During the colonial period, China was carved up just as Africa was, its industries destroyed just as those of India were, its people forced to produce goods for the profits of coloniser empires just as the Americas were. As much wealth was extracted from “The Central Realm” as was taken from Africa, from India, and from Central/South America. China was a prime piece of colonial possession as valuable as the other major properties.
So why is the colonisation of China much less known and understood in the West and in the world at large compared to other episodes of colonisation?
The reason why colonial atrocities and plunder in Africa is very well known in Western historical narratives and especially in recent “woke” “post-colonial” discourse, with the proliferation of “African studies” programs where figures such as Cecil Rhodes and King Leopold are widely and loudly criticised for the crimes they committed against Africans — is because the continent of Africa was never able to unite under a communist party, truly fight off domination, achieve real independence, and today continues to be systematically subjugated, bled dry, kept in poverty, underdevelopment, and chaos.
Maybe to a slightly lesser extent, knowledge of the devastation of British rule in India is also relatively popular, with stats such as “Indian economy halved in 20 years after arrival of Her Majesty’s fleets” being widely repeated (at least in liberal intelligentsia circles surrounding “South Asian Studies” programs) — because post-independence India aligned itself with the USA, joined the neoliberal economic order, more or less a vassal state which never developed independent strength or dared to challenge Western hegemony, and today remains deeply impoverished, relatively weak and underdeveloped.
Information about the colonial ravages of South America have also been relatively popularised in recent decades, with the rise of Latin American Studies as a major field of enquiry in US and some European universities. Genocidal exploits of the Spanish and the Portuguese, etc., are relatively well known, and the likes of Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro are household names.
Compared to the other major former colonised regions, much less is known in the West of the century+ long pillage and brutality that unfolded in China. There are no “China studies” programs in the major academic institutions of the West. “Post-Colonial” research and discourse almost never focuses on the colonised history of China. No major colonial criminals who committed heinous crimes against the Chinese people are well known, or even at all known. No statistics of colonial economic ruination of China is widely circulated. Hardly any Westerners are familiar with major events such as the Boxer Rebellion, The Opium Wars, The Sack of the Summer Palace, The Rape of NanJing, or know basic facts like average life expectancy in China having been reduced to 35 years until well after the 1949 revolution (root cause of the later One-Child Policy).
How the economic foundation of USAmerican and English capitalism was built by transatlantic chattel slavery is relatively well known. But how industrialisation of the USA and England, the infrastructure of their first modern cities, were massively, some historians say largely, afforded by opium profits from China, is much less known.
Very few USAmericans and Europeans even think of China as a victim of colonisation comparable to the other victim countries/continents — — because the PRC represents the single former colonised people that not only truly got away, managed to unite under a communist party and truly liberate themselves from imperialist shackles, but has retained full independent sovereignty, never again bowing to the demands of Western overlords.
Let history be our guide. Simply look at the no-hold-barred retribution from the French and Italian colonial military which fell upon Haiti and Ethiopia during their horrendously brutal re-colonisation: the most acrimonious loathing is reserved for the insolent slaves who dare not only disobedience, but actually succeed in their rebellion.
It is OK, and even encouraged, to cry coloniser tears for people still colonised.
But for people who actually freed themselves from colonialism — no empathy, no solidarity, no support from even, or maybe especially, the woke, anti-racist, “leftists” of the imperial sphere, but only condescension, disdain, slander, contempt, and hatred.
It doesn’t end there. The Chinese people have not only successfully freed, healed, and strengthened themselves; but the People’s Republic is today embarked on the historically unprecedented mission of assistance in the building of material conditions which enable the still-enslaved of this world to also free, heal, and strengthen themselves.
And for THIS, no existing measure is enough for the historically unprecedented wrath and fury of the imperialist sphere.
The Neo-Colonial Subjectivity of “Post-Colonialism”
These days it’s very hip to talk about “decolonisation”, to organise conferences and panels on “post-colonialism”, and to make cushy careers as researchers, professors, curators, writers, and artists in service of the Post-Colonial Academic Industrial Complex.
The Western liberal intelligentsia wants to decolonise everything: language, pop music, snack foods, etc. — everything, that is, except the colonies.
In the “post colonial” period since the 1960s, most newly “independent” African, South American, and Asian countries have been ruled by US/Western installed corrupt or outright fascist dictatorships, until the neoliberal 1980s when the strategy of domination shifted from brutal authoritarianism to “free-market” fundamentalism, which saw economic growth in a few places where development was beneficial to US/Western geostrategic interests. Since formal colonialism ended, North American and European states have actively continued the colonial legacy of brutal plunder through indirect means of hidden political control and imposed economic policies (privatise, privatise, privatise): the systematic maintenance of under-development and extreme poverty in the former official colonies and elsewhere in order to sustain super-profits. This reality is clear for all to see: in most of the former official colonies, in Africa, in South America, and Asia (parts not funded by the West to antagonise the PRC), hardly anything has changed since the end of formal colonial rule; and most of these places remain extremely poor, without roads, electricity, hospitals, schools, industry, or real independent governments or economy.
France still extracts from Francophone Africa, through dynamics such as debt bondage and “reparations for destruction of colonial property” (a more extremely sick joke the world has never been told), approximately 60 billion Euros a year, without which, economists have said, the Western European power would be on the same economic level as Greece or Spain.
The Western imperialist crimes of today does not at all pale in comparison to those of their ancestors, but in many ways dwarfs them by orders of magnitude: the sheer scale of financialised violence of debt bondage and sanctions; political violence in the form of coups, “astro-turf” or “colour revolutions”, regime-change operations, and destabilisation campaigns; the funding of extremist and fascist opposition to socialist governments; the orchestration of conflicts and wars between ethnicities and cultures; all of which justifies further Western militarisation in former colonial sphere — Africom has many dozens of military bases in Africa. This is a picture of continuing suffering on a scale equal to or even greater than the legacy of brutal colonialism across the third world.
According to the US National Defense Business Operations Plan (2018–2022), the US military manages a ‘global portfolio that consists of more than 568,000 assets (buildings and structures), located at nearly 4,800 sites worldwide’.
– Defending Our Sovereignty: US Military Bases in Africa and the Future of African Unity
“Post-Colonial” and “De-Colonial” discourse in Western academies has developed within this imperialist framework, and while much work of value, intrigue, and even genuine emancipatory potential have been and continue to be done, this entire discipline and field of inquiry exactly embodys a neo-colonial subjectivity.
All the very sophisticated, intelligent, interesting, and sexy jargon of currently very trendy “post-colonial” and “de-colonial” discourse in all the conferences, seminars, workshops in liberal cultural institutions mainly functions, besides all else, to abstract, obfuscate, conceal, and distract from the very unsophisticated, unintelligent, uninteresting, and unsexy reality of brutal, ruthless, relentless neo-colonial exploitation and imperialist violence currently under way.
All the high profile speakers endlessly waxing cerebral, scholarly, poetic on Fanon, Said, et.al, are guaranteed their prestigious platforms only if they refrain from speaking the simple truths, if they refuse to indict the neo-liberal forces perpetrating the continued mass crimes against the Global South — because those are the same neo-liberal forces which funds these prestigious platforms on which they speak.
Academic “Post-Colonialism” in the prestigious halls of imperialist Western institutions of culture and higher learning, funded by the likes of the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation, or Open Society, all thoroughly neoliberal and imperialist financial institutions, amounts to not much more than White Man’s Burden 2.0, in which well meaning Western liberals play saviour and cry crocodile tears for those still under the boots of their Western governments.
While, of course, the actual world-historical process of concrete decolonisation, the Belt and Road Initiative of the Communist Party of China, which is actively building independent economic strength of the Global South through mutually beneficial mega-projects, is either entirely ignored, or baselessly slandered as its very opposite, as “neo-colonialism”.
“Always accuse the enemy of your own crimes”
— Joseph Goebbels