Appeasement in an international context is a diplomatic policy of making political, material, or territorial concessions to an aggressive power in order to avoid conflict. The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the UK governments of Prime Ministers Ramsay MacDonald (in office: 1929–1935), Stanley Baldwin (in office: 1935–1937) and (most notably) Neville Chamberlain (in office: 1937–1940) towards Nazi Germany (from 1933) and Fascist Italy (established in 1922) between 1935 and 1939. Under British pressure, appeasement of Nazism and Fascism also played a role in French foreign policy of the period, but was always much less popular than in the United Kingdom.
At the beginning of the 1930s, appeasing concessions were widely seen as desirable—due to the anti-war reaction to the trauma of World War I (1914–1918), second thoughts about the perceived vindictive treatment by some of Germany in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and a perception that fascism was a useful form of anti-communism. However, by the time of the Munich Pact—concluded on 30 September 1938 between Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy—the policy was opposed by the Labour Party, by a few Conservative dissenters such as future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War Duff Cooper, and future Prime Minister Anthony Eden. Appeasement was strongly supported by the British upper class, including royalty, big business (based in the City of London), the House of Lords, and media such as the BBC and The Times.
As alarm grew about the rise of fascism in Europe, Chamberlain resorted to attempts at news censorship to control public opinion. He confidently announced after Munich that he had secured "peace for our time".
Academics, politicians, and diplomats have intensely debated the 1930s appeasement policies for more than eighty years. The historians' assessments have ranged from condemnation ("Lesson of Munich") for allowing Hitler's Germany to grow too strong, to the judgment that Germany was so strong that it might well win a war and that postponement of a showdown was in their country's best interests.
Prior to, and following, the Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square, various Western governments have been accused of pursuing a policy of appeasement with China, dating back in some cases over 20 years since the original seizure of Tibet by China. For example in 1992, President Bush's policy of engagement with China led him to veto legislation which linked the continuation of USA trade benefits to improvements in China's human rights and arms control record. Similarly with respect to the actions of Serbia, notably against Bosnia, the USA and European countries were accused of pursuing a policy of appeasement, and a wheedling diplomacy that rewarded nationalist aggression.