I watched a documentary on TV last night. It was about the last few years of the 1930s and Hitler’s move toward the war he wanted. The makers interviewed a number of historians who were experts on the events and illustrated their remarks with (mainly) black and white news reel footage. The focus was on what was going through Hitler’s mind. While I’m no expert, I know a fair bit about this period, having specialised in it for my history degree. I found the program fascinating.
About half way through, I kept thinking that the parallels of what’s happening right now with China is frankly terrifying.
Hitler first scooped up Austria. He reasoned they were Germans after all, and should be part of the greater Reich. When Hong Kong was returned to China, that was part of the legal agreement with Britain. But Xi Jingping has torn up the agreement and imposed full Chinese control. His moves may have invoked protests and a bit of international finger-pointing, but really, there wasn’t much the world could do.
Meanwhile, Xi Jingping built up his military and took over the islands in the South China Sea, which were developed into military bases. Vietnam and the Philippines (who had rights to the territory) might protest that the area isn’t China’s to take but who cares.
Back to Hitler. Austria having been assimilated, he focussed on Czechoslovakia and the Sudenten lands, an area largely inhabited by Germans. According to the documentary, Hitler fully expected, and wanted, war. This led to the crisis talks in Munich and Neville Chamberlain returning to Britain waving his ‘peace in our time’ document in 1938 . Essentially, the agreement said Hitler could have the Sudenten Lands if he agreed to stop his territorial aspirations. Hitler, of course, had no intention of honouring the commitment. Just like Xi had no intention of honouring the ‘one China, two systems’ agreement over Hong Kong.
Xi’s Sudenten lands is Taiwan. He claims it’s part of China, the Taiwanese don’t agree. He’s bullying Taiwan with his massive military (another parallel with Hitler) and pretending to want a peaceful solution – as long as everybody agrees with his solution. Which is another parallel with Hitler.
While all this is happening, China is involved in border skirmishes with India over ‘disputed territory’. The united States made a shambles of its departure from Afghanistan and the Taliban leaders were welcomed to Beijing. Putin, who sees himself as a Czar (just as Xi sees himself as Emperor of China) takes advantage of the dissension tearing America apart and moves troops up to the border with Ukraine. He already made his intentions clear after his take-over of Crimea. Putin and Xi sign an agreement over setting up bases on the Moon – all of this designed to increase pressure on the West, the US in particular.
Xi and Putin have read Hitler’s game plan and already made a few of the same moves with the same results. Covid 19 has weakened the western world’s economies and made it ever more introspective. Back in 1938 ‘the war to end all wars’ ended twenty years ago, recent memory. Many of the survivors of that terrible conflict were only middle-aged. No wonder appeasement was on the agenda. Nobody (except Hitler) wanted a repeat. I suppose these days war carries with it the threat of total annihilation through nuclear weapons.
France and Britain realised appeasement would not work with Hitler after the tanks rolled into Prague. When Hitler decided he wanted Danzig, (now Gdansk) they signed an agreement with Poland guaranteeing support. Hitler was surprised at that move. He didn’t expect that Britain and France would put themselves out for Poland. Right now, a similar discussion is taking place over whether the West (the US) will support Taiwan in a battle with China.
So. It seems to me the world is on the brink. It’s far too easy to envisage a war on two fronts, with Putin sending his troops into Ukraine while China launches a full-scale attack on Taiwan.
Depressing, isn’t it?
On a totally unrelated subject, I fail to understand why highly-paid elite sportsmen think it is appropriate to send unsolicited pictures of their genitals to women. I thought ex-Australian cricket captain, Tim Paine, was better than that. Clearly not. But it’s interesting, is it not, that this incident, which happened in 2017 and was dealt with by the relevant authorities in 2018, should rear its ugly head again now, just a few weeks before the first match of the Ashes.
‘May you live in interesting times’ is supposed to be an old Chinese curse. Actually, it’s not Chinese at all  but it suits my purposes here and if Terry Pratchett can use it, so can I.