After All of This, Why Don’t We Hear Cries For Vengeance in China?

25 years after NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy, memories of American nonchalance remain vivid for many Chinese. For the younger generation who grew up in a much more developed China, how will they engage with the rest of the world? The following article, which has gained widespread popularity on China’s internet, offers a glimpse into the country’s youth mentality.
May 15, 2024
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Twenty-five years ago, on May 8, 1999, at 5.45 a.m. Beijing time, NATO, led by the United States, brazenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The bombing caused more than 20 people to be injured, and three comrades, Shao Yunhuan, Xu Xinghu and Zhu Ying, were killed.

The bombing of the embassy is considered one of the three most humiliating events that happened to China in the 1990s. The first was the Yinhe incident. The second was the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996. The bombing of the embassy was the first time I really felt that my country was in danger, that imperialism was unreasonable, and that individuals were powerless.

Twenty-five years is a very long time, long enough for the world to change drastically. But it is not too long. The generation that has personally experienced the brutality of imperialism is now in its prime. They are not so old as to forget the arrogance and impudence of the imperialist powers and the trampling and harm they did to the Chinese people. Therefore, we oppose the oppression of the unilateral hegemony.

Three journalists were killed in the embassy

When I think back on the 1990s, it is more of a tumultuous, depressing and disturbing memory. Externally, there was imperialism pressing on us, and internally, there was the massive layoffs caused by the reform. Compared to the distant threat of imperialism, I was more worried about whether my family would be able to survive as a laid-off worker.

Things changed as the world entered the new millennium. After joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), China rapidly emerged as the world’s factory, while the United States launched its wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which later became total failures. From then on, China’s situation became better every day, while the image of the Western developed countries collapsed every day. Both the strength of the country and our personal lives have changed radically in the past twenty-five years.

Of course, there are also things that remain unchanged. For example, the Western world, led by the United States, is still oppressing and exploiting the world. But this kind of exploitation and oppression has now become more of a sunset, and even ridiculous. The Americans are still stirring up conflicts, spreading chaos, and abusing their financial hegemony with the backing of its military. But when the Russo-Ukrainian conflict started, the whole West still found themselves hard to make enough ammunition in time.

Compared with China’s huge production capacity, the West’s industrial capability is more like a joke. As the most intense regional conflict after the Cold War, the outbreak and prolongation of the Russo-Ukraine conflict signaled the post-Cold War order, which represents the hegemony of the U.S. and the triumph of the West, is about to end.

From our Chinese perspective, after a quarter of a century, the West has lost much of its strength. The worries and fears that used to be in the back of our minds are now more like an exaggeration. Back then, we were not dare to look at the United States, Japan is already too strong for us. We thought imperialism is a monster that destroys the world, and each one of them requires us to fight with all our might. Who would have thought that nowadays, it is more like a group of ragtag families, and the so-called leader is just nothing but a paper tiger.

But we still have to realize that the hegemony of the West, although shaky, is still intact. From a material point of view, the West is still harshly exploiting the world. Currently, we are experiencing an economic downturn on a global scale. If left unchecked and not effectively ameliorated, this downturn is reminiscent of the tensions of the first half of the last century, when the world was exposed to the ever-increasing risk of large-scale geographic conflicts.

We can clearly say that the root cause of this situation is the fact that the Western countries, represented by the United States, have seized an unreasonable portion of the current division of labor. What they got have far exceeded their own level of productivity. The Western countries, whose productivity rapidly declines as a result of de-industrialization, are no longer able to pay a sufficient price for the commodities they got. In the end, they could only rely on the outdated distribution system and intensify their plunder to maintain the status of the so-called developed countries.

But what we see is the Western powers, led by the United States, could not even sustain their level of exploitation. Despite having reaped huge benefits by plundering, their internal inequality of distribution have resulted in the increasing impoverishment of the lower and middle classes. This has resulted in a relative overcapacity of global production capacity, from which the vast majority of people from the West to the East have suffered, and the whole world has been plunged into a state of distress.

We must see that this injustice and exploitation of late capitalism is not only directed against us, but also the vast majority of the people within the West itself. Late capitalism, which was born in the West, has flooded and eroded all over the world with the tentacles of globalization. It can even be said that our country, as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the global economic system in the new century, is also among its victims.

Due to the continuous decline of the West and the growing strength of the East, it can be asserted that the Western powers are gradually weakening their ability to directly carry out destruction, aggression and plunder. The threats of the West now sound more and more like a joke to us, who are united and strong enough.

But on a spiritual level, the erosion of the world by the corrupt and decadent West, represented by the United States, is nonetheless increasing. As we see today, the West is pushing for the decriminalization of drugs, and the radicalization of LGBT movement has been alienated from its original intent of affirmative action into political madness.

The injustice of the contemporary distribution of wealth will probably be corrected within our generation as the Western world declines further. But the pollution caused by late capitalism throughout the world is bound to reach its peak on the eve of its demise. On the eve of its self-destruction, the Western hegemony is breaking through the bottom line worldwide, turning right and wrong upside down, and destroying all the elements of progress and order that were once promoted by it.

It is as if someone opens the Pandora’s box, and the resulting poisonous harm and long-term hatred may well outweigh the West’s rotten war machine, and jeopardize our world for a long time, which will take several generations to be pacified.

Compared with the world 25 years ago, the contemporary West now has to face up to China’s existence. Their hostility towards China might better be called fear these days. In the last half-century, China has been arguably the most peaceful and reasonable rising power in the world, a situation unparalleled in human history.

China has been so reasonable, peaceful and friendly. Why does the West still insist on being hostile and fearful of China? I am afraid we all agree that it is not only because of the difference in civilization and rivalry.

The West’s greatest fear is not that China will take its place, but that the Chinese will do to them again what they have done to China. Even if China doesn’t retaliate against the West, like all bullies who have lost their power, the West is filled with victims both internally and externally, desperate to get justice against them. In the end, it’s not China that the West fears, it’s China in their minds, or rather themselves.

Looking back at the tragedy of twenty-five years ago, we are all faced with the question of how to deal with the world that has hurt us so deeply.

We should objectively recognize that Chinese society is not entirely without vengeance, it is actually very strong. After all, since 1840, China has endured unprecedented suffering and paid countless sacrifices.

Even today, we are still subjected to provocations, injuries and encroachment of interests from the West. Such evils must be cleared, and only through a comprehensive struggle can we clear away all the residual evils brought about by the late American hegemony, and enable both the Chinese society and the Western world to move towards a new future for mankind.

From a historical point of view, the Chinese civilization has formed a relatively stable territory for a long time, and does not have the same aggressiveness as the Western civilization. From a practical point of view, we should fully learn the lesson of the West that relying on aggression and plunder to maintain prosperity will not end well in the end.

After all, China is a vast country with a population larger than that of the entire Western world. It is impossible for a mega-country as China to take the parasitic route of the West. A decaying world drained of blood is not in our favor, and striving to maintain a peaceful, orderly, prosperous, and progressive world is what will really make China stronger and stronger.

The Chinese people have hatred for the invaders, and revenge has its own rationality and necessity. Historical experience has fully told us that after the victory, the so-called tolerance and generosity of posturing is not only an injustice to the sacrifices of our forefathers, but also to sow the seeds of trouble for the future. But what we are asking for is a reckoning with the sins of history, a correction, not a quest to become the next hegemon. We have personally experienced the strength and decline of American hegemony. This abuse of power not only caused deep suffering to the world, but also accelerated the decay of the empire itself. This is something we need to learn from, not aspire to.

After 25 years of rapid development, I think contemporary China itself illustrates that the problem of the contemporary world is not primarily a lack of productivity, but an unfair distribution of production. As mentioned earlier, China is both a victim of hegemonic bullying in international distribution and a developing country that suffered the erosion of global capital and liberalism.

As China continues to develop, some of the increasingly intense social contradictions and ideological alienation in contemporary China can no longer be viewed simply as a repetition of Western social problems. Liberalism and capitalism are infringing on the country’s tradition and the foundation of existence. It is necessary to make great efforts to eradicate them.

From the standpoint of the Chinese people, fighting the final madness at the end of hegemony and resisting the continuous erosion of late liberalism are equally important tasks in the contemporary era. After a long period of precipitation, endurance, development, and discernment, the truly mature Chinese society’s vengeance is not directed against any specific country but against the imperialist system and late capitalism that alienated our world. We have already suffered in our development process, and we should not repeat it or even contribute to it. We have to be highly alert to the fact that some corrupting forces and trends of thought can be parasitizing and even taking over us after the collapse of Western hegemony.

Time has flown. If we start from 1840, the Chinese people have gone through two hundred years of resistance and struggle. As the children of this era, the greatest successor of the new century, we Chinese should not be caught up in a mere cycle of hegemony and hatred.

We should summarize the lessons of history in a timely manner and strive to explore and seek a fairer and more reasonable world. As a generation that has grown up from suffering, we should be even more vigilant in fighting for a new world that is fairer, more just and more conducive to the well-being of all humankind.

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The China Academy Picks
Top picks selected by the China Academy's editorial team from Chinese media, translated and edited to provide better insights into contemporary China.
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