The mariner hasn’t posted much about China. China is constantly changing. The US-Sino relationship is a lot like a human working with an elephant. The elephant has some shortcomings that permit some malleability but whenever the elephant decides to rebel, it can do so without recourse. We must never forget that as an economic entity, China has a population that is projected to reach 1.39 billion by the end of 2015; it is the world’s most populous country. The US population is 320.5 million. The Chinese nation is 4.3 times the size of the United States. China’s back country, noted at the moment for its primitive society, is almost the same size land mass as the US – 50 states included. The disparity of culture between China’s large cities with international commerce and that of the back country is an overhead in terms of bringing millions of Chinese into the 21st century. On the other hand, the opportunity for growth and expansion has no limits.
To the western world, China was an unknown, mysterious nation until the Second Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945. Two western nations, Germany and the US, along with Russia, provided military support to China. This provoked Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941 – starting the Pacific arena of the Second World War. WWII engulfed the Sino-Japanese war.
Before and during WWII, China also was in a civil war between the Kuomintang Party and the Communist Party of China (CPC). Leading the CPC was Mao Zedong, a follower of Marxist-Lenin philosophy. In 1949, Mao won the civil war and unified China under communist rule. The Kuomintang retreated to form the nation of Taiwan.
Mao’s aggressive leadership quickly made him a notable personality around the world. His supporters say he drove imperialism out of China, modernized China, turned the nation into a world power, raised the status of women, and improved education and health care. China’s population grew from 550 million to over 900 million during the period of his leadership.
His detractors consider him a dictator who severely damaged traditional Chinese culture, a perpetrator of systematic human rights abuses who was responsible for an estimated 40 to 70 million deaths through starvation, forced labor and executions, making Mao the worst example of genocide in human history.
As part of a strategy to defeat Japan in WWII, Korea was divided into North Korea and South Korea along the 38th parallel. Russia used North Korea while the US used South Korea. After WWII, North and South each claimed to be the official government of a united Korea. Eventually, the two Koreas went to war. Russia and China backed the North; the US backed the South. The claim to be the true government has never been settled; to this day, the 38th parallel is a militarily secured no man’s land between North and South Korea.
Mao died in 1976. China’s government changed the nation’s name from The Republic of China to The People’s Republic of China. In 1982, the office of President was created but with greatly reduced authority – although the President is in charge of the military and, in the case of Xi Jinping, the current President, chairman of the Communist Party as well. Since 1982, the current government is constrained by the need to keep the communist government popular. The President is nominated by the National People’s Congress. China has and still is experiencing a difficult metamorphosis.
Today, China is second only to the US in economic power. China has formed an international bank to compete with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bank will use the Chinese dollar, the Yuan. This is a direct challenge to the US dollar as the world currency. However, China has overreached itself by going into heavy debt – even for China. Recently, China had to let the Yuan float against other currencies, which forced a depreciation of the Yuan by 2.5%. China had maintained a false value for the Yuan that improved its trade balance.
China still has momentous issues with income disparity, poverty, illiteracy and developing a viable domestic economy. Everyone around the world knows that if China can overcome its internal growth issues, it will be the big kid on the block.
More on China in a future post.
The New York Times has an excellent international news staff that stays focused on China. See http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/china/index.html
For an array of opinions about China and the US that are not simplistic, visit
For authentic Chinese food recipes, see
For a video library on Chinese history, visit