George Will discovers the “yellow peril”

Friday the Washington post published a column by George Will titled “Efforts of Civilized Nations to deter Russia and China Begin to Stack,” praising the efforts of the Biden administration to mobilize the world imperialist powers behind US efforts to dominate Russia and China.

Will praised the decision of Boris Johnson’s government in the UK to send a carrier strike group into Russian-claimed Black Sea waters, which led to Russian planes and ships firing gunfire. warns in an impasse which threatened a military confrontation between two nuclear power. – armed countries.

He also celebrated the joint military exercises of the United States and Japan and the steps taken by Japan towards the recognition of an open military alliance against China, steps that threaten a major war in the Pacific.

“Henry Kissinger said, not without reason, that we are at the foot of a cold war with China,” noted Will, adding, “So it is good to notice how, day after day, in all time zones, civilized nations are taking small but cumulatively substantial measures in word and deed that serve as deterrence.

In a media establishment that constantly glorifies military aggression and demonizes entire nations and peoples, Will’s commentary stands out largely only for the degree of his enthusiasm.

There is, however, something qualitatively new about the use of the word “civilized” to describe the forces mobilized in a military alliance against China and Russia. If these countries which arm themselves against Russia and China are “civilized”, it stands to reason that Russia and China are not “civilized” or, to use a synonym, barbarians.

The fact that Will presents Washington’s imperialist operations as a struggle to defend “civilization” is a deliberate evocation of the ideology of the early age of imperialism preceding the First World War. Then, the insatiable quest of the great capitalist powers for raw materials, markets and enslaved labor was clothed in the ideology of racial superiority and the conquest of “civilized” nations from the “barbarians”.

The most developed of these racial myths was the myth of the “Yellow Peril”, which was used to justify the fragmentation of China during the so-called “Triple Intervention” of 1895 by Germany, France and Russia, and later in the killing suppressing the Boxer Uprising by the eight-nation alliance of Western European powers.

In 1895, the Kaiser commissioned a drawing to popularize the concept, titled “Nations of Europe, defend your faith and your homes!”

Kaiser Wilhelm II used the allegorical lithograph The Peoples of Europe Keep Your Most Sacred Possessions (1895) by Hermann Knackfuss to promote the ideology of the yellow peril as a geopolitical justification for European colonialism in China

In the drawing, “Archangel Michael, a symbol for Germany, stands on a cliff in front of a group of seven women with shields and armor”[1] representing the nations of Europe. Germany would lead the European powers in the fight against the barbarism of the East, represented as a Buddha setting fire to the earth below him.

The image “expressed the monarch’s perception of the imminent danger caused by the yellow race, and it quickly became one of the most infamous political illustrations of the time,” a university survey noted. The design was printed in the New York Times in 1896 and was placed by German Chancellor Bismarck under his Christmas tree.

If Will’s Column were to be depicted as a 19th-century neo-romantic print, the Kaiser’s commissioned image would do the trick, but instead of depicting the Second Reich, the Archangel would replace Washington. Now, too, in Will’s tale, Washington heroically urges the “civilized” world to take up arms against peril in the East.

A German soldier holds a Chinese prisoner awaiting execution by the hair during the Boxer Rebellion.

Of course, the racist ideology of imperialism has not always been presented in lofty neoclassical imagery. Four years after Wilhelm produced his drawing, as German soldiers set out to quell the Boxer Rebellion, Wilhelm’s successor Kaiser Wilhelm II urged his troops to commit war crimes against Chinese civilians:

Whoever falls into your hands will fall under your sword! Just as a thousand years ago the Huns, under their king Attila, made a name for themselves by their ferocity, which tradition still recalls; may the name of Germany be known in China in such a way that no Chinese will ever dare look a German in the eye, even squinting!

As Kaiser Wilhelm sent a copy of his “Yellow Peril” print to Tsar Nicholas II, his successors in the Third Reich would enlarge the group of people racially inferior to the Slavs of Eastern Europe. By implementing the so-called Generalplan Ost – through which “tens of millions of Slavic inhabitants (and Jews) would be killed, either by willful starvation or as a result of forced emigration”. [2]

German soldiers in front of a burning building in Russia

As historian Stephen G. Fritz wrote in his monumental study of Nazi Germany’s war in the East:

Hitler’s conception of Lebensraum had been informed and influenced not only by notions of Social Darwinism, but also by European colonial and imperialist practices of the 19th century. The European rush for the colonies in Africa and Asia had been justified not only by economic necessities, but also by reference to the alleged racial inferiority of the “backward” and “uncivilized” peoples of these continents.

It is in these stinking waters that the Washington post seeks ideas to justify the efforts of US imperialism to militarily and economically surround China and Russia. Column after column in the American press, the iconography of imperialist racism keeps popping up, oozing out of cracks, staining everything it touches and spilling out into the rise of anti-Asian violence on American streets.


[1] Zu, J., & Akira, I. (2006). The “yellow peril” and its influence on Japanese-German relations. In Failure, Nationalism, and Literature: The Making of Modern Chinese Identity, 1895-1937(pp. 80-83). essay, Stanford University Press. [2] Fritz, SG (2015). Ostkrieg: Hitler’s war of extermination in the East. Kentucky University Press.

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