27 September 2004

the Bushdate of Heaven

Between 1851 and 1864 the Taiping rebellion convulsed China. Armies despatched to suppress the rebellion were invariably victorious. Each conquering general immediately reported his success to the court. Each success happened closer and closer to Beijing. The grand eunuchs who controlled the flow of information to the throne decided their palace careers would be improved by ignoring this regrettable lack of military success. Their careers flourished.

The Xianfeng Emperor continued happily issuing bulletins and proclamations recounting each success more splendid than the last to a bemused populace. The Xianfeng Emperor's missives were not read in south or central China. The Taiping ruled there. Eventually the Western powers decided their interests would be improved if they kept the collapsing Qing dynasty in power and Western armies threw the Taiping back from Shanghai.

There is, of course, no resemblance between China and Iraq There is a lot more sand in Iraq.

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