January 31, 2018


How a British Historian and Hungarian Writer Predicted the Soviet Fall and China's Rise
In the early 1970s, Arnold Toynbee and George Urban foresaw two of the developments that would shape the 21st century. (Francis P. Sempa, January 27, 2018, The Diplomat)

Urban and Toynbee recognized the "tragedy" of human events, the "fragility" of human institutions, the weaknesses and limitations of humans throughout history.

With that as background, Urban and Toynbee discussed the patterns of history; patterns that Toynbee spent a lifetime studying in his comparisons of civilizations.

Those patterns enabled Toynbee and Urban to suggest growing trouble within the Soviet empire and the possibility of China rising as a formidable world power.

Both sensed that the Eastern European satellites were in the long run "indigestible for Russia." Although dominated for decades by Russian military and political power, they remained "un-Russified" in a cultural sense. In Urban's words, "The Soviet Union's hegemony over Eastern Europe has expressed itself since 1947, in a great many important ways, but none ... has touched the 'soul and life-blood' of the East European nations." A decade after these words were spoken, those same East European nations started the process that led to the unraveling of the Soviet Empire.

Toynbee and Urban then speculated on what would happen in China after Mao's death. They foresaw Chinese "technocrats" opting for fast economic growth and technological advances. Such developments could make China a great power in a short time-span.

Toynbee spoke about the effect of China's humiliation in the Opium War of 1839-1842 -- a humiliation that lasted until the communists took power in 1949. "[I]f you have been humiliated," he explained, "you react by becoming aggressive." He continued: "One feeling in China must be that China must have power in the modern sense." Toynbee suggested that an enlightened Chinese might say to himself, "we have been kicked about by Japanese, by Europeans, by Americans -- everybody -- and our first priority must be to get even with the modern industrialized world."

Posted by at January 31, 2018 3:59 AM