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Ghosts of Imperialist Wars Past: China's Tourist Hot Spots Today

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Beijing—Modern China continues to rise. But ancient China remains. And bears witness to a history the West would prefer to forget.

The Summer Palace is one of Beijing’s most enchanting tourist destinations, ranked third by visitors. Covering 860 acres, the grounds include lakes, islands, dikes, gardens, gates, pavilions, walks, bridges, hills, temples, fountains, causeways, and lots of water lotuses. Some of the old buildings are in ruins—courtesy of the Western powers.

Imperial China long was a cultured and advanced civilization. The dominant power in Asia, it eventually turned inward and fell into decay. By the 1800s the Western powers had begun to carve out concessions and colonies. Even then the seeming illimitable markets of China awakened dreams of trade and profit.

History helps explain Beijing’s policies and politics today.”

The desires of the Chinese people did not enter into the consideration of Western democracies, which at home claimed to represent their populations. Of course, that was no different from how the Chinese people’s own rulers treated them.

The emperor was served by an army of attendants living in the famed Forbidden City. The Summer Palace was meant to ease the life of the royal family in a world before air conditioning. Nothing was too good for those at the top.

The gardens and palace first were created in the 12th century. Starting in 1750 Emperor Qianlong deployed designers to capture various styles around China and tens of thousands of workers to bring the latter’s plans to life, establishing what he called the Garden of Clear Ripples, also eventually called the Old Summer Palace. In 1886 the Empress Dowager Cixi (Tzu-his in Chinese) used funds planned for a navy to rebuild the royal playground. At least she constructed a large and impressive marble boat.

She called the site the Garden of Peace and Harmony, an appropriate name, except for the garden’s unwanted guests. In 1860 during the Second Opium War French and British troops destroyed most of what is now called the Old Summer Palace. The British High Commissioner to China ordered the action after two British envoys were tortured and several of their escorts were murdered. The allies erected a sign stating: “This is the reward for perfidy and cruelty.”

In 1900 came the Boxer Rebellion, named for the violent xenophobic, spiritual movement named the “Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” The Boxers targeted foreigners, especially missionaries, and Chinese Christians. The revolt, supported by the Empress …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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