October 13, 2018

Crossing between the Great Wall of China and the ‘Great’ Trump Wall



The Great Wall of China / Photo by Severin Stalder, Wikimedia Commons


Can a border wall really deter invaders and crossers alike, while defending, unifying, and maintaining the “purity” of the culture that it encircles?


By Dr. Mimi Yang / 11.14.2017
Professor of Modern Languages and Asian Studies
Carthage College


Abstract

Can a border wall really deter invaders and crossers alike, while defending, unifying, and maintaining the “purity” of the culture that it encircles? The first Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC) and his successors in the following dynasties tried to achieve the purpose; the Great Wall of China testifies timelessly to such epic efforts. Have the Chinese rulers succeeded? The question has become increasingly daunting and unanswerable as history unfolds and evolves. Ironically, over more than two millennia, the piecemeal erection of the Great Wall has indeed sequenced a ‘wall-DNA’ in a cultural blueprint. Fast forwarding to the 21st century America, we find ourselves asking the same questions when President Trump vows to build a “great, great” wall, physical and impenetrable on the US-Mexico border. The Trump Wall is designed to stop Mexican illegal immigrants entering the US so that Americans’ interests will be protected, English language will not be “contaminated”, and American values will not be challenged. The Trump wall sets out to delineate what America is and thus attempts to “make America great again”. In an intercultural engagement, this article decodes a wall-DNA in American culture, argues that the Trump wll is more of a mental construct than a physical one, and calls for a redefinition of a 21st century American cultural identity, in front of the Trump Wall.

Introduction

Jing Ke’s assassination attempt on Qin Shi Huang; Jing Ke (left) is held by one of Qin Shi Huang’s physicians (left, background). The dagger used in the assassination attempt is seen stuck in the pillar. Qin Shi Huang (right) is seen holding an imperial jade disc. One of his soldier (far right) rushes to save his emperor. Stone rubbing; 3rd century, Eastern Han / Wikimedia Commons

Can a border wall really deter invaders and crossers alike, while defending, unifying, and maintaining the “purity” of the culture that it encircles? In human history across cultures, there have been countless walls built to map out borders, demarcate a city, a state or an empire, and protect wall builders. The Great Wall of China is perhaps the most mammoth border wall ever built. Little had the Chinese wall builders—the rulers from the Qin dynasty in 221 BC to the Ming and successive dynasties—expected to see the reverberation of their mindsets and the replica of their architectural structures in the 45th US President Donald Trump and in the 21st century United States. When Trump made “a great, great” wall on the US-Mexico border his campaign signature, the American culture has been alerted to a closed and colossal wall-mindset, which evidently defines the Trump administration and becomes an actual wall project on the administration’s top priority list. Across the Pacific thousand miles way and across a time span of more than two millennia, the Great Wall of China and the “Great” Trump Wall meet in the midst of the resurgence of the neo-Nazi and the white supremacism, the anti-immigration sentiment, the Muslim ban, the transgender ban, the anti-Semitism wave, and the misogynic and sexist repercussions. Both also meet in front of the unlikely echoing and coalition among African–Americans, Jewish–Americans, Muslim Americans, Feminist Americans and many marginalized Americans. The racial unrest in Charlottesville has clearly revealed that the “Unite-the-Right” is emboldened by what has made Trump president and is fueled by his executive order for the US-Mexico border wall, among other executive orders to build other invisible walls. The “Unite-the-Right” gives rise to a cultural wall that intends to keep out any individual or group that is perceived as “less” American. In the face of the bigotry-filled cultural wall and cultural war, the Trumpian US-Mexico border wall becomes one that both physically and psychologically divides Americans more than protects them.

Rewinding the time machine back in 221 BC, the unification of China by the first emperor Qin Shihuang’s (259 BC–210 BC) meant the end of the chaotic and competing Warring States and the beginning of a coherently imperial and cultural identity. City walls and demarcations obstructing and defeating this purpose had to be torn down, rerouted, and connected to a newly erected great wall that intended to encircle and protect the entire empire. Thus the Great Wall of China emerged. From the inception of Chinese history, a wall embodies a culture, delineates a mindset, and defines/defends a collective identity. A wall is a construction of a narrative, a lineage, a heritage, and an ownership. The Great Wall of China was erected to respond to an imperial need for unity, identity, and a dynastic purpose for heritage. In fact, it was a piecemeal construction by successive Chinese rulers throughout their respective dynasties, particularly in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Through a history that spans more than 2000 years, myth and mystery, legends and stories, facts and fictions, have interwoven and surrounded a wall of a length of more than 13,000 miles, from east to west of China. Along the winding wall up and down, crawling branches and climbing vines of the tree of Chinese civilization have sprouted out from mountains, extended to grasslands, climbed up plateaus, and sunk deep into deserts. An unmistakable cultural DNA of the Chinese chromosomes has been sequenced and drawn on this iconic serpentine wall: it is the shape of a Wall-DNA.

Here, we ask therefore, what culture DNA was encoded in the Great Wall of China? How are these codes written on the “Great” Trump Wall?

We the Civilized and Superior vs. They the Barbarian and Inferior

The Kunyu Wanguo Quantu Map translated as “A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World” is the earliest known Chinese world map from Western Europe / Creative Commons

The name of “the Great Wall of China” is a misnomer in Western languages, although understandable given its length and magnitude. In Chinese, it is actually called “The Long City”–Chang Cheng ().  “Chang” means long and “Cheng,” city/state. In fact, “China” itself is another misnomer of epic proportion in the Western world. The country is called Zhong Guo (), meaning the Middle Kingdom in the Chinese language. Although the proper noun “Zhong Guo” or the “Middle Kingdom”Footnote1 had not entered into the Chinese language till after the fall of the last dynasty–the Great Qing–in 1912, the sense of being the focal point among neighboring kingdoms and the center of the world had been consistent throughout history. Needless to say, the Great Wall and the sense of a “Middle Kingdom” have always interplayed with one another in a cultural symbiosis. Like many civilizations, in ancient China, cities and states were walled around with watch towers, trenches and fortresses at the top or in between. The Great Wall is developed out of an earlier system of walled frontiers (Lattimore, 1937). Once the Warring States came to an end in 221 BC, the previous fortifications and ramparts between the Warring States and around their respective states and cities were dismantled or “remodeled.” Some were lengthened and enhanced; some rerouted and (re)connected. All was to serve a much larger purpose, that is, to encircle the newly unified LONG STATE, Chang Cheng (), and build a notion of the Middle Kingdom. Thus, the name Chang Cheng or the Great Wall as rendered in both Chinese and Western languages is inextricably, perhaps genetically, attached to the formation of a unified, magnified, and aggrandized Middle Kingdom, that is, Zhong Guo in modern Chinese language. Conversely, the Middle Kingdom in its original meaning signifies the core of a civilization located in the heart and center of the world. A center becomes a center only in relation to the periphery and the marginalized. The Middle Kingdom with its predominant Han descent can only remain meaningful in a perpetual relation to the peripheries, in this case, northern “barbarians” and nomadic people like Xiongnu, Qian, Li, and later the Mongols among others. The Sinocentric worldview divides the civilized and superior Han from the northern “barbarians” and “inferior.” We are the righteous and the truth; they are the evil and the less worthy. The us-vs-them paradigm needs a wall to give a shape, and most importantly, to hold onto in the course of unpredictable history and instable identity formation. Once the major line of the Great Wall has been established, the concept that the Frontier should be absolute and immovable is immediately applied to the cultural formation (Lattimore, 1937). The safety and interests of the Middle Kingdom not only need to be protected and defended but also accentuated and glorified with a mighty, symmetric, beautiful, and unbreakable wall. From its foundation, the Chinese culture is codified with a wall-DNA that gives birth to and frames a wall-mindset.

The on-going “Great” Trump Wall meets the Great Wall of China at the us-vs-them frontier and the we/they divide. More than two hundred years ago, the nation was created by a group of less-than-perfect human beings, but stood up to the mighty British imperial power with extraordinary vision and courage. They wrecked the wall that blocked their unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In liberating and separating themselves from the British, “we”/an American cultural identity became possible. This is the immortalized story of our Founding Fathers, the first wall wreckers in this Republic. In the meantime, ironically, they were also wall builders. Many of the Founding Fathers were slave owners and did not treat the blacks and the indigenous as their equals. Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and helped launch the Independence War, but then was determined to go back to his cherished Monticello plantation, where African slaves made his rights of liberty and pursuit of happiness possible. The wall between the white Founding Fathers and the black slaves was never eradicated in spite of the eloquence and the nobility of the ideal of democracy. In fact, this invisible wall—the southern slavery—had to be kept there to develop and vitalize the economy of the newly founded nation. From the inception, not unlike the Middle Kingdom of China, the United States as a nation was also germinated from a wall-DNA and a wall-mindset, which tore down one wall and erected another simultaneously. This is a nation born from the blood of the collision with the British imperial wall and sustained with the constantly regenerated blood from constant clashes with the unpassable racial wall. The players on the two sides of the wall shifted: first, the patriots vs. the British; then, the slave owners vs. the slaves; then, the north vs. the south, so on and so forth. There has never been a single serpentine wall to encircle the entire country (yet). Nonetheless, the US history has been built on incessantly deconstructive walls to always defend and protect one central and predominant group against other ones, with discrimination, bigotry, and violence. Someone had/has to rule and be the ruler, not everyone.

The Trump era has already witnessed a multitude of walls that divide, dichotomize, and confuse Americans and the world, because certain groups’ interests need to be protected, in the name of patriotism and national interest and also in the name of American culture. The Congress has just passed the bill on July 27, 2017 to approve $1.6 billion to spend on the wall on the US-Mexico border, aka, the Trump Wall. This is a wall that would connect and route previously built fences and fortifications during Bush and Obama administrations. However, this is also a physical wall that encapsulates a cultural wall, a racial wall, an economic wall, a psychological wall, and a mental wall. Resurgent white supremacy, white nationalism, alt-right, misogynic views, homophobia, Islamaphobia, xenophobia are laid brick by brick into the Trump Wall. It thus becomes a platform for these cultural elements to be connected and united and channeled towards the “Unite-the-Right.” The Trump Wall has its foundation cemented on fear, bigotry, and above all, fundamental intolerance for difference. A loud and clear message is written on the wall that immigrants (legal and illegal) steal jobs, exploit public services, and pose security risks. Underneath the structural resemblance, the Trump Wall resonates remarkably with the core purpose of the Great Wall of China: “border crossers” erode our national and imperial identity, and contaminate our culture and language; they must be stopped with a wall. This is a view widely held not only by many conservative and fear-driven individuals in the US but also throughout many immigrant-receiving countries. The Trump presidency fuels anti-immigration sentiment. The wall mindset unfolds with two familiar antagonist strands: us vs. them, in direct echoing with the Chinese framework. In the American political culture, the two strands are codified in the Trump Wall: we are an American culture and they are an alien culture. The Trump era enables the “we/us,” namely, the white supremacists/nationalists and the alt-right groups, to monopolize the American culture and identity, disregarding claims of ownership from other Americans who have been integral part in the nation’s history, economy, and culture. A Trumpian cultural atmosphere is in place for these “true” Americans to exercise their influence on a massive population of conservative and fear-driven individuals. Even civil servants and politicians are trapped in a fear-driven dichotomy of the national vs. the alien. Like a Chinese emperor, Trump operates the dichotomy to divide the multicultural and multiracial society and holds onto his support base of the “true” Americans as the center and the “Middle Kingdom.” The “Great” Trump Wall is set out to defend and protect the Trumpian “Middle Kingdom.”

The worldview from the center and the “Middle Kingdom” explains Trump’s position in the racial contention in Charlottesville. It was a fresh reminder that the racial wall is much alive; in fact, a building block on the Trump Wall. It turns the clock backward. When Trump blamed “many sides” equating neo-Nazis with counter-protesters, and praised “many very fine people” on both sides, he implied there are good neo-Nazis and good white supremacists. They are unapologetically energized by the “Great” Trump Wall. In the depth of his conscience, Trump cannot bring himself to explicitly denounce the groups that have been the most un-American but regard themselves as the “true” and “ultimate” Americans dwelling in the “Middle Kingdom” of American culture. They exclude everyone else of a different creed and a different skin color from the American cultural “Middle Kingdom.” They deem the African–Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim–Americans, Jewish–Americans, Asian–Americans… to be, at best, less or un-American, and at worst, terrorist, rapists, criminals, and bad “hombres.” Trump’s presidential victory has a support base in these “true” Americans, those who maintain till this day, explicitly or implicitly, that the white, English-speaking, and Protestants from northern European ancestry are owners of American culture, values and opportunities. Many of them are blue-collars unequipped with a college degree and feel left behind by the unprecedented globalization. They fail to recognize that the Trump Wall represents an ethnocentric mindset that appeals to the neo-Nazi, the white supremacist, and the alt-right groups in different degrees and within different contexts. Similar to the mindset of Qin Shihuang and the ones of the successive Chinese rulers, Trump’s political universe revolves around a “Middle Kingdom” comprised of the white power, white civilization, white supremacy, and conveniently, around the whiteness of our Founding Fathers. In his universe, any group of a different skin color, a different creed, and a different religion, does not fit well with his “Middle Kingdom.” We cannot help but remind ourselves of the Birther Movement that he championed and perpetuated against the nation’s first African–American president, who does not belong to his “Middle Kingdom” and therefore should be questioned and excluded.

The writing on the Trump Wall evidences Code 1 of the Wall-DNA: we-the-American vs. they-the-illegal/terrorist. If we are able to decipher and sequence the Wall-DNA code, it should not come as a surprise to confront the Muslim ban, the “Jews will not replace us” outcry, the transgender ban, the mock of the disabled, the misogynic presidential remarks, the racially profiled discrimination, and the anti-immigrants tension. Of course, these entities have to be excluded from the “Middle Kingdom” and pushed to the other side of the Trump Wall, in the same way that more than two thousand years ago, Xiongu, Qian, and Li among other nomads were thrown to the north side and the outside of the Great Wall of China, because of their “un-Chineseness,” un-worthiness, and un-fitness with the center of the civilization and the imperial power base. The “Great” Trump Wall meets the Great Wall of China in a mutual illustration and a mutual resonance, in spite of distance in time and space.

From Egocentrism to Ethnocentrism

NationOfChange

In a cultural sense, both the Great Wall of China and the Trump Wall are more of mental and psychological constructs than architectural and physical constructions. Both the first emperor of China Qin Shihuang and the 21st century American president Donald Trump share an inflated personal ego, reflected and magnified on these two walls.

Qin Shihuang, winner of history, considers himself to be the creator and center of the Qin Empire (later the Middle Kingdom), and the ruler of the rulers. His ego takes the shape, the height, and the length of the Great Wall. In return, the Great Wall embodies and immortalizes his egocentrism over a vast territory and along an immeasurable cultural heritage. Thus the individual egocentrism is morphed to a collectively shared and infinitely magnified one, that is, ethnocentrism. Qin Shihuang was born Ying Zheng, a prince of the State of Qin. After the conquest of the Warring States and the unification of China, he invented an immortalizing title Qin Shihuang for himself to secure his everlasting ownership of the vast Chinese territories, culture, heritage, and bloodline. Let’s get a close-up of the title. “Qin” is from Qin, one of the powerful Warring States, where he comes from. Thus, “Qin” stamps on and brands the Chinese civilization and cultural heritage with his origin, his DNA, and his bloodline. “Shi” means beginning or the very first, resonating with God’s creation story in the Genesis. Ying Zheng is the Commencing Emperor and anticipates a long line of successors to become the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, … and infinite emperors of the Qin Empire that he has unified, created, and branded. The newly unified Chinese people may care more about a repeatable symbol than a human emperor. It is a symbol who never dies and can fulfill over and over again the role for a cultural identity (Kopper, 1983). Qin Shihuang plays into this universal human element. So long as his succession line continues and gets symbolized with the ten-thousand-mileFootnote2 long line of the Great Wall, his name and his land will be inherited, embraced, protected, and immortalized by endless future generations. “Genetically”, the DNA of the Qin Empire has evolved to be known as the “Middle Kingdom” or Zhong Guo today. “Huang” (or “Huangdi”), equivalent to the Emperor or the Sovereign or the Supreme, supersedes and differentiates all previous titles of “king,” used by the rulers of the Warring States. “Huang” aggrandizes and glorifies Ying Zheng as the Creator of the empire, the civilization, the heritage and the bloodline for ten thousand generations and ten thousand years to identify, honor, and celebrate. So, in its meaning and power, Qin Shihuang or the First Emperor of Qin becomes an appropriate synonym of the Great Wall of China and the Middle Kingdom. On the Great Wall, Qin Shihuang’s egocentrism is prolonged and amplified into an ethnocentrism, which carries a unique Chinese (the Han’s) blueprint.

The Wall is embedded in an ethnocentrism and therefore intended to be a divide between the civilization and the barbarism. To the north side of the Great Wall, the nomadic people, Xiongnu and Mongols among other tribes, had owned their steppes for generations, but now suddenly found themselves and their lifestyle cut through by the Great Wall. They were considered roughnecks and barbarians by those inside the Wall. At the same time, Xiongnu people’s “fantastic equestrian skills and attendant virtuosity at quick strikes” (Villalon, 2007) posed threat to the vaunted empire that Qin Shihuang created. It was an insult to him to have northern barbarians like Xiongnu as neighbors. The Wall not only served as a military fortress to keep barbarians and enemies out but also a defending and defining line of a civilization and a “superior” culture–the Middle Kingdom, that is, the imperial China in its Sinocentric core.

There is metamorphism from egocentrism to ethnocentrism to Sinocentrism along the Great Wall and throughout Chinese history. Other modes of thinking and worldviews would be held as heretic and inferior, and needed to be blocked by the Wall so that the rulers within the Wall could rule unopposed and maintain the vast kingdom with a “pure” culture and “uncontaminated” institutions. Qin Shihuang effectively standardized language, measurement, and economic systems; he also eliminated the Hundred Schools of Thought, flourished in the period of the Warring States. Only legalism was endorsed in his Qin dynasty. To secure Qin’s domination over culture and ways of thinking, existing books from previous Warring States and other sources were banned and burned; scholars who represented diverse cultural voices were buried alive. This way the notion of a Middle Kingdom was constructed with no competing cultures and institutions interfering with the Qin’s monopoly of Chinese culture and cultural mind. The Chinese blood would be “pure” in the “true” and “ultimate” Chinese sense.

Trump appeals to his voters and supporters with a remarkable ego performance, as he sees American society and the world as the stage of his “Reality Show.” He projects himself as an invincible winner and an untouchable tycoon in the business of real estate, a strong macho man of bravado talking tough, the protector, and the savior of a nation from the incursion and infiltration of immigrants and Muslims. On the stage of his real world “Reality Show,” his ego feeds on the role of the most powerful man on the planet and he plays the role with “I-AM-First” script, in the fashion of Qin Shihuang. His slogan “America First” is marinated in the “I-AM-First” script. He double plays egocentrism and ethnocentrism at the same time. Trump’s signature campaign promise is to “make America great again.” How? “Build that big and beautiful wall” on the US-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants. Needless to say, the Trump Wall stirs up racial and cultural unrests as we confront some core questions: which America does Trump intends to make great again? The multicultural and multiracial one or the Trump’s “Middle Kingdom?” Which Americans does he intend to protect? Hispanic-Americans, Muslim Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians or white Americans only? “If you believe that America is engaged in a life-or-death battle over its identity, in which the past looks golden and the future looks, well, brown-ish, then Mr. Trump sounds like he’s on your side.”Footnote3 To protect Americans’ interest and safety is Trump’s one-size-fits-all phrase, but there is no longer a one-size-fits-all American reality, and American interests have never been a harmonious symphony. The deep division in our nation encompasses fiercely competing sub-divisions that force and compel one to make choice as to which America you want to belong to and which group you want to adhere to. Not too different from more than two millennia ago on the other side of the earth, we now find ourselves reliving the Warring States, engaged in cultural wars with one another.

In sync with globalization and migration, the rapidly changing demography of the US gives a rapidly evolving definition of the 21st century America, and the 21st Americans. Subsequently, American interests and values have been undergoing new testing and new formation. In one way or another, “the United States needs to come to terms with what it means to live in a country of over forty million Latino/as” (Castillo, 2006) who speak Spanish, and of an unprecedented number of immigrants from other national origins. Trump’s core support groups still embrace an obsolete and static notion that America is monolithic in culture, language, religion, and race and there is a “Middle Kingdom” that rules the land and monopolies the power. Once upon a time, only white, Protestants of northern European origin, and of course, English speakers were entitled of American citizenship and ownership of American interests and culture. Even the original owners of American land—the Indians—had to be denied their citizenship in the Republic. There has always been a mighty “American Wall,” built by a fixed ethnocentrism regardless of an ever-changing demographic landscape. There is a static identity in a cultural ethnocentrism that distinguishes the “civilization” and the “barbarism.” A distinction like this has been used all over the world—one’s own people historically stand for civilization and its achievements, whereas the otherness of others is a deviation from these standards (Rüsen, 2004) and therefore are inferior. The “American Wall” has been used for this distinction; it is still in such a use. Whoever takes the possession of the “American Wall” gets to decide who should be in who should be out. The entire US history speaks about wrecking and building this very “American Wall,” the ownership of culture and identity, the rejection of citizenry, and the confrontation of races and institutions, because of this wall. In the 21st century, cultural observers and critics have coined terms like multiracial politics, mulitcreedal America, and multicultural democracy in an attempt to trace out an evolving American cultural identity. The evolving and adapting identity does not follow the confine and the delineation of a wall but lands itself in an area spacious enough to map out a borderland that does not allow the existence of a “Middle Kingdom” but the co-existence of encounters, intersections, and confluences of “warring states.”

In the past half century, the “American Wall” has installed an increased number of doors and windows, open to the landscapes and directions previously closed and blocked. However, the defining element of Americanism is still confined and shaped by the wall of the “Middle Kingdom” group. This group still holds tight and commands the notion that the nation and American culture exclusively belongs to one group, one creed, and one race. When there is a perceived threat to this “purity” and “oneness,” meaning, white Americans, Protestants of northern European origin, and English speakers, the doors and windows on the “American Wall” shut up. A mental construct like this appeals to “a segment of the older, white population, which fears that the national culture they grew up with is fading” (Zakaria, 2017). The wall-mindset also provides a graspable and identifiable home base for a mass of the working class, not particularly educated nor with current knowledge of a complex 21st century global world. So, the Trump Wall becomes a cultural phenomenon, shared and collective; it epitomizes a 21st century ethnocentrism in the Trump America. The iron fence on the border is a symbolic gesture that makes sense to people motivated by prejudice against another culture (Bustamante 1992). A fertile ground to grow fear, isolation, and to create distance and bigotry between cultures and people, the Trumpian ethnocentrism finds itself to be a much desired foundation for the Trump Wall in American minds and on the US-Mexico border. The Trump Wall is a geographic demarcation, but more so a demarcation of races, cultures, languages, and worldviews. It claims and protects ownership of culture and identity for certain Americans and denies the ownership of the same things to other Americans.

Conclusion

History has proven that, with all the epic effort of defense and protection, the Great Wall of China has not been ironclad; in fact, it has been porous; so permeable and penetrable that the very “barbarians”–the Mongols (Kublai Khan) that the Wall intended to keep out–ruled the Middle Kingdom from 1271–1368 in the splendor of the Great Yuan Dynasty. In the meantime, the Wall has been repurposed and challenged from within; its closeness and isolation have repeatedly contradicted the formation and development of a nation and a civilization. The Silk Road was formulated in Han Dynasty and reopened by the Tang Empire in 643; it would remain open for the next four decades. The Eurasian land-based route functioned as a two-way commercial conduit between China and the West, weaving a giant network of trading and fusing of new ideas, new technologies, and new artistic expressions. It intersected different religions, languages, and ways of life, which was precisely deterred by the Great Wall. If the Silk Road “broke through” the Great Wall on the land, Zheng He (1371–1435), great navigator in the Ming Dynasty, made another “irreparable” hole on the Wall by chartering a sea route to reach out to what is beyond the Great Wall. Ironically, the Ming Dynasty of Zheng He’s time is known for the renovation and continuation of the Great Wall. Prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World, Zheng He’s seven voyages between 1405–1433 to Southeast, South, and Western Asia, and East Africa took the Ming Empire/the Imperial China to the uncharted waters and made the Great Wall known in the unknown world. Further, perhaps most ironically, the pores on the Wall are so open and so wide that they allow us, the citizens of the 21st century, to penetrate the China Wall itself back and forth in time and space, across continents and through a two-thousand-year time span.Footnote4

Will the Trump Wall achieve what the Great Wall of China has not achieved and deter and stop wall-crossers? The answer is concealed in the Wall-DNA that both share. As analyzed by Angelucci (2012), border controls are endogenous while correlated to the forces on the other side of the wall. Both walls are erected to serve an ethnocentrism in a time that blood “purity” and soil “homogeneity” are taken as cultural and national identity. Both ethnocentrisms are derived from two individuals’ helpless egos and morphed into a magnified and collective egocentrism. Both intend to exclude rather than include. Both send out a symbolic and culture message with a mighty physical structure. Both have a “Middle Kingdom” to defend and protect. Both make disappear the vast distance in time and space between them. Allowing us cross back and forth in between the two walls, the Wall-DNA reveals a fossilized and fear-driven worldview, embedded in a timeless ethnocentrism. The “Great” Trump Wall is a denial of the 21st century American cultural identity in the making; it is an attempt to revive the “Middle Kingdom” power of a single race, a single creed, and a single culture. The “Great” Trump Wall intends to block the physical border crossers, but it will not be able to stop the two-way flow of cultural energies or severe historic ties. The Trump Wall will never stop the continuing formation of a 21st century American cultural identity.

Notes

  1. Throughout the piece I have used Zhong Guo () or the Middle Kingdom retrospectively and retroactively to map out Qin Shihuang’s mental construct that has played a foundational role in Chinese culture heritage and identity into the 21st century.
  2. Ten thousand is a number that symbolizes infinity or endlessness in Chinese culture, and by extension, immortality.
  3. Katty Kay, “Why Trump’s supporters will never leave him” (2017). BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41028733. Accessed 23 August 2017.
  4. Grossman (2010) also testifies to the illusion of the protective sense of the Great Wall of China from trading and stock market perspective. The crisscrossed indexes and mutual funds are a proven wall-breaker.

References

  • Angelucci M (2012) US border enforcement and the net flow of mexican illegal migration. Econ Dev Cult Change 60(2):311–357
  • Bustamante JA (1992) Demystifying the United States—Mexico Border. J Am Hist 79(2):485–490
  • Castillo DA (2006) Anzaldúa and transnational American studies. PMLA 121(1):260–265
  • Grossman E (2010) A new Great Wall. Foreign Policy 179:88–90
  • Kopper JM (1983) Building walls and jumping over them: constructions in franz kafka’s ‘beim bau der chinesischen mauer.’ MLN 3(98):351–365
  • Lattimore O (1937) Origins of the Great Wall of China: a frontier concept in theory and practice. Geogr Rev 4(27):529–549
  • Villalon O (2007) Barbarians at the Wall. Virginia Quart Rev 2(83):277–290. Spring
  • Rüsen J (2004) How to overcome ethnocentrism: approaches to a culture of recognition by history in the twenty-first century. Hist Theory 43(4):118–129
  • Zakaria F (2017) Why Trump won. Available at http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/31/opinions/why-trump-won-zakaria/index.html. Accessed 1 Aug 2017



Originally published by Palgrave Communications, Nature 3:25 (2017) under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Comments

comments