The “yellow peril” as geopolitical threat

Ross repositions the discourse of “yellow peril” to legitimize the German–Japanese alliance against the Soviet Union.

With his shift into a national-socialist ideological frame, Ross’s take on the “yellow peril” shifts from an economic to a geopolitical threat that structures the German–Japanese alliance against the Soviet Union.  First, Ross adjusts the conceptual location of ‘yellow’ from China and Japan to Mongolia. Europe, he argues, has never been attacked from the north, south, or west, but always from its adjacent East: whether it was the Scythians, Huns, Avars, Tatars or Turks, it was always the same threat, and it always came out of the same space, the Central Asian steppe.

Next, Ross applies a geo-deterministic logic to claim that this threat is generated by the landscape itself. Thus, in a sense, this threat represents a constant: the steppe infuses its inhabitants with a drive to expand and a character marked by underlying aggression (the “Angriffsgeist der Steppe”).

Finally, he uses “blood” as a co-determining factor that allows this aggressiveness to be spread to neighboring populations, most significantly the Russians. Through centuries of Tatar reign, Russians mixed their blood with this Mongolian blood and their spirit with this Mongolian spirit. And now, in Stalin, they have a new “Khan” to lead them into a renewed attempt to achieve worldwide domination. “Skyscrapers, combines, the modernmost factories and other signs of western civilization, and even western culture, disguised the true, ‘inner-Asian’ character of the USSR”.

Similarly, Ross can use this geo-deterministic framework to explain the German alliance with Japan. When the naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach identified the “yellow race” as one of the five races in his famous classification of mankind, Ross argues, he actually meant the Mongolians of the high steppes of inner Asia, and, only by extension, the Chinese. But definitely not the Japanese, whom Ross positions as a Malaysian people who mixed with the (in Ross’s understanding, Caucasian) Ainu. This European link explains why the Japanese have such a strong connection to the Germans, and why they were able to adopt Western science and technology so much easier than other Asian peoples.

American propaganda, Ross argues, has tried to link the Japanese and the Chinese under the sign of the yellow peril. But in actuality Japanese and Europeans, while being very different, share a common location at the periphery of the inner-Asian aggression. Thus they make a logical ally against the Soviet Union, now positioned as the real “yellow peril”.

Kristin Kopp

Colin Ross. “Gelbe Gefahr” oder “Östliche Drohung”. Wille und Macht. 1942 June; 10 (6): 26-29.

Topic: Clash of Continents
Case: Geopolitics

Scroll to page top