Tacitus Trap

Tacitus Trap is a political theory named after Roman historian Tacitus, which describes a situation where an unpopular government is hated no matter what it does and whether it is right or wrong. The theory was brought up in a 2007 book by Professor Pan Zhichang from the School of Journalism and Communication at Nanjing University. In the book, he quoted Tacitus' remark on Galba, an unpopular monarch of Rome, to explain the recurrent declines of the Chinese dynasties throughout the history, "When a government is unpopular, either good policies or bad policies tells against the government itself." [1] Since China’s paramount leader and general secretary Xi Jinping's usage in 2014, the term became increasingly popular in journalism and academia in China.[2] State-run media in China, such as People's Daily online, summarised that since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Party general secretary Xi Jinping has described three traps that China might fall into, that is, Tacitus Trap, Thucydides Trap and middle-income trap.[3][4]

EtymologyEdit

Tacitus is a Roman politician and historian famous for his book Histories, where he also included his moral judgements over historical events he experienced in person.[5] In 69 AD, when Nero fled Rome amid a revolution against him, the civil and military authorities disconnected from him elected Galba, the then governor of Hispania Tarraconensis who supported and led the revolt, as the new emperor, which was challenged by Clodius Macer and Fonteius Capito, two loyal generals of Nero, who cut off the food supply to Rome. However, when Galba executed the two generals, the executions were not positively received among Roman citizens, on which Tacitus comments in Histories, "indeed, when a ruler once becomes unpopular, all his acts, be they good or bad, tell against him."[6]

In the 2007 book Who Robbed Our Aestheticism, the author Pan Zhichang, a Chinese aesthetician from the School of Journalism and Communication at Nanjing University, analyses the etiology of historical political chaos during 220–280 AD, which inspired the stories in the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He describes the government of Imperial China as a totalitarian regime with unlimited power and therefore unlimited desires for wealth. As the emperor taxed more on the people, the country would be more corrupted by its officials, which in turn led to more taxation and even more corruption, eventually causing a societal collapse due to the unlimited desires of the ruling class. This also means the regime had fallen into the Tacitus trap.[7][8]:24–25

Chinese writer Chen Xubin quotes Zigong in The Analects, "Zhou's wickedness was not so great as that name implies. Therefore, the superior man hates to dwell in a low-lying situation, where all the evil of the world will flow in upon him," and reasons that "Zigong's trap" may be a more proper name for the theory and that famous Chinese politicians, such as Empress Cixi and H. H. Kung, all fell into the trap.[9]

Popular uses in Chinese politicsEdit

In 2014, Chairman Xi Jinping of the Communist Party of China mentioned the term "Tacitus Trap" when he attended the meeting of the Party's Lankao County Committee. He then added, "if we lose the viewpoints of the people, fail to stand with the people, the people will not have you in their eyes." Since then, the term had become popular across China, especially in news media and academia.[1][10] According to Dr Mi Siru at Nanjing University, as of 5 November 2017, there had been 328,000 results and 284 news articles containing the term when searching it with Baidu, along with many scholarly articles containing the term within their titles in CNKI database.[2]

In 2016, state-run media in China, such as People's Daily online, summarised that since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Party general secretary Xi Jinping has described three traps that China might fall into, that is, Tacitus Trap, Thucydides's Trap and middle-income trap.[3][4] When Hong Kong tycoon Lo Wing Hung commented on this summary in his newspaper Bastille Post, he concluded that CY Leung, the then Hong Kong Chief Executive, had fallen into the trap.[11] Another article in Hong Kong's Apple Daily also made a similar conclusion based on the theory.[12]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b 賀越明 (2019-05-05). "(海角片羽)"塔西佗陷阱"的來歷". 澳門日報. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b 朱威 (2017-11-21). "你了解江苏省委书记提到的"塔西佗陷阱"吗?潘知常教授来划重点啦". Archived from the original on 2019-07-05. Retrieved 2019-07-06. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b "图解:习近平提过的三个"陷阱定律"都是啥?--专题报道". 人民网-中国共产党新闻网. 2016-05-18. Archived from the original on 2018-10-08. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b "中国发展要跨越哪三大"陷阱"?". 党建网微平台. 据《学习活页文选》2016年第20期"知识卡片". 中国文明网. 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ 徐贲 (2018-07-05). "为什么要读塔西佗". 腾讯大家. Archived from the original on 2019-07-05. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Tacitus (1876). The Histories. Translation based on Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb. Archived from the original on 2019-07-05. Retrieved 2019-07-06. Both executions, however, were unfavourably regarded; indeed, when a ruler once becomes unpopular, all his acts, be they good or bad, tell against him.
  7. ^ 潘知常 (2017-12-11). "究竟何谓"塔西佗陷阱"?请听其原创者潘知常教授说". 微信号涛声一久. 中国警察. Archived from the original on 2019-07-05. Retrieved 2019-07-06. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ 潘知常 (2007). 谁劫持了我们的美感 潘教授揭秘四大奇书. 上海: 学林出版社. ISBN 978-7-80730-410-4.
  9. ^ 谌旭彬 (2017-11-30). "他们掉进的不是"塔西佗陷阱",而是"子贡陷阱"". 腾讯历史. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ 习近平 (2015-09-08). "习近平在兰考县委常委扩大会上的讲话". 新华网. Archived from the original on 2018-11-13. Retrieved 2019-07-06. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ 盧永雄 (2016-09-26). "香港要避過「塔西佗陷阱」". 巴士的報. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "習近平點睇梁振英? - 馮睎乾". Apple Daily 蘋果日報. Retrieved 2019-07-05. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)