Wednesday, 17 May 2023

The Taiping Rebellion: What the British Museum's Hidden Century exhibition leaves out

British Museum: Complete Map of All Under Heaven Unified by the Great Qing, China

What the Guardian's review of the British Museum's Hidden Century exhibition doesn't tell you about the Taiping Rebellion


The Guardian's review of the British Museum's Hidden Century exhibition continues the 19th-century mindset rationalising British imperialism in China past and present while omitting the driving force behind the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).

Hong Xiuquan's Taiping Rebellion was a popular effort by millions of suffering Chinese to rid themselves of a decaying Qing government during Britain's brutal Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) and create a fair new society for the masses out of the wreckage.

Hong can be can be seen as China's first communist. Initially inspired by the teachings of Christ, he rejected the ossifying strictures of Confucianism and instead sought the abolition of landlordism, the redistribution of wealth for all, and the prohibition of prostitution, bound feet and the smoking of opium, transforming society into Hong's vision of a 'Heavenly Kingdom'.

This movement was opposed not only by the Qing dynasty it sought to depose, but also by the British whose interests were best served by the corrupt royal court even though they were at war with each other. As with today, the West would rather destroy social progress in China than see its people flourish.

The British had become massive consumers of the tea, silks, spices and porcelain sent to the great ports of Liverpool, Cardiff and Tlbury. Running out of gold bullion to pay for their chinoiserie, British merchants, protected by the armed forces, turned narco-capitalist and launched the Opium Wars in 1839. China was forced  — literally at gunpoint — to import cheap mass-produced industrial quantities of opium grown in Bengal to pay for the trade.

Not content with transforming what had been an aristocratic vice into a nationwide addiction, the British army joined forces with the Qing government to crush the popular Taiping movement and ensure their dominance could continue unhindered. Anti-Hong forces were trained and led by American businessman Frederick Townsend Ward, and later by the British officer Charles George Gordon. They finally defeated Hong at his last hold-out in Nanjing in 1864. 20 to 30 million died, along with his dream of a revivified society — the Heavenly Kingdom.

At the end of the first Opium War in 1842, the Nanjing Treaty, the first of the unfair 'unequal' treaties imposed on China, ceded Hong Kong to Britain. Others would create five ports — Canton (Guangzhou), Amoy (Xiamen), Foochow (Fuzhou), Ningpo (Ningbo), and Shanghai — and divide the spoils among British, French, American, German and Japanese concessions.

The British East India Trading Company's army-backed predations had been joined by the French. In 1860, British and French troops had already looted and burnt down the Summer Palace.

The Boxer Rebellion, a renewed wave of Chinese resistance to foreign occupation at the end of the 19th century, was also met with military might in the Eight Nation Alliance — Britain, the US, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria-Hungary — which ganged up to crush the Boxers and enforce the continued pillage of China.

Today, the current US-led assault on China has AUKUS and the G7 countries taking shape in yet another alliance to "contain" (read: '"carve up") the new superpower just as it gets back onto its feet.

The Taiping Rebellion and other attempts by the Chinese to give birth to themselves as a stable, developed, thriving nation have always been met with dehumanisation, character assassination and violence. Chinese people have the same potential for raised consciousness, and a willingness to fight for a better way to be, as any other oppressed group anywhere else in the world. We know of Spartacus and the slaves, peasants in the 17th century English revolution and Civil War, Quaker pacifists. You see these sparks and shifts of consciousness throughout history. Yet Chinese people's desire to take the same road to liberation is trashed unless it is a mirage whipped up to serve colonialists who won't leave them in peace.

Unfortunately, the Taiping rebellion was crushed by a combination of backward forces, including the rapacious British Empire whose self-justification and twisted narratives continue to this day.

We're currently seeing a repeat of the same lash-up of imperialist forces to suppress by all means the rising superpower that hasn't had a war in 40 years, all aided by Biden's huge anti-China propaganda budget of more than $500 million a year ($800m a year total) on top of vastly increased war machine funding of $1 Trillion for 2024.

Watch this space.

The British Museum Hidden Century exhibition 18 May 2023 - 8 October 2023

James on Twitter just sent me this fascinating story about my family namesake.

One of the Taiping rebels, a man named Ah Chen, escaped from China in the face of massive man-hunt of the rebel remnants. He became an indentured labourer in the West Indies, eventually landed in Trinidad, and married a local girl.
They had six children. The eldest, Eugene became Trinidad’s first Chinese lawyer, and a very successful one at that. He married Alphonsine A Gantheaume, a local beauty whose family was wealthy.
Eugene heard about Sun Yatsen, and moved his family to London to see if Sun needed his help. Eugene helped Sun in many ways, putting out newspapers, unravelling the dense legalese at the Paris Conference of 1920.
Alphonsine died very young in the 1920s.
He and other revolutionaries, eg Sun’s widow, Mme Song Qingling, considered themselves the true vanguard of Sun’s San Min Chu Yi. And they abhorred Chiang’g betrayal of Sun’s legacy. Both went to Russia to escape the 1927 Nationalist Revolution.
Eugene did not leave China when Japan invaded. When Japan couldn’t persuade him to endorse the puppet Nanking government, he was was executed in 1944.
His son, Jack, who spent his youth in Trinidad and came to China at age 17, didn’t speak Chinese. Jack married former Red Guard, Yuan-Tsung, who helped to translate for Jack when under interrogation during the Cultural Revolution.
I read Yuan-Tsung Chen’s book: Return to the Middle Kingdom, published in 2008, by Union Square Press. The author went to teach at Cornell in 1972. Her book gives a timeline on the Chen’s family, beginning with Joseph Chen (Ah Chen’s Christian name), including the spouses, the children, and the in-laws.

Thursday, 11 May 2023

When Jerry met Anna: Online conversation with China commentator Jerry Grey and guest Anna Chen


Last Sunday, I was an online guest of Jerry Grey, the British-born China commentator who caught our attention with accounts of his marathon bicycle trips around China, including Xinjiang, China's Belt And Road back door which leads across the Eurasian continent as far as Barking in the far east ... of London.

Along with a growing band of Westerners on the ground, Jerry has posted eye-witness evidence countering the wave of US and western propaganda centring not only on this key region coveted by the West, but also a buckshot of deranged claims fired off ever since America's Tonya Harding syndrome kicked off in earnest under former President Donald Trump.

Once Trump's trade war (launched 2018) failed to bring China to heel, the race was on to "contain" China with a crashing reversal of the good relations that brought mass produced affordable goods to the West ever since the Nixon/Kissinger initiative in the 1970s.

Cheap labour in the world's factory enabled American consumers to live beyond their means, disguising Reagan's and subsequent administrations' transferral of huge wealth from poor to rich in the form of tax cuts that have hollowed out the working- and middle-classes until the top 0.1 percent own as much as the bottom 90 percent of the US.

China's fortunes, however, are on the rise. Although per capita income is still only a quarter of America's, China is catching up. It has already lifted 850 million people out of absolute poverty thereby creating a middle-class nearly twice the size of the US population, a middle-class that consumes large amounts of western goods. Contentment with the government is up, according to Harvard research, with 95 percent of polls expressing satisfaction with the governing CPC (Communist Party of China).

The two superpowers will soon cross over as America's mismanagement becomes increasingly apparent. The ruling elite of the richest nation on Earth can't rein themselves in and halt their grand larceny against their own people. They could stop the rot and pour money into much-needed infrastructure, healthcare and education, instead preferring to extract maximum profits for the Military Industrial Complex and fossil fuel companies. They could work with China to bring peace and prosperity to all, but America is blinded by the guilt of its own sins and its rulers can only project their monstrous drives and appetites onto anyone who challenges their supremacy.

American society screams in pain, having been turned into rats in a sack, killing each other and plunging into poverty without hope. Tent cities multiply. Two or more jobs are needed just to keep steady. Most can't find $400 for an emergency. Brutality and killing by cop has been normalised.

The last thing the larcenous elite want is for the American people to look with clear eyes at the rising superpower that has flourished without a war in four decades. It does not want China standing as a model for how human society can thrive, so it throws obscene amounts of funds into twisting the public's perceptions to monster our global lifeboat: over $500 MILLION on anti-China propaganda in one year alone.

The US is dragging us all into a devastating world war to protect the tiny number of oligarchs at the top. They couldn't care less about their own population. Obviously. If anything, the eugenecists among them believe there are too many people populating the planet and that means the masses on their own turf as well as elsewhere.

Only five years ago, the global economy was crawling out of the US's Great Crash of 2008 in sync and with increasing stability under the shock absorber effects of a rising China. The time-warped American state has taken it upon itself to trash that hope as it prepares to do to the world what European invaders did to the native Americans. Similarly grabbing at Empire delusions, some elements in the UK are engaged in a 19th century cosplay thinking they'll replay Britannia not realising that its history is repeating itself in the western axis as simultaneous tragedy and farce.

Jerry Grey on Twitter: Jerry's China
and Jerry's Take on China
YouTube: Jerry's Take on China

Thursday, 4 May 2023

A poem for the monarchy revisited on the Coronation of King Charles III: Eating Placenta — Lines on the Royal Birth

A poem fit for a king. Eating Placenta — Lines on the Royal Birth



Anna Chen reads Eating Placenta: Lines on the Royal Birth

Call me a coronation chicken but I'm sorely tempted to duck out of the Big Event this Saturday. I'm only one of a vast swathe of increasingly disenfranchised, pauperised Brits who can't bear to see wealth and privilege based on accidents of birth lionised as if we weren't all sliding ever deeper into the abyss.

Great Britain was once the biggest empire the world has ever seen, owning 26 percent of the planet only a century ago. Today, we're down to the AUKUS* countries which happen to have been given a last-gasp unifying project by the former colonies across the Atlantic: Opium Wars II with World War III waiting in the wings.

Like Nero partying while his city burned, the establishment cavorts in the frothing delusion that this is fine, secure in the belief that it's only a matter of military might before the white nations are restored to their rightful place as last men and women standing in the rubble of our beautiful blue planet. Meanwhile, they seriously expect us to pledge allegiance to some fairly inadequate human beings.

Look up, dinosaurs, that's an asteroid headed your way, not a revived empire.

The monarchy should have ended with Liz 2 instead of dragging us forward to mediaeval times. They had a good, long innings but that was it.

I'm not a poet laureate so I don't have to write anything for the occasion but, to mark the Coronation of King Charles III, here's one I made earlier, written in 2013. It's how I imagine the real celebrations going on behind the scenes once the hoi polloi are put to sleep.

* AUKUS: Australia, United Kingdom, US with Canada and New Zealand completing the pentacle states.

Eating Placenta is from Anna Chen's second collection of poetry, Chi Chi's Glorious Swansong, published by Aaaargh! Press.

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