Unequal treaty 不平等条约

I grew up with the term “unequal treaty” of the Qing dynasty. Learned from schools and read from books. But as I’m getting older, I begin to question it.
Crying baby. Loser. Sour grape came to mind. And wondering:
1. If there is a treaty or contract, your either sign and to live with it or walk away from it.
2. If you feel it’s unequal, you re-negotiate it.
Called a treaty you signed ‘unequal’ sounds like very unmanly to me. A self-shaming and self-pity thing.
A British who worked in China for a long time and did well for China, had said ” … is that until she is strong she must accept dictation, palatable or unpalatable.” Get it?
If you want to have an equal treaty, put a good negotiator at the table and a strong country behind him/her. You got to get yourself in shape.

A little story from World War II. The once great Britain was being bombed by the Nazis out of her shell. Hanging on to her deal little life by a thin string. So the combative and often drunk new prime minister Churchill relentless in wheedling, pleading, and coaxing Roosevelt for more support. FDR responded, “If Britain is to survive, we must act.” sounded comforting but nothing was really happening. When finally the 50 aging American destroyers sailed for Britain, the Yankees asked for 99 year leases for the use of military bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and 6 British possessions in the Caribbean. That were a lot for 50 almost useless battle ships. The Brits were resentful. But they did what had to be done, and never called it unequal treaty.

As the war intensified, Britain’s treasury had to borrow money from Belgian government-in-exile in London. Oh my lord. When that was not enough to get them by, the chancellor of the exchequer suggested that every British should relinquish wedding rings and other gold jewelry. The funny thing was, the Americans won’t believe that deep pocket British empire would run out of money. They figured that Brits could just liquidate some of their holdings in the Americas. American Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau told them specifically, to sell blue-chip companies such as Shell Oil, American Viscose, Lever Brothers, and Dunlop Tires to American investors. When the British bulked at such suggestions, most likely at fire-sale prices, hence worried it would impede their country’s postwar economy. Reportedly, Morgenthau snapped, postwar? You need to win the war first. Again, the Brits obliged; did what they have to and never quibble it again. No sound of unequal treaty. Americans were unapologetic at such demands because they wanted to assure their people that they were profiting, they got better deals.

My point here is, beggars can’t be choosers. Every weak party at the table is being take advantage of, even the little Great Britain. And in this case, by their former colony, no less. Very painful indeed. So, please keep in mind that unless you’re equally strong, you don’t have any bargaining power. No matter how excellent your negotiators are. NO NEED  to run around shouting I’ve just signed an unequal treaty. That’s really face losing.

The first unequal treaty was signed in Nanking in 1842. Maybe it’s time we delete the adjective. Be strong, then learn to negotiate.

wenxue city

“不平等条约”一词是我从小就耳闻目睹的. 学校教 书里看. 腐败的清朝和列强签了一个又一个的不平等条约. 但是随着年龄的增长, 我开始觉得这个词语是不合适的,好像在认怂. 在告诉人家俺没种. 我奇怪:
1. 面对一个条约或合同,您可以签字执行或不签,离开.
2. 如果你觉得这条约或合同是不平等的, 你重新谈判.

称你签署的条约或合同“不平等”听起来像是一个失败者或酸葡萄. 小儿科. 等于自我羞耻和自怜. 自卑情怀的极点. 一位在中国工作很长时间,为中国做了很多好事的英国人说: “直到她坚强,中国必须接受指使 … ” 道理说得再明白不过. 如果你想有一个的平等的条约,去争取.

第二次世界大战的小故事. 曾经的日不落帝国被纳粹轰炸的不清不白的, 奄奄一息. 朝夕不保. 所以 新上任经常喝醉的新任总理丘吉尔对罗斯福总统大献殷勤, 恳求加哄罗斯福, 以获得更多的支持.  罗斯福回应说: “如果英国要生存下去,我们必须采取行动.” 但是没有什么具体行动. 当美国的50艘又老又破的驱逐舰去英国时, 美国人要求在纽芬兰有九十九年的军事基地租约 ,百慕大,以及加勒比地区的6个英国财产也包括在内. 很多英国人愤怒不满 但是他们乖乖的签了. 生存紧要.

随着战争的加剧,英国的财政部不得不从比利时流亡在伦敦的政府借钱. 哦, 我的上帝. 大英帝国需要向一个流亡政府借钱. 当这还不够的时候, 英国财政大臣想建议每个英国人放弃结婚戒指捐出其它黄金首饰. 有趣的是, 老祖宗这么捉襟见肘, 美国人竟然不相信. 总觉得这个深口袋的帝国有用不完耗不尽的钱. 美国财政部长 Morgenthau 特地建议他们, 把你们的蓝筹公司 壳牌石油,美国粘胶,杠杆兄弟和邓禄普轮胎等 卖给美国投资者呀. 小英的小算盘是 我 (肯定是廉价) 卖给你, 这会阻碍俺们国家的战后经济呀. 据说,Morgenthau 问: 战后? 你需要先赢取战争. 再次, 小英国人做了他们所需要的. 没有夸张. 没有大叫不平等条约的声音. 美国政府在谈判桌上毫不气的. 公事公办. 因为他们需要向美国人民证明这是一个好交易, 对美国有利的交易. 英国忍辱负重, 委曲求全. 他们在不平等条约上画了甲. 在美国的帮助下, 最终赢得了战争.

我的观点是, 乞丐不能选择. 谈判桌子上的每一弱势边都会被强势边占便宜/利用. 即使是日不落帝国也不过如此.请记住, 除非你同样强大, 否则你没有任何讨价还价的能力. 巧妇难为无米之炊呀. 不需要大喊大叫我刚刚签署了一个不平等的条约. 这真的很没有面子的事. 只有丢人现眼的份.

第一个不平等条约是在1842年在南京签署的. 现在是不是删除这个形容词的时候了? 强盛,然后学习谈判.

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