World on edge as China flexes its muscles

All hail: Xi Jinping looms over a rally for the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China © AP Photo

Is Xi Jinping echoing Hitler? China is ramping up the aggression towards its neighbours, prompting some to liken it to Nazi Germany. Others say the West is deliberately stoking tensions.

The city of Kashgar in western China was once home to a well-established, vibrant community: the Uighurs, a Chinese Muslim culture with its own language and customs.

Now, houses stand silent. Neighbourhoods are deserted. The Uighurs are gone, transported in their thousands to vast “re-education camps”.

This repression has led sociologist Salvatore Babones and human rights activist Zhou Fengsuo to claim that there are similarities between Xi Jinping and Adolf Hitler.

Zhou argues that China is persecuting ethnic minorities that it regards as “subversive”. Another religious group, the Falun Gong, have been subjected to state repression for two decades.

This is not the only parallel. After coming to power in 1933, Hitler invaded nearby countries. Babones insists that Xi Jinping is doing the same thing, threatening China’s much smaller neighbour Taiwan.

China is also sparking conflicts on its other borders. In recent months, several people have been killed in clashes between Chinese and Indian patrols on the Himalayan border.

Babones sees similarities on the global stage as well. Hitler forged alliances with other dictators in Italy, Greece and Japan. Some observers warn that China is doing the same, creating ties with Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

Is Xi Jinping echoing Hitler?

War and peace

Yes, say some. Just like Hitler, Xi sits at the head of a police state persecuting ethnic minorities. Western powers were slow to act when Hitler threatened to take over Europe; democratic leaders can’t afford to make the same mistake again.

Not at all, say others. Comparing anyone with Hitler is wrong. Furthermore, similar comparisons have been used to justify disastrous military interventions. The comparison encourages a military response, instead of a diplomatic solution.

You Decide

  1. Is war ever the answer, or should we always try to resolve things peacefully?

Activities

  1. Form a group of three or four. Each try to guess how many people there are in China, India and the USA. Write down each person’s guess, then look up the answer and see who was closest.

Some People Say...

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Mao Zedong (1893–1976), former Chinese leader.

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that the world is becoming a more dangerous place. Wars are flaring up around the globe, and popular unrest is rife. More worryingly still, tensions are rising between the great superpowers. As recently as 2016, the USA believed that co-operation with China was both viable and necessary. Now, however, the countries are on a collision course, having fallen out over China’s military expansionism and the USA’s refusal to collaborate on climate change policy.
What do we not know?
There is some debate over the future shape of global politics. The USA previously dominated the world, partly by keeping other countries economically dependent on it. The US dollar still guarantees the value of every other currency in the world. However, China’s economic might makes it a competitor. Many of the USA’s traditional allies in Europe, Africa and the Middle East are now dependent on Chinese exports, and they may prove unwilling to side with America in future conflicts with China.

Word Watch

Kashgar
A city on China’s western border, near Afghanistan. Historically, it acted as the link between China and the Middle East.
Xi Jinping
The current Chinese president.
Adolf Hitler
The leader of Nazi Germany.
Falun Gong
A religious movement that draws on Buddhism and Taoism. The Chinese state claims that it is a threat to society and has brutally clamped down on it.
Taiwan
An island nation just to the east of China. Before 1949, Taiwan was part of China. It now claims to be an independent state, but China refuses to recognise its independence. Some think that it is waiting for an opportunity to seize Taiwan by force.
Himalayan border
The border between India and China sits mostly in the Himalayas mountain range. Various sections of the border are contested between the two countries, and they fought a war over it in 1962.
Comparisons
Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq from 1979 until 2003, was compared with Hitler because of his persecution of Kurds, an ethnic minority in northern Iraq, and his 1990 invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.

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