THE PEAK OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION: AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER
All civilizations have experienced deep-black nadirs. In Europe ‘Auschwitz’ epitomizes this. In China it is the ‘Rape of Nanjing’, committed by the Japanese. In China they call Nanjing the forgotten holocaust. At all schools the memory is kept alive.
In Germany and Europe ‘Auschwitz’ has led to collective inner-directed reflections – a sense of guilt and a conscious desire to avoid repetition forever. In China ‘Nanjijng’ predominantly has fueled the nationalistic hatred against Japan. In the Nanjing museum, where the cruel humiliation is exhibited you can read near the exit: “Now that we are leaving this sorrow place, all our hearts bleed. Behind every drop of blood we need to ask one question. How has it been possible that Japanese imperialism ever could drive such a butcher’s knife into our magnificent civilization?” While the European reflection caused a collective sense of ‘Auschwitz Never Again’, the Chinese reflection is causing an intense sense of ‘Never Again Such Humiliation’. Not by the Japanese, not by the American, not by no nation whatsoever.
Now this hurt and humiliated victim is rising to world power. President Xi Jinping wants to transform The Humiliation into something resplendent. He has decreed the construction of the Chinese Dream. It must grow into the shining equivalent of the American Dream.
With hundred Shanghai students we’ve researched this Chinese Dream. ‘Never hunger again’, ‘No poverty in the inlands’, ‘Better housing’, ‘Less pollution’ – they are all ingredients of the Chinese Dream. (Including for the students population: ‘A less severe Examination-hell’.) Astonishingly enough, however, part of the Chinese Dream is also the elaborate pride of the nation’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning. The colossus is built on a rusty Russian aircraft carrier sold to Chinese government. Nevertheless it is celebrated as the peak of the proud Chinese civilization.
When a plane takes off from an aircraft carrier, two deckhands always signal the right starting direction. Both squat on one knee, next to each other, with a stretched arm and index finger pointing into the correct direction. On Chinese social media thousands and thousands of Chinese copied these gestures. Grandmas and their grandchildren. Young couples in love. Many soldiers. Happy students.
I conduct my trend signals research all over the world. Never, though, I have met so much enthusiasm regarding a military accomplishment – based on rusty Crimean roots. For China it means: Beyond Humiliation.
This column was originally published in Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. Read the column in Dutch here.