井底之蛙

7/23/2006

Yellow Peril

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:38 am

I’ve been re-reading some Jack London stories of late, and being struck by the Chinese in them. There are actually a lot of Chinese, as the areas he tended to write about were all on the Pacific Rim. Usually his Chinese are inscrutable but intelligent and hard-working. There was one story in particular I remembered, and as I looked around on the web I found that it was called “THE UNPARALLELED INVASION.” According to Clarice Staz this is a story of the “invasion of the U.S. by China and combat by bacteriological warfare.”, but this is not quite accurate as a plot summary. Quite the contrary.
London begins by explaining why Western imperialism has failed to transform China.

What they had failed to take into account was this: THAT BETWEEN THEM AND CHINA WAS NO COMMON PSYCHOLOGICAL SPEECH. Their thought- processes were radically dissimilar. There was no intimate vocabulary. The Western mind penetrated the Chinese mind but a short distance when it found itself in a fathomless maze. The Chinese mind penetrated the Western mind an equally short distance when it fetched up against a blank, incomprehensible wall. It was all a matter of language. There was no way to communicate Western ideas to the Chinese mind. China remained asleep.

So how could China awaken? This is a question that would have interested lots of Chinese nationalists, but I think they would not have liked London’s answer. (more…)

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