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THE Bundestag was the first representation of the German people freely elected since 1933, and the German Federal Government was the first one in that period brought into being by constitutional and democratic methods—which by itself shows clearly that this Bundestag and this Government had to solve problems unique in nature and scope. Normal conditions of life had to be developed out of the slowly receding chaos of the collapse; a central governmental authority had to be created and its public functions completely rebuilt.
Two circumstances above all gave hope of successful achievement to the statesmen who had the responsibility of shaping the destiny of the young state. The first was that twice in a span of 30 years the whole German people had experienced war and defeat. One could expect that after such fearful experiences there would be a new comprehension of the nature and tasks of the state, and that this would provide the foundation for a constructive democratic policy. In this expectation we have not been deceived.
The other circumstance was one which was not limited to Germany. This was the feeling that social and political progress had not kept pace with technological advances and that there must be a reconstruction of human relations in the international sphere, that is, in the relations among nations. In all the Western nations there developed a conviction that only coöperation in a larger framework could overcome the recurrent crises within the Western World and create security for the future. A good part of the ruins left from the war had already been cleared away when the Federal Government took up its work in the autumn of 1949. Constructive progress had already been accomplished in the administration of the German states, districts and communities. And once plans directed exclusively toward subjugation had proved senseless and dangerous, the occupying Powers had helped to give a new structure to the initially impotent and formless society.
The extraordinary vitality of the German people, who were determined not to sink down in ruin, and the efforts put forth in all segments and strata, made a good start possible. Whoever lived through the years from 1945 onwards in Germany could not doubt the capacities of the people.
The Federal Government has set about its work in a constructive manner. It has begun the necessary legislative and administrative work in the fields assigned it in the Fundamental Law, that is, the fields of public activity requiring central regulation for the whole area of the Federal Republic. In the economic field it has, in general, furthered the free play of economic forces, in the conviction that this would achieve the most effective results and believing that despite the emergency individuals should enjoy the greatest possible personal liberty. Yet although the Federal Government restricted the free development and activity of individual citizens and private associations as little as possible through law or decree, it nevertheless was compelled to act legislatively on an unusual scale. This in turn imposed a very heavy burden of work upon the parliament. If we consider that the German Reichstag was actually forced to suspend its activities in 1933 (during the Nazi period it met only for formal sessions), and if we remember that the government apparatus had been in part corrupted before 1945 by the Nazis and had completely ceased to exist after that date, then the enormous burden of work resting on the parliament and the Federal Government becomes clear.
Many Allied soldiers saw Germany in smoke and ruins in the days immediately after the collapse. Better than anyone else, perhaps, they can best judge the progress that has been made if today their way leads them again as visitors into German towns and villages, along new roads and over new bridges. The production index (with 1936 equalling 100) rose from 50 in January 1948 to 152 in December 1952. The balance of foreign trade, which showed a deficit of 4,040,000,000 DM in 1949, showed a surplus of 170,000,000 DM at the end of 1952.
The efforts required in order that Germany should meet her material wants and ensure her existence have made great demands on the country's strength. Such extremes of effort and labor under such unfavorable conditions can be put forth only for a certain time without causing substantial damage. Many problems still remain unsolved, and in most cases their solution cannot be accomplished by the Federal Government alone.
As a result of the Second World War, Germany lost more than a third of the territory which she possessed before Hitler undertook his annexations. True, these losses of territory are not valid in international law, but the fact remains that for the time being they are lost. Areas in Eastern Germany which are indispensable for our food supply were cut off and their populations driven out. As a result, we have had to take into the Federal Republic no fewer than 9,000,000 refugees, forced to leave their native soil as a result of events during and since the war. The stream of these refugees has recently increased markedly because of the conditions in the Soviet Zone of Germany. At times the reception centers in West Berlin have received up to 2,000 persons a day—persons who preferred giving up their homes to bowing before the Communist terror—for the Soviet Zone is becoming a Soviet-Russian satellite state with increasing speed. More and more tightly the Iron Curtain shuts off the Germans living behind it from the life of the West.
In the middle of the Soviet Zone lies Berlin, once the political center of Germany. A part of the city is occupied by the Western Powers. The Federal Republic's connection with this outpost of freedom behind the Iron Curtain is always in danger. We shall never forget how during the siege of Berlin the provisioning of the city was maintained and Soviet plans frustrated by the air lift, flown in largest part by the American air force.
The loss of fertile agrarian areas, the separation and subjugation of 18,000,000 Germans behind the Iron Curtain and the steady stream of new refugees into the Federal Republic combine to endanger our efforts to remove the consequences of the war and to rebuild our economy. Many of our internal economic tensions are explained by these abnormal conditions.
In order to master all these and other problems, the Federal Government was compelled to levy uncommonly high taxes—even in comparison with those in other countries. They were so high, indeed, that in consequence of the shortage of capital in all economic enterprises they retarded economic and social progress. We had reason to fear a loss of initiative and of the willingness to take risks, which inevitably would have caused grave setbacks for our economic development and exports. We therefore had to decide to lower income taxes, in order to provide new incentives and eventually to increase the total tax yield. Our industry is poor in capital. Every mark that was earned, every dollar that we received from the United States, had to be devoted to the repair of war damage, the replacement of completely obsolete equipment, the construction of new buildings and, so far as possible, of new machinery. A financial reserve to tide over times of crisis is still lacking. But in spite of all the difficulties and problems which press down on Germany today I can say that our people are doing their best to fill the place that remains for them to live and work.
They work and struggle cheerfully in the conditions in which their own errors and an unhappy course of history have placed them. But they need a political hope. They require the certainty that through their labors they will gain not only material well-being but also freedom and security. This hope is now nearing realization. It is the best means for ensuring that the wretched heritage of National Socialism is banished forever to the past. Germany should become an equal member and partner in a European community, which will in turn be a firm component of the Atlantic community. The means for reaching this goal is the system of agreements between the Allies and Germany concluded at Bonn and Paris.
The contractual agreements signed at Bonn end the occupation régime and give the Federal Republic full power over its internal and external affairs. The reserved rights which remain to the Allies are caused by the fact that the Soviet Union refuses to consent to the reunification of Germany in peace and freedom and to conclude a peace treaty with this undivided Germany. The treaty of Paris sets up the European Defense Community, of which Germany is a full-fledged member. The EDC in turn has concluded agreements with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the British Commonwealth, so that the Federal Republic will be linked with a mighty alliance serving the defense of freedom. The German-Allied Contractual Agreement was possible only because there already had been other treaties and agreements which proved that the statesmen who championed the creation of a European union as the noblest political task of our generation were on the right track. I refer to the creation of the Council of Europe and of the European Coal and Steel Community. These and the Defense Community promote, in addition to their narrower specific purposes, the pacification of Europe in a most effective manner. In particular, the supranational organizations bring together the contracting Powers so closely through the renunciation of segments of sovereignty that intra-European wars become really impossible. They also constitute the best way for bringing about a lasting reconciliation between my country and France.
Joint action in the field of heavy industry and of defense will certainly necessitate joint political action also. The men who designed the bold plans for the coal and steel organization and for the EDC knew this. They were and are convinced that their work would find a political culmination—and this goal, too, is now near at hand. At present, the draft of a political statute for Europe is being drawn up, with the care and caution that a work of such delicacy requires. The Federal Republic is participating in these efforts, and also is a partner and member in numerous communities and organizations. We believe that Germany will be a useful and reliable partner in the community of free nations now taking shape. We base our right to express this belief on the record of Germany's development since 1945 and on the work of the Bundestag and the Federal Government—accomplishments that would not have been possible in the absence of inner moral strength.
There is resistance to the treaties in Germany. It is of a formal and frequently legalistic nature, however, and is due to the fact that our young state lacks experience in mastering difficult formal and constitutional questions. The political decision has long been made, and against this background the formal difficulties will eventually dissolve. The overwhelming majority of the German people—including the Germans behind the Iron Curtain—stand with deep conviction for integration with the West.
Here and there doubts are expressed whether Germany is really fit and able to become a good partner. In general, three reasons are advanced for these doubts: the fear that Germany might relapse into National Socialism; the fear that she might strive to acquire hegemony in Europe; and the fear that she might be led by her territorial claims in the East to plunge the whole Western World into a third world war. These apprehensions are expressed abroad, often by serious persons. I should like to call their attention, and in particular that of political observers who follow German affairs closely, to the following:
(1) The reporting of utterances by former National Socialists stands in no relation to the effect of these utterances on the German people. Thus there arises a false picture of the reality. In Germany—as everywhere—there naturally are radical elements on the right as well as on the left. The Federal Government is vigilant and has not hesitated to use the laws for the protection of fundamental democratic rights with full severity. I know that the radical groups will suffer a grave defeat in the coming elections. I believe that, so far as stability of political conditions is concerned, we need not fear comparison with other countries. A libertarian order has always been an important element of the social life of our people. This sense of freedom has manifested itself again and again in significant events in our history. Even the 12 years of National Socialist despotism were not able to change this devotion to self-government fundamentally.
(2) The European Coal and Steel Community and the European Defense Community have a structure that does not permit hegemony for any of the participating states.
(3) The whole military system of the Western World is directed toward defense. Any state that belongs to this alliance and that is itself guilty of aggression loses all the rights and protection which the alliance guarantees it in case it should itself be attacked. The Federal Republic is thus in no position to plunge the free nations into a third world war.
Germany will be a useful partner to the limit of her strength and resources; she will be a reliable partner to the limit of her moral and economic powers, convictions and political aims. Suffering, working and believing, the German people have built a democratic state out of the chaos of defeat in the face of a constant and undisguised Communist threat. They will preserve and defend this state with all their power. But we want more than that. We are putting all our energies into the unification of Europe. We are proud that wherever plans are being made for Europe, the Federal Government is among the propelling forces. Germany has not only grown into the European Community, she also has given it spiritual fullness and material strength. We may be permitted to say that the nature and extent of our contribution become apparent if one imagines our standing aside from the European community. But Europe has also strengthened and enriched us, because the higher unity represents more than the sum of its parts. To unite Europe, distinguished by works of the spirit and of art, the cradle of the Western World, is the goal we serve.