If there’s one thing the Trump years and their aftermath did for everyone, it’s to disabuse people of the very American slogan of “it can’t happen here.” There are many “its” that are now in the realm of possibility. Although Americans aren’t reacting particularly well to that realisation, at least some plans for “black swan events” are on the stove, even though black swan sightings are already becoming more frequent.
One of these events is the possibility that the Chinese, whom we now recognise to varying degrees as adversaries/competitors, just might do what the Soviets could not: beat us and rule the world. Some thought they would transition to democracy: they haven’t. Some thought they’d let Hong Kong go on as it has: they didn’t. (Some of the rest of us thought neither of these would happen, and we were right, except that Hong Kong took longer than we thought.) “It didn’t happen there” has led some to think at last that “it really can happen here.”
So what if it does? What if, instead of inaugural parades, the People’s Liberation Army marches down Pennsylvania Avenue and hoists the same red banner over the White House we see over the Great Hall of the People?
I don’t know all of the ramifications of such an event, but I’m pretty sure of one of them, and it goes back to a low moment in Chinese history. One thing I found out while doing business with the Chinese is that they don’t forget slights, and this slight is a big one.
In 1900 the Chinese experienced the last major rebellion before the end of the Qing Dynasty, that of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, or the Boxers. After that was put down, the European powers (along with the U.S. and Japan) extracted many concessions. One of those was to build in a way that would overlook the Forbidden City, the central residence of the Emperor, the Son of Heaven. Until that time it was “buxing” (forbidden) to build anything that overlooked this palace.
The French took advantage of this and began building the Beijing Hotel. By the time the French completed their part in 1915, the Son of Heaven was gone and China entered it’s period of “democrazy” that lasted until Chairman Mao mounted the Gave of Heavenly Peace and announced that the Chinese people had “stood up” on 1 October 1949.
Standing up was one thing: moving forward was another, and for that China sought the help of Soviet experts. One result of that expertise was the building of two additional wings on the Beijing Hotel, one on each side of the old French structure, as shown below.
It was the tallest wing from which I took this photo of the Forbidden City, which clearly shows what overlooking is all about.
It also provided a platform for this photo of Tian an Men Square, and also one for a more famous photograph several years later.
Today Beijing is a city of many tall buildings. But the Chinese themselves got them there; they were not imposed by “foreign devils.” Knowing the long memory of the Chinese (the Japanese know it too) I have a feeling that one of the things they would do would be to pay back for this humiliation.
In Washington there are height restrictions for the buildings surrounding the Washington Mall, to prevent the open glory of the place from being obscured. In fact, it’s fair to say that Washington, unlike New York, is a very “horizontal” place in general. (London used to be the same way.) However, in the 1980’s, when I was active in the family business, our DC area distributor told me that many of the “short” buildings around the mall were built with very high capacity foundations–and stouter structures than the edifice being built would call for–in the event that the height restrictions were lifted, taller buildings–with greater capacity for both occupancy and rent–would be built on top of what was there.
I have no doubt that, in the event that the Chinese take command, one of the first things they would do to avenge the humiliation of the Boxer Rebellion’s suppression would be to build tall buildings around the Washington Mall and house their own interests and institutions. As we have prepared the way, for many of these buildings it wouldn’t even require demolition of what’s there.
But why wait until “the day?” After his phone call with Yi Jin Ping, Joe Biden said that we needed to get with our competition with China, lest they “eat our lunch.” That ignores the fact that, after forty years of “cooperation” (to use the Chinese term) they’ve put enough money into the hands of people in Washington and elsewhere so that they’ve paid for their lunch, they have the right to eat it! At the head of this parade is none other than Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, thus the active suppression of this inconvenient fact.
But it takes more than buying off one person whose main goal in life is to get laid, high or drunk: it takes buying off many of them. The Chinese have embedded themselves in our power structure in a way that the Soviets could only dream. A few well placed lobbying efforts, and the upward construction can begin. With that the Zhong Nan Hai can empty a few cases of mao tai and another humiliation can be righted.
How this competition comes out depends upon many things. But in this case and many others, I think the distillers of mao tai better get busy.