American policies at home and abroad. Here is one passionate description of one landmark in his painful journey:

"Then I read articles about how the United States duped Saddam Hussein into seizing Kuwait, as a pretext to invade his country. The entire text of Saddam's meeting with US Ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, has since been released . For all intents and purposes, Ms. Gillespie gave Mr. Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait. It's a diplomatic version of Paul Newman's and Robert Redford's film, The Sting. Again, there was this angst in my soul, a terrible cognitive dissonance between all the perfection and self-sacrifice that Uncle Sam has supposedly nobly committed himself to, and upon which I was nurtured, versus this glaring evidence to the contrary."

Brown recalls a few more snippets of information that Western teachers, textbooks, movies, and media conveniently forget. World War I, Brown observes, was "essentially an extremely deadly slaughter between feuding colonial powers, who were out to control as much of the world's dark-skinned peoples and their natural resources."

"All the American soldiers in Latin America, from Smedley Butler on down, were taxpayer-funded thugs for Wall Street, pure and simple. Not protecting the home front, not maintaining Americans' freedoms, and not making the world a safer place for democracy." (As most DK readers know, Smedley Darlington Butler redeemed himself 100%, however. He was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. After decades of service, Butler realized what he had done--"served as muscle for the Wall Street boys"--and became outspoken in his denunciations of imperialism. His integrity remains a moral example for others to follow.)

"France lost 5% of its population during World War I, a pointless slaughter between greedy, Western colonialists. Ireland lost 15% of its people during the British-legislated Great Potato Famine Genocide 1845-1853. French colonialists in Vietnam, in a terrible drought, forced two million to starve to death in 1945, which was 9% of the local population. The United States massacred 7% of the Filipinos, starting in 1898, when it colonized that island country. More recently, the United States killed 3.3 million Iraqis, 1990-2012, including 750,000 children, the total which represents almost 19% of the population."

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Dr. Moti Nissani is with the Department of Biology, Wayne State University.
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