Recognising Communist China
By Michael de la Bedoyere
GREAT Britain's recognition of Communist China is, putting the matter at its lowest, a highly controversial decision,—and this fact alone would seem to be argument enough to suggest that the decision has been much too hastily taken.
It is true that recognition of a new regime as the de lure authority in a foreign country by no means necessarily amounts to approval of that regime or of the means by which it obtained power. Evidently, in this case, recognition of Communist China is not intended to express any approval whatever of a revolutionary usurpation of power in that country.
Indeed it is extremely important for the peace of the world to underline the truth that recognition is quite a different matter from approval.
In modern times there has been a most dangerous tendency in the West according to which no form of Government or regime abroad is to he tolerated if it does not satisfy the moral and social judgment of a number of liberal idealists in London and Washington. These moulders of Western opinion have virtually claimed infallibility for themselves in political doctrine and morality and therefore claim the right to condemn countries and peoples which find such doctrine and morality less attractive or suitable in their particular circumstances.
Without question. this Western claim has proved to be a most important factor in poisoning international relations and causing the calamity of modern warfare.
Whatever be the merits of Western democratic ideals, these can only be safely propagated by the slow process of education and conversion. To ostracise or impose sanctions on those who disagree with them or react against them because they have proved unsatisfactory or disadvantageous to them can only deepen the ideological division between nations and thus promote friction and war.
The world's first duty is to carry on life and society, and therefore it is right and proper to come to such terms with all and sundry as are Possible. regarding these ad hoc business terms as the proper foundation of such moral and social elevation as we may ourselves believe to be in the end morally necessary or desirable.
Inconsistent Precedents A T the present time, however, the 4 view that recognition does not imply approval is not widely accepted, and precisely because the Western liberal moralists have formulated their judgments with great inconsistency and prejudice. While they have condemned and, where possible. withheld recognition from regimes to the right of Western parliamentary democracy, they have welcomed aud approved those to its left. Whereas the Italian conquest of Abyssinia was felt to involve the condemnation of Italy and the refusal to recognise the established Italian rule in that country, the Russian swallowing of the democratic and liberal Baltic States was accepted without a murmur. Whereas left totalitarianism in Eastern Europe was scarcely criticised until it was felt to be becoming dangerous to our own skins, no words of abuse were strong enough for the condemnation of a Nationalist Spain which rendered us many services during the war and successfully foiled Hitler's attempts to use the Iberian peninsula against us.
With this history behind us. it requires a very strong effort of will and concentration not to view the present British recognition of Communist China as a conciliatory gesture towards Communism, the more so in that the United States, having taken a juster measure of the times, feels obliged to withhold such recognition and consequently to view our action as a marked weakening of the solidarity of the Western free world against the Communist assault. President Truman's rather mercurial reactions have elicited unfavourable comment, but at least they have sprung from a sense of the realities of the situation.
What Advantage ?
MOREOVER. it is clear that the act of recognising a foreign country is wholly within the cornpetence of the country making the
decision. Whatever view we may take of the moral value of such recognition, a country should act in accordance with an informed and realist judgement about the advantages and disadvantages to be gained by the choice both for itself and the rest of the world.
Without any fault on our part— indeed despite every possible effort of appeasement on our part — we have incurred the active enmity of the Communist world. Moscow, in its theory and in its practice, has declared its intention of destroying the capitalist world, by which it means the whole of the world not subject to its own Communist dictatorship. If it does not provoke open war, this is solely because it sees that for the present " peace " suits its purposes far better.
Its tactics have throughout consisted of "softening up " opposition in neighbouring countries. in promoting disaffection and trouble everywhere, and in seeking to prevent the formation of any united front against Communism whether within individual countries or among the non-Communist nations generally.
In such circumstances, only a very obvious and important advantage, to be obtained by recognition of a Communist conquest, can possibly counterbalance playing into Communist hands by any hasty recognition.
Recognition will hardly afford us
any more knowledge of the situation within China, nor give any clear opportunity of effecting the redemption of China from its new masters. Nor does there seem to be any solid hope of coming to terms tolerable to the world at large with these new masters, whether at present or in the future. The recognition will strengthen the Russian bloc in the United Nations. The only advantage would seem to lie in the commercial and financial field for the protection of our remaining trading interests. And how precarious any such advantage must be, given the well-known Communist technique of preparing the way for nationalist seizure of all wealth in the ostensible interests of the nationals of the seized country.
Meanwhile, on the other side, there can be no doubt that Moscow and Peking will interpret and exploit the decision as a further sign of British weakness, rub their hands at the signs of disagreement between London and Washington, and feel entitled to anticipate that any further measure of conquest in the far South-East will in due course lead to further British recognition of the success. Nor can the countries in the danger zone view the British action as other than a sign of only half-hearted interest in their defence.
A Poor Start to 1950 NOT the least surprising aspect of
the decision is that it anticipated the Colombo Commonwealth Conference. just as the recognitions of Communist China by India. Pakistan and Ceylon anticipated this allimportant conference.
Decisions taken in Colombo must play a vital nart in two interlocked questions. The first is the ways and means of checking the Communist assault on South-East Asia; and the second is the linking of the policy taken by the Commonwealth, so vitally and immediately interested in the revelling of this threat, with the overall world resistance against Communism which depends on American and European unity.
Commonsense surely suggests that if the Commonwealth continues to mean anything, and if world statesmen have any conception of widely-planned policy for the future. then the time for resolving the dilemma created by the effective Communist authority in China was after and not before the new situation was faced. first at Colombo, and later in London and Washington.
Indeed the position is so strange that one rubs one's eyes and asks oneself what real seriousness there is in world statesmanship which avows itself fully aware of the threat to world civilisation, and yet continues to behave as though these problems could be solved on a national level as in times of relative calm and peace.
It is a poor start to the 1950 decade which serious people understand to be likely to be dominated by the question of whether Communism can be repelled or at least contained without the disaster of a third world war.
WHAT STATISTICS REVEAL
DOUBTLESS, we shall have our fill of political argument and counter-argument during the next few weeks, and each speaker and writer will prove very capable of Persuading us of either the magnificence of the British record since the war or of its lamentable deficiency, according to his own political prejudices. An antidote to both cooked Presentations of the facts may be found in the cold figures enumerating changes in Britain published by the Government's Central Statistical
Office. As these figures cover the decade 1938 to 1948, we may reasonably take an impartial political view in regard to them. and search deeper for causes than in the words and actions of our noisy politicians. While these figures tell of amazing educational developments, if we judge by quantities which statistics can record. and also of great progress in physical health and resistance to death (which nevertheless comes to each, as it always did, in due course), they also tell us that the number of bankruptcies have skyrocketed. that it costs the workers more to live today than it did in 1938. that crime has increased, that fewer people per thousand are now getting married. and that whereas in 1938 7,621 persons were granted divorces, by 1948 40,764 went the same way.
It is an instructive example of the
march of material progress, as men habitually judge material progress, moving in inverse proportion to moral retrogression.
The Key To Happiness A ND if we try imaginatively to " transcend the figures and think of the decline in religious faith, in real culture and education, in morals and manners, in human independence, freedom and resource, despite the enormous efforts made to build a fairer world, not to mention the cost of this effort, we may well be forced to the conclusion that we have started the whole thing at the wrong end.
Happiness and contentment have nothing to do with States and nations, however impressive their material statistics; they belong to individual persons. To possess a religious faith; to believe in the sane old moral principles: to build a family in the fear of God and a will to mutual love, rather than on passing feelings — these things will ensure more happiness to individual persons than any material progress however statistically impressive. Not that material progress is to be puritanically frowned on; but its value and place come after the spiritual and moral essentials. In a letter to the Times on Wednesday, Mr. Paul S. Cadbury, discussing the 300,000-400,000 children growing up in problem families rightly points out that " problem children are the result of a breakdown of family life." And a good family life depends on the spirit of responsibility. initiative and action within families and communities, qualities which are not developed by any doling out on the part of State or community of all the comforts and advantages that should he personally striven for. To approach a General Election with such convictions in mind will, as Dr. Johnson suggested in regard to the early approach of death, powerfully concentrate our minds.
ASH WEDNESDAY "EVE OF POLL" IT has already been suggested in
religious circles that February 22 is a bad " eve-of-poll " day, since it is Ash Wednesday, and will cause clashes between religious services and big political meetings.
We would suggest that it is a very good day—if sincere Christians will use that day of prayer and penance to prepare for the use of their vote in the serious moral spirit which its consequences demand. To attend a religious service or to meditate in private will certainly do more for the quality of one's vote than to listen to last-minute impassioned political oratory.