Why Marsha is Wrong about Chinese History

Senator Blackburn’s recent tweet attacking China’s history for “5,000 years of stealing and cheating” is not only wrong because it is blatantly racist and plays into a dangerous stereotype, but there are many reasons why it is factually incorrect. Well, that’s unless Marsha could explain what China did in 3,000 B.C. that offended her so much in the present day.

China as an imperial state did not officially exist until 226 B.C. Before that, there were thousands of years of history of Chinese people and culture, such as Confucius (551 B.C.) and your favorite Chinese food, but not as a unified state. So history 101 would tell Marsha that China has 2,000 years of history of “stealing and cheating,” instead of 5,000. But this is also not true. There was not much for China to steal from when Rome, England, Russia, or America did not exist. Jumping forward another 1,800 years, when Marsha’s home Mississippi gained statehood with a population of 30,000 in 1817, China accounted for roughly half of the global GDP (the U.S. now accounts for 24%.). Basic logic, which might or might not apply to Marsha, would reduce China’s “stealing” to at least after 1817.

The last 200 years of Chinese history is more complicated than the widest brush can paint. Even though relations between America and China haven’t always been cordial, there is still a history of cooperation between the nations that goes back for years. Americans helped build the first modern university, Tsinghua, the first modern hospital, Hunan-Yale, in China, and educated the first Chinese woman justice (at the University of Michigan) and the first Chinese railway engineer (at Yale University). During WWI and WWII, Americans and Chinese fought side by side. Marsha doesn’t seem to understand that foreign policy is complex and that the probability of having a populace consisting of good and bad people is undiscriminating of race or nation.

Now Marsha’s ground has shrunk from 5,000 years to the past few decades. She might try to claim victory for only 1.5% of her statement having validity, although this would still continue to play into a racist stereotype. She is learning from the “best,” other racists who mock a generation of people who rode bicycles together in the alleyways of Beijing and called Chinese people their friends.

I suspect many Americans, living and dead, will be insulted by Marsha’s racist “stealing” comment; Chinese immigrants have contributed much to American life and don’t get the recognition they deserve. I know of such Americans. Pearl Buck, writing about China based on her life experience, “paved the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for the studies of human ideals” (per Nobel Committee). Scott and Beth from Brentwood, missionary kids who met in China, speak Chinese, and love China despite the flaws of the Chinese government. George and Ophelia from Nashville, without speaking a word of Chinese, always open their house and host Chinese law students for Thanksgiving so that they don’t feel lonely on holiday. There are dozens if not hundreds of Tennesseans that marry Chinese spouses or adopt Chinese children. The only “stealing” that these cherished Chinese Americans do is steal your heart. So Marsha, when you are not too busy courting the ignorant and the angry, you should get to know all of the loving and kind Chinese Americans too, whose votes also count.

Seth Dawson of Brentwood, Tennessee

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