The ‘Who pushed me’ question …lessons from China’s growing global influence


By Special Matarirano

THERE is a story of a king who ruled a very big kingdom and had a very beautiful daughter. 

A lot of men had attempted to coax for her hand in marriage but none were successful. 

One day the king assembled all the men who thought they deserved his daughter and took them to a big river where he stood on a high platform to streamline the qualities of a man who would be the perfect partner for his daughter.  

Married men, women and children of the kingdom were all watching from the mountaintops. 

Before announcing what he wanted to tell all these suitors, the king summoned his servants to bring drums of meat which he took and threw into the river. 

To the shock of the entire kingdom, there was swarms of gigantic crocodiles, jumping to catch the meat in mid-air. The king looked at all the men standing before him and saw the bereft faces that stared at him. 

He announced: “A man who will cross this river will marry my daughter.”

Before he even finished talking, someone had already dived into the water, swimming across the river. 

Cheers erupted from the other men and those who stood watching from the mountaintops. 

But shock awaited everyone, for the man who had dived, the moment he reached the other side of the river angrily shouted: “Who pushed me into the river?” 

The rise of China has been attributed to the ‘push’ exerted on Beijing by Washington. 

The rise of China at the turn of the millennia has led scholars and researchers to strongly assert that the difference between the US, as a longtime incumbent of superpower status and China lie divided by their ‘Damascus Moments’ and the ‘Who pushed me’ question. 

A rundown of how it all started provides an academic intrigue on the longevity of the ‘push’ by US on China’s rise.

  • October 1948, Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong establishes the People’s Republic of China in Beijing after peasants backed the Communists defeat the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek. 

Chiang and thousands of his troops flee to Taiwan. 

The US — which backed the Nationalists against invading Japan during the Second World War — supports Chiang’s exiled Republic of China Government in Taipei, setting the stage for several a tension with mainland China.

  • June 1950, Soviet-backed North Korean People’s Army invades South Korea on June 25. 

The UN and US rush to South Korea’s defence. 

China, in support of the communist North retaliates when US and South Korean troops approach the Chinese border. 

As many as four million people die in the three-year conflict.

  • August 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower lifts the US navy blockade of Taiwan in 1953, leading Chiang Kai-shek to deploy thousands of troops to the Quemoy and Matsu islands in the Taiwan Strait in August 1954. Mainland China’s People’s Liberation Army responds by shelling the islands. 

Washington signs a mutual defence treaty with Chiang’s nationalists. 

  • In the spring of 1955, the US threatens a nuclear attack on China.
  • March 1959, nine years after the People’s Republic of China asserts control over Tibet, a widespread uprising occurs in Lhasa. 

Thousands die in the ensuing crackdown by security forces and the Dalai Lama flees to India. 

  • The US joins the UN in condemning Beijing for human rights abuses in Tibet, while the US’ CIA helps arm the Tibetan resistance beginning in the late 1950s.
  • October 1964, China joins the nuclear club when it conducts its first test of an atomic bomb. 

The test comes amid US-Sino tensions over the escalating conflict in Vietnam. 

By the time of the test, China has amassed troops along its border with Vietnam.

  • June 1989, thousands of students hold demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, demanding democratic reforms and an end to corruption. 

On June 3, the Government sends in military troops to clear the square, leaving hundreds of protesters dead. 

In response, the US Government suspends military sales to Beijing and freezes relations.

  • May 1999, NATO bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during its campaign against Serbian forces occupying Kosovo, shaking US-Sino relations. 

The US and NATO offer apologies for the series of US intelligence mistakes that led to the deadly bombing, but thousands of Chinese demonstrators protest throughout the country, attacking official US property.

  • April 2001, a US reconnaissance plane collides with a Chinese fighter and makes an emergency landing on Chinese territory. 

Authorities on China’s Hainan Island detain the 24-member US crew. 

March 2007, China announces an 18 percent budget increase in defence spending for 2007, totaling more than 

$45 billion and during a 2007 tour of Asia, US Vice-President Dick Cheney says China’s military build-up is ‘not consistent’ with the country’s stated goal of a ‘peaceful rise’.

  • September 2008, China surpasses Japan to become the largest holder of US debt — or treasuries — at around 

$600 billion and on August 2010 China surpasses Japan as the world’s second-largest economy after it is valued at $1,33 trillion for the second quarter of 2010, slightly above Japan’s $1,28 trillion for that year. 

China is on track to overtake the US as the world’s number one economy.

  • February 2012, the US trade deficit with China rises from $273,1 billion in 2010 to an all-time high of $295,5 billion in 2011. The increase accounts for three-quarters of the growth in the US trade deficit for 2011.
  • May 19, 2014, a US court indicts five Chinese hackers, allegedly with ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army, on charges of stealing trade technology from US companies. 

In response, Beijing suspends its cooperation in the US-China cybersecurity working group.

March 22 2018, the Donald Trump administration announces sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports, worth at least $50 billion, in response to what the White House alleges is Chinese theft of US technology and intellectual property. 

China imposes retaliatory measures in early April on a range of US products, stoking concerns of a trade war between the world’s largest economies. 

Vice-President Mike Pence says the US will prioritise competition over cooperation by using tariffs to combat ‘economic aggression’.

  • July 22 2020, the US orders China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, alleging it was a hub of espionage and intellectual property theft. 

China condemns the order and retaliates by closing the US consulate in Chengdu.

  • On Trump’s last day in office, Mike Pompeo declares that China is committing crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic group primarily from China’s Xinjiang region. 
  • After Trump’s term ends, Beijing imposes sanctions on 28 of his administration’s former officials, including Pompeo, for what the foreign ministry calls ‘crazy actions’ that ‘seriously disrupted US-China relations’.

From time immemorial US adopted a ‘contemplative, presumptive guilt tag’ on China from the time China had a closed economy to the contemporary trade wars between the two. 

The ‘who pushed me’ resonates within the US’s foreign policy and is the major reason for US downfall, analysts have pointed.

Thus, the Damascus Moment for China has equivalence to the biblical account of the conversion of Saul in the Acts of the Apostles. 

Saul conformed to Paul the moment a brighter light lit his way and a voice gave him a choice to make. 

He obeyed the opportunity. 

China obeyed the rivalry, the confrontation and China is busy taking strides to establish and create what they call ‘a conducive environment for China’s rise’.


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