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The Far-Eastern Problem
EFORE the defeat of Russia by Ja
pan, before Mr. Homer Lea had presented his fantastic Japanese bogy-man to the American people in his "Valour of Ignorance," there were observers at Washington and elsewhere who believed in the possibility of military aggression by Japan against the United States, and who therefore advocated adequate measures of preparation to guard against sudden attack at vulnerable points. Ever since the making of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which recorded Japan's entry upon the stage of world politics (1895), there have been good reasons to justify the United States in a policy of prudent precaution. The firmness which the Japanese displayed over the Californian schools question; their increasing resentment at the assumption of racial superiority contained in the Asiatic exclusion acts of the Anglo-Saxon races; their growing impatience under the injustice of those acts, incompatible alike with the Monroe Doctrine and America's policy of the open door in China; finally, their own embarrassed finances, and their perception of the rich spoils that lie in America's unprotected wealth-all these things have combined to justify the naval and military authorities at Washington in deploring the sentimental idealism of American public opinion. But their voices. have usually cried to little purpose in the wilderness of Bryanism and humanitarian catchwords.
The reasons for intelligent anticipation
and precautionary measures on the part of the American Government have increased since it has given hostages to fortune by the acquisition of the Philippines, by the fortification of the Panama Canal, and by President Wilson's interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine as applied to anarchy in Mexico. The Magdalena Bay incident, in particular, has served to show that, so far as that national doctrine is concerned, the State Department remains on the alert and public opinion is extremely sensitive. But it has also revealed the fact that the American people is in great measure unaware of its defenseless state, and that the fabric of political life is deeply honeycombed by false sentiment, by impossible doctrines of pacifism, and by that comfortable idealism which, as all history proves, continually misleads the beneficiaries of a period of prosperous commercialism.
Notwithstanding all the evidence of recent history to the contrary, many American professors of pacifism believe in the protective virtue of treaties, in the prevention of war by compulsory arbitration, and in the development of altruistic morality among the nations by peace palaces and an international police. The attitude. and actions of President Wilson in regard to Mexico and the recent diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Berlin concerning the rights of neutrals at sea justify the conclusion that the intellectuals of the United States are even more
firmly established in their pacific Utopia than their brothers of "The Great Illusion" in England. It is clear that there are many among the professors, the parsons, and the big business promoters who believe that Europe, temporarily insane, will eventually forswear for evermore the anachronism of war, embracing once and for all the gospel according to Norman Angell and Andrew Carnegie. They regard it as a mere incident of the question that the wealth of the world will by that time have passed from the European continent to America. The sadder and wiser nations of the Old World are evidently. expected to accept this fact, together with all it implies, and then to proceed to conclude, under American auspices of mediation, a final general agreement for disarmament and peace in perpetuity.
Such, without exaggeration, are the dreams of many humanitarian idealists. But a good deal has happened since the Magdalena Bay incident to cause the American people to take serious reckoning of its position in the world of things as they are. The professors may continue to wander placidly amid their olive-groves, discussing the text of new Hague conventions, extolling the philosophic temperament which is "too proud to fight"; but the message of Armageddon has sunk, and will sink deeper, into the hearts of the people. Altruism, benevolence, the cause of humanity-these will remain American ideals; but unless all the signs mislead us, the American nation has learned the lesson of the strong man armed, and the truth that weakness combined with wealth invites to a breach of the world's peace. The example of England the Unprepared cannot be lost upon the sound common sense of the American people.
At the conclusion of the present struggle, the exhaustion of European nations must leave the United States and Japan relatively much stronger and richer than they were. Both powers will be deeply and directly interested in the arrangement of the conditions under which peace is eventually restored. Japan, as an ally of the Quadruple Entente, and America,
possibly as a mediator, must have a voice in the international conference which will define the future frontiers of Europe and many subsidiary questions. Among these, the rights and interests of the powers in China, and the future of that country as an independent state, present problems which, unless carefully studied in advance, may well create great difficulties and even new casus belli for the powers whose territories border on the Pacific Ocean. The shadow of the far-Eastern question has frequently been darkly cast between the United States and Japan in recent years, and never more ominously than when the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1911) relieved England of the duty of assisting Japan against any nation with which Great Britain might have concluded a treaty of arbitration. But much of the trouble has been due to ignorance: a closer study of the question should serve to reassure public opinion in the United States and to put an end to the suspicious uneasiness which finds expression in the unbalanced writings of a Homer Lea or the diplomatic vagaries of a Philander Knox.
Japanese statecraft, whether displayed in Manchuria, in Magdalena Bay, or in the Marshall Islands, points to a perfectly consistent and legitimate policy, which has only to be rightly appreciated in order to remove all immediate prospect of serious friction between Nippon and Anglo-Saxon peoples. The Japanese, who would not hesitate for a moment to exclude from their country Chinese or other cheap labor, are fully alive to the economic necessity which has compelled America, Canada, and Australia to frame their Asiatic exclusion acts. Beyond all question they recognize the legitimate protective purpose of these acts; what they object to, and very properly, is the implied assumption of the racial and moral superiority of the white races. They are well aware that the objection to Chinese laborers in the Pacific States and to Japanese children in the Californian schools is just as directly due to economic causes as the anti-Semitic movement in Russia. They
know that the Asiatic is excluded not because he would contaminate, but simply because he would devour, the white man in open-labor competition. England, which professes to believe in free trade and unrestricted immigration, can hardly meet the Japanese on this question in the spirit of "frank and full consultation" for which the text of the alliance provides. Frankness must stultify either the British Government or the acts of the dominions overseas. Similarly, with its Monroe Doctrine for America and its open door for Asia, with its professed belief in the right of every human being freely to change his nationality and domicile, the United States is not in a position to discuss the exclusion acts with Japanese statesmen on its accustomed lofty ground of political morality. The Anglo-Saxon's ultimate argument, conceal it as we may, lies in the stern law of self-preservation, backed by force.
Now, if there is one fact which stands out more prominently than any other in the history of the last ten years,—that is, since the conclusion of the Treaty of Portsmouth, it is that Japanese statesmen are prepared to recognize and accept these self-protective activities of the Anglo-Saxon races, provided only that Japan also is allowed to follow her own national instincts of self-preservation on the lines of geographical gravitation dictated by her economic necessities; that is to say, by expansion into China's thinly peopled dependencies of Manchuria and Mongolia. Even a cursory study of the recent history of the far East points clearly to this conclusion. Japan is not prepared to accept the Monroe Doctrine and the Asiatic exclusion acts and at the same time to acquiesce in the traditional policy of the commercial powers, which insists on maintenance of the status quo in China.
It is true that by the terms of the Portsmouth Treaty and other conventions Japan pledged herself to abstain from any encroachments on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China; but her diplomacy, trained in the best European traditions, is unsurpassed in the gentle art of
treaty-making and treaty-breaking. It has learned to a nicety the time and place for "extra-textual interpretations" and the conclusive value of the fait accompli. As far as China is concerned, the protective clauses of the Portsmouth Treaty, greeted with intense satisfaction in America, were never likely to be effective in Manchuria even had Russia and Japan remained on guard against each other in their respective spheres. Those who hoped and believed that China, in accordance with that treaty, would be allowed to develop the resources of this fertile region without interference and for her own benefit knew little of the imperative necessity which had compelled Japan to fight Russia for Port Arthur. The same necessity led her, immediately after the conclusion of the Portsmouth Treaty, to come to terms with Russia for a division of the spoil under conditions which virtually insured the benevolent acquiescence of England and France. Upon the conclusion of this pact of spoliation, diplomatically known as an entente, the Portsmouth Treaty became a dead letter; it had never been more than a time-and-face-saving device.
The results were many and important. Not only was China not permitted to develop her commerce in Manchuria by the extension of her northern railways, not only did Russia and Japan separately and jointly veto the construction by English and American capitalists of the ChinchouAigun trunk-line; but they went much further, asserting and extending their special rights and interests over China's loosely held dependency of Mongolia, forbidding its colonization by Chinese subjects, and establishing their usual trading and mining monopolies. By the end of 1910, China's sovereignty throughout all the region north of the Great Wall was evidently doomed. Mr. Secretary Knox, under the direction of American financiers, made spasmodic, but futile, attempts to prevent the inevitable, by his scheme for the neutralization of Manchurian railways, by forlorn excursions into dollar diplomacy, and by earnest appeals to the open-door pledges of all concerned; their
only result was to draw Russia and Japan more closely together in the bonds of a most profitable pact. In 1910, Korea, whose independence had been solemnly guarantied by Japan and by all the powers, was "persuaded" to sign away the remnants of her sovereignty and become an integral part of the Japanese Empire. The scraps of paper, which were consigned to oblivion by the European and American chancelleries at this passing of the Hermit Kingdom, had ceased to represent either actualities or vital interests. This being so, the forces of geographical gravitation met with no resistance, and the disappearance of an economically unprofitable nation evoked only perfunctory valedictory articles in the press.
Yet the matter was of importance and significance. First, it proved once again that a defenseless people's national independence is never more seriously endangered than when the great powers think fit to guaranty it by solemn treaties. Secondly, it proved the Japanese to be pastmasters in the adroit use of the diplomatic fictions by means of which politicians and governments cloak the brutal realities of the eternal struggle for supremacy and survival. Thirdly, the nicely graduated series of administrative, economic, and political measures whereby Japanese ascendancy led swiftly to the annexation of Korea are extremely instructive, if only because the procedure adopted "in a spirit of pure friendship for the Koreans" at Seul between 1905 and 1910 is now being pursued, mutatis mutandis, at Peking.
This statement may possibly surprise those who have not followed the course of events in the far East since the taking of Kiao-chau by the Anglo-Japanese forces last October. It is none the less true. The demands put forward by the Japanese minister at Peking on the eighteenth of January, 1915, negotiated by him de haut en bas for three months with the Chinese Foreign Office, and finally embodied, with some modifications, in a peremptory ultimatum on the seventh of May, point not only to the rapid disappearance of China's sovereign rights in
Manchuria and Mongolia, but to the assertion of Japanese political and economic ascendancy throughout China proper.
As originally submitted to the terrified Chinese Government, certain of these demands involved concessions of a kind that, had they been allowed, would speedily have given to Japanese officials control over the administrative and military affairs of the provinces. It is characteristic of Japanese (and, for that matter, of British) diplomacy that these vitally important demands, contained under Section 5 of the draft protocol, were not communicated by the Japanese to the British Government in the same way as the rest of the proposed articles, that the fact of their having been presented was officially denied, and that the Chinese Government was repeatedly warned against publishing them or even of disclosing their terms. Nevertheless, the facts were published, and despite the concentration of public interest in the war, a considerable amount of pressure was brought to bear upon the British Foreign Office both in Parliament and outside it. Timely remonstrances were consequently addressed from London to Tokio, with the result that the most arbitrary of these contingent demands were excluded from the Japanese government's final "proposals" of the twenty-sixth of April, and from the demands of the ultimatum of the seventh of May. But it is important to note that they have not been unreservedly withdrawn. They stand on record as having been presented, and Japan merely postpones them for future considerationclearly a case of reculer pour mieux sauter whenever the time and place for jumping shall occur.
The "negotiations" forced upon China by the Japanese Government arose out of the fact that after the fall of Kiao-chau the Foreign Office at Peking had ventured to ask for the withdrawal of the Japanese troops from Chinese neutral territory in Shan-tung, beyond the borders of the leased zone of Tsing-tau. In view of China's declared neutrality, no more natural or legitimate request could have been
made. Yet the Tokio press, with ominous unanimity and alacrity, denounced it as ungrateful and unfriendly, and called upon the Government to proceed swiftly, with a high hand, at Peking. There was certainly nothing of sweet reasonableness or amity about the proceedings of Mr. Hioki at the Chinese capital. His attitude and actions alike proclaimed the hard fact that the forces which had heretofore enabled the Chinese to evade the penalties of their parlous inefficiency were no longer available to protect them, and that Japan would avail herself to the utmost of the opportunities created for her by the war in Europe.
Replying to questions in the House of Commons on the eleventh of March, 1915, Mr. Neil Primrose, under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, made a curiously significant reference to Japan's "contingent" demands. He described them as "an attempt to see what attitude the Chinese Government would take up if Japan formulated certain demands when the war arrives at a conclusion."
Needless to say, there was no word either in the original protocol or during the negotiations to justify this description, but the statement has been gratefully accepted by the Chinese Government as an assurance that the contingent demands will not be renewed until the end of the war. Qui vivra verra. Meanwhile it is important to observe, as an indication of coming events, that in the same statement Mr. Primrose declared: "His Majesty's Government has no objection to the expansion of Japanese interests in China, provided that the expansion in no way inflicts injury upon British interests." It is possible that Japanese predominance, or even a Japanese protectorate in China, if established under commercial and fiscal guarantees broader than those given in the case of Korea, might not be seriously prejudicial to British interests, that is, to British trade. In any case, it could scarcely aggravate the actual condition of affairs in Manchuria, and even in the central Yang-tse provinces, where British enterprise has been persistently hampered
for the last ten years by the all-pervading activities of Japanese financiers and secret agents. But be this as it may, the importance of the Foreign Office statement lies in the fact that it recognizes and accepts in advance the expansion of Japanese interests in China proper. In very similar words Sir Edward Grey had declared in June, 1911, that his Majesty's Government recognized the "special rights and interests" of Russia and Japan in Manchuria and Mongolia. On that occasion the Treaty of Portsmouth went quietly by the board. Mr. Primrose's declaration has now jettisoned the preamble of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Alliance, together with a large and interesting collection of international guarantees for the protection of defenseless China. In other words, British diplomacy has perceived the virtue of necessity and bowed gracefully to the inevitable.
Because of the complete absorption of public interest in the war, and also because the censorship has prevented any discussion of Japanese policy in the British press, it is safe to say that not one Englishman in a hundred, even among those who usually study foreign affairs, knows what has taken place at Peking during the last year. Since the expulsion of the Germans from their beloved Eastern colony, scarcely any attention in England has been directed to the course of events in the far East. The few articles which have appeared, chiefly in the monthly reviews, have been of a nature to suggest intelligent activities on the part of the Japanese press bureau. Nevertheless, the situation deserves serious consideration not only in view of the political and economic consequences of the latest Peking protocol, but because of the latest developments of party politics at Tokio and the policy represented by Count Okuma's cabinet.
In view of the probability that the farEastern question, with many others, will eventually have to be settled at a postbellum international conference, it is evidently desirable that public opinion in England and America should be formed upon accurate knowledge of the main facts