Thu, Mar 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Appeasement didn't stop Hitler

Prior to World War II, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany declared that Austrians and Germans were of the same race and spoke the same language, and the inclusion of Austria in the Third Reich was therefore a holy mission. In an attempt to oppose Germany's blatant ambition to invade Austria, a referendum was planned for March 1938 to let Austrians decide their own future through peaceful and democratic means. On the eve of the referendum, Germany invaded and then annexed Austria.

Shortly thereafter, Hitler declared that the people in the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia were descendants of the German people and that the region should be returned to Germany. Because Great Britain and France feared a military conflict with Germany, then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and French prime minister Edouard Daladier signed a treaty with Hitler in September 1938, agreeing to the German annexation of the Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia, which was not invited to the treaty meeting, was forced to accept the deal by London and Paris, who said they would not intervene should the issue lead to war between Germany and Czechoslovakia.

On his return from Munich, Chamberlain said he had engineered an exchange that would give Europe a generation of peace. Hitler, however, promptly occupied all of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, he used the excuse that Gdansk was German territory to invade Poland. Two days later the UK and France declared war on Germany and World War II began in Europe.

Looking back at that time, the Nazis were encouraged not only by German nationalism, but the naive appeasement of both Britain and France. Even Russia signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany right before the Germans invaded Poland. As a result, Hitler feared nothing.

China's claims to sovereignty over Tibet, Xinjiang, the Tiaoyutai and even Taiwan -- and the rhetoric Beijing uses -- is shockingly similar to Nazi Germany and its claims on its neighbors.

Beijing has passed a law -- the "Anti-Secession" Law -- to authorize war and legitimize future military expansion. The law is clearly aimed at Taiwan. In the past few years, Chinese nationalists have repeatedly asked, "Where should the sea port for China's warships be -- in the Taiwan Strait or the Pacific Ocean?" The question is where will China stop? Will it also lay claim to Singapore and Penang as overseas territories of China on the grounds that Chinese people have historically resided there?

Moreover, the attitude of Europe's current leaders toward the autocratic Chinese regime is astonishingly similar to those of Chamberlain and Daladier when dealing with Hitler. French and German political leaders should learn from history when dealing with the cross-strait issue and the lifting of the EU arms embargo on China in order to avoid a repeat of the tragic Munich Pact.

Although Taiwan is a long way from Europe, its passionate pursuit for democracy and freedom is not any different from that of the EU's member states. When it comes to the cross-strait issue, the EU leaders' callous disregard for a democratic nation in Asia is tragic. We can only hope it does not lead to a greater tragedy.

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