Debate Magazine

New Year Question 2: Can Interdependence Prevent International Conflicts?

Posted on the 11 January 2011 by Shahalexander
World history has been repeating conflicts among nations. Interactions in the economy, culture, social activities and so forth have not prevented wars and bloodsheds by themselves. Regarding the “peaceful rise” of China, dovish opinion leaders argue that interdependence in the economy and tourism will ease tensions with the West. However, history dose not support the idea that human interactions stop clashes among nations and civilizations. Once strategic interests are threatened, or fundamental values are defied, every nation confronts each other.
To begin with, I would like to talk of Britain and Germany before the World War Ⅰ. Despite intensifying rivalries in colonial geopolitics and manufacturing, both great powers were very friendly from late 19th century to early 20th century. Queen Victoria herself was a German descendant. Prince Consort Albert came from the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in Germany. Some of her children, including Princess Royal Victoria, married German princes and princess.
Quite interestingly, when Cecil Rhodes founded the Rhodes Scholarship with his fortune through successful business and political career in South Africa, he granted students from Germany, along with British colonies and dominions and the United States, to study at Oxford University. Germany is the only non-English speaking country among them. This implies that a British imperialist Rhodes envisioned close Anglo-German ties for a stable and prosperous world order in those days.
Unfortunately, Kaiser Wilhelm Ⅱ ruined such beautiful interdependence, because his expansionist policy was excessively provocative to threaten the vital interests of the British Empire. When Kaiser invaded Belgium, British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith had no other choice but fight against Germany in World War Ⅰ.
Economic interdependence did not stop the Pearl Harbor attack. When the Pacific War broke out, Japan imported key natural resource such as oil, rubber, tin and scrapped iron from the United States and British and Dutch colonies in South East Asia. Also, the United States was the primary export market for Japanese silk and other textile industries. A war with America was fatal to the Japanese economy. Despite this, Japan fought against the United States, as the military regime in Tokyo thought strategic gap with Washington on the issue of Manchuria and China would not be filled. Even though the Babe Ruth baseball exhibition in 1934 nurtured temporary friendship and eased the tension between Japan and the United States ("Year Of The Babe"; Sports Illustrated; November 14, 1955) , it did not stop the war 7 years later.
When we talk of current challengers such as China, Russia, Islamic terrorists, and rogue states, it is a wishful thinking that we assume interdependence can tame them. Post Cold War holidays from history fed these monsters. Particularly, China exploits our liberal world order, in order to maximize survival chances of autocratic leaders. In other words, their codes of conducts are completely different from ours. Do you still expect interdependence to tame them, without building up military deterrence and strengthening security partnership with allies? Learn lessons from history.

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