The China Cultural Year 2012, Helmut Schmidt, and the Korean War

A guest post by Tai De

Deutsche Geisterstunde

Ghost Hour: If you want to turn a German audience on, bring on the Great Philosophers (by JR, click pic for more)

Helmut Schmidt, on a “dialog” event with Gu Xuewu and Frank Sieren, in Berlin on January 31, funded by the Körber Foundation, the Bosch Foundation, and the Bertelsmann Foundation:

Commodities – there is no indication so far that China would try to get access to raw materials by military means. There aren’t any. Maybe with the exception of two archipelagos in the South China Sea – maybe. But there, too, this hasn’t led to military imbroglio so far. I believe that Hu Jintao, or the prime minister, too, are very aware of admiral Zheng He’s example, and I believe that their foreign policy – since Mao’s death, but even during the time under Mao – has been extremely cautious. They only intervened in the Korean war – half a century ago – when the Americans had almost reached the Yalu River. They were at war with India, but withdrew on their own initiative – undefeated. They intervened vis-a-vis Pol Pot and the Vietnamese, but withdrew, undefeated. That’s something one could suggest to the Americans as a role model, if one wanted to.

Die Rohstoffe – bisher gibt es kein Zeichen dafür, dass China irgendwo mit militärischer Gewalt sich Zugang zu Rohstoffen verschafft hat. Gibt es nicht. Vielleicht mit Ausnahme des Streits über zwei Inselgruppen im Südchinesischen Meer – das mag sein. Aber auch da hat es bisher nicht zu militärischen Verwicklungen geführt. Ich denke, dass Hu Jintao oder der Premierminister sich des Beispiels des Admirals Zheng He durchaus bewusst sind, und ich denke, dass ihre Außenpolitik seit dem Tode Maos – aber es gilt sogar für die Zeit unter Mao – außerordentlich vorsichtig gewesen ist. Sie haben in dem koreanischen Krieg, heute vor einem halben Jahrhundert, erst eingegriffen, als die Amerikaner beinahe schon am Yalu standen. Sie haben einen Krieg mit Indien geführt, aber sie haben sich selber zurückgezogen – unbesiegt zurückgezogen. Sie haben interveniert gegenüber Pol Pot und gegenüber den Vietnamesen, und haben sich unbesiegt zurückgezogen. Das ist etwas, was man den Amerikanern als Vorbild hinstellen könnte, wenn man wollte.

About half a year ago, I drafted a written history test for 10th-graders. It looked like this…

History Test


1. Analyse the material (A. and B.), and put the sources into a chronological order.

2. Interpret material under B.

2.1. What are the poster’s intention?

2.2. Put the American intervention in the Korea war into a context with U.S. post-1945 foreign policy

3. Give your view on whether United-Nations military interventions are justified. Argue to the point.

Material A

Nikita Kruschev (secretary of the central committee of the CPSU from 1949 to 1953) describes Stalin’s, Mao Zedong’s, and North-Korean ruler Kim il-Sung’s opinions concerning the political situation on the eve of the hostilities on the Korean peninsula:

Kim returned home; after he had drafted the plan, he came back to Moscow and told Stalin that he was absolutely sure that his plan would be successful. I remember Stalin having certain misgivings. He wondered about possible American intervention, but we tend to believe that an American intervention could be avoided, if hostilities would be finalised rather early, and Kim il-Sung was convinced that there would be a quick victory.”

(Stalin consulted Mao Zedong)

“Mao had no objections either. He was positive about Kim il-Sung’s suggestion and reckoned that the Americans would not intervene, as the war was an inner-Korean matter, to be decided by the Korean people itself.”

Quoted after “Sowjetische Außenpolitik seit 1945”, Stuttgart 1985, p. 33 f., quoted in “Geschichte und Geschehen”, Vol. G4, Lower Saxony, Ernst Klett Schulbuchverlag, Leipzig 1999, p. 172.

Material B

“The justified noose awaits them!”

Now I’m wondering… do I have to re-draft the test, next time?

14 Responses to “The China Cultural Year 2012, Helmut Schmidt, and the Korean War”

  1. Schmidt seems to be one of those arch politicians of the 70’s who should have stayed out of politics after retiring but couldn’t because they loved the sound of their own voices rather too much. Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, and (to a lesser extent) Jimmy Carter are also examples of this.


  2. Bruce Anderson (“Torture-his-wife-and-children”) on Edward Heath:

    I’m afraid Edward Heath had a monstrous bladder of vanity. He liked going to China, because in China, he was treated not barely as a head of government; he was ratcheted as a head of state. He was treated with flattery, [presumptuousness], as if he was still in power, as if he was a great man. And I’m afraid he doesn’t come out well from this episode. All his critical faculties were overwhelmed. As long as they patted his tummy, he was prepared to roll over like a pet Panda.

    Quote from John Sweeney, “Useful Idiots”, BBC, first broadcast on August 11, 2010
    Downloads here »

    I’m not fond of some of Anderson’s defining views, but he might be a good observer.

    I’d like to give Schmidt credit for some of his more recent appearances, though. And it has to be said that most Germans are probably as much in love with his voice as he appears to be himself. To them, he comes across as the God of Reason. Television journalists would be stupid if they dumped him.


  3. I agree with both of you that there are old men who like to hear their own voice, but Schmidt’s voice, compared to those of his successors, carries weight in Germany.

    Even if Schmidt believes that he owes the organisers a good atmosphere, I’m taking the liberty to see the tendency to portray China as a power of peace as wrong, and, from today’s political perspective, as unnecessary flattery – and possibly a dangerous underestimation of what Beijing can do.

    That may not be Schmidt’s concern, here in Europe – but I seem to remember that he was strongly critical of the Soviet Union, far more so than most of his fellow social democrats. If he were a South-East Asian, his tune might be different today, too.


  4. Stupid Tai De! Cold war over long time!


  5. The philosopher left of Schmidt looks like Putin.



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