Written by Frank Li
In a previous post (Human History: the West vs. the East), I highlighted human history in the context of the West vs. the East over the past 5,000 years. This post will go a little deeper, focusing on several 25-year periods over the past 200 years.
Twenty-five years are a long time in human life, but only an instant in human history. Nevertheless, there have been numerous 25-year periods in human history that have much more significance than others. Here are 10 examples over the past 200 years:
China: 1839 – 1864
America: 1840 – 1865
China: 1865 – 1890
America: 1866 – 1891
Japan: 1869 – 1894
Germany: 1914 – 1939
China: 1951 – 1976
America: 1964 – 1989
China: 1978 – 2003
America: 1989 – 2014
Now, let me elaborate on each
1. China: 1839 – 1864
China had been in a steep decline since 1800, at least. During the 25 years from 1839 to 1864, two big events happened in China:
Two Opium Wars: China lost hugely to the British. For more, read:
First Opium War (1839 – 1842)
Second Opium War (1856 – 1860)
Taiping Rebellion: It was a massive civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864.
2. America: 1840 – 1865
During this period, two significant events happened in America:
Massive expansion to the West: The U.S. almost doubled its size (List of U.S. states by date of statehood), while Mexico was halved in size.
The American Civil War: It finally addressed the issue of slavery, which was against every founding principle of the U.S.!
3. China: 1865 – 1890
China continued to decline. However, China did learn one big lesson from the numerous war losses to the European invaders: It must develop its own Navy, which meant buying many war ships from Europe (e.g. Germany) and sending some of the brightest young men to the British Naval Academy to study naval warfare.
Unfortunately for China, its government was totally corrupted to the core. For example, Empress Dowager Cixi was so bad that she diverted a large portion of the Chinese Navy’s budget to the construction of her Summer Palace (pictured below), with severe repercussions later in the First Sino-Japanese War (to be described in Section 5).
4. America: 1866 – 1891
With the key issue (i.e. slavery) between the South and the North settled through the Civil War, America focused on linking its West with its East, with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 as the most significant achievement.
[click on image to enlarge]
From the Chesapeake Bay (Jamestown Settlement) to San Francisco Bay, America, finally, became a “complete” country, coast to coast with powerful railways! America started rolling fast, surpassing China as the largest economy on earth around 1890.
5. Japan: 1869 – 1894
Japan was literally a copy of China for thousands of years until 1868, when Japan begun the Meiji Restoration, while China continued to decline. Japan modernized itself so much and so fast that the “little” Japan launched a war against the “mighty” China in 1894 (First Sino-Japanese War) and won: Japan destroyed the Chinese Navy’s North Fleet and occupied a part of China (and Korea)! East Asia was irrevocably changed …
Here is an analogy to help my fellow Americans understand the humiliation China suffered: Consider the American Civil War, many top officers of the Union Army and the Confederate States Army graduated from West Point. They fought on the opposite sides and the big guy (i.e. the North) won! Many officers of the Japanese Navy and the Chinese Navy were not only graduates of, but also classmates at, the British Naval Academy. They fought on the opposite sides, but the little guy (i.e. Japan) won!
For more about Japan, read: America: What is Japan, Anyway?
6. Germany: 1914 – 1939
During this period, Germany launched two world wars (WWI and WWII). Two notes:
Democracy and dictatorship are not automatically mutually exclusive. For example, Adolf Hitler was a democratically elected leader, but became a de facto dictator, causing, arguably, the most damage to mankind in human history!
With good productivity, Germany rose quickly from the ashes of WWI to become powerful enough to launch WWII!
It’s critical for Americans to study this period’s history, as a tool to prevent another world war!
7. China: 1951 – 1976
The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was a great event for the Chinese (as well as for the world): the people finally had their own country! The only problem was that the people had neither experience nor ideas about how to build anything – The bourgeois did, but most of them were wiped out by the people! As a result, one of the darkest periods in China’s history ensued, with so much self-destruction (e.g. Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution) that it was probably one of the darkest periods in human history as well.
8. America: 1964 – 1989
Starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, America morphed itself into the Great Society, which became the envy of the world. Unfortunately, it was a bubble, with many seeds sowed for a spectacular failure later. For more, read: Civil Rights Act: 50 Years Later.
9. China: 1978 – 2003
This was certainly one of the brightest periods in human history: China lifted some 400 million people out of poverty and became the third largest economy in the world, thanks to “state capitalism.”
For more about China, read: America: What is China, Anyway?
10. America: 1989 – 2014
This is the period of China’s astronomical rise, which, not coincidentally, coincides with America’s steep decline, especially after the turn of the 21st century. In other words, China has been rising as communism falls and capitalism thrives there, while the U.S. has been declining as capitalism falls and democracy thrives here.
Like communism, democracy is a failed human doctrine! Three informative readings:
The examples above are snapshots of recent human history. Together they illustrate one point: huge changes have happened in several 25-year periods, for good or bad!
History is written by, and about, the victors. Today, the world would not have cared about China without its spectacular coming back over the past 25 years. In contrast, Americans should be deeply concerned about America’s steep decline …
Study the past in order to divine the future!
What about the next 25 years for China? It will continue to march forward like an army, with good and strong leadership at the top. For more, follow my future publications.
What about the next 25 years for America? It’s difficult to be optimistic with America in a steep downward trajectory …
God bless America for the next 25 years and far beyond! For more, read my book: The GOP Bible for 2016.
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