Jingo Unchained: Big Trouble with China Rising?

In the haze of the morning, China sits on Eternity
And the opium farmers sell dreams to obscure fraternities
On the horizon the curtains are closing.
— Brian Eno, “China my China,” from the album Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, 1974

It’s a crazy and dangerous World out there, by Jingo!  By now we’ve all heard what they’re saying, experts like Doc Fauci and friends:  “If the coronavirus doesn’t get ya, then the giant Asian ‘murder’ hornets will!”  Yikes!  What’s next:  an infestation of tiny totalitarians telling us all to wear masks everywhere and shut up about whatever’s going on?  Well, as a scientist once told me, while curiously genuflecting  — I believe there was a Church or Science Building in the background:  “Always remember to have faith in the facts!”

Indeed, the fact of the Asian “murder” hornet (Vespa mandarinia) following so quickly upon the coronavirus outbreak is certainly quite disconcerting to say the least.  One is tempted to ask:  Could these monstrous Asian insects be the dreaded “second wave” of COVID-19?

To understand this new threat, which probably — however accidentally — escaped from an insect-weaponizing lab in Wuhan, China, it is essential to establish a basic correlation.  Take the “Africanized” or “killer bee” invasion a few decades ago, for example, which bears striking ideo-morphic wing marks to the current Asian “murder” hornet menace.

Although Wikipedia is generally known to depress one’s cognitive immune system, this quote from the “Africanized bee” entry is nevertheless illuminating:  “The result of mating between Africanized drones and European queens is almost always Africanized offspring.”  This statement reveals a truly remarkable degree of racial stereotyping, or deep cultural bias.  Simply stated, the “Africanized” bees are seen as far more aggressive than their presumably more well-mannered, or civilized, “European” counterparts.  This objectively racialized logic can similarly be seen in the standardized view that Barack Obama was America’s first “black” president.  In fact, it is entirely more accurate to describe Obama as either half-white or half-black; or, to label the current hack half-occupying the Oval Office’s predecessor, Obama, as America’s first “black” president is wrong by — let’s just say 50%.  In effect, this erroneous characterization unduly “Africanizes” the former president. (Incidentally, it is worth noting in this context that the “Africanized killer bees” were unleashed by accident from a laboratory in Brazil in 1956; future historians may very well chronicle our times based on bio-chemical weapons lab mishaps, perhaps…)

Certainly, an alarmingly loud buzz of racialization and xenophobia surrounds this latest existential threat phenomenon, the gargantuan Asian “murder” hornet.  We could just call it the next phase of the “Yellow Peril 2.0, 2020.”  Of course, anti-Asian sentiment is a well-worn trope in the West; however, “sentiment” is far-too-mild a term here, particularly in the frame of the last two centuries.  A rabid hostility indistinguishable from clinical insanity leading to genocide would be a far more technically apt description, given the historical record.  As American power gathered steam in the late 19th century, three ideo-morphic strands in particular converged to shape what would become known as the “American Century”:  the “Yellow Press,” “Yellow Peril,” and Jingoism.

In 1898, a “foaming at the mouth” “Yellow Press” drove a reluctant president McKinley into a war of conquest against the decrepit Spanish Empire. Besides Puerto Rico and Cuba, the United States acquired the near-Asian Philippine archipelago, where countless atrocities by American military occupiers against Filipino resisters soon ensued.  By the early 1900s, then, a WASPy flag of unusual cruelty by Americans had been planted in the Far East.  (One could also cite the American-led overthrow of the Hawai’ian monarchy in 1893 as another precursor to the coming American war against Asians in the 20th century, as well as the Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901.)

The war against Asian people was delayed, despite early 20th century European cocktail party chat that this would be the next big thing. In reality, the 1914-18 European war was the next big thing, as things turned out.  American writer Barbara Tuchman lays out these expectations of an American-Asian war  in The Zimmermann Telegram (1958), which recounts how Germany tried to induce Japan to invade the United States through Mexico as a means to obstruct further American investment in the so-called “Great War.”  Interestingly enough, although famous fake “Orientalist” Quentin Quarantino will never make a movie about it, the Japanese actually fought and defeated some Imperial Germans during la Guerre.  However, even though the Japanese were considered an “ally” during the 1914-18 conflict, they were treated like an “enemy” at the Versailles Treaty — apparently on account of their die Gelbe Gefahr! status in Euro-American eyes. 

The seemingly inevitable American-Asian War finally began — abruptly, and with a vengeance — at Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941, and eventually ended — as infamously for the Americans as it had begun — on April 30, 1975, with the Saigon embassy evacuation.  This 30 year Race War against Asian people reveals a telling trajectory, and ultimately established a certain limit to American Imperial power.  Indeed, we can see this metaphorically in terms of a three-act play.  In the first act, the Americans triumph over an Asian powerhouse, Imperial Japan; in the second, the Americans settle for an uncomfortable non-decision on the Korean Peninsula; and, finally, in the third, the Americans discover that they can’t napalm their way to victory over the Vietnamese, and the defeated and demoralized American “jingo go home,” so to speak.

During this period, 1941-1975, it is notable that the United States hurled all manner of WMD at continental Asians:  the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; tens of thousands of tons of napalm on the Korean Peninsula; and even more napalm, along with a new sick twist, the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, on Vietnam. Somehow, the “Yellow Peril” not only prevailed, but has proceeded to attain a visible degree of prosperity in the intervening half-century since 1975, whereas its unchosen nemesis, the American Leviathan, seems to be merely flailing its tentacled arms to no discernible purpose — and now more than ever — as if it’s finally lost its genocidal, jingo mind.

Of course, the final curtain has not yet closed on the American jingo juggernaut.  After the Asian War fiasco, America took a too shallow breath.  Looking around in the late 1970s, it appeared that the finances were not too good.  This led, quite irrationally, to a massive replenishment of the War Chest during the 1980s.  The Giant Jingo began beating said chest in earnest again when it found a new Orientally despotic threat in the Marquis de Saddam of Iraq in 1990, and–“Behold!” — a new genocidal war was born, this time against Arab people.  From a 2020 perspective, this war in the Greater Middle East, an expression which I believe Andrew Bacevich coined, has already stretched — how now! — another whopping 30 years (although I believe Mr Bacevich is quite correct to call it a 40 year war, in light of the 1980 Carter Doctrine, generally accredited to Zbgniew Brzezinski, which essentially applied the Monroe Doctrine to the Persian Gulf).

Today, Uncle Sam has caught a wicked cold, which many claim he got from China, although in reality it probably came from all that paper he’s been printing to coronavirus — I mean, “cover” — his staggeringly massive debts.  Nevertheless, the jingos are at it again, and a new “Yellow Peril” campaign is being spun with, of course, a compliantly hawkish “Yellow Press” doing the spinning — or nasty wheezing, as the case may be.  It remains to be seen whether the increasingly decrepit Imperial Geezer will make another genocidal mess out of his most recent jingo-all-the-way “Pivot to Asia.”  War is, if History tells us anything, always a Fatal Distraction.

In coda, it seems fitting to return to the existential mood of the 1970s and quote a couple lines from a rock song that were most likely inspired by the American experience in Vietnam, but also have some degree of application to the present moment:

I’ve watched the dogs of war enjoying their feast
I’ve seen the Western world go down in the East
— Black Sabbath, “Hole in the Sky,” from the album Sabotage, 1975 (lyrics probably by bassist Geezer Butler)

Who knows that this is not now coming to pass — or, indeed, if it already has?  Bzzzzzzzzzzz…

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at bartlebydick@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Todd.