‘Down the road of past dynasties’

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‘Down the road of past dynasties’

The author is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

On June 28, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan. It’s been over two years since Covid-19 started. Xi said he had the ability to execute zero-Covid. “The consequence of taking a disease control measure such as achieving “herd immunity” in China, a country with a large population, the consequence would be unimaginable,” he said. “I cannot harm the lives and health of the people even if the economic development is affected for a while.” Xi said the zero-Covid policy is a political issue, not economic, adding it was confirmed by the Party Central Committee.

There are two noteworthy books about the Ming Dynasty falling into the paradox of successful disease control with “zero plague” in the 14th century. In May, Kyodo Prefectural University Professor Takashi Okamoto published “What is Ming Dynasty.” He wrote that Emperor Hongwu, founder of the Ming Dynasty, had the ultimate goal of directly controlling the common people. “The emperor’s educational texts, Six Maxims, eventually led to indoctrination such as Mao Zedong’s sayings and Xi Jinping’s thoughts,” the author wrote.

He claimed that the political, economic and social structure of the 300 years of the Ming Dynasty are connected to the present in many ways structurally, and modern China’s current system and behaviors are affected by the historical background and legacy.

A Chinese scholar also paid attention to the Ming Dynasty. Zhao Xianhai, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, proposed the analytic frame of “Two-faced China” in “Ming Dynasty at the Crossroad” in 2021. “The private sector led the world economy and culture at that time, but the regime did not waver by the new trend and adhered to the great tradition and inertia,” he wrote.

At the end of Ming, China’s Jiangnan region’s commodity economy led the early globalized economic system, but politically, the financial crisis from the risks in the border region caused social unrest and military and peasant uprisings as the agricultural tax was raised. The author described that prosperity of a society and decline of a state, vitality of the private sector and rigidity of politics were the chronic two faces of China.

Hong Kong critic Derek Yuen cited Okamoto and Zhao and said, “Looking at the other side of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang forcibly dividing politics and economics and being confrontational, China seems to be going down the old road of the past dynasties.”

In Chinese history, politics often dominated economy. Can China get over the reincarnation of history? This is a task not just for China but for the mankind.
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