Three Reasons Why China Isn't Imperial Germany (It's Tougher)
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Three Reasons Why China Isn't Imperial Germany (It's Tougher)


Last week the wise and all-powerful Harvard professor Joe Nye decreed that "China Is Not Imperial Germany." I seldom take issue with Professor Nye, whose works on soft power and international public goods are go-to works for anyone researching related topics. But his China/Germany comparison is so one-dimensional that it misleads. It boils down to side-by-side comparisons between Germany and Great Britain circa 1900 and between China and the United States today. Fin de siècle Germany had overtaken Britain by many industrial and economic measures by the turn of the century. China, by contrast, still trails the United States by most metrics. Nye accepts the Chinese talking point that it will take China thirty years to catch up. Presto! The United States can take a breather while trying to fashion some sort of condominium with the Asian giant.

No one can quarrel with trying to manage relations with China amicably — Washington should, and must, make the attempt — but we should also be clear about the state of the Sino-American competition and its likely future trajectory. China is not Imperial Germany, but it need not overtake the United States outright to be a far tougher competitor than the Reich ever was. And it can do so long before three decades have elapsed. Herewith, three reasons why China is more formidable than the Kaiser's Germany:

Anabel Cardenas
May 1, 2013 at 05:46

A better comparison would be China and the Soviet Union 1968. The hegemon is losing its grip. I can only react belligerently within in its sphere of influence. It has an economy based on half truths and lies. Its claims in the to the east and south are based on its weakness, not its strength. The growing social unrest, environmental destruction and inability to absorb the great migration into the cities from the countryside over the past decade or so that regularly reached a number equal to the population of Metro Chicago per month, an economic policy based on building infrastructure which no one has any use for since it is built around population centers where no one will live Brought about by a government created Real Estate bubble, that will dwarf any in history. the Destruction of the Market farms the fed the cities now paved over and covered with empty housing projects.

The main item on Military planners plate should be how to deal with the China's collapse and the end of the Han Empire, which could happen at any moment. The best that can be said about China is that it is living on fumes. It is incapable of creating an energy policy that will fuel its reckless over expansion.

Take off the Rose colored glasses and see China for what it is a society on the verge of economic, financial and military collapse. How do you Think the United States should cope with that reality?

Adel Mansour
April 19, 2013 at 06:28

Hahahah !! There were no land-based jet fighters, anti-ship cruise missiles, and anti-ship ballistic missiles at that time for Germany to field !!!! Hahahahah !!!

Woody Wu
March 25, 2013 at 03:45

I totally agree with Long Sha Zhou.

Lung Sha Shou
March 18, 2013 at 16:33

I recently re-read Stephen G Fritz book “Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East”.  In his concluding remarks, he describes Hitler’s Germany as “resentful, aggressive, racist, (and) nationalist.”

Summing up, he refers to the legacy of the Third Reich, as involving “an awareness of what can result from that explosive mixture of hatred, hypernationalism, racism and authoritarianism” – Describing it as “a constant warning to us, challenging our notions of loyalty, honour, morality and justice.”

At a time where China’s increasing economic and military power is obvious, it is readily apparent, from both their behaviour on the world stage, and, significantly, the tenor of a great deal written in their media that the national psyche is often encouraged to be “resentful, aggressive, racist, (and) nationalist.”  Whilst the deaths of tens of millions caused by Mao’s dim witted policies are deliberately ignored, active resentment of the European powers for their admittedly bad past behaviour, is encouraged in the present. The misfortunes or “evils” are described with alacrity, and, increasingly, voice is given to a strident nationalism, often encouraging the use of force or intimidation.

Particularly in the case of both Japan and the United States an active hatred is often encouraged or fostered, associated with a kind of hypernationalism and ideas of racial and cultural superiority.

China, through its authoritarian regime, is also utterly intolerant of organisations whose structure, nature or size might ostensibly present any morally coherent or organised opposition, and frequently manifests considerable resentment, hatred and aggression towards other nations especially the United States and Japan, but also any neighbour that dares to disagree with them.

China’s behaviours and the increasing evidence of resentment, aggression, hatred, hypernationalism, racism should not be ignored and “remain as a constant warning to us” challenging as it does our notions of loyalty honour morality justice.

China is both much tougher than Imperial Germany, but bears many of the hallmarks of Nazi Germany, only it is bigger, richer, demonstrably far more organised and “intelligent” – In my view it is a greater threat to freedom and peace and, as a previous Chinese Defence minister Chi Haotian has boasted, China is a much more capable entity than Nazi Germany.

If an ex Chinese Defense minister regards “War as the Midwife of the Chinese Century” as arguably  (defensive)  war was for the Americans in the 20th Century, why is it that the explosive mixture of hatred, hypernationalism, racism and authoritarianism so evident in Modern China, does not seem to concern us.

Do we forget the lessons of history so easily?

March 15, 2013 at 06:58

The Vietnamese were after the Khmer Rouge rather than invading Thailand. However, as the KR were based astride the border, any decisive move against them ran a risk of involving the Thais. This was especially true since the KR were under virtual Thai protection. The KR were also China's proxy in Cambodia, armed and backed by Beijing. Protecting them was therefore an additional consideration. 

Kim's Uncle
March 13, 2013 at 15:31


I see your point! It would make sense for China to do so but it was also obvious the incursion also highlighted deficiency of China’s military at that time. Even Chinese military admit to that! And military experts at that time had recognize china’s military inadequacy from the incursion. China did not use tanks, nor trucks, nor aircraft for the incursion which was hardly a blitzkrieg ! But understand your point it was not meant to be rather it was meant to grab Hanoi’s attention. But the incursion did not have the effect of influencing Hanoi to move its front line troops from Cambodia to the Chinese border.

You can cite other examples for Chinese military prowess but I think in the case of the sino Vietnam war would not be one of them. Even Deng Xiaopeng admitted to the backwardness of the PLA during that time!

Btw I don’t think Hanoi was massing troops in order to invade Thailand! I don’t think they were that crazy!

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