Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
CHINA AT THE CONFERENCE, A REPORT. By Westel W. Willoughby. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1922.
THE SHANTUNG QUESTION, A STUDY IN DIPLOMACY. By Ge-Zay Wood. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1922.
THE WASHINGTON CONFERENCE. By Raymond Leslie Buell. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1922.
AMERICANS IN EASTERN ASIA. By Tyler Dennett. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1922.
THE CHRISTIAN OCCUPATION OF CHINA. Milton T. Stauffer, Editor. Shanghai: China Continuation Committee, 1922.
NOW that the Washington Conference has been over for ten months it is more nearly possible to appraise its results than in the weeks immediately succeeding it. It is true that not all participants at the gathering have acted on the treaties, but discussion and propaganda have partly subsided and we have emerged from the atmosphere of after-dinner speeches. Some of the projects agreed upon at the gathering have been carried out, as, for example, the revision of the Chinese tariff; others are in process of being carried out; and, more important still, on both sides of the Pacific public opinion and to a certain extent governmental policies have had time to become adjusted to the decisions of the Conference. What, then, shall be our estimate of the Conference? How successful has it been in allaying suspicion and in removing the causes of friction between the nations that are chiefly interested in the North Pacific? Has it been a failure, as some would have us believe; has it removed the danger of war between the United States and Japan; or are its achievements to be judged as somewhere between these two extremes?
The Japanese official position seems, on the whole, to be one of satisfaction at what was achieved at Washington. There are, of course, critics. Some of them are moved by genuine fear of the United States and resentment at what they deem her interference in Far Eastern affairs; others are finding fault with what was done, not so much from conviction as from the desire to embarrass the present cabinet; still others are saying little but disapprove of any restraint upon an aggressive policy of territorial expansion. On the whole, however, the articulate portion of the nation seems to feel that the danger of imminent war with the United States has been removed and that Japan was given an opportunity to present her case and was courteously listened to. It is not likely that any virulently anti-American book would now obtain the wide reading that Tokutomi's[i] had on the eve of the Conference. The present government, moreover, seems to be intent on carrying out in good faith the Washington agreements.
Among the Chinese there seems to be general although rather chastened approval. Ge-Zay Wood's book on the Shantung question is in a certain sense a semi-official utterance of the Chinese delegation, for much of the material which he presents was prepared for publicity purposes by the press department of that body. After giving the Chinese view of the controversy, he expresses himself as well satisfied by the decisions at Washington. In his concluding pages he states what in his judgment are the objections to the settlement, and goes on to say:
"There is much to be said for the Shantung Agreement reached at Washington. The very fact that the question was brought to a solution in connection with the Washington Conference was a matter for congratulation. China had thrice refused to negotiate directly with Japan about the restoration of the province; she had little hope of presenting the question to the League of Nations with any success; compelled to fall back upon direct negotiation, she would have great difficulty in winning her points. Now, as collateral to the Washington Conference, she debated the Shantung question with Japan, and settled it much to her satisfaction."
Dr. Willoughby gives a soberly written, well-documented account of the parts of the Conference that had to do with China. As a technical expert attached to the delegation he also reflects the opinion of the Chinese, although not to so great a degree. He, too, feels satisfaction at what was accomplished. His opinion is the more important because he discusses, not the Shantung question alone, as does Mr. Wood, but all phases of the Conference's action on China. Most thoughtful and well-informed Chinese, unless committed to the Southern Government, probably feel with Professor Willoughby that it is a matter for congratulation that:
"Despite the undeniable breakdown of the authority of the Central Government of China; despite the fact that it had been obliged to make default upon certain of its foreign debts; despite the fact that there was in the south of China a political party and political organization which denied, in toto, the legitimacy of the Peking Government itself, China came from the Conference not only without any new administrative or other limitations upon her autonomous powers, but with the formal and unqualified assurance that the Powers would not take advantage of existing conditions to impose any new restraints upon her freedom of action."
In China itself there seems to be far more interest in internal politics than in the outcome of the Conference, and so far it has not, as Mr. Buell believes, increased the hostility of the Chinese towards the Japanese. Anti-Japanese feeling has, indeed, somewhat subsided.
In the United States the tension has undoubtedly been relieved. For at least the time being attention has been somewhat diverted from the Pacific and there are fewer prophecies of an early war with Japan than there were a year and a half ago. On the agreements made at the Conference, however, opinion is sharply divided. Some hail them as a great achievement. Others feel that by the 5-5-3 ratio and the Four-Power Treaty we have given away our case and have left Japan supreme in the Far East, quite beyond the reach of any force that we will be able to bring to bear. These two attitudes are but new expressions of conflicting convictions that are almost as old as our diplomatic relations with Japan and China. Mr. Dennett, in what is quite the most important connected narrative of our relations with the East of Asia before 1900 that has yet appeared, points out that for sixty years or more various policies have been contending for the mastery. One policy emphasizes cooperation with other powers and dependence upon treaties rather than the use of force or the acquisition of territorial outposts and naval bases. Another, while envisaging--at least occasionally--cooperation with other powers, stresses as our chief reliance our fleet and accordingly recommends the building of a large navy and the acquisition and retention of outposts in the Pacific and Asia. Still another policy is that of isolation, of action independent of all other powers. As Mr. Dennett also points out, there has been a remarkable continuity of our policy and we have on the whole trusted to cooperation and treaties rather than to isolation or armed force. This reliance upon agreement was modified by our acquisition of Hawaii and the Philippines, but in the main it has predominated.
In choosing, then, as we did at Washington, to place our chief dependence for fair play and the maintenance of our rights in the East of Asia not upon our fleet but upon friendly cooperation with other interested powers, upon treaties, persuasion, the force of public opinion and the good faith of governments, we have been true to what has been the dominant note in our relations with the East of Asia. It is probable that a majority of well-informed Americans are content with this position, although it may later prove significant that so many are not. Mr. Buell's is the most comprehensive account of the Conference that has yet appeared in book form. He points out that the naval ratio and the Four-Power Treaty, while removing the danger of war between the United States and Great Britain and postponing--"let us hope indefinitely"--war between the United States and Japan, have made it possible for the United States successfully to attack Japan in Far Eastern waters or for Great Britain and the United States to unite in an attack on her. Since many Americans regret the adoption of a policy which would handicap us in a resort to force and continue to view Japan with distrust, it is inevitable that the Washington agreements and the policy of the Administration should come in for sharp criticism.
These, then, are the opinions in the three countries most deeply concerned with the Far Eastern features of the Washington settlement, for while Great Britain was a major party in the gathering her interest was primarily in naval competition. She is satisfied with the elimination of the danger of any possible war with the United States and is too much engrossed in the Near East and in the affairs of other portions of her far-flung empire to give much attention now to the Far East.[ii] France, even more than Great Britain, is absorbed in Europe and the Near East and has little attention to spare for the Pacific.
The tension in the countries vitally interested has been relieved. But will it recur? No one can face the situation honestly without acknowledging that the chances are all in favor of repeated crises.
In the first place, conditions in China are almost certain to continue to provoke at least the interference and probably the aggression of foreign powers. Here is a great country, with extensive natural resources and a teeming, industrious population. She is at once one of the world's greatest potential sources of raw materials and probably its greatest undeveloped market. Her industrialization and her equipment with modern transportation facilities will make her, if once order is restored, an inviting field for the investment of capital. Yet, as all the world knows, China is politically in a state little better than anarchy. Conditions are worse than they were ten or even six years ago, and there is no likelihood of marked improvement for many years to come.[iii] It is true that in some sections there has been marked industrial development, that the public press is more in evidence than it was some years ago, that Western ideas are increasingly gaining currency, that in some localities there has been improvement in educational facilities and standards, and that in a few local centers, as in the province of Shansi and in the city of Peking, there is an orderly government. It is also true that a large proportion of those who know the Chinese best have confidence in the ability of the race to find its way out of the difficulties that now beset it and emerge with a stable government and a reconstructed civilization.
But all of these facts, important and significant as they are, must not be allowed to obscure the deplorable political condition in which China now finds herself or to foster a belief in the early termination of that condition. The country has scrapped the monarchy, and much of the national administrative machinery of the land was so dependent on the monarchical idea that it has disintegrated. It is obviously a task of decades and even centuries for so large a country to acquire the education and the experience in democratic, representative institutions on a national scale that are essential to the stability of a republic, and, on the other hand, it is probable that the democratic idea has become so strongly rooted that, combined with factional and sectional jealousies and the personal rivalries of leaders, it will make impossible or at least extremely difficult the restoration of any kind of strong monarchy. Add to this the corruption and intrigue that are the inheritance of the old régime and one has an extremely dark political outlook.
A second cause for uneasiness is that Japan cannot help being interested in China and the temptation to interfere in the affairs of her huge neighbor is periodically all but irresistible. Her situation is, of course, well known. Her growing population is confined to a limited area and is shut out by the white races from emigration to the less thickly settled fertile sections of the globe. Her one recourse is to become an industrial nation, and this she is rapidly doing. As an industrial nation she needs markets and raw materials and an outlet for any surplus capital that she may accumulate and she sees these at hand on the adjoining continent. Here, however, she finds intriguing Western powers, some of whom would, if they dared, close the door in her face. In addition, she has a martial tradition and an intense patriotism, strengthened by compulsory military training on the European model and by three successful wars. It is probably true, as Buell points out, that the growth and pressure of her population have sometimes been exaggerated. It is certainly true that in the past few years there has been a growth of liberalism and that the outcome and the aftermath of the Great War have been a blow to the aggressive military and imperialistic groups. It seems inevitable, however, that Japan will be increasingly interested in China and in Eastern Siberia, and unable to resist the temptation to active interference.
The Washington Conference, for all its pacific outcome and its naval settlements, has still further committed the United States to an active part in Far Eastern affairs. By the very act of calling the gathering America took a more emphatic lead in the adjustment of Far Eastern questions than ever before, and considered in the light of all our previous relations to the East of Asia the Conference means that unless we execute a radical volte face we are to have an increasing prominence in Far Eastern diplomacy. Our trade with China is as yet relatively negligible and our invested capital inconsiderable, but the attention of American business was turned toward the Far East during the Great War and there is a feeling abroad that the increasing amount of our capital seeking foreign investment and the growing surplus of our factories above our domestic needs will lead us to seek outlets across the Pacific. It may be an indication, moreover, that we are later to modify our policy of dependence on international cooperation and treaties in the direction of a greater reliance upon force that in so many circles the Washington agreements were assailed as a surrender of America's future in the Pacific. This may be realized earlier than we suspect if the naval treaties fail of ratification by France and Italy. Prophecy is uncertain, but the trend of events undoubtedly points to a more and more active American participation in Far Eastern affairs.
For the moment, moreover, the United States is the chief obstacle to Japan's expansion. Their sense of fair play, their sentimental interest in the Chinese Republic, and their economic ambitions lead Americans to resent any further expansion of Japan at the expense of the latter's neighbors. Great Britain and France are too preoccupied elsewhere to make any active resistance to Japan and might even, as in the late war, acquiesce in exchange for support for their own interests. Russia is an unknown factor as far as the future is concerned. The situation on the continent invites and may at any time provoke Japanese interference. It seems, then, reasonably certain that there will from time to time be friction between the United States and Japan, with China as the helpless cause. This does not mean that the Washington Conference failed; far from it. Even at its least the gathering relieved the tension between the United States and Japan and probably averted war. It has cancelled the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and has made a combination of the two countries against America highly improbable. Should the Four-Power Treaty and the naval agreements go into effect the causes of friction will have been still further reduced. Partly as a result of the Conference, Japan has for the moment adopted a much more conciliatory policy toward China and Siberia. If it has meant nothing else, the Washington Conference has demonstrated that friction between the United States and Japan does not necessarily mean war. It could not, in the nature of the case, eliminate all the causes for friction, but it has shown that hostilities between the two countries are not inevitable. It has, moreover, given time for the work of these more slowly operating forces that make for peace. It now remains for intelligent men in both countries to take advantage of the opportunity that has been given them, and to see that friction, when it does recur, is reduced more easily and quickly than it was this last time.
[i]Tokutomi, Japanese-American Relations, translated by S. Yanagiwara (Macmillan) contains some of the chapters of a virulently anti-American book that appeared in Japan on the eve of the Conference and attained a circulation of 300,000. For a more moderate Japanese point of view see K. K. Kawakami, Japan's Pacific Policy, (Dutton, 1922), a book written for the American reader.
[ii]See a British analysis of the situation in E. Golovin, The Problem of the Pacific (Glydendal, London, 1922).
[iii]Two recent general descriptions of conditions, neither of them entirely adequate, are Stanley High, China's Place in the Sun (Macmillan), and Bertrand Russell, The Problem of China (Century). Both are readable, but Russell's book is disappointing because one expects from a writer of his acumen a more penetrating analysis than he has given.