Migration and changes in borders are the historical norm. Sometimes an empire will be established in a piece of land; sometimes it will be divided into different countries. For instance, Europe’s “indigenous people” were forced to move to the West because of the immigration from Central Asia. Different countries raised and fell, different nations melted and separated, until they shaped today’s world. But today we do not hear Western European countries telling Eastern European countries: “This land of yours belonged to XX country since antiquity”.
But the citizens of some big country from the East, who have been learning their imaginary views on history for almost one century, do not hold that Western idea of “the history that has transpired in this land”, or their own old notions of “All Under Heaven/Dynastic History”, but the “‘since antiquity’ historical view”. The “‘since antiquity’ historical view” has had a great success in the last 20 or 30 years, being deeply engrained in the “small brains” of the citizens of that big country.
What is the meaning of this “‘since antiquity’ historical view”? Let’s put ourselves in the following situations:
– Historically, all the territories that once were ‘within our hands’ are ours (This is of course the double standard of bully the good and fear the evil, for instance, when confronting Russia).
– Historically, the places where our common people fished are ours (For instance, the Spratly or the Senkaku Islands).
– Although never ruled before, places where our people took refuge are ours (For instance, Taiwan).
– You write sinograms, then you are Chinese and your land is ours.
In today’s East Asia, it can be said that, since antiquity, there has been no China, because China is an illusion, a “make up” from late Qing Dynasty. The ancient meaning of “Zhongguo” was not “China”. In the last two thousand years different nations and many countries have appeared in East Asia. Taking the territory we call today China as an example, the Han, Huns, Turks, Tangut, Xianbei, Khitans, Jurchens, Mongolians, Bai, Yue, Tibetan, etc. all appeared separately and the states they built were sometimes within the frontiers of today’s China, many of them extending from outside to its interior.
The so-called “Han race” that forms the majority of the population of the states today occupied by the People’s Republic of China is also an illusion. The Han of today and the Han of antiquity are significantly different. About one thousand years after the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280), the North of the Yangtze River was inhabited by hunters and nomads who were Khitans, Xianbei, Tangut, or Jurchen, among others, and with the exception of the area of the Southern Five Ranges, the remaining regions were mostly non-Han. Therefore, the huge number of Han claimed today is another illusion: they are just people living within the boundaries of the Chinese language. Was the poet Li Po a Han? Since according to research he was born in Kyrgyzstan, he may have been Xianbei. We can only say that he was someone living within the boundaries of Chinese culture.
Making things up begins with imagination. “Chinese people” have good imagination, therefore they have good creativity. They did not only made many exotic foods and different kinds of television “oratorio”, but they are even better at making up history. Every day we hear Chinese people censoring how the “distortion of history” advocated by the Japanese dilutes history, but at least they are not making it up. Chinese people will not distort history. They hold a higher standard and will not only make up the history of a dead person, but they are even better at making up the history of living people, just to tell you afterwards: “Hey! This is something you experienced. If I say it is, it’s so”.
During the Battle of Hong Kong, Commonwealth soldiers from Hong Kong, England, Canada, India, etc. fought against the Japanese troops for eighteen days, and the Governor and senior officials remained in Hong Kong until the end. Some were sent to concentration camps for a few years and almost got killed. At the time, with Japanese troops being dragged into the battle, the Chinese Communist Party took advantage of this situation to strengthen itself. In recent years a petty official has told Hongkongers the following story: The Commonwealth soldiers left without a fight and the Governor was scared and wanted to leave. He shamelessly told this made up story to the actual surviving veterans.
There is another of such stories told by a petty official: That before 97, British people used to bully Hongkongers and they lived without dignity. Is there anyone who can be clearer about that than we, the people who live in Hong Kong, are? Before 97 we lived with more dignity than Chinese people and, measured in terms of financial resources, Hongkongers had more dignity than British people.
Today, the “Taiwan Affairs Office” in China denounces Lee Teng-hui’s speech as a “deranged vision of history”. From the angle of the “since antiquity’ historical view”, if you talk about historical facts then your historical views are deranged. Just like the aforementioned examples, if it is a place nearby that was once used as refuge by their own people, then it is not important who ruled that land before and all those historical facts can be swept away. During its Japanese rule, the Taiwanese people were subjects of the Great Japanese Empire and, during the war, they fought together with the Japanese against the Chinese. The Allied forces and the Republic of China also bombed the enemy in that territory: Taiwan. How can Taiwan be against Japan? A 22 years old Iwasato Masao (Japanese name of Lee Teng-hui) was not a Japanese citizen, Was he then from the enemy country –a citizen of the Republic of China? Not to mention those related to the People’s Republic of China, which had yet to appear.
Those long divided shall be united; those long united shall be divided -that is the historical norm. Moreover, all these divisions and unions will barely happen within fixed boundaries. “Since antiquity” is just the onanistic spirit of self-deception. If every country in the world wanted to follow this idea of “since antiquity”, Mongolia would want to recover the whole Chinese territory. Vietnam would want to recover the provinces of Canton and Guangxi, Germany would want to recover Poland, the Vatican would want to recover more than a half of Italy, Thailand would want to recover Laos, and Cambodia would want to recover Thailand, Iran would want to recover all the Middle East until North India, and so on.
In 1899 British troops occupied Shenzhen in the North (South of Buji) for about six months. If we follow the “‘since antiquity’ point of view”, we can also say that half of Shenzhen has been our “indivisible sacred territory since antiquity”.
If that would be the case, the world would become a very interesting place.