One topic has now set tongues wagging in the world of Chinese intellectuals. According to the Chinese astrology chart, 2020 is the year of Geng-Zi, or the metal rat, which comes once every 60 years.
It is said that every time the year of the metal rat rolls around a big history-shaking incident takes place. That may be happening in China, and also in Iran, which doesn’t share China’s astrology.
In 1840, during the Qing dynasty, the Opium War broke out, leading to China’s stagnation for more than a century.
Sixty years later, in 1900, toward the end of the Qing dynasty, forces from an alliance of eight nations—the U.K., United States, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and Austria-Hungary—moved from Tianjin to Beijing, an incident triggered by the Boxer Rebellion, which had started in 1899.
“55 Days at Peking” is an American film starring Charlton Heston and depicting the siege of the foreign legations’ compounds in Peking, now known as Beijing, during the Boxer Rebellion.
The metal rat’s next return, in 1960, coincided with a famine caused by the Great Leap Forward led by Mao Zedong, the founding father of “a new China,” or the People’s Republic of China.
Yang Jisheng, a former journalist for Xinhua News Agency who lost his foster father to the famine, later authored “Tombstone,” a detailed reportage about the epic disaster.
Are we now in the midst of a new catastrophe, destined to thwart Chinese goals for global hegemony? Are the Chinese doomed to be defeated once again by the metal rat, or can they defeat the ancient curse? Can the mythological symbol become a force for success, or will the Chinese sink again into sixty years of misery?
Nobody knows for sure, but the Iranians seem to be suffering from a metal rat-like catastrophe: massive unemployment, lack of jobs, shrinking housing, and ongoing repression. Twitter reports an increasing tempo of arrests, torture, and execution, and it appears commonplace for corpses to disappear, lest enraged relatives resolve to bring down the whole rotten edifice.
It will take some time before the mess is sorted out, especially now that leading officials of the regime are being struck down with the virus. Once can imagine the plots and subplots following the death of Supreme Leader Khamenei. And the leaders are tucking away their cash, far from the avid clutches of the people who have been robbed of their wealth. Oriental banks are favored hiding places.
Meanwhile, food is in short supply, suicide is mounting and there are reports of prison escapes throughout the country.
All this chaos is the product of a failed state, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which seems totally unable to get a grip on the manufacturing and distributional capacities of the nation. Leaders are promising violent action against the United States and her friends and allies, should the Americans take military action against Iran, and security forces are forever clamping down on protests against bad management, censorship, and vicious beatings.
With such a background, it is no surprise that there are nearly constant uprisings, although nothing on a scale that would frighten the ruling class; But every so often mass demonstrations convulse the country, and Khamenei and his men must decide how to put them down.
Sooner or later, the leaders, who have miscalculated most everything, will miscalculate the situation and there will be a full-fledged revolution.
Until then, the regime will search for some way to forestall the devastating effects of Geng-Zi. Alternately cracking down on domestic protests, providing training and weapons to foreign forces to challenge Americans and Israelis, and attacking U.S. air fields around the region, the Iranians seek to impose their will on us.
It may yet work.
Michael Ledeen is a freedom scholar at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has served as a consultant to the National Security Council and the departments of State and Defense, and as a special adviser to the Secretary of State. He is the author of 35 books, most recently “Field of Fight: How to Win the War Against Radical Islam and its Allies,” co-authored with retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.