14. April 21, 2023
China and America’s Twin Crises of Masculinity and THE FIRST POLITICAL ORDER part 1
In her 2021 book, “China Unbound, A New World Disorder,” author, journalist and NüVoices chair, Joanna Chiu writes:
“In his book “The Room Where It Happened”, former national security adviser John Bolton wrote that on two separate occasions, Trump told Xi that he “should go ahead with building the [concentration] camps in Xinjiang, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.””
This is the character of the men President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan was not only dealing with from 2016 until 2021, but caught in between: misogynist thugs and criminals with runaway money, power and propaganda platforms, ready to incarcerate, indoctrinate, re-educate, subdue and or kill masses of people they deem inferior, rape women, control our bodies, invade and take over territory that does not belong to them or watch with envy from the sidelines when an invasion happens.
President Biden may not be perfect, and America has much to reckon with, but he is no Trump and when people in other countries, like France, equate Biden and Trump because American military budgets are still increasing or American support for Taiwan has not waned, they are very much mistaken. Worse, they are under the influence of Chinese propaganda’s twin move of disassociating Xi from Trump and equating Trump with Biden. If only they could dissociate Xi from Putin.
Reichsparteitag? Have you seen the size of the crowds that Xi Jinping can gather in Tiananmen Square for his speeches and rallies? They are Trump’s wet dream. Trump has never and will never achieve the status of totalitarian dictator because America is not a dictatorship and despite Trump’s best efforts at destroying our democracy from the inside, he could not turn us into one. Is that a victory for Chinese or Han supremacy over American or white supremacy? Are we really still stuck here debating which evil ideology is more evil because American white supremacy has had its moment of primacy and now it is Chinese Han supremacy’s time to shine and soak up the spotlight of primacy?
Is the need for primacy, supremacy and dominance that deep? It is. It really is, and not only on a political level, but on a cultural and familial one. Racism, sexism and classism, a tripartite discrimination, and the legacies of violence and death that result, are so real and so painful for so many of us and have been for so long in the English speaking world and elsewhere that it is truly challenging to see and to acknowledge the truth even when it is right before our eyes existing in another guise, claiming to be the righteous victim of past legacies of discrimination and violence as Xi Jinping does for the CCP, and claiming that it will be benevolent, different and better, that it is very, very dangerous. We are fooling ourselves if we think this danger is only imminent for Taiwan. We are fooling ourselves if we think China’s hegemony is only about economic dominance (which it is currently doing better than the U.S. ) and does not come with a political and military agenda.
We have also been fooled by the powerful propaganda emanating from Beijing and from Washington about a fight for supremacy and primacy between two ideologies: autocracy vs. democracy. Autocracy (or authoritarianism, though China is arguably totalitarian) runs on ideology because it must force people to submit to it, to one man’s rule, through violence and humiliation with propaganda. Liberal ideals are not an ideology. They are not about seeking primacy. Liberal ideals are what people are fighting for and hoping to achieve for the sake of their lives, their dignity, their rights, their equality and representation. Liberal ideals find their best expression in democracy. Liberal ideals are what people have come closer to achieving in Taiwan’s functioning democracy than in America’s highly flawed and dangerously unfinished one. Democracy is not an ideology.
Republican and conservative women in America and Nationalist Party/Kuomintang (KMT) women in Taiwan would be nowhere without liberal ideals. It happens that the list of liberal ideals aligns with the Democratic party in America and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan today. It is thanks to liberal ideals that women can vote, that women are not considered our husband’s property, that women can get a driver’s license, that women can get a credit card, that women can take out a loan in their name for a home or a car, that women can take an international flight without our husband’s permission. It is thanks to liberal ideals that our husbands can go to jail for beating the fuck out of us and that women can file for divorce. Liberal ideals are the reason why women can work, and why we should not be discriminated against in a workplace in general or for being pregnant in a workplace. Basically every single right that has ever been afforded to women is thanks to a liberal ideal. The only reason why we have ever progressed as a society is thanks to liberals and liberal ideals.
Authoritarian ideologues within U.S. democracy, especially in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the foreign policy elite following on the heels of Nixon and Kissinger who ran their 1970s diplomatic opening to China in an authoritarian power grab consolidating decision making power in their own hands and ignoring the expertise and experience of the State Department, are effectively destroying the power of democratic diplomacy and destroying democracy. They are destroying democracy both at home and abroad for those who want democracy not war and not war in the name of democracy which is not bringing democracy to anyone, but rather setting democracy back and bringing to power autocrats large and small whose “one strong man” autocratic ideology is supposed to save us all in the wake of war and destruction.
In China in the 1980s, after the influence of global capitalism began to take hold with Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening” to the U.S. and Europe, the treatment and status of women declined. Award winning journalist, Leta Hong Fincher’s book “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China” is being reissued and updated for a 10th anniversary release by Bloomsbury Books on November 2nd and is a must read. Leta writes about how “contrary to the image presented by China's media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of rights and gains relative to men. She exposes shocking levels of structural discrimination against women, and the broader damage this has caused to China's economy, politics, and development.” As Wang Zheng, a former movie star in China during the Cultural Revolution, now a professor of women’s studies at the University of Michigan attests, “the polarization of class, and also the gap between men and women has been increased drastically in China since the 1980s.”
Wang recalls that, “during the socialist period “iron girl” was a symbol of women’s double liberation from gender and class hierarchies.” From her childhood on, “all the films portrayed revolutionary heroines. Feminists in the socialist revolution in China fought hard to sweep away the traditional mentality of older generations who believed that women should not be educated and should not serve in politics.” But unfortunately, Wang tells Vice news’ Broadly, in a thirty minute segment called “Leftover Women” which is worth watching in full, “the ‘Iron Girls’ were the first targets to be condemned in the 1980s. The government turned the discourse around naming these women as a symbol of how socialist women’s liberation “masculinized women.” This was because the Chinese government no longer needed women in the revolution, they needed women marrying their surplus men. “A lot of writing at the time was about how was the best way to retrieve a woman’s femininity is to be a good wife and a good mother,” Wang laughs.
“The brainwash is so powerful because they have the new media telling women “no matter how successful you are in your career, you will feel so empty in your heart if you cannot find a man in your life,” Wang laments. This was “to trap excellent young women, competitive young women in marriage. They have all the billboards to show what is a happy life for a happy young wife.” The terms “masculine woman,” (女漢子, nu han zi) and “leftover women” (剩女, sheng nu) are derogatory terms in China popularized by the All-China Women's Federation. “Leftover women” compares women who remain unmarried in their late twenties and beyond to leftover food. By contrast, single males reaching a certain age in China will often be labeled as "golden single man"(黄金单身汉, jinse danshenhan) or "diamond bachelor" (钻石王老五, zuanshi wanglaowu).
It is actually a “leftover men” problem that China has after decades of forced sterilization and female infanticide under a “one child policy” to control their population size and increase economic growth. My friend, Nanfu Wang, has directed an excellent documentary on the subject called “One Child Nation.” There are over twenty million more men than women in China who cannot find wives and have children to extend their legacies, their family trees. These men are referred to as “bare branches” and as Valerie Hudson has written about, the best way to prevent them from lashing out against the government in China and making demands if they cannot find wives and the government cannot force Chinese women to become their wives, is to send them to war. That is what a dictator can do.
American democracy cannot move forward until it enshrines equal rights for women in the constitution. All of the utter insanity women in America are dealing with today (well documented on a regular basis by Jill Filipovic) from a virulent right wing backlash that is so violent it is tantamount to a war against women and our bodily autonomy, integrity and rights cannot be fought back against without an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the U.S. constitution. Jessica Neuwirth writes about the many reasons why in her must read book, “Equal Means Equal, Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment is Now”, but this one reason in particular stands out if we want any respect on the world stage as a democracy:
“Historically women have been treated as second-class citizens, in the United States and around the world—economically, socially, and politically as well as legally. Increasingly, as the women’s movement has grown in strength, governments have recognized and tried to address this discrimination. Yet, to the surprise of many Americans, the United States is one of only seven countries in the world (along with Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and two small Pacific Island nations, Palau and Tonga) that have not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Known as the international bill of rights for women, CEDAW has been signed and ratified by 187 countries—virtually every country in the world except ours.”
When did the American women’s movement stall out? In the 1970s, after Nixon found and backed Phyllis Schlafly, the face of the anti-ERA campaign, the woman whose final act in life was endorsing Trump. Neuwirth adds that “some believe that Phyllis Schlafly was a “front”—that behind her were the interests of insurance companies and other economic interests that opposed the ERA as a financial cost to them to be avoided. Both the United States Chambers of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposed the ERA.” Although she herself was a lawyer, Phyllis Schlafly proclaimed that a woman’s place was in the home by her husband’s side, and she warned homemakers that they would lose the emotional and financial security of marriage IF THEY HAD EQUAL RIGHTS!? THIS IS NOT ONLY A LIE, but the opposite is true. Women enjoy better relationships with men, better sex, and have better lives when they are treated as equals and their equality is respected. This is not anecdote and conjecture. This is fact and there are databases of statistics and bookshelves worth of books to prove it, but I am sick and tired of men not having to prove anything with any facts or any statistics and being believed and supported in their oppression of and violence against women.
Why else did the American women’s movement stall out in the 1970s? After Nixon went to China to distract America from the dire nature of its domestic politics and economic degradation and win an election entrenching the power of the right wing in America, especially on an ever increasing cultural level, especially through connection with an always authoritarian China now enriching and capturing a liberal American elite who should have been fighting for liberal ideals, but have not been since that time when getting rich involved remaining silent about the truth of the nature of the authoritarianism they were engaging in China and in themselves.
“THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON
EXCLUSIVELY EYES ONLY
February 21, 1972
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
Chairman Mao Tsetung [Mao Zedong]
Prime Minister Chou-En-lai [Zhou Enlai]
Wang Hai-jung [Wang Hairong], Deputy Chief of Protocol of the Foreign Minister
Tang Wen-sheng [Tang Wensheng], Interpreter
Henry A, Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Winston Lord, National Security Council Staff (Note taker)
DATE AND TIME:
Monday, February 21，1972 - 2:50-3:55 p.m.
Chairman Mao's Residence,Peking
(There were opening greetings during which the Chairman welcomed President Nixon, and the President expressed his great pleasure at meeting the Chairman.)
President Nixon: You read a great deal. The Prime Minister said that you read more than he does.
Chairman Mao: Yesterday in the airplane you put forward a very difficult problem for us. You said that what it is required to talk about are philosophic problems.
President Nixon: I said that because I have read the Chairman's poems and speeches, and I knew he was a professional philosopher. (Chinese laugh.)
Chairman Mao: (looking at Dr. Kissinger) He is a doctor of philosophy?
President Nixon: He is a doctor of brains.
Chairman Mao: What about asking him to be the main speaker today?
President Nixon: He is an expert in philosophy.
Dr. Kissinger: I used to assign the Chairman's collective writings to my classes at Harvard.
Chairman Mao: Those writings of mine aren't anything. There is nothing instructive in what I wrote. (Looking toward photographers) Now they are trying to interrupt our meeting, our order here.
President Nixon: The Chairman's writings moved a nation and have changed the world.
Chairman Mao: I haven't been able to change it- I’ve only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Peking. Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jieshi], doesn’t approve of this. He calls us communist bandits. He recently issued a speech. Have you seen it?
President Nixon: Chiang Kai-shek calls the Chairman a bandit. What does the Chairman call Chiang- Kai-shek?
Prime Minister Chou: Generally speaking we call them Chiang Kai-shek's clique. In the newspapers sometimes we call him a bandit: we are also called bandits in turn. Anyway, we abuse each other.
Chairman Mao: Actually, the history of our friendship with him is much longer than the history of your friendship with him.
President Nixon: Yes, I know.
Chairman Mao: We two must not monopolize the whole show. It won't do if we don't let Dr. Kissinger have a say. You have been famous about your trips to China.
Dr. Kissinger: It was the President who set the direction and worked out the plan.
President Nixon: He is a very wise assistant to say it that way. (Mao and Chou laugh.)
Chairman Mao: He is praising you, saying you are clever in doing so.
President Nixon: He doesn't look like a secret agent. He is the only man in captivity who could go to Paris 12 times and Peking once and no one knew it, except possibly a couple of pretty girls. (Chou laughs)
Dr. Kissinger: They didn't know it; I used it as a cover.
Chairman Mao: In Paris?
President Nixon: Anyone who uses pretty girls as a cover must be the greatest diplomat of all time.
Chairman Mao: So your girls arc very often made use of?
President Nixon: His girls, not mine. It would get me into great trouble if I used girls as a cover.
Prime Minister Chou: (laughs) Especially during elections. (Kissinger laughs.) Dr Kissinger doesn't run for President because he wasn't born a citizen of the United States.
Dr. Kissinger: Miss Tang is eligible to be President of the United States.
President Nixon: She would be the first woman President. There's our candidate.
Chairman Mao: It would be very dangerous if you have such a candidate. But let us speak the truth. As for the Democratic Party, if they come into office again, we cannot avoid contacting them.
President Nixon: We understand. We will hope that we don't give you that problem.
Chairman Mao: Those questions are not questions to be discussed in my place. They should be discussed with the Premier. I discuss the philosophical questions. That is to say, I voted for you during your election. There is an American here called Mr. Frank Coe, and he wrote an article precisely at the time when your country was in havoc, during your last electoral campaign. He said you were going to be elected President. I appreciated that article very much. But now he is against the visit.
President Nixon: When the Chairman says he voted for me, he voted for the lesser of two evils.
Chairman Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right, that Prime Minister Heath is also to the right.
President Nixon: And General DeGaulle.
Chairman Mao: DeGaulle is a different question. They also say the Christian Democratic Party of West Germany is also to the right. I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.”
Nixon and Kissinger joked about their secretary becoming president because they knew a woman was so subordinated in the U.S. that it would never happen. They joked about women as subordinated sex objects serving as cover for Kissinger to make his secret trip because everyone knew he was a playboy whose first marriage was over and who was sleeping around and at the same time dating actress Jill St. John in Hollywood. (Jill St. John was also sleeping with her and Kissinger’s mutual friend, Sidney Korshak, aka “The Fixer,” who from 1940 to his death in 1996 was not only the most powerful lawyer in the world, but also the most enigmatic player behind some of the shadiest deals of the 20th century. Korshak was part of what investigative reporter, Gus Russo, describes as the “Supermob,” a cadre of men who, over the course of decades, secretly influenced nearly every aspect of American society, business and politics. Kissinger was in the club.)
Most importantly, Mao and Zhou and Nixon and Kissinger find common cause in a right wing, authoritarian ideology and macho sexism putting women down and keeping them there so that the actual power imbalance between them at the time could be masked. What was the actual power imbalance between them? It was that despite the CCP beating the KMT and forcing them to retreat to Taiwan, it was still the U.S. who won the war for both parties by defeating Japan in the Pacific and the Allies and the Soviet Union who defeated Nazi Germany in Europe. This is the history that China now rewrites, effectively erasing the U.S. and claiming total WW2 victory for themselves. Back in the 1970s, the US was far more powerful than China, but Nixon and Kissinger did not want to rub that salt in Mao and Zhou’s wounded masculinity. They wanted to do a shady deal in which they would be able to exploit each other’s populations in the US and China, make pawns of the Soviet Union and Vietnam, subordinate Taiwan and accumulate money and power for themselves and their silenced elite “friends.”
The classic, definitional patriarchal deal is that one man (China) agrees to allow another man (the U.S.) to have some power over him so long as he can have power over a woman. Who was “the woman” completely absent from and unable to speak up for herself in the deal made between Mao and Zhou and Nixon and Kissinger that still holds to this day? It was Taiwan, of course, and the more democratic Taiwan became, the more feminine it looked to the strong men on either side of it in the US and China. China especially sees Taiwan as its ideological enemy, an irritating reminder that not all Chinese people want to be “unified” under the leadership of the CCP.
Crucially, there is nothing inherently stable or secure in a national security sense or a political, familial or social sense in a deal made between two men who are excluding and subordinating women, whose very relationship is based on a foundational subordination and acceptance of violence against women. It is always the case that one man is more powerful than the other and inevitably, the less powerful man will want to turn the tables on the more powerful man and the more powerful man will be too high on himself to see it coming, especially when both men thought they had a deal where violence and subordination were reserved for the woman. This is how and why we have perpetual war. I am not referring to the “Thucydides trap” Kissinger goes on about avoiding in order to continue appeasing Beijing, but something much deeper in the first political order which is the sexual political order. Because of the threat of violence that underlies the first political order, men ironically create a vicious security dilemma for themselves with respect to other men.
As Valerie Hudson et al put it in their excellent, must read, 2020 book, “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide”:
“The true clash of civilizations is not West versus East, or North versus South: the true clash is subordination of women versus non-subordination of women as the first political order upon which a civilization is built. That clash is occurring within nations just as much as it is between nations. In a sense, it is a great test given to each and every people—to choose security, stability, prosperity, health, and resilience or to choose the sequelae of male dominance that offer the opposite. As David Jacobson puts it, in terms of national outcomes, “gender is the hinge.”
However, they continue,
“that first political order need not be viewed as set in stone; Fukuyama notes that many human institutions “exist not because they are efficient or well adapted to their environment, but simply because they crowded out other alternatives at an early stage of development.” We agree with this view. Perhaps Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden say it best: “Peace needs strong allies in order to persist, and the ally that has been most consistently overlooked is the one that make up slightly [under] half of the human race—women.” It is time to take off the blinders and see the world in realistic terms, for the stakes are enormous for men, women, children, nation-states, the international system, and the world. Simply put, there can be no peace on earth until there is peace between men and women…(peace requires) men and women to build together a new first political order in (the old one’s) stead. That new order of equal partnership is the sturdy foundation of all good, all peace, all security, all freedom—and all hope.”
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