Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution.
— Mao Zedong 毛澤東
This quotation is from ‘Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society’, a 1925 document in which Mao Zedong proposed a sociological and strategic framework for the Chinese revolution. The friend-enemy dilemma 敵我矛盾 has been at the heart, and articulation, of Chinese politics ever since. Seen through a Maoist glass darkly in many respects it continues to characterise personal, social, cultural, commercial and international relationships. Friend-enemy builds on pre-existing socio-cultural forces and adds to Chinese ways of expressing relationships.
Since the imperial era when aggressive global trading powers expanded into China, that country has often been war with itself, as well as with its others. These conflicts are expressed in stark terms and in the black-and-white language of extremes.
Are you for us or against us? In the twenty-first Age of Extremes this question is hardly limited to the People’s Republic, although in China the language of loyalty is freighted with ancient ideas and ways of speaking. This reading attempts to offer some insight into aspects of that tradition, conflicts within it and continuities.
- Conflicted Loyalties