There are similarities in the rise of Hitler and Xi Jinping which are ominous in their portents. History repeats itself as goes the age old saying. The ogre of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has some very ominous similarities with Hitler’s Nazi party, in its rise and advancement.
An important difference between Nazi Germany and China, is that the rise of Nazi Germany and its domination of Europe, albeit for a short period, was achieved through intense armed conflict and war. China on the other hand has used threat of but almost no military action in its rise and the domination of its neighbours during the last 5 decades.
First, the similarities in the rise and the behaviour.
a. Authoritarian regimes seeking to avenge past humiliations : The Nazis and the CCP , both authoritarian regimes, have had very strong roots in the grievances and humiliations of the past. Hitler had a strong desire to avenge the humiliation heaped upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. He also harboured a grudge against Russia for the part played by it against Germany in The Great War (WWI). Similarly the CCP deeply resents the humiliating defeats it had to suffer at the hands of the Britan, Japan and Russia in the 19th century and at the hands of Japan during 1930s and during World War II. They refer to it as the lost century and seek for China a place of power, greater than other countries, at the high table of the world order.
b. Notions of superiority and desire to dominate : Hitler , with his notions of racial superiority, desired to leverage military strength to dominate and defeat the nations that defeated Germany in WWI and become the master of Europe. The roots of its conflict with the other European countries lay in their wealth and glory due to the colonies, which Germany lacked. China has notions of the being the greatest ancient civilization on earth. It desires to dominate, amongst others, all its neigbours, Japan, all of South Asia and especially the Indian sub-continent with a combination of economic carrots and military threats. Further its economic integration with Europe, as a major supplier of lowest cost goods and a huge market for the European goods, especially in the premium segment, and as a financial investor, have given China an unprecedented leverage over European countries. Chinese diplomats have delivered crudely worded threats not heard of in modern diplomacy, to countries like Australia and UK.
c. Strong Industrial Base ;The strength of Hitler’s Germany and CCP’s China stemmed from the creation of an industrial and manufacturing base capable of domestically sustaining a war machine in terms of equipment and ammunition. Germany, was always a power house of original research and advances in science and engineering. China embarked on a passionate program of catch up of scientific knowledge through a combination of foreign education, industrial espionage and reverse engineering,
d. Peace with stronger neighbours during initial years : During their initial years, both took care not to unduly provoke neighbours having size. In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union entered into a Treaty of Non Aggression– the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact which was a written guarantee of peace between the parties and that neither country would ally with or aid the enemy of the other. China signed with India a series of border agreements in 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013, setting out protocols for maintaining peace at the borders.
e. Gradual tackling the weak and testing world resolve: Having secured peace on their most vulnerable fronts, both Nazi Germany and China started tackling the smaller neighbours first. Hitler’s invasion of France, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the lower countries was quick and a resounding success. China embarked on a Belt and Road Initiative in Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Djibouti, which conferred it significant advantages for potential military facilities encircling India. Further it made aggressive and untenable claims on the economic rights in the South China Sea disturbing South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philipines with aggressive actions to which China faced no resistance apart from verbal protestations. It also reclaimed land around reefs and built military facilities there. Both Hitler and Xi Jinping, provoked, but not enough, for the entire world to unite in action against them.
f. The turning point – Conflict with the strongest neigbhour : Power, they say, is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Having easily defeated the smaller European countries, the German Army was at the peak of its glory. And then Hitler did the unthinkable. On 22nd June 1941, Germany invaded Russia, an action which marked the turning point in the World War II and brought the Soviet Union into war.
The supreme Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian PM Narendra Modi engaged personally in informal summits to build trust and friendly relations. But in April/May 2020, China occupied disputed territory in Galwan Valley and other regions, which were hitherto patrolled by both countries. To make matters worse, China indulged in betrayal of agreements between local Army Commanders of both countries to disengage and revert back gradually to original positions in the Galwan valley. On a border that has not seen a single bullet fired during the last few decades, the equation of Indo China relations changed dramatically on that infamous night of 15th June 2020. Chinese troops ambushed unarmed Indian soldiers who had gone to negotiate resulting in the martyring of 20 Indian soldiers, a turning point in Indo China relations, after more than 50 years.
Both, Hitler and Xi Jinping blundered in provoking open conflict with their respective immediate neighbours. Why were these neighbouring countries so critical- Coming in Part II.
Shalin S Divatia