Dec 16, 2010 1:10 pm


It may not be too late and the temptation is understandable but Red China seems to have thrown caution and history to the wind and the results are not difficult to detect. Philip Stephens writes:

I had become accustomed to being told that China had studied carefully the lessons of history. Foreign affairs experts in the Chinese capital seemed to know more about Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany than most Europeans. Collisions between rising and existing powers had been the stuff of too many wars. China’s “peaceful rise” would avoid such a calamity.

As far as I can tell, such phrases have been quietly dropped from the lexicon. They have been replaced by the frequent observation that US hegemony has come to an end; that multi-polarity is now the organising fact of international life; and that China’s strategic interests have expanded in line with its economic power. Beijing needs to protect those interests – one reason it is now building a powerful navy.

In other words, in the 19th century it was British strength that kept German rise peaceful and British weakness that led to German belligerence. In the 20th century, it was American strength that ensured that China's rise has been relatively peaceful and in the 21st century it is American weakness that is tempting China to flex her muscles.

Not only Asia has good reasons to be nervous, we all do. Nobel and China: In the footsteps of Nazi Germany? asks David Case. Some of the similarities are striking:

In the run-up to the Nobel ceremony, China cobbled together an alternative to the gilded Oslo affair: On Thursday December 8, it awarded its first Confucius Prize to Lien Chan, a former Taiwanese vice president. (This public relations move wasn’t very well orchestrated: through a spokesman, Lien said that he had never heard of the prize, and had no intention to pick it up, according to NBC News.)

Again, there’s precedent for China’s anti-Nobel campaign. After Ossietzky’s prize was announced in 1936, the Nazis formally protested to the Norwegian government. The following year, Hitler declared that Germans would no longer be allowed to receive the prize. Instead, Germany would establish its own alternative prizes, in science and art.

Let's hope the Chinese reassess, have second thoughts and change course.

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