Google v. The Mandate of Heaven

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Google v. The Mandate of Heaven

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.

Comments [17]

Vitality's picture

I wondered where all that sass came from...

Respect to you and your ancestors. Were you ever able to come out to your Grandma?

I am always intrigued by chinese women  - such formidable matriarchs yet such an underclass in China. I never understand women's oppression anywhere - I think we are so formidable I pity the man who tries to cage us - but that leaves me to suspect that we are complicit in our own submission??!?? I often find women to be far more vehement in their sexism and gender expectations/enforcement - even lots of gay women... Straight women are almost always caustically hard on themselves and other women - whilst expecting so much less from a man??

 I don't think you can either fully understand or criticise from a superior position a culture you are not within - there is so much poverty and human rights violations in both our countries - admittedly in a less in your face way - but that doesn't make us superior.
I think so much that happens in China politically is wrong - but Missisippi after Hurricane Katrina and inner city estates in the UK have taught me that there is a lot of dirt under our liberal democratic rugs - more than I ever imagined even as a cynical politics Graduate. We and our governements are ALL wrong. I remember something that Confuscious said about learning from everybody - from  their irritating or bad ways how not to be - from their good and admirable ways how to be - He said it with eloquence and brilliance. But I try to follow it - How we are is what will change others not what we say. Thanks Grace for a great think this Sunday!

dress this mess's picture

Mao's genocide

Not to be overlooked -- Mao the murderer -- not really following in the footsteps of George Washington:






SMBrown's picture

Thanks for the history

Thanks for the history lesson, especially the familial bits--how ballsy was your great-grandmother?  Further evidence that hell hath no fury...

karrr's picture


it's interesting because most people in China don't seem to care that their internet is being censored. most take a more nationalistic approach and believe that if the government censors the content, then it is for their own good. others just laugh about it and say "oh, well," as if they acknowledge that they don't know what they are missing so they can't miss it. and i only know a few that think it's bullshit...actually, maybe i know two chinese nationals.

anyways, good succinct overview, grace. the pictures are good too.

it's just interesting to me that whenever i read things from europe or u.s.a about china it's mostly about how they are threatening u.s.a's economic place (in which case if the europeans are writing it, they are gloating...haha) or if the topic's on the side of social rights people tend to focus on the negative. (of course, i'm also disillusioned because i all i get is state run news about people helping the government, etc)

but actually, last year shanghai had their first gay pride festival--i won't say parade, as they are outlawed--and the organizers worked with a lawyer to make sure everything was legal so there wasn't any problems I heard

Grace Moon's picture

Thanks karrr!

As long as OUR site isn't being censored, I'm totally fine with state censorship.


"that they don't know what they are missing so they can't miss it."  that seems to sum it up.

What was the pride fest like? How big? What rights do gays and lesbians have in PRC?


tweet tweet @gracemoon

karrr's picture

jesus i just wrote a novel.

I had to leave Shanghai about a week before Pride, which was a bummer. Hopefully, it will happen again this year.

Anyways, I remember one of my friends, though I can't seem to remember who, commenting on the large clusters of curious passerby's taking pictures with their cell phone cameras. I'm extra curious what those who were not involved thought because there are so many facets to popular Chinese culture that would be deemed as "cheesy" by the popular american public. 

Google searched wedding pictures in Chinese, and then wedding pictures in English结婚照&sa=N&start=20&ndsp=20

I love when I happen to walk by a Chinese wedding shop and I always stop to look at the dramatic theatrical pictures, often by something eternal, poised by an endless meadow or sea. It's funny that the google image search for weddings in English brings up a lot of cartoons and ring symbols.

So while my expat friend was talking about how much the Chinese who happened to be passing by were gaping, smiling and taking pictures of them in rainbow, I actually would think it wasn't because they thought it was strange to see homosexuals gathering in China, but that it could be akin to one of those fashion shows Chinese companies often host in a square or in a mall...

Role-reversal and stuff is often seen in Chinese entertainment too. One of my favorite shows is a Taiwanese(?) TV comedy about a girl who pretends to be a boy in school. She even kisses her male roommate who returns her kiss not knowing quite what s/he is. My host mom from two years ago told me that this show was very popular in China, as it starred the boyish member of that Chinese female pop trio, S.H.E. 

Here's also an example of role playing with the duo Twins. I think the article addresses what they are doing at the end of the article, although I can't totally understand it.

Also, whoever was organizing pride made sure to advertise the event in English only, which probably helped to not make heat before the event. I've never met a Chinese les at a bar who is not fluent in English. 

As for rights, I'm reticent to speak because I can't remember dates. I know they declassified sodomy as criminal either in the late nineties or 2000, but after that I remember their being a momentous cascade of other small wins like removing 'homosexual' from the list of mental illnesses. There's some interesting polls out there too that are worth looking up. Some are from NGO's and some from inside China herself...the Family Planning Bureau. I remember being astonished at how the public's view of homosexuality was more progressive than what the government was doing at the time of the poll...and for a society that is spoon-fed information, history, ideas, facts from their government, that is very interesting.

Not2Taem's picture


I definitely think we should send a contingent to check out Winos Unite on June 11. volunteers? Robin?

Too bad the Laramie Project presentation was canceled on the 12th.

Advertising only in English? Clever.

Robin Rigby's picture

"Winos Unite"? What?! Where?!

"Winos Unite"? What?! Where?!

Not2Taem's picture


It is part of the Shanghei Pride fest.  Smile

Robin Rigby's picture

Well, I don't think that I'm

Well, I don't think that I'm going to be going to Shanghai anytime soon.  

karrr's picture

taiwanese tv show

Grace Moon's picture


thanks for all that info. How truly facinating.

so really the only thing you can be thrown in jail for is being anti-government somehow? but being a homo is totally fine?

You can be gay in public but not march (in a parade), because marching would be a display of (potential) loyality to a party of sorts?

and what are you doing in prc? working?

tweet tweet @gracemoon

karrr's picture

yeah, maybe...

i haven't put my finger on that. i guess i'm thinking that most people don't usually think anything about gayness initially. i get by with passing a lot of things off as a "foreign custom." i give my girlfriend a quick kiss on the lips in public, and it is because it is my country's custom. i don't want to much eat rice at the table, and it's because i'm an american and "we eat more bread and pasta than rice." But actually, all of a sudden those eager and great dinner hosts will stop and say, "oh american custom! how interesting! eat more cucumber!" with the lack of free information about world cultures, history, and current events i'm kind of free to make up my own.

i've been studying here off and on since 2007. i also co-own a sex shop so i'm busy with that. we sell a lot of stuff that isn't exportable to the u.s. because they are only passable by EU and other standards. u.s.a. has a lot of rules. i'm going back to school soon part time to keep up chinese language studies. pretty necessary that last bit.


Not2Taem's picture


I'm thinking that folks shouldn't piss off the women in your family. 

I don't generally dig history, but your format makes it manageable. Oh, and as egotistical as it seems on the part of the ruler, I dig the terra cotta crew.  Think we could make a mini terra cotta manga farie army to spread the power or the queer?

minniesota's picture

Some "facts"

Here are some "facts" people should know about from the Huffington Post article that you linked to in the blog:

"Beijing promotes Internet use for commerce, but heavily censors content it deems pornographic, anti-social or politically subversive and blocks many foreign news and social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook and the popular video site YouTube."

"Underscoring such sensitivities, Chinese media published only scant reports on Clinton's speech and Web sites carrying the Foreign Ministry response had disabled their comments pages." [bolding mine]

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

skate's picture

The U. S. has no right to

The U. S. has no right to meddle in China's affairs.  That said, I would absolutely never live in China.  To each their own.

Tex's picture

From there to here...

I like that style of writing...course, I love history too.

Mandated, elected, inherited....doesn't really matter, does it? It's what you do when you get there...

and OMG! I was thinking play army men size! See, dude was also gay - he had to have all those men around him in the after.

Haven't mentioned lately that I miss Hillary!

Twitter Time @kdhales