Peter Lee wrote an interesting piece at Asia Times titled “India places its Asian bet on Japan” today regarding his take of India’s recent rapprochement with Japan. Before reading this piece, I had regarded Singh’s recent trip to Japan as nothing much more than two second-rate power trying to form a second-rate alliance against a perceived first-rate power. But perhaps there is something more…
Here is an excerpt of Lee’s article:
In a dismaying week for the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India turned away from it, and gave further signals that it is ready to move beyond the narrative of Japanese World War II aggression that has informed China’s Asian diplomacy and anchored the US presence in Asia for over half a century in favor of a view of Japan as a leading and laudable security actor in East Asia.
I don’t know if there is a term in the diplomatic lexicon for “deep tongue kiss accompanied by groans of mutual fulfillment”, but if there is, it seems it would be illustrated by the encounter between Indian President Manmohan Singh and Japanese PM Abe Shinzo in Tokyo on May 27-29, 2013.
Speaking to an assembly of Japanese government and corporate worthies in Tokyo, Singh said:
Asia’s resurgence began over a century ago on this island of the Rising Sun. Ever since, Japan has shown us the way forward. India and Japan have a shared vision of a rising Asia. Over the past decade, therefore, our two countries have established a new relationship based on shared values and shared interests. …
Our relationship with Japan has been at the heart of our Look East Policy. Japan inspired Asia’s surge to prosperity and it remains integral to Asia’s future. The world has a huge stake in Japan’s success in restoring the momentum of its growth. Your continued leadership in enterprise, technology and innovation and your ability to remain the locomotive of Asian renaissance are crucial. India’s relations with Japan are important not only for our economic development, but also because we see Japan as a natural and indispensable partner in our quest for stability and peace in the vast region in Asia that is washed by the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Our relations draw their strength from our spiritual, cultural and civilizational affinities and a shared commitment to the ideals of democracy, peace and freedom. We have increasingly convergent world views and growing stakes in each other’s prosperity. We have shared interests in maritime security and we face similar challenges to our energy security. There are strong synergies between our economies, which need an open, rule-based international trading system to prosper.
Together, we seek a new architecture for the United Nations Security Council. In recent years, our political and security cooperation has gained in salience. Japan is the only partner with whom we have a 2-plus-2 Dialogue between the Foreign and Defence Ministries. We have also begun bilateral exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force.
The romance was consecrated by an audience with the Japanese emperor and empress for Singh and his wife, and the announcement that the royal couple would be visiting India before the year’s end in only the second overseas trip for the aging emperor since 2009.
Certainly, the Japan-India affair has sound diplomatic and economic bases. India is not happy about its immense trade deficit with China; Japan sees India as an alternative manufacturing base to an increasingly hostile (and costly) China.
Abe also would welcome some big ticket deals with India – hopefully including a dominant share of India’s nuclear power plant imports (see PK Sundaram’s article at Japan Focus) – to keep the economy humming and keep Abenomics out of the ditch.
Various national quid pro quos are at work – several billion dollars in Japanese loans, Indian support for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and a promise to work together to change the structure of the UN Security Council, to date notably China-heavy and Japan- and-India-unrepresented.
But an interested reader – and, indeed, the Chinese government – cannot escape the sense that Singh, encouraged by Abe’s vigorous approach to restoring Japan’s national and regional stature, has decided to place an open bet on Japan – a fellow democracy and, until recent years at least, acknowledged master of the global economic and financial game – instead of obstreperous, state socialist China in the Asian sweepstakes.
Chinese state media has for the most part refrained from criticizing Manmohan Singh and India’s Japan tilt directly. However, references to Radhabinod Pal have appeared in Chinese media and, provide an interesting perspective (and surrogate) for China’s unease with its deepening Indio-Japanese conundrum.
Pal was an Indian jurist on the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in 1946. Enamored of the anti-colonial rhetoric that accompanied the Japanese “advance” into Southeast Asia, he believed the United States had provoked Japan into war (the Japanese response was therefore not “aggressive”), was concerned about Allied wartime atrocities, and declined to endorse the “triumph of civilization” narrative of Japan’s defeat or the creation of “Class A” war criminal category that the Occupation used to prosecute the Japanese military and civilian leadership. While acknowledging the commission of atrocities in the field (though a Nanjing Massacre skeptic), Pal voted for acquittal of the “Class A” defendants and prepared a 1,235-page dissenting opinion – suppressed by the Occupation until 1952 – stating that the trial was a “victor’s justice” travesty.
So far so good.
After his dissent was published, Pal, unsurprisingly, became a hero to Japanese nationalists. Given the legal and moral flaws of the tribunal, the standard explanation is that Pal was simply a scrupulous jurist whose dissent got cherry picked by nasty nationalists for verbiage that supported their claim that the only thing Japan did wrong in World War II was lose it.
Actually, as an article at Japan Focus by Japanese scholar Nakajima Takeshi points out, in his dissent Pal went beyond challenging the legality and validity of the tribunal to excusing Japanese – activities? aggression? advances? Choose your favorite term – on the grounds that Japan was getting picked on by the West.
This is rather obvious in Pal’s treatment of Japan’s incursion into Manchuria in 1931, which Japan did on its own kick without the excuse that the US was forcing it into war. Pal obviously finds it extremely awkward that Japan, in his mind the front line of resistance to Western colonialism, adopted nakedly colonial policies in its dismemberment of China and subjugation of Manchuria.
After dismissing the Manchurian and Marco Polo Bridge incidents as examples of simple overexuberance by officers in the field and not elements of a conspiracy to justify occupation of north and northeast China, Pal deployed the “delusion” defense, as Nakajima writes:
Justice Pal then critically examined Western Imperialism, which, he asserted, Japan had imitated. Quoting the Survey of International Affairs 1932, he turned the target of the criticism toward the colonial policies of Western Powers:
Was it not Western Imperialism that had coined the word “protectorate” as a euphemism for “annexation”? And had not this constitutional fiction served its Western inventors in good stead? Was not this the method by which the Government of the French Republic had stepped into the shoes of the Sultan of Morocco, and by which the British Crown had transferred the possession of vast tracts of land in East Africa from native African to adventitious European hands?
For Justice Pal, Japan’s “farce” was nothing but the result of imitating Western fashions of imperialism. From this point of view, he questioned why only Japan’s establishment of Manchukuo could be assessed as “aggression”. Weren’t Western countries morally guilty as well in practicing colonialism? If the acts of aggression by Western countries were not charged as crimes, why was the establishment of Manchukuo by Japan?
Justice Pal further quoted the Survey of International Affairs 1932: “Though the Japanese failed to make the most of these Western precedents in stating their case for performing the farce of ‘Manchukuo’, it may legitimately be conjectured that Western as well as Japanese precedents had in fact suggested, and commended, this line of policy to Japanese minds.”
By saying, “[i]t may not be a justifiable policy, justifying one nation’s expansion in another’s territory”, he emphasized that both Japan and the Western countries were morally responsible for the colonization of other nations. Justice Pal explained that Japan was at that time possessed with a “delusion” and believed that the country would face death and destruction if it failed in acquiring Manchuria.
Pal regarded this as the reason for Japan’s attempts to establish interests which it saw as necessary for its very existence. Justice Pal said that carrying out a military operation driven by “delusion” was not unique to Japan as it had been repeatedly practiced on a large scale by Western countries for many years.
Saying, “[a]lmost every great power acquired similar interests within the territories of the Eastern Hemisphere and, it seems, every such power considered that interest to be very vital”, Pal argued that Japan had the “right” to argue that the Manchurian Incident was necessary for the sake of “self-defense”. Japan claiming national “self-defense” in regard to its territorial expansion in China was in step with international society at the time, Pal said, and thus Japan’s actions stemmed from the “imitation” of an evil practice of Western imperialism. Based on this premise, he concluded: “The action of Japan in Manchuria would not, it is certain, be applauded by the world. At the same time it would be difficult to condemn the same as criminal.”
Pal’s brief seems to go beyond the questioning of a dubious legal proceeding by a distinguished and experienced international jurist to rather dishonorable special pleading on behalf of his favorite country, Japan.
In 1966, the emperor of Japan conferred upon Pal – who stated his lifelong admiration of Japan as the one Asian country that stood up to the West – the First Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure.
The Pal dissent is a cornerstone of the recent nationalist tilt of the Japanese government, as can be seen from this Telegraph report of the aftermath of the Liberal Democrat Party’s victory at the polls in 2012:
“The view of that great war was not formed by the Japanese themselves, but rather by the victorious Allies, and it is by their judgment only that [Japanese] were condemned,” Mr Abe told a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Tuesday.
In his previous short-lived spell as prime minister, for 12 months from September 2006, Mr Abe said that the 28 Japanese military and political leaders charged with Class-A war crimes are “not war criminals under the laws of Japan.”
Pal was enshrined at Yasukuni, which gives the lie to the claim that it is simply a memorial to the war dead and not a revisionist shrine. The photo illustrating Pal’s entry in Wikipedia is his Yasukuni stele.
So, by an alternate reading of history, Japan can claim credit for the decolonization of India as well as Malaysia and Burma (now Myanmar).
Prime Minister Singh’s attitude to the potent symbolism of the Pal dissent and the Japanese decolonization narrative was displayed in Singh’s toast to Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in 2005:
The dissenting judgment of Justice Radha Binod Pal is well-known to the Japanese people and will always symbolize the affection and regard our people have for your country.
On December 14, 2006, Singh upgraded Pal’s judgment to “principled” and an expression of Indian-Japan solidarity in his speech in the Japanese Diet. He stated:
The principled judgment of Justice Radhabinod Pal after the War is remembered even today in Japan. Ladies and Gentlemen, these events reflect the depth of our friendship and the fact that we have stood by each other at critical moments in our history.
This does not look like a matter of parsing the legal and moral flaws Pal detected in the war crimes tribunal. It looks as if Singh’s heart, like Pal’s, was with Japan – and its view that Japan was unfairly stigmatized – and China unnecessarily benefited – by the narrative of Japanese national criminal aggression in World War II.
As generational memories fade of the miseries inflicted as a result of Japan’s rampage through Asia, resurrecting the comforting abstraction of the Japan decolonization narrative is a potent political and diplomatic weapon for 21st century Asian politicians interested in the possibility of a new, more Japan-centric security order – despite the fact that Japan has to be discreet in wielding it in the presence of the United States, which is completely vested in the Greatest Generation/triumph over evil version.
The fact that the overt anti-China/pro-Japan tilt is a risky bet and, to a certain extent, Japan needs early and active Indian buy-in for the Abe gambit to succeed, make it appear that Singh decided to follow his heart and match Abe’s boldness with his own.
Global Times talked tough on the occasion of the Singh visit, putting the onus on Abe once again but presumably also sending a message to India not to end up on the wrong side of (long term) history (as well as reassuring itself that, despite the unfavorable set of current circumstances, the PRC will come out on top in the end):
It will take time for Japan to face the reality that the once only great power in East Asia has to give way to China, whose GDP and marine strength will surpass that of Japan.
The process will be tougher for Japan, which will be sincerely convinced some day. The day will come sooner or later. The little tricks that Japan is playing are nothing but a struggle for self-comfort, which will not affect the development of Asia. Japan is trying every means to hide its decline against China in order to boost its national morale, but China does not need to compete with Japan to regain confidence and prove its strength. The conflict between China and Japan should not be regarded as a “strategic” game. In fact, the overall strategic future of Japan and China has already been determined.
Gains and losses incurred by the frictions between China and Japan make no difference to the futures of either country. There is no need for China to exert too much energy on Japan. As a growing but young giant, Chinese society will unavoidably have to deal with various conflicts with Japan. It will be a long journey for China to become mature enough so that a real great power will emerge with confidence.
This is not a final showdown between China and Japan, neither is it an opportunity for China to mend its broken fences with Japan. All China should do is “take it easy”. China should be aware that Japanese tricks can never impact China strategy. China should take the initiative to decide when and how seriously we respond to it.
But maybe Singh sees a once-in-a-career opportunity for rollback against the PRC with Abe in Japan, the US in Myanmar, and China’s problems with ASEAN on a prolonged, ugly boil.
The PRC appears to have decided it is a good idea to draw closer to the United States (which Abe is discreetly shouldering aside as he pursues his Japan-centric initiatives and promotes his vision of Japan as a victim of “victor’s justice”), and declare allegiance to the World War II narrative that exalts US leadership and Japan’s demotion to self-defense force quarantine.
PRC Premier Li Keqiang found himself in the unlikely position of trying to reawaken nostalgia for the Potsdam declaration – which mandated the return to their owners of territories like Taiwan, the Pescadores, and Manchuria that Japan had stolen – during his trip to Germany. Beyond giving the PRC some kind of claim to the Senkakus, invoking the Potsdam declaration is probably meant to remind the United States of a happier time when the West’s writ was respectfully acknowledged and not covertly defied by the subjugated and defeated nations of Asia.
On the other hand, if the weakened yen and Abe’s frenetic regional deal making fail to keep the Nikkei afloat and the long-expected revulsion against Japanese bonds (and the 240% of GDP national debt they fund) materializes and spikes Japan’s borrowing costs, Japan will be licking its wounds a few months from now and Singh will face some awkward moments in dealing with Beijing.
But for the time being, the vision (or, to the PRC, the specter) of an active Japan-India alliance inciting and recruiting opposition to Chinese strategic and economic penetration in Asia offers the prospect of a potentially far-reaching re-juggling of Pacific relationships.
This is an interesting and insightful piece for me. Can Japan (of the 20th century to boot) really be viewed by India as a political liberator of Asia? Is this an endorsement of convenience or is this a legitimate alternative reading of world history?
I can’t say…
I have seen India writers like Pankaj Mishra write about colonialism with full conviction – to only then confuse China to be a colonial power. And now this – elevating a recognized colonial power as a liberator. India seems to have a serious case of dementia…
I personally feel colonialism (just like genocide) should not be twisted for political convenience. But what makes the current development even sadder is that it shows how even the oppressed of the world, the professed victims of imperialism and colonialism, do not share a common understanding of colonialism and imperialism.
However suffocating I may have thought of the U.S. narrative of itself as pure good in a world filled with evils, I think I’d much prefer the U.S. version over a version that involves an attempt at white-washing history that elevates Japan’s WWII role to the noble – or one involving “deep tongue kiss accompanied by groans of mutual fulfillment”as Peter Lee had put it. Perhaps the recent Obama-Xi Summit should not just be viewed as a photo-op opportunity, or a reset (or creation, as the case may be) of a greatpower relation – but an affirmation by China and the U.S. to continue the current order, to be a co-architect of a common world order, however imperfect that order may currently be…
Guo Du says
My gut feeling is that the Indians are nowhere near as stupid as the Americans think they are. It’s a very sophisticated civilisation unfortunately still suffering from the post-colonial poisons it swallowed. If I were India, I would also make nominal gestures to Japan once in a while to placate the Americans and to keep China on its toes. But substantial Indian/Japan cooperation? My bet is that India would much prefer to deal and compete with China, a relatively rational neighbour whom they understand.
Yeah, I agree. Personally, I think this alliance between India and Japan is not a strong one. Japan has economic ties with China and now Abe wants to divert these same economic ties with China to India. Sure India will gain economically and Japan gains politically at the expense of China but will this work? Considering that China good relations with Pakistan, it might make sense for India to have better relations with Japan politically also.
Besides, I doubt that India has or wants to push its influence towards containment of China anyways. It is mostly Japan who is doing most of the pushing.
fellas, i have a feeling Indian PM Manmohan Singh is quite the sinophobe, and who perhaps subscribes to the notion of ‘containing China’. How do we explain the escalation in sino-indian border clashes in 2009 and today, and even going back to the nuclear deal with the US?
Nonetheless, i’ll reserve my opinions on the Indian Establishment’s attitude vis-a-vis China until after the next Indian elections where Modi might have the opportunity to change India’s strategic direction. Or not.
Can India and China be friends and supportive allies? As far as i’m concerned, that’s entirely up to India; China has always demonstrated its willingness to compromise and offer friendship, even going so far as to compromise its alliance with Pakistan for the sake of an Indian entente.
Still, judging by the articles by someone as ‘objective’ as MK Bhadrakumar, the attitudes of these intellectuals regarding China cannot be described as anything but cold distrust with a higher than normal probability of mutating towards outright hostility.
How else can one describe actions like the Indian navy flagrantly violating China’s interests in the SCS by blatantly and obviously working on mining area of the SCS in dispute with China and Vietnam?
If i were a realpolitician in Beijing i wouldn’t trust the Indians as far as i could throw them, based on such actions-but that’s just me.
We either rise together, India and China, or India can fall to the wayside like Japan. China’s place is all but assured, India’s much less so. Japan’s place is practically in free fall judging by the progress of ‘abenomics’. As Peter Lee put it, Manmohan Singh ‘followed his heart’ in choosing this alliance with Japan, rather than a cold and mathematical logical calculation that prioritises relations with China so as to achieve the maximal benefit to the Indian people.
I do note however, that China has much more cards to play against India than would otherwise be the case. India’s neighbours save Bhutan and Bangladesh, outright fear and hate the Indians for their imperialistic policies, and even Bhutan and Bangladesh have been moving more towards China’s irresistible economic orbit. You have Pakistan to India’s West, Nepal to the north and recently, Sri Lanka which just signed a strategic cooperative partnership with China in the wake of Manmohan Singh’s ‘alliance’ with Abe. And let’s not get into the many, many insurgent groups within India which China’s intelligence agencies could *ahem*support*ahem* if the geniuses in Delhi feel suicidal enough.
PS i’ll also add another point as to why i’m pessimistic about future Sino-Indian relations: the bloody Indian media with its sensationalist and jingoistic sinophobic bullshit- the same Indian media which i wouldn’t be surprised if it were staffed by CIA operatives intent on breeding sinophobic reactions in the Indian population. Every goddamn thing that has anything remotely to do with China be it Tibet, Xinjiang, or China proper is always portrayed in a negative light.
And this is tolerated and encouraged by the anglo press! When the Indians tested their ICBM, the Indian media dubbed it a ‘China Killer’ and the Anglo press nodded approvingly.
The greatest dream of the anglo west in forestalling Asia’s rise, and by default, ensuring the supremacy o the anglo male, is to instigate an Asian war between China and India, or China and Japan +/- Filipines and Vietnam.
Black Pheonix says
They tried that alliance before. if it had a chance, it would have worked a long time ago.
Our world is not a network of nations neatly organized as friends and foes. It’s a giant poker table where the players can trade cards.
I am going to block out that disgusting kissing imagery!
The sad truth is the ruling elites in Japan believe if they’d won WW2, that’d legitimize their invasion of China and Asia. It’s pretty disgusting.
Guo Du says
Zack’s got a point there though I hope he’s wrong for the sake of regional peace. I was speculating from common-sense and geopolitics. It makes absolutely no sense, from the standpoint of national interest, for India to true-heartedly snuggle up to Japan. And I believe the true Indian (intellectual) elites are not the backward idiots that many in Washington and Tokyo sneakily assume. However, I might have underestimated the advanced effect of one of the post-colonial poisons they swallowed: Popular Democracy in a society like theirs. Their political landscape might have been totally taken over by short-term opportunists already, as well, purged of statesmen with vision and national interest at heart.
y’know what; i want to believe that the Indian Establishment want peace and co-prosperity with China, i want to believe that China and India can be brothers borne of the same predatory nature of western imperialism, i’d love to believe that Indians would love for China to be their go-to ally and all weather friend, but the evidence insofar as i can see state the opposite.
For instance, the entire reason why the border dispute has gone on for this long has been because of the seer pigheadedness of Delhi; in fact, the leadership in Delhi actually believe time is on their side and given the rhetoric and how they record the sino indian war, there exists a strain amongst the Indian Elite and layperson, that India’s humiliating defeat must be ‘avenged’.
It also explains why the Indians have opportunistically taken advantage of China’s attention in the SCS, so as to advance towards the east in south east asia; when you take this coupled with protectionist polices such as the tariffs on solar panels, and Huawei, and the proposal to ban WeChat (based on american NSA spying no less!!) i’m starting to doubt whether or not the Indians want a new asian world order where they and China can stand side by side. Rather, it appears they’re subscribing more to the ‘entente of democracies’ so as to encircle and ‘contain China’.
the onus is actually on the Indians to prove they are of good faith when dealing with China, rather than simply trying to blame their hyper natioanlistic public on explaining their absurd China policy of war and confrontation. Everyone wants regional peace, but they all have different interpretations of it; in the view of Washington, Delhi and Tokyo, regional peace is best maintained by containing Chinese advancements in all fields be it political/economic/technological. Naturally, Beijing’s view is that of a multipolar world, based on statements by the Foreign ministry and Chinese scholars.
In my personal view, and i must state for the record that i am a political realist, i would pre-empt the strategy of ‘containment’ by splitting, dividing and isolating the would be ‘enemies’. If the leadership in Delhi are so adamant for a new cold war, and towards becoming a bulwark for Western imperialists, then so be it; i would propose arming the Naxalites, and other insurgent groups in India’s north east. i would contain India’s political aspirations by denying them access to nuclear technology and prosecuting countries that violated the NPT; finally i would ensure unrest in India by raising food prices worldwide, and given the trend of climate change, that aint going to be hard.
As for Japan, i would open a dialogue with the moderates in Tokyo, and ensure that Abe’s policies fail, such that a more reasonable administration takes office, hopefully another ‘Hatoyama’ who’s open to the idea of a Sino-Japanese entente.
i would use ASEAN to isolate would be provocateurs such as the Philipines and Vietnam, and finally i would open a dialogue with the key puppet masters: the United States as to their intetions in the Asia-Pacific. Rather than judging by their speech, i will judge by their actions, and if those actions scream ‘containment policy’, then we’ll have ourselves another merry little cold war 2.0, except this time, it won’t be the Communist nation that’ll be debt spending on armaments.
Black Pheonix says
Here is a bit of interesting history that might show the Indian attitude toward Japan, historically:
“Gandhi and the Congress leadership assumed a position of neutrality: while clearly critical of fascism, they could not find it in themselves to support British imperialism. Gandhi was opposed by Subhas Chandra Bose, who had served as President of the Congress, and who took to the view that Britain’s moment of weakness was India’s moment of opportunity. When Bose ran for President of the Congress against Gandhi’s wishes and triumphed against Gandhi’s own candidate, he found that Gandhi still exercised influence over the Congress Working Committee, and that it was near impossible to run the Congress if the cooperation of Gandhi and his followers could not be procured. Bose tendered his resignation, and shortly thereafter was to make a dramatic escape from India to find support among the Japanese and the Nazis for his plans to liberate India.”
In other words, even Gandhi took the position of “neutrality” against Imperial Japan and the Nazis.
If it had not been for Gandhi, Indians might have fought for Japan and the Nazis in WWII “to liberate India”, not unlike Chechnya fought for the Nazis against the Soviets.
What troubles me here is not an India-Japan axis. It is also not Japanese nationalism or even fascism.
It is the fact that in the English speaking context at least, I have always believed that India has a natural standing to articulate and speak out against colonialism and imperialism. Yet here we have China – who was also at the short end of the stick of European and Japanese colonialism and imperialism – and India greatly diverging views on history.
Is Japan a colonialist or liberator? If Japan can be a liberator – then so can any of the European colonialist be seen – as the colonialist themselves saw themselves – to be liberators, liberators of the colonized from ignorance, backwardness, non-civilization.
This is a critical question – what is colonialism and imperialism? Is it really inherently bad or have we simply politicized for our political stance?
When India and China can’t agree on what is colonialism and imperialism, we lose a common narrative of oppression. It no longer is a evil that has defined an epoch. Has there been oppression of the world for the last few centuries of human history? Or has the West simply triumphed, and do the non-Western world simply have sour grapes and make up a history of “oppression” to conveniently sooth themselves?
And we are not talking just about history here. We are talking about living worldviews. Worldviews that have the power to mold the future…
I don’t think this has anything to do with colonialism. I think this has to do with Obama’s policy towards containment towards China in his ‘Asia Pivot’ policy and Japan is just riding its wave. Containment is not colonialism. I doubt that India would participate in ‘containing’ China.
I thought this is a fairly good article of both China and Japan are trying to woo India and I have to agree with the notion that just because you see Abe and Singh shaking hands does not mean that India would be interested in breaking China’s ‘string of pearls.’
I think there’s a silver lining to this when Abe’s Japan in its policy towards China’s containment. It used to be that the US was able to push all its weight towards containing China. However, US’s influence in the Asia region is just not there compared 20-30 years ago, Japan is using its influence in US’ vacuum. However, I think the toothless nation of Japan is doing a poor job of it.
It’s expected that India and China would diverge as their self interests would clash. India was and is always held up as an alternative and competitor to the Chinese model by the West. I think the border dispute was always a smoke screen although the nationalist feeling was hurt by the defeat in the border war. China is willing to trade land from East which is larger and more useful to India for West in Kashmir which is useless to India but more useful to China as the road connecting Tibet to Xinjiang. As from the recent reports showed that the competition is not going well for India; from the rapes of tourists to decline of growth and devaluation of currency in India while China is moving hundreds of millions to urban areas. India need some distraction to feel self important, hence the alliance with Japan which is doomed to failure.
A thought experiment: If the British had been defeated in Europe, the British Isles had been taken over by the Axis, and Churchill and the English monarch had gone in exile to India, would they have been treated better than Mussolini in his last days? My take: highly doubtful. Justice Pal came from a world that he would rather see the axis win, for the simple reason of his enemy’s enemy being his friend. He didn’t know, first-handedly, what was like to live under fascism as the oppressed ones. It’s basically the same reason why at one point or the others, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela supported communism.
Abe proposed this “democratic security diamond”, formed by Australia, Hawaii, Japan, and India. First you have to wonder where the “democratic” South Korea is in this alliance. Well, South Korea knows better about Japan — it has been invaded and occupied by Japan in some very grotesque ways many times in the last 1500 years. It will not buy into Japan’s horseshit that easily.
Abe in his most recent premiership, has become an international traveling butterfly trying to tie up an anti-China alliance, yet he has received mostly lukewarm and skeptical receptions, not only in the US, Australia, Thailand, but also in countries such as Vietnam, which had a major border war and many land/marine skirmishes with China in recent memory. Vietnam is too smart to fall for that. You put up a loan (even pretentiously) to build a HCM City to Hainoi High-speed Rail, me likes it, but making a grand and strongly implicit anti-China statement together, oh no.
The only place Abe got his wish was in India.
The run rate of China’s fiscal revenue is about 3 times of the run rate of India’s and Japan’s combined, while the fiscal spending of China is about 60% higher than latter two combined. Quite possibly the most alarming news coming out of Japan recently is that even after some 26% year-to-year yen depreciation, Japan still ran a much larger than expected trade deficit in 5/13. The trade deficit seems to structural instead of driven by an elevated yen value. Against a backdrop of run-away government debt level and annual fiscal deficit, to me a black-swan event for Japan in the next decade, would be somehow it manages to survive without a systemic collapse.
This is why nobody else is willing to pick the horse named Japan, other than India. To me that is probably not very smart for India, but we shall see.
Japan wants to sell India its HSR technology. The proposed cost for the Mumbai – Ahmedabad line is at roughly $20 million per km, which is several times cheaper than the one built (Taiwan), or the one proposed (Vietnam) outside of Japan. The cost is actually comparable to China’s cost basis. Given the inflation built in for a future project, Japan’s insanely high cost basis, and India’s lack of stable power grid, the cost of HSR seems to a PR stunt than a serious proposal. Actually I will go as far as claim the only cost basis is how much China can build it for, and Japan isn’t that serious about it, other than using the story as a way to sell the new budding alliance.
You guys don’t seem to understand basic economics, china effectively serves the western economic model while India is the only country in the world with a closed banking system. Study the trade relationships between countries, India goes out of its way to deny western countries to have any access to their markets beyond pleasantries. India is the only country that makes sure that medicines are available to people around the world regardless of their wallet size, this includes the Chinese.
People on this site thinking India is a western puppet are delusional.
Regardless of how the western media portrays situations, from New Dehli’s perspective, China is responsible for supporting the west. They feel sympathy for the Japanese as they have American bases on their doorsteps and can do little except tow the line.
For all the people on this site I’d like to throw a general question, do you not understand that China’s ‘wealth’ is dependent on a western bank model? If the west collapses what ‘wealth’ do all you people think China has in the bank? Do you not realize that the wealth of India is India’s alone? That the Indian market is not an export market and doesn’t need to be?
The ironies of china’s ‘rise’ abound. They can no more go against the west than Iraqis. The creation of some giant battle between India and china has to be the greatest joke since the ‘world’ bank.
Interesting, please tell us more. I want to understand what you mean by “India is the only country on the world with a closed banking system.”
It was my understanding that China also has its own banking system, because it is based on yuan, and that is not dollar based. Is this understanding incorrect? How is India’s different?
perhaps Gunwin might also want to tell us how China ‘effectively serves the western model’ when the West often bemoans China’s fiscal and currency policies and many economists opine about China’s own unique model of State Capitalism which the Indians attempt to emulate;
i’d also like to hear how s/he can say that ‘India has a…closed banking system’ when in the space of these last few days, the Indian rupee has fallen to 0.6:1 vis-a-vis the USDollar forcing the Reserve Bank of India to follow the Western model of monetary policy so as to ensure it didn’t fall any further.
Perhaps Gunwin might also want to tell us how India is unable to stop the level of malnutrition and disease in its own states when, like China, it appears to have its own system of subsidised medicines?
Gunwin, it appears you yourself might be the one lacking in any sort of education in Economics, let alone current events. Bet it never even occured to you that Beijing has been downsizing their holdings of Treasuries since 2009 and moving their wealth into solid assets such as companies, gold, copper, agriculture etc
Black Pheonix says
“Regardless of how the western media portrays situations, from New Dehli’s perspective, China is responsible for supporting the west. They feel sympathy for the Japanese as they have American bases on their doorsteps and can do little except tow the line.”
I find the logic for this statement rather twisted.
“feel sympathy” for the Japanese as they have American bases on their doorsteps and can do little except tow the line??
So, India feels sympathy for those who surrendered? While China has resisted US and ally bases near them??
So which one would India rather be? “Tow” the line of US like Japan, Or Resist US like China?
According to history, it seems that India had been making wrong friends last 100 years.
During WWII they thought Japan could be a friend, but they didn’t realize that “enemy’s enemy law” couldn’t work in the case of which the “enemy’s enemy” is the “enemy of humanity”. At the end, Bose got shot down by allied fighters when he’s on board of a Japanese bomber and his dream of freedom and independence was no more than an illusion.
In 1962, India thought they’ve made good friends with both US and USSR and then they could’ve got a strong backup of invading China. However after several elite forces being wiped out by Chinese frontier forces, US and USSR were still watching without any practical actions.
India kept following USSR’s style until USSR’s collapse, while China had opened market for more than 10 years at that time.
I’m not surprised if India makes a wrong decision again and it seems it’s indeed what they deserve.
Think of Banks as vehicles that invest your money, giving you a cut, instead of vaults storing wealth. The security they offer you is that regardless of how they invest your money, the amount you have is insured. This Insurance system is actually the backbone of the Banking industry, smaller banks give their money to bigger banks who have better insurance etc. The Financial collapse that occurred on the eve of Bush’s Presidency was because the worlds biggest bank Insurance Companies were lying about their ability to cover the investments.
Why is this important? Say your money is invested in a chinese bank, given the world banking system, it will be routed to Hong Kong, who will then route it to European central bank and a little to Wall street, the European amount will independently make its way to Wall street. It is Wall street that decides where that money will be invested, not anybody in china or Europe. This is an incredible amount of control over economic systems that the Chinese hand over. What money do you think is used to finance American businesses within China? To pay Chinese workers?
Now say you are putting your money in an Indian Bank, because it is a closed Banking system, the Money cannot be invested anywhere except India. The control of investment remains in Indian hands and importantly does not finance western economic models externally or within India.
Why do the Chinese do this?
The Chinese do this because they cant physically enforce their investments, they have to rely on the American military doing that on their behalf. While the Indian economic system is set up to function despite foreign agreements, the Chinese model is not. All their ‘wealth’ is dependent on America enforcing agreements on their behalf. So when the Chinese literally lost 2 trillion dollars in investments during the financial collapse in 2009, they couldn’t do anything about it. They tried to put their money in hard assets and Americans came up with National security fears. They cant close their banking system because the Americans will void all financial agreements. They are effectively stuck being a sub sector to the American Economic system.
I have read your many thoughts on various topics Zack and to be frank I am not going to change your mind. You believe what you believe because it is tied up with your self image, no changing that. Good luck to you.
If you are interested you should check where the pharmaceuticals that the Chinese government is subsidizing comes from. Its not from the Chinese Pharmaceutical sector.
From your perspective the Japanese had a war with the Chinese, from an Indian perspective, they were fighting the West. They were defeated and forced to become part of the western economic system, the Chinese willingly did it.
Even the Pal verdict was against the West for their hypocrisy in conducting war crime trials against the Japanese, when the Japanese and Indians bring up these things they are referring to the forced economic situation Japan finds itself in. How many posters on this site know that it was a Japanese effort that the league of Nations draft a bill declaring equality for all humans on earth? A bill rejected by the Americans and the British.
China supports the West, your belief that you are on an opposing side is frightening given the actual situation.
If people on this board are interested they should study the events of the 1971 Indian-Pakistan war for a clearer picture. The US sent the Seventh fleet to start a War with India, they wanted to use nukes.
Here is part of the transcript, I’ll try to find the whole thing, but Nixon is on tape talking about trying to convince the Chinese to attack India. Because India was already prepared for a Chinese attack and unlike 62 gave full permission to the Indian air force to use full force, the Chinese backed down.
Kissinger: And the point you made yesterday, we have to continue to squeeze the Indians even when this thing is settled.
Nixon: We’ve got to for rehabilitation. I mean, Jesus Christ, they’ve bombed—I want all the war damage; I want to help Pakistan on the war damage in Karachi and other areas, see?
Nixon: I don’t want the Indians to be happy. I want a public relations programme developed to piss on the Indians.
Nixon: I want to piss on them for their responsibility. Get a white paper out. Put down, White paper. White paper. Understand that?
Kissinger: Oh, yeah.
Nixon: I don’t mean for just your reading. But a white paper on this.
Kissinger: No, no. I know.
Nixon: I want the Indians blamed for this, you know what I mean? We can’t let these goddamn, sanctimonious Indians get away with this. They’ve pissed on us on Vietnam for 5 years, Henry.
Nixon: Aren’t the Indians killing a lot of these people?
Kissinger: Well, we don’t know the facts yet. But I’m sure they’re not as stupid as the West Pakistanis—they don’t let the press in. The idiot Paks have the press all over their place.
The Japanese proposal during the League of Nations for ‘equality’ all Humanity is facetious at best. They just want to consider themselves a “great power” just like Great Britain and the US (thus the reason why both of those nations rejected.) Furthermore, they just want to have rights to colonize other countries just like the great powers and consider the Taiwanese and Koreans as inferior race.
Unfortunately, the US prints money like crazy which severely dilute China’s holdings. US don’t want China to buy in any US property like companies or real estate but instead allow them to buy worthless US treasure. Yes China unfortunately have to play the Western economic game but usually got the short end of it.
Relations between US and India has never been good during the 1970’s so that is not surprising. However, the relations between US and India is mostly strategic and political, whereas with China is mostly economic.
nup, you’re not going to weasel out of this one, pal. Qualify your previous post about India’s ‘closed banking system’ and how China’s economy ‘serves the Western system’ when the evidence i’ve so far pointed out and can point out more, state the opposite.
Secondly, i don’t follow your second point, please provide sources and proof to back up your claim because i have a feeling you’re not as knowledgeable about China’s pharmaceutical system as you claim to be.
But before i go, i think you’re confusing the monopoly Indian drug companies have in India with god governance. It aint, and the fact that China still beats India when it comes to infant mortality and life expectancy ought to put your argument in the ground.
Black Pheonix says
“From your perspective the Japanese had a war with the Chinese, from an Indian perspective, they were fighting the West. They were defeated and forced to become part of the western economic system, the Chinese willingly did it.”
“Willingly did” What exactly? I don’t know what you are talking about. TRADE?? Loans?? NOT having US bases??
By your notion, you seem to be implying “trade” as some kind of support. I think you are overstating your case.
If “trade” is some kind support for an empire, then I would suggest you try living without buying any thing made in the US, or made in China for that matter (because if you trade with China, you are trading with US too)!
Interesting history. America under Roosevelt pushed for an anti-colonial policy, which translated to anti-British imperialism in Asia. This put Roosevelt and Churchill in direct opposition with respect to India and China.
Britain wanted a weak and divided China as before the WWII, where they could profitably do business as they had done for a century. Britain also wanted to continue to rule India.
Roosevelt believed in freeing both China and India from British colonial domination.
Roosevelt was particularly outraged about the British policy towards India and Burma. One evening, after a day of formal discussions at the Casablanca Conference, Roosevelt told Elliott: “The look that Churchill gets on his face when you mention India:
“India should be made a commonwealth at once. After a certain number of years … she should chose whether she wants to remain in the Empire….
“As a commonwealth, she should be entitled to a modern form of government, an adequate health and educational standard. But how can she have these things, when Britain is taking all the wealth of her national resources away from her every year? Ever year the Indian people have one thing to look forward to, like death and taxes. Sure as shooting, they have a famine. The season of the famine, they call it.”
When Churchill got upset over the mentioning of India as one of the countries to be liberated, Roosevelt responded:
“Yes. I can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy.”
Even though Roosevelt had advised Stalin not to even bring up the word “India” with Churchill, due to the Prime Minister’s raw nerve on the subject of India’s independence, Roosevelt himself could not resist.
Throughout the entire war, Roosevelt had a special concern for India, and was very upset about British treatment of the Indian people. He believed strongly that India should be free from British colonial rule, but he was afraid that, if he pushed this all the way with Churchill, it would rupture their war-time relationship, which Roosevelt thought was absolutely necessary to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich. Many of Roosevelt’s true intentions to reorganize the world away from colonialism were tempered by his concern to win the war first, at all costs.
It pained Roosevelt to reject appeals from India’s leader, Mohandas Gandhi:
“I venture to think that the Allied declaration, that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow, so long as India, and, for that matter, Africa are exploited by Great Britain, and America has the Negro problem in her own home. But in order to avoid all complications, in my proposal I have confined myself only to India. If India becomes free, the rest must follow, if it does not happen simultaneously.”
China’s Chiang Kai-shek also appealed to Roosevelt, “the inspired author of the Atlantic Charter,” to pressure Churchill on India, but he rejected this too, on the grounds that, “any action which slows up the war effort,” would actually assist Japan.
Every time Roosevelt brought up the subject, Churchill would get red with anger, after all, India was the “crown jewel” of the British Empire. Roosevelt told Churchill bluntly that American opinion held the British responsible for the deadlock over the signing of the Charter, “has been caused by the unwillingness of the British Government to concede to the Indians the right of self-government.”
Author Roger Louis reports it this way:
“The President made no secret that he deplored British Imperialism in India and in all other parts of the world…. Roosevelt’s sentiments were genuine. With `almost boyish relish’ he would speak of American constitutional history and how the problems of India might be solved by learning the lessons of the American revolution.”
After one of Roosevelt’s lectures on what India could learn from America’s own colonial experience when it finally became free of British subjugation, Churchill erupted against Roosevelt:
“The President’s mind was back in the American War of Independence, and he thought of the Indian problem in terms of thirteen colonies fighting George III at the end of the 18th century…. This was no time for a constitutional experiment … to determine the future relationship of India to the British Empire.”
“Nor was the issue one upon which the satisfying of public opinion in the United States could be a determining factor. We could not desert the Indian peoples by abandoning our responsibility and leaving them to anarchy and subjugation.”
In these remarks, Churchill represented the oligarchy’s true feelings of hatred against America. More precisely, it was America’s victorious War of Independence from the British Empire, and her emergence as the premiere sovereign nation-state in the world, that threatened the very existence of the Empire, which fueled Churchill’s rage.
Roosevelt also understood the importance that Churchill placed on having Burma return to colonialism in that sector of the world:
“The British want to recapture Burma. It’s the first time they’ve shown any real interest in the Pacific war, and why? For their colonial empire!… It’s all part of the British colonial question. Burma–that effects India, and French Indochina, and Indonesia–they’re all interrelated. If one gets freedom, the others will get ideas. That’s why Winston is so anxious to keep de Gaulle in his corner. De Gaulle isn’t any more interested in seeing a colonial empire disappear than Churchill is.”
The French had no problem supporting Britain’s claim to Burma, because they figured it would help to get Indochina back under French control after the war, and vice-versa.
Gunwin, Thank you for voicing an independent opinion here. The Japanese definitely see the war – at least as rhetoric go, as least it is the narrative they promoted in their attempt to create Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere – as an attempt to liberate Asia. I conceded as much in this recent post.
My surprise is that narrative still has legs today – outside of Japan – in India – the world’s most populous and soon to be most populous nation. The surprise is due to the fact that the modern Chinese narrative on recent history has been:
* the West (which includes Russia) has dominated world history for the last few hundred years;
* unfortunately for the rest of the world, they plundered and raped the rest of the world (humanity) through imperialism and colonialism;
* the Japanese got lucky and industrialized early and learned from the West to plunder and rape its neighbors;
* the mid 20th century finally put an end to this ravaged cycle, partly because the West got tired of its hypocrisy, but also partly because China finally rose up;
* today, as the result of the cold war, there are only two powers that can stand up (only jointly though) to the West: Russia, which has since parted ways with the West in terms of politics (although culturally, it continues to be part of the West) and China, which is just beginning a renaiisance and rediscovering itself as a viable political force in the modern world
* India would like to be an independent force. But due to its relative weakness, is playing the card of building alliances with, unfortunately, the West;
* the world history of world enslavement will finally end when China recaptures its place as the preeminent civilization in the world.
Obviously you have a different take. We used to offer people with opposing perspective to write intelligent, articulate posts of opposing perspectives. Here is an example (https://hiddenharmonies.org/2009/03/smurf-emancipation-day-50-years-of-harmonious-oppression/). It was submitted by someone in the TGIE, and generated many very good discussions.
If you are interested, I offer a guest blowhorn to write one or a couple of intelligent, articulate posts expanding on some of the ideas you posited above. If you like to take the offer, please email me at allen at hiddeharmonies.org.
I don’t think you are aware of the laws governing non white movement in the colonial world. The Japanese did not ask that the league of nations ask that they be considered above these laws, something which the western powers were encouraging them to do, they wanted them abolished for everyone. You can look up the language and the history of the bill.
All war is about economics, whether it takes the form of physical force, politics or planning(strategy). India is the remaining power in the world that is not economically tied with the west, something even the Russians cannot today state.
Trade is not what China is doing, they are taking the profit from their labor and making it available to western economic systems to use as they see fit. They are pumping billions into the western system allowing expansion where there should be collapse. The Chinese banking system is wide open, the Trojan horse that is the Hong Kong financial center did its Job superbly. Frankly I am surprised that beijing actually bought the whole line about the Leese being up.
Black Pheonix says
“I don’t think you are aware of the laws governing non white movement in the colonial world. The Japanese did not ask that the league of nations ask that they be considered above these laws, something which the western powers were encouraging them to do, they wanted them abolished for everyone. You can look up the language and the history of the bill.”
Does that diminish their imperial ambitions or atrocities?
If so, why complain about US bases, when US blabs about far more equalities nowadays?
Shouldn’t you just take US’s word for it?
Black Pheonix says
“Trade is not what China is doing, they are taking the profit from their labor and making it available to western economic systems to use as they see fit. They are pumping billions into the western system allowing expansion where there should be collapse. The Chinese banking system is wide open, the Trojan horse that is the Hong Kong financial center did its Job superbly. Frankly I am surprised that beijing actually bought the whole line about the Leese being up.”
You can say pretty much the same thing about Japan and India. Far worse, Japan did it earlier.
Of course, Japan is even helping China to do it.
Allen, thank you for the invitation but this will be my last post on this topic. The Chinese are good people but you don’t understand war. I don’t say you don’t know how to fight, just that you don’t understand war. You study how to Win but not War. In the East its all about Face, how people see you. You would be happy and content being loved by all people, your national themes reflect this. One happy Asia under the auspicious guidance of the Han. War for you is simply something that serves Face.
For the west, its all about deductive logic, man serves a foundation. They always forget that their foundations are bourne out of humans. As the western foundation today is gluttony, war serves gluttony.
Black Pheonix says
I think you are simplifying and generalizing about Chinese people.
“In the East its all about Face, how people see you.”
I think that’s an obvious stereotype.
First, I apologize for breaking my statement about the last post being the last post–In hindsight I don’t think I should leave it without explaining fully India’s position.
What the Japanese did in WW2 was expansion of their economic system through war. What the west did in their colonial period was also expansion through war. The difference, the crucial difference, is that the west added a Race system on humanity. The Japanese did not. I have not seen any literature from the Japanese side proclaiming they are a Superior race before or during the war, this was done by the west to equate them somehow with the Nazis. If somebody has some counter evidence I would love to see it.
What the Japanese did to the Chinese and other nationals is something that the wronged parties have a right to correct through war, I fully back China’s right to go to war with Japan over what happened in ww2–only you should do it honorably, not this western nonsense about it being Evil Crimes in the same way as the Nazis.
The western economic system is all about race, how can you not see that when nearly all the posters on this blog are fantasizing about China’s ‘Rise’ in the context of a currency model dictated by the West?
Japan is forced to do it. You are wrong about India, they do not open their banking system to western financial markets.
Chinese willingly opened their banking systems to west, not through outside force but fright at the idea that their citizens would rebel if they did not do so.
I still don’t understand why this sounds strange to you, have the Chinese forgotten that they were communists? What exactly do you think that meant?
“What the Japanese did in WW2 was expansion of their economic system through war. What the west did in their colonial period was also expansion through war. The difference, the crucial difference, is that the west added a Race system on humanity. The Japanese did not.”
How racist ideas became widespread
by Marika Sherwood
“The scramble for Africa
Slowly the trade in enslaved Africans was replaced by trade in diamonds, gold, other metals, palm oil, sisal and agricultural produce. Many of these trades pre dated and co existed with slavery. Europeans decided Africa had to be conquered and governed in order to expand the profits from the exploitation of its resources. At an 1885 conference Europeans scrambled to divide Africa among themselves. But Africans still had to be ‘pacified’, that is violently controlled while this exploitation took place. This required an army.
So the glories of the British Empire had to be propagated in Britain partly in order to ensure that enough men volunteered to join the army. These men were not needed to protect Britain from invaders, but to conquer peoples thousands of miles away. The easiest way was to perpetuate the myth of Africans’ savagery, their inability to farm their own lands, their lack of laws and culture. The propaganda claimed Africans needed to be ‘civilised’ to ensure they paid taxes, worked on Europeans’ plantations for a pittance and on Europeans’ vessels for much lower wages than the white crews.
As the rate of literacy was very low in Britain until the late 1800s, the mass of the population knew very little about ‘others’. Seamen must have returned with stories, but what these were we do not know. Once the missionaries became active, the British people learned about Africans’, Australians’ and Native Americans’ savagery from the church pulpit. Those who could afford a ticket to the spreading popular musical theatres would have been entertained by comic acts imported from the USA, performed by ‘blacked-up’ minstrels. These minstrels were white men insulting, denigrating and caricaturing a black man usually called ‘Jim Crow’.
From the late 1800s with the introduction of compulsory free education, this notion was propagated very thoroughly, in children’s books and comics, by scientific societies, in the new profusion of newspapers, in school text books, on the stage and from the pulpit. You could not escape it: to give just one example, the peoples of west Africa who were not already working for the Europeans were described in a 1925 school text as being ‘usually the most degraded, cannibalism and a horrible blood ritual in their idolatrous worship being common’ (CB Thurston, An Economic Geography of the British Empire, London 1925, p. 233).
One of the most popular writers of children’s fiction, the World War I pilot Capt WE Johns, wrote 96 books about a pilot hero, ‘Biggles’, whose enemy was very often a ‘coloured’ person. Written in the 1940s and early 1950s, the books have been republished again and again; the last one was in 2002. The 1935 novel, Biggles Hits the Trail, reprinted in 1980, is an example of the attitudes Johns’ books entrenched in his young readers. The enemy this time is a Chinese group called the ‘Chungs’. Biggles refers to Chinese peoples as ‘coolies’ and as ‘chinks’; they are ‘yellow’; the Himalayas keep the ‘Chinese hordes in check’; the Chungs don’t talk, they ‘chirp’ or ‘chatter monkey-like’; the face of one, whom Biggles is about to shoot, is ‘reptilian’.
The upper and middle classes, that is those who profited the most from the British Empire, had already been thoroughly mis-educated by the books they could read and the plays they could attend…..”
“The western economic system is all about race, how can you not see that…”
British Empire: the Truth behind the Myth
By Tim Hughes
“The British Empire was a venture that saw in its wake the beginnings of the modern world, and the opening up of the new world, and many other landmasses and islands, to the British, and other European powers. It was however the British who would in many cases dominate proceedings.
What is the truth behind the myth, then? The truth is that the empire was based on capitalism and mercantilism(1) and a search for cheap and plentiful raw materials like timber, flax and cotton, and the opening up of new markets which would enable Britain to sustain an empire, create enormous wealth and give her a prime role in world affairs. So, much of the beginnings of empire then were based on the profit motive, with dominion and conquest, even colonialism itself, coming a second place. This quest for power and personal gain was also to begin a fury of such injustice, racism, prejudice, genocide, class division and ethnic and national tension, that it still shapes the political, ethnic, material and social world we live in today.
The first experiment in English colonisation was in Ulster, now in the much-troubled province of Northern Ireland. English, amongst other, colonists went here because of offers of land, bolstered by the racist belief that the Irish were uncivilised compared to English settlers. There was also a belief that as the Irish didn’t cultivate the land or fence it, they didn’t own it. This was the major excuse for the English to claim and settle the land. A little later these justifications were also used in the colonies of North America to take land off the original natives, committing genocide in many cases, and later still elsewhere. Here then were the first ‘motives’ and ‘justifications’ for colonies and empire, a divisive and racist reasoning that in a few centuries would become a full blown philosophy with a complex set of values, beliefs and ideologies given a sheen of respectability from many scientists, that further encouraged and justified in the 19th century the aggressive expansion of the British Empire and the ruthless suppression and exploitation of peoples, often seen as ‘inferior’, all over the world. In effect, adding gross insult to grievous injury.
As well as colonisation and the search for raw materials and new markets, there was also the slave trade, which the British eventually dominated. The Caribbean colonies, the centre for the very lucrative sugar trade, and the North American cotton plantations needed intensive enforced labour, so African men, women and children by the millions were kidnapped, and in exchange their captors were given guns, beads and other useless trinkets. The enslaved suffered an incredible barbarity and brutality en-route to the colonies, and then were sold like cattle to plantation owners to be worked until they collapsed, died or become useless to their owners. Some estimates suggest that up to 100 million Africans were transported on slave ships during a 400 hundred-year period, many dying of hunger, brutality, overcrowding or disease on the long journey. The skin colour of Africans would very quickly be used as a marker of their slave status. This period, some historians argue, is where the origins of a specific European racism begin, directed towards those with darker and black skin, especially Africans, but also other peoples too. The empire’s fortunes led on to the industrial revolution were founded on this ruthless greed, and the vast enormity of wealth created from the slave and sugar trade, and others.
In the wake of such injustice, philosophies and ideologies from these histories of domination and ruthless exploitation began to take shape. The pseudo scientific racism that began to flourish in the early-middle 19th century, and quietly dominate almost all British science throughout the greater part of the 19th century, was part and parcel of older populist racial beliefs that were to develop into a dominant ideology, with its own set of pseudo-scientific values and belief systems. One of these was ‘The Great Chain of Being’, an evolutionary scale which placed white European men at the top, and, in a graded table of humankind, placed Aboriginal Australians and Kalahari bushmen at the very bottom. What is evident in much of the propaganda about race and class at this time, and in later periods such as in Nazi Germany, is the pretence of learned science masking abominable and vile hatreds, prejudices and deeply ill formed notions, that were widely disseminated, understood and tacitly accepted.
During the Victorian era, and at the height of the empire’s power, the British Empire was being promoted as “the white man’s burden” a notion Rudyard Kipling made famous and repeated by countless others, a burden that was wholly for the ‘civilising’ of the more ‘primitive’ peoples in the world, and not in any way for the gain of British people. This crude reasoning was happily accepted by some, and more cynically and hypocritically by others, as long as conquest and the search for profit went unhindered. In these seeds were sown the destructions of cultures, and at the same time the creation of wealth and power for the British, and other European nations.
The slave trade which, made Britain arguably the wealthiest country in the world by the end of the 18th century, was then driven underground by the same empire, for supposedly benevolent reasons. But Britain, though abolishing slavery in 1807 in Britain itself, still made and sold slave ships as late as the 1860’s, and had few qualms about the institution of slavery in America, taking the South’s side during the Civil War. Britain’s huge wealth, and prominence as a great power politically, militarily, economically and socially, lie in greater part because of the vast wealth created during Britain’s dominant position in the African slave trade. Many of the early banking houses including Barclays and Lloyds were established from the wealth of the trade, and many prominent and even aristocratic families have their roots in the blood of the slave trade. This trade created widening divisions between European and non-European people, divisions that are still clearly evident today, and also deeply rigid social inequalities in Britain. Much of the world’s economic, political and social system today can be traced back to Britain’s success in dominating the slave trade. It can be said, quite honestly, that the slave trade was the making of modern Britain, and the making of Liverpool too.
In a telling book called ‘Liverpool-Capital of the Slave Trade’, Liverpool’s command of, domination and complete immersion in the slave trade is made readily apparent. Liverpool’s prominence and prosperity, and her position as the second city of the empire, is virtually in greater part due to the role the city played in the slave trade, and other trades related to this, such as sugar, rum and cotton. Many of the merchants involved in the slave trade were also MP’s, who campaigned vigorously for the trade; the great Victorian Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone, the Liberal who opposed the aggressive expansion of empire, was from a prominent Liverpool slave trading family that had made their fortune in the trade. With enormous wealth, came enormous political power, and it can perhaps be said that some of Liverpool’s slave trading merchants became richer than any other people had been before, this wealth helping to modernise Britain, put Liverpool on the map, and where much of the capital for industrialisation and the factory system came from. It can also be said that, as Britain became fabulously wealthy, the divisions between rich and poor, powerful and oppressed, became more acute. In the book ‘Liverpool-Capital of the Slave Trade’, it asserts that slavery had “raised the town itself from an obscure place amongst ports to be one of the richest and most prosperous trading centres on the face of the earth.” The evidence of the slave trade can be found in street and road names all over Liverpool: names as familiar as Bold Street, Hardman Street, Rodney Street, Earle Road, Seel Street, Sir Thomas Street and others dotted around the city. All of these were names of men and families involved in the slave trade. It is Liverpool’s forgotten shame.
Famines under British Rule:
The British Empire can also be held to account for the famines that occurred under British rule, especially the Great Famine in Ireland, and the famines that happened in the latter half of the 19th century in India. The Irish famine, in a country that had been underdeveloped largely due to British mismanagement and neglect, even wilful neglect, changed the face of Ireland for good. This famine, which happened according to one source from 1846 to 1850, and more generally seen as between 1846-47, was the final crushing horror to centuries of poverty, colonialism, and extremely harsh rule by the British. The Irish peasantry were seen as the lowest possible sort of people, even subhuman, in racial and class terms, and the absolute crushing poverty is something that has epitomised Ireland as a nation from centuries past to contemporary times. It can be said, as with slavery and the domination of India, that people are still suffering trauma because of the famine in Ireland. Irish people, forced to leave for other shores, and to Britain itself, became the new class of paupers, derelicts, gangsters, and the bedrock of the working class and underclass in Britain, the US, Australia and many other countries, and of course Liverpool. What is deeply ironic about empire, and the imperial nature of Britain/England, is that Britain, and certainly English society and culture, regarded itself as a bastion of liberty; yet all the while this freedom was used to deny freedom to many others, in the pursuit of freedom. This argument, this utter contradiction, not particularly or solely British, goes to the heart of all empires, and can be seen best and understood clearly and simply in the hypocrisy of American political life, particularly international policy, today.
Third World Poverty, a Direct Result of Colonial Misrule:
India, the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the British Empire, has as much reason to rue British colonial administration as many others do. According to Amitabh Pal, before the British came to control India, parts of India were wealthier than Europe; by the end of British rule in 1947, India’s ability to feed itself had dropped by 25 percent from the year 1900. Equally, under British rule 29 million people died as a result of famines in India in the second half of the 19th century. These statistics in India alone are tragic and alarming in themselves, but the whole picture, the reality of empire, is far more stark, and in truth deeply disturbing. Amitabh Pal, writing in an essay entitled ‘THIRD WORLD POVERTY A DIRECT RESULT OF COLONIAL MISRULE’, states clearly and simply that: “At the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, it’s time for former colonial overlords like Britain to acknowledge their role in creating the crushing poverty prevalent in the Third World.” Where the history of empire is concerned, truth hasn’t been so much buried as completely ignored and forgotten. The reality is so shocking and disturbing that it either provokes outrage, disbelief or a tendency to believe any criticism is over exaggeration; but the truth is out there.
Some suggested reading and other links:
Mark Curtis’s ‘Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World’
Gail Cameron’s & Stan Crooke’s ‘Liverpool-Capital of the Slave Trade’
1)Capitalism is the creation and accumulation of wealth for its own sake, which in Britain helped finance factories, overseas ventures and the industrial ‘revolution’. Mercantilism, closely linked to capitalism, is a system whereby one nation, one group, or one individual takes goods from one place to another, to sell at a profit for money, or barter in exchange for other goods. The Slave trade, spice trade and opium trade were all part of this system.”
First of all, as some of us had discussed here, I believe the concept of “race” is a politically created concept. (It’s certainly a biological myth.) As a political concept, why is it inherently evil to use it. I mean whether I kill or rape (i.e. colonize) because of race or nationality or religion or for any other political reason, shouldn’t they all be the same? I discussed that in the concept of genocide (since that is seen as a pure evil today) in this post and the comments in this thread (see especially my debates / discussions with richard).
In any case, Japanese are some of the most racist people around. I don’t mean that in the modern derogatory context as I make no judgement. What I mean is that the Japanese clearly distinguish between Japanese and non-Japanese, with Japanese being pure and superior, while non-Japanese tainted, and inferior…
I provide 3 resources that I found on the web that may be relevant.
A 1943 article, http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2745649?uid=3739560&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102480358087
This is an interesting article on how the idea of Japaneseness (powerful images of the enduring purity and homogeneity) was constructed as part of the Japan nation-building process. Even as a Japanese race was created, those outside, even as they were absorbed (e.g. Koreans, Taiwanese), were considered inferior.
Thanks for linking to my blog, but I don’t really appreciate it being used as a platform for claims that ” Japanese are some of the most racist people around,” because even a casual perusal of my blog will show I don’t think that, and indeed a review of my series of posts on War Without Mercy would give a little context to the claims you’re making. It certainly is not the case that Japanese are some of the most racist people around, and as someone who lives and works in modern Japan I am always embarrassed to encounter people saying this.
I have another post on American wartime exterminationist propaganda, drawn from the same book, and I don’t think anyone would be so silly as to claim that modern American racial politics has any relationship to the gallons of bile they spilled in WW2 – not to mention their terrible treatment of Chinese allies. So I think it’s best to refrain from drawing conclusions about eternal Japanese ideals from the propaganda they used in a very specific and unusual period of their history.
Nice blog by the way, very interesting.
Thanks for coming to post a note – to rebut me to boot! 😉
I also want to clarify, the assertion that Japanese are some of the most racist people around is my assertion. I provided three to provide context – not necessarily to prove my point. Each of the links I provide may – or may not – prove my point.
The reason I link to yours is to show a resource that is not so political. You are not anti-Japanese ideologically from what I can tell. The resource you reivew – Professor Dower’s analysis of race propaganda in an obscure government document relating to health and welfare – also is not overtly political, from what I can tell.
Yet even here, with your references, one can tell that a central part of the Japaneseness identity – of the Japanese race – is based on purity and a sense of superiority – not unlike the Nazi conception of Ayrian race…. By comparing to the Nazis, again I don’t mean to draw in baggage symbols. I just want to make what I think is a fair comparison on those two characteristics.
Like you, I believe that a lot of American conception of Japanese is based on American propaganda – myopia. When the Americans say the Japanese are racist, they can only understand racism in the American context, projecting America’s worst moral repugnance to the Japanese, which is not necessarily fair. That’s why I made sure in my comment above to say that
Are you disputing even that?
And please understand the context in which I bring all this up – to rebut (at least try to) Gunwin’s assertion that the Japanese conception of their version of colonialism / imperialism during WWII has no race component. Clearly it did. That’s my point.
Am I still getting you wrong?
P.S. By the way, I had written similar rebuttals that Chinese are “racist” even if they might be technically “racist” (have preconceptions about others based on where they come from, their skin color, etc.) … if you get my angle. See https://hiddenharmonies.org/2008/10/are-chinese-racist-or-simply-politically-incorrect/.
So after all is said and done, you still have not provided any proof how India has a “closed banking system”, especially with regards to the US and Europe. Also your quote of Nixon talking to Kissinger in #22 provides no proof of the US convincing anybody (else) to attack India. Notice China is not even mentioned.
Japan will not function as a reliable ally to any country interested in an independent foreign policy. We’re talking about a country who can have her currency devalued at the whim of America.
Yes Allen, I am disputing even that. You can’t take extremely naked propaganda from a period of total war waged during a dictatorship 70 years ago – essentially an attempt to unravel the Meiji restoration through annihilation – and claim that it is representative of the psyche of modern Japan. I mean even the way you phrase it – “Japanese are …” is reducing 120 million people to a single identity, which is a kind of parlour trick. I don’t think many Japanese subscribe to the idea of their race as “pure and superior” or even anymore identify themselves as a “race”. They see their culture as unique, but everyone does – look at the crap that comes out of America everyday, or how the British talk about themselves, or Australian politics. This is not racism, it’s self-identity.
When the Americans say Japanese are racist they mean it in the American context. I would argue that there is no other context in which that word can be deployed. You are pissing in the wind if you want to redefine it in the harmless way you’re deploying it here.
I think a lot of people here are under the belief that Japan is all ready to go to war with the rest of the world at any time, that they think themselves better than everyone else and are just biding their time or something. Not so at all. They’re good world citizens, interested in making peace and getting along. If they’re racist, the world could do with a lot more racists.
Suppose I rephrase “racism” to “self-identity” – if nothing else than to get rid of the historical, political baggage associated with the term. Would you still object to my arguments to Gunwin?
Gunwin’s statement that I objected to was:
To be fair, replace “race” with “self-identity.”
My point, and I still stand fully behind them, is that the Japanese were not world citizens – not even Asians or East Asian citizens – when they promoted their desire to build a East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. No, they had a strong sense of Japanese identity, which is pure and superior to all others. I don’t think anyone can refute that assertion.
We can argue whether they are world citizens today … but that’s not my point with Gunwin. (I don’t think they can, not without coming to terms of history, as I argued in this post. Japan proved what it was in WWII. Without coming to grips with that history, we can only presume they are the same still, despite superficial “reforms” due to political realities. But that’s a separate point.)
Your assertion that “[Japanese]’re good world citizens…” … I don’t get it. Isn’t that last statement also about “reducing 120 million people to a single identity, which is a kind of parlour trick…”
I mean that seriously. I mean if you are serious about using that to undermine my statement, why can you me a grand gesture statement Japan while I can’t.
I’m ok if people think culture means nothing, society means nothing, ideology means nothing – that truth and meaning must be found within each individual. I’m ok on a philosophical level, except, there can be very little discussion of politics the way we understand it. Perhaps that’s your point – that you think I am politicizing too much the aggressive nature of Japan, but then by the same logic, aren’t you politicizing too much the peaceful nature of Japan, too?
I think I understand where Gunwin is going, according to this article in the guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jun/29/india.usa Nixon tried to convince the Chinese but they refused. I knew about the tapes but had not realized that the US had managed to get personnel, planes and ships from Britain, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia to back up the Pakistanis in the 72 war as well as the US 7th fleet.
The subtext of this new article posted on the diplomat actually seems to parallel Gunwin’s arguments about India’s Trade and Finance policies. http://thediplomat.com/pacific-money/2013/08/01/india-needs-a-renaissance/