27 November 2008

Here’s a classic from the old days. Red Chinese Battle Plan was a full throated 1964 U.S. Navy propaganda film about China becoming global Communism’s “Second Rome” after Khrushchev said bad things about Uncle Joe and got sociable with the Americans. Its Chinese history seems a little strange:

What's Wrong?

This is in the beginning of the film, when the narrator tells us that “never had a major independent nation lost so much sovereignty, or suffered so much humiliation”. It doesn’t say exactly when, and the map doesn’t help. First we see Burma and what appears to be Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan fall. As far as Wikipedia goes, Burma defeated 4 Qing invasions before falling to the British Raj, while the other three seem to have had their differences with Tibet, which would occasionally call on the Mongols or Qing to help. Even if there were tributes paid by these regions, they were most likely symbolic. It hardly seems fair to say they were Qing territory, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular timeframe for all of them going at once.

Then Xinjiang, Mongolia and Manchuria all seem to go at the same time. These regions were taken piece by piece by Russia, Japan and others, but not all of it (Xinjiang was a total basketcase) and not all at once. Then, weirdly, Korea falls after Manchuria, since the Sino-Japanese War was in 1895 and Russia invaded Outer Manchuria in 1900. The Nguyen regime in Vietnam defeated the Qing army invasion of Hanoi and then paid tribute to the Qing Emperor, but also set things up so officially “it was a child who dealt with Beijing”. Any comments untangling what all that implies are appreciated - Granite Studio? A little help? Sun Bin?

The most interesting bit, though, has to be Tibet staying on the team. Apparently in 1964 the U.S. Navy didn’t agree with the Dalai Lama that Tibet became de facto independent in 1911.

If you ignore the blatant rah-rah American freedom stuff in the movie, it does have periods of being reasonably informative. Then it talks about how Mao Zedong and Lin Biao (that didn’t work out) are going to conquer the world by invading the “rural countries” (Asia, Africa and Latin America) as stepping stones to the “city countries” (the U.S. and Europe):

Battle Map

Chinese communism never really pulled off stage one of this supposed “battle plan”. Chinese capitalism, on the other hand, appears to be making a go of it. Then again, as the Wall Street Journal points out, China’s investment in the U.S. dwarfs that in Latin America. I guess everybody wants to be in the cities these days.

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