“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” and in the case of China, the old English phrase may hold true. The Coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a feeling of dissension against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leaders, especially Xi Jinping across political borders. The Chinese President is at the forefront of China’s misadventures in the state and around. China is vehemently denying that the deadly COVID-19 spread due to its inactions and collusion with the WHO.
While the argument of Beijing, however flawed, can somehow be ignored but what cannot be ignored is that China is riling other nations when they are at their lowest. Beijing is having a beef with Australia whilst threatening the down under country with economic sanctions.
It is taking jibes at America while the first phase of trade deal lingers in jeopardy and is trying to intrude into the Indian borders in Ladakh. Not forgetting the unnecessary splashy waves it is making in the South China Sea.
These apparent muscle-flexing tactics are drawing the wrath of all nations alike. In these delicate times, any misadventure could be a ticking time bomb for a full-blown international war. Although a conventional war is highly unlikely in today’s world, given every major superpower has nuclear weapons to act as a deterrence. But as they say, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” and therefore we are postulating a ‘What-IF?’ world where a war breaks out between China and the US and its allies in the backdrop of a global pandemic.
What will be the consequences of the war for China? Will China be an achiral image of post-World War-1 Germany that was nearly burnt to the ground? Or things might be starkly different?
The parallelisms between Germany of WW-1 and China of today are difficult to ignore. Over 100 years ago Germany was seen as a rising economic power with resurrecting nationalism feeling in the ‘Reich’ that was aided by an unending hunger for land resources.
The thirst for acquiring new territories is somewhat reminiscent of China which has border disputes with its every major neighboring country. The red authoritarian regime has weaved such propaganda machinery that the Chinese have an undying fidelity to whatever Xi Jinping wants to undertake.
Channeling his inner Kaiser Wilhelm, Xi Jinping is on a similar trajectory that led to the rise and the ultimate doom of the German republic.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the eccentric emperor of Germany, led the country into World War 1 in 1914. After four years of battle and a crushing defeat by the hands of Allies, Germany was reduced to a failed state.
After the World War ended, it was Germany that had to pay the ultimate price. The infamous Treaty of Versailles that many historians claim laid the foundation of World War 2 was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
The “Big Four” leaders of the victorious Allied nations wanted Germany to pay dearly, especially France whose territories like Alsace and Lorraine were seized by Germany and therefore the harsh treaty which the furious German public dubbed as a diktat (dictated peace) was signed.
The Versailles Treaty forced Germany to give up territory to Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Poland, return Alsace and Lorraine to France and cede all of its overseas colonies in China, Pacific, and Africa to the Allied nations.
Also, it had to drastically reduce its armed forces and accept the demilitarization and Allied occupation of the region around the Rhine River. Most importantly, Article 231 of the treaty placed all blame for inciting the war squarely on Germany and forced it to pay several billion in reparations to the Allied nations.
Now if China goes the hara-kiri route of fighting the modern allies of the US, the end product might look similar. Hong Kong which is already simmering under anti-China sentiment for the last one and a half years will easily cede into the new normal. Taiwan and Tibet already want to divorce China and a post-war world will certainly accentuate the process. Alsace and Lorraine all over again!
The reparations China owes to the world in the aftermath of Coronavirus pandemic are already mounting and a Great War would further break its back if it has to pay reparations like Germany had to.
The world economy is already in a tumultuous position and some economic pundits have already predicted that we are staring at a bleak economic future that will be worse than ‘the great recession of 2008’ and ‘the great depression of 1929.’
The Great Depression might have begun in the US but it was Germany that was the hardest hit by it. The Weimar republic’s currency ‘Mark’ went kaput, millions were unemployed and the factories closed their shutters.
China is already staring at economic sanctions down the barrel and hence a war coupled with reparations, economic sanctions, and recession will not entirely but surely put its economy to a long ‘Cryosleep.’ Like Germany, it will be the worst-hit nation if it remains intact one by then.
The South China Sea where China tries flexing its muscles every now and then will be culled as the allies will easily take over the territories. The South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region is a gargantuan area that needs more manpower and more military than any other region in the world. Post-war China will not be able to muster up the courage to man such vast multitudes.
The thought of war is terrifying, the irrational medal of who won the war and lost the war is inconsequential as innocents die on both sides but if China indeed treads down this path, the results could be catastrophic. Beijing should gauge its every single step and if possible take a peek at the history which has taught that more overambitious leaders have tried to take over the world and failed miserably.