The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
BARON MAKOTO SAITO, Governor-General of Korea, stated the fundamental principles of the colonial policy of the Japanese Empire in three terse sentences: "The economic development of the country must come first. Education and the raising of the standards of the people will follow. Afterwards political development may be possible." He was discussing the problems of Korea, but his words describe perfectly the course which his country is following in every colony over which floats the banner of the Rising Sun. Prior to 1919 this policy was carried out by the application of naked force. In that year, however, the velvet glove of conciliation and "attraction" was slipped over the iron hand of Japanese control in Formosa and Korea, Japan's greatest colonies. The new methods by which these dependencies have since been ruled are being closely watched by the governments having large interests in the Far East. The United States in particular is interested in this newest phase of Japanese colonial policy not only because it has an important bearing on the general question of peace in the Orient, but because it offers some striking contrasts with the policy which America has followed in the Philippine Islands.
Japan acquired her first large colony, Formosa, in 1895 at the end of her victorious war with China. The island is about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. It lies ninety miles off the China coast, less than six hundred miles south of Japan and approximately two hundred miles north of the Philippines. The population consists of about 3,500,000 Chinese, 80,000 Malay aborigines and 160,000 Japanese.
The traveler in Formosa is soon impressed with the truth of Baron Saito's statement that under the Japanese system the economic development of the country comes first. He sees splendid harbor works and port facilities, visits substantial and handsome public buildings that are far superior to those of most American states, and rides over a well built, excellently equipped and efficiently operated railroad system. He travels through two hundred miles of agricultural land that is as intensively cultivated as that of Belgium, and inspects enormous and growing industrial plants. Wherever he goes he observes all of the external evidences of prosperity.
If he turns to history and statistics the investigator discovers that this prosperity is genuine and that without question it is a result of Japanese rule. When the Japanese took over Formosa its annual imports and exports amounted to just a little more than 20 million yen; in 1921 they were worth more than 286 million. Until 1905 Japan annually subsidized the government of Formosa to the extent of millions of yen; for the past eighteen years the colony has made annual contributions to the Imperial treasury. The Japanese have introduced scientific methods and abundant capital into industry, agriculture, fishing, mining, and forestry. They have created a modern transportation system. Above all, they have established a rule of law maintained by a reasonably honest and efficient government. Given these advantages, which it never had under the Chinese Empire and apparently could not yet expect as a province of the Republic, the Chinese population of Formosa has done the rest.
The remarkable economic development of their country under Japanese auspices has not, however, escaped the bitter criticism of the Formosan Chinese. Japan's policy, they believe, is simply that of vicious exploitation. In the early days of the occupation they were robbed of the richest lands in the island by terror and chicanery. The Japanese Government has monopolized the production and sale of camphor, tobacco, salt, opium, sake, and other spirits, the most profitable Formosan industries. The Formosans claim that their resources and labor are exploited by Japanese capitalists, and that the tariff laws give Japan a monopoly of the market and compel them to pay monopoly prices. In a word, it is their belief that the Japanese and a few rich Formosans whose political support they have purchased are the only ones who profit by the development of the country.
Investigation on the ground leads to the conviction that there is much truth in this indictment. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the lot of the common man is immeasurably better in Formosa now than it was before the Japanese occupation, or than it is in China. As for the higher class Formosans, they are beginning to participate more generally in Japanese enterprises in the island, and doubtless will obtain a larger share of the profits.
The visitor in Formosa also discovers the truth of Baron Saito's dictum that education and the raising of the standards of the people will follow economic development. He finds that Formosan cities are among the cleanest in the Orient, that they are well equipped to perform all of the manifold services expected of modern municipalities, and that they are efficiently managed. The same praise might well be given to the educational system and to the departments of sanitation and public health. In 1895 Formosa was justly considered to be one of the most unhealthy countries in the world. Today no part of the Orient has more favorable health conditions, while a comparison of the Formosan health and medical services with those of the Philippines, for instance, is distinctly to the disadvantage of the latter.
"Afterwards political development may be possible," said Baron Saito. Is it possible in Formosa while that island remains a part of the Empire of Japan ? The Japanese say that they hope so and that the colony is now entering this third and most delicate phase of its development. The Formosans are skeptical and point to the record of the past to justify their lack of faith in the future.
For seven years after 1895 the Japanese army practically ruled Formosa. During this period the organized resistance of the Chinese population against their new sovereign was broken, banditry was stamped out, and the savage aborigines were brought under control. At the end of 1902, for the first time in its long history, law and order prevailed in the "Beautiful Isle." Life and property had become as safe there as in Japan. The reign of the soldier was followed by the rule of the policeman. When Viscount Kodama became Governor-General in 1902 he gradually limited army activity to military affairs and exerted his authority over the people chiefly through the medium of a Japanese police force. Japanese as well as Chinese residents in Formosa declare that the policeman was a harsher and less considerate master than the soldier. Frequently he was of a distinctly lower type than the police in Japan proper. He held his Chinese wards in contempt, often spoke their language haltingly or not at all, and was apt to regard his short, blunt sword as the means best fitted for explaining and enforcing government ordinances. These ordinances regulated every aspect of life in Formosa. They were, and are, extremely galling to the Chinese population, for the Chinese are individualists who put personal liberty among the first of the desiderata of life.
Prior to 1920 scarcely a trace of self-government could be found in this oldest Japanese colony. The governmental organization was, and is, simple. At the head of the bureaucratic hierarchy stand the Governor-General and the Director-General of civil administration. They administer the government through the bureaus of the government-general, the governors of the seven provinces, and the chiefs of the fifty districts into which the island is divided. All of these officials are members of the Japanese Civil Service, an organization which exhibits the usual virtues and defects of highly trained bureaucracies. This hierarchy is paralleled by a series of police officers, directed by a bureau of police in the central government. Within the towns and villages the people are divided into small groups, for each of which a native headman is made responsible.
In 1919 the Imperial Cabinet took the initial steps towards the liberalization of this autocratic system of government. Baron Kenjiro Den, a distinguished liberal statesman, became the first civilian Governor-General of Formosa, and a series of important reforms was undertaken. With the chief executive officer of each of the political divisions of the island was associated an advisory council. These councils are appointed and are composed of Japanese officials, private Japanese residents of Formosa and Formosan Chinese. Their functions are advisory only and obviously they are completely under the control of the government. Nevertheless they do afford an official channel for the expression of popular opinion; they may be able to influence, even though they cannot possibly control, official action. In Formosa great differences of opinion exist as to their value. There seems to be a general feeling, however, that the local councils are giving the people some voice in the administration of local affairs.
Coincidently with this extension of political privileges the government adopted the policy of offering to Chinese Formosans educational opportunities equal to those afforded Japanese residents. From their first days on the island the Japanese had furnished primary schools for Chinese as well as for Japanese children. Instruction, however, was in the Chinese language, the schools often were inferior in quality, and it was only in exceptional cases that Chinese children actually passed into the higher institutions, in which Japanese alone was spoken. "This is manifestly unjust," said Baron Den. "It is eminently proper that we also grant them opportunities of education not inferior to those available to our own children; that we encourage them to develop; that we foster men of genius in all walks of life, thereby increasing the resources of our country. And it is with this in view that I have made it possible for Formosans qualified in the Japanese language to enter schools for Japanese children. Excellent results have already been obtained, with incalculably good effect upon our policy of assimilation." (The italics are the writer's.) As a further measure of assimilation with Japan the Imperial Civil and Commercial Codes have recently been extended to Formosa. Although the displacement of the old Chinese law may cause some temporary confusion and hardship, yet it will give Chinese Formosans many rights which they have not hitherto possessed, and will put them on a legal equality with the resident Japanese.
The professed goal of the recent reforms in the administration of the island is the "Formosanization" of the government and, perhaps, its ultimate assimilation with that of Japan. The writer believes that this is the real purpose of the Japanese. Whether they will have the political sagacity and the courage to accomplish it,--whether, indeed, it is possible of accomplishment,--is another matter. Twenty-seven years of despotism is not a very sure foundation upon which to build liberal institutions. A large number, probably a majority, of the politically active Formosans will not even admit the sincerity of the government's intentions. A mass meeting of Formosans residing in Tokyo recently adopted and distributed resolutions criticising Baron Den's administration bitterly. A paragraph from this manifesto, translated into English by a Japanese, sets forth some of the political grievances of the nationalists and reveals their general attitude towards the "sham reforms:"
"According to the present system of government in Taiwan, the powers of making laws, judicial and other acts of administration are vested in the Governor-General. It is really a despotic government. The Governor-General does not understand the real will of the Formosans, who have special life and customs. He does nothing but hoodwink the people by establishing false self-government, by allowing Formosans into Japanese schools,--not actually carried out,--and by promulgating dead laws allowing Formosans to become higher officials. As an instance of maladministration we point out the rigorous laws governing the punishment of rioters, unlawful disposition of loafers, compulsory labor, intervention in sugar cultivation and its sale, requisitioning of money and land, etc. Thus the government infringes upon the rights of the people and they are able to do anything they want. The almighty government! . . . The lawful organization of the Political Society Claiming Legislature in Taiwan was prohibited, to the great disappointment of Formosans who rely upon the Japanese Empire. The magazine Taiwan was prohibited distribution, as it contained articles by noted men of Japan on the claim of Formosa for a separate legislature. 3,600,000 Formosans have no recourse for redress, enduring oppression and humiliation. Such an attitude of the government only tends to provoke the ill-feeling of the ruled, and is not the one to be taken by wise administrators who wish ultimate success in the administration of the island."
This manifesto could not have been issued in Formosa. The expression of public opinion there is made practically impossible by the government. But Formosans in Japan, Manila, and the China coast cities tell whom they can that their people will never cease to resist assimilation, and that China will not rest satisfied until the Japanese are expelled from this old Chinese province. Occasional flashes in Formosa itself reveal the forces of discontent that are normally concealed by the Japanese machinery of repression. A number of strikes of a revolutionary nature have occurred in the upper schools; upon the occasion of the visit of the Prince Regent last April 532 prisoners who were in jail for revolutionary activities were given commutation in their terms of imprisonment. A highly intelligent Japanese gentleman told the writer in Formosa that, "It is now a race between liberalization and revolution."
More than a quarter of a century of despotic Japanese rule in Formosa, then, has produced the following results: law and order, economic prosperity, elevated standards of living, widespread education, and rising political discontent. The writer believes the Japanese Government realizes that if it cannot solve the political problem with which it is now faced, its remarkable material achievements in Formosa will, in the end, avail the Empire nothing.
In Korea the Japanese have applied the general policy and many of the methods which they first developed in Formosa. The economic results bid fair to be equally satisfactory, although the problem is both greater and more complex. No one who has not seen with his own eyes what the Japanese have done in Korea can appreciate their truly remarkable accomplishments. Railroads, steamship lines, hotels, banks, mines, afforested mountain sides, scientific agricultural projects, schools, hospitals, and cities of stone, brick and cement are the visible products of the marvelous mechanism of colonization which Japan has built up during the past generation. No country has ever created such a complete, well organized, abundantly capitalized and ably directed organization for the economic penetration and conquest of other lands.
Thus far the masses of the Korean population have appreciated the ministrations of their foreign rulers about as heartily as our early activities in the West were relished by the Crees and the Sioux. Yet they are on the ground, 17,500,000 of them. They possess a national history, national institutions, and a national consciousness that are more ancient than those of Japan herself. If they are lazy and decadent they are also proud and stubborn. Unlike the American redskins they can not be brushed aside, driven out, nor exterminated.
The Korean rebellion of 1919 revealed to the world that Japan's astonishing material achievements in this colony had been accompanied by a tragic failure to solve satisfactorily the problem of the government of the Korean people. Nor was the lesson lost upon the Japanese themselves. No sooner had the rebellion been crushed than vigorous steps were taken to reorganize the government of Korea and to infuse a new spirit into its administration. An Imperial rescript announced that the objects of the reforms were "to treat both Japanese and Koreans as equals, and to enable the people of Chosen to live in peace and prosperity by endowing them with an administration conducted on a liberal and cultural line." The new Governor-General issued a proclamation frankly admitting the necessity of reforms and outlining the policy which he expected to follow. "I am determined," he declared, "to superintend officials under my control and encourage them to put forth greater efforts to act in a fairer and juster way, and promote the facilities of the people and the unhindered attainment of the people's desires by dispensing with all formality. Full consideration will be given to the appointment of Koreans so as to secure the right men for the right places, and what in Korean customs and old institutions is worthy of adoption will be adopted as a means of government. I also hope to introduce reforms in the different branches of administrative activity, and enforce local self-government at the proper opportunity and thereby insure stability for the people and enhance their general well-being." Sedition, however, was not to be winked at, and the proclamation ended with this sentence: "If anybody is found guilty of unwarrantably refractory language or action, of misleading the popular mind, or of impeding the maintenance of public peace, he will be met with relentless justice." In effect, the Japanese announced a new deal in Korea; but served notice that they would still make and enforce the rules of the game.
A large volume would be required to describe all the reforms which have been inaugurated in Korea since 1919. A few of the more important ones may be mentioned, however, with the remark that they constitute an official confession of the previous existence of conditions in Korea against which even the most docile of people might have been expected to revolt.
1. The government has abolished legal discrimination between Koreans and Japanese in the Korean civil service with reference to salaries, pensions and promotions, court rank, and decorations. The regulations limiting the jurisdiction of Korean judicial officials to cases in which both parties were Koreans have been rescinded. Punishment by flogging, which had been applicable only to Koreans, has been abolished. A general amnesty has been granted to Koreans implicated in the rebellion of 1919.
2. Formalism and red tape in the conduct of the government have been greatly reduced. Civil officials, save in exceptional cases, no longer wear uniforms. There has been a considerable decentralization all through the government, especially as between the central and the local administrations.
3. Means have been provided for the expression of Korean opinion. Leading men from all of the provinces are called to Seoul periodically for an exchange of views regarding the administration of the country. Inspectors, both Korean and Japanese, are continually in the field, "for the inspection of local conditions as well as for the observation of popular ideas and desires." The publication of a few newspapers printed in Korean is permitted. The Central Council, long intended to serve the Governor-General as an advisory organ, has been reorganized and is more frequently consulted.
4. The educational system has been reorganized in such a way as to meet, in part, the wishes of the Koreans.
5. The local administrative system has been reorganized. Partially elective,partially appointive advisory councils have been created in the several areas of local government. A portion of the Confucian temple funds which had been diverted to other purposes (stolen, the Koreans aver) has been returned to its former uses. The requisition of labor and the forced donation of land for the construction of highways has been greatly reduced.
6. The police system has been reorganized. Prior to 1919 the police and the gendarmerie were united under one command and were directed from the central government. The two services have been separated, the former has been reduced in size, and the direction of the latter transferred from the central to the provincial governments.
7. Definite steps have been taken to guarantee an increased respect for Korean usages and customs.
In addition to instituting these specific reforms the Japanese have attempted to win the confidence and the coöperation of their Korean subjects by many other means. Influential Koreans are taken to Japan and there entertained with the charming hospitality of which the Japanese are masters. A moving picture film service has been used extensively to familiarize Koreans with Japanese life, and vice versa. A special propaganda office has been established to acquaint the people of Korea, Japan and elsewhere with the new governmental policy. Representative Korean officials, teachers and scientific men are frequently sent to Japan to attend conferences of leaders in their special fields. Social intercourse between the two races is encouraged at every opportunity. Vigorous efforts are being made to educate the rising generation in the Japanese language. No opportunity to emphasize the racial and cultural affinity of the Koreans and the Japanese is overlooked, and their common citizenship in the Empire is constantly harped upon.
Obviously it is difficult for an outsider to gauge either the sincerity or the probable results of such a reform program. Indeed, even the opinions of Koreans and of Japanese and foreigners long resident in Korea differ on these questions. The writer felt at the time, and still feels, that the Governor-General, Baron Saito, spoke very frankly about the purposes of his government and the difficulties with which he is confronted. After declaring that economic development must come first, that education and elevated standards of living would follow, and that afterwards political development might be possible, he went on to say that there were many difficulties to be overcome. "The chief of these arise from the character of the Koreans. Many of them are crooked. They want "squeeze" from the Japanese and their own people. They are lazy. At present Bolshevist agents and money are stirring them up. The Russians, though, are clever. They do not give them too much money at once. Of course there are many Koreans who wish to coöperate with us for their country's welfare. But we cannot ask too much of these men. They are in danger from their own people. The Japanese desire to have the Koreans contented and happy. We don't want to make Japanese out of them against their will. But for our own safety, we must govern this country. We hope that in time the Koreans will realize that they need our assistance. They can do nothing by themselves." These plain words from the man who is the chief instrument of Japanese rule in Korea are refreshingly at variance with the familiar propaganda about peace, harmony and brotherhood in a land where these blessings have not existed for many years.
Like Rome at its best, Japan sends first-rate statesmen to be her proconsuls, gives them free rein while in their provinces, and holds them to account for results. No colonial minister or department in Tokyo stands between the Japanese governor and the Imperial Cabinet. The Colonial Bureau is merely a secretariat attached directly to the office of the Premier. Its chief is not an important or powerful official, and its functions are merely the transmittal and filing of colonial papers. Japan's colonial governors are immediately responsible to the Premier alone.
Among foreigners resident in Korea there is much more respect for the present administration than a visitor at first supposes. For the brutalities and stupidities of the past there is little but reprobation. But those Europeans who themselves have to deal with Koreans seem inclined to talk about the difficulties with which the government is faced as well as about its shortcomings. One foreigner whose opinion regarding Korea would be respected anywhere spoke substantially as follows: "One of the greatest difficulties faced by the Japanese is in securing the coöperation of the Koreans. Of course a large proportion of the population is determined never to coöperate. But there is, and always has been an important Japanese party among the Korean people. This party is growing rapidly. Its members have made up their minds to accept Japanese rule as inevitable and to make the most of whatever advantages are offered by it. Yet they seem to be unable to get together among themselves or with the government on any practical proposition. The masses are indifferent, or at least quiescent. The 'intellectuals', who have not much to lose, are the principal agitators. The trouble with them is that they do not tie up to any principle. They reach for and seize this panacea and that. Their minds are in a ferment but produce nothing. They don't know what they want, but they want it like the Devil."
This same foreigner had recently returned from a trip which had taken him into every corner of the peninsula. "I found," he said, "that the Japanese are just as active in public health enterprises, educational work and other activities in remote districts as they are along the trunk line railway. I visited schools everywhere and found them crowded to capacity. Out of 300 or 400 pupils only twenty or thirty would be Japanese children. The rest were Koreans. The teachers were both Korean and Japanese. A few years ago--before 1919--the people were indifferent or hostile to the schools. Now they are eager to have their children attend, and the problem is to take care of them all. In recent years the knife has been used pretty freely on the Korean budget (made in Japan), but the school appropriations have not been touched. In fact, last year when there was a million and a half yen cut in the personnel of the government that amount was added to the educational budget."
Many other resident foreigners relate incidents in their experience with the Koreans and express opinions concerning these people that tally closely with those of the gentleman just quoted. One of the most distinguished of them in discussing the attitude of the Koreans toward the Japanese said: "In 1919 the country was aflame with hatred of the Japanese, a hatred that can be well understood. Many of the causes of that bitterness have been removed. The older people still cherish it fiercely; many Koreans try to keep it alive as a matter of pride, or of habit, or almost of religion. Yet time is working against them. Education and modern civilization are working against them. Thousands of Koreans who as a matter of course tell you that they hate the Japanese, get along perfectly well with the individual Japanese people with whom they come into daily contact. I should not care to predict how it will end, but we all know that if the Japanese were to withdraw today there would be chaos tomorrow."
For obvious reasons it is much easier to get the story of the Korean nationalists in many other parts of the Orient than in Korea. In Manchuria and Siberia reside more than 2,000,000 emigrants from the former Hermit Kingdom. Small groups of them are to be found in many of the cities along the China coast and in Japan itself. The Japanese propaganda agents very naively say that the Manchurian-Siberian group, most of whom are agriculturalists, emigrated "on account of the difficulty of living caused by the extraordinary rise in the prices of commodities in recent days; as a matter of fact, some 45,000 Koreans migrated from Chosen to Manchuria during 1919, mostly from this cause." (The italics are the writer's.) The plain fact is that most of these people abandoned their homes and fled from their native country rather than endure Japanese rule; or, in many cases, because the Japanese robbed them of the land upon which they had lived. A majority of the leaders of the Korean party of violence are members of this group. They hope to overthrow the Japanese régime by assassination, rebellion and attacks over the northern border, and they make frequent attempts to oust their foes by these means.
One center of Korean nationalism is in Shanghai. The "Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea", which was set up there in 1919, and which sent emissaries to the Peace Conference at Versailles, has now disintegrated. It has been replaced, however, by a "Korean Congress" composed of about 150 members representing the irreconcilables of Korea, Manchuria, and Siberia, as well as exiles living in Hawaii and the United States. One of these irreconcilables gave the writer an account of the character and the activities of the "Congress" which tended to confirm much already learnt in Korea itself. "We have been sitting now for several months," he said. "There are two main parties. One of them wishes to use violence of every sort against the Japanese. The other, representing the American Koreans and other groups outside of Manchuria and Siberia, feel that we cannot cope with Japan's military power and must rely upon moderate methods and a constant appeal to world opinion. So far no agreement has been reached by these two factions. Feeling between them has been bitter at times. Our difficulties are increased by the constant presence of spies. Whatever we say, the Japanese know all about it the next day. If a dozen of us meet secretly each one wonders who is the traitor. Of course we have our organization in Korea. But Japan still rules there by terror and our men are constantly being taken. Only today I learned that one of our friends who had been collecting data upon the extent to which the Koreans have been dispossessed of their lands, was arrested as he was attempting to get out of the country. But we have ways of keeping in touch with our people at home. If one man is caught another gets through."
This Korean is confident that the new Japanese policy of "attraction" will fail to win his people just as the former application of undisguised force failed to subdue them. "We have no fear for the long future," he said. "The Korean people will never give in. The Czechs held out for several centuries. Now they are free. We can do that, and more. The Japanese are always doing stupid things to keep the hatred of our people alive. They will have to take all of our land and drive us all out of the country before Korea will be safe for them. This they cannot do."
The more intelligent of the Korean irreconcilables pin their hopes for the future upon China and Russia. They regard Japanese supremacy in the Orient as a passing phase, a mere incident in the great drama of history. In common with many Chinese they hold their overlords in contempt as well as hatred. Inevitably China will come into her own. When she does the barbarians will be broke utterly. This is what one hears from Mukden to Batavia. As for Russia, her day is coming too, they say. She does not forget.
An American who returns to the Philippines after a sojourn in either Formosa or Korea would be less than human if he did not feel a certain sense of pride in the larger spirit of liberty which is characteristic of our Oriental dependency. Yet those who understand the situation in the Philippines recognize that in one important phase of colonial development the United States has been far less successful than has Japan; and they realize that both Americans and Filipinos, especially the latter, will have to pay the price of that comparative failure.
During the American régime in the Philippines political and general education has enjoyed an unparalleled growth. Yet during this period Americans and Filipinos have not succeeded in laying an economic foundation substantial enough to support the social and political superstructure which they have erected. The result is that not only independence but further progress of any sort in the Islands must wait upon the creation of a vastly greater national income than will be available for some years to come. The Japanese, on the other hand, have proceeded much more slowly in the social and especially the political development of Formosa and Korea. Once they are seriously embarked upon a progressive program, however, both of these countries will have at their disposal ample means for the completion of their task. At the present time the annual income of the Government of Formosa (population 3,500,000) is about $50,000,000; while the Government of the Philippines (population 11,500,000) has at its disposal about $32,000,000 yearly. Considering the cost of the modern civilization which both of these people covet these figures are of great significance.
Where are the Japanese coming out with Korea and Formosa? Will their present policy of "attraction" and the great material advantages which they have given these colonies so dim the memories of the past as to produce at least an acquiescence in Japanese rule? Or, in some future struggle, will one of these dependencies prove to be the Achilles heel of the Island Empire? Press reports of a bloody uprising of Koreans in Tokyo and Yokohama during the recent disaster suggest vividly the dangerous possibilities of a permanently hostile population in Formosa and Korea. In the developments of the past four years there is much evidence that Japan realizes the danger of the situation and that she is determined to consolidate her military gains by political and moral victories. It is to this end that the new Japanese policy in Formosa and Korea is directed.