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Column misrepresents history

Reading Matthew H. Hersch '94's column in a recent issue of The Tech ["China: Stand back and wait," Jan. 16], I am bothered by some points made. In particular, Hersch's central statement, "A once weak, disorganized, backward China, however, has now become a strong, ordered, backward China. . . . " ignores historical facts and confuses the Chinese people with the Chinese governments.

I believe that history must be respected as it was and the difference between the Chinese people and Chinese governments can and should be made clear.

Hersch's article reviewed the history of the relationship between China and the West ever since the 1850s "when trade between Europe and China opened with that nation."

He obviously resents the fact that the Chinese were rejecting trades with the West in the middle of 19th century. But what was the major commodity the West was forcing the Chinese to buy then? Opium!

Fran,cois Geoffroy-Dechaume, in his book China Looks at the World described an incident in which Sir John Jordan, who had lived for forty years in China, and had risen to be minister to Peking was once asked why China had then fallen into civil war and chaos, and why its famous and ancient system of government had broken down. "His reply was brief and devastating: `Opium smoking.' "

Chinese officials of all ranks, Sir John explained, had fallen victim to this insidious vice; their vigor, their efficiency and their integrity had been fatally undermined.

While China was thus weakened, the West took every chance to exploit and to humiliate her: "Unequal treaties"; the rape of whole provinces; "zones of influence"; "concessions" in which the governments of whole cities were given to foreigners; "extra-territoriality" -- special courts for foreigners outside the Chinese law; railways and other national enterprises built by foreign capital, and managed for foreign profit by foreign control; Japanese aggressions, inspired by the doctrines of Western militarist imperialism and carried out with Western arms -- all this left the Chinese people feeling crushed and desperate and helpless.

Was China always a weak, disorganized, backward country? The answer is clearly negative. If China became "a weak, disorganized, backward country" after the Opium War of 1839 to 1842, Great Imperial Britain apparently played an important role in that ugly process.

If we try to analyze a country's current situation without looking at its historical background, the results can not be right. If we do not look at history objectively, we can't help but make mistakes.

Hongbo X"u G->