All the Tsar’s Men
Why Mobilization Can’t Save Putin’s War
MOSCOW is at work in China as if it possessed two faces and two souls, and this is indeed the truth. One is the soul of the Third International, which now directs its intrigues from the Kremlin only because it found it impossible to direct them from Berlin as Moscow had wished and hoped immediately after the Great War. The other soul, the other tendency, still clings to the traditions, the mirages and ambitions of prewar Russian diplomacy which, probably unconsciously, had as one of its cardinal rules to seek a success in the Pacific when failure threatened in the West.
Taking into account the fact that no historical analogy or parallel is ever quite exact, I nevertheless venture to say that this dual Russian personality as I have recently observed it at work in Manchuria and Mongolia puts me in mind of that precious gift bestowed upon the British people -- the possession of writers and clergymen able in perfect good faith to advance the highest moral reasons for the most concrete diplomatic action, with inevitable material profit to England. This dual personality explains in part -- quite aside from any underhanded reasons of money or fear -- the support and solidarity which the Soviet régime sometimes finds among the younger members of families and classes which have suffered severely from the Bolshevik revolution.
Aside from the actual imperialistic penetration of Russia, which as we shall see is particularly to be observed in Manchuria and Mongolia, I think it would be possible to show that in one instance in China the two Russian souls, the two tendencies, merge to work for one object, one goal. This goal is the struggle against England.
Of course, it is possible that the Russia of the Third International actually did hope to establish communism in China; this is within the realm of possibililty, although to anyone who knows the Chinese world it would be almost sure proof of a surprising lack of political intelligence on the part of the successors of Messrs. Trotzki and Zinoviev. It is at any rate incontrovertible that the second Russian personality, which in spite of Bolshevism consciously or unconsciously still maintains the hatreds and traditions of the old Russia, hoped by the spread of these doctrines to deal a death blow to England, the twice hated, the twofold enemy; first, because she is the living symbol of European liberalism, the only hostile conception to Bolshevism existing on the old continent; second, because she is England, the mistress of India and the seas, the hidden but nevertheless real protectress of the small new Baltic states, Finland, Esthonia, Latvia.
What does seem amazing from a psychological point of view is that in spite of the great zeal of the agents of the Western Powers in China in their fight against Soviet action, no use has ever been made of such definite facts -- facts particularly likely to appeal to the Chinese mind, which always reacts to anything visible and tangible. The anti-Bolshevist campaign of the Western Powers in China has been conducted throughout with the most complete misunderstanding of Chinese character.
I happened to be in Peking immediately after the police raid on the Russian Embassy made by Chang Tso Lin, the Manchurian Tuchun, with the secret encouragement of some foreign legations. I was able to examine many of the seized documents. Although I remain very doubtful as to the authenticity of the famous Red letter of British electoral memory, I am on the other hand absolutely convinced of the authenticity of the documents seized and published in Peking -- as also that the Russian official denial was meant merely for home consumption.
These documents had all the earmarks of authenticity, both in letter and in spirit. They consist in a series of miserable espionage of diplomatic codes, of visitors to the foreign envoys, of corruption of petty officials, European and Chinese. They all bear the stifling mark of the old Tsarist police, only ten times more vulgar and silly. But all this -- even the military instructions and the proof of the dispatch of munitions -- did not and could not have the least influence on the Chinese. They looked and read; half of them smiled and the other half admired. They were but oriental tricks and lies against westerners, all these Russian activities. Why should the Chinese feel disgust or irritation?
When he ordered his police raid on the Legation Quarter, Chang Tso Lin did not for one moment expect to strike the Chinese imagination no matter how many Russian documents he might unearth. What the scheming Manchurian Tuchun did intend was to show Europe and the western governments how valuable an ally he might become in the struggle against Bolshevism. For it is a well-known fact that his much advertised anti-Bolshevik hatred is assumed in order to obtain or extort financial subsidies from certain foreign governments. When Chang Tso Lin talks to his circle of intimates, he complains ironically that certain Legations pay him well in compliments but in nothing more substantial. Indeed, the famous Mukden war lord no more dislikes or suspects the Russians than he does the Japanese, of whom, by the way, he is far less of a tool than is generally believed abroad. The plain truth is that the Japanese resent bitterly his constant if hidden opposition to all their plans in Manchuria; they complain, for instance, that he prevents the sale of any land to Japanese firms. But more than anything else Japan desires a pacific Manchuria for commercial development; and in spite of petty anti-Japanese intrigues Chang stands for peace and order in Manchuria. The Japanese Government knows quite well that, without Chang, the Tsitsihar Tupan would soon start to fight with the Kirin generals and the Kirin generals with the Mukden governor.
All this we have stated, as it were, in parenthesis and merely to prove that Chang Tso Lin's aims in raiding the Russian Embassy were different from those usually ascribed to him. After this, we must admit that the means employed to affect the Chinese should have been different. The effort should have been made to touch their amour-propre, always so sensitive. Emphasis should have been laid on the fact that the Russian "sacrifices" so cleverly advertised every day by Soviet agents are far from what they are cracked up to be. Instead of having sacrificed pre-war rights, the Russians merely accepted their loss, incurred like the German losses as a result of defeat in the World War; they knew that they could never hope to recover their lost extra-territorial rights in China. But it is an astounding fact that, in spite of, one might almost say under cover of, the campaign against "unequal treaties" Russia should be the only nation in the last four or five years to increase considerably its privileges and monopolies as a result of its action in Mongolia and Manchuria. While the treaty rights of all the other Powers were disappearing, Russia won for itself new spheres of influence, not unlike what might have been won prior to the Hay formula.
Either the disguised annexation of Mongolia, or the sovereign rights exercised over the Chinese Eastern Railway, if cleverly exposed, should have been sufficient to open the eyes of the Chinese as to the extent of Russia's "sacrifices" and as to the truth of Soviet "disinterestedness" in China.
Let us consider these two definite points, Mongolia and Manchuria, where the work accomplished and still being done would not be disowned by the former Imperial Ministry of Foreign Affairs at St. Petersburg.
Nowhere may the continuity of the Tsarist and Red diplomacy be better seen than in their dealing with the autonomy of Outer Mongolia. The Russo-Chinese agreement of 1915, negotiated in Peking by Mr. Krupenski, had succeeded in establishing "the exclusive right of the autonomous Government of Outer Mongolia to attend to all the affairs of its internal administration," but, on the other hand, had again recognized China's suzerainty and limited the number of the Russian "consular guards" in Urga to one hundred and fifty.
When an occasion came, Mr. Chicherin followed faithfully the policy laid down by his predecessor Sasonov. He created a dummy "Independent Mongolian Government," whose head was simply a certain Bodo, formerly clerk in the Imperial Consulate General in Urga, and had him ask Moscow to send troops to Urga to " defend Mongolian autonomy against China," although China was certainly, at the time, quite unable to assert any of her rights. Mr. Chicherin replied that he was glad to help the new Mongolian "Government." Russian troops went at once into Outer Mongolia.
Probably they would have come on any pretence. But the philosopher notes that the example was set by a previous act of violence from the opposite side. It was Baron Ungern at the head of bands of White Russians who invaded Mongolia and first drove out the Chinese from Urga in order to create there a military base aganist Bolshevik Siberia.
Now, besides all the power they have got in Urga, the Russians have surrounded Outer Mongolia with a Chinese wall much more effective than the old one which, below the plains of Inner Mongolia, ends, after so many thousands of miles, in the Yellow Sea on the Shanhaikuan beach. This is why it is so difficult to know exactly what is going on in Outer Mongolia. The Chinese Government itself -- or rather the vague shadow which remains of it at Wai Chiao Pu -- likes to surround it with silence. This is a typical example of the Chinese soul. Peking prefers to ignore, when it can, the blows to its amour-propre which it is forced to endure.
Among the many and contradictory rumors which one hears I shall only state here those facts which I have been able to verify myself through repeated contacts with Mongolians whom I met during my recent stay in Mukden (May-June, 1927).
Soviet banks, established by the Russians who have become the real masters of the country, have forced the Mongolians to hand over their ingots of silver in exchange for Russian paper money.
A small Mongolian army has been created under the command of Russian officers.
Every possible obstacle is put in the way of commercial intercourse with China; all the country's resources are being artificially directed toward Siberia.
Bolshevized Buriats from Siberia are being transformed by sleight of hand into Mongolians; and it is they who play the part of representative Mongolians when there is the slightest demand for such services.
Rich young Mongolians are removed by force from their encampments and their flocks and are transplanted to Moscow, there to be fed on Soviet pap. Some of them return to Mongolia with women picked up on the streets of Moscow and with horrible diseases. From encampment to encampment this is spoken of as living proof that the Lamaic hell is situated at the end of the Transiberian Railroad, but it is said in whispers only; Soviet espionage is everywhere, and the ancient, simple Mongol loyalty has become a thing of the past.
The Panshan Lama, the Pontiff of Lamaic Buddhists, has only recently begun to express himself on Bolshevism, after having been reticent for a long period. While in Mukden (in the spring of 1927) he abandoned his former real or assumed indifference and declared that "Bolshevism is the enemy of Buddhism." He has recently moved from Mukden to Peking, where he lives in one of the pavilions of the Forbidden City. Hundreds of Mongols come to him daily to receive his instructions. However, these instructions, owing to racial and religious reasons, cannot envisage more than passive resistance, not active opposition.
Hardened diplomats may find explanations and excuses for these violations of Chinese sovereignty and of ancient Mongol autonomies, for the demoralization of a race and a country which only yesterday was a delightful example of the old patriarchal virtues. But only the weak governments of a divided country could pretend to believe them.
There are, however, certain features -- accessory perhaps -- which it does not seem the Chinese can pretend to ignore, alive as they always are to matters of form. There exists an official Russian publication which can be bought in Moscow for a few kopeks. It is the "Diplomatic Annual of the U. S. S. R." for 1926. If one opens it at the letter M, one finds in the lists of sovereign foreign states with full diplomatic representation right after Mexico this other new nation: Mongolia. There follows the name of the "Ambassador" of the U. S. S. R. (the Soviets have adopted a single title, Ambassador, in their internal administrative organization for the heads of all their diplomatic missions; it is only abroad that these heads assume one of the old titles, Minister or Ambassador). After the name of the Ambassador to Mongolia come the names of his numerous secretaries and attachés.
Masters as they are in the art of propaganda, the Bolshevik agents in China, assisted by the cowardice and vanity of the Peking Government, have been successful in enforcing a complete silence as to their actions in Mongolia. The verbal campaign of the Chinese against "unequal treaties," which dates in great part from the arrival in Peking of Mr. Karakan as Ambassador of the Soviets, was very useful in this respect, and the Russians at once saw the dual advantage to be gained by it.
It was also under shadow of this campaign that Russia was able quietly to increase her influence in northern Manchuria by means of that powerful arm, the Chinese Eastern Railway.
Anyone interested in the Far East probably knows the present condition of this railroad. This is it, in a few words: The Chinese Eastern Railway crosses the northern part of Manchuria, linking Siberia to Vladivostok, now Russian territory, although up until 1860 it had belonged to China. Harbin, the great new city of the Far East, which has begun to rival Shanghai as a pleasure center, is in the middle of this line; it is the seat of the administration of the Chinese Eastern Railway with its hundreds of Russian officials, great and small. It is from Harbin that a line branches off to Dairen and Port Arthur. Only one-third of this branch line, from Harbin to Changchun, at present belongs to the Chinese Eastern Railway; the other two-thirds passed to Japan after the Treaty of Portsmouth which in 1905 ended the Russo-Japanese War; it is run in a most efficient manner by the South Manchurian Railway.
It should be remembered that the old trans-Manchurian Railway never did belong to the Russian Government, but was the property of a company constituted according to Russian law but receiving its seal from the Chinese Government, which means that it was a Chinese concern. The President of the Company had to be appointed by the Chinese Government and ownership of the shares was restricted to Chinese and Russian subjects, governments and official bodies being excluded. As there was not sufficient capital to build the railway, the money was borrowed from the Russian Government and stock was given them as security. The Russian Government was not an owner but simply a creditor, a distinction which has been frequently overlooked.
In 1924 the Chinese Government recognized Soviet Russia. The two Governments agreed that they ought to take over the Chinese Eastern Railway, without compensation of any kind to the Company. Among the dispossessed creditors as it happens are several capitalists of Western Europe and the United States. So far as I know, no representations on this subject have ever been made to Moscow.
It remains to this day a complete mystery what reasons -- if indeed there be any honorable ones -- prompted the Chinese Government to accept this arrangement. For these are the real results, which make it neither more nor less than one of the "unequal treaties" against which the Chinese were already campaigning:
1. The Russian Government acquired the right to operate outright a railway on Chinese territory without any form of reciprocity for the Chinese Government, and in spite of the fact that no analogous case exists elsewhere in China.
2. The Russian Government consequently acquired a privilege not enjoyed by any other foreign Government in China, which is contrary to the principles laid down by the Washington Conference.
3. This privilege virtually makes a Russian zone of influence from Manchuly (Russo-Chinese frontier) to Changchun.
4. This zone of influence is detrimental to other foreign interests, as American oil companies are prepared to testify, and as preferential tariffs in favor of Russian oil companies prove.
5. According to this new accord, all officials and workmen on the Chinese Eastern Railway must be Russians or Chinese which is in violation of the principle of "equal opportunities."
6. All these officials and workmen are obliged to belong to Syndical Unions under strict control of the Soviet Executive Center of the Syndical Union in Moscow. This means that thousands of people on Chinese territory, and often Chinese subjects, have blindly to obey the orders of a foreign government; and ironically enough it is the very government which most publicly renounced its extra-territorial rights (as a matter of fact, let us state it again, it had lost them against its will during the war). This state of affairs enables one to state that as far as extraterritoriality is concerned, the Russians today are better off than the Germans because every Russian in China today is an official of some kind, except in Manchuria; and there they are under the "protection" of Russian institutions even more surely than in the old days of privileges and consular tribunals. It is true that White Russians exist by the thousands in Shanghai, where they are reduced to the lowest forms of labor; but they no longer look upon themselves as Russians, and it is only to be expected that Moscow should completely disinterest itself from their fate.
7. Last but not least, the control of the vast revenues of the Chinese Eastern Railway remain exclusively in Russian hands. Not a cent of the approximately twelve-million-dollar average yearly profit of the railway is administered or even seen by the Chinese, which, of course, gives the Russians strong administrative and political advantages.
Personally, I have never believed the tales of huge sums of money flowing from Moscow to Peking or Canton for Bolshevik propaganda. But I am quite ready to believe that, controlled as it is by the Russian Government, and by a board whose able director, Mr. Laschevitch, is a sincere Red, a certain proportion of the revenues of the Chinese Eastern Railway may have been diverted to Bolshevik propaganda in China.
The silence which the anti-Soviet forces of Europe in China has thrown about these events is easy to explain; it is due to the persistent mediocrity of our measures against Russian activity, a mediocrity due to psychological reasons upon which it is better not to insist at this time. But for the rare Chinese who know and keep silence -- as do in China all those who wish to have nothing to do with Tuchun régime of violence--the reasons are quite different. They say among themselves (and this is not an hypothesis but something which I myself have heard said) that the Western Powers attack Russia for everything except for those acts and intrigues which they themselves would like to be able to imitate. For nowadays the best and wisest men in China share with the people one old feeling which is becoming universal -- hatred of all foreigners.