American President Donald Trump is determined to build an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall” between the US and Mexico. It was one of his pre-election promises, which he is ready to keep. The country that has given him the motivation is China, America’s greatest rival in world politics.

Trump is not the first American president who likes the Great Wall of China. After visiting the Asian country in 1971-72, former President Richard Nixon told reporters: “I can only say to the media, who, like myself, have never seen the Great Wall before, that it exceeds all expectations.” “When one stands there and sees the Wall going to the peak of this mountain and realises that it runs for hundreds of miles, as a matter of fact thousands of miles, over the mountains and through the valleys of this country, that it was built over 2,000 years ago, I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall and that it had to be built by a great people,” said Nixon.

President Trump has decided to build a similar wall in order to stop Mexican immigrants from entering the US. China’s Ming dynasty’s intention was the same. The Ming rulers built the wall to keep out Mongols and other “nomadic tribes” from the north. Of course, many lives were lost in building the wall as there was no machinery or equipment at that time. It had to all be done by hand. Historians believe that the 8,851.8km-long wall claimed lives of at least 400,000 workers.

For China, it was not enough to create a wall. The wall required maintenance. And the Ming administration had to take some other measures to “maintain” the wall. Many people spent a large part of their life to patrol the Great Wall and some of them never returned to their homes.

It is a fact that UNESCO declared the wall a ‘World Heritage Site’. It is also a fact that people still remember the Ming Dynasty because of the wall. The wall, along with the dynasty, has become a myth. But, there is a failure on the reverse side of the myth. The Great Wall has rarely served its purpose and failed to stop the enemy from entering China.

Although the perspective was different, another wall failed to serve its purpose. The Berlin Wall. During the Cold War, the Communist government in erstwhile East Germany built the Berlin Wall to ‘protect’ its people from democracy. The government in Berlin did not want East Germans to visit then West Germany and vice versa. While East Germany described the Berlin Wall as “Antifascistischer Schutzwall” or “antifascist bulwark”, West Germany considered it as the “Wall of Shame”. That wall, too, was unsustainable. It was broken eight years later, in November 1989.

China and East Germany had spent a huge amount of money for constructing those walls. Now, the question is: from where President Trump will get the money to build a wall on US-Mexico border? Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has already opposed Trump’s plan and made clear that his government will not spend a single penny for this purpose. Even, the Mexican government has asked private construction companies to not participate in this project. A famous French company has announced that it will not take part in President Trump’s “controversial” project.

The American president has claimed that the total cost of the wall will be around USD 10-12 billion. However, estimates from fact checkers and engineers seem to be universally higher. Department of Homeland Security officials are of the opinion that the US-Mexico border is about 1,900 miles (or 3,100km) long and the proposed wall along this border could cost each American family USD 170 or a total of USD 21.6 billion of taxpayers money.

Trump has tried to prepare a design of the proposed wall and said that the ‘big, beautiful wall’ will be 30-feet high and look good from north side of border, but no one can cross it. Really?

History suggests that it is not possible to stop the movement of civilisation by erecting a wall. Will it be possible for Trump’s wall to break the myth? History will give us the answer.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]