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Is Iran : Islam China : Communism?

  1. Feb 14, 2008 #1


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    Is today's "Islamic Iran" tomorrow's "Communist China"?

    The similarities are there: China was a "late starter" as a communist country (relative to Russia). Its primary political competition was USSR, not the capitalist West. China made its brand of communism separate (and distant) from, and sometimes in direct conflict with Russia's brand of communism. China's primary conflict was with Communist Russia, not the West, and this probably all but determined its relations with the rest of the world.

    Similarly, Iran was a late starter as an Islamic state (relative to, say, Saudi Arabia). This is true in an early historical sense as well as a 20th-century sense. Its "brand" of Islam (radical Shiism) is distinct from and mostly in conflict with the dominant "brand" (apolitical Sunnism). And, a large part of what dictates Iran's state ideology and foreign policy is its self-appointed mission to restore Islam's glory -- a mission that the rest of the Islamic world (notably the Sunni muslims) either did not try, or tried and failed miserably, according to the view from Tehran.1

    If even some of the above makes sense, isn't it time to ask who is going to be the long-sighted president to repeat Richard Nixon's travel to China, this time by traveling to Iran?

    ... or not? (If not, why not?)

    1I would even hypothesize that what made Iran into an islamic republic and determined its relations with the rest of the world was its perception of Sunnis' failure to promote Islam, and Iran's determination to prove that it can do a better job than the "Shiite-bashing, politically impotent" Sunnis.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2008 #2
    ... or not? (If not, why not?)

    I believe Obama got thoroughly lambasted for suggesting that we reach out to Tehran.
  4. Feb 14, 2008 #3
    President Roosevelt beat everyone to it. He "visited" Iran when he, Churchill and Stalin met at the Yalta conference and various other places during the War.
  5. Feb 14, 2008 #4
    I think a definitive difference between the character of Iran and China would be the differences in their relationships to Khomeini and Mao. Khomeini simply did not have the same kind of absolute strangulation hold over Iran and simply didn't rise to the stratospheric heights of being an arrogant super nut job like Mao did. But both of those points are debatable.

    I actually think there might be a better parallel between Islamic Iran and the Soviet Union. In the same way that Russia turned to Communism in spite of and in defiance of the West and its machinations, fighting off the Allied invasion after WWI, Iran turned to Islam in defiance of Western interference and machinations like deposing Mossadegh and installing the Shah.

    Although Mao and the Chinese Communist Party obviously were intellectually enthusiastic for Communist theory and ideals it didn't play quite the same role as defiance and defining of national identity to be different from the perceived aggressors. It was actually an embracing of a foreign, Western (from the Chinese point of view) ideology and on many levels simply a tool for Mao. In what I've learned of the Soviet Union and China, it has seemed to me that although Chinese revolutionaries and theorists clearly understood and owned and expanded upon the Communism handed to them by the Soviets, whereas in Russia they saw themselves as New Men and the revolution was their raison d'etre and elan vital in China it was more like the latest regime of ritual to a fundamentally Confucian mindset, an ancient civilization assuming the appropriate dress and demeanor for the age.

    China's isolation was due to the monomania of Mao more than real antagonism with the West. They were technically allied with the Soviets and they were pissed off that the US had supported the Kuomintang, yes (not to mention getting continuously raped by Europe, the US, and Japan during the colonial period.) But they've never seen themselves as the polar opposite of the West the way the Soviet Union and Islamist Iran do; China is and was always 中国 the Middle Kingdom. Nixon's rapprochement was simply finally according them some of the respect they'd always deserved, in their view.

    So Iran isn't going to respond to a smile and an open handshake because they only see the enemy and a forked tongue behind the smile. I actually think that it's going to be pretty difficult for mutual understanding to begin and tension to ease at all before Iran actually has the bomb. Remember, when Nixon went to China they already had nukes and for that and other reasons felt more on equal footing with the US than Iran ever will while the international community is doing everything it can to prevent them from acquiring nuclear technology.
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