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China expert Steven Mosher has a fascinating insight into the Beijing
In his book, entitled “Hegemon,” he says that Chairman Mao was
steeped in the classics of a particular Chinese school of thought called
“Legalism,” which was the first systematic totalitarian ideology on earth.
According to Mosher, Chairman Mao saw Marxism as a means to reinvigorate and
modernize an ancient Chinese system of oppression.
In 221 BC the armies of Qin (pronounced “Ch’in,” as in China) overran
the forces of Qi — the last independent state remaining at the time. Zheng
became the First Sovereign Qin Emperor of the Middle Kingdom, instituting the
tightest regimentation of society in Chinese history up until then.
Zheng and his toadies were the living models for the Chinese Legalist
School. No doubt, Zheng and his entourage make Machiavelli look like a Sunday School teacher by comparison. Their cynicism and brutality are almost
unmatched in the annals of human tyranny. Historian Arthur Cotterell wrote
that “the bureaucratic form of government developed under the Qin monarchy
became the model for future Chinese political organisation.”
As one might expect, Zheng’s totalitarian machine earned criticism
from China’s traditionalist scholars and intellectuals who followed the
humanist tradition of Confucius. “If this slander is not stopped,” said
Zheng’s chief adviser, Li Si, “the imperial authority will decline.”
Therefore China’s literature itself should be burned and destroyed. “All
persons possessing works of literature and discussions of the philosophers
should destroy them,” ordered Li Si. “Those who have not destroyed them within
30 days after the issuing of the order are to be branded and work as
The only books to be spared destruction in ancient China, were books
on medicine, agriculture and divination. The Qin emperor complimented Li Si on
his brilliant plan. This burning would serve to keep the Chinese people
ignorant and subservient. It would also prevent the “use of the past to
discredit the present.” After the Qin dynasty it would be understood that
the control of history was essential to the control of the present and
future. As George Orwell explained in “1984,” he who controls the present,
controls the past; he who controls the past, controls the future.
Or as the Chinese like to say, “History is a maiden. You can dress her
up any way you like.”
It is also noteworthy that after the Qin emperor, a tradition
developed among Chinese emperors. Each emperor would denounce the one that
went before him. This may seem odd, but there is a definite logic at work in
such practices. Denunciation of the past helps to preserve the regime of the
present. If people think the present emperor is bad, they should be reminded
(or taught) that the previous emperor was much worse. Therefore, the misrule
of the present is always masked by the illumination of the past (unless the
past is actually superior, in which case you burn the evidence).
One finds this same pattern at work in the USSR after Stalin’s death.
Stalin was denounced by his successor, Khrushchev. Then later Khrushchev was
denounced by Brezhnev. Then in the late 1980s Brezhnev was denounced by
Gorbachev. Under Yeltsin, as everyone knows, Gorbachev was denounced; and if
the pattern holds, Putin will one day denounce Yeltsin (the denunciation of whom is
already implied by Putin’s return to open Soviet methods and symbols).
The totalitarian pattern replicates itself from generation to
generation within the body politic. It is like a disease for which there is
hardly a cure. Countries remain ill with this disease for centuries. One
shudders at the thought that America itself has a mild case of the
Much about China’s earliest history was lost due to the book burnings
of the Qin emperor. There is a great disconnect in Chinese history, a break
in the intellectual continuum. It might be argued that the destruction of
books is comparable to murder. The preservation of great insight and wisdom,
once set down, is of inestimable value. That such a thing can be eradicated
— and has been eradicated — shows how fragile human civilization really is.
The Qin dynasty did not last long, of course, collapsing in 206 BC.
But the evils produced by Qin lived on in other dynasties. An idea, once
started, has a life of its own. Like Marxism, Legalism had few followers.
But the promise of absolute power is attractive to scheming minds who often
rise in rank and influence. In the late 18th century, when China’s Four
Libraries were constructed and the classics compiled, there were only eight
Legalist volumes. Poison of this kind, however, never loses its potency.
Mao Zedong, says Mosher, was attracted to these eight volumes.
China’s ancient Legalists denounce moral platitudes as “vain talk.”
Legalism emphasizes results over talk. One recalls Lenin’s dictum during the
Russian Civil War, that one must keep shooting people until the machinery
begins to move forward. This is what a Legalist would refer to as “good
results versus moral sentimentality.”
This same logic may one day be applied to the use of nuclear missiles.
“Continue to nuke them until they submit,” a future Legalist ruler might
say. “Either obedience or extermination — their choice!”
One cannot help sensing, at some level, that this is what animates
China’s manic development of nuclear weapons. There is the idea, somewhere
in the Communist Chinese mind, that America can be gradually disarmed and
neutered. Then a campaign of “straightening” the world might begin.
The Legalist School is extremely skeptical, even hostile, to human
nature and morality. “I believe it is impossible to be sure of anything,”
wrote Han Fei Tzu, a Han prince who inspired the totalitarian ideas of the
Qin dynasty in the third century BC. Han stated that there were three
principles — law, statecraft and power. No other values mattered. Han
characterized conservatives and traditionalists as “stupid.” He also noted,
“The severe household has no fierce slaves, but it is the affectionate mother
who has spoiled sons.”
The wickedness of Chinese Legalism appears in its unrestrained desire
to crush all human beings, since human beings are inherently wicked.
According to Han, “A ruler makes use of the majority and neglects the
minority, and so he does not devote himself to virtue but to law.”
This is where the term “Legalism” comes from. Right and wrong do not
matter. Only state power and its law matter. In keeping with this state
power, people are twisted into the right shapes. Han wrote that “If we had
to depend on an arrow being absolutely straight by nature, there would be no
arrow in a hundred generations. If we had to depend on a piece of wood being
perfectly round by nature, there would not be any wheel in a thousand
According to Mosher, “Mao had steeped himself in
Chinese historical classics, absorbing the frank and brutal legalist advice
they offered to would-be hegemons.”
Mao’s real ambition was to found a new empire on naked force.
“Marxism-Leninism was an enabler for the Hegemon,” says Mosher. Marxism
proposes the existence of a monopoly of power by an educated elite of
bureaucrats. If the despotic emperors of China’s past had been Confucianist
on the outside, but Legalist on the inside, says Mosher, “Mao was effectively
Communist on the outside, Legalist on the inside.”
Mosher tells us that if you examine Mao’s “Selected Works,” 24 percent
derive from Stalin while 22 percent derive from traditional Chinese sources.
In keeping with Stalinist and Legalist thought, in little more than a half
century of existence, the People’s Liberation Army has invaded the Korean
peninsula; bombarded and assaulted islands belonging to Taiwan; attacked
without provocation India, Tibet and Vietnam; and has supported guerrilla
insurgencies in Laos and Malaysia, as well as a coup in Indonesia.
The only thing that kept China in check during the 1950s and 1960s,
argues Mosher, was China’s economic weakness. Taking a survey of the second
half of the 20th century, Mosher notes that Communist China was more likely to
resort to violence in a crisis than any other state. Since 1949 China has
resorted to force in 76.9 percent of existing international crises. The next
closest would be Muslim states which resort to force 53.5 percent of the
time. (The U.S., by comparison, resorts to force 28.5 percent of the time.)
The chief supposition of Chinese Legalism is that power politics
deserves primacy over everything. Mao’s dictum that “political power flows
out of the barrel of a gun” is still in vogue. Mosher tell us that Mao’s
views have not been repudiated in China. Deng Xiaoping only clashed with Mao
over economics, not politics. According to Mosher, Deng’s “much-vaunted
openness to the West was merely a ploy to enlist foreigners to provide the
The Four Modernizations of Deng are paralleled by Four Absolutes,
which hold true today. These absolutes are: 1) the dictatorship of the
proletariat; 2) the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party; 3)
Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought; 4) and the “socialist road.”
In accordance with the Four Absolutes, the Communist butchers in
Beijing murdered thousands of student protesters over a decade ago in the
Tiananmen Square massacre. About this event Communism’s No. 2 man in
China, Li Peng, has said: “The actions in Tiananmen Square were a good thing.
We do not regard them as a tragedy.”
The power of the state, and its drive for greater and greater
domination in Asia and the world, is the logic of modern China. In September
1994 Beijing issued a sweeping directive: “Patriotic education shall run
through the whole education process from kindergarten to university … and
must penetrate classroom teaching of all related subjects.”
What is taught?
Hatred for the evil foreigner and love of “Great China”; resentment
for a hundred years of humiliation, etc. According to Mosher, “what this
patriotic education comprises, in broad strokes, is a kind of Chinese Mein
Imagine if Hitler had nuclear weapons and 1.3 billion people behind
Modern China has the full support of Russia in its quest for global
hegemony. Today more than 10,000 Russian scientists and engineers are
working to build up China’s means of mass destruction against America.
China’s current leaders are ruthless. Their credo was carefully
explained by the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, who bragged about his
murderous achievements during the Second Plenum of the Eight Party Congress
in 1958. “Emperor Qin Shihuang was not that outstanding,” scoffed Mao. “He
only buried alive 460 Confucian scholars. We buried 460 thousand Confucian
Mao did not like being compared with the Qin emperor. “Some have
accused us of being Emperor Qin,” complained Mao. “This is not true. We are
a hundred times worse than Emperor Qin.”
China is building nuclear bombs and long-range missiles at an
accelerating rate. China has its fingers on the Panama Canal, and her agents
have corrupted our political process in Washington so that we are momentarily
paralyzed in our response to this new challenge.
It is time to stop and reconsider the overall strategic situation. If
a 15-year-old boy can take a gun and go berserk in an American public school,
killing and wounding his classmates, why can’t a major power armed with
nuclear weapons also go berserk?
The logic of the individual psychopath may be no different than the
logic of a gang of psychopaths.