China and the ABC Theory
A journalist friend of mine told me about a theory some years ago, born during the Civil Rights movement in America or the Algerian War in France, which turned out to be very useful at the time. Then, as theories often do, it completed its cycle of influence and was forgotten.
But as I was listening to Shi Shu Shen, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, telling us how to interpret the latest Tibetan protest against the Chinese occupation of their country, I realized he was giving yet another example of the ABC theory, and that the theory had been dusted off and put back in use.
Here it is: This theory explains a situation in a particular territory at a particular time; each example is different from the next, but all fit into the framework of the theory. As follows: A is the ruling power, B is the group it rules, and C is the outsider. A and B are very happy in this symbiosis of ruler and ruled, until C comes along, stirs up B against A, and the trouble starts. It can end in bloodshed or revolution or a settlement of some kind, but the happy status quo of A and B cohabiting in peace is destroyed forever. Which it would not have been if C had not come along. C, therefore, is the villain.
You have probably anticipated how China and Tibet fit into this schema, but like all good theoreticians, I will provide other examples.
ex. 1) The Civil Rights Movement in America (1960’s-70’s) was born because there was segregation of Whites and Blacks in the southern states. Blacks had been brought out of Africa as prisoners from local wars, eventually as goods in foreign-African joint ventures. The South of the United States was a main partner because the profitable cotton and tobacco industries were made possible by slave labor. So A are the southern plantation owners and B are the slaves. A and B are happy together.
The trade took off in the 17th century and all through the 19th and early 20th century Blacks and were working happily for Whites down on the old plantation. An all time best seller, book and movie, called “Gone With The Wind” is only one testament to this happiness. Even after the Civil War, the GTWT slaves stay on with their masters because they are happy: A’s view of the matter, of course.
So why was there a Civil Rights Movement one hundred years later? Because of C. C is an outsider who came down to the South and told the Black Americans there that they were not happy and were not getting their share of all the good things the US had to offer.
Thereafter, the Blacks become subjected to Bad Outside Influences, and the next thing you know they are marching in the streets and, in Montgomery, Alabama, ruining a perfectly viable transport system. And who is C? People from the North. In some circles, Jews from New York. Instead of earning a living for their families and minding their own business, down these Outsiders trek to the South of the United States and stir up trouble. End of happiness, end of peaceful coexistence, all due to C.
ex. 2: The French Algerian War in the 50’s was much the same scenario. French settlers had been in Algeria for four generations, almost as long as slavery had been a system in the American South. In French Algeria too, the Algerians are doing the farm work and the menial work in general, and the French are getting rich on their labor. A=the French, B=the Algerians.
Who is C? French from Paris. Probably the Jews, the eternal outsiders, were thrown in along with the other Parisians. Until then, A and B were working together happily, more or less, but C gave B ideas and the next thing on the schedule was a hot war, which the Algerians won. One particularity of the French/Algerian example is that DeGaulle himself, President of France, was part of C and “sold out” the French colonialists by acceding to the Algerian desire for independence. C is often a way station for all sorts of different people and political positions.
ex. 3: One last example might be the Jews in Palestine and the Palestinians. A are the Jews from the Diaspora who have colonized Palestine. B are the native Palestinians. Unlike Algeria, which ended with a war of liberation, the Jewish-Palestine conflict began with a war, which the Palestinians lost, along with their country.
This, by the way, is unusual: the losers of a war rarely lose their entire country––Germany lost two wars and never did–-but that is what happened to the Palestinians. Most of those that were not killed in battle or massacred in their villages by the Haganah or Palmach or other Jewish units, were in exile or concentration camps.
A in Israel (Palestine has disappeared) was never as sanguine as the A’s of the southern U.S. or Algeria. A did not say the Palestinians were happy in their camps or in exile, but at least they were quiet, and Israel could get on with the business of prudently building a country. “Prudent” because A was not going to make the mistake of being dependent on B and, as much as possible, employed Jews to share the work.
A’s theory, that B is in agreement with the new status quo, is bolstered by codicils like “the Arabs ran away,” and “there are no Palestinians.” If B is basically not there, then everyone is really happy. Now who is C? Mostly the Egyptians from next door.
Gamel Abdel Nasser became ruler of Egypt in the 1950’s and launched a campaign for Arab Unity. He even took over the Suez Canal, a French-British Joint Venture, and forbade entry to Israeli ships. The Palestinians take heart, produce their own leader, Yassir Arafat, and stop accepting Israeli facts on the ground. B has become a reality. C has disappeared, just as s/he did in the Deep South and in Algeria. Typical, according to A: C causes all the trouble and then absconds.
ex. 4: Finally we have arrived in Tibet. My reader can probably fill in the theory alone by now. Shi Shu Shen, Chinese Foreign Minister, tells Aljazeera TV among others that the large demonstrations in Lhassa, the capital of Tibet and former residence of the Dalai Lama–– temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people––are all the work of the Dalai Lama clique.
The Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet, over the Himalayas, highest mountains in the world, into Nepal in 1950. He therefore became C, the outsider. B are the Tibetan people, and A are the Han Chinese (China is an immense country, with a long history of different rulers, among whom the Han are considered “the most Chinese”).
In 1950, the Han Chinese had invaded Tibet, massacred a large number of Tibetans, damaged and destroyed many monasteries including Shigatse and Gyangtse, unique works of religious architectural art. Shi Shu Shen’s statement is that nevertheless things are going well.
Aljazeera asks how the Tibetans, now almost outnumbered by Han Chinese, feel; recent demonstrations would indicate that the Tibetans, B, are profoundly disturbed. Why otherwise would they have made signs, and marched––especially Buddhist monks who are known for their peaceful behavior? All the fault of C, counters Shi Shu Shen: the Dalai Lama clique.
Designating C as culprit always has the advantage of showing up B as either innocent or incompetent or both. As you listen to various A’s around the world explain how viable, if not actually beneficial, their system is, you will recognize the structure of ABC. The more people come out and show their unhappiness or misery with “things as they are,” the more A needs his theory to show that what A does is right, and only C is causing trouble.
There is an Italian proverb, “si non é vero, é ben trovato.” Translation: “if it is not true, it is a good invention.”
The ABC theory is A’s invention.
Tags: China , Colonialism , Palestine , Civil War
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