Profile picture
David Fickling @davidfickling
, 16 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
One thing that I think is *drastically* underappreciated outside of China is the extent to which current trade tensions echo some of the biggest themes of the Community Party version of history: (1)
This is so well understood within China that I think it's seen as almost unworthy of comment, but there seems to be a gulf between that and the western view. (2)
Here's a picture of Xi Jinping at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square, China's equivalent of Nelson's Column or the Washington Monument. (3)
The scene on the bas relief in the background is, in a way, modern China's version of the Boston Tea Party -- the moment when Chinese officials seized and destroyed 1,000 tons of opium on an island in the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong, sparking the First Opium War. (4)
The Monument was one of the first major ceremonial buildings the Communists built on coming to power in 1949 and it's very significant that their greatest hits of Chinese/CCP history begins there, with the start of the Opium Wars. (5)
Let's remember what the Opium Wars were about. China through most of its history had a huge trade surplus with the rest of the world, thanks to British thirst for tea and fine porcelain. (6)
For hundreds of years this current account surplus was balanced with a capital account deficit as China bought enormous amounts of Latin American silver to stabilize its paper currency, but by the early 19th century this was played out. (7)
Opium was the solution. By getting Chinese people hooked on imported opium, British and American traders were able to exchange goods for the tea and manufactures they wanted to ship out of China. (8)
This caused obvious social problems and when Qing China decided to start a Nixon-style War on Drugs to wipe it out, the Humen opium incident depicted on the Monument to the People's Heroes was their first salvo. (9)
It didn't go well for China. Militarily overmatched by the British, they were forced into a treaty establishing the foreign concessions for open trade and giving a rocky island near Guangdong to the British -- Hong Kong. (10)
That was just the start of it. The horrific wars of the Taiping rebellion began soon after (another event commemorated on the Monument). (11)
The second Opium War, 14 years after the first, resulted in the destruction of Emperor's Summer Palace north of Beijing and further concessions in the name of free trade. (12)
If you think this is ancient history, have a look at how Xi kicked off his speech to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong last year: (13)…
Now think about where we are now:

Once again, China has a huge trade surplus. Once again, foreigners are complaining about it. Once again, Chinese leaders think (with some justification) that the appeal to free trade is an excuse to attack the foundations of their state. (14)
This great @bopinion column from @michaelschuman today sums it up well:…

This is not just another economic fight for Xi, or the Communist Party. To them, this is history repeating itself. And this time, they're determined to be the victors. (ends)
Postscript: It's worth mentioning that the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests began with an outburst of popular mourning for reformist Hu Yaobang centred on the Monument. A similar mourning protest after the death of Zhou Enlai on 1976 indirectly led to Deng Xiaoping's rise to power.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to David Fickling
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!