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Ancient civilizations, China today, and resistance to a globalized Westernized capitalism and imperialism

JULIAN KUNNIE | 2022-09-08 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Now China stands within this foundational circle of towering formidable organized cultures and civilizations with five major inventions that shaped global cultures, which I’d like to highlight: paper making in 206 BCE to 25 CE during the Han Dynasty; printing during the Tang Dynasty from 618 to 907, when the Buddhist sutra was printed; 668 years before that, the bicycle’s invention during the Xin Dynasty 2,000 years ago, following discovery of remnants near the Great Wall at Simatai near Beijing, which was supposedly pioneered in Europe; the compass that was discovered while mining ores and smelting copper and iron during the Song Dynasty in the 10th century, spreading to the African Arab world in the 11th century and revolutionizing global travel as we know it; and then, of course, gunpowder, the latter ended up being the most lethally transformative. 

British colonization of China in the 19th century, forcing opium on the Chinese people, is a historic landmark in China, and opium which was stolen from India from the area of Bengal became a price commercial commodity in the world along with enslaved Africans. This is something that is part of the colonial experience, and that legacy of propagating a “Western Christian morality” today, in terms of dictating terms to China and other countries of the underdeveloped world—in terms of morality—has no basis given this history of colonization, dispossession, and injustice. 
I really want to emphasize here that China has always been a promoter of peace. China bears the legacy of thousands of years of formidable and sophisticated, organized society and accomplishments in science, technology, ecological, and religious innovation, as well as economic justice and liberation. 
When we look at the late past century and over the early part of the 21st century, over the past 20 years, China has made the greatest strides of any country, any nation on earth. It is too exhausting to name all of the successes here, but suffice it to say, some prominent groundbreaking ones that have shaken the economic, political, and social cultural contours of the world in centuries. 
First, eradicating deep poverty. In celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China in July 2021, I watched on news channels from China, the unprecedented accomplishment of extricating 850 million people out of extreme poverty from 1980 through 2020. With the last 98.99 million deeply impoverished people, from 732 rural counties and 128,000 villages, moving from extreme impoverishment to a decent standard of living. 
Such an endeavor is in fact unaccomplished, unparalleled, in the world. It is phenomenal. This is precisely an area in which Africa, with 1.374 billion people, almost as much as China, can learn instructive lessons regarding implementation and the struggles that go with the advancement of socialism in China with Chinese characteristics. This could be paralleled in Africa with a “socialism with African characteristics,” and would break the dependence on Western European capitalism globalization and imperialism. 
Secondly, China is determined to restore ecological civilization in accordance with the historical defining traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new trees throughout the country, an area equivalent to the size of Ireland, investing 538 billion yuan thus far. China has planted 19 million trees over the past decade to address and redress the widespread effects of climate change, floods, soil erosion, and deforestation that constitutes 25% of all trees replanted. By far, the most in the world, exceeding the average global tree planting of 5 to 7 million hectares from 2007 to 2017, using 60,000 military personnel for this ongoing reforestation project covering 80 million hectares of land. In 2019, China planted 7 million hectares of trees with 23% of the country forested. 
Third, China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, has been playing a leading role in brokering peace in conflict zones around the world. It has also been a leader in addressing the pervasive COVID-19 pandemic—which has been deadly—through manufacturing its own vaccines without genetically modified spike proteins, and supplying millions of these, along with medical and sanitation equipment, to countries suffering under the plague of illegal US economic blockades and sanctions, including Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and other countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. 
Finally, China’s ceaseless struggle to extricate itself from the Western capitalist financial tentacles, primarily mediated by the twin International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has propelled it into alliances with four other national economies of the world: Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa, what’s called BRICS, forming a BRICS Bank that can serve as the basis for global trade and financing investment. The Chinese yuan is now international tender in trade and commerce. 
So conclusively, China’s successes and accomplishments over the past century are unparalleled in the world and rooted in ancient Chinese civilizations that cherished principles of prosperity and peace, as manifested in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed in 2013. The BRI attempts to reestablish the ancient Silk Road trade routes that connect Asia and Africa and encompass over 60 countries, that would mutually strengthen and reinvigorate the trade links and economic integration between the two continents, embracing three quarters of the world’s people. This is the manner, particularly neo-colonized nations of Africa that have been consistently exploited by Western capitalism with almost 15% of the world’s people, can shake up the shackles of Western capitalist enslavement and hegemony and facilitate the elevation of Asia and Africa into the rightful defining players on the world stage, befitting of the world’s two most populous continents. China’s leadership in struggling for a more just and humane world will see fruition because China is on the right side of history. 
Julian Kunnie is a professor from the University of Arizona. This article was edited from his video speech submitted to the forum.
Edited by YANG XUE