HL Deb 10 February 1966 vol 272 cc919-64

4.57 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend to-day. I have listened to his speeches on many occasions in another place, and after all these' years it gives me tremendous pleasure to listen to him again and to realise that his eloquence, his fluency and his wit are unimpaired. We look forward to hearing him many more times. The noble Lord quoted the Chinese saying about visitors—namely, that the host is always happy when the visitors have left. The saying I remember is this one: "Visitors, like fish, should never be in the house more than three days."

I apologise to the House for speaking in this debate, because I have addressed your Lordships a number of times during the past week or two, but when I saw this Motion on the Order Paper, "To draw attention to China", I felt that, at this time when world attention is focused on China, those of us who have had some experience of China fairly recently should make our small contribution. My contribution is going to be quite different. Listening to the speakers who have already contributed to the debate, I realise the great difference between the male approach to that country and the female approach. The male thinks in terms of aggression, military forces, frontiers, relationships between countries. But a woman's approach is entirely different to a big new country. She is concerned more with personalities, with social services, and with the human problems that face a country with a quarter of the world's population.

Having listened to the most interesting and detailed speech of my noble friend Lord Kennet, and not having his knowledge and wisdom, I feel that there are so many imponderables in politics that it is difficult for a politician fully to understand the Government in any country other than one's own. Therefore, I must confess I found my noble friend a little dogmatic about the relationships between China and other countries, and I felt that some of his speculations might prove to be unfounded. Nevertheless, I believe it is possible to visit another country, to savour the life there, and to make certain broad deductions regarding social and political trends.

In 1954 I was a member of a small group of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party invited by the Government of China to visit that country, and my noble friend Lord Attlee—I am sorry he is not here this afternoon—was with that group. I was the only woman in the group, and it seemed to me that I had a unique opportunity of satisfying my curiosity concerning the social conditions of that vast country.

On our arrival, Mr. Chou En-lai made it quite clear that we could go anywhere we liked, ask anything we liked, and he would always be available; and he kept his word. He was there with us time after time and was prepared to face up to any questions, some of them easy and some of them less easy. On the first day, he gave me a little booklet on the new marriage law of China. I had been told that they attached tremendous importance to this, and I took a great interest in it. What I read I already knew, but, nevertheless, I read that polygamy and child marriage were prohibited, and that the woman was given equal rights with her husband for a divorce.

When I asked Chou En-lai why I had been given that immediately, he told me that it was one of the first measures introduced after liberation. I said that I was pleased to find that he was such an ardent feminist. He replied that he did not take credit for that; that these provisions were regarded as the very foundation of the new China. He said that the men of old China were spoiled, first by their mothers and then by their wives, and they did not provide a quality of manpower capable of building a new society. This was not said in a jocular manner. I was told this because the hierarchy of China attached great importance to laying proper foundations. Indeed, when I saw Mao Tse-tung for the first time, he asked what I thought of the new law. Then he said to the interpreter: "Tell her that we thought she would appreciate the start of the birth of our new society, and tell her that the best plants grow in good soil." That was my first glimpse into the mind of China, With 4,000 years of history, the Chinese are determined to build a society which will last at least many generations. Their greatly admired architect—and in this country we really must not underestimate his power—Mao Tse-tung, has directed his genius to fostering the enduring elements in Chinese society.

I think we should remember that it was in 1917 that Mao Tse-tung put a small advertisement in a Hunan provincial newspaper, in which he sought to meet others whom he described as interested in patriotic activities and prepared to work and make sacrifices for our country. That was half a century ago, and he has never ceased to urge his countrymen to work and make sacrifices without thought of reward. His thoughts on the subject have not altered, and they are injected day by day into the minds of the Chinese millions. No Bolshevik—Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin—fought so long a series of battles to advance a cause as did Mao Tse-tung.

In discussing these things with the youth of the country I found that they were very prepared to discuss all kinds of problems with us, and were desperately anxious to learn about the political scene in Europe. I did not find anybody there who was acting as "Big Brother", and inhibiting those boys and girls from asking questions. The prospect of decades of struggle does not appear to distress the youth of China. On the contrary, they seem to regard it as a challenge, a way of life which must be reflected in everything they do. And I must say that if faith can conquer, then the faith which the people have in their leaders and their cause must eventually overcome all obstacles.

The Minister of Health, a quite remarkable woman, showed me what vast improvements had been made in the health services since 1949. To get this into proper perspective, she described to me the death carts which used to arrive in the small towns to take away those who had died from typhus, typhoid and all the diseases associated with dirt, insanitary conditions and bad feeding. Some people like to ridicule the high standard of cleanliness. How stupid it is for these prejudiced people to say that all that the Chinese have done in Peking is to get rid of the flies. If that is all they have done they have done a remarkable thing, for it was precisely the flies and the dirt and the unhygienic conditions which killed off the children, and now the high standard of cleanliness is something at which we must marvel. There is the universal instruction of the people in preventive medicine, and the intensive education of doctors. If they cannot take a whole medical course, they are given a limited course and specialise, let us say, in the chest, but they are experts on the lungs and heart. This has reduced the morbidity and mortality rates in China in a dramatic fashion.

I listened to my noble friend Lord Kennet talking. I could hardly believe my ears. I do not know which year he was in China, or for how long. I should like to ask him which year it was.




Really, my Lords, I do feel that my noble friend should not have been so dogmatic when he talked about the little girl going along with a long pin with leaves on. Then he said that she took it home, where some leaves were taken off for the pot and some for the pigs. I have some common sense. I have travelled a very long way, from the South to the North, in big towns and small towns, and there is concentration everywhere on the feeding of the children and the welfare of the children. The great increase in the population just shows what importance the Chinese attach to that.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lady for a moment to put her out of her worry about this? I did not say that the children were eating the leaves. It was not one for the pig and one for the pot. It was one for the pig and one to be burned on the fire.


I speak very sweetly to my noble friend, but one cannot make generalisations and be quite so dogmatic about things like that unless one has been to the country. After all, there was at one time infanticide in China; the hunger of the people, the children and the mothers was so great that a woman had to expose her infant in order that it could die. I agree that that used to occur, but things are changing in quite a remarkable way. The harvest of 1965 was greater than that of 1964, and this year China is looking forward to even more plentiful crops. When my noble friend goes to China, I hope that he will look out of the plane as he crosses the Great Wall. He will get his first glimpse of the country from the air and will see the careful cultivation by the Chinese. They are so careful and industrious that they will cultivate a strip right up to the apex of a mountain, or so it seems from the air. It reminded me of a beautifully stitched piece of embroidery.

Now I believe that the determined resistance of the simple peasant in Vietnam to-day to the high-powered bombing stems from a knowledge of the successful outcome of the Chinese struggle. I believe that the only antidote to Communism is to devote the vast sums spent on waging war to raising the standard of living of the millions in Asia. I ask your Lordships to read the leader in The Times this morning, which is a development of this theme. I can think of nothing more depressing, after Honolulu, than to hear that the solution of the problem in Vietnam is to be more bombs and more doctors. My Lords, what a paradox! The people in Vietnam see what is happening in China, and they know that the standard of living of the Chinese is increasing.

On the question of aggression, I can say only this: the Chinese make no secret of their aims. They are determined—and I was told this unequivocally—ultimately to remove the "puppet" Government in Formosa which claims to speak for China. They feel that America's presence in the Formosa Straits offers a constant provocation. I hope that, when the Government come to reply—and I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Walston on the Front Bench—my noble friend will tell me that there is no substance in the charge made by China that the British Government have offered Hong Kong as a base for the United States to expand its war against Vietnam. That would be the height of folly, and would deserve the censure of the whole Commonwealth.

I believe that Mr. Johnson—indeed, the whole American nation—are deluding themselves about the vulnerability of Vietnam and China. The strength of China is certainly not in its material possessions, although by Asian standards they are well off. It is the temper of China which seems to me to be beyond the comprehension of the United States. There is a measure of self-sacrifice and heroism in the young people which is prodigious.

The other day, on television, I saw a picture of a young United States serviceman who, in answer to a question on why he was in Vietnam, said, "We must stop Communism here; otherwise, it will spread." I felt that that boy's concept of Communism in Asia was similar to his view of a revolution in, say, a South American republic. He felt that it was a nine days' wonder which would fizzle out, only to be replaced by an equally tawdry régime. But one has only to go to China and see these people, dedicated to helping their country to progress, to realise that the concept of that unfortunate (as I think) young American is entirely false.

The United States of America must stop thinking that China does not exist. In fact, it is a highly-organised country which is operating more efficiently every year. The Chinese have for centuries been choosing administrators by competitive examinations. I met some of them—men who spoke perfect English, who were knowledgeable and who, far from having that parochial attitude which some people suggest the Chinese have, had an international approach to life. These people also have an inherent courtesy and charm which derives, I believe, from the Confucian philosophy and which, I should think, enables them to work harmoniously together.

My Lords, there is an atmosphere of a nation on the move. The opinion I formed was confirmed by The Times special correspondent in Peking in an article on October 26, 1965, which was not long ago. Under the title, "China: a Disciplined Nation", he wrote: As long as Peking does nothing rash, the days of civil war and famine seem finally to be over.…Life has visibly improved since 'liberation', and…most people…understand that, if they help production to rise, there will in the long run be a reasonably-sized slice of cake for everyone. He concluded: …the people appear to be quite solidly behind the Government. My Lords, history has surely proved that the Chinese are a pacific people, but Mao Tse-tung reminds them now that if they are not armed they will be destroyed—hence the nuclear bombs. Nothing supports Mao Tse-tung's contention more powerfully than the bombing of their present neighbours, the Vietnamese, by the United States. For this reason, I believe that every bomb dropped will have a boomerang effect.

Finally, may I say my word about the United Nations? The exclusion of China from the United Nations was not only a denial of justice and contrary to the provisions of the Charter, but was a colossal diplomatic blunder. China, with one-quarter of the world's population, was a founding member and a permanent member of the Security Council. Yet, since 1949, she has been refused the right to occupy the seat which legally had always belonged to her. I ask my noble friend to use his good offices in this direction. The Government should take every opportunity in their conversations at all levels with the representatives of the United States, wherever they may meet—and I understand they have many contacts with the United States these days— to urge China's claim to a seat in the United Nations, not only to remedy a gross injustice but to facilitate peace in Asia.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for putting down this Motion, and I, for one, am especially grateful to him for explaining the situation in such detail and from such great knowledge. He really gave us such a wealth of information about China that, I am glad to say, it makes our subsequent speeches rather shorter. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall, on his maiden speech. Of course, we expected it to be like it was, because he has talked to us in many other places, and many of us are his friends. But he is a great acquisition to your Lordships' House, and I am sure we all hope we shall hear him many times again, with his expert knowledge.

Next, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, for introducing a new note into the rather aggressive subject which we have in front of us. She is quite right, of course, to talk about the wonderful urge and aims of the new China—and she is lucky in having been to China more recently than I have. I am sorry that, although I have worked and played with Chinese in many places—and I still work with them—I have not actually been to China since 1931. On that occasion, I remember, their sense of humour was rather well displayed, because my wife and I were taken along to the Temple of Heaven on a Monday morning. We got there at about half-past nine, and the guide said, "I'm terribly sorry, but you are a bit late." We said, "Late for what?" He replied: "Late for the Monday morning executions". We were very glad to be late.

Now I shall have to return to the more mundane aspect of China at the present time, but, always remembering what the noble Baroness has told us about the attitude of the Chinese, and to underline that point, I should like to remind your Lordships of a Chinese proverb which I picked up in Malaya when we were looking for soldiers. It said: You do not make a nail with good iron: you do not use a good man to make a soldier". That, I believe, is part of their philosophy. It was extremely difficult to get the Chinese to serve in the army as soldiers, or to serve as policemen in Malaya when we were fighting there.

My Lords, I believe that China suffers from four hates. The first hate is against the imperialists—admittedly it is an historical hate; but the fact remains that the imperialists occupied the Treaty Ports for more than 100 years. They had their own judicial courts and they did what they liked in those Treaty Ports; this has never been forgotten. Secondly, she must hate Japan. I remember leaving Peking in September, 1931. There was a Japanese soldier standing on the station at Peking. His successors, his reliefs, did not leave until 1946. They occupied the country for 15 years. It required a tremendous effort on the part of China, including a rather unexpected alliance with the Communists and the Kuomintang States, and by her allies (but not inside China) to defeat the Japanese in China.

Next, she hates the United States for reasons I will not go into; but it is a fact. Lastly, she has learned quite recently to hate the Soviet Union. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was right when he said that we should not take too much notice of the ideological difficulties, because they will change. But there is one very deep ideological difference between the two countries, if they both aim at world revolution and world domination. The Russians have tried to put off these aims. Mr. Khrushchev, when he was in power, said that the Russians would aim to catch up with the economy of the United States in 15 years. He was rather forgetting that the United States is a moving target. The Chinese, on their way to world domination or world revolution, have not given up the thought of, perhaps, having to use force on the way; while the Russians definitely have.

I picked up an extract from an article in Pravda only yesterday. It was discussing the advance to world domination and it pointed out that this or that manœuvre was not acceptable because it would risk thermo-nuclear war. The Chinese do not agree with that. They are now accusing the Russians of actually collaborating with the United States for a Soviet-U.S. domination of the world. It is a most extraordinary change. Again, if we look back at China's actions over the last 15 years to see how she is leading up to her aims, we find they have been a combination of subversion (as in Malaysia and Indonesia, where her aims have been defeated but which took a long time) and actions due to her great sensitivity along her periphery. I will not go right around the periphery in detail except to say that the countries concerned are Korea, Laos, Burma (where she has friends) and India, where, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, she has been rectifying the frontier according to the map. Tibet was, perhaps, not a frontier rectification; but there are Ladek, Sikkim and Bhutan, and one can go on and on.

But I think the most extraordinary thing about this list is the gaps in it, the inactions on the part of the Chinese, the holding-back. There have been two outstanding examples. The first was when the Chinese defeated the Indian Army in either 1962 or 1963 (I forget which) and, when they were on the edge of the tea gardens, they could, I believe, have got down to Calcutta and occupied it. But they refrained. They actually withdrew. The second example is Burma. If you wanted to accuse China of aggression and of trying to spread her frontiers outward, Burma would be a classic example of an easy place to have done so. Burma is a divided country and has a poor army—I know a little about it, for I trained it for a year—and could not have resisted them for more than a month at the very most. If China had wanted to gain a port on the Indian Ocean, namely Rangoon, she could have taken it any day. It was free to take; it would not have been difficult. But she refrained. I find that very curious. I do not believe it fits in with the general picture of the march of aggression. Nor does it fit in with aggression to the South. People are afraid that the Chinese have thoughts of military aggression towards South-East Asia; but South-East Asia is full, it is prosperous and there is no room for any more. But there is plenty of room in the other direction in the West.

Lastly there is the business of the nuclear bombs which China exploded unexpectedly and rather more successfully than was expected, because we must remember that she has had no military assistance and no nuclear assistance for five years. She did it by herself. I believe it is a precautionary move. So far, the revolutionary method, Mao Tse-tung's classic revolutionary method, has been to advise countries to surround the cities from the countryside and to use conventional tactics. China may have thought that in 15 years' time she would need thermonuclear equipment. I think it is well to remember that if she has built missiles (rather simple ones to start with), because aeroplanes will be out of date, those missiles will be within range of the Soviet Union before being within range of the U.S.A.

I would say that, for the various reasons I have given, Chinese foreign policy and military policy would be one of caution for the next 10 to 15 years. In fact, I believe her aims are: first, to strengthen her own internal economy. I think she has embarked on two or three Five-Year Plans and one of those Plans had a terrible set-back. She is now embarking on another and is laying special emphasis on economy in the empty North-West. She is fully occupied with that internal Plan. Secondly, she is engaged in defending herself—this is from the Chinese point of view—by establishing a series of friendly vassal countries around her periphery. We might call them vassals—she would call them friendly States—but by friendly vassal States I mean States which will have a Communist ideology and Government.

Moreover, while carrying out her internal and external policies with no military aggression of any kind, and fighting her wars by proxy, which has been very cheap and effective so far, she will at all costs avoid direct confrontation with the United States, because she simply dare not have that. At the present time she could use only conventional equipment. It would be the "human waves" tactics, which were suitable in Korea but are not suitable in other parts of the world—and certainly not so against the United States directly. The "human waves" tactic is getting out of date. China will have to wait for many years before she can get level with the Soviet Union and the U.S.A.

My Lords, what should our policy be in reply to this cautionary Chinese policy? I suggest the first thing is to keep open our communications and be able to talk, trade and deal with the Chinese and to live with them. We have learned to live with the Soviet Union and our relationship now, if perhaps a little stiff, is at least quite effective. And secondly, while doing that, to adopt the successful policy which we adopted with NATO in Europe—that is to say, to show a firm front. We have been greatly helped in Europe over the last 15 years by two things: the colossal atomic superiority of the United States and by an Iron Curtain having a clearly demarcated line, across which an angry shot has not yet been fired.

We have atomic superiority in Asia and there is no threat against us. If we also had a clear line, that would help, and it is being set up now by the action of the various States which have been mentioned. So I believe that our policy in the East is right at the present time. We must be friendly but we must be firm. In case any noble Lords think that we can abdicate and leave it to those countervailing forces which have been talked about a great deal recently, let me remind your Lordships that these forces do not exist. The countervailing forces to China, if we regard her as a military Power in Asia, are only two. One is Japan, which, by treaty, does not yet have any forces, and the other is India, which is more than fully occupied and in any case cannot afford it because she is in difficult financial straits. India has no exportable military power at the present time. So the many weak new countries, about which I have spoken before in your Lordships' House, still have to be defended by the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

One last word. It is common practice to talk about power vacuums—I have been talking about them for a good many years—but I would remind your Lordships that they are very real. If we create a power vacuum by leaving, somebody else steps in. We had an example of this on television only last night, when we saw Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, with whom I had a talk at one time on this very subject. He said that if the British left Singapore he would have to go down to the quayside and bow and surrender to the Indonesians. He added, "I have attended one surrender in my life, to the Japanese—one is enough." But what he said is an example of what would happen if ever we came to create a power vacuum by abdicating our power in the East.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall on his maiden speech. It is a pity that he is not more extensively employed in refereeing and deciding the troubles of other countries. If he were called in in all cases he would be pretty fully occupied.

The question of China is a watershed on which people come down violently, on one side or the other. I think that it is worth remembering the position in which China finds herself. She has been through 150 years of decline in her ancient civilisation, to which she attaches tremendous importance, and has now established what I believe can be called a new Dynasty. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, explained some of the developments which the Dynasty is taking. One hears many different stories, some good and some bad, and though many good things are being done, I think that we can only regard China as a formidable enigma. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that China was not alarming. I think that he put it in terms far too favourable at the present time. We have only to look at the size and the population of China—twice that of the whole of the African continent—and to the fact that it is a united country under probably the ablest body of people in the world, to see that China is undoubtedly formidable.

I should like to tell your Lordships why I think China is an enigma. In China there are two great strengths—Communism, on the one hand, and the Chinese character and history, on the other. No one knows which is going to predominate in the end. We see guerilla warfare and incitement to revolt taking place in many parts of the world; a refusal to accept peaceful co-existence; a belief in world Communism, and the desire to lead it. Conversely, there is an equally strong belief in the importance of the Chinese nation. There is no Chinese in South-East Asia who is not delighted that China is important. They have a great sense of nationalism. This is seen in the question of boundaries. They talk of their traditional boundaries and go back to the Empire of Tang, which was somewhat contemporary with King Arthur and the Round Table. This claim of traditional boundaries is very convenient because there have been a great many changes in the Chinese frontier. For example, if we take the Empire of Genghis Khan, it stretched as far as Turkey.

On the question of Tibet, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, came down strongly on the Chinese side. I doubt whether Tibet was part of China in the time of the Tang Empire. I understand that it became Chinese only in the Ching Dynasty, in the early eighteenth century. I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that the Chinese did not show themselves to be a pacific people in the way they handled Tibet, and, as your Lordships know, they were condemned by the United Nations for their complete disregard of human rights in Tibet. We have to recognise that if the Chinese think they have a right, there is no limit to what they may do, and it is unlikely that they will argue about what their right is.

Another tendency of the Chinese, to which my noble friend Lord Dundee referred, is racialism. There is absolutely nothing multiracialist about the Chinese. They have a tremendous contempt for all other nations. Not only that, but all Chinese outside the country have an immense regard for Mother China; and Mother China, in turn, expects some recognition from the overseas Chinese that they belong in some way to the Chinese race.


My Lords, is the noble Earl not aware of the number of indigenous racial elements in China, who number several millions—people who are not in fact Chinese—and that their method of dealing with these separate nationalities has been extraordinarily successful?


My Lords, I think that the number percentage-wise is not very great—a million among 700 millions is not very much. Frankly, I think it very unlikely that the minority races are ever regarded as on the same footing as the people of Chinese race.

What worries me particularly is the attitude of China to the outside world, the ruthless resolution with which they seek to impose their views on countries overseas. We have had some examples given to-day of their relative failures. The Algiers Conference was certainly not a success. There was their threat on the Indian frontier, from which they withdrew. There was the misplaced coup in Indonesia, which certainly was a resounding defeat; and there were their difficulties with Castro in Cuba. And in Africa they have probably been turned out of as many countries as we have—which, of course, is saying quite a lot. M. Bour-guiba, of Tunisia, said recently: Madmen wage wars, and I fear that the Chinese fall into this category. So there has been a pretty violent reaction from Africa.

That is not everything. I am going to ask the noble Lord, Lord Walston, if he will tell us what is happening in Zanzibar. Very few people know what is happening there. Some people say that there is a Chinese camp at one end, and a Russian camp at the other. Is Dar-es-Salaam in danger? What is happening in Kenya? Is Mr. Odinga being paid a large sum of money, running into perhaps six figures, by the Chinese? Has the noble Lord any information on this subject, or not? What is quite clear is that they are seeking to gain a foothold, if they can. It is these policies which we find particularly objectionable and to which we take exception.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that countries were "ganging up" against China. I look at it rather the other way. I think that China has the most astonishing self-assurance. Not only do the Chinese insult the Americans, but they carry on a dialectical warfare, I am told in the most superb language, against the Russians. They attack the Indians, and their relations with the Japanese are pretty poor, although, as has been said, the Japanese are making better approaches to China. Those countries would not normally "gang up" together, except in their attitude towards China. They have no common interests whatever. I would rather put it the other way. I wonder how frightened the Chinese are. Are they really frightened of the Americans? If you are frightened of the Americans, are you going to insult the other nuclear Power in the way the Chinese are doing? I find it extremely difficult to accept this.

When I come to the future policy of China, I find myself very close to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. Mao Tse-tung has put it in this way: Strategically despise; tactically respect". That is probably not a bad basis on which to proceed. Of course they do not tell their people very much about atomic power. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, they pretend that they are not very frightened of it, but I do not think their leaders are under the slightest illusion about what atomic power amounts to. I think one is forced to the conclusion that China is fairly confident that nobody is going to attack her; and I think she is probably right. I believe that her position was well stated by Sir Robert Scott in a recent issue of the Institute of Strategic Studies. He said: I do not myself believe that Communist China is expansionist in the sense of conventional military aggression. It is not territorial gain she seeks, but a ring of Communist buffer states; vassals of China, not of Russia. That, I think, may be true. But I do not think we can take the slightest consolation from it, because this would give China complete dominance over very nearly half the world. Her boundaries can be adjusted almost entirely as she likes. She would thereby gain what she thinks she wants; first, world revolution of Communism; and secondly, that that revolution should be dominated from Peking rather than from Moscow.

In those circumstances, it is extremely difficult to say what our future policy should be. It would be foolish, of course, to throw over America and make friends with China. I am also certain that it is futile, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, said, to show any sign of weakness. I am quite sure that not only do the Chinese respect strength, but all the countries in the neighbourhood do not want to be made pawns; and unless they feel there is someone in the area with strength, to use words that I have often heard, they will not have the will to resist.

Naturally, it is a good thing to continue every form of contact, whether it be with trade fairs, through commerce, or in any other way. I personally should like to think that more people were learning Chinese. After all, nearly a quarter of the world speak Chinese. From my experience at Singapore, I would say that you can live in one of two worlds, according to whether you speak English or Mandarin. The range of contact is entirely different, and very few people can step over that line. The other thing that I should like to know is how the Chinese teach history in their own country. I read many histories in English, but I have never seen a translation of how the Chinese teach it in their own schools.

The difficulty is: what advice do we tender to the United States of America? It is true, although I think regrettable, that anyone who has a "soft" China policy stands very little chance of public election—at least, that is what I am told. This is a pity, because I believe that the Americans basically do not distinguish sufficiently between the Communist element and what I call the Chinese element. My own view is that in due course the Chinese element will win, though this may not be for an exceedingly long time. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, in thinking that there is not much change; and I do not think that there will be much change. What I am sure of is that anything approaching appeasement will be the greatest possible mistake. I feel that the present situation must be looked on as something that is going to continue for quite a long time. But, above all, let us try to understand a lot more about this important and fascinating country.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with others in expressing appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for having initiated this debate. I think it is quite remarkable that anyone who himself says that he has not been to China should have mastered so many of the facts and details of its history and its relationship with its neighbours. Now that it is comparatively difficult for foreigners to live in China and become experts on that great country, it is all the more necessary, I submit, that there should be those among us who give time to study that country from the outside, which is much more difficult, and follow in the great tradition of experts from here like Sir Eric Teichman, Sir John Jordan, Sir Robert Hart and many others, who over decades have been the best informed people about the Celestial Kingdom.

Having said that, may I go on to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in a slightly different way. He took your Lordships around the periphery of China as it is, and in a geographical description showed some of the problems that exist. I should like to take your Lordships back into history and give some reflections about China itself, its policy and our attitude towards that country. Here I must declare a minor interest, in that I perhaps just qualify, but only just, as an old China hand: I served in Peking in our Legation there in the early 'thirties, and I revisited the country in 1961 on my way back from Washington.

To take the earlier period, I arrived in China at the time when Professor Tawney had written a book entitled, Land and Labour in China, 1931, in which he described what the position was at that moment in masterly, definitive and sympathetic terms. He pointed out—which was an obvious truism—that China had missed the revolution in industrial and agricultural method which had affected the Western World. To take agriculture first, and to give some picture of the state of China in those early thirties, which was a time, of course, when the present Government were growing up, these were the conditions they knew; these were the things they were determined to change.

In land tenure, although China had no landed aristocracy, the average land holding was 3.6 acres. The rents in some provinces amounted to 50 per cent, of produce. A good village moneylender, regarded as a blessing in his village, took 25 per cent. In communications in large areas of China, away from the treaty ports, no merchandise could be sold profitably over a distance of 50 miles, because the mere cost of transport on men's backs over a greater distance meant that there could be no profit.

In a sentence, although the Chinese peasants' methods were the finest of their type, the type itself had missed the stimulus which progress of agricultural science had made possible in the West.

In industry, the story was much the same. Endowed with valuable raw materials and high traditions of skill, China long possessed important manufacturing industries. Until the rise of Western machine production towards the end of the 18th century, that technique was identical in character with the West's, and quality was not infrequently superior—for instance, in silk and porcelain. There is, as your Lordships know, the oft-quoted reply in 1793 of the Chinese of the day to the British proposal for closer trade relations: Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its borders. There is therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians. At that time there was more economic justification for this statement than the West has since recognised.

From the end of the 18th century, while the West was "taking off" in agriculture and industry, China continued her traditional ways and politically went through one of those troughs which are common in her history. The great Ch'ing Dynasty was in decline, and when I was there in 1930 there was no effective central Government. Of course, it is now fashionable to run down the Kuomintang and the efforts they made from Nanking, But their difficulties were enormous. It was not only the economic position of the country, which I have sought to outline very briefly; it was also that there were competing war lords in other parts of China. In addition, there had already been Japan's aggression in Manchuria, carried on into Jehol, and later to be further developed into the so-called China Incident.

None of this is new to your Lordships, and why should I go over well-worn ground? The past has gone, and with the advent of the present Communist Government things have radically changed. There are two reasons. First, it is against this background that the West should, I think, reconsider its attitude towards China and, secondly, all this affects the attitude of the Chinese themselves towards their own problems and towards the West. I take first the West's attitude towards China.

The way in which we were wont to regard China between 1800 and 1950 must be accepted as totally out of touch with what should be regarded as a more normal reality, once China achieved a strong central Government. She is a naturally great Power, with enormous economic potential, not only in the numbers of her people, but also in resources and skill and in their extraordinary vitality where they can compete with local populations, other populations, from the North of Manchuria to the Tropics, and compete invariably with success.

If that is so, what of the other side of the medal, the attitude of China to her own problems and to the West? When I came back from Washington, I stopped in Peking and saw the present Foreign Secretary. I think it no abuse of diplomatic courtesy for me to say now that the first thing which he stressed, and which other Chinese in authority stressed when I was there, was that the matter of paramount importance for China must be to grapple with her own enormous problems. It is for that reason that I gave some of those figures about the problems they faced in agriculture and in industry. They were then the first to say that they made mistakes. Of course, like any other Government, they were capable of making mistakes, and we should add that they were hagridden by extreme doctrines. But, they said: "If we make mistakes, do not believe that we cannot put them right." I think it would be a mistake for us to conclude that their doctrines will always make it impossible for them to make great progress in the organisation of their population and resources.

If that is their attitude to their own internal problems, what of their attitude to the West? As has been pointed out by many other noble Lords who have spoken, the Chinese have no sense of inferiority towards the West—quite the contrary. And, indeed, why should they? From their point of view they would say that they have been a civilised Power at times when most of the ancestors of some of the Western Powers, who had pushed them around for the last 150 years, had been painted blue. It was not only in 1793 that they took their attitude which I have described to foreign trade. Even in 1839 Lin Tse-tsu wrote to Queen Victoria: The things that must be had by foreign countries are innumerable. On the other hand, articles coming from the outside to China can only be used as toys. We can take them or get along without them. Since we can get along without them, what difficulty would there be if we closed the frontier and stopped the trade? That is far from the spirit of the present age or the present régime, except in one thing; and that is that the innate sense of greatness survives in every Chinese, whether in China or in the overseas Chinese, and with it alas! the sense of grievance—the sense that "we was robbed".

The practical application may be illustrated in that many commentators write as if it were an odd thing that the Chinese should wish to spread their influence to other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. If you reflect on this from a Chinese point of view, you would say: "But what prescriptive right have the palefaces to think that these continents and these other areas should be exclusively theirs to influence?" Therefore, quite apart from their doctrinal urge to make their form of Communism successful in other areas, I think there is also the sense of pride of race, pride of culture, and that they have every much right as the next one. They have not been very successful, but all I am saying is that I do not think anyone should be surprised that they should try.

Nor do I say, of course, that any of this is convenient. It is quite the contrary, in many cases, but it is one of the inconveniences of international affairs with which we have to try to live. Now how to do that? Here it is fair to recognise some particular difficulties. The first of the particular difficulties, which has been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, is that they have apparently outstanding territorial claims; that is to say, there are areas in their neighbourhood where at one time or another in history Chinese suzerainty has been accepted, and what is not at all clear yet is which of these claims they wish to press, and when, and how; and which may be regarded as permanently in the discard.

This is a real difficulty. It is compounded, of course, by two other factors; their extreme doctrinal version of Communism and the extraordinarily violent language which they use. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that it was almost hysterical, and he has studied it more closely, I dare say, than any of your Lordships here present. They talk quite openly about "war being a great school". These are factors which I should have thought any responsible Government had to take into account.

It may be that the present Chinese Government has no intention of exercising any of its claims by the use of force, but this is an opinion, and I should have thought that any Government, such as our own or the United States Government or the Indian Government, must take precautions against the possibility that they may wish to use force. I say that even recognising, of course, that their words need not be taken literally.

The Chinese have a phrase for this, as they have for many other situations in life. They are usually expressed in short lapidary phrases, and this is one of four characters. The four characters are "Yo Ming Wu Shih", which, translated in a rather free way, would be "What I say sounds fine, but it need not be taken too seriously". Maybe, but if you are a Government faced with that language, faced with these rather uncertain claims, faced with the fact of the form of Communism which they profess, then I do not think it is surprising that precautions should be taken. And I do not think it at all ill-founded, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne suggested, that there should, as soon as possible, be achieved some line, which the Chinese themselves freely accept.

Having said this may I confess that I, for one, have no new specifics to offer. With respect, I believe that the course followed by Her Majesty's Government has been one of understanding, of reality, and correct. First, the United Nations. I would entirely agree with what so many speakers have already said: that it would be a great advantage to the West if China could become a member of the United Nations. The Americans say—and I think this puts their case more fairly—it is not that they do not recognise China. They claim that they have almost more to do with the Chinese than any other Government. They say that their representative in Warsaw meets regularly with the Chinese representative accredited for the purpose. But what I think your Lordships have in mind is that what is wanted is to get representatives of the Chinese Government to New York, to have them exposed to the whole pressure of world opinion, to meet other people and to get about; and that cannot be achieved (and as a diplomat I say this regretfully) between one diplomat and another in Warsaw. In that I think there would be very little quarrel here. But I think it is also fair to recognise that there might still be difficulties, partly over Formosa, and now apparently because of a Chinese claim that the United Nations resolution condemning China for aggression in Korea should be withdrawn.

In recognising these possible rocks, I think it is well to say that if they are the ones on which the entry of China into the United Nations founders, this will be because of China's choice and not because we have obstructed. It would not be our doing, unless "obstruction" is taken to mean failure to give in to every demand of the other side, no matter whether justified or unjustified. However, I hope that this may be a matter which can be resolved.

The counterpart to this wish to bring China more closely into the comity of nations must be an attempt, also through discussions, to show that claims in areas of uncertainty can only be resisted, and will be resisted, by force. They must recognise that there is a line to be drawn and that there are things which they cannot afford to do, and I think that can become evident only if there is a general interchange. Once again may I say that I think Her Majesty's Government have done everything they can to bring China into discussion about such subjects as Vietnam and disarmament—for without a Chinese acquiescence in a disarmament agreement it is not evident what its value might be.

Then trade. The Chinese attitude to trade has changed, and I believe that nothing but good can come of the efforts made by successive Governments to increase trade with China. It is a matter of record that it was on our initiative that the more exclusive China List was equated to the General List for strategic imports into Communist countries. If that list can be at any time further reduced to those items which are of continuing and direct military importance, then I hope that that will happen. The same may be said of the efforts we have made on the cultural front, and I hope the Government will do what they can to further these efforts. I think the Royal Society has made successful attempts to see that these methods of communication between our countries remain open, which is all to the good.

So may I say again, in summing up, that the attitude of Her Majesty's Government has been realistic in the setting in which at the beginning I tried to sketch in historic terms. Simply stated. it is to develop a policy of "live and let live". As other speakers have said, I do not think this will be easy. Resentments of 150 years will not go quickly. The Chinese Government, as at present constituted, grew up under the impact, as they felt it to be, of unequal treaties. But with persistence, and so long as it is clear that there are certain things which it would be dangerous for them to press by force, and so long as we are ready to discuss these matters and try to promote discussion wherever possible, I should hope that, if not in our lifetime, at one time or another, it will be possible to develop with success this policy of "living and letting live".

6.9 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by warmly congratulating my noble friend Lord King-Hall on his excellent maiden speech? I do not think I ever had the privilege of serving with him in the Navy, but his name was as well known in the Service as it has been since in all kinds of public work that he has carried out. We are very pleased to have him here, and we hope that we shall hear from him on many occasions.

The terms of the Motion appear to let me in for a brief intervention, although I make no claim whatever to have any special knowledge of Mao Tse-tung's China; nor do I feel that I have any right to discuss the general strategic situation which has been so fully discussed today by many experts. The China that I knew belonged to the end of the Manchu Dynasty and it happened that I found myself at Hankow, 600 miles up the Yangtse from Shanghai, when the first shots of the Revolution in October, 1911, were fired; and I was landed from my small ship with a small posse of sailors in order to help defend the British concession. There followed, as we all know, the China of Sun Yat Sen, the China of Yuan Shih-Kai, the China of Chiang Kai-shek. To me it is difficult and horrible to think of China to-day under Communist rule—those happy, smiling, gentle, courteous faces, contentedly working their water buffaloes in the paddy fields, brought up on love of the family, on ancestor worship, uncomplaining in the face very often of extreme poverty, facing famine and floods and other disasters with their usual courage and stoicism.

Then in 1937 came the Japanese onslaught, and for four years they fought alone under their Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, that great patriot who through countless vicissitudes kept the flag flying without any assistance from this country whose hands at that time were full with Germany and Italy. Then in 1942, as my noble friend Lord Dundee has already told your Lordships, four of us were sent out to explain the situation to General Chiang Kai-shek and how it was we were unable to help them or give them any real assistance until our hands were free. All I should like to do before I sit down is to pay my humble tribute to that great man Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his gracious and valiant lady for their wonderful achievement in building up and maintaining that stronghold of resistance to the red scourge, the Island of Formosa, and to tell them that their great kindness and hospitality to that Parliamentary delegation has not been forgotten and will ever remain green in our memory.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, we have all listened with alert ears to what the speakers in this valuable debate have so far had to say. We have listened with more than usual interest to a very good maiden speech, and if I as a tyro in this House may add my congratulations, I do so. What have we learned? What conclusions or generalisations or predictions shall we be going away with? Simply, what are the Chinese doing now and what do they plan to do, and why? Can we honestly answer such questions? I do not think we can. And yet I feel I want to try. I want to find answers to them because I believe that China's role in the world's future will always be more important than people are prepared to accept. But I believe too that only if we go on trying and trying shall we get closer to answering those questions. What is China? The overwhelming fact is, of course, that it is a country whose population will exceed 1,000 million before the end of the century. Other figures can be forgotten; this one cannot. And I will let it stand by itself as a fact that must colour everything we say or think about China.

As I see it—it sounds original to say "as I see it", but in fact the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, has outlined it before—there are these two ways of interpreting China's activities on its borders and out in the world. The first is what I would call the optimistic interpretation: that China's actions can be regarded as those of a proud country reasserting itself in areas of former suzerainty. There is historical argument to support this. China up to the middle of the 19th century regarded itself as the centre of the world. The name itself comes from Jung Wa, meaning Central Kingdom—a central kingdom whose relations with its neighbours was one of tribute rather than diplomacy. In this light China in, say, Tibet, or even Vietnam, is reviving a dominance, a hegemony that it justifies to itself. In this light, too, once such ambitions are satisfied China would cease to be an expansionist force.

Came the mid 19th century, China was exposed to the other world Powers. It is fascinating to trace the sequence of reactions this mighty nation showed as a result of such exposure. First a simple rejection of technology together with the belief that her, China's, philosophies were superior to those of any other Power. Second came the selective adoption of certain techniques; and third the wholesale adoption—a factor that led directly to the movement of large numbers of Chinese to other countries—exchanging ideas, learning. Now from these reactions and from the events at the time one important element emerges. It is that China felt itself, and often was, humiliated. At this point I want to make a generalisation. It is that the Chinese have never forgotten these humiliations, and that in the context of the present day any move which the Chinese regard as a comparable humiliation will result in a less accessible China.

I spoke of the optimistic interpretation of China's actions. The other, pessimistic, simply views China as an expansionist Communist Power ideologically committed to revolution. This is, I admit, an apparently simpler case to support. Yet since 1956 China has compromised its ideology by associating itself with events in Algeria, Egypt and Indonesia, which did not automatically result in a Communist régime. And already we are in very deep water indeed. We cannot say whether these were, in China's eyes, just steps towards a goal or the goal itself. The recent moves in Indonesia suggest that they are the former, that exploiting discontent up to revolution is simply a first stage in the path to Communism, a path planned in detail. But the typical paradox in thinking or speaking about China is that even this gives weight to the other, the optimistic, interpretation of China's actions.

Since the 1950s there has been a continuing debate inside China weighing the merits of alternative political techniques. One is that things are achieved by the patient application of proved methods; the other is that those same things can be achieved with fewer resources simply by surges of mass enthusiasm. I believe the two systems are referred to in China as "Expert" and "Red". Up till now "Red" has dominated because it is closest in ideology to Mao Tse-tung's own thinking. And when we look at China's performance outside her borders I think we can see this principle failing when used in external context. But there is one example where the other, the slow, calculated approach is being used. It is an example where I had direct experience of China wooing a country.

If your Lordships will forgive me, I will sketch in the methods I saw being used in Nepal about three years ago. I was lucky enough to be in that country without any official interference, walking from village to village with a few friends, living among the people and being taken into their confidence. The first thing that struck us was the hyper-awareness of every soul we met—their awareness of China. People talked of the roads that the world did not know about, roads cut through Tibet at terrible sacrifice, roads that ended at the border with massed lorries waiting for they did not know what; of prepared transit sites. These were the things people talked about. And certainly the Gurkha elements in Nepal are implacably hostile to China, and have sworn to resist an armed advance to the last man, and claim they could hold up such an advance for more than a year.

Of course, this was just one side of the coin. The other was the villages in which the central intellectual figure would be a man who had simply appeared a year or two previously, a man whose sole occupation was talking to the villagers, leading discussions, taking a prominent part in village life. Through individuals like these, young men in the villages would get invitations to Peking, pro-Mao literature would be available to the village school, and the whole operation sensitively, delicately handled. Perhaps I am wrong to place so much emphasis on these activities. But I was deeply moved by looking at the Himalayas circling the horizon of the North Indian plain, and realising just what it implied if these great rock battlements were in unknown hands. Sometimes it needs some powerful, memorable image, like that one was, to put political theorising into its true perspective. Whatever motives we might give the Chinese, I can only too well understand how tempting it would be to want control of Nepal, and from the most impregnable natural fortress in the world to look out upon all of Asia.

One of the complications of talking about China is that nothing in what it does or says can be isolated. China wants "great Power" status. China wants leadership of the Communist world. I submit that everything we know of China carries traces of these. We can, for instance, regard most of their public statements of foreign policy as being filtered through levels of meaning: one level using America as a convenient bogey and rallying point for home use; one level which is carrying the Communist leadership message, and the level of extreme caution. Caution seems to be a fundamental part of Chinese leadership. But I take it upon myself to mention it again because it seems to run through everything that China does. I think we can see why, when we remember that a large proportion of China's leaders on this level were on the "long march"—a campaign where caution was often the only course for survival. But these men are old. When they are replaced it could be by men who do not share this caution.

China has always been intensely nationalistic. This nationalism is developing, even now, into one of the world's most potent forces. China's new leaders will have its measure. And why should they hesitate to use it? Certainly, China is still technically an impoverished society. But with the united wills of nearly 1,000 million people there is little that could not be achieved. It is too simple, is it not, to pin down our mistakes retrospectively? Bolting the stable door after the horses have escaped in Vietnam, in Cuba, in the Dominican Republic, in China itself. But we have got one stable left—this chance to wipe out old humiliations. I mean, of course, the inclusion of China to the United Nations. History always simplifies. History will laugh at us for this being delayed as long as it has, and will pity us if it is delayed longer.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to speak quite briefly because I think there is one thing which might usefully be said from this Bench. The Church's communications with China are limited, and it is not easy for us to get reliable information, so many of our missionaries have been turned out. Nevertheless, we do have some. And when I asked one who was associated with China not long ago, "How do you explain China?" the answer was, "Well, it is not just in terms of economic un-development; not just in terms of national character or methods of Communist Government; not just not in terms of conflict with the United States or with the Soviet Union, though all of those things come into it. No; if you want to explain China, you must think, first and foremost, of a country which is being carried on by a dynamic new Puritanism created by the teachings of Mao." In fact, I remember reading an article quite recently, that was headed in this way, "Maoism—China's secular religion. A twentieth-century experiment in Puritan ethics."

In order to prepare for this debate, I spent some time last night with a teacher who had just returned from China. He was not a Communist, but he took an objective, tolerant view towards what is happening and, deeply impressed by what is happening, said, "That exactly hits it on the head. This has been my experience, and here is a country which is being carried along by this dynamic of a Puritan revolution". One illustration of it is the sort of film which is being shown in China at the moment and to school children and to universities. It is called, The Life of Lee Feng. He was the son of peasants who died of hunger in order that this boy should live. A little later on he went to gather wood on the estate of a rich man who tried to cut off his hands, and the scars still remain. Then he joined the Red Army. From the Red Army he decided he was going to devote his life to serve the people. This is what is so strongly emphasised in the film, this life of service. He kept practically no money. He gave his wages to the victims of floods and other disasters, and to women who were going to have children, and so on, and whenever he passed work sites on his way back from his own work he would help.

One can laugh at all this surge and say, "This is the Boy Scout Movement the wrong way round"; but it is quite meaningful to these people who see it. Here is the story of an ordinary person who devoted his energies to the cause of collectivity. This is the summing-up of this film, because Lee Feng died when he was quite young: life is short, but the possibilities of serving the people are great. That is why I listened with much sympathy and interest to what the noble Baroness was saying earlier in this debate. The things upon which she touched were aspects which are being emphasised in this film and in other teachings and illustrations that are being broadcast throughout China, and are believed with intense conviction. It is not just the youth who are concerned; it is also the factories and the professions. You have got a situation, so I was told yesterday—and I am sure there are many in this House who know it so much better than I do—that the professions now can see that the collectivity of joining in labour is something which is automatically done. I am told that even the politicians do it. Instead of spending all their time in their Parliament, they regard it as part of their nomal duty to join together in manual work or in the fields. And, by 1970, all schools and universities will adopt this half-study programme.

This dynamic Puritanism helps us, I think, to understand the attitude of the Chinese now to what, rightly or wrongly, is called Russian revisionism. There is, as they see it, the reintroduction there of the profit motive. There is the fate in which they believe; and there is the division between labour and intellectuals in Russia, which is the opposite of what is sought in China. So they are extremely suspicious. It is as though a Christian were to be confronted by a church which the Christian thought was really undermining the basic tenets of the Christian faith. And, of course, it is out of enthusiasm for the purity of doctrine that they make all these pronouncements on practically everything—on even the painting of pictures, on the way crops should be planted, about the curricula in schools.

In this situation there is here a country which passionately believes in what it is doing. What is its attitude towards us? I think China is trying to say two things to us. In any case this is what my Church informants told me. They are trying to say that which is a contradiction—namely, "We are afraid of you", and, "We are not afraid of you. We are afraid of you in this way"—and this again is what my teacher friend told me yesterday of what the children are shown in the schools and what are to be put up in open spaces; there are nuclear stations and plants all round China, showing how easy it is for China to be severely, and perhaps fatally, attacked. There are also frequent references to invasions of air space by allegedly American planes and directed missiles. Whether this is true or untrue I have not the least means of knowing, but it is believed and that is the important thing. A generation is growing up which believes that that is what we want to do. That is why they are saying, "We are afraid of you and we have got to resist you".

The other thing they are saying is this, "We are not afraid of you, because we believe we have a way of life which is much better than yours. Do not think we want what you British and Americans have. If you think we want what you regard as civilisation, defend us from it! We are producing something infinitely more worth while which is an example to the rest of the world." We can dismiss this by saying, "This is the last thing we want", but we are dealing with a very large section of the world's population which passionately believes this and believes it with all the enthusiasm of a propagandist and of a missionary.

This is the situation, and how does one cope with it? I do not believe the answer is to look back to the régime of Chiang Kai-shek and the "golden age"—which I should have thought was anything but a golden age. I wholeheartedly agree with what was said about the United Nations and British policy. Surely something more could be done in the way of unofficial exchanges at this stage. I know that some of your Lordships used to have exchanges with Russia twenty or thirty years ago when we were trying to bring about better relations. I believe that those exchanges did a great deal. I am sure that that kind of thing can be done between China and the West by people who really care, who really believe in peaceful coexistence. I hope that a consequence of this debate will be to convince China —for I am sure she will take note of what has been said in this debate—that, although many of us are distressed by some of the things she does and are dismayed by her attitude in some things, yet we extend to her our sympathy and we want to show her our friendship. We believe it is possible for us to live together in peaceful co-existence.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to add to the length of this debate at this hour, but I should like to say one or two words about the economic aspects of relations with China. I believe it can be assumed rather too facilely that China is shortly going to be a great economic Power. I do not believe that is so. It took the Russians between 30 and 40 years, from 1920 to 1960, to build up the vast economy they have created. Their progress was interrupted by the war, but, on the other hand, they had very capable people. The Chinese are at least equally capable. They are perhaps, as has been said to-day, among the most capable people in the world, but they start from even further back than the Russians did. So that I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that it is likely to take the Chinese 30 to 40 years, starting from, say, 1950, to build up any comparable economic power, without which one doubts that they can attain the full measure of very-great-power status of which they are capable.

Meanwhile, it is a most serious matter that the Chinese should be applying the doctrine of exploiting the contradictions of the outside world in the way in which Lenin and Stalin laid down in their writings. It is a matter of great concern that a Power even with the economic backing which China has should be beginning to do this. Fortunately it seems to me that the Chinese have considerably overplayed their hand. Diplomatic relations have been broken off with them in country after country, in Africa and elsewhere, because they have given so much offence. It is a good thing that they have suffered this setback. But it is unlikely that people with the sublety and intelligence of the Chinese will always continue to do this. I am sure that we must expect to have a great deal of trouble from them if and when they get into the United Nations. I share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, and other noble Lords, that the Chinese ought to be in the United Nations, because that body ought to be universal. But we should be under no illusions about the amount of trouble we shall have with them.

Fortunately, the Chinese and the Russians seem to be at odds, and I should like to draw attention to the possible economic factors behind that. The Russians have for years been developing their Far East into a very rich economic territory, but the difficulty about it is that it is the coldest part of the earth's surface and it is hard to get people to work there. The Czars tried to send people there as a penal settlement, and the Communists continued that policy; but it was not very successful because people undergoing penal servitude do not work very readily. Then they have tried paying people extra amounts to go there, and that has yielded some results. But basically the thing has to be done with machines, because Europeans do not seem to like the far North-East very much. The necessity for machines explains the extraordinary pressure on oil tanker wagons on the Trans-Siberian Railway and the building of pipelines and other measures with which we have become familiar. But that great open space could well be filled by Chinese people, and one wonders whether perhaps this demographic pres- sure from the South explains a good many of the frontier incidents of which the Russians have complained, and the general deterioration of relations between Russia and China. So that it seems to me there are perhaps more than plain ideological differences between the Russians and the Chinese which are likely to affect their relations.

We have heard that the Chinese do not seem to be afraid of war, but hitherto the Chinese have not had much to lose. I foresee that as they build up their industries—and inevitably they will build them up—they will have more and more to lose, and will become more and more reluctant to face the tremendous risk of war. Therefore in the long run I do not think we need to be pessimistic about relations with China. In the long run, by the time they have become powerful enough to be dangerous, they will also have become vulnerable enough to be cautious. Therefore, I hope that in the very long run we do not have to be too pessimistic. The real trouble is the short and the middle run. There I believe we have to be careful. I sympathise a great deal with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, that if we create a vacuum in South-East Asia somebody else is sure to flow into it, and it is quite likely to be the Chinese. That, I believe, is a very good reason for maintaining our power, and the power of the Commonwealth and of the Americans, in that area not in order to dominate it, but in order to work with its inhabitants to protect it and encourage it to protect itself.

I believe that, in spite of the difficulties of our economic situation, we have to envisage sensible policies of aid to those countries. We have done a great deal in that area. We have encouraged others, also, by the Colombo Plan and other measures, to do the same, and I believe that a very intelligent and forward-looking policy of aid to those countries is very necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, mentioned the difficulty which there is likely to be if and when the question of China's admission to the United Nations becomes more actual; that there will have to be a solution to the problem of Taiwan, or Formosa. It is rather remarkable that Taiwan has become so prosperous that it is among the countries which is considered to be on the point of economic take-off. I do not know whether that analogy with an aeroplane is a good one, but the strides which Taiwan has made are quite remarkable. I hope that, when an agreement has to be made with the Chinese, we shall not have to sacrifice a territory which has done so relatively well.

Then I think we have also to recognise that we must continue to find a place in the Western World for Japan. Japan has done a magnificent job in building up industries—from our point of view perhaps too magnificent a job in building up exports. But there is no doubt that Japan deserves a place in the Western World, and I think that, as she gets more and more industrialised, she will also become a better and better market for British products, if we know how to sell our products there.

Your Lordships may say that this amounts to a policy of containing China, and I believe that in the short and middle run such a policy is indeed necessary. But we should continue, I am sure, to study with the utmost care, and to the best of our ability, what is happening inside China, though it is extremely hard to do.

I was particularly interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, said, because I believe that the social policies of China would repay study, and that they are of very great interest. No doubt we shall have to take all that into account in framing our policy. But I personally get very impatient when I hear some people—notably across the Atlantic—talking as if China can be written off. China certainly cannot be written off, not only because it contains such a vast number of people, but also because it is infallibly going to have a very big economic future in the long run.

I am reminded of the Moscow story about the man who received a questionnaire from the police, the last question of which asked, "What is your attitude to the Communist Party?" He wrote in his reply with sacrilegious impertinence, "The same as my attitude to my wife". In due course, the police sent for him and said, "Well, comrade, we are not accustomed to being answered in riddles. What does this mean?" So the man said, "It is awful, but I have to live with her". That is the attitude which we shall undoubtedly have to adopt to Communist China.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Kennet set a very high standard when he started this debate, by giving us the benefit of the very great deal of thought and knowledge which he has acquired, even if He has acquired it without an actual visit to China—and here I must differ from my noble friend Lady Summerskill; I do not think that that necessarily makes him any less of an expert on the subject—and he presented it with such clarity that it was very easy for all of us to follow him.

Those who came after him lived up to that high standard, and it is not merely a matter of formal words when I say how very happy I was to hear the maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall, delivered in such a delightful way and with so much sound common sense and understanding of these problems.

I think it is better, rather than to try to deal individually with the different points raised, if I divide this subject of China—a wide subject, as many noble Lords have pointed out—into two main headings: the internal policies of China and her external policies. First of all, there are the internal policies which she has tried to follow. I am here in complete agreement with my noble friend Lady Summerskill in giving the highest praise to the social advances which undoubtedly have taken place in China during these last years. It is undoubtedly a magnificent achievement, and I think many of us could learn a great deal from it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark was most helpful in his short contribution, when he spoke of the dynamic new Puritanism and the sense of service which there undoubtedly is in China to-day. But that should not blind us, of course, to the fact that, in spite of their belief—as we all believe, in fact, in the Western world, too—that welfare is better than warfare, they do have a standing army of something in the neighbourhood of 2½ million men and a militia, which is largely under arms, of over 10 million men; that they have spent a very considerable proportion of their scarce resources, not only in developing peaceful benefits for their population, but in developing nuclear weapons also. So they do not stand in a white sheet when it comes to the use of their resources solely for peaceful purposes.

We must also not close our eyes to the fact that there have been, and still are, very many instances of abominable cruelty, oppression and suppression of liberty, which for us in this country is something entirely unheard of and which we find it hard to comprehend. In our admiration for the advances they have made we must not forget this other side of the picture. But, again, as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, pointed out, the former state of China, in the older days, was in itself a bad one; one of poverty and oppression and hardships probably far greater than are experienced to-day.

I mention those points only so that one should not get the idea that now that China is a Communist country all is well, or that, because we know that there are certain cruelties and oppressions, all must be ill. There is, as in every other country, a mixture of good and bad. My own guess, although I have never been there (but I have read and studied a certain amount about it), is that in general the life of the ordinary person in China to-day is probably slowly improving over what it was in the past. And we sincerely hope that this will go on, because we wish China well. We wish their economic progress to advance far more rapidly than it has done before, and we hope that, as the economic progress advances, so will personal freedom and the liberty of the individual in China advance also. There is, I believe, room for a thousand flowers to bloom in the Chinese garden, not only in the intellectual garden but in all other gardens, too; and, in particular, in the garden of the ordinary man and woman in China.

It is because of this desire to see China advance economically and to advance towards further freedoms, too, that we cooperate with China in economic and cultural matters—and I was very glad to hear almost every speaker in this debate advocate that this is what our policy should be. We believe that it is not only in their interest, but in ours also, that their economic progress should be accelerated; and we do what we can to help. There was, as your Lordships know, the Trade Fair in 1964, which my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade attended. Following upon that Trade Fair, and possibly (and I hope) as a result of it, there has been a very gratifying increase in our exports to China. They went up, in fact, by some 44 per cent, in 1965 compared to 1964, and there was a very nearly corresponding increase of exports from China to ourselves. That is all to the good. The only restriction which we place on trade, as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, reminded us, is for items of strategic importance. Otherwise, we do all that we can to encourage trade in itself and to encourage visits by British businessmen to China and Chinese trade missions to this country.

We adopt the same attitude on the cultural side. As the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, and the right reverend Prelate both advocated, we want to see a far greater interchange between China and ourselves, not only of politicians and of businessmen but of students, of intellectuals in the wider sense of the word, and of ordinary tourists, also. Of course, there are many difficulties in the way. Cost is a very great factor. It costs a very great deal of money to travel between here and China. Language is another difficulty. There are very few young English people, or even older English students, research workers and professors, who can speak Chinese, and that is naturally a great handicap in going there. But there are at the present time some fifty Chinese students in this country, and there is also a smaller number of British teachers now in China. We certainly should like to see a very great growth in two-way exchanges; and we not only put no impediments in the way, but actively do what we can to encourage them.

On the more domestic side, we have a Chinese Mission in London, just as we have a British Mission in Peking. Unfortunately, we do not have Ambassadors in either place; we have only Chargés d'Affaires. The reason for that is not for any lack of good will on our part but because, so far, the Chinese have not agreed to the appointment of an Ambassador. I mention these matters to show that, on the economic and cultural side, we believe that we should have closer contacts with China and that they can be only to the benefit of both our countries and the world in general. I share the hope that other noble Lords have expressed—in fact, I would say the belief that other noble Lords have expressed—that, in the long run, this will lead, as it has done in so many other Communist countries, to a far greater tolerance at home, to a lessening of hostility abroad, to a greater understanding of the problems that face other countries, to a greater understanding of their real intentions and to a greater realisation that even though people may have different coloured skins, speak different languages and be brought up in different surroundings, yet basically their desires and ambitions are very much the same; that is to live at peace with their neighbours and to enjoy the good things of this world.

Let me turn now from the internal aspects of China to her external activities. May I say to my noble friend Lady Summerskill right at the outset, for fear that I might forget it later, that there is no substance whatsoever in the Chinese charge that we are allowing Hong Kong, or shall allow Hong Kong, to be used as a base for military aggression by our American friends. We do allow, and we rightly allow, American forces to come for recreation to Hong Kong from time to time, but that is a very different matter indeed from allowing it to be used as a base for aggression.

Many noble Lords have pointed out that over the years the Chinese have used very harsh words in their descriptions of and their attitudes towards foreign countries, principally towards the United States and towards the Soviet Union. There is no need for me to quote or re-quote to your Lordships any of those sayings; but it is worth remembering that in spite of the words they have used—not only harsh but truculent and belligerent words—they have so far acted with prudence. They have shown, I am happy to say, determination to avoid any direct military confrontation with the United States or with the Soviet Union—and similarly, of course, so has the United States with regard to China. But in certain places—and it is only right to point this out—they have shown something more than aggression by words. They have, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, reminded us, actually committed an aggressive act in Tibet, and a very successful and a very bloody one. They have attempted the same thing in India, but fortunately with- out success—though it is significant, perhaps, that they have not gone further South, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, also pointed out.

But we must remember—and here again I am in agreement, as I was with almost everything he said, with my noble friend Lord Kennet—that they are, or give the appearance of being, dead scared. The right reverend Prelate made that point, also. One of the frightening things about somebody being afraid of you is that when he is really afraid he may become very dangerous. So we cannot simply sit back and say that because they have used loud words but done nothing about it we have nothing to fear at all. We must always be prepared for those words to be translated into action.

Now over the past years China has made many experiments in foreign countries; and almost without exception they have been unsuccessful experiments. She has been looking increasingly overseas in an attempt to extend her influence, and it is interesting to see, when one looks at it, that she has had a long succession of failures. There has been the breach with the Soviet Union and increasingly strained relations with many of the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. In addition to that, there have been the failures in Africa. China has made very great efforts in the past two years to win friends and influence people throughout the whole of the continent of Africa. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, asked me about Zanzibar and Kenya. I do not know exactly the extent to which China is active in any of those countries; but I would be surprised if, having made an attempt in the past, and that attempt having failed, it would give up entirely. Even if it has failed at the moment, I do not believe that this will be permanent.

It is worth remembering that both the Central African Republic and Dahomey have broken off relations with China. This is a mark of China's failure to get a foothold in that very important continent. They have also suffered a great loss of prestige following upon the failure of the Afro-Asian Conference, which was to have taken place in Algiers. Following on that, relations with Indonesia have become strained. Perhaps that is rather a mild expression for some of the exchanges which have been going on between Djakarta and Peking. And of course they tried and failed to make any capital out of Kashmir. Finally (and other noble Lords mentioned this, too), there has been the curious incident of Cuba, where only a few days ago Dr. Castro actually spoke of the Chinese in the following terms. He said that: the Chinese Government carried out a criminal act of economic aggression against our country. So if I were the gentleman in Peking who is responsible for Chinese overseas policy in any of those spheres, I should be feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the present time. But the question still remains, as the noble Lord, Lord Bird-wood, put it: should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future plans of China? The answer is that we should be neither. Clearly, we must not be complacent. We must just not say: "These are only paper tigers; they talk but they mean nothing. Everything they try to do they fail. We need not bother about their internal fears." That would be unwise. It would be even more unwise for us to panic now and say: "Here is a great nation, with a quarter of the world's population now in possession of nuclear weapons, full of aggressive intentions and giving full warning of what it is going to do. We must be prepared in the next few years for a major explosion" That, I think, would clearly be wrong.

Our policy must be basically one of containment. We have no aggressive intentions against China, and I am sure that none of our allies has them either. But we have a very firm determination to protect any countries, and especially both the smaller and larger neighbouring countries which are China's neighbours, against any form of aggression or any threat that may come to them from China. I think it is worth pointing out here that although it is very understandable that China may want to surround herself with a series of buffer States, as many countries do, the danger is that a Communist buffer State does not remain a genuine buffer; it becomes a Communist State itself. Then the Communist area is extended, and further buffers are needed to protect that. That is why we are very firm in our determination not to allow any further extension of Chinese influence beyond her present boundaries.

As an example, if one were needed, we immediately despatched aid to India in 1962 when she was threatened by China. We also have undertakings under SEATO, and various other alliances in that part of the world—as, for instance, our Malaysian defence agreement. All of these were designed in no way aggressively; but they serve to contain China within her present very large boundaries.

My Lords, there is one further thing that I should like to say on this. We have no desire, or intention, to destroy Communism in China. That is no part of our plan. Our quarrel is not with Chinese Communism. In so far as we have a quarrel with China, it is with China's imperialistic and aggressive actions outside her own boundaries. We believe, with all other noble Lords, that the right way in which we can fight and mitigate this danger is by China becoming a member of the United Nations. I will not rehearse the logic of it. It has often been done and is known to all of us. All sides of the House during this debate have agreed that that is what should be done. We have done already, and shall go on doing, all in our power to bring the United States to our way of thinking, and I very much hope that the unanimity which has been shown in this House this afternoon will not be without effect upon them; because, clearly, until China comes into this organisation of the independent countries of the world, there can never be any peaceful settlement of all the manifold disputes and problems which arise continuously.

To sum up, our intentions against China are in no way aggressive. We will resist their imperialistic ambitions wherever they may appear. But on the internal side, so far as their own country is concerned, as long as they stay within then-own boundaries we shall do all we can to help them in their economic and cultural progress. The more contact we can have in that way, and the more we can work together, the greater, I hope, will be the chances of our avoiding future catastrophe.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, in thanking all noble Lords who came to speak in this debate in the usual way, let me first say what a great pleasure it was—as it must be to any person who loves his country—and what a great surprise it was, to find a very large measure of agreement between noble Lords in all parts about what sort of an animal China is and in what sort of a way we should treat her. It has been a most interesting debate. If I may take five minutes of your Lordships' time to pick up various points that have been made, it was especially good to learn from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, that he shared the opinion which I put forward, and which was later confirmed by my noble friend Lord Walston, that the Chinese are not on the up-and-up in the world, but rather on the down-and-down; that they are not doing well; and that we are not in any immediate danger of having to revise everything in order to contain them.

I also add my felicitations to those of all other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord King-Hall, on his maiden speech. It was an excellent one. I am very glad indeed that we have that lucid, bass voice amongst us. I have listened to it with so much pleasure and instruction in other fora for many years. I should like to assure my noble friend, Lady Summerskill that my story about the schoolgirl picking up leaves with a pin was not a story about penury or degradation or backwardness: it was, on the other hand, a story about the proper frugality of a very highly civilised people living in very great density. This was the point I meant to make.

One of the great charms of the House of Lords is the fact that people say so many surprising things and one wonders, "How on earth can he know that", only to find that the answer is "Because he"—the man concerned—"was in the class I taught at school". We had a splendid example with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, this afternoon, when he said that, had the Chinese wanted to seize Rangoon, and get for themselves a port on the Indian Ocean, and so transform the world in their favour, the Burmese Army could not have stopped them. How did he know that? It was because he had trained the Burmese Army. There are delightful obscure bits of knowledge that crop up. I thought that that observation of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, was a significant one. It was not generally known. It confirms the general line I have been taking this afternoon as have many other noble Lords.

May I make what is rather a scholastic precision with the noble Lord, Lord Caccia. He said that it is only an opinion that the Chinese have no intention of exercising their claims by force, so that we must continue to take precautions in case they do so. But the opinion to which he referred is one that I do not share. I think it is quite likely that the Chinese have the intention of exercising territorial claims by force. My opinion is that they do not have the intention of imposing by force domination on a country over which they have no territorial claims. This is the point. I mean Burma and Thailand, and so on, not little bits of frontier.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, if we think in terms of Russia, it will not be just little bits of their frontiers.


But the distinction I want to make is between contested frontier areas, however deep they may be —and, after all, Tibet was of enormous depth—and those on which the Chinese make no claim. In my opinion, in those places we may not expect Chinese aggression.

With 99.9 per cent, of what my noble friend Lord Walston said I heartily agree, and I am delighted that Government policy is as he outlined it. My 0.1 per cent, of disagreement with my noble friend was when he said that we must not allow any further extension of Chinese influence outside her present boundaries. I fear that if we try to stop that we are going to have a hard time of it. If my noble friend had said "domination" or "hegemony", instead of influence, then I should have agreed 100 per cent, with him. I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government could look once again at the difference between influence and domination? We say that the United States has great influence in Latin America and that we have influence in Africa—but we do not dominate.


My Lords, I think I can persuade the noble Lord to have 100 per cent, agreement with me. It was a misuse of words. "Domination" is the correct one. Influence we clearly cannot control.


My Lords, I am delighted to be 100 per cent, behind my noble friend.

Lastly, how striking it was that all noble Lords who mentioned the matter—and most of them did—agree that if China is facing in any direction with hostile intent, if China is likely to expand and seek increased influence or domination or whatever it may be, it is not South or East, but North and West! This, I think, is a crucial point, which is better understood in this country than in some others. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.