Xi Jinping in His Own Words
What China’s Leader Wants—and How to Stop Him From Getting It
ON this twenty-eighth day of June ten years will have passed since the signing at Versailles of the first of the international treaties which put an end to the World War and determined the conditions of peace. Ten years, longum œvi spatum. In this period mankind has made persistent and laudable -- and, it must be confessed, contradictory -- efforts to regain its balance. But still there hovers over Europe, perhaps over the whole world, a sense of uneasiness. Though at times scarcely perceptible, it is always present beneath the surface and crops out again under some political or economic influence. On such an anniversary as this we shall not do wrong to pause and take stock of the progress that has been accomplished, to note the alarms and anxieties still remaining, and to try, from these observations, to draw some lessons for the future.
Let us begin by recording with satisfaction a distinct and general improvement in the intercourse among nations. Not only have regular and courteous diplomatic relations been resumed between the nations which were at war, but treaties of commerce have been concluded, industrial cartels formed, statesmen brought together, mutual suspicions allayed, painful memories softened, and an effort really made to cease finding in past sorrows food for revenge and hate. The very name of Peace has taken hold of the imaginations of men and has acquired in their minds a prestige unknown until this day. For centuries the practice and habit of war has endured among the nations. The glories of war have been celebrated everywhere and in every way. Conquerors have always been the favorites of history. Not so long since, under the Hohenzollerns, war was still openly praised in Germany. Von Moltke wrote: "International peace is a dream -- and not even a beautiful dream; war is a part of the world order created by God; without it, the world would sink deep into the morass of materialism." And Ludendorff, in his turn, declared that war, a natural phenomenon, would remain the ultimate recourse of statecraft, the factor which in the last analysis decides. A few months ago, by way of contrast, we saw a German Minister of Foreign Affairs take part not only in the signing of the Treaty of Locarno but also of the Kellogg Pact, and the greatest Powers of the world solemnly join hands with the smallest to outlaw war. It would indeed be a hardened pessimist who refused to acknowledge such evident progress. "He who accustoms himself to faith, believes," said Pascal, "and can no longer fear hell." By dint of repeating the word Peace the peoples of the earth, let us hope, will accustom themselves to that state and will no longer fear armed conflicts.
As for France, she has given many proofs of the sincerity of her intentions. The moment war was over she cut the term of her military service from three years to eighteen months, and Parliament has recently voted a further reduction which is to result in a one-year term. And France, it must be remembered, is responsible for the security not merely of her metropolitan territory but also of her numerous colonies scattered all over the globe and attached to the mother country by a myriad of traditions and interests. France, moreover, has time and again announced her willingness to go still further along the path of disarmament. She associated herself with all the efforts for peace of the League of Nations, in all the attempts to extend the principle of arbitration, in the creation of the Permanent Court of International Justice, and in the drawing up of the famous Protocol, which she would have liked to see put into immediate execution but which lacked the necessary number of signatories and so unfortunately remained still-born in the limbo of Geneva.
France is determined to carry on her work of reconciliation. She will not weary of helping toward the consolidation of peace. I admit quite candidly that there is no great merit in this persistence. She could not act otherwise without denying herself and without betraying her own best interests. A war which she neither sought nor provoked, which she did everything to avoid and which was thrust upon her by a military imperialism, ravaged ten of her fairest departments, killed almost 1,400,000 of her sons, mutilated 740,000 more, exhausted her resources, disrupted her finances and plunged a multitude of her families into mourning and ruin. She has therefore every reason to dread the return of such an ordeal; and she would be all the more insane to risk it because in no case would she have anything to gain. After the victory of the Allies many nations, great and small, annexed territories which they had never before possessed. France was content to recover what had been taken from her by force in 1871. She did not even get back her old frontiers -- those which had been hers before the Revolution, and which even the Coalition of 1814 had left her. She only demanded that a population which despite its unanimous protests had been taken from her by force of arms should not remain separated any longer, and that a violent rape should not be wiped out by a statute of limitations. She obtained satisfaction. She has never wished for more. If -- on an hypothesis which I absolutely reject -- she should in spite of herself again become engaged in another war, and if she should again be victorious, she most certainly would not seek any aggrandizement; she would rest entirely satisfied within her present boundaries. A war, then, whatever its nature, could only add to her sufferings without bringing any compensation. Even if she had no higher or nobler reasons, her best interests, properly understood, would suffice to hold her back from any indiscretion.
For the last ten years, moreover, France has devoted her best efforts to economic and financial reconstruction. The rebuilding of the devastated regions and the indemnifying of wounded soldiers, widows and orphans of war veterans, were tasks that put heavy charges on her budget. She had to vote every sort of tax. For a number of years the default of Germany forced her hurriedly to undertake the reconstruction of houses, roads, canals, railroads, factories, churches and schools, and this entailed the issuance of a series of short-term loans. The national currency consequently became depreciated, and foreign speculation precipitated and increased the process. In July 1926 it became necessary for France to accept new sacrifices and to resort to exceptional measures in order to ward off disaster. Indeed, the danger is not even yet completely averted; we must be satisfied with having set bounds to it. By an act of courage, the franc has been stabilized at one-fifth of its pre-war value. Though this was a cruel blow to a host of Frenchmen of moderate means, and particularly to the petits rentiers, the steadiness, common sense and industrious integrity of the people of France have led them to accept these many disappointments and to regard them as a ransom exacted for the salvation of their country.
Now that the most painful period of this long crisis is over and France knows that her recovery rests on a firm basis, her concern is that the reëstablishment of her material prosperity shall enable her to resume the advances in the intellectual and social field cut short by war. The energy shown in the development of her academic, scientific and hygienic agencies, in the organization of social service, relief and insurance, gives any impartial observer clear proof that never has a people been more eager to contribute spontaneously to the enlargement of human welfare and happiness.
But merely because I say France is surpassed by no one in the tasks of peace I must not be understood as claiming that she stands alone in her endeavors. Quite the contrary. I feel sure that in every nation the vast majority of families have the keenest desire to see public prosperity develop in a peaceful and orderly way. There would be universal rejoicing if the old French motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité could be translated into reality everywhere. Nevertheless we should be deceiving ourselves -- and simultaneously deceiving our friends across the Atlantic -- if we did not admit that ten years after the signing of peace there still exist in Europe a certain number of old camp fires where, though banked under a thick covering of ashes, the hidden sparks still glow.
To begin with, it is Europe's unenviable privilege to have as its eastern neighbor an immense and mysterious power whose political régime has nothing in common with that of other civilized nations, and of which the least one can say is that under the guise of advanced ideas it seeks to spread the most frightfully reactionary passions. Even in those states with which it has official relations it is in secret contact with all the trouble makers and therefore assuredly does not foster the spirit of European understanding and coöperation. But aside from this chief source of contagion, numerous pockets of poisoned germs are scattered here and there across the Continent. Peace treaties seldom satisfy both victors and vanquished. In the past, treaties have generally relied upon force for their execution, with the result that the weak often were imposed upon. A nobler ambition inspired the contracting Powers at the end of the last war. They set themselves the task of establishing peace upon justice, and in laying out frontiers they tried to take into account, so far as possible, the wishes of the inhabitants.
The principle would have been excellent had the nationalities in Europe been divided into compact and homogeneous groups, easy to distinguish and separate from one another. But this was not the case. On the contrary, there were large zones co-inhabited by different races. The Hapsburg Monarchy was a composite and incongruous structure, which included under one roof Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Magyars, Croats, Serbs and Rumanians. The dissolution of the empire did not put an end to this mélange. No matter where the political frontiers might be drawn, there was no possibility of basing them strictly on ethnology. Even plebiscites could not entirely cure the ethnic anarchy. Plebiscites were held in certain regions like Upper Silesia; the population announced their decision, but their verdict has not smoothed away the rough surfaces of friction. In almost all the countries of Eastern and Central Europe nationalities have remained inextricably mixed. Czechoslovakia, for example, forms a vigorous state in which two Slav families live side by side; for centuries they have preserved their traditions, language and love of independence; but important German groups are settled in their territory and do not merge either with the Czechs or with the Slovaks. The Dantzig corridor is inhabited chiefly by Poles, and except in the immediate vicinity of the coast there are few towns or villages where the Germans can boast any great numerical superiority, in spite of the fact that for many years they were in control of the region; on the other hand, there are few localities where the inhabitants are exclusively Polish; almost everywhere the two peoples are juxtaposed in varying proportions. Transylvania belonged to Hungary; it was an essentially Rumanian district; it was assigned to Rumania; but many Magyars still live there and this is sufficient excuse for Hungary to continue pressing her claims upon it. And so forth and so on; I could keep on multiplying examples of this kind indefinitely.
Faced with such a complex situation, the peacemakers found it no easy task to reach a solution. One system would have been to say to the different national groups: "If you remain in this country you must submit yourselves like other citizens to the law of the land. If you do not wish to merge with the majority, cross the frontier and join your compatriots." This was the system later adopted for the Greeks and Turks in Thrace by the Treaty of Lausanne. But to uproot large and sedentary populations in this manner would really have been too barbarous a proceeding, and it was rejected. Another method might have consisted in naturalizing en masse all the inhabitants situated within a given state, and thenceforward to have recognized no legal distinctions of race or language. After all, it is neither the technical question of national origins nor yet the spoken idiom which determine the nature of the "fatherland." The United States is the greatest country in the world; national consciousness, the ideal of patriotism, exercise wide influence and enjoy great prestige there; and yet among the Anglo-Saxon majority of Americans are found great numbers of Germans, Italians, Frenchmen and Spaniards who are also full citizens and are governed by no separate statute.
The peace treaties thought it wise to adopt neither of the above methods. They formed what they called "national minorities." For example, if we re-read the treaty signed at Trianon on June 4, 1920, we shall find the new frontiers of Hungary delimited. Then comes a section dealing with the protection of minorities and another with clauses referring to nationality. Consequently there are to be found in Europe a number of new or reconstituted states containing minorities, either of race, religion or language, which enjoy certain advantages as to schools, charitable institutions and social works and are placed under the protection of the Council of the League of Nations. This arrangement undoubtedly had the best of intentions. But, easy as it is to know what language a people speaks or what religion it professes, it sometimes is very difficult to recognize what race it belongs to or even in a general manner to define any particular race. Moreover, by forming the minorities into little islands in the bosom of a nation the treaties inevitably thrust them into opposition to the rest of the indigenous population. This process results in an ever widening breach, and instead of making for peace and unity leads the country insensibly toward strife and division. The appeal to the Council of the League of Nations often proves in itself a source of trouble and agitation rather than an influence for peace. Finally, the precautions, though taken in the interest of justice, run the risk of maintaining feelings perpetually at a fever pitch. The most recent meeting of the Council at Geneva offers an excellent example of the state of excitement induced among those concerned by the mere announcement of a debate on minorities.
If the question of minorities is not to become a danger to peace, care must be taken to prevent diplomatic texts from being misinterpreted and used as the pretext for improper interference. Each member of the Council of the League of Nations undoubtedly has the right to draw the attention of the Council to an infraction, or the threat of an infraction, of contractual obligations. But, legally, all minorities depend only on the country of which they form a part. A Slav minority in Hungary is Hungarian; a Hungarian minority in Jugoslavia is Jugoslav; a German minority in Poland is Polish; a German minority in Czechoslovakia is Czechoslovak. No state, in consequence, has the right to claim authority over populations living outside its borders and which it may rightly or wrongly consider as brothers of its own nationals. Were it otherwise, the door would be wide open to adventures in imperialism and to manœuvring and intrigue of the worst description.
What would be even more fatal to European peace would be if certain Powers, whether signatories of the treaties or not, should try to revise the present territorial arrangements. Several Powers at this moment make no secret of their intentions in this regard. Hungary is conducting a campaign to get back those districts assigned to her neighbors. A permanent state of conflict exists between Poland and Lithuania. Russia wishes to modify her Polish frontiers and to take Bessarabia from Rumania. Germany makes no bones of her intention to absorb Austria, dispute Belgium's title to Eupen and Malmedy, and wrest the Dantzig corridor from Poland. The incorporation of Austria in Germany -- the Anschluss -- would, in the eyes of the Reich's neighbors, appear as the systematic reëstablishment of German hegemony in Central Europe, and since according to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles such a fusion can be authorized at Geneva only by a unanimous vote, Germany would be sure to come up against the veto of the League. A formidable conflict would ensue. The affair of the Polish corridor is equally delicate. Those not fully informed sometimes find it surprising that ten years ago Germany should have been separated from East Prussia, and consequently regard the arrangement as certain to be short-lived. At first sight it does appear an anomaly. But, as I pointed out above, the inhabitants of the corridor (particularly those of the hinterland) are, to use the language of the treaties, Polish by race, tongue and religion. While they were under German domination they sent Polish representatives to the Reichstag. Today they are once more joined to Poland, which they regard as their own country. How could they be returned to the authority of the Reich? They would not accept such an infringement of their rights without open revolt.
These observations will at least have shown that we cannot envisage the future of Europe with complete optimism. The only guarantee of lasting tranquillity lies in a general, sincere and permanent determination to respect the treaties. Sad to say, this determination does not exist today. On the other hand, the more widespread the religion of peace becomes, the fewer heretics there will be among the nations; while the salutary fear of becoming an object of reprobation may restrain many from going over the edge of the fatal abyss. The League of Nations is in a position to exert a happy influence in this respect, and the services which it has already rendered to European harmony allow us to hope that it will not fail in the moment of grave peril.
One problem of which the tenth anniversary of peace is not to see the solution, but which the last few weeks have put well forward on the right road, is that of disarmament. It was the subject of discussion at Geneva from April 15 to May 6, and although the delegations did not find it possible to reach an agreement which might be submitted to the coming Assembly of the League of Nations, considerable clarification and simplification have nevertheless been achieved. We may congratulate ourselves that this progress has been due in large measure to the understanding between the American and French delegates, in particular Mr. Gibson and M. Massigli. We, for our part, are very grateful to the United States and to its eminent first citizen, Mr. Hoover, for continuing and expanding a policy of benevolent collaboration with the League -- a policy systematically pursued for the past five years. Complemented by American adherence to the Hague Court, the effort to bring about land and naval disarmament is an inspiring enterprise which must rally the support of the earnest and disinterested in all lands. The attempts of the last few years resulted in failure. Thanks to mutual concessions, it now appears that we are on the high road to success. Count Bernstorff and M. Litvinoff, the representatives of Germany and of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, felt constrained to make reservations to the resolutions adopted concerning land disarmament, but the representations of the other nations were unanimous in considering the Russo-German proposals for the direct limitation of war stocks as inacceptable. It was with the approval of France that, after the rejection of our plan to limit armaments indirectly by limiting expenses, the conference determined to seek a solution by providing for publicity of expenditures. M. Massigli therefore promised to bring to the next session a plan covering the exchange and centralization of information, the regulation of differences regarding the interpretation and application of the convention, and the steps which might be necessary in the event of an infringement of the precautionary measures. After taking note of these declarations, Mr. Gibson paid tribute to the spirit of conciliation shown by the French Government and announced that the attitude of our delegation had materially contributed to the results of the session. It goes without saying that in modifying the proposals presented by M. Paul Boncour in 1927, we in no way repudiate the principle maintained by us respecting the supervision of armaments; and that we reserve the right to return to our initial position in case the decision to meet our views in the matter of trained reserves and reserve material should be reversed. None the less, we fell in with the idea of a new method of approach to the whole problem in order to preserve our accord with the United States; and we did it deliberately, because we are convinced of the lasting importance of a cordial entente between our two Republics.
We also favored an immediate solution of the problem of naval disarmament, but when Lord Cushendun announced in the name of His Majesty's Government that he had not yet been able to reach a definite conclusion as to the technical formula proposed by the United States, it was resolved to adjourn the debate in order to allow the governments concerned to enter into direct negotiations. Of course we at once gladly consented to take part in such negotiations provided they took account of our compromise of 1927 and provided they were directed toward finding a solution capable of general application, not compromising any vital interest and taking account so far as possible of the special situation of different countries. The commission at Geneva has therefore terminated this new phase of its work in an atmosphere of good will and serenity. Even the objections of Count Bernstorff and M. Litvinoff gradually subsided and were merged in the general harmony.
This is indeed of good augury. The organizing of a rational disarmament on land and sea is not a task to be accomplished at one blow. It is no easy matter to guarantee to each nation security against aggression and at the same time set a limit to its power and means of attack. At first sight the problem resembles the squaring of the circle. But in psychology the most difficult problems find a solution if both heart and head are called into play.
Other things are essential for the consolidation of peace on the Continent. It is necessary to establish economic coöperation among the European nations, to lessen industrial rivalries, and to rationalize production and exchange. At Geneva there has been set up an international economic conference which has outlined important problems and suggested interesting solutions. In tariff questions, in the distribution of manufactured goods, such a conference may play a very useful rôle and give valuable advice. The more the nations of Europe come to feel that they need one another, the more the consciousness of their interdependence will persuade them to frown on the use of violence and the more will they realize that arbitration is the one honorable method of settling inevitable disagreements.
Let us turn now to international debts and reparations. This thorny question has just definitely been settled as I finish these pages for FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
It must be clearly understood to start with that France has never for a moment repudiated or contested the debts contracted during or since the war, either toward America or toward Great Britain. Not only has she always declared herself ready to discharge them to the extent of her capacity for payment and transfer, but since the London and Washington agreements she has actually paid the specified annuities as they came due. She has had only one real anxiety -- that at a given moment Germany's insolvency might make it impossible for her to continue payment. Therefore before taking part in the recent conference of experts (for which Mr. S. Parker Gilbert so intelligently prepared the way) she took pains to explain her position clearly. She asked that the German payments be graduated on the same scale as her own and that they should completely cover her double debt to America and England. She requested, moreover, that a fair sum be also assigned her for the restoration of her devastated provinces. It surely did not seem unnatural that Germany, who declared war on France and lost, should be obliged to pay her creditors at least as fully as France's creditors expect to be paid, and that wanton damage done by Germany on French soil should be repaired by Germany rather than by France.
During the recent discussions in Paris, which were bound to play such a rôle for good or ill in the destinies of Europe, the French experts did not forego their liberty of action, were not hampered by any instructions from their government, and faithfully coöperated with their colleagues. They did everything in their power to dissipate difficulties and showed themselves conciliatory and moderate. They of course had to maintain the essentials of the position previously taken by our country and publicly proclaimed to the world. They made it clear that France was quite satisfied with the regular execution of the original Dawes Plan, particularly as it was about to result in an appreciable increase of the payments to France. We had no reason to wish for a change in the agreement of 1924. Germany, not France, was the pleader. The only thing we wished to emphasize was that we would not turn a deaf ear to reasonable proposals for replacing the old agreement with a new one, but that we could accept no plan which did not assure us the sums necessary to cover our own war debts plus a clear indemnity for war damages.
No one, I believe, contests our right to reparations. This right is established by the treaty which Germany signed and ratified; it is strengthened morally by the fact that war was declared against us at a time when we were bending every effort toward maintaining peace; but it is founded even more firmly, if that were possible, upon another fact about which there can be no discussion -- imperial Germany's assault on the law of nations by its violation of Belgian neutrality. On our eastern frontiers the Kaiser's armies would have come up against our strong forts and our elaborate system of defenses. They would have beaten in vain against Nancy, Epinal, Toul and Verdun. They would have set foot on our soil only to be repulsed. It is because they violated Belgian neutrality that they were able to occupy Belgium, and it is because they occupied Belgium that they broke through into France by our northern frontiers and were able to advance on the Somme and the Marne and approach Paris. They should be doubly held to account, therefore, for the devastations which they committed -- first because these devastations were a violation of the interests of respectable people, and secondly because they were the consequence of an invasion undertaken in defiance of international law and by breaking solemn international treaties. These are basic truths which our experts could not entirely overlook. However, they were careful to take into consideration the points of view of Germany's other creditors, great and small, in order not to put too great a strain upon an indebtedness in which all have a share.
After prolonged vicissitudes, the conference of experts has at last reached unanimous conclusions and has handed the governments concerned a definite solution of the reparation problem. This happy end, after such a weary time of waiting, is due in large measure to the patience, competence and good temper shown by Mr. Young and Mr. Morgan, the American experts. Mr. Young, chosen at the beginning as president of the conference, has proved that he posesses both tact and impartiality, that he is a diplomat as well as a financier. A hundred times he intervened to dissipate misunderstandings, to overcome disagreements, to work out mutual concessions. For several months the fate of the experts' investigation hung in the balance. Many a time it seemed in the greatest jeopardy. One morning everything would be going well; that same evening everything would be going badly. The annuity figures, the term of payments, their conditional or unconditional character, the division of them between the creditors, the question of the suspension of payments and of transfers, the abandonment of pledges given under the Dawes Plan, the question of the international bank, the question of the railroads, the plans for mobilizing and commercializing the debt -- these were some of the subjects which led to interminable debate. But the American experts, who had the highly ungrateful task of serving as arbitrators between debtor and creditors, were able to keep alive the general good will and to inspire everyone with a strong desire not to let the conference fail.
The French experts agreed that their country should assume a very large part of the common sacrifice, in order to demonstrate their conciliatory attitude and make possible the general arrangement which was finally reached. The program laid down will not indemnify France for even one-half of the sums which she has had to spend during these past ten years to restore the devastated regions. She will get nothing to indemnify her war victims -- mutilés, widows, orphans. A great load will continue to weigh down the French budget. None the less, if Germany executes her payments to us regularly, we shall be in a position at least to pay our foreign debts punctually.
All-important are the moral advantages of this mutual settlement, which can be enormous. It promises to create a new atmosphere in Europe, to promote a feeling of confidence and trust, and to reëstablish a permanent basis of collaboration between the nations. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the governments will hasten to agree as quickly as possible to put the experts' plan into operation. This plan, be it understood, does not in itself constitute an international decision. It is nothing more than a recommendation. The duty remains for the governments to act upon it as they see fit. Let us hope that they will not mix political considerations with the financial questions which the experts have dealt with; to do so would only complicate them, and might even end by making them insoluble.
If the governments succeed in agreeing together in the same wise spirit that the experts have shown during their work, they will give world peace a great victory. This is the work of tomorrow. Let us not delay it an hour. Let us begin it with faith; let us carry it through with a high spirit of determination.