THE countries of Asia do not exactly see the world in a grain of sand, but they have identified grave threats to the national interest in the tiny outcrops and shoals scattered off their coasts. The summer has seen a succession of maritime disputes involving China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines. This week there were more anti-Japanese riots in cities across China because of a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands known to the Japanese as the Senkakus and to the Chinese as the Diaoyus. Toyota and Honda closed down their factories. Amid heated rhetoric on both sides, one Chinese newspaper has helpfully suggested skipping the pointless diplomacy and moving straight to the main course by serving up Japan with an atom bomb.
That, thank goodness, is grotesque hyperbole: the government in Beijing is belatedly trying to play down the dispute, aware of the economic interests in keeping the peace. Which all sounds very rational, until you consider history—especially the parallel between China’s rise and that of imperial Germany over a century ago. Back then nobody in Europe had an economic interest in conflict; but Germany felt that the world was too slow to accommodate its growing power, and crude, irrational passions like nationalism took hold. China is re-emerging after what it sees as 150 years of humiliation, surrounded by anxious neighbours, many of them allied to America. In that context, disputes about clumps of rock could become as significant as the assassination of an archduke.
When small things – stupid things – start causing a big impact, then you shall know the system is in a pre-collapse state. Just like the fruit vendor starting the Arab Spring. Thinking about nuclear war over rocks in the ocean indicates China has arrived to this state. Even if Japan gives China the rocks, it won’t matter. Something else will surely come along causing the Chinese to blow a fuse.
Poll: 90% of Chinese Support Military Action Over Senkaku Islands | Japan Probe
Japan’s Nikkan Sports newspaper has reported on a public opinion survey conducted by China’s Global Times newspaper. The survey asked people in China and Taiwan if they supported military action to “protect” their territorial claim to the Senkaku Islands.Sponsored Ads
90.1% of respondents in mainland China said they supported military action [over the Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai Islands]. About 80% of mainland Chinese also showed a great deal of interest/concern in their territorial dispute with Japan. Over half (51.2%) believed that it could lead to an armed conflict between Japan and China.
After 1850, Germany industrialized rapidly, with a foundation in coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals and railways. From a population of 41 million people in 1871, it grew to 68 million in 1913. From a heavily rural nation in 1815, it was now predominantly urban. During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire operated as an industrial, technological and scientific giant, receiving more Nobel Prizes in science than Britain, France, Russia and the United States combined.
It became a great power and its navy went from being negligible to second only behind the Royal Navy in less than a decade. After the removal of the powerful Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1890 following the death of Emperor Wilhelm I, the young Emperor Wilhelm II engaged in increasingly reckless foreign policies that left the Empire isolated. Its network of small colonies in Africa and the Pacific paled in comparison to the British and French empires. When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, it had only two weak allies (Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empire) left. In World War I its plans to quickly capture Paris in 1914 failed and the Western Front (against Britain and France) became a stalemate. The Allied naval blockade made for increasing shortages of food. However Germany defeated Russia, carving out large Eastern territories in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 was designed to strangle the British; it failed because of the use of a trans-Atlantic convoy system. But the declaration – along with the Zimmermann Telegram – did bring the United States into the war, with its large reserves of money, food, and soldiers. The high command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff increasingly controlled the Reich as they gambled on one last offensive in spring 1918 (before the Americans could arrive in force). It failed and by October the armies were in retreat, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had collapsed, and the German people had lost faith in the political system. The Empire collapsed overnight in the November 1918 Revolution as all the royals abdicated and a republic took over.