Google v. The Mandate of Heaven
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When I was a child, my Chinese grandmother used to warn my sister and me whenever we got too close to an electrical socket or into some other kind of mischief, “Don’t do that. Mao Tse-Tung is going to get you!” I had no idea what Mao was; she didn’t explain of course, so I assumed he was some sort of monster.
Mao was a monster for my Gran, he got hold of her father and didn’t let him go. My great grandfather had been in China for a spell (for reasons I’ll have to ask my mother about), while his wife (my great grandmother) was in Hawaii raising the kids.
When the Communists took over, he escaped on a ship across the Pacific. After the grueling journey, his wife refused to vouch for his entry into the US protectorate at Honolulu Harbor. She was pissed off because he had had an affair with another woman while they were apart. My grandmother remained bitter about never seeing her dad again, and her husband never forgave his mother-in-law for that decision. Good times.
Dynastic Monarchies have ruled China since the third century BCE. The first emperor was Qin Shi Huang. He conquered the neighboring warlords to unite the people of Han. When Qin died, he was buried with over 8,000 terracotta solider replicas of his army.
terra cotta army unearthed in 1974
The Dynastic emperor was believed to rule under the “Mandate of Heaven.” That mandate, unlike the kings of Western Europe who had a “divine right,” was based on proper conduct and just exertion of power. While European kings were born with the right to rule, the Mandate of Heaven was up for grabs. Whoever took power and ruled China had the mandate. There were 24 Chinese Dynasties with lots of violent overthrows in-between, and a "How To" playbook written by Sun Tsu.
The last ruling Dynasty, the Qing, collapsed under corruption and excess in 1911. The story is told in Bertolucci’s 1987 movie The Last Emperor
Remember the original dragon lady, the Empress Dowager? She would’ve eaten Anna Wintor alive for breakfast.
China fell into a civil war when the Nationalist Party, supported by Western colonialists, booted the Communist Party from seats in government. Mao, whose early military hero was none other than George Washington, rallied the peasants in the country side and emerged victorious with the Mandate in 1949. Mao ruled China with an iron fist until his death in 1976.
Mao’s two most famous fuck ups, as he tried to lead China from a medieval society into a modern industrial one were: the Great Leap Forward, an agricultural policy that caused wide spread famine, and The Cultural Revolution, a propaganda machine lead by the Gang of Four, which destroyed historical sites and artifacts, and “re-educated” the populace.
Deng Xiaoping followed Mao. Deng is credited with leading China out of ideological Maoism and into economic reform, creating what is soon to be the world’s most powerful economy.
He also presided over the Tiananmen Square massacre. During his presidency, Bill Clinton pressed Deng about human rights on national TV. Deng’s response was, “China has a 5,000-year history; the U.S. only 200. Don’t tell the Chinese how to rule.”
And this takes us to the present.
SOS Hillary Clinton intervened on behalf of Google yesterday when she “urged China to investigate cyber intrusions that recently prompted search engine Google to threaten to pull out of the country.”
The Chinese responded: “We urge the U.S. side to respect facts and stop using the so-called freedom of the Internet to make unjustified accusations against China." In pin-yin that's spelled F U.
While I doubt U.S. pressure will change the way China operates, I think the Mandate of Heaven is a bit more fickle.