THE RISE OF GERMANY 1871 – 1914 – A VIEW FROM CHINA

Washington Times on April 9, 2017, published a review by Martin Rubin of a book by the deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at Beijing’s National Defense University, Xu Qiyu on the rise of Germany from the uniting of the German states to the World War I (”Fragile Rise: Grand Strategy and the Fate of Imperial Germany, 1871 – 1914”, The MIT Press, 341 pages). At this point it is of interest that there is interest in Beijing in this fateful European development leading to world war. Excerpts below:

Inevitably, though, given the current geopolitical scene and the common feeling about the threat posed by China’s extraordinary rise to the future of the United States as the world’s dominant superpower, its discussion of Germany’s challenge to the Pax Britannica, which had held sway for a century, will be read as a kind of allegory of today’s situation.

Lest anyone miss this in Xu’s own text — and despite his suppleness as a writer few American readers will do so — the foreword by Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, makes it plain:

“Although Xu refrains from stating them explicitly, ‘Fragile Rise’ holds a number of important lessons for the rise of China in our own time. China’s rapidly growing economic and military power will inevitably create structural stress between China and the United States Whatever the intentions of leaders of both nations, they will have to recognize and manage the risks that inevitably accompany changes in the international balance of power.

‘Fragile Rise’ provides an important clue for Chinese leaders hoping to negotiate the structural stress created by their country’s ascendance.”

…the book’s translator, Joshua Hill, an assistant professor of history at Ohio University, lays it on…plainly:

“Make no mistake — ‘Fragile Rise’ is profoundly about contemporary. China As Xu Qiyu wrote on the original cover ‘When it is difficult to see clearly into the future, looking back to history, even the history of other peoples, might be the right choice.’

The reference to Bismarck is telling, for I think it is fair to say that if “Fragile Rise” has a hero it is Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who created the German Empire and whose wise leadership and diplomatic skills took it from strength to strength under its first Emperor Wilhelm I for nearly two decades.

China with its rigid party structure shares the authoritarianism which may well have — and had — inherent seeds of catastrophic choices.

There are at least as many differences and similarities between the past and present challenges to the prevailing ones. As we see in the sad end of “Fragile Rise,” the complex intertwined familial connections between the rulers of the monarchies that went to war in 1914 counted for little when push came to strategic shove. Common adversaries and different sorts of links between the United States and China may well prove to be similarly irrelevant.

Martin Rubin is a writer and critic in Pasadena, California.

Comment: The U.S. relationship with China was during the Cold War influenced by geostrategic interests. President Ronald Reagan once stated that the Red Chinese were a bunch of murdering bums. But there was a big chess game going on.

Since the fall of the Soviet empire interests have almost become altogether commercial.

National security interests have not counted for much during Democratic administrations post-1991. There have been some efforts by America to focus more on the rise of China but greater efforts are needed. One can only hope that the present U.S. administration is learning from history. It is not only the experience of the past rise of Germany (once predicted by American geopolitician Homer Lea). The rise of Japan was to a great extent neglected by the United States. Homer Lea also brought up the Japanese threat. His book on the subject was ignored. The Pearl Harbor happened.

The blind financing of China in the hope that this communist regime will voluntarily give up power can one day come back to haunt the United States and the rest of the West.

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