Why Chinese do what they do?
This is a common question in the TV studios, these days. I narrated the following incident in one such discussion, yesterday.
The two city-states of Athens and Sparta, of the ancient Greece, were at war with one another, for decades. Both of them were ruled by different set of rulers. During 416 BC, Athens laid a siege on Melos, a tiny island, around 100 Kms to the east of Greece. Though the Melians had ancestral ties to Sparta, they chose to remain neutral in the war between the rulers of Athens and Sparta. This was not acceptable to Athenian rulers; hence, they invaded the Melos Island. Athens was a predatory power and was determined to decimate whatever came in their way.
Men from the Melos made umpteen efforts to salvage the situation, Athenians paid no heed to their claims and requests. Ultimately, Athenians executed their men and enslaved their women and children. In the ensuing dialogue between Athens and Melos, Athenians justified their brutality simply because they could and stated brazenly: We both alike know that into the discussion of human affairs the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”
This Melian Dialogue amply describes the limited role of ethics, morality and personal interests in international affairs. Simply put, might makes right!
There are three types of countries, the world over. First, which are capable, but matured. Second, capable but immature. Third, incapable and immature. India, China and Pakistan fall in one of these categories.
After the 1962 Indo-China conflict, Henry Kissinger and President Nixon are believed to have casually asked Mao as to why he attacked India. To this, Mao is believed to have said, “Because, I wanted to teach Nehru a lesson.” His problem was not the McMahon Line, but that Nehru was getting too ‘cocky.’
If we can put slightly differently what Winston Churchill had remarked once about Russia, “China is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
China was an enigma then, it is an enigma now and enigma for the future: An eternal enigma.