Xi’s Costly Obsession With Security
How a Quest for Control Threatens China’s Economic Growth
THE foreign policy of the Nationalist Government of China, as enunciated by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and set forth in the program of the Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang) is clear and definite. It may be summarized in a few words: "China seeks, not merely in name but in fact, the status of absolute independence and equality in the family of nations. She will regard as real friends only those Powers who treat her as an equal and respect her rights."
There is nothing very startling in this policy. It is substantially the same policy that every independent and sovereign state has adopted and is adopting in its relations with other states, and is a natural corollary of the accepted principles of international comity. For nearly a century China has been subjected to an inferior status, through unilateral treaties imposed upon her in defeat or in ignorance, and that makes her present struggle to be mistress in her own house seem to some people revolutionary or anti-foreign. The rights and interests of foreigners in China such, for example, as would be enjoyed by Americans in England, will be amply recognized and protected under the foreign policy of the Nationalist Government. Only interests which are in the nature of privileges and which have grown up under the régime of extraterritoriality since 1842 will be affected adversely. All these China avowedly intends to abolish as being incompatible with the full exercise of her sovereignty.
The unequal treaties are no longer suited to conditions in China. They are an obstacle in the path of her national progress. They complicate and endanger the friendly relations China endeavors to maintain with all foreign states. Their abrogation will benefit not only Chinese but even foreigners themselves, in spite of the hue and cry that will be made by a few "die hards."
In the first place, a new impetus will be given to the economic development of China, and in particular to her development with the aid of foreign coöperation. Nationalist China welcomes foreign investment and foreign enterprise in China. Dr. Sun is the author of a book, "The International Development of China," which, as its title indicates, advocates the development of the country's vast natural resources with the assistance of foreign capital and foreign expert knowledge. But if a foreigner, wherever he travels in China, is not amenable to the laws of the country, and, what is more, if the immunity which his person enjoys can spread like a mantle and cover his residence, his goods, and even things with which he comes into contact, then no one will be surprised if not much business is done. Thus, under the treaties, foreign enterprise has been restricted within specified small areas. While the foreigner enjoys great privileges, he is also subject to disabilities, although the latter affect less the foreigner in China, who has probably enough business to occupy him in the open ports, than the foreigner at home, who probably would like to have newer and larger markets for his products. When foreign privilege has been abolished there will be no longer any reason to limit the scope of the foreigner's enterprise, and international coöperation can be invited in opening up the whole of China.
Secondly, the readjustment of treaty relations will provide better protection for foreigners. At present foreign rights and privileges depend upon treaty safeguards and in spite of the fact that they are very often from their very nature unenforceable, frequent appeals are made to foreign governments to endeavor to secure their enforcement. If no attempt is made to enforce them, foreign "prestige" is lowered. If an attempt is made to enforce them, ill-feeling is created. This dilemma has been recognized, though somewhat tardily, by some of the Powers, and their spokesmen have declared that they will not insist upon a literal interpretation of treaty rights. The failure of the gunboat policy is gradually being realized. And even where there are big guns, they cannot compel the Chinese to buy the foreigners' goods. The economic weapon is one to which industrial nations are particularly vulnerable. It would be far better for the antiquated and unenforceable treaties to be scrapped altogether in favor of suitable new ones. Then foreigners would possess rights and interests which had been accorded to them freely and willingly by the Chinese; they would be more adequately protected in these rights and interests by China's honor and China's goodwill than by any number of battalions and gunboats.
A third consideration is that the present treaty system, bound up as it is with ill-will, jealousy and intrigue between nations, is a constant menace to the peace of the Far East. On one side are the Powers, anxious to maintain their privileges and interests, desirous whenever occasion offers to extend them, and at the same time jealous one of the other. On the other hand stands awakened China, impatient to shake off the shackles of the past and eager to regain her freedom. Such a situation is fraught with great dangers. The recent events in Shantung and the clash between the Nationalist and Japanese troops show that the dangers are not exaggerated. With the abrogation of the system a disturbing factor to the peace of the Far East and of the world will be removed.
A few lines should be devoted to Nationalist relations with Russia and Japan, China's two closest neighbors. Relations with Russia have been broken off due to the fact that Russia engaged in a program of interference in China's domestic concerns. When Soviet Russia voluntarily relinquished treaty rights secured under the Tsarist régime and demonstrated her sympathy for the Nationalist cause, there arose naturally a bond of friendship between Nationalist China and Soviet Russia. Later, however, it was discovered that the Communists, directed from Moscow, were engaged in propaganda incompatible with the principles of the Kuomintang. This caused an expulsion of those Communists who had gained admission to the Kuomintang. Last December in the city of Canton there was an uprising of a small group of Communists who, taking advantage of the absence of the garrison, gained control of the city for three days, during which much suffering was caused to the population. Evidence was found which implicated the Russian Consulate in Canton. On account of this, Russian Consulates in Nationalist territory were closed and the activities of Russian state enterprises were restricted. But there is no reason why the rupture of relations need be indefinitely continued. So soon as Soviet Russia gives evidence that she will not meddle in the internal affairs of China, the Nationalist Government is ready to resume relations with its closest neighbor.
China's relations with Japan are at present of interest to the whole world. After the notorious Twenty-One Demands of 1915 and the award of Shantung to Japan, relations between the two countries were strained. Since 1922, however, as a result of the withdrawal of Japanese troops from Shantung after the agreement reached at Washington, matters improved. Furthermore, the Japanese Government of the day followed a policy of conciliation vis-à-vis China, and this was duly appreciated by the Chinese people.
In April, 1927, however, the Cabinet fell and Baron Tanaka, leader of the military group which favored the Twenty-One Demands of 1915, came into power as Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. His assumption of office was marked by the announcement of the abandonment of his predecessor's policy and the inauguration of a "positive policy" toward China. Shortly afterwards, when the Nationalist forces marching on Peking entered the province of Shantung, he dispatched troops to Tsinan, its capital, on the excuse of protecting Japanese residents there. It was the official duty of the writer, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government, to protest against this infringement of China's sovereignty and to state that should any untoward consequences arise from this illegal and provocative act, the Japanese Government must shoulder the responsibility. The Japanese troops were later withdrawn without any serious incident.
This year, when Nationalist forces again approached Shantung in their effort to gain control of Peking and unite the country, the Japanese Government repeated its maneuver, and a similar protest was addressed to the Japanese Government. The very event for which warning was given last year took place. The Tsinan clash between Nationalist and Japanese troops is too recent to need narration. Regardless, for the moment, of the controversial questions of the immediate responsibility for the incident, for "war guilt" and "war atrocities," the fact remains that the Japanese and Chinese soldiers clashed on Chinese territory. If we were to admit the right of any Power to send troops to protect its nationals anywhere they may happen to be in China, then China would soon be overrun by alien armies and the independence and territorial sovereignty of China would become a mere farce. If Japan, on the plea of protecting a thousand or so nationals (mostly small shopkeepers who if apprehensive of danger can easily be evacuated) residing 260 miles inland, can send two to three thousand troops there regardless of China's rights, what is there to prevent another Power from sending twenty thousand troops a thousand miles into the interior to "afford protection" to half a dozen of its nationals?
But the crux of Sino-Japanese relations is to be found in Japan's pretentions in Manchuria. Japan has economic interests in Manchuria. She has need of Manchuria's resources and raw materials. But from that it is a far cry to a virtual assumption of a protectorate over the three provinces. The recent announcement that Chinese troops, whether northern or southern, are not to be admitted to Manchuria, coupled with the fact that Japanese troops are being dispatched there in increasing numbers -- all this, be it remembered, in admittedly Chinese territory -- is, to say the least, startling.
If Shantung and Manchuria are not to become the Alsace-Lorraine of Asia, a solution of the problem must be found. If relations between China and Japan are not adjusted to their mutual satisfaction, the peace of the world is not secure. If Japan's problem is economic, the solution should be economic, without importing into it political considerations. May not future statesmanship find an answer to these vexed questions along economic lines?