HL Deb 10 February 1966 vol 272 cc886-909

3.25 p.m.

LORD KENNETrose to draw attention to China; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not know whether the Government will have their Statements ready at precisely 3.30 p.m. I intend to speak for twenty or thirty minutes, and I do not know whether it is convenient to begin the debate now. However, I puzzled for some time over the best wording for this Motion. To call attention to what? Should it be, to British policy towards China; to Chinese policy towards America; to China's growing strength; to China's absence from the United Nations—to what? It seemed to me, in the end, that it was China itself which needed calling attention to. I know that the Guardian, in its leader on Tuesday, called attention to this debate under a headline which said, "China calls attention to itself". Well, so it does. But I am not sure that we answer its call quite often enough or quite deeply enough. I prefer the view of my noble friend Lord Chalfont, who said recently that there was a conspiracy of silence about China; about China's real position, capability and intentions; about what kind of an animal China actually is. So I decided to call your Lordships' attention simply to China, in the hope of bringing about a debate on all the manifold aspects of that extraordinary country and its affairs.

I am not an Old China hand, but I look forward to a good debate this afternoon, because I know that some noble Lords who have put themselves down to speak are, in one sense or another, old China hands. I look forward to every speech, but particularly to that of the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, who was for so long responsible for seeing how China could best be fitted into our world policy, and to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall, to which I know the whole House is looking forward with keen interest.

At the last meeting of the NATO Council, Mr. McNamara asked three questions. First, does China intend over the next twenty years to extend her political domination over a great part of Asia, Africa and Latin America? Secondly, if so, will the vital interests of the United States and her allies be affected? Thirdly, if this expansion is a threat to the West, what measures should be taken? Let us now listen to the voice of China, and let us listen to a man whose position there, though not precisely corresponding to Mr. McNamara's, is not too far from it—Lo Jui-Ching, Chief of the Chinese General Staff. He said: The danger is at the very gates of China. I think that is an instructive comparison. We must never forget the questions which Mr. McNarama asked. Our safety and prosperity will depend on their right answering. But we must also not forget the Chinese view.

It leaps to the eye that Mr. McNamara's first question—does China intend over the next twenty years to extend her political domination over a great part of Asia, Africa and Latin America?—is the one by which the others stand or fall. If China does intend this, then we shall have to take certain measures, because there is nothing we should like less than a domination of a country in the first stages of Communist regimentation, anywhere in the world. If China does not intend this, then we need not ask Mr. McNamara's other two questions at all. There will be no need to resist or parry or counter the intention to dominate.

The Chinese may, of course, wish to improve their position around the world in another way, in some way that falls short of Mr. McNamara's phrase of "political domination". They may simply wish to increase their influence and to do what they can to ensure that Governments friendly to them are installed in countries important to them—which means, of course, in Asia. Africa and Latin America are not important to China, except ideologically, which being translated means sentimentally. In answering Mr. McNamara's first question we should have to decide whether China's ideology of town and country—the House will know that they say that underdeveloped countries are the world's countryside, while America, Russia and Western Europe are its cities; the Chinese revolution succeeded because the countryside managed to capture the cities in the end—and the evident wish to lead Asia, Africa and Latin America in the capture, as it were, of North America and Europe, reflected a true intention of domination or merely a myth, a statement of belief, a self-reassurring assertion that history is on their side. Such statements are familiar enough in all cultures. The Russians used to say loud and clear that there would be a world revolution, but they have stopped now. We ourselves used to say that one day the whole world would become Christian, but we have stopped now. The Chinese will probably stop the town and country nonsense soon.

To be able to answer Mr. McNamara's first question we shall have to look quite objectively at China's real relations—relations of fact, and not of propaganda—with her neighbours and with countries further afield. Let us start with Asia—that is, China's actual neighbours—and let us begin in the South and go clockwise, so that we come to Vietnam last. Laos we may almost leave aside. Its fate, with only two million inhabitants compared with Vietnam's 32 million, and with no industry or anything, is entirely depenent on that of its larger neighbour. Little Cambodia is a sort of joker. Its song-writing prince, one of the few real political geniuses of our generation, skims over the muddy water with dazzling skill. At the moment, he is skimming rather close to Chinese policy, although he will always cock a stylish snook at the last moment and veer off before any of the big ships can haul him on board. For years the United States resisted a conference to neutralise Cambodia, and when they finally agreed somebody (I forget who) suggested it would be a good place to talk about Vietnam. But Prince Sihanouk was not going to have any other countries talked about at his conference; so we shall have to think again about that. But I do not think we have to worry too much about China capturing him.

Thailand is the headquarters of SEATO. There are 20,000 American servicemen there—about the same number as there were in Vietnam when we began to call that a war. Five large American airfields are built or building; a jet fuel pipe-line is being laid from the one at Sattahip to the others. American bombers and assault planes take off from these airfields to attack targets in Laos and Vietnam. It is presumably for these reasons that China thinks herself entitled to invite the population of Thailand, over the radio, to rebel, to unearth the veteran Thai Prime Minister, Hai Pridi Panomyong, who has been living fifteen years and more in China, and to encourage the banned Thai Communist Party to recruit vigorously. Thailand is now fully engaged in the Sino-American cold war, and is in immediate danger of becoming another Vietnam.

Burma is the showpiece of Chinese benevolence among all China's neighbours; but the frontier settlement of 1961, where China showed considerable generosity and good will, has not bought Burmese acquiescence. It has not stopped Burma from signing the test ban, working hard and usefully in the United Nations, and being strictly neutral in the Indo-Pakistan dispute, all of which are quite unpalatable to China. Even here there is a cloud on the horizon. China is beginning to back a revolutionary movement called "The White Flag", but one may still hone that a desire to have at least one relaxed neutral neighbour, uncoerced by anybody, will override China's temptation to try to obtain a bargaining position inside the country.

With India we come to a completely different story. We here (and, of course, the Indians even more so) see simply a menace in China—a menace rising at times to severe, unprovoked aggression. The Chinese see it differently, and if we are to get a true picture of Chinese intentions we must know how they see it. The line across which the aggression took place in 1962, and on which they leaned so heavily last year, was drawn by the British at the height of British imperial power. It even has a British name—MacMahon. Before that, the territory in question was Chinese. That was at a time when we were at home in Britain. Along we come and, China being then weak, we "swipe" part of China for our colony, India. Why should they accept that line? Why should the time of our power and their weakness be the time to settle all posterity? Now they are strong again, and we are away in Singapore, and India is not as strong as they are. Negotiations between China and India have failed over the years. So why should not the earlier line, drawn during Chinese strength and Indian weakness, be the one adopted now?

The argument has force, in this case as in others. It is always used by resurgent nations. It is also dangerous, and causes wars. But it is not amazing. To China, India is the heir of imperialism. Although our sympathies are with India, yet we must recognise how China sees it. Their Indian frontier is a hangover of the age of the Opium War and the Extraterritorial Concessions, just as surely as Hong Kong and Formosa themselves. And their attempts to rectify this frontier have been unsuccessful. They have shown their military superiority but have then retreated and kept calm, in face of growing American and Russian support for India.

The frontier with Bhutan is disputed in the same way. China will not speak to India about this because she does not recognise the Indian "guidance" which is established in the treaty between India and Bhutan. The Sino-Bhutanese frontier was open until recently, and is now closed. A Bhutanese independence movement draws strength from the natural desire to reopen it.

Sikkim, where also the frontier is closed, is guarded by Indian troops, unlike Bhutan. Until the late 19th century it was a vassal of Chinese Tibet. Again the Chinese ask: why should the clock be supposed to stop at the worst moment for China? China would like these two countries to follow more of the Nepalese pattern. In Nepal a kind of Indian protectorate was established in 1961. But the Chinese frontier was settled the same year, and Chinese influence has since been increasing. The frontier is open, and the last bit of a road from Katmandu to Lhasa, the stretch inside Nepal, is nearing completion. I know that later in this debate the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, is going to be able to tell us about the effect of that road on Nepal, and I look forward to hearing him. I know of no evidence of Chinese intentions to annex or subjugate any of these principalities, and with two of them there is not even a frontier dispute. There appears only to be a wish to resume traditional trade and to have there the kind of political presence which will ensure normal relations.

Pakistan, China's great ally against India, has only a very short frontier with China. It was settled in 1963. Part of it, the Karakoram range, is closed by nature. The Gilgit section is open. Sino-Pakistani friendship is entirely due to a fortuitous community of interest against India: what Kashmir is to Pakistan, a few disputed frontier territories are to China. This community of interest has not prevented Pakistan from accepting a cease-fire in the Kashmir dispute at the hands of the United Nations, which is so much detested by China; and, of course, Pakistan is still nominally an ally of America. The fact that they agreed to go to Tashkent must have been another severe blow to China. The short Chinese frontier with Afghanistan was settled in 1963, but Afghanistan is and looks like remaining far outside the Chinese sphere of influence. It is between the rival blandishments of the United States and the Soviet Union that Afghan statesmanship is exercised.

The immense Chinese frontier with the Soviet Union is also disputed, though as yet only in an offhand way. Here China touches what is in her estimation, and must also be in ours, another 19th century empire. The usual forms of political conflict are in full swing. In the Soviet Union the Chinese also see the country which let them down in the late 1950s by withdrawing aid, both civil and military. America has always been the enemy, but Russia is the turncoat, and that is worse. Mongolia, for some time in dispute between the Soviet Union and China with regard to influence, is now squarely in the Soviet camp. She joined the COMECON in 1962 and signed a treaty of military alliance with the Soviet Union last month. To all intents, China thus faces her enemy, Russia, from Korea right round to Afghanistan. In North Korea, China has had a small friend for some time; but even here Russian influence is not lacking. When Japan and South Korea entered into some military arrangements in April last year, it was to Russia that North Korea turned in order to redress the balance, and not China. In Japan, as in the United States, China sees a country which does not see her. Tokyo does not recognise the Peking Government, and the war in which the Japanese armies plunged through Manchuria is still, technically, unended.

In recent days China has seen a rapprochement between Japan and the Soviet Union, a rapprochement which five years ago would have caused Washington to hit the ceiling but which now raises hardly an eyebrow there or in Britain. China also sees the movement of what she calls the "core" of the American military presence in Japan, from Hokkaido opposite the Soviet Union down to Kyushu, opposite China. In Formosa, Hong Kong, Macao, Quemoy, and Matsu, they just see part of their country under foreign occupation; as we should see the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man, Harwich or Cardiff. Those parts held by Britain and Portugal are tolerated for the mutual advantage that there is in it; those that are held by the United States are deeply resented and deeply disturb the world.


My Lords, may I put one question to the noble Lord? Is he going to mention Tibet?


My Lords, I was not planning to mention Tibet, since Tibet's border runs around the border of China. It is part of China; it was re-absorbed, and the action was recognised by India in 1954—and, for my money, what India recognises we may also recognise. It is, though, of great historical importance.

About Vietnam I will say very little, because everything that can possibly be said, whether wise or foolish, has been said. There is one point that I would make, however, and it is this: not even in North Vietnam does China seem to have a reliable ally, let alone a satellite. We take it for granted that she must have; but we may be wrong. We do not allow for the facts that, for instance, the North Vietnamese last year publicly celebrated an 18th century victory over China; and, in their list of New Year's greetings last month, Russia was mentioned first, and not China. Nor ought it to escape our notice that when Hanoi blames the United States for risking general war in South-East Asia, it is always the danger to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma that they mention—never China. As far as they are concerned, China can look after itself. So, I do not think we should answer Mr. McNamara's first question well, if we took North Vietnam as an example of Chinese political domination, or even, as I have said, North Korea. They are in dispute between China and Russia.

Before leaving Asia, let me return for a moment to the Soviet-Chinese dispute. Let us not worry too much about the ideology; that will change. What is permanent is the fact that there runs between these two hostile giants, from end to end of Asia and deeply into each of them, a great belt of Islam. With the exception of Aden, these are the only Muslims in the world who are not yet in charge of their own destinies. They will not have forgotten that when Russia was conquering them, Britain was conquering the Arabs and Malays, France was conquering the North Africans and Holland the Indonesians. So far the Russians have omitted to liberate their Muslims. They will want to be liberated in time. The Russian Empire will be bound to break up in time, just as have the British, Dutch and French. The Chinese will work to help that on; and they will work all the harder because their natural line of expansion lies precisely into those barely-populated Muslim territories of what used to be generically called Turkestan, the way Marco Polo took, and into Mongolia. Thev have Mongols in China and Muslims of all sorts. The land is empty. There is no ethnic break.

My Lords, if anyone's interests are threatened by Chinese expansionism, I do not think it is in the first place those of the West. Indeed, I think we may find Russia edging nearer and nearer to the West in order to have earned a helping hand when her Empire begins to break up. I imagine we might urge them to a Commonwealth-type solution. But sufficient unto the day are the puzzles thereof. The picture of China's position in Asia is not to my mind, a very alarming one for us in the West; they are not doing too well at all. Outside Asia they are doing even worse. The time was when we used to tremble at their appearance in Africa; but I think that is gone by. The African nations who were strong and wise enough to end European domination are not likely to be so weak and foolish as to turn right round and accept an Asian one.

In Cuba, which refused to sign the Test Ban and could fairly have been counted no less China's friend than Russia's, the Chinese have just made the most absurd blunder: they apparently have tried to buy Castro, and then, over his head, the army, by linking the level of rice deliveries to some political accommodation or other. They found that Castro could not be bought any more than Mao Tse-tung could be bought, or Lenin, or Nasser, or General da Gaulle, or George Washington. And in Indonesia, too, once the most promising bastion of Chinese influence outside their own frontiers, they have overcalled their hand and met with a complete rejection from the still governing, if enfeebled, Soekarno. In all this it is hard to see evidence of attempts to dominate. There is much evidence of attempts to gain influence—and much evidence, too, of the failure of such attempts.

Anybody who reads Chinese propaganda—I mean reading it directly, without the filter of the Western Press—may get quite a shock at first. He sees all the familiar elements: the truculence against America, the doctrinaire stuff about world revolution, the vaunting of their own invincibility. But he also sees—and this is not familiar because the Western Press does not print it—quite unmistakable evidence of a very real fear. I have just been arguing that the Chinese are not doing too well around the world. They themselves feel that the world is closing in on them; they are, in a word, dead scared. They tell their own people in so many words: "We are encircled, we are grossly inferior, we are in very great danger; but if the Americans attack us we shall beat them."

A week ago last Saturday the People's Daily of Peking published a map showing what it called the two chains of imperialistic encirclement. The inner chain was South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Thailand and India. The outer chain consisted of the Bonin Islands, Iwojima, Guam and what they call "the British strategic chain", meaning North Borneo, Singapore and Malaya, and the chain of island bases across the Indian Ocean lying beyond India. All this is true: there are Western military bases in all these places, and the West, with its nuclear arms, is immensely more powerful than China. And on the West and North of China there is not so much a chain of encircling bases as a solid mass of hostile territory, some of which passed under Russian control as recently as Hong Kong and Formosa passed to Britain and Japan. It is hardly surprsing that they have built their own nuclear weapons. All this they tell their people.

Now these feelings exist in a country where the population is so dense in parts that little girls on their way home from school pick up leaves on a pin and their grandmothers sort them out into those the pig can eat and those you can burn on the fire; so dense that you cannot get round to yoking oxen instead of men and women because there is nowhere to pasture the oxen—it is all needed to feed the people. In these places you cannot dig an irrigation canal ten feet wide; someone will starve if they lose that much land. I am not talking about the old-fashioned bogey of lebensraum. That never happens without aggressive intent as well, and in practice there is plenty of room still in the inland parts of China. It will be an internal problem for them, perhaps inland and then westwards, but in the meantime the psychological impact of two great enemies pressing in on a people so crowded should not be ignored.

I said "without aggressive intent". Is there, in Chinese propaganda, as opposed to Chinese action, evidence of aggressive intent? I do not know of any. The propaganda against America is very violent—even bloodthirsty; but it is always about defence. There is a new phrase, "ocean of people's war". It is said that "We will draw them into an ocean of people's war". But the context is always quite explicitly one of the defence of China against invaders. There is the endlessly repeated phrase, "If the imperialists impose a war on us… If they force a war on us…" I think I am right in saying that nothing has been published, or made available to the public in the West, from any source (and I have read a great deal by now), which suggests, even by remote implication, that there is any plan, or preparation, or wish, to fight anywhere except on the soil of China if attacked. Moreover, the Chinese are grossly inferior militarily. This is the key to their pronouncements, so hard to follow until you have this key, about the importance of politics and ideology in warfare. Listen to this. It comes from a published report by the Director-General of the General Political Department of the Chinese Army—and I quote: War … is politics with bloodshed. Victory is impossible without politics, without the factor of man. Victory is impossible if the theory that 'weapons decide everything' is adopted. We always rely for our victories on the factor of man, the factor of politics. This is the moral atom bomb which our side alone possesses. We have always had absolute supremacy in this respect. Have your Lordships ever heard a more forlorn whistle in a dark more pitchy?

There is also some evidence to suggest that this endless harping on the importance of the fighting man, as opposed to the weapon, is directed by the Party at the Army's wish to run back to Russia for modern weapons. If American pressure is now such as to make the Chinese Army want to compose the quarrel with Russia, that is something which should give us pause. Their famous aggressive rallying cries, their shouts of self-congratulation, may be no more than the voice of a terrified Government preparing its people to die, and die bravely, on their own soil. I do not know that they are, but I put the hypothesis forward for serious consideration. If they are that, then certain conclusions should be drawn for Western policy and Mr. McNamara's question should be answered in a certain manner.

Much of what I have been describing is quite new—the use of the word "encirclement" in internal propaganda, for instance. The whole tone of their speech, both for internal and for external use, is changing. In the last two months —I do not know if those who follow these things will agree with me—the whole tone of Chinese utterance has become almost hysterical. Of course they can read English. When they look at the United States, they are overcome by a sort of hysterical suspicion. It is only natural that they should ignore the Mans-fields and Fulbrights and Restons and Lippmans and Gavins, who take the longer view. The Chinese are too scared and suspicious to do otherwise than ignore them. It is understandable, perhaps, that they should be suspicious even of the Administration's words. In any case, what they do see, apparently, in America is a country exclusively divided between the "goodies", who are campus liberals waving flags of peace, and the "baddies", who are all like Senator Stennis, the Chairman of the Senate's Preparedness Investigating Sub-committee.

Senator Stennis said, a couple of weeks ago—and one must imagine Chinese eyes reading this: Stepped-up operations against North Vietnam may well raise a very serious question as to whether we will provoke Red China to full intervention in the war … In view of our commitments, I believe that we must face and accept the risk involved and be prepared to meet Red Chinese military agression, if it should come, with the requisite military might … For my part, I would never put our boys in mortal conflict against the hordes of Red Chinese coolies without using every weapon we have. This, of course, is exactly what the Chinese most fear: that America should use the Vietnam war as an excuse to attack them with nuclear weapons. And in the word "coolie" they hear all that they fought to get away from; and for that reason they fear that they might have to fight again. They read that it is now no longer a matter of hawks and doves, but of super-hawks, too, who want a preventive war on China now.

Since they have no representation in America, and cannot even brush up against America at the United Nations, they can hardly be blamed for failing to distinguish between who has power and who has not; for misunderstanding the role of the President, and for making the worst assumptions about American intentions. Mao's advisers must be saying to him, "It may be as bad as this"—whatever it may be; and he must be replying, "It may be: we must act as though it is until we can find out more certainly." And in Washington, the very same process is at work the other way round about China. Each side takes the worst possibility. This is why mutual ignorance is a common cause of war.

I said that this almost hysterical fear is something new. There have been other changes, too. Until less than a year ago, China was still making disarmament proposals, most of them not very clever or very fair. But one, at least, has since been taken up both by the Soviet Government and by Senator Kennedy in America—that is, the idea of a multilateral agreement never to be the first to use nuclear weapons. The House will remember that China is the only country in the world which has promised unilaterally never to use nuclear weapons first. But even that now is passed. "Disarmament" is a dirty word in China nowadays. It is a tragic thing, but they now see it simply as part of the Soviet-American plot to rule the world. Beyond that phrase, of course, lies their fear that the Soviet Union might stand aside, if the United States attacked them. That is looking far into the mists of horror, but it is a sad fact that if we, and the Russians, want China now to turn her thoughts back to disarmament, we shall have somehow to convince her that we do not plan to "gang up" on her and divide the world between us.

Two days ago, in the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary was asked whether China's increasing nuclear power and the aggressive statements of some of its leaders were not the reason why we were supporting our American Allies in seeking to contain this power in the Far East. He replied, with characteristic moderation, that: … our policy towards China must be seen in rather larger terms than the hon. Member has used. And the next day, the Prime Minister said: It is not in the interests of world peace that Russia or America should be driven into a position of intransigent isolation. That is profoundly true. And it is also true of China.

We are at the beginning of a new pattern of world affairs, and the decisions we take in the next year or two will govern our lives for the next twenty. There are now three super Powers in the world. Two of them lead alliances; one does not. We are not a Super-Power, but we do occupy a very prominent place in the alliance America leads. Let us look—bearing in mind what our position is—at the relations between the three super Powers. America and Russia are not nose to nose any more; they touch nowhere, they know one another and they have cooled off. China touches both Russia and America, nose to nose, in an immediate confrontation of the greatest armaments in the world, differing over the greatest issues, and in mutual ignorance, at least as regards America and China.

Those two countries understand each other so little. America speaks all of peace, but bombs China's neighbour. China watches her actions, and ignores her words, China speaks all of war, but there is not a single Chinese soldier outside China. America listens to her words, and ignores her actions. It is historically determined. To America, China has always been a prostrate congeries of malfunctioning micro-units, crying out for the helpful tutelage America could give, and did. But for China, that period, the last handful of decades, is, though tragic, insignificant. The real China was a legitimate and respected Power for centuries when there was not such a thing as America at all.

That period, the greatness of China, which she believes she is now regaining through whatever domestic hardships and injustices, simply does not exist for Americans, because there were not any Americans around. China's greatness was, however, observed by yours faithfully Europe, whose travellers and traders were going there for a couple of hundred years before they ever went to America and for 500 years before the American State came into existence. We must remember that this historical knowledge is simply not shared by the Americans, as Americans, in the sense of a live political tradition. We must remember that the leader of our own alliance, and our best friend in the world, is in very great trouble about this. The Times two days ago said that they had an "unpolicy" towards China. We must try to help them find a policy, and one which corresponds with reality.

Lastly (I have already gone on for too long), a word about the United Nations. It is a commonplace, almost a hocus pocus, by now that China ought to be allowed to join the United Nations so as to get on with arms control and everything else. So she ought; and I know we all wish the Government well in their attempts to get it done. This has been British policy for years now. Let me just say, in passing, that there still seem to be two things that the Government might do to bring China in more quickly. One would be active lobbying among our friends; and the other would be that we should vote China in, not only on the substantive vote but also on the procedural one which governs it. It is true that this is an important matter, and it would be funny to vote that it was not. But if we want China in, that is exactly how we have to vote.

It is very good news that the Americans have taken Vietnam to the United Nations. I am always on favour of taking everything there, however hopeless or even unsuitable it may look at first sight. I hold this view even more strongly because I know that our Government, at least, will not allow the Security Council discussions to hold up the attempts to get the Geneva Conference reconvened. We have watched their efforts in this direction over the last year with the keenest good wishes and sympathy, and we continue to hope that it will not be too long before the Russians swallow whatever bone it is that is sticking in their throat and agree with us as Co-Chairmen to recall that Conference.

My Lords, I started by referring to Mr. McNamara's question: does China intend to dominate the world politically? He was right to ask it. We must now answer it. It is lucky that there is no tremendous hurry; we have a year or two to think. Let us work really hard on these answers, looking always to the hard evidence in fact and discounting the froth of propoganda, which as often as not is self-contradictory, anyhow. I wonder what the answer will be. If I were in on this inquiry, my own working hypothesis would be: "China is rapidly becoming a super Power, like the other two, and though for the moment she may wish to dominate the world about as much as Russia does, and a little more than America, she stands no chance of doing so and will soon lose interest." If this proved to be right on examination, then the answers to Mr. McNamara's other two questions would be: (2), the interests of the West are indeed affected on the the political level; there is now a super third Power around; and (3), the measures which should be taken are the normal ones of diplomatic contact and pressure, increasing mutual knowledge, and foreseeing and negotiating the issues which may lead to conflict. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I gather that the Statement is not ready yet, and we can therefore continue with this debate. Whatever your Lordships may think about the noble Lord's Motion, at least you cannot complain that its terms are too narrow. It is rather like calling attention to the universe. It gives a nice, broad latitude for discussion. In a debate the day before yesterday in another place about the Far East, your Lordships may have noticed that both Party Leaders gave an extremely long, though interesting, account of their own recent travels in that part of the world. I am afraid I cannot compete with that. The only time that I have ever been to China was in 1942, together with my noble friend Lord Ailwyn, who was the head of a Parliamentary mission which went out there. It also included my noble friend Lord Teviot and the late Lord Lawson—Jack Lawson, who was afterwards the Secretary of War in the Labour Government. He and I were then both Members of another place.

The purpose of our mission was to persuade the Kuomintang Government of Chiang Kai-shek that we were going to win the war, which was not then universally accepted as an undeniable proposition, and also to persuade them that it would be worth their while to fight a little more vigorously against the Japanese invaders. The Japs at that time held all of China which they could conveniently hold with their potentialities of manpower. They held the whole of East and South-East China. The only regions held by the Kuomintang were the province of Chunking, where the temporary capital was, and Yunnan in the south, with its capital at Cheng tu, which we also went to. There were about 20,000 or 30,000 Chinese students there from universities from all parts of occupied China. They had walked there on their feet, with nothing to wear but their gowns, carrying their books with them, many of them for 1,000 miles; and their teachers had come with them. There they were living on nothing but a bowl of rice and sleeping on straw in a hut, carrying on with their lectures and their studies as well as they could, as they would have done in their universities in the East. I thought it was a most impressive example of Chinese devotion to education and the sacrifices which they are willing to make in order to get it. They also held Sinkiang in the North, going up to the Yellow River, where the Japanese forces were, but very little fighting was going on.

Further North there were the Chinese Communists, who were then nominally in alliance with Chiang Kai-shek. Although they had been fighting him long before, they had agreed to combine together to fight the Japanese. We had a long talk in Chunking with Chou En-lai, who is now the Prime Minister of China, and who was then leading the Chinese Communist army. Our talk might have been a little more informative if Chou En-lai had not insisted on trying to speak in English, although we had a first-class interpreter with us. He managed to tell us a good deal about what the Chinese Communist forces were trying to do in the north, although they had very few weapons. He did not trust Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Kai-shek did not trust him. Neither of them at that time had anything but small arms: they had no heavy artillery, no tanks and no heavy aircraft.

The only kind of aircraft the Kuomintang had was a small force of light aircraft, which was organised by the American General Chennault who was attached to Chunking for this purpose. We all thought he was a man of great talent and ability. He had built up the small, well-trained Chinese Air Force out of almost nothing, and he was continually pleading with his superiors to get the American Government to send him more equipment and more material, so that he could make it into something really worth while. But he was the kind of officer whose imagination and talents are sometimes unacceptable to his immediate superior officers, and I do not know whether his representations ever reached the highest quarters in Washington.

When the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, and I got home, we sent a report to our own Government, urging them to represent to our American allies that it would be a good thing if they could give General Chennault what he was asking for. I do not know whether any such representations were made, but if so no attention was paid to them. At that time, the Russians were not able to spare any arms for Chou En-lai and his Communists because they had to use all their own tanks and airplanes in resisting the invaders of their own territory. But as soon as the war was over in 1945, the Russians poured all their surplus equipment, which they did not need any more, over the frontier into North China when the Japanese cleared out, for the benefit of Chou En-lai and the Chinese Communists. The Americans were slow and reluctant to give similar help to the Kuomintang because their Administration was so corrupt. It was common form that quartermasters would take all the medical supplies and sell them for their own benefit.

When the battles came between the Communists and the Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek had a very large army, two or three million, but they had hardly anything but rifles. They began to feel that it was not much fun fighting a war when the other side had all the tanks, aeroplanes and heavy artillery, so they did what Chinese armies have often done in civil wars—they changed sides. Chiang Kai-shek had to retire to Formosa with the remnant of troops which were loyal to him. After this Communist victory in China, the Americans developed a kind of guilt complex on the whole subject of China. Most of the missionaries in China had been Americans of many denominations, and they had built up fairly large congregations rather extensively throughout China. The Communist victors in the war expelled them all and suppressed and persecuted the Christian congregations. When the missionaries returned to America, they had so many stories to tell of cruel persecution and oppression of their religion that it had a deep effect on the American conscience. They began to feel: if only we had woken up and done something in time, we might have stopped this, and we have not. They developed a deep and bitter feeling against the Chinese Com- munist Government which they felt was establishing a new kind of civilisation inimical to the whole conception of a free world.

It has always been one of the reasons for disunion between the Americans and ourselves that we have had different principles about recognising foreign Governments. We have always taken the sensible view that you ought to recognise a Government which has effective control over the territory in which you want to have diplomatic representation, whatever the political or moral complexion of that Government may be. The Americans have always been inclined to take the view that you recognise a Government because you think it is a good Government, which will behave well and do what is right. That works both ways. Three years ago, the Americans recognised the Government in the Yemen, and were rather annoyed that we did not, because they thought it was a Government which would be on the right side. We did not recognise it because it had not effective control of the territory, and only kept control of the little it had with the support of 40,000 Egyptian troops. In China it was the other way round. The Americans never have been willing to recognise the Communist Chinese Government. We recognised it from the beginning because it had effective control of the country; it was the effective, de facto Government.

The question of admission to the United Nations is not quite the same as the question of recognition of the Government, but it is similar. We have always felt that it would be right that China should be admitted to the United Nations. But for a very long time, although we made representations to this effect, we never went to the length of moving a Resolution and voting against the Americans on this subject in the United Nations, because we knew that if we did that we should deeply offend the conscience of the American public. There were even some observers who thought that America might resign from the United Nations if this were done. After a long time—I think it was in 1962—we supported by our vote in the United Nations a Resolution for the admission of China, which we thought we should win and the Americans thought they would probably lose. But, greatly to their surprise, I think, the vote went in their favour, and China was not admitted.

I hope that the present Government will continue to do what they can to get China admitted to the United Nations. I think all Parties here are agreed that it would be an advantage in every way that this should be done. There are two particular reasons. One is the question of whether we shall ever get a treaty on the proliferation of nuclear weapons on which, perhaps, the avoidance of nuclear war may one day depend. You cannot get an agreement on non-proliferation, I think we are all agreed, until you have agreement between the United States and Russia. But, after that, China will have to be brought in—because China now has nuclear weapons—either by persuasion or in some other way. It cannot possibly reduce the chance of an agreement on nuclear weapons if China is in the United Nations; it may greatly increase it.

The other reason I would put to the noble Lord is that the bulk of the common people in China are, I am afraid, rather strong racialists, by tradition and upbringing. They are almost like the legendary Englishman who is reported to have said that niggers began for him when he left Dover. They take an arrogant, xenophobic view of foreigners. A cynic might say that that will be strengthened by their membership of the United Nations, or it may not. I do not think it will. I think it would be a factor mitigating their feeling against the inferiority and even the diabolical nature of foreigners, which so many Chinese entertain, if they were accepted, as they ought to be, as members of the United Nations.

Another thing which the Communist Government did when they came into power was to issue a declaration in 1949 about Chinese obligations to the rest of the world under its foreign treaties. They declared that they were going to examine all the treaties made by the Kuomintang Government which preceded them, and were going either to accept them or to abrogate them, or to re-negotiate. And they did not say they were going to do all this at once; they said they would do it at the appropriate time, which might be any time in the future; and more recently the official Government newspaper has been saying that this re-negotiation will apply much further back in history, to all treaties that were made by the Manchu Dynasty. This need not necessarily mean that China intends to be a threat to her neighbours.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, took a run round the countries bordering on China, and I do not think I need follow him in every detail of it. As he said, in 1960 the MacMahon Line with Burma was recognised by a new treaty with the Communist People's Party in China. As for Hong Kong, nothing has been done about that, and the treaty does not expire until 1997. It seems that the Chinese are likely to allow the present situation to continue, and to go on doing nothing, because it is convenient to them to have this window into the outside world, although it is always an advertisement for the superiority of the Free World against Communism because so many millions of Chinese refugees go there.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not mention Tibet, as he explained in reply to an interruption, because nominally it had been part of China. And although it was, in effect, an independent country, I do not think it had been recognised as a sovereign Government. But the impression made on world opinion by the Chinese invasion and conquest of Tibet was not, I think, so much the legal aspect of it as the horrible cruelty, and even genocide, with which, according to reports, the unhappy population of Tibet has been treated.

With regard to the aggression into India, I think it is quite possible that the Chinese did not intend to do much more than rectify the frontier. I should have thought that, if they had aggressive intentions, the very sparsely populated and rich plains of Siberia would be a far greater temptation than the overcrowded subcontinent of India. Of course we do not know whether or not they have long-term intentions of aggression, but one of the difficulties about persuading our friends to accept them into the United Nations has been (whether or not they really meant it, one does not know) that the Chinese leaders and officials have certainly stated in recent years that nuclear war may be a good thing; that they have over 700 or 800 million people and can easily afford to lose 300 or 400 million in a nuclear war, and they might well be the gainers in the long run.


My Lords, this is a matter which is often quoted, and not always quite correctly. I do not think they ever said that nuclear war would be a good thing. There does exist one broadcast from 1957 in which one of the Chinese leaders made the point that if there were a nuclear war they would suffer less than others, because of the size of their population; but in the last nine years even that point has not been repeated.


My Lords, I cannot substantiate any argument to the contrary, but I believe that other statements, besides the one broadcast, have been made. The noble Lord may be right, but it certainly has been an obstacle to their admission to the United Nations because many people naturally say, "After all, the United Nations is an organisation which is intended to keep the peace, and nations which talk like this cannot really want to keep the peace".

But, my Lords, I think that if the Chinese have permanent intentions, either of military aggression or of gaining influence over the whole world by propaganda, they have very largely defeated their own objects by their stupidity. They are an intelligent people, but the Chinese Government has acted with great stupidity in this matter on many occasions. For instance, during Chou-En-lai's visit to Africa two or three years ago some extremely tactless observations were made about Africa being "ripe for revolution", and nearly all the work which had been done by years of persistent Chinese propaganda was undone.

Then when the war between India and Pakistan was going on, a few months ago, your Lordships will remember the rather silly ultimatum which the Chinese sent to the Indians, saying they would take military action unless the Indians immediately returned (I think it was) four refugees and 59 yaks which had apparently strayed over the frontier into Sikkim. The Indians, instead of reacting in a war-like way, said that they would discuss it, and the Chinese, finding they had not got the reaction they expected, withdrew and pretended that the Indians had admitted their delinquency and had withdrawn. Of course that made a bad impression on all China's neighbours, who do not particularly want to have war and who felt that the Chinese were obviously the sort of people who were ready to make war for the sake of four refugees and 59 yaks. I think that by this act of stupidity the Chinese have done themselves more harm to their diplomatic status in the world than any Governments have done in recent times.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has mentioned the third example of foolishness, in relation to Cuba. They had been getting a very good hold in Cuba. They were liked there better than the Russians, who had not stuck to the Cubans in the 1962 crisis; but now they have completely lost that. I do not know whether Lord Kennet's parallel with de Gaulle and Washington is right—whether Castro is more or less marketable than either of those characters—but he is certainly a man who is rather more likely to lose his temper than either of them. He has thoroughly gone off the deep end about this, and China's influence in Cuba now seems to have destroyed itself.

With regard to the present war in Vietnam it seems to me that probably the North Vietnamese do not want to be dominated by the Chinese, though there is no doubt that the Chinese, for their own ends, are supporting the war. If we want to achieve the results which I know all your Lordships, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, would like to achieve—that is to say, peace in the Far East, and, let us hope, an agreement on a non-proliferation of nuclear weapons—then we must support the defence of freedom against aggression where aggression is taking place at this moment.

I do not think I could put it better than in the words of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, in a speech which he made three weeks ago in New York, when he said this about the British and the American part in keeping peace in South-East Asia: The military prospect for the United States in Vietnam and for Britain in Malaysia is not inviting. I would add that it is particularly uninviting in many ways in Vietnam; it is going to be a long struggle. Then he said: Each of us would strongly prefer a political settlement, but when it comes it must be real and more effective than those of 1954 or 1962. The longer and wider vision demands that nothing should be done to prejudice the future independence of Japan, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and ultimately Australia and New Zealand. A peace settlement, therefore, must be seen to provide the end of aggression and the prospect of orderly change within a framework of political stability, something far easier to say than to do, but something which, given the will by Idonesia and North Vietnam, could be done. I am glad that Her Majesty's Government recognise the truth of this fact: that if we want to see the end of aggression, and ultimately an agreement on nuclear limitation and non-aggression, we must be seen to have stopped aggression, to make it evident that aggression will not pay, and that orderly change may take place within a framework of stability.