The Lessons of History (II)

BEIJING/BERLIN | | china

BEIJING/BERLIN (Own report) - A leading German automotive expert is calling for taking a greater "distance to the USA" and turning more toward China. According to Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, Spokesman of the Board of the CAR Center Automotive Research at the University Duisburg-Essen, the German automotive industry is one of the main losers of the current US economic wars. Instead of exacerbating the conflict, Berlin should seek closer cooperation with Beijing. Dudenhöffer declared this after it became known that the People's Republic of China is distancing itself from the German government because of its support for secessionists in Hong Kong. For Beijing, any interference into its domestic affairs is taboo, also because it was the interventions by European colonial powers that caused the beginning of the dramatic decline of the Middle Kingdom. The German Reich had shown itself to be particularly brutal. Thousands fell victim to massacres committed by the German troops in China, during the years 1900 and 1901. Berlin implemented racist concepts in the German colony of Qingdao.

Take a Distance

According to Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, Spokesman of the Board of the CAR Center Automotive Research at the University Duisburg-Essen and one of Germany's leading automotive experts, the German automotive industry is one of the main losers of the current US economic wars. Dudenhöffer estimates the losses that can be incurred by 2025, due to Trump’s punitive tariffs and other measures at around €700 billion. Berlin must take a "distance to the USA" and turn more toward China, the expert advises.[1] China is the German automobile industry's most important sales market. However, Beijing recently made it clear that because of German support for secessionists in Hong Kong, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [2]), it will take a certain distance to the German government.[3] The People's Republic strictly rejects foreign interference because of its experience with the interventions by European colonial powers, in which the German Reich had participated since the end of the 1890s. At the time German colonial troops began committing horrendous massacres.

The First Massacres

The first massacres committed by the German colonial troops in June 1899, in their efforts to crush the resistance of the Chinese population to the German colonialists' ruthless treatment - in the course of the railroad construction through the Shandong coastal province (german-foreign-policy.com reported [4]) - escalated the inhabitants' protests even further. Not wanting to provide the German Reich any pretext to occupy other areas of the country, the Beijing government, in January 1900, was barely able to prevent a major escalation. However, it could no longer be avoided when, in October 1900, the German diplomat Alfons Mumm von Schwarzenstein and the Commander of the German colonial troops Alfred von Waldersee gave the green light for so-called punitive measures, to end the resistance to the construction of the colonial railway. During their attack on a village west of the city Gaomi on October 23, 1900, German soldiers killed more than 20 people. They then killed 300 to 400 residents of the neighboring village Kelan, burned down the houses of the Lujia village on October 27, and, on October 31, killed more than 300 residents of Shawo village, completely annihilating 20 families.[5] These colonial crimes are today hardly known in Germany.

The Rebellion

When the German troops committed the massacre near Gaomi, the protest against the railway construction had already merged with the Chinese population's general resistance to the colonial plunder of their country. This resistance was supported by groups, who, for their self-defense, were practicing traditional Chinese martial arts. While calling themselves "Yihequan" (Righteous and Harmonious Fists), in German they were usually called "Boxers." Their rebellion escalated in June 1900, when thousands of them poured into Beijing and the German diplomat Clemens von Ketteler was murdered on June 20. The imperial court joined the "Boxer Rebellion" on June 21. Insurgents and members of the regular army jointly surrounded the diplomatic district in the Chinese capital, where representatives of the colonial powers resided. They succeeded in maintaining their siege up to August 14, when the colonial troops stormed Beijing.

The Colonial Coalition of the Willing

Whereas the colonial powers were initially seeking to crush the rebellion in China with the aid of the available European, American and Japanese soldiers in the Middle Kingdom or those that could be summoned on short notice, the German Reich was mobilizing an additional international force in July 1900 to comprehensively combat the resistance on a broad front. Germany took command of the intervention with Alfred von Waldersee leading the troops. With a speech in Bremerhaven on July 27, 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm II bid farewell to the German contingent, the East Asian Expeditionary Corps, calling for "revenge" and spurred the soldiers on, saying "no quarter will be given." His speech became notorious as the "Hun Speech." (german-foreign-policy.com is documenting excerpts.[6])

German Mass Murder

In fact, during their operations suppressing the rebellion in China, the German colonial troops lived up to what the Kaiser had demanded. September 11, 1900, for example, German units took the city of Liangxiang - around 30 kilometers to the southwest of Beijing. They carried out the orders to kill all "combat-capable" Chinese - with the exception of women and children. At least one quarter of the 3,000 - 4,000 inhabitants of Liangxiang fell victim to this order. Numerous other massacres have been documented. In December 1900, when taking the city of Shenzhou, the German military murdered more than 1,000 inhabitants and destroyed more then 2,000 buildings. The total number of those falling victim to German mass murder remains unknown. For the Germans, the 1899 "Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land" was obligatory only in reference to the category of "civilized" nations, to which China, according to Berlin, did not belong.[7]

Like in East Africa

German troops also carried out "punitive expeditions" against villages, merely in retaliation for their losses. The operations strongly resembled the actions that were being carried out at around the same time by the colonial troops in what is today Tanzania, which German officers at the time literally referred to as an "extermination campaign." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) According to the historian Susanne Kuss, it is "noteworthy" that "of all the international units operating in China in the fall 1900, mainly German military units had carried out punitive expeditions."[9] Of the 76 "punitive expeditions" carried out by the international colonial troops in the province of Zhili, surrounding Beijing, 51 were carried out exclusively by German units. By many of the others, Germans comprised a disproportionately high percentage of the troops.

A Racist "Model Colony"

While German colonial troops in China were committing their murders, Berlin's colonial representatives were in the process of establishing a "model colony" ("Gouvernement Kiautschou") in the area surrounding the Bay of Jiaozhou. Alongside its economic and military function, the Gouvernement was supposed to serve as a "German cultural center" and demonstrate to the Chinese population - considered to be uncivilized - the German Reich's cultural superiority. The center of the colony, the port city Qingdao ("Tsingtau"), was an area reserved exclusively for Germans, and off limits for Chinese. In addition to the physical segregation, Chinese were submitted to different legal norms than Germans. The historian Klaus Mühlhahn observed that within the German "model colony," "as a consequence of its strict bureaucratic implementation and normalization, a race ideology had developed."[10]

Inextinguishably Seared

The German colonial rule of the area surrounding the Bay of Jiaozhou and the massacres carried out by German colonial troops during the 1900 and 1901 suppression of the "Boxer" Rebellion massively accelerated the decline of China in the shadows of the 19th and early 20th centuries' European, US and Japanese colonialism. They contributed to the fact that the Middle Kingdom, which in 1820 had represented nearly a third of the world's economic performance, had suffered a catastrophic crash, and by 1949 - the year the People's Republic of China was founded - although it represented around a fourth of the world's population, it accounted for not even five percent of the global economic performance. Years ago, the German diplomat, Konrad Seitz, who, from 1995 - 1999, had served as the German Ambassador in Beijing, wrote that "if one wants to understand the China of today, one must know all of this. The trauma of the plunge into poverty and shame and the humiliation at the hands of foreigners, are inextinguishably seared into the memory of every single Chinese."[11]

 

For more on this theme, see The Lessons of History (I) and our video column "War against China".

 

[1] Diana Dittmer: Dudenhöffer rät zur Abkehr von USA. n-tv.de 02.10.2019.

[2] See also Die Auslandszentrale der chinesischen Opposition.

[5] Yang Laiqing: Die Ereignisse von Gaomi und der Widerstand der Bevölkerung gegen den deutschen Eisenbahnbau. In: Mechthild Leutner, Klaus Mühlhahn (Hg.): Kolonialkrieg in China. Die Niederschlagung der Boxerbewegung 1900-1901. Berlin 2007. S. 49-58.

[6] See also Die "Hunnenrede".

[7] Susanne Kuß: Deutsche Strafexpeditionen im Boxerkrieg. In: Mechthild Leutner, Klaus Mühlhahn (Hg.): Kolonialkrieg in China. Die Niederschlagung der Boxerbewegung 1900-1901. Berlin 2007. S. 135-146.

[8] See also Auf dem Weg zum Vernichtungskrieg (I) and Auf dem Weg zum Vernichtungskrieg (II).

[9] Susanne Kuß: Deutsche Strafexpeditionen im Boxerkrieg. In: Mechthild Leutner, Klaus Mühlhahn (Hg.): Kolonialkrieg in China. Die Niederschlagung der Boxerbewegung 1900-1901. Berlin 2007. S. 135-146. Hier: S. 140.

[10] Klaus Mühlhahn: Deutschlands Platz an der Sonne? Die Kolonie "Kiaotschou". In: Mechthild Leutner, Klaus Mühlhahn (Hg.): Kolonialkrieg in China. Die Niederschlagung der Boxerbewegung 1900-1901. Berlin 2007. S. 43-48. Hier: S. 45.

[11] Konrad Seitz: China. Eine Weltmacht kehrt zurück. München 2006. S. 100.