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The Aftermath in the Far East


NEW chapter opens in the ageold story of the East, the third chapter in the new Book of the East begun with the advent of the West in farther Asia. The first opened in the last years of the eighteenth century, when white men wedged a foothold into the East not as isolated adventurers, but as organized agents of Occidental nationalism. The second opened in the last decade of the nineteenth century, when Japan emerged as a great power by defeating China. The third opened when the Washington conference adjourned.

The temptation is strong to say that this is the most important chapter in all that history. One is restrained only by the thought of how long is the chronicle of the East, how many and vast are the movements there recorded, how the Chinese nation alone has arisen to magnificent heights of empire, and sunk only to rise again and sink yet again. These wars, these tides of social evolution, these cycles that loom so momentous in the white man's brief story, are but episodic by comparison. Nor, looking backward on the march of time with perspective, must one forget that the present submergence of the East-of China in particular as the greatest of Eastern nations may be only a thing of the moment, and that the present mastery of the Western peoples and their civil

ization of steam and steel may be but a fierce, boiling eddy off the placid stream of the race, and that the stream may pass on, as it has immemorially, and the eddy will be remembered only for its short-lived ferocity and the foam it tossed up. We Occidentals are given to gazing too absorbedly at the now.

If therefore it approach hyperbole to talk of this chapter now opening as the most important, it is not exaggerating to say that it may be decisive as to the end of the story, and certainly that it will be plotted on a far greater scale. For these great movements that have made China's story and Japan's and Korea's, the thundering across Asia of Tatar and Mongol and Manchu legions, the rise and fall of the great dynasties and their brief Cæsar's sway

these, after all, have been affairs only of one continent, their influence stretching in and about Asia. So also the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the religious wars, the industrial revolution, have been confined in influence essentially to Europe and then America. What we shall have now is the interplay of all the continents. The West is now inextricably involved in the entanglements of the East, and the tranquil march of the East will henceforth set its rhythm by the West. For better or for worse we have bridged all the oceans and made of future history a unity.

I hope I do not seem by this to dignify the Washington conference beyond its intrinsic importance. That That is furthest from my intention. At this date it is no longer necessary to say that the conference was almost wholly negative in accomplishment. The combination of forces and tangle of interests and survival of old maladjustments and incompleted transitions from one form of civilization to another that make up what is known as the Far-Eastern situation have been affected only indirectly by any of the transactions of the powers at Washington.

That may be regrettable, but it is not surprising. Writing in THE CENTURY MAGAZINE before the opening of the conference, I described the three avenues that might be taken by the representatives of the powers. They could deal in generalities, enunciating formulæ such as had been enunciated before and sedulously ignored: the open door, equality of opportunity, the sovereignty and integrity of China, and so on. They could deal with specific Far-Eastern problems, such as Shan-tung, Manchuria, Siberia, and so on. Or they could lay the foundations of a new morality to govern the relations of the powers one with another in the Far East and toward China. That was the most difficult of the three, since it was intangible, and it was the most improbable, for it demanded that they make a concrete beginning here by undoing so much that had been done under the old morality of exploitation, and sacrificing their own positions of profitable privilege in China. I expressed serious doubt as to whether the powers were coming to Washington in that cast of spirit. They did not. They

dealt in generalities. Nor will these old generalities, newly repeated, have any greater potency in the practical affairs of the Far East than they ever have in practical political affairs anywhere, least of all in those parts of the world inhabited by "natives."

But if the conference was negative in its accomplishments, the very fact of its having been held had momentous positive consequences. It was formal recognition of the new integration of world politics and of the Far East as an immediate, inescapable world problem. It gave that part of the world, so to speak, a status. It buckled it into the world structure not as a dumping-ground for surplus and subordinate imperialist adventurings, but as the keystone, in the sense that John Hay meant, in a different figure, when he said that he who has the key to China will have the mastery of the world in the next few hundred years.

Moreover, there is the limitation of armaments. If the conference had adjourned without doing anything but that, if it had never addressed itself to the Far-Eastern question at all, the reduction of existing navies and suspension of future naval building would have set in motion a train of influences reaching into all political relations in the Far East. In recent years in the Far East every political hypothesis has had to be qualified by the possibility of war between Japan and America. Allowance had to be made for that contingency in every political calculation.

I am not among those who view the conference through rose-colored lenses. I do not believe that war has been made impossible by naval reduction. The war spirit is not so simply analyzed. Not navies alone made the war

peril for Japan and America. There were also concrete disagreements of policy. But naval reduction has materially lessened the likelihood of war. The irritation factor has been canceled out. Emotion has been divested of striking power. War may come, but it will not come from nerves. We shall not fling ourselves into slaughter if some day six or seven American officers are killed by Japanese in Vladivostok, as was Lieutenant Langdon, or half a dozen Japanese immigrants are lynched by a California or Texas mob. Another "Remember the Maine!" is made unlikely. Against the unyielding physical fact that neither power is left with a big enough navy for aggressive purposes, nerves will perforce calm. If we elect to fight, it will be under the compulsion of some cause that appears to be great enough to make war fatally inevitable.

In the same way the hysteria produced by the sight of each new dreadnought launched by one power or the other has been prevented. No student has yet disentangled the psychology of war clearly enough to be able to say whether it is tension that results in competitive arming or competitive arming that results in tension; or, if they are mutually interacting, which is the stronger. That, too, we have canceled out. We have halted the naval race between Japan and America, which had just got under way. I myself do not believe that that race could have continued very long, together with the irreconcilable differences of policy that existed, without bringing conflict. Japan had near completion a naval program that would have brought it almost to a parity with the United States. In the circumstances the United States would have

demanded, and public sentiment supported, another naval program after the completion of the present program next year. Japan, then, would have been compelled either to respond with more ships, thus bringing it to the point of bankruptcy, or to strike within the next five years, when it would have been at its greatest naval strength relative to America. All that we have prevented.

As I say, the possibility of a Japanese-American war modified every political calculation in the Far East. The lessening of that possibility to the point where it may be said to be an improbability in the near future revises all such calculations. Now, a great deal has been heard since the conference to the effect that by its abdication of naval supremacy America has given Japan a free hand in the Far East. That I believe to be nonsense. Neither America nor the conference gave Japan a free hand. It has had that. Geography gives it that.

§ 2

Japan has never had to modify its policy materially out of regard for America's navy. It would not have had to do so in the future, even if we had not been willing to scrap a large part of our fleet. It never would have had to unless and until America built a fleet so overwhelmingly superior to Japan's in tonnage and efficiency as to overweigh the factor of distance. Concretely, what would that involve? If the conference had not been held, Japan would have had in four or five years a navy almost equal to ours. To regain the superiority we have had and an added superiority sufficient to impose our will on Japan either by threat or action, we should have had

to lay down a new fleet of at least twenty post-Jutland dreadnoughts, with auxiliary craft in proportion, and then construct naval bases at Guam and Manila and probably also on the Aleutians, the American islands in the north Pacific, on a scale that would make them the greatest naval bases in the world. At the most conservative estimate that would have cost a billion dollars for the ships alone, and an enormously increased annual outlay for personnel and maintenance. Considering political conditions in America now and the sentiments of the American people with respect to taxation, is there any likelihood that any American Government would hazard such an appropriation or that the people would consent to it? There never was any possibility of an effective check on Japan by military means. The navy America had before the war was of no utility for that. It was too big for defense and not big enough for offense. If we were to be rudimentarily logical, we had either to reduce the existing navy and stop building for the sake of economy-together with Japan, of course or else to build the biggest fleet the world has ever seen. For political and economic reasons we could not do the second. Quite sensibly we did the first.

There has been no abdication in the Far East in favor of Japan by America or any other power. But that Japan is left more secure to proceed on whatever path it chooses is obvious. Liberation from the menace of war with America relieves Japan in more than a humanitarian sense. It has a special political content. The Japanese imperialists, too, have had to count the danger of war with America in their calculations, and make allow

ance therefor. For the next few years they do not need to make such allowance. Certainly, they can appreciably discount their previous allowance. America has restricted its power of challenge. It had no effective military weapon against Japan before the conference, but it had a higher naval potentiality. Aside from the economic weapon, which, incidentally, remains as the most damaging weapon it can use against Japan, and unless there is so material a development of the aërial arm as to make navies negligible, America must fashion a weapon anew if it deems its Far-Eastern policy so essential to existence as to warrant the use of force. By so much has Japan been advantaged from naval reduction. It is a matter of degree only.

Japan has been given moral security much more than a military one. It has got off scot-free. By its acts of omission rather than of commission the conference has given Japan a clean bill of health. Whether the American Government or the European governments so construe the results of the conference is immaterial. They will be so construed in the Far East, which is intimately and directly affected, and so employed, which is all-important. In the Eastern atmosphere, where affairs proceed by indirection and communication is by suggestion, prestige is as potent as physical power. And the intangibles of the conference run all to Japan's favor by enhancement of prestige.

Japan came to the conference in trepidation. It has moved in ill concealed trepidation since the close of the World War. It has never felt any certainty that it would not be called to accounting for its high-handedness during the war, when conditions gave

it freedom of action. To that accounting the Asiatic peoples looked at the close of the war. At the peace conference they looked in vain. But there extenuating circumstances could be pleaded. The Allied powers were bound by pledges they had to give Japan while fighting for existence pledges Japan exacted as the price of its remaining loyal to the Allies. Then came the summons to Washington. Here the powers were unhampered by previous commitments. They were free to arraign Japan and compel indemnification, to redress the balance that had unjustly gone against China and Siberia. They did not. Again the Far-Eastern peoples looked in vain. To them as to the Japanese this has only one signification: that the great powers-America more particularly, since it has talked most valorously either will not or cannot restrain Japan, and which of the two it is, is immaterial. To the Japanese the moral is that they have little to fear from outside interference. To the Chinese it is that they have no external support on which to rely, and that they must either face the inexorable and buy off Japan with as little as they can or fit themselves to withstand Japan by force of arms; that is, follow Japan's earlier example and adopt militarism as a condition of continued existence.

The situation, I know, is not so simple as this. I have already pointed out in these pages that Japan could not be expected, and in fairness should not be expected, to make renunciations while those who have profited much longer from exploitation in China refuse to make renunciations; and that it, too, in self-defense cannot withdraw from the Asiatic continent while Occi

dental powers keep foothold there. But the philosophy of the situation is no consolation to Chinese or Siberians. It does not change the results to them.

§ 3

Nor is it of special moment now to analyze why this came about. Partly, it was because that is the philosophy of history, and there is a special code of morals that governs the conduct of strong nations toward weak ones. There was no atmosphere of renunciation in Washington, not even of repentance. There was much abstract talk of refraining in the future from past practices, but the profits of past practices were always gracefully elided in discussion. England and France held tenaciously to all that they had won in China, in ways however unscrupulous. Japan held even more tenaciously to all that it had grasped in China, in ways even more unscrupulous, and, moreover, has kept unobstructed all the channels through which it can move to grasp more. America, having won nothing, and therefore having nothing to give up, was in an indelicate position from which to preach sacrifice. I am not even sure that it was desirous of doing so. If it had so desired, it was handicapped in accomplishing its aim by weaknesses rooted in the national psychology.

As to the first, there is the instinctive respect that a nation whose highest expression is in production and commerce has in vested interests as such. If you look at the personnel of the present administration or even of the American delegation to the conference, you will understand why the vague and distant aim of creating a new standard for foreign relations would be as nothing to the immediate

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