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The 1914 debate: Is Europe’s past really Asia’s future? – World – CBC News

The 1914 debate: Is Europe’s past really Asia’s future? – World – CBC News.

The Japan-China provocations show no sign of letting up

By Joe Schlesinger, CBC News Posted: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET

People wait to offer New Year prayers at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Jan. 1. 2014. Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a Japanese cabinet member had just visited the shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression.  People wait to offer New Year prayers at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Jan. 1. 2014. Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a Japanese cabinet member had just visited the shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression. (Yuya Shino / Reuters)

Photo of Joe Schlesinger

Joe Schlesinger
Foreign Correspondent Emeritus

Joe Schlesinger was a foreign correspondent for CBC for 28 years, covering natural disasters, political upheavals and conflicts from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. In 2009, the Canadian Journalism Foundation honoured Schlesinger for his body of work.

The Davos economic conference is over, and the presidents, prime ministers and other potentates who attended have gone home with their briefcases full of recipes on how to make the world — and themselves — richer and more secure.

Some of these recipes will surely do some good. Except for one big hitch. The kitchens in which the fate of nations is baked may be in danger of blowing up.

The man holding the fuse aloft is Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan no less.

His warning was that the current tension between his country and China is similar to the rivalry between Britain and Germany that led to the First World War 100 years ago. And it sparked a very angry, un-Davos-like response from the Chinese, one of whom compared Abe to North Korea’s wacky dictator.

While Abe talked in generalities about the trouble brewing in the region, everyone knew that he was talking about the escalating tug of war over the eight contested islands in the East China Sea.

These rocks, some smaller than a football field, are called Diaoyu by the Chinese; they are 330 km from China’s coast and 410 km from Japan, where they are known as Senkaku.

Their inhabitants: moles, goats and albatrosses. More importantly, though, the islands are surrounded by the magical Aladdin’s lamp of our era — oil and gas deposits.

Superpower rules

The area has been controlled by Japan since the days of gunboats and colonial expansion in the 1890s.

And in laying claim to these islands now, China is trying to match its status as a new economic superpower by asserting itself as a military force (as Abe sees it, like Germany did a century ago).

INDIA-JAPANAfter Davos, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moved on to India where he talked up the close ties between the two nations as they close ranks against mutual rival China. (Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters)

Two months ago, Beijing announced the creation of an air defence identification zone over the portion of the East China Sea that includes Diaoyu.

The new rules, with their implicit threat of military action against foreign aircraft that don’t identify themselves to Chinese authorities, caused an international uproar.

But the immediate danger is in the military jockeying that’s taking place over these islands.

The warplanes China has dispatched to patrol the area have been challenged by U.S., Japanese and South Korean fighter planes.

With armed planes buzzing each other in a small airspace, there is the very real possibility that a simple miscalculation could lead to war, not unlike the small events that triggered WWI.

Another danger factor is the animosity that still exists between the Chinese and Japanese; in many ways they have never put the Second World War behind them as most other former enemies have.

Echoes of 1914

It isn’t that either Japan or China wants war necessarily — though both are arming noticeably.

What’s more likely going on in the East China Sea is that two of the world’s largest economies — China is No. 2 and Japan No. 3 — have ramped up their bullhorn rivalry as a means of deflecting attention from their own domestic problems.

However, if not checked by the power of No. 1 — the U.S., which is showing its disinclination to intervene abroad militarily — the animosity between China and Japan could unleash a wider conflict.

When 1914 came, there was no hint of the scale of the disaster to come.

Then, as now, the world had gone through a period without the kind of far-ranging wars that devastated continents.

US-JAPAN-SHRINE/A Rising Sun flag with a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Hideki Tojo, Imperial Japan’s WWII general, is burnt during protest outside the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong in December. Large-scale protests took place in South Korea and China after Abe’s visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. (Tyrone Siu / Reuters)

Europe, which endured centuries of bloody conflicts, had been largely peaceful from the 1850s on.

But by the early 1900s, a growing world economy rested on colonial empires. Not just European ones either.

Japan also acquired colonies towards the end of 19th century, mainly by conquering Korea and setting its sights on Russian-controlled Manchuria.

What made being an imperial power so attractive was that it provided cheap colonial labour and raw materials — the equivalent of today’s coveted undersea resources — and turned these colonies into protected markets for the “mother” country’s manufactured goods.

Lines in the sea

In 1914, the world’s two biggest industrial powers were Germany and Britain, who were also among each other’s biggest trading partners.

But the Germans were frustrated because the Brits had the world’s largest empire — and navy. And they became determined to grab a bigger share of the global pie.

Their opportunity came when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne next door, was assassinated in June 1914 by a Serbian nationalist.

The Austrians, encouraged by Germany’s promises to back them up with its huge army, blamed the assassination on Serbia and declared war on the Serbian kingdom.

That started the dominoes falling. As expected, Russia came out on Serbia’s side. Germany, in turn, declared war on Russia and, for good measure, on France as an ally of Russia, while Britain joined in as an ally of France.

Once the U.K. became involved, Canada was in automatically as a member of the British Empire.

Even distant Japan declared war on Germany because of an alliance with Britain. And Turkey, which had been at odds with Russia, also joined the fray.

Within four months of Ferdinand’s death just about all of Europe and much beyond was bogged down in a war that would last four years and cost more than 16 million lives.

Some would argue it has continued its baneful influence to this day, from communism to Nazism and the Second World War with its many disastrous aftershocks.

The grievous miscalculations of 1914 should serve all those involved in the current spat over those few rocks in the China Sea as a lesson about the danger of setting lines in the sea and defying the rest of the world with shows of might.

Once the shooting starts it can be too late. As it was in 1914.

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : World Danger Spots for 2014.

written by eric margolis
Kiev Nov

Where are the world’s most dangerous places in 2014?

*Mostly forgotten, but the highly dangerous, Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir. Rebellion against Indian rule by Kashmir’s majority Muslims is again boiling. Over 1.6 million Indian and Pakistani troops, backed by nuclear weapons, are in confrontation. Skirmishing along Kashmir’s Line of Control is frequent. The nuclear strike forces of both India and Pakistan are on a perilous hair-trigger alert, with about three minutes warning of an enemy attack.

A false warning of incoming missiles or aircraft, a border clash, or a massive offensive by India exasperated by guerilla attacks from Pakistan could set off a war that could kill millions and pollute the entire planet with radioactive dust. India and Pakistan aside, hardly anyone even thinks about beautiful, remote, perilous Kashmir.

*Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, the world’s second most dangerous place where 1.5 million North and South Korean troops, and 28,000 Americans, face off. Tension crackles along the DMZ. Some 11,000 N Korean guns and rockets are targeted on South Korea’s capitol, Seoul. The North is believed to have 4-6 crude nuclear devices that could hit S Korea or Japan.

In December, North Korea’s new ruler, Kim Jong-un, had his powerful uncle arrested and shot. This was another sign of the Pyongyang regime’s instability, and dangerously erratic behavior by youthful hothead leader, Kim Jong-un. War could erupt anytime along the DMZ. Just as likely, North Korea could collapse, sending 25 million starving northerners to seek refuge in South Korea, something that Seoul dreads.

*The dear old Mideast. Syria may continue disintegrating into warring mini-states. The US, Saudi, Israel, and Turkey sparked the uprising against Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to punish Iran, causing millions of refugees to flood the region. This after the US invasion of Iraq caused 3 million refugees. Iran and Saudi Arabia (backed by secret ally Israel) will fight over Syria’s bleeding body as this once lovely country is relentlessly destroyed. Yemen will continue to burn.

Intense efforts are underway by American neocons and their hired hands in Congress to get the US to attack Iran, or at least force the US to go to war against Iran if Israel initiates a conflict. Meanwhile, Israel is gearing up for another invasion of Lebanon aimed at destroying Hezbollah, and it may intervene directly in Syria. Egypt, now ruled by a fascist military junta, is working hand in glove with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The so-called Israel-Palestinian peace agreement is a very bad joke, a Mideast Kabuki dance in which no one believes.

*East Africa – A new cauldron of trouble. Efforts by Washington to forge a US-led African protectorate of South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia – dominated by close US ally Ethiopia – have run into trouble. All are dictatorships that are rent by tribal, ethnic and regional problems.

Watch the new US Africa Command get drawn ever deeper into East, Central and North Africa, all regions, by no coincidence, with oil.

*China Sea – China has blundered into open confrontation with Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines over its claims to islets in the East China Sea. This has caused the US to beef up its Pacific forces and alliances. Japanese and Chinese warplanes and ships play a daily game of chicken around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. China’s aggressive stance is causing Japan to increase military spending and may, along with North Korean threats, cause Japan to deploy nuclear weapons – which it can produce in only 90 days.

Chinese, usually deft, cautious diplomats, have alarmed much of East Asia for no good purpose. China’s government has been foolishly fanning the flames of nationalism among young people. All this resonates with the same type of idiotic, primitive behavior that unleashed World War I. The clock is ticking down rapidly.

*Strife-torn Ukraine is another powder keg. Its western half wants to join Europe; the Russian-speaking eastern half wants to reunite with Russia. The West is busy stirring the pot in Kiev. Moscow is furious and sees nefarious western plots to begin tearing apart the Russian Federation, which is beset by rebellion in the Caucasus. All this threatens a clash between Russia and NATO. Diplomacy, not subversion, is urgently needed.

Flickr/Oxlaey.com

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