I recently witnessed a scholar informing his audience that Xi Jinping’s genocidal inclination towards the Uygurs distinguishes his regime from its Imperial Chinese forerunners who displayed no such maniacal tendencies, despite their cruelties. I objected that on the contrary Imperial China had been the author of multiple genocides of subject peoples over the millennia. He ignored me. . . .
Many would argue that we’re already deep into a post-fact era and the battle to actually remember anything but the blandest contours of our few millennia of human history has long since been ceded to a postmodern elite obsessed with facile disputes over race, victimology and their own most immediately accessible personal feelings. They’re probably right. But I find it hard to care. I’m too disagreeable and I owe too many of my intellectual debts and loyalties to humans whose time on earth never overlapped mine anyway. I can’t bend myself to the vapid ethos of this ahistorical age I happen to live in. I remember and remember and remember. It’s probably no use, but it’s what I do.
You’re here reading me, so odds are, you do, too. Many among the 1.4 billion humans behind the Great Chinese firewall defied censors to mourn an early Covid coverup whistleblower’s death, gathered for hours clamoring for any insight about their government’s pogroms against the Uygurs when a tiny door briefly opened on Clubhouse, and struggle futilely to know anything surrounding the 1989 events of Tiananmen Square or a thousand other moments unflattering to the Chinese regime’s self image. But us? We do it to ourselves. No one’s surveilling us to keep us from reading or remembering. We do it to ourselves.
The rest of the piece described the Qing state and its genocidal war against the Dzungar Mongols in the 18th century. It's on Substack but Khan's is set up to allow you to read a couple of posts for free, should you be curious.