Let the ancient Bamiyan Buddha speak to Trump

By Tian Wei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/23 17:44:05

How burning bridges is NOT the solution to problems in US


You don't know what you have until it's gone. That's a simple but powerful lesson that echoes throughout history.

Take the ancient Silk Road, which is full of treasures and wonders.  But in 2001, one of them was totally destroyed. 

The Taliban in Afghanistan blew up the world's two largest standing Buddhas - one of them in Bamiyan was 50 meters tall. They were once the symbol of human excellence, a combination of religion, philosophy and art. They are forever gone. 

It is so easy to destroy something just as the Taliban did. All you need is to "drill holes into the torsos of the two statues and then place dynamite charges inside the holes to blow them up," as was reported then about how these historical statues were blasted. That was a trillion times easier than the strenuous work it took to build them into the mountain cliff. Even though efforts are underway to rebuild it, everyone knows it is never going to be the same again.

That is a hard lesson. But I am afraid that hard lesson has not been learned. One only needs to take a look at the recent developments in China-US relations to get a full grasp of what I mean.

The trade war between China and the US, which started with the US levying imports from China with heavy punitive tariffs, already soured the feelings and confidence of both sides. That is further complicated by the failure of compromise through rounds of bilateral negotiations. 

The unilateralism that the Trump administration has used in negotiations with China and its allies for decades has derailed negotiation prospects. As if that was not enough, Trump, in a TV interview last week, said he was ready to slap heavy tariffs on all US imports from China.

Added to that, a high level CIA official said over the weekend that US is looking at China as a Cold War rival, when asked about the bilateral relations on the sidelines of an international security conference. 

Michael Collins, deputy assistant director the CIA's East Asia Mission Center, added "not like during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, but a cold war by definition." 

Now, I don't know if both Trump and the senior CIA official know history well enough to understand what exactly they were talking about: namely the dire consequences of driving the world's two largest economies further down the road of conflict and tension. From there, they can astronomically damage the world economy, of which the US has the lion's share, or cause pain and suffering just as the Cold War inflicted on scarred generations. 

That pain is still being clearly felt today if you look at some of the world's ongoing hotspots. I do not know if they understand how much of a challenge it was four decades ago for China and the US to establish diplomatic relations in such extremely complicated political and economic conditions, and see bilateral relations prosper ever since.

Well, they can ask Henry Kissinger, arguably the most key figure in China-US relations and a monumental figure in international diplomacy. 

"I think we are in a very, very grave period of the world", he told FT in what is a very realistic assessment. Those who know how hard it is to build bridges also understand the detrement of destroying them. 

It is pathetic how the Trump Administration uses it as a cheap way to divert attention from its domestic failures. No doubt, he is suffering from the Helsinki Summit backlash and his inability to press ahead with the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula weeks after the Singapore Summit, not to mention his highly unpopular immigration policies and election tactics.

A sin was committed when the Taliban destroyed the ancient Bamiyan Buddha. It is no less of a sin how the Trump administration destroys bridges as if their destruction was a solution. 

Tian Wei: Former Washington Correspondent; now Host of "World Insight with Tian Wei", on CGTN.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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