Aleksandr Herzen was a typical “Russian in the West” in the 19th century; a nobleman who, in 1846, inherited a substantial fortune and lived in Western Europe.
He published The Bell magazine to “wake up Russia.” His special target was serfdom, and in 1861, the Russian tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom.
The Soviet rulers, who in 1917 reversed the history of Russia back to its pre-1861 serfdom, nevertheless feigned cultural sophistication, and above all, the admiration for the classic Russian culture.
In Soviet Russia, Herzen was published in English for the English-speaking countries (and I translated a 629-page volume of his “Selected Philosophical Works”).
In contrast to Herzen’s The Bell, the Chinese dissident publication The Epoch Times is said to have the world’s largest magazine circulation, since millions of literate Chinese live outside China (in the English-speaking countries, for example) and can read both Chinese and English.
The rulers of China cannot watch every Chinese person living outside China. What a deep penetration of China into the outside world — in peacetime!
I met a young Chinese girl, a physician’s assistant, in New York about a year ago. We talked when she was taking the tests, and she said, “You should live in China.”
When the Venetian Marco Polo (1254-1324) visited China, the Chinese regarded China, though it was ruled at that time by a Mongol, Khan, as the world of splendor where a woman wore a dress of silk, designed individually as a work of art, while the outside world was a world of savagery, where no one knew what silk was.
Not dissimilarly, the doctor’s assistant in New York regarded China as the world’s brilliant metropolitan country, no matter who ruled China, and New York as a backward province that was paying her well for her efficiency around a doctor’s office. But she thought that I was created for China!
How many Chinese people living in New York think as she does? Nobody knows. It is impossible to study public opinion in China, where those who are against its “political system” will never admit it publicly.
The Chinese who worship the historical China as a country that had invented book printing or developed “higher mathematics” (calculus) before Europe, may hate the present political system of China precisely for having failed to recreate its erstwhile splendor and seeking its own survival in the military conversion of the entire world into one big slave state.
At the last Chinese New Year celebration (February 2008), the “Chinese New Year Splendor” played in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. It had a series of 15 shows, recreating the history of Chinese culture through dance. So far, so good. Many Westerners know that silks or porcelains had appeared in China centuries before they did in Europe.
But there was one scene depicting Chinese history that enraged the rulers of China. Before 2000, Falun Gong exercises had been shown, with the China rulers’ blessing, to foreigners (in New York, for example) as part of Chinese culture, just as silks or porcelains — or Chinese cuisine. But after 2000, Falun Gong practitioners in China began to be tortured to death, whereupon their organs were cut out and sold for surgical operations.
But this is also part of Chinese history, is it not?
Amerigo Fabbri, dean of Pierson College and professor of modern literature at Yale University, described as follows “The Risen Lotus Flower,” one of the two dances in which three Chinese ladies depicted the Falun Gong persecution:
You have three women in prison, and one of them gives her life for the other two. These are great elements of the culture that are certainly conveyed by the show.
The show is spectacular. I mean amazing. They’re doing a great job bringing together the history of Chinese culture. The sound effects, the visual effects, the special effects, the singing — and the dancing are just amazing. (The Epoch Times, “Between Heaven and Earth”)
Needless to say, the rulers of China no doubt regarded the creators of the 15-show serial as also worth the torture to death, for while they did not practice Falun Gong, they presented it in New York as a heroic bit of self-sacrifice in Chinese history.
The 15-show serial had a tremendous triumph in all Western cities where it was shown, including New York. By attacking the 15-show series, the rulers of China only added more fuel to the flames of delight.
Well, the rescue of the China rulers’ prestige came in the form of a New York Times negative review of the 15-show series.
To understand The New York Times in 2008, let’s compare it with what happened in 1978.
The CIA, and U.S. Sovietology in general, had been created by, and with, the Americans who learned Russian and Russia at American universities. In the 1970s, the CIA decided to hold public discussions of their once-secret intelligence reports about Soviet Russia.
I went to Washington, D.C., received a pack of such reports, and published a review of them in Commentary magazine on September 1978 under the title “What the CIA Knows About Russia.” The article was reprinted or retold in about 500 periodicals all over the West. But The New York Times did not notice it.
The newspaper had been repeating the “news from Russia,” at which about 500 Western periodicals were now laughing.
The position of The New York Times with respect to the Chinese natives who created the 15-show series was similar. Besides, Western correspondents in China depend on its rulers, with their secret police and with their population having no more rights than did slaves.
So the Western media should not antagonize the rulers of China on whom their correspondents in China depend.
The New York Times wrote that the 15 shows of the Chinese New Year Splendor are “political propaganda.” Plus boring Chinese mishmash — as The New York Times proclaimed in a Feb. 6 headline: “A Glimpse of Chinese Culture That Some Find Hard to Watch.”
The article in the Feb. 16 Epoch Times of was entitled “The New York Times Parrots Communist Party Line.”
As for the totalitarian rulers of China, their survival is more precarious than that of the Russian tsars of Herzen’s time.
Similarly educated aristocrats, they found a common language. When Alexander II had ascended to the throne in 1858, Herzen wrote a letter to the new tsar: “Your reign begins under an auspicious star. The Russian aristocracy can be revolutionary. It is omnipotent for good or evil.”
In 1861, the law abolishing serfdom was signed and published. Well, in Britain, monarchy began to evolve in 1215 (“Magna Carta”) to what is today called constitutionalism and democracy.
The position of the totalitarian rulers of China is much more difficult, and they are inclined to safeguard themselves not by constitutional evolution of their country, but by the conquest of the rest of the world, to convert its population into their serfs/slaves or annihilate it.
The chasm between the totalitarian rulers of China and many, probably most, of 1.1 billion Chinese who have not become rich, was brought into salient relief by the demonstration in New York of the 15-show series, depicting the history of Chinese culture, including the 2000s.
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