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China at the Brink

The hard news emanating from China as we go to press is confusing and sometimes contradictory, but its import is sufficiently clear to indicate that we are witnessing the opening of what may well be a long and perhaps bloody struggle for power which threatens to tax the energies of the Chinese peoples to a greater degree than any of the innumerable periods of conflict down the centuries that have previously afflicted them.

To this pass has an uncompromising, intolerant and inflexible ideology in the hands of a shallowminded and ruthless band of armed zealots brought them in the short space of a couple of decades. The great leap forward and all the rest of it is now seen to be little more than the great slip up onto its backside. Millions died in the course of the civil war on both sides; the communists fought their way to the throne of power through a sea of human blood; the executions, after they had fastened their grip on power, ran to further millions, and since then many millions more have known the utmost extremities of deprivation and want. And to what end ? To no projected end that could not have been reached, and possibly in a shorter span of time, with methods that spurned violence and killing-even of tyrants-which sought to promote such principles as compassion and charity in the interests of people rather than subjugating any worthwhile principle to the quest for power.

Will the 'hard headed', 'practical' and 'realistic' people never learn where the abandonment of principle in return for a supposed immediate advantage inevitably lands us ? Communist ruthlessness was justified as a means to the end of elminating the tyranny of the nationalist government and of Japanese occupation. The blindness that fails to see that the ends are always conditioned by the means has been repeated here and the Chinese people are in an infinitely worse mess today than they have ever been in the modern era.

It may be supposed that all that is now required is for one of the contending factions, or a group of them, to exercise the same kind of juggernaut force whereby the communists captured power in the first place, to re-impose the former iron rule on the country. Even if this were likely to happen, the draconian nature of the opression that would be required to impose such rule, given the enormous divisions that have now been revealed, would bewould indeed have to be- more akin to the Nazi 'new order' in the Europe of the forties-extermination camps included, than anything remotely resembling progress.

There is a kind of simpliste thinking in the West that assumes that any form of localised power and organisation is incompatible with order or advancement. Hence it argues shrilly for a 'United Europe', oblivious of the disasters that have repeatedly overtaken a United China, and as they are now overtaking a formally' United India'.

China is a vast agglomeration of distinctive peoples with distinctive languages (with an infinity of dialects), distinctive regional cultures, traditions, relationships, dress, cuisine, dancing, music, painting, literature and so on, just as much as in Europe, to which it compares in size. All these distinctions editoriol cannot be written off by calling the area • China ' any more than they can be disregarded elsewhere. Hence it may be taken as axiomatic that no political settlement which ignores them or which seeks to suppress them will have any solid basis, and the radical pacifist will look for solutions not to the form of power that prevails in Peking, but to the forms of power which stem from every community in every corner of that incredibly diverse and populous area.

Nobody will suppose that this sudden upheaval in China can leave the rest of the world unaffected; its effects may well indeed prove catastrophic to world peace. If the struggle continues the United States, along with the Nationalists on Formosa. will undoubtedly seek to influence its course, with consequences that may well prove as perilous as they are unpredictable. Each move in this matter can easily draw the leading nations step by step towards a general conflagration and each successive move will make the possibility of second thoughts, a change about, and a decision to withdraw, remoter and more difficult to accomplish.

This pattern has already been established in Korea and Vietnam and there would appear today to be no forces in the world able to prevent repetition in China. It is imperative to grasp that if civil war in China becomes a reality it will call for a complete reappraisal of the world scene; we are now at one of those critical junctures in history when a confusion on policy and a failure to apprehend the forces which are now being set in motion may result in a general downward drift in human affairs which may well prove biological in its significance.

It is of paramount importance that the Americans and the Formosan Government be kept off the Chinese mainland; equally the temptation of other nations to seize what they conceive to be a chance to settle old scores with China must be resisted, and all attempts to import arms into the area must also be stopped.

These are negative imperatives. The pacifist will be more concerned with positive proposals, and, if this war threat materialises perhaps the best pacifists can do, is, to set about the immediate formation of an international non-governmental and nonUNO agency which will organise food, medicines and other ameliorative measures, and which will also seek to establish political conditions inside China for peace. These latter would involve it in working to promote localised co-operatives and other self-governing units as the basis of a new democratic order stemming from uncompromisingly grass-roots forms of power at the base.

This requires a call to the scattered, non-aligned peace organisations of the world to make the revolutionary social imperatives of the pacifist outlook match the needs of the hour. Mankind is paying dearly today for the frenzied bankruptcy of official American policy now suddenly made plain as a consequence of this new turn of events in China, (where now is the theory of a world communist conspiracy?), it is paying no less dearly for the manifest bankruptcy of communist ideology and for the massive decay that has settled on the old socialist parties of (predominantly) the West.

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