Channeling Neville Chamberlain to Appease China

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is the international business editor of the London Telegraph.  His views are fairly orthodox conservative, as are the editorial positions of his newspaper.  But in his lengthy January 23 column, Evans-Pritchard went down the dead-end path of the British Tory legacy, channeling the ghost of Neville Chamberlain in his praise of the appeasement of the People's Republic of China displayed by President Barack Obama during last week's summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Evans-Pritchard had to be selective in his use of history, since the term "appeasement" is so closely associated with the failure of Great Britain to stand up to Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  So he talked instead of what he thinks was the provocative encirclement and containment of Imperial Germany in the years leading to World War I.  He asks whether China is not like Germany under the Kaiser (rather than the Führer) in its rapid economic growth, which shifted the balance of power in ways the status quo powers (England, France, Russia) felt was threatening. 

The research of German historian Fritz Fischer indicating that military plans for a preemptive war to smash France and dismember the Russian Empire had gained political support after 1912 is mentioned by Evans-Pritchard, who also makes a passing reference to Germany's building of a High Seas Fleet meant to challenge the Royal Navy.  He does not, however, mention Sean McMeekin's recent book The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, which reveals how the construction of international railroads was used by Germany to penetrate the Islamic world with the idea, fostered by Kaiser Wilhelm II personally, of stirring up a jihad against British and Russian Christians to weaken Germany's rivals from the Black Sea to India.  McMeekin argues that Hitler tried the same strategy with his support for the virulently anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, another step towards creating the hate-filled Middle East of today.   

Evans-Pritchard says Fischer "muddied the waters with his seminal work."  Evans-Pritchard would rather make Germany the victim of a French-Russian containment policy, eventually backed by Britain.  He does not want such a containment policy adopted against China.  Yet he sees Chinese actions that are provoking such moves:

There is a new edge to Chinese naval policy in the South China Sea, causing Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines to cleave closer to the US alliance. Has Beijing studied how German naval ambitions upset the careful diplomatic legacy of Bismarck and pushed an ambivalent Britain towards the Entente, even to the point of accepting alliance with Tsarist autocracy?

What Chinese naval strategists are studying is the work of Alfred Thayer Mahan, who stressed the importance of battle fleets than can control the sea lanes.  And like German Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the Chinese are building warships that can mount a "peer" challenge to the U.S. as Germany did to Britain.  At stake is naval dominance along the Pacific Rim and the maritime commerce between East Asia and the Middle East (what Beijing calls West Asia).  An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times argued just a week before the Obama-Hu summit: 

Reports about China's stealth jet and "carrier-killer" missile are changing the strategic power balance in the West Pacific. Western observers believe that China's at-sea defense capability has been growing wider, and that US aircraft carriers can no longer operate in this region without a second thought.

Evans-Pritchard is not unaware of these developments.  He cites in his essay Defense Minister Liang Guanglie's recent statement that China's armed forces are "pushing forward military preparations for conflict in every strategic direction."  He quotes Professor Huang Jing from Singapore, who was an adviser to the People's Liberation Army: "The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system."  Yet Evans-Pritchard thinks it would be unwise for the U.S. and its allies to take action to protect themselves.

He does not want another Cold War.  It was exactly this desire to avoid another war (hot or cold) after World War I that motivated the appeasement policy towards Hitler.  The result was to encourage a level of aggression that finally provoked World War II on an even larger scale, when events could have been nipped in the bud earlier at a much lower cost.

Evans-Pritchard tries to avoid this line of inquiry by never mentioning anything that happened in Europe after 1914.  Yet this is where his proposed policy of appeasement was infamously tried and failed.  The China policy of President Obama resembles that of Prime Minister Chamberlain in important respects.  To ease tensions with Beijing during the summit, Obama hosted a roundtable with Hu and business leaders from both countries.  Obama opened his remarks by noting, "There has been no sector of our societies that have been stronger proponents of U.S.-China relations than the business sector."  Chamberlain also thought commerce would tame Nazi Germany, and he established a special Economics Section in the Foreign Ministry to promote ties with Berlin.  It only made London look weak as Germany grew stronger.  Winston Churchill denounced the "building of German industry with British and American money."

That the same pattern is happening in China is known to Evans-Pritchard.  "The political reality is that China's export of manufacturing over-capacity is hollowing out the US industrial core, and a plethora of tricks to stop Western firms competing in the Chinese market rubs salt in the wound. It is preventing full recovery in the US," he writes, adding that "this will not be tolerated for much longer if Beijing is also perceived to be a strategic enemy."  So Washington must not consider China a potential enemy so it can continue to tolerate Beijing's "mercantilism," even though Evans-Pritchard thinks America would win a trade war if Washington decided to restrict commerce with China and revive its own industrial base.

To further soften China's image, Evans-Pritchard does not call the regime Communist.  Instead, he refers to Confucian China.  He also says of the regime that "despots they are not."  Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, might not agree as he sits in a Chinese prison for trying to promote peaceful democratic reform.  Neither might President Hu, given his efforts to revive Marxist ideological training among the party's younger cadres.

Evans-Pritchard's plea for appeasement takes on a strange tone near the end of his essay.  "You could say Mr Obama has won little in return for reaching out, but as Napoleon put it, 'a leader is a dealer in hope'. What, pray, would a policy of crude containment do to China's psyche?"  Napoleon was hardly a proponent of appeasement.  And again, Evans-Pritchard tries to cast Beijing as the victim.

Apparently only China has a right to advance its interests in the world.  After all, Evans-Pritchard attacks "unreconstructed Neo-cons such as ex-UN ambassador John Bolton" for wanting to protect U.S. interests and allies, ending his essay with the words, "'Boltonism' must be crushed."  Chamberlain had the same thoughts about Churchill, as did those those who denounced Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher between then and now.

The 21st century must be handed over to a rising China because Evans-Pritchard thinks it would take too much effort to do anything else but submit.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is the international business editor of the London Telegraph.  His views are fairly orthodox conservative, as are the editorial positions of his newspaper.  But in his lengthy January 23 column, Evans-Pritchard went down the dead-end path of the British Tory legacy, channeling the ghost of Neville Chamberlain in his praise of the appeasement of the People's Republic of China displayed by President Barack Obama during last week's summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Evans-Pritchard had to be selective in his use of history, since the term "appeasement" is so closely associated with the failure of Great Britain to stand up to Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  So he talked instead of what he thinks was the provocative encirclement and containment of Imperial Germany in the years leading to World War I.  He asks whether China is not like Germany under the Kaiser (rather than the Führer) in its rapid economic growth, which shifted the balance of power in ways the status quo powers (England, France, Russia) felt was threatening. 

The research of German historian Fritz Fischer indicating that military plans for a preemptive war to smash France and dismember the Russian Empire had gained political support after 1912 is mentioned by Evans-Pritchard, who also makes a passing reference to Germany's building of a High Seas Fleet meant to challenge the Royal Navy.  He does not, however, mention Sean McMeekin's recent book The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, which reveals how the construction of international railroads was used by Germany to penetrate the Islamic world with the idea, fostered by Kaiser Wilhelm II personally, of stirring up a jihad against British and Russian Christians to weaken Germany's rivals from the Black Sea to India.  McMeekin argues that Hitler tried the same strategy with his support for the virulently anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, another step towards creating the hate-filled Middle East of today.   

Evans-Pritchard says Fischer "muddied the waters with his seminal work."  Evans-Pritchard would rather make Germany the victim of a French-Russian containment policy, eventually backed by Britain.  He does not want such a containment policy adopted against China.  Yet he sees Chinese actions that are provoking such moves:

There is a new edge to Chinese naval policy in the South China Sea, causing Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines to cleave closer to the US alliance. Has Beijing studied how German naval ambitions upset the careful diplomatic legacy of Bismarck and pushed an ambivalent Britain towards the Entente, even to the point of accepting alliance with Tsarist autocracy?

What Chinese naval strategists are studying is the work of Alfred Thayer Mahan, who stressed the importance of battle fleets than can control the sea lanes.  And like German Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the Chinese are building warships that can mount a "peer" challenge to the U.S. as Germany did to Britain.  At stake is naval dominance along the Pacific Rim and the maritime commerce between East Asia and the Middle East (what Beijing calls West Asia).  An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times argued just a week before the Obama-Hu summit: 

Reports about China's stealth jet and "carrier-killer" missile are changing the strategic power balance in the West Pacific. Western observers believe that China's at-sea defense capability has been growing wider, and that US aircraft carriers can no longer operate in this region without a second thought.

Evans-Pritchard is not unaware of these developments.  He cites in his essay Defense Minister Liang Guanglie's recent statement that China's armed forces are "pushing forward military preparations for conflict in every strategic direction."  He quotes Professor Huang Jing from Singapore, who was an adviser to the People's Liberation Army: "The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system."  Yet Evans-Pritchard thinks it would be unwise for the U.S. and its allies to take action to protect themselves.

He does not want another Cold War.  It was exactly this desire to avoid another war (hot or cold) after World War I that motivated the appeasement policy towards Hitler.  The result was to encourage a level of aggression that finally provoked World War II on an even larger scale, when events could have been nipped in the bud earlier at a much lower cost.

Evans-Pritchard tries to avoid this line of inquiry by never mentioning anything that happened in Europe after 1914.  Yet this is where his proposed policy of appeasement was infamously tried and failed.  The China policy of President Obama resembles that of Prime Minister Chamberlain in important respects.  To ease tensions with Beijing during the summit, Obama hosted a roundtable with Hu and business leaders from both countries.  Obama opened his remarks by noting, "There has been no sector of our societies that have been stronger proponents of U.S.-China relations than the business sector."  Chamberlain also thought commerce would tame Nazi Germany, and he established a special Economics Section in the Foreign Ministry to promote ties with Berlin.  It only made London look weak as Germany grew stronger.  Winston Churchill denounced the "building of German industry with British and American money."

That the same pattern is happening in China is known to Evans-Pritchard.  "The political reality is that China's export of manufacturing over-capacity is hollowing out the US industrial core, and a plethora of tricks to stop Western firms competing in the Chinese market rubs salt in the wound. It is preventing full recovery in the US," he writes, adding that "this will not be tolerated for much longer if Beijing is also perceived to be a strategic enemy."  So Washington must not consider China a potential enemy so it can continue to tolerate Beijing's "mercantilism," even though Evans-Pritchard thinks America would win a trade war if Washington decided to restrict commerce with China and revive its own industrial base.

To further soften China's image, Evans-Pritchard does not call the regime Communist.  Instead, he refers to Confucian China.  He also says of the regime that "despots they are not."  Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, might not agree as he sits in a Chinese prison for trying to promote peaceful democratic reform.  Neither might President Hu, given his efforts to revive Marxist ideological training among the party's younger cadres.

Evans-Pritchard's plea for appeasement takes on a strange tone near the end of his essay.  "You could say Mr Obama has won little in return for reaching out, but as Napoleon put it, 'a leader is a dealer in hope'. What, pray, would a policy of crude containment do to China's psyche?"  Napoleon was hardly a proponent of appeasement.  And again, Evans-Pritchard tries to cast Beijing as the victim.

Apparently only China has a right to advance its interests in the world.  After all, Evans-Pritchard attacks "unreconstructed Neo-cons such as ex-UN ambassador John Bolton" for wanting to protect U.S. interests and allies, ending his essay with the words, "'Boltonism' must be crushed."  Chamberlain had the same thoughts about Churchill, as did those those who denounced Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher between then and now.

The 21st century must be handed over to a rising China because Evans-Pritchard thinks it would take too much effort to do anything else but submit.

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