Self-Healing from Imperialism

What happens when two of the world’s most rapidly developing and most populated nations rework capitalism so that it fits with their political and cultural identities? Zakaria makes the case that this is happening in China (“The Dragon”) and India (“The Cow”). Throughout the text, I became uncomfortable as I pondered the tactics that China and India are using to become important world players in the political and economic scenes. Both nations have catapulted themselves from poor, rural nations to industrialized, urbanized ones. They have done so by incorporating many of the same tactics as Western imperialists. China has turned to African nations for trade and resources and India is trying to develop nuclear power. Have India and China gone from bullied to bully? Have they sold out?

I don’t want to make the claim that these countries have “sold out” and have become as imposing as Western nations have in the past. Rather, I want to postulate that these actions could be seen as a way for China and India to self-heal from the torment of imperialism and humiliation of a low global status. In this theory, the final step in a nation’s break from being colonized and humiliated is to become the colonizers and those that inflict the humiliation.

While China is not literally colonizing Africa as had England, its heavy presence in Africa can be described above all as “capitalist.” It has no qualms over selling platinum and iron ore to Zimbabwe’s President, Mugabe, “which he uses to intimidate, arrest, and kill domestic opposition” (Zakaria 131). In this example and in others listed in chapter four, China comes across as a shrewd, dollar-first capitalist nation that scours the globe for markets and resources—just like imperialist governments in the past. For a Communist nation, I find this to be ironic and hypocritical. How can China show pride in its rising influence when its dealings with Africa echo former Western involvement? As postulated previously, I think that psychologically—that is, if the term “psychologically” can apply to an entire nation’s consciousness—China may need to wield this influence in order to aid its self-esteem that was damaged from years of loss of status under Mao. By being a major economic presence in Africa, China builds up its confidence by dealing with impoverished nations with often corrupt officials (according to Zakaria).

Similarly, India’s demand for its nuclear capabilities to be categorized with the other powers instead of being considered “illegal” seems to be motivated by pride instead of pragmatism. Britain and China are amongst the 5 nations that are “allowed” to possess nuclear technology. If its nuclear plants had to be maintained by International Atomic Energy Agency, this would be a significant humiliation for India. In this theory I have asserted, India cannot “psychologically” see itself below Britain, or else it might interfere with India’s self-healing process as a nation trying to recover from centuries-long imperialism.

This is not to condemn China and India’s actions. By far, America has acted much more atrocious while pursuing its endeavors as a modern superpower.


On another note, here is an interesting article that can help us understand the character of Zakaria:

One thought on “Self-Healing from Imperialism

  1. caalamo

    I like the connections that you are making here between new emerging forms of imperialism and competing imperialisms. I am also really struck by how much your post is, in some ways, more a critique of capitalist enterprise than imperialism per se. Reading the post reminded me of Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” where he argued that capitalism will balloon to such epic proportions that it will essentially build its own grave. I think Zakaria’s discussion of China and India help to highlight this projection. The immense populations of poor and displaced workers, which Zakaria devotes little attention to, might help to show how uneven the capitalist development that Zakaria is talking about is and how in the end, Marx might still be right.

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