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There is nothing to fear from China

by Hans Bohler and Klaus von Dohnanyi
Non-interference in the affairs of other states and emphasis on what united them for mutual benefit were thus an important element of Chinese notions of cooperation from very early on, just as in Chinese philosophy existence presupposes coexistence. Individual rationality was supplemented in China early on by relational rationality.
There is nothing to fear from China

Belt And Road Initiative.II.

Land and sea routes of the Belt And Road Initiative: The country of 1.4 billion people wants to secure raw materials first and foremost. Round symbols for ports, railroads and both. Colors of the symbols: red = China has majority participation; orange = China has minority participation; yellow = other Chinese participation, © LeidenAsiaCenter & Clingendael China Centre.
There is nothing to fear from China

by Hans Boller
China is expanding its trade as in the old days to obtain raw materials. But the West should look after its interests.
[This article posted on 12/29/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Vor China muss man sich nicht fürchten - infosperber.]


Author Hans Boller, 75, has been studying China for more than fifty years. From 1976, shortly after the death of state founder Mao Zedong, Boller reported from the People's Republic as the first accredited Swiss correspondent until 1983. For many years, Boller was vice president of the Swiss-China Chamber of Commerce. He currently heads the private Media Tank foundation, which aims to facilitate an independent media exchange between Europe and China.

A focus article at the turn of the year.

Take into account legitimate security interests of all countries

The Russian attack on Ukraine marks a watershed in geopolitical developments since World War II. After the settlement of the armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia, a broad-based conventional military attack on a European country was no longer considered possible. Russia brought us back to a situation we thought we had overcome.

China took an ambivalent position at the beginning of the war because of its close and multifaceted relations with both parties to the conflict and its strategic interests. To be sure, the two important Chinese-dominated banks AIIB and the international Brics Bank, for example, have suspended their activities in Russia, thus bearing some of the brunt of the sanctions. Other Chinese companies have also responded quickly.

At the same time, however, China, along with India, abstained from the UN vote condemning Russian aggression, stressing that the legitimate security interests of all countries must be taken into account; a thinly veiled reference to the fact that these had been disregarded by the West with NATO's eastward expansion toward Russia. A return to diplomacy is imperative to break the dynamic of escalating threats and violence, including sanctions, from which the ordinary population in particular suffers.

Position Statement by Xi and Biden

With respect to China, a return to diplomacy at the G-20 summit in Bali in mid-November was at least rudimentary. After the West, led by the U.S. and NATO, reflexively placed China on the side of the Russian aggressor and engineered a global confrontation, indeed an actual showdown, between democracies and autocracies, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, in their first meeting as presidents of their countries, came closer on important points in a frank debate. Of course, Biden stressed that he did not want to back away from the U.S. leading role in world politics, but at the same time, the U.S. had no intention of hindering or containing China's development or bringing about a change in the system. And Xi, for his part, assured that he would stick to the existing international order and would not want to displace or even replace the United States. He also said that the world is big enough for both countries to develop, as long as they respect each other's core interests. However, U.S. intervention in Taiwan, of whatever kind, would violate the most basic security interests, in this case "the core of China's core interests," and would be most firmly rejected by the Chinese people.

With these carefully calibrated position statements presented by the presidents of the two most powerful nations, the world has, after a long interruption, once again gained direct insight into the current geopolitical situation, in an authentic snapshot, so to speak. The concerns of the West are familiar to us. In our latitudes, they dominate published opinion with key terms such as "human rights," "democracy," and "the rule of law," but also with codes such as "rule-based international order. Our knowledge of China's intentions, on the other hand, is much more incomplete. Many things are rumored or assumed, but there is a lack of solid knowledge about the social and cultural driving forces of the Middle Kingdom, some of which go back thousands of years, even though they could provide many a pointer as to the direction in which development can go.

China's human rights record

Is China striving for hegemony in Asia or even in the entire world, as the West suspects, or does it simply want to be respected as an equal partner in its own right as a socialist country, led by the Communist Party, with its own values and traditions, as it itself claims?

One topic that is omnipresent in the debate with China and that triggers the sharpest controversies in the respective escalations is human rights. We in the West pride ourselves on having placed the needs and development of the individual at the center of our thinking about state and society since the Enlightenment. And we are rightly proud of this. The empowerment of the individual to think for himself, to use his own mind, as Kant put it, made possible, among other things, the industrial revolution that led Europe to unprecedented economic prosperity and ultimately, in the course of the 19th century, to world domination.

The concept of human rights under international law received its first formal, albeit not yet legally binding, expression after the Second World War in the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, but was later raised to a legally binding level in 1966 in the so-called International Covenants I and II.

Covenant I lists economic, social and cultural rights;
Covenant II lists civil and political rights.

Why is this relevant in our context? Primarily because today the West practically only refers to Covenant II, emphasizing civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and democratic participation, while China adheres to a strict order and considers Covenant I to be absolutely paramount in its own country, as well as in developing countries. Rights to food, clothing and shelter, then to education and participation in cultural life, are the basic prerequisites for any dignified existence, which, moreover, can only develop in a peaceful and stable environment. The rights "in the superstructure", such as freedom of expression, could be expanded later. Material security comes before the right to criticize one's own government.

In the Western press, this is reflected in the fact that almost every prominent Chinese dissident and every human rights activist receives his or her stage and can count on undivided solidarity. In contrast, the poor peasant in China's interior, who has finally been given a dignified home, receives hardly any attention.

A more balanced view, focused on Pact I and II, would massively change China's human rights record, even if we took hundreds of dissident women into account. Last year, China declared victory over extreme poverty. In the human rights record, that would be about 800 million positive cases according to Covenant I. We hardly ever read it that way in our media.

Hypocritical West

These different priorities and the insistence on an order of respect for fundamental human rights are based on different cultural and philosophical traditions, to which we will return later. However, they clearly emerge when opinions clash on issues such as Hong Kong or Xinjiang, but also in disputes over China's global strategy. At home, in Hong Kong or in Xinjiang, the central government focuses entirely on security and stability, while the West demands freedom and democratic participation for the inhabitants - in the case of Hong Kong, by the way, rather hypocritically, since the British had not allowed any democratic participation there during their 150-year rule. Interestingly, Hong Kong nevertheless developed into the crown jewel in the British Commonwealth.

Epochal change

This also raises the question of the systemic conditions under which China can develop optimally. This brings us to the issue of what has actually made possible this epochal rise over the last forty years, in the course of which China has been able to catch up with the world leaders. Whether it is number two or already number one may still play a certain role on a symbolic level. China likes to see itself as number two because it serves its image as the representative of the interests of the developing countries, while the U.S. has enormous trouble giving up the title of "sole remaining superpower.

Ranking first for the U.S. and second for China still makes both of them happy, so to speak. If it were not for the dynamics in the Middle Kingdom, which will create new facts that will require a new assessment accordingly.

But just: What has brought about this epochal change? For some time now, the EU has also been talking about "system rivalry. But which systems are actually competing with each other? We think we know our own: a social market economy within the framework of a bourgeois liberal society. It is much more difficult for us to name the systemic conditions in China. Among ideologues, the contrast between capitalism and communism is still popular. Others have become more cautious and realize that Chinese reality no longer has much to do with a rigid communist planned economy.

In a nutshell, the economic system in China today can be described as free-market socialism or a socialist market economy. As mentioned, it is definitely no longer the Soviet planned economy. Since Deng Xiaoping proclaimed the policy of reform and opening at the end of 1978, there has been extensive experimentation and market forces have been given more and more leeway, initially in agriculture, which was still the most important sector at the time. When the planned target was met, farmers were allowed to sell their products on the market.

The Maoist people's communes were quickly abandoned, and there was a return to less rigid forms of organization of rural life, which opened up many more opportunities for individual farmers. Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao then decisively advanced the reforms and helped the market economy finally achieve a breakthrough. The decisive party documents now state that the market should be responsible for allocating scarce resources, and in actual practice this is eagerly followed because it suits the Chinese. They respond, rather more than we do, to material incentives.

Poverty and lack under socialism

Does this now mean that China has creepingly completed the metamorphosis to capitalism? Although the term from zoology is appealing in the context of Chinese philosophy, since it explains all being as fundamentally in a state of flux, here it does not capture reality. It is true that renowned Western economists have recently spoken loosely of "Chinese state capitalism"; however, it can be assumed that this is not the result of a profound analysis of Chinese development, but rather has an almost banal reason. China has experienced an unprecedented economic boom over the last forty years and has practically caught up with the leading global power.

The Western-influenced intellect - and rightly so, based on historical experience - simply cannot associate this with socialism, not even with a market economy. Until now, socialism has been virtually synonymous with poverty and lack, leveling down. One recalls the earlier joke: "What happens if you introduce socialism in the Sahara? - Then there will be a shortage of sand." Now the Chinese are teaching us better.

If someone still insisted on proving that China is still a socialist state: it would be easy. China is a one-party state (even if there are still a few so-called democratic parties). "The party, the government, the army, the people, the schools, the east, the west, the north, the center, the party runs everything," Xi Jinping put it.

The party, after all an apparatus with 97 million members, organized through the well-known socialist institutions of the Central Committee and Politburo, determines the general course of the country's development, "controls the guns," state power and finances, the still important state enterprises, the latter again increased. Quite central, furthermore, is the socialist land law. In China, not one square meter of land is in private ownership. And last but not least, Marxism is absolutely undisputed state ideology.

Here, however, it is important to add that it is the Sinicized version of Marxism. What we now call Sinomarxism has, from the very beginning, placed the specifically Chinese conditions at the center of all considerations and decisions. Already Mao had to recognize that it was not the urban proletariat that could lead his revolution, it was numerically much too weak and miserable for that, but the peasant masses in the countryside. This was a fundamental departure from the Soviet concept.

Moreover, from the very beginning, Marxism was understood as a method of analysis and practical action, and not as an unchanging dogmatic set of ideas. Finally, it should be noted that Marxism understood in this way, with its components of "dialectical and historical materialism," "political economy," and "scientific socialism," has great affinities with ancient Chinese traditions of thought, to which we will return later, and which facilitated the adoption of Marxism immensely. In the process, the field of political philosophical thought manifests a return to itself under new and changing conditions.

Railroads, ports, pipelines

Another thematic field in which similar tendencies can be identified is the opening to the outside world and the economic and political exchange with the world, most clearly visible in the so-called New Silk Road. In terms of its dimensions, this undertaking is probably the most comprehensive and ambitious that mankind has ever seen.

Also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it aims to connect participating countries and regions with roads, railroads, ports, pipelines and other infrastructure so that they can harness their economic potential and engage in trade with the rest of the world. Declared a win-win development project from China's perspective, the BRI now includes trade corridors, links and bases in over 130 countries.

Indonesia Hih Speed Train.
The 142-kilometer high-speed line (350 km/h) will be inaugurated in summer 2023. It was built by a joint venture between Indonesian state-owned companies (60%) and China Railway International (40%), a subsidiary of China Railway Group. An extension to Surabaya is planned. © Railway Technology

Ultimately, the Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road, is designed as a global network, open to all. And since it has been initiated, organized and largely pre-financed from China since 2013, it is not surprising that China itself is reaping the greatest benefits. But the participating countries can also benefit if they do it right. They act voluntarily and carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Brussels, Frankfurt and the IMF were not interested in the port of Piraeus

One example that is also often cited is the port of Piraeus in Greece. The EU was concerned that China would gain excessive influence here on Europe's periphery, while the U.S. seriously warned NATO member Greece against putting important infrastructure in Chinese hands.

The fact is that it was the Greek government under Prime Minister Tsipras, even to Beijing's astonishment, that put forward the idea of involving China in the renovation of the port facility and adjacent rail line after Brussels, Frankfurt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rejected new investment. Today, the port is thriving as a trade hub and is indeed a win-win project.

The American response focused entirely on the military sector. The naval base in Crete was expanded, a new one in Alexandroupolis was envisioned, and Greece's second largest shipyard in Elefsina is now "the proud home port of one of the largest U.S. warships, the 'USS Hershel Williams,'" as one knowledgeable American observer noted.

In recent years, however, the BRI's momentum has tended to shift to the Southeast and Central Asian regions, whereas previously the focus had been on Africa and Europe, although development continues there as well. In addition, in some places - key words Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Bagamoyo in Tanzania or Gwadar in Pakistan - difficulties have arisen with financing, which have made it necessary to make improvements in order to prevent the partner countries from becoming over-indebted. Allegations of corruption were also raised in a number of projects, and not infrequently too little attention was paid to ecological aspects.

All these points urgently need to be improved. But the general thrust remains decisive, and it is aimed at the development of regions that are lagging behind. In its own interest, China wants to secure its supply of raw materials and energy and stimulate trade, but at the same time the "New Silk Road" opens up enormous opportunities for many developing countries.

Old patterns of Chinese behavior

The term "neocolonialism" can only be understood polemically here. Of course, the West is concerned in some respects. First of all the USA, but also Europe and in the Asian region China's neighbors. They all see their interests affected. This must be taken into account. But if the U.S. argues that the project is aimed at conquering world domination and replacing it as the world hegemon, they are wrong.

Rather, it is true that old patterns of Chinese behavior are emerging here as well. The most important Chinese dynasties have always engaged in lively trade with half the world. The most outstanding example was Admiral Zheng He, who from 1405, i.e. at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, undertook a total of seven expeditions in Southeast Asia and as far as East Africa with huge fleets of around a hundred ships each with a crew of up to 28,000. His famous "treasure ships" were loaded with gifts with which he wanted to invite the visiting kings and princes to trade with China.

By comparison, almost ninety years later, in 1492, a certain Christopher Columbus plunged into the sea and "discovered America." One of the consequences: A little later, in 1521, the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was sacked by the Spanish and thousands of its inhabitants were killed.

Joint development projects against migration

These are historical accounts that shed some light. But it is probably more effective to look for solutions to today's challenges. And the majority of these are of a transnational nature: first, as we are currently experiencing again, war and peace, but also climate change, migration, poverty, cyber security, biodiversity, nuclear proliferation, etcetera.

Particularly in the area of migration, Europe and the U.S. would be well advised to join forces with the Chinese to launch development projects in Latin America and Africa, instead of sitting on each other's hands and pushing back each other's initiatives. Neither the U.S. nor Europe is in decline. Of course, there have been and will continue to be shifts in the global balance of power. But both the U.S. and Europe are resilient and have enormous potential to contribute to the peaceful resolution of development problems.

In previous remarks, there have been repeated references to traditional Chinese behaviors that are once again visible in China's politics. Furthermore, I have referred to different philosophical foundations that have been effective in China for millennia. This will be explored in more depth below.

Role of Confucianism

Actually, it is amazing how little even educated people in our country know about Asia's values, when most agree that we have entered the Asian Age. And the East Asian region, which has so far developed the greatest dynamism, has after all been guided by its own set of values for around 2500 years. It is above all Confucianism that still plays a dominant role alongside Daoism and Buddhism.

We in the West tend to regard our own values of liberté, egalité and fraternité, and even more so our bourgeois-liberal social order, as universal and exemplary, although it is more the case that we have taken them out into the world over the past 200 years thanks to our economic-military superiority and have forgotten that they are seen by the people there for what they really are, namely Western values and social models.

"Governing by virtue"

In the meantime, Asian countries are once again increasingly reflecting on their own roots with greater self-confidence. For Confucian China, the corresponding values are ren, yi, li, zhi, xin:

ren for inter-humanity (I emphasize the "inter-" and not just "humanity");
yi for justice;
li for politeness;
zhi for wisdom;
xin for trustworthiness.

It is noticeable: There is no mention of freedom. As mentioned, these values, which are based on rule over large masses of people, especially in the neo-Confucian variant, are still influential today; they largely correspond to the Chinese family model: There is authority, but also responsibility; on the one hand, obedience and respect from below, but at the same time also a sense of duty and devotion from above.

However, more interesting and somehow more modern, although much older, is a concept called Tianxia, from the Zhou dynasty some 3000 years ago. As Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang explains, it is the first political revolution in Chinese history and marks the beginning of politics in China, so to speak, comparable in meaning to the polis in Greece.

The predecessor dynasties were ruling orders based on continued force of arms and subjugation. However, unlike the polis, an assembly of citizens (the full citizens, not the dependent women and enslaved people), Tianxia was an alliance of a thousand states and clans.

Today, when China calls for democracy within the international community, it basically means democracy in the sense of its Chinese origin, while the West remains committed to the political ideal of its polis, which means democracy for individuals. This is a very significant, fundamental difference in the conception of the political. The individual had a hard time in China from the very beginning. Freedom of the individual was never a value in Chinese antiquity.

So the inventor of Tianxia, Duke Dan of Zhou, succeeded for the first time in establishing an administrative system that was committed to the benefit of all and thus deserved the attribute "political." Later, Confucius would define politics as "governing by virtue." Constitutive of the Tianxia system were inclusiveness and compatibility. For Duke Dan, after all, the greatest challenge was to remain attractive to the countless remaining states after defeating the hated last ruler of the Shang dynasty. Everyone was supposed to join the new Tianxia alliance of their own free will, to feel as if they were part of one big family, and in any case to consider belonging to the alliance more advantageous than staying outside.

Of course, in ancient China this referred to the orbit at that time, "under the sky" ended in the Pacific Ocean to the east and south, and in the steppes and deserts of Central Asia and the mountains of the Himalayas to the north and west. But it was a successful attempt to unite the most diverse "states", often more tribes and clans, under a maximally adaptive system of government and administration, and also to hold them together for more than 800 years.

Each state, tribe, or clan was to be able to live and preserve its own distinctiveness while being encouraged to identify with the new overarching order of which it was a part.

Existence presupposes coexistence

Non-interference in the affairs of other states and emphasis on what united them for mutual benefit were thus an important element of Chinese notions of cooperation from very early on, just as in Chinese philosophy existence presupposes coexistence. Individual rationality, as we emphasize it so much in the West - and which has indeed always produced and continues to produce outstanding achievements, and has even become the basis of our prosperity - is supplemented in China early on by relational rationality. Individual rationality, according to the Chinese view, corresponds, so to speak, to the raw state in which every living being initially finds itself. Each one tries to optimize its living conditions for itself. Only relational rationality brings about civilizing achievements and establishes the era of political action.

Such ancient traditions have an effect on today's behavior. From what has been said so far, the following elements of an overall view emerge. .

We have become aware that China is a civilizational space with a history going back thousands of years, and that its dimensions alone far exceed those of the European state with which we are familiar.
This civilizational area is characterized by a tradition of values that is clearly different from ours. No Chinese emperor had to share power with a supreme religious authority (a Chinese pope, so to speak). He alone possessed the mandate of heaven, which he forfeited only if he criminally neglected his duties. Accordingly, China knew no enlightenment, no religious supremacy had to be overcome.
Economically, China was indeed the Middle Kingdom until about 1820, generating about one third of the world's production, together with India even more than half. China was the center of an elaborate tribute system in which it made considerable achievements in order to be accepted and respected as the heartland. The entire East Asian region benefited from the stability this created for many centuries. The 200 years since then thus represent a kind of anomaly that deeply affected Chinese self-confidence.
Very early in China's philosophical traditions, tendencies can be discerned that are now being emphasized again more strongly in Xi Jinping's socialist policies and rhetoric: Welfare of all, primacy of relational rationality over individual. Or to put it another way, based on the famous Pareto optimum: While in our country a Pareto improvement allows greater benefit for the individual as long as others do not experience any disadvantages, Confucian improvement is much stricter; it insists on greater benefit for the individual as well as greater benefit for all others.
With China, for the first time, a socialism has managed to catch up with the world leaders, above all also in economic terms, not only in the military sphere, as was the case with the Soviet Union. With about 70 percent of the U.S. economic product, China has become a system rival for both the U.S. and the EU, and is perceived as a geostrategic threat, especially through the Silk Road project.

Development prospects for Africa

How should we in Europe respond to all these developments? My answer is: with self-confidence and fearlessly, but above all with a strategic view. China is not a belligerent power. It is not striving for world domination, but it is looking after its interests. With the Silk Road, it is expanding its trade as in the old days, but at the same time it wants to secure access to raw materials and other resources. Today, China has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of about $12,500, while the U.S. has one of about $69,000. The overriding challenge is to imagine our planet when China, and later India, also catch up with the U.S. and Europe in terms of GDP per capita.

Then there is the demographic development. Africa's population is forecast to roughly double to 2.5 billion by 2050. With the Silk Road, China is offering the black continent development prospects. Should these not suffice, Europe would feel the consequences much more directly. It can be reliably assumed that far fewer Africans will emigrate to China in search of prospects than to nearby European countries.

Putting differences aside

Conclusion: We have the greatest interest in becoming active both in Africa and globally and - in competition with the Chinese, but better together with them - in creating win-win situations and worldwide development and well-being. The EU's "Global Gateway" strategy, the European counterpart to the Chinese "Silk Road," is still waiting to be realized. The 150 billion euros promised this year would at least be a start.

An old Chinese proverb reminds us to look for common ground and put aside our differences. In this sense, all stakeholders, but especially the influential, powerful actors, should work together more closely to address urgent transnational problems such as peace and security, climate change, poverty, hunger and migration more decisively than before. In particular, we need to overcome the logic of confrontation and find new forms of cooperation in an emerging multipolar world order. In this context, we should not be surprised if China increasingly recalls its origins in its initiatives.

This article is based on a lecture to the Austrian Society for Foreign Policy in Vienna and also appeared in Weltwoche on December 1, 2022.

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Von Dohnanyi: "Europe's interests are different from those of the U.S."

by Leo Ensel
A distinction must be made between common values and national interests, writes the elder statesman.
[This article posted on 12/28/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.infosperber.ch/politik/welt/von-dohnanyi-europas-interessen-sind-andere-als-die-der-usa/.]

In his book "National Interests," Klaus von Dohnanyi had warned of war in early 2022. Two months after the outbreak of war, he declared in an interview that it was "depressing that war had not been prevented." At the turn of the year, we document the fundamental analysis that von Dohnanyi sets out in his book.

A focus article at the turn of the year.


The generation that had experienced the Second World War as children or young people

With the title "National Interests," Klaus von Dohnanyi presented the right book at the right time in January 2022. The former top politician convincingly demonstrates that American interests no longer coincide with European and German interests. Europe must emancipate itself from the USA.

Significantly, it is always the now really old elder statesmen who in Germany have a completely different view of the Western-Russian relationship and the genesis of the tensions escalating precisely in Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, one that deviates strongly from the prevailing media mainstream. And they did so regardless of party affiliation and regardless of the fact that at the height of the Cold War they were not infrequently in completely opposing camps.

This was especially true for the now deceased top politicians who, together with the Soviet Union, had so successfully ended the (first) Cold War at the end of the 1980s that not a single shot was fired: Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Egon Bahr, Richard von Weizsäcker - even the most resolute protagonist of the NATO post-disarmament decision, Helmut Schmidt spoke out in favor of a different approach toward Russia toward the end of his life. But this also applies to the still living filigree "precision mechanics of German unification" such as Helmut Kohl's Chancellery Minister Horst Teltschik and Hans Dietrich Genscher's close colleague and speechwriter, the retired diplomat Frank Elbe, who died in the summer. Even the dashing former Communist gobbler Edmund Stoiber sees things markedly differently today.

No wonder, this generation, which had experienced the war as children or teenagers and was politically active during the first Cold War, still knows very well from its own memories what war actually means and therefore does not handle the weights as loosely as the current playback generation in media and politics.

A year ago, one of the few intellectuals in German politics came back and, at the tender age of 93, presented a book that is quite something: the former mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, ex-Federal Minister of Education and Science in Willy Brandt's cabinet, and longtime member of the Bundestag, Klaus von Dohnanyi. Behind the somewhat brittle title "National Interests - Orientation for German and European Policy in Times of Global Upheaval" lies a lot of dynamite.

"Interests" versus "values"

As von Dohnanyi convincingly points out at the beginning of his book, the terms "nation" and "national" are still suspect in Germany. The same applies to the term "interest" - should it be "German interests" in any case. To the ears of intellectuals who see themselves as critical, these terms sound suspiciously like nationalism, even imperialist aspirations. Politicians in positions of responsibility prefer to use the flowery term "values" or, when it comes to international alliances, the "community of values.

But Egon Bahr had already warned urgently against overusing these terms. Legendary was the real-life lesson that the then 91-year-old gave to Heidelberg students in December 2013:

"International politics is never about democracy or human rights. It's about the interests of states. Remember that, no matter what they tell you in history class!"

Humanitarian arguments all too often masked hard-core power interests. The policy of our Big Brother on the other side of the Atlantic is a classic example.

This is where von Dohnanyi comes in. He is concerned to make the vague concept of "communities of values" more concrete and to distinguish it from the concept of "national interests."

"Communities of values are not a form of state, not a nation. They lack the democratic legitimacy established by a common political process. There may, of course, be common interests, for example, in the EU or even in the transatlantic partnership between Europe and the United States. But inevitably there are also conflicting interests within these communities of values. Common 'values' do not exclude hard national interest clashes within this 'community', as we have experienced and will see in the future."

And it is about these "hard national clashes of interests" - especially between the USA and the EU in general and Germany in particular - in the area of tension between the great powers USA, China and Russia that this book is about.

The interests of the USA are not the interests of Europe

"The U.S. dominates Europe in terms of foreign and security policy, and on this basis it drags us into its conflicts with other world powers. This is how the USA understands its interests today: According to their will, it should not be the EU or Germany today that shape their relations with China or Russia according to their own interests, but it should be the U.S. that makes the soft decisions."

The only question is whether these decisions also correspond to European interests. Von Dohnanyi convincingly argues that U.S. policy, even under President Joe Biden, is guided by the geopolitical strategies developed over 100 years ago by British geographer Halford J. Mackinder, according to which whoever dominates the so-called "Heartland" - the Eurasian continent - also dominates the world. Since both the U.S. and Great Britain could not accomplish this on their own, the motto since Mackinder has been "Divide and conquer!" conflicts within this "heartland" in order to prevent a world-dominating power on the Eurasian continent in the form of a German-Russian, today: EU-Russian, alliance. As is well known, this strategy was updated in the 1990s when the former White House security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, in his book "The Grand Chessboard," described Europe as the "geopolitical bridgehead" of the American world power on the Eurasian continent.

The U.S., according to von Dohnanyi, avowedly wanted to remain the "only world power" (Brzeziński) and thus inevitably got into a rivalry with China and Russia, which sooner or later would lead to a confrontation. Von Dohnanyi now examines the consequences of this strategy for Europe.

First, he asks whether China poses a threat of war for Europe. He denies this despite the country's unquestionable military buildup, the goal of which, in his estimation, is not military expansion, however, but securing geographic zones of influence in the South China Sea, i.e., "preventing the presence of foreign military or political-ideological forces."

"China's interest today is economic and social advancement, not military expansion. If Europe could understand Chinese interests defensively and align its own accordingly, there might be many decades of positive cooperation ahead. But the U.S. wants to prevent that; it wants to hegemonically co-determine and direct the European Union's foreign policy toward China. They want to drag Europe into their world power conflict with a strengthening China as part of a 'Western community of values.'"

President Biden's programmed policy of restoring U.S. global dominance, not least his confrontational course in Asia, poses significant risks for Europe and the world, he said.

"It cannot therefore be in Germany's interest to participate in this U.S. policy, which is probably as futile as it is dangerous," he said. For no one should believe that Europe would emerge unscathed from a war between the U.S. and China. The U.S. would see to that!"

There is no alternative to a policy of détente with Russia

According to von Dohnanyi, Europe's security situation vis-à-vis Russia is still characterized - as in the days of the (first) Cold War - by the U.S. strategy of nuclear "flexible response," which in an emergency would mean: war on European soil - to the total destruction of the continent! Von Dohnanyi, who participated in corresponding NATO exercises in the seventies, knows what he is talking about:

"Not Europe counts in case of a Russian attack, but only the security of the USA! We are not asked! The real danger for a complete destruction of Europe is based on the fact that Europe is first and foremost a geopolitical interest of the USA. In case of a Russian attack, Europe would become the sole theater of war according to American and NATO strategy, without any direct risk for the homeland USA. Germany, however, as a presumably central supply base, would be exposed to immediate missile attacks. Nuclear NATO today, as a military organization, forms no guarantee whatsoever for Europe's integrity."

The consequence: Europe is only really safe as long as Russia itself is not interested in aggression. Consolidating or establishing a corresponding attitude of Russian policy remains the primary task of German and European diplomacy.

"Détente is the lasting mission! There can only be lasting security in Europe with Russia and not against it. We Europeans know that in a war with Russia, even as victors, we could only be losers! Only a policy of détente could reduce the danger of war in Europe. Détente must therefore also become a principle of NATO policy with Russia."

Europe must find its own ways to avert dangers for the continent as long as the domestic political situation in the United States and Russophobia there do not allow NATO to pursue a policy of détente. For the security of the European nations, he said, Russian interests must also be

"be directed toward what is ultimately Europe's only remaining strength: open cooperation in science, innovation, technology, and economics."

Sentences that have been more explosive than ever since February 24!

Hot off the press - and already out of date

Rarely has a book been so topical at the time of its publication - and already outdated in key points just a few weeks later! Don't misunderstand: all of von Dohnanyi's astute analyses are still valid. However, the events in the wake of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine have made some of the conclusions that von Dohnanyi drew at the end of last year look old-fashioned. For example, following an interview given to the world by Zbigniew Brzeziński, of all people, two years before his death in June 2015, von Dohnanyi suggested - entirely plausibly at the time - that Ukraine should follow the status of Finland. An option that has now become obsolete with NATO's imminent enlargement to the north.

Here, as with a number of other aspects, one would like to know whether and, if so, in what direction the author would make modifications to his thoughts and proposals today. In short: An updated new edition of this volume - at least supplemented by a detailed new preface - against the background of current events would already be highly recommended.

Von Dohnanyi argues moderately in tone but clearly in substance. His style, as in interviews and talk shows, is always level-headed and confident. And he is not afraid to draw unmistakable conclusions from his theses, even if they are usually diametrically opposed to the general line of the leading media. It is precisely this combination that forms the obvious appeal of the book and its author.

And so one is pleased that this volume - despite the not exactly lurid-sounding title - made it into the Spiegel bestseller list at the first attempt. Not least an encouraging sign that there is still a great interest among the German public for serious information beyond the noisy one-sided media mainstream.

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The author published this book review on GlobalBridge on June 4, 2022.
Cover National InterestsCover of the book "National Interests" by Klaus von Dohnanyi © Siedler Verlag © Siedler Verlag.
The book: "National Interests. Orientation for German and European Politics in Times of Global Upheaval"
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The hunt for Julian Assange mocks all human rights
Protest on December 10, 2022 in Heidelberg
by Pascal Derungs
In order to deter critics of its inhuman power politics, the US wants to make an example of the Wikileaks founder.
[This article posted on 12/25/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.infosperber.ch/freiheit-recht/menschenrechte-2/die-hatz-auf-julian-assange-spottet-aller-menschenrechte/.]

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, demonstrations and vigils for the release of Julian Assange took place in many places around the world. But in major media outlets in the Western world, this did not resonate to any significant degree. Public opinion is currently overflowing almost daily with reports about human rights violations in the Gulf state of Qatar or in Iran. In contrast, silence is spreading in the Assange case.

"Probably the biggest judicial scandal of all time".

At least that's what Nils Melzer says about the Assange case. He is one of the world's most respected human rights lawyers. Over the past 20 years, he has advised the Red Cross, NATO and various government agencies on international law, targeted killing and cyberwarfare. Since 2016, he has served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Melzer spent more than two years meticulously investigating the Wikileaks founder's ordeal and published his findings in the book "The Case of Julian Assange - Story of a Persecution."

In an interview on the publisher's website, he says, "The facts show: Assange was quite deliberately demonized to distract the public from his explosive revelations - of war crimes, corruption and the impunity of the powerful." For this, Assange is now being "systematically persecuted, mistreated and destroyed - not in a distant dictatorship, but in the midst of democratic constitutional states in Europe." The book makes it soberly and unmistakably clear: For twelve years, a U.S.-directed, internationally concerted smear campaign has been running against the Wikileaks founder, threatening to ruin the foundations of the rule of law in the Western world.

All calls for Assange's release go unheard

The founder of the disclosure and whistleblower platform Wikileaks has been imprisoned in the British high-security prison Belmarsh for almost three years. He is to be extradited to the U.S., which wants to charge him with treason under the Espionage Act and sentence him to 175 years in prison. Assange has appealed against the extradition, but the UK Supreme Court will not even consider his request, saying there are insufficient legal grounds for it. All public calls for Assange's release and for the termination of all criminal proceedings against him have so far fallen flat. Not even the relevant resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2020 has been able to change this.

"At stake is the future of our democracy".

In the introduction to his book, Melzer writes: "I am particularly committed to this case because its significance extends far beyond Julian Assange as a person and also far beyond the states directly involved. Because it makes visible a general systemic failure that severely undermines the integrity of our democratic rule of law institutions." The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture makes it unmistakably clear who the culprits are: "It is the story of the most severe judicial arbitrariness in Western democracies, which otherwise like to present themselves as model states in the area of human rights protection." This has fundamental significance for Nils Melzer, who writes: "At stake is nothing less than the future of our democracy."

Annalena Baerbock makes a right-wing U-turn

How compliantly other Western countries are submitting to the U.S. vendetta against Assange is clear from the example of Germany. As a leading opposition politician, Annalena Baerbock was still clearly in favor of the release of Julian Assange in September 2021 because of the most serious human rights violations. Half a year later, as foreign minister, she let her Foreign Office know: "The German government has no reason to doubt the rule of law of the proceedings and the actions of the British judiciary."

Nils Melzer counters: "We have to stop believing that Julian Assange is really about a criminal investigation for sexual offenses, espionage and hacking. What Wikileaks has done threatens political and economic elites worldwide alike. The Assange case shows that governments today are no longer concerned with legitimate confidentiality, but with suppressing the truth to protect unchecked power, corruption and impunity."

The hunt for Julian Assange

Julian Assange has been prosecuted for exposing U.S. war crimes for twelve years now. Following the publication of revealing documents via the internet platform Wikileaks in 2010 documenting war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the U.S. military, the U.S. judiciary launched investigations into Julian Assange for treason and espionage. Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him for alleged sexual offenses. To avoid extradition to the U.S. or Sweden, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and applied for political asylum. There, his request for asylum was granted and he was also granted Ecuadorian citizenship in 2018. For seven years, Assange remained in quasi-prison at the Ecuadorian embassy. He could not leave the building for fear of being seized by British authorities. In 2019, the investigation into the sex crimes was dropped for lack of evidence. But that same year, newly elected Ecuadorian President Moreno revoked his right to asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship. Shortly thereafter, the embassy granted access to British police. Julian Assange was arrested and placed in extradition custody. The British Home Office approved his extradition. Assange's appeal will not be heard by the British Supreme Court.
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