The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
A STATE of war has existed in the Far East for more than six months. The Manchester Guardian is quite right when it says that it is mainly thanks to the proceedings of the League of Nations that this fact has not been sufficiently impressed upon the public opinion of the world. The League's endless discussions as to how to apply the Covenant to the Sino-Japanese war have obscured and still obscure its immense historical significance. Actually the conflict marks the beginning of a whole new era in the Far East. In order to show that this conflict is no mere accident, it will be sufficient to call attention to the fact that while at the sessions of the League which followed Japan's seizure of Mukden on September 18 the Japanese representatives could speak of "local incidents," Japan proved to be so well prepared to exploit a situation arising from "local incidents" that in the course of a few days she succeeded in occupying, obviously in accordance with a carefully prepared plan, all the localities of decisive strategical importance in Manchuria.
This is a mystery which the League of Nations did not attempt to solve. But Soviet observers who studied the situation in Manchuria in the summer of 1931 were able to give a very accurate forecast of what lay ahead. V. Avarin, in his book "Imperialism and Manchuria," published in the summer of 1931, wrote as follows: "The representatives of Japanese imperialism stubbornly claim the full rights and privileges obtained under the twenty-one demands. It is perfectly clear that without a bloody struggle Japan will not at the present time accept ejection from Manchuria, nor even a weakening of her position there. A weakening of Japan's position has nevertheless been much in evidence of late. This means that at any moment one can expect some decisive action on the part of Japanese imperialism. And if it meets with opposition, this will mean that on the basis of a complex of imperialistic contradictions (among which the Manchurian question is not without importance) a new imperialistic slaughter is bound to arise." A similar forecast was made in the spring of 1931 by N. Terentev in his article "The Sino-Japanese Railroad Conflict in Manchuria," published in the Soviet periodical Problemi Kitaya.[i] These forecasts were based on a study of the economic and political forces at work in Japan, the way things were going in Manchuria, the position of China, and the international situation created by the world economic crisis. Subsequent events have proved that they were sound. And they have been illuminated by the light of exploding shells and the glare of burning towns and villages.
The apologists of Japanese imperialism maintain that it is not enough to condemn Japan, that in addition one must try to understand her position. But instead of pointing out the actual causes of the conflict, they indulge in fairy-tales which anyone conversant with economics is able to see through without difficulty. The first of these fairy-tales is the statement that Japan suffers from overpopulation and that this forces her to follow the road of imperialistic expansion because the normal outlet for her surplus population is closed by the immigration policy of the United States. But the Japanese have not been a particularly prolific race. During the long period of the Shogunate the population of Japan remained practically fixed. From 1721 to 1846 it increased from 26 millions to 26.9 millions, that is by 900,000 in 120 years. This figure should be contrasted with the annual rate of increase of 900,000 today.[ii]
The problem lies not in the prolific birthrate of Japan but in the social changes which occurred during the Meiji era. Japan's adoption of capitalistic methods in 1868 did not eradicate the Japanese feudal system. The distribution of land remains particularly unfavorable to the peasantry. One part of the rural community is represented by 56,000 large landowners and 350,000 middle-sized and small landowners, and the other part by more than 5 million peasants who either have no land at all and are merely tenants, or who own plots inadequate to provide them with a living. The landowner class seldom cultivates its estates but leases them to the peasants at exorbitant rents. The peasants pay from 50 to 60 percent of the harvest in rentals, and thus are helplessly caught in the landowners' net. As a result, the peasant population still forms an inadequate domestic market. Thus it came about that the young Japanese bourgeois and the landlord who invested in capitalistic enterprises found themselves confronted, from the very beginning of the capitalistic era, with the necessity of fighting for an outlet in foreign markets. The war with China in 1894 was already a clearly imperialistic war, in spite of the fact that at that time Japanese industry was still in its infancy. Even ten years later, at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, which was fought for the possession of Manchuria and Korea, the whole Japanese industry provided employment for merely half a million workers.
The ease with which Japan won a victory in the Far East, and the indemnities and loans which she secured, stimulated her capitalistic development. Industry, commerce and transport offered an outlet for a surplus rural population. The growth of the population was in turn stimulated. The increase is therefore the consequence and not the cause of Japan's imperialistic expansion.
What is the explanation of the easy victories won by Japan? The answer usually given is that Japan is an industrial Power, and occasionally it is even said that she is a first-rate industrial Power. As a matter of fact, the extent of Japan's capitalistic development is greatly exaggerated. In all branches of industry, with the exception of the electro-technical industry, Japan occupies fifth place among the nations of the world; in the manufacture of machines she stands sixth, i.e. she is on a level with Italy, a country with a much smaller population than Japan. The part of Japan was determined by her relative industrial strength not in the world as a whole, but in the Far East. She became the most industrialized of the Asiatic nations. All other industrial countries were far removed from the theater of her expansion. Armed opposition could be offered to her only at great sacrifice and expense. In addition, she also profited by the fact that the low standards of living of the other nations of Asia permitted her to compete successfully by selling cheap goods of inferior grades which are not manufactured in the more advanced capitalistic countries.
Having defeated Tsarist Russia -- a country socially and economically even more backward than herself, a country, too, whose main bases were separated from the Pacific Ocean by immense distances -- Japan deemed herself the master of the Far East. In 1915 she felt in a position to impose upon China the twenty-one demands, which put her in control of the resources of the vast Chinese empire. She saw herself at the very goal. China was to supply her not only with the raw materials which she lacks -- coal, iron, soya beans and cotton -- but also with an immense and growing market which would make it possible for her to transfer more and more of her increasing rural population into industry. The Japanese landlords would thus be able to maintain their positions not only in the villages, but also in the social and political life of the country as a whole.
The Washington Conference of 1922 proved to Japan that the results of the war had been no less unfavorable to her than to Great Britain. The tremendous increase in the importance of the United States in world politics forced Britain to abandon her alliance with Japan; and although British imperialism nevertheless attempted to support Japan behind the scenes in order not to lose the Japanese trump in its struggle against the United States, Japan was threatened with possible isolation not only because the relative weight of British imperialism in world politics had declined and London's dependence on New York was growing, but also because the British Dominions were opposed to the pro-Japanese policy of the Foreign Office. Among the other events which definitely deprived her of the possibility of creating an anti-American coalition were the breakdown of German imperialism and the extinction of Tsarist Russia.
Japan, having suffered a set-back at Washington, and further weakened by a fearful earthquake which cost her five billion yen, stubbornly attempted to retain the economic position she had won thanks to the exceptional conditions prevailing during the war. It was really because of the war that the number of industrial workers rose from 948,000 in 1914 to 1,500,000 in 1919.
In 1927, in spite of the general improvement in Japan's situation due to the loan for the reconstruction of areas affected by the earthquake, Japan went through a new economic disturbance which was actually the beginning of the present world crisis, a crisis felt in Japan more strongly than in perhaps any other country. This shows that she is a vulnerable spot in the international capitalistic system and that her economic forces are seriously undermined. But it is not merely these difficulties which push Japan on the road of adventure.
Japan dreads the inevitable progress of three historical tendencies, and dashes into the struggle against them fearing to lose an opportune moment which may still hold the promise of victory.
The three tendencies against which Japan is fighting are: first, the inevitable unification of China; second, the desire of the United States to conquer China economically; and third, the socialistic industrialization of Soviet Russia not only in Europe but also in Siberia.
Japan's immediate aims in China are the direct acquisition of a portion of Chinese territory and the seizure of all the principal strategic points about which the economic life of the rest of China revolves. The twenty-one demands which she imposed on China in 1915 leave no room for doubt as to her real intentions. These demands, translated into the language of railroad lines, mean not only her monopolistic domination of Manchuria but also her domination over the whole of northern China. Further, Japan has not only seized the Manchurian iron and coal mines but she has also attempted to seize the coal and iron of Shantung and has tried to put her hands on the Hanyehping iron works, which are the chief enterprise of the Chinese heavy industry.
It goes without saying that all this is directed against the unification of China. One of the decisive reasons why Japan has chosen the present moment to carry out the seizure of Manchuria is that the question of the unification of China has now reached an historical turning point. The attempts of the militaristic party of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang to unify China without first getting rid of the exploitation of Chinese peasants and workers by the capitalistic landlords and usurers have met with complete failure. Not being a unified force, the Chinese bourgeoisie is powerless to control its own tools, the leaders of its armies; these latter dictate their own will and take advantage of movements to unify the country in order to forward their own interests and to obtain personal and group power. The Chinese bourgeoisie is so busy exploiting the masses and defeating their efforts to improve their living conditions that it has no strength left to offer effective opposition to China's external enemies and is continually compelled to compromise with them. Exhausted by its struggle against the peasant and working masses, incapable of developing the economic resources of China, Chiang Kai-shek's government will either go under in general social and political chaos, or will cede its place to those forces which, after having endured and surmounted intervention from without, will assume leadership of the most populous country in the world.
And Japanese imperialism is arming itself to deal with either one of these two possible outcomes: the break-up of China and the turmoil of civil war; or the organization of China on an economic level to suit the interests of the masses. By seizing Manchuria Japan has cut away from China a country as large as France and Germany together and is turning it into a fortress in both the military and economic sense of the term. The fact that she retains Chinchow and the Jehol passes means that Japan is in a position to occupy at any time all northern China. The seizure of Woosung puts in her hands the gateway into the Yangtze valley. No mention is made of the evacuation of Manchuria; instead, an "independent" Manchurian state is organized and an open declaration made: "Here I am, and here I will stay." The allusions made by Japanese representatives before the League of Nations as to the growing international importance of Shanghai, and the discussions regarding the necessity of protecting the five principal Chinese ports from Chinese chaos, all indicate that Japanese imperialism is not satisfied with the seizure of Manchuria but plans to establish a number of fortresses on Chinese territory under the threat of Japanese guns.
The second menace against which Japan is fighting in China is the menace of American expansion. The United States has not as yet taken part in the struggle for the economic control of China on a large scale. The authors of numerous books on the policy of the United States in the Far East usually go back to the beginning of the nineteenth century and produce an array of documents showing that from the middle of that century many American leaders fully realized the immense importance of the Pacific Ocean in general and of China in particular. Such quotations, however, merely prove the existence of farsighted men in the ranks of leading American statesmen. Actual American penetration of the east began at the close of the nineteenth century, with the seizure of the Philippines. And this was a preventive policy -- the exclusion of others, the safeguarding of certain possibilities for the future -- rather than a policy of actual penetration into China or of actual participation by the United States in any move to conquer Asia. This contention is fully proved by the fact that up to the present time the United States has invested in China no more than $250,000,000, while her investments in Japan amount to at least twice as much. In the post-war period, when American trade began to crowd England out of China and to conquer the Chinese market, the United States refrained from any large-scale economic commitment in China. But the general line of American policy toward China became plain, namely to oppose those who threatened to divide China or seize large slices of her territory. This had been the policy of the United States during the Russo-Japanese War; it had been directed against Russia during the war, and turned against Japan immediately after the latter won her victory. Proof is furnished by the intimate correspondence between John Hay, then Secretary of State, with President Roosevelt, Henry White and others published in William Roscoe Thayer's biography of Hay. It is further proved by the papers of Colonel House relating to the war period and to the Versailles negotiations. The demand for the so-called Open Door was a demand that aimed to safeguard the future market of China for American capital.
There is no doubt that today Japan sees in the United States her strongest competitor in capitalistic China. England, who has invested more capital in China than any other nation, is not in a position to increase her investments. She is passing through a profound crisis, which forces her to look around for new outlets under the changed conditions created by the loss of her former industrial supremacy. This prevents the British imperialists from concentrating on Far Eastern problems. The United States, however, is in a position to beat Japan not only by making foreign investments but also by exporting cheap goods. The immense internal market of America allows her to carry on the rationalization and standardization of her production on a scale which Japan cannot even dream of equaling. Now the policy of the Open Door is one which gives victory to those who are economically the stronger. America has reached the point where she will have to decide to take an active part in the economic affairs of China. A daily increasing body of American public opinion begins to understand that America cannot find a solution of her crisis within the limits of her domestic market. The bad shape in which the American farmers find themselves prevents any considerable rise in their requirements. As to the urban market, its limits are determined by the fact that, in the opinion of even so moderate an economist as Professor Faulkner, the condition of the working classes showed no substantial improvement during the whole post-war period, and has deteriorated considerably during the crisis. Rationalization has brought about a basic unemployment which will not disappear even if the present crisis is followed by a new period of expansion. America will have to find a way out of the crisis, and this will be, of course, in the direction of the expansion of her foreign trade and her foreign investments. In spite of all the shouts and cries of the isolationists the return of the United States to the policy they favor is unthinkable. The four billion dollars invested in Germany are a landmark. Henceforth America can only move forward, investing new capital in the countries which are potential markets for her produce. Obviously, then, the unification of China and the growth of her productive forces are determining factors in the economic expansion of the United States.
Japan is convinced that the United States will seek a solution of the crisis along these lines. She is anxious to forestall the United States by snatching from China whatever she can, and by occupying dominating positions in the remainder of China. Only so, she thinks, can she protect herself from being crowded out by the United States.
The third historical tendency against which Japan is waging war is the industrialization of the Soviet Union, and especially of Siberia. An American newspaper man who deals with Far Eastern affairs, usually from the Japanese point of view, wrote on January 10 in the New York Times as follows:
Soviet Russia has presented a definitely serious menace to Japan. In the first place, Communist propaganda in China, in Korea and in Japan itself has bothered the Japanese fearfully. Second, Soviet Russia has vigorously pursued the imperialistic policies of Tsarist Russia in East Asia and with greater success. She has succeeded in forming of Outer Mongolia an independent state, allied to the Soviet Union; she has succeeded in holding her share of the Chinese Eastern Railway, and has formed close political and economic affiliations in North Manchuria.
The Japanese have come to believe that Russia's principal steel and ammunition plants at Kuznetsk and Magnitogorsk and the proposed double-tracking of the Trans-Siberian Railway are aimed at Japan. If today Soviet Russia is weak, five years or ten years from now, when her industrialization shall have been completed and her transportation program put through, will she not be strong enough to face Japan, as she did in 1905, but with greater success?
Japan's answer to that will be the control of strategic railroads in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia and the development of iron and steel industries in Manchuria whose progress has been delayed because of Chinese opposition.
A Japan without resources in her own country and dependent upon Chinese officialdom in Manchuria would be no match for Soviet Russia. But a Japan that dominates Manchuria economically and actually controls Manchuria's railways can even afford to be on good terms with Russia; for as Japan is strengthened in Manchuria, the menace from Soviet Russia decreases.
We are not quoting this excerpt in order to dispute some of the assertions made in it. We shall not, for example, take up the question whether the activities of Japanese imperialism and the attitude adopted toward them by several capitalistic countries in Europe do not advance the cause of communism in China. Nor shall we pause to discuss those aims of Tsarist Russia which are alleged to have been revived by the Soviet Union. Of significance to our present discussion, however, is the fact that Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk, while not yet fully active economic factors, are already recognized as being active political factors on the international stage, and that they already produce certain reactions in the relations of the Great Powers in the Far East. And the seizure of Manchuria by Japan is recognized as being a step towards restoring the economic balance upset by the industrialization of Siberia, a step which will allow Japan to maintain the position she has won in the Far East.
Undoubtedly an observer less inclined to defend Japanese policies would not have failed to note that Japanese control over the whole network of Manchurian railroads means not only a blow to China's desire to create her own railroads independent of Japan and connected with the independent Chinese port of Hulutao, but that it also presents a direct menace to the Soviet seaports and the railway connections between them and the Soviet Union. All this public opinion in Soviet Russia understands quite clearly by merely glancing at a map.
The Japanese seizure of Manchuria, then, besides being an effort to forestall the unification of China and the spread of American economic power there, is also a reply to the industrialization of Siberia.
Japan has selected for action a transitional period in the development of each of the three factors on which her action is based. Thus, unifying tendencies at work among the Chinese people are passing through a time of severe trial; the bourgeois-feudal-military régime in China is at bay before the popular masses everywhere on the vast Chinese plains, and at the same time it is torn by its own internal contradictions. Second, America has not yet embarked on a policy of independent economic expansion in China, although she may make such a decision at any time. Third, the Soviet Union, having undertaken the work of industrialization and having made steady progress with it, has reached a stage when her newly built factories are only just beginning to come into production. As has been the case in all other countries, they must pass through a period of infantile diseases which prevent them from showing full results immediately.
Japan is thus in a hurry. But the reason why she is in a hurry must be sought not only in an analysis of the three general considerations which have been brought forward above, but also in the conditions prevailing at the present time in Manchuria.
Manchuria has three principal railroad systems.[iii] One, the South Manchuria Railway running from Changchun to Dairen (with its ramifications), is entirely in the hands of Japan. The second, the Chinese Eastern Railway, from the frontier station of Manchouli southeast to Pogranichnaya belongs to the Soviet Union and is under joint Chinese and Russian management. The third railroad line, not yet completed, cuts through western Manchuria from Aigun on the Amur to the newly built port of Hulutao.
The economic interests of the Japanese capitalists center about the South Manchuria Railway. In the region which it serves are situated the rich deposits of coal and iron which have been developed by Japanese capital and which are of immense strategical importance to Japan.
Soviet Russia is attempting no economic expansion around the Chinese Eastern Railroad. Her economic institutions, the trusts, are not trying to make it the backbone of projects for economic expansion, or to exploit the working masses of China; but this important trade route is being developed by the Chinese bourgeoisie and the Chinese landlords with a view to establishing and expanding their industrial enterprises in the area which it serves. Japan enjoys economic influence also in North Manchuria, but since she does not control the Chinese Eastern Railway, she is unable to impose the dictatorship of the Japanese trusts there.
The railroads in western Manchuria were built partly with the proceeds of the Japanese loans, and partly with Chinese money invested by Chinese landlords and capitalists. The local Chinese bourgeoisie which has grown up is dissatisfied with Japanese domination and now seeks independence. In the days when Japanese capital and Japanese military influence first penetrated into Manchuria they at once set to work to develop a special Manchurian bureaucracy and create a Manchurian army as subsidiary agencies in effecting their domination of the country. It will be sufficient to point out that Chang Tso-lin grew to be the leader of Manchuria and accumulated millions under the auspices of Japan and with her assistance. But the Manchurian militaristic party, having reached maturity and having amassed millions by plunder, tended to become to a certain extent an independent force and to resent Japanese control. The new Manchurian bourgeoisie, which had invested in industrial enterprises the gold it had accumulated by exporting soya beans to Japan, began to dislike the fact that the cream of the profits went to Japan. The result was a gradually developing conflict between the Manchurian upper classes (bourgeoisie and landlords) and military bureaucracy, on the one hand, and the Japanese militarism on the other. It is true that at the slightest menace to the rule of this bureaucracy from the outside, Japan came forward to defend it; we saw as much during the struggle between Marshal Feng and Chang Tso-lin. But the protection offered by Japan to her vassals did not for a moment diminish her hostility toward their eagerness to regain their independence.
Japan was particularly afraid of the connections which the ambitious Manchurian bourgeoisie and military leaders wanted to establish with America. To the successful attempt of Chang Tso-lin to prevent the granting of a Morgan loan to the South Manchuria Railway the reply of Japan (as stated in the Council of the League of Nations by the Chinese representative, M. Yen, without any challenge from M. Sato, the representative of Japan) was the murder of Chang Tso-lin. The Manchurian militaristic party was confronted by the alternative of either capitulating or entering into an open struggle. Chang Hsueh-liang's recognition of the Nanking Government was an act of open revolt by the Manchurian military clique against Japan, not only because Chang Hsueh-liang had proclaimed that Manchuria belonged to China, thus rendering more difficult the further steps of Japan toward the annexation of Manchuria, but also because the Nanking Government appeared in the eyes of Japanese imperialists as the agent of American capitalism. We are not concerned with the actual degree of dependence of Nanking on New York and Washington. This dependence, measured by the actual help given by American capitalistic circles to the Chinese capitalists who group themselves around the government of Chiang Kai-shek, is quite negligible. The real question is not that, but of the direction in which the Chinese bourgeoisie, represented by the government of Chiang Kai-shek, is moving. It is forced to seek the abrogation of unequal treaties and concessions in order to meet the demand of China's growing national consciousness; furthermore, the liquidation of the positions taken up by the imperialistic Powers would compel those Powers to change their policy of direct domination over China to one of coöperation with the Chinese bourgeoisie. England and France have concessions in China, and their domination is based on unequal treaties. The United States has no independent concessions; but as she is in a position to make loans to China, and thus to increase her influence through her investments, she does not need them.
The American policy of the Open Door in China meets the desire of the Chinese bourgeoisie for the unification of their country, and that is the reason why Japan has become convinced that the orientation of the Nanking Government toward the United States is bound to continue.
The penetration of the United States into Manchuria might take place -- as a matter of fact, it already has started -- through the coöperation of American capital with the Manchurian bourgeoisie. Japan was afraid of an amalgamation of the West Manchurian railroads with the help of American capital, and of the penetration of American capital into the Chinese Eastern Railway through the Chinese part of its management. Such a proceeding not only would threaten Japan's plan for the encirclement and economic control of the whole of Manchuria, but it also would menace the immediate economic interests of the Japanese capital invested in Manchuria to the extent of one-and-a-half billion yen.
The most progressive agrarian part of Manchuria is North Manchuria. Its trade used to go over the Chinese Eastern Railway to Vladivostok, not southward to Dairen. The trade of West Manchuria is now beginning to find an outlet by means of the network of Chinese railroads and the port of Hulutao. Warning of the approaching danger to Japanese interests was given by the decline in the profits of the South Manchuria Railway. It became imperative to take immediate and decisive action. Treaties which remain unpublished, secret promises to various military cliques which used to control Peiping or Mukden, were put to work by Japan. The Orient is known for its art of conducting endless negotiations. Japan came to the same conclusion reached by Dr. Faust in his interpretation of the Holy Scriptures: "In the beginning was not the word, but the deed." The name of this deed is General Honjo and his army which on September 18, 1931, began the conquest of Manchuria.
If Japan retains Manchuria this will represent a drastic defeat of the foreign policy of the United States, a defeat for which it will be difficult to find compensation in the course of the next few years. Japan is convinced that the United States cannot defeat her on the seas. The immensity of the distance which separates the two countries and the absence of American naval bases would prevent the United States from striking a decisive blow at the Japanese fleet and gaining access to the inner Japanese waters. Formerly, in case of a war with Japan, the United States might have sought to achieve her ends by blockading Japan. But now Manchuria is to give Japan what she lacks for the conduct of a war, namely iron, coal, foodstuffs. To Manchuria is assigned the rôle of insuring Japan against the dangers of a blockade. Japan is convinced that the seizure of Manchuria is already an accomplished fact, and she has no idea that it will prove possible for anyone to force her to abandon her position there.
What is the basis for the Japanese belief that the real work is over and that merely the legal aspect of the problem still remains to be settled?
It is based, to begin with, on the position of Japan and the United States in the present alignment of the imperialistic Powers. The League of Nations, of course, does not concern Japan as an independent entity. The League is a thorn in the relations of the Great Powers. In practice it can do nothing that England and France do not want it to do.
The attitude of France toward Japan is plain. It is determined by French hostility toward the nationalistic movement in the Orient, a movement which threatens the French position in Indo-China. It is also determined by France's hostility to the Soviet Union. French imperialism would like to see Japan strengthened in the hope that this will lead to a struggle with the Soviet Union. The tendency is further emphasized by the relationship held by France toward the European neighbors of the Soviet Union, especially Poland.
But important as is the attitude of France toward Japanese imperialism, the decisive rôle in this connection belongs to England. In spite of the progressive weakening of England, she still remains a factor of first-rate importance in the Far East. Her investments there are larger than those of any other country and, what is more important, she controls the military bases along the routes leading to the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, in the Far-Eastern policy of England lies the chief reserve of Japanese imperialism.
What is this policy? It found plain expression in the statements which appeared in every English conservative newspaper defending the fundamental thesis of Japanese diplomacy as to the specific nature of the Chinese state. China, it was maintained, is not a force guaranteeing order and upholding treaties, hence the Powers in their relations with China cannot be bound by the League of Nations and its Covenant. This thesis (often and fully expounded in the London Times, e.g., the leading article on November 23), forms one of the foundations of British policy. Its meaning is simple. British imperialism is aware that in the future (just as has been the case in the past) it will interfere with the sovereignty and independence of China; and in its struggle to preserve its acquisitions in China it cannot be in the position of putting a check upon Japan's policy toward China. This principle has not been clearly stated in the diplomatic documents and official pronouncements of the Foreign Office, but it nevertheless remains one of the bases of British policy. Nor does it exhaust this policy. We must also remember that in England's struggle against the United States she does not want to lose her Japanese trump. Beset by a variety of difficulties, England had to give way to the wishes of the United States at the Washington and London Naval Conferences; but this should not be taken to mean her final capitulation. England hopes that after she has strengthened the links which unite her with the other members of the Empire she will be able to reënter the race for world supremacy. In this race she counts upon the support of Japan. The more cynical English statesmen retain the Japanese card in order to sell it at a good price when the time arrives for a final settlement of accounts with the United States.
Japan, who saw in the creation of the Singapore base the threat of an actual change in British policy toward America, is now convinced that at least for the present, or during the next few years when the Japanese position in Manchuria must be settled, England will not accept the lead of the United States. Anyone who has followed the manœuvres at Geneva cannot seriously doubt that the Japanese analysis of British policy is essentially correct. All the suggestions and declarations made by British representatives were directed to the same purpose, namely to afford Japan a breathing-space in which she might complete her program and consolidate her acquisitions in Manchuria. This was the object of sending the League committee of experts to the Far East; it also inspired the English offer of an armistice made in Shanghai, an offer which was to relieve Japan from the moral pressure of the small Powers, members of the League, supported by American public opinion. Finally, under the influence of American diplomacy, England, who had refused to join in the policy set forth by Secretary Stimson on January 7, felt obliged to accept the resolution of the League of Nations of March 11 declining recognition of any treaties imposed upon China by the armed might of Japan. England voted for the resolution; but her real position in this question, as it appears in the speech of Sir John Simon in the House of Commons, is extremely elusive and makes it possible for her to pretend at any time that she believes in the self-determination of the Manchurian people and does not see the "self-determining" bayonets of General Honjo.
The policy of the United States, as expressed in Secretary Stimson's note of January 7 and his letter to Senator Borah, is not to recognize the Japanese acquisitions. This attitude will hardly intimidate Japan's diplomats or her military leaders. If they succeed in taking a firm hold in Manchuria, they can afford to await the recognition of the United States, meantime creating new opportunities for obtaining compensation or concessions. By bombarding Shanghai, for instance, Japan created a situation in which even a large section of American public opinion considered as a very great achievement the cessation of the bombardment, although the Japanese troops remained in Shanghai and although even today they retain Woosung and thus control the Yangtze.
Japan does not believe that the United States will dare to take action against her, even to the extent of using the Chinese as an instrument. To wage war China would require considerable loans, which under present financial conditions the United States cannot provide. The American Government could not advance the money because to do so would need a declaration of war; American banks, who have doubts as to the stability of the government of Chiang Kai-shek, will not open large credits to China. Credits might be offered by private manufacturers of ammunition and armaments, but if these credits were large or if the shipment of large consignments of arms seemed likely, Japan would not allow the consignments to reach Tientsin and Shanghai, or she would prevent their unloading, or, in the last resort, she would declare formal war on China and a blockade, thus facing the United States with a definite choice. American policy in China seems to aim at collecting a rich harvest without taking any risks. That sort of policy may sometimes be successful, when exceptional conditions prevail. These do not exist at present.
The attitude of the United States toward the Soviet Union, which entails sacrificing the advantages of an economic and political rapprochement to the considerations of parochial politicians in search of thrillers for home consumption, is an example of the complete lack of vision and determination in the foreign policy of the United States. The Japanese laugh at the threats of the American press. They point out that the United States is incapable even of making a decision to resume normal relations with the Soviet Union, and that what is more, American influence, by preventing the establishment of normal relations between China and the Soviet Union, is playing Japan's game.
That sort of policy cannot check the adventures of Japanese militarists, who have decided to seek, arms in hand, a solution to the crisis from which Japan is suffering today, and which is not purely economic.
The Soviet Union, which borders Manchuria and Mongolia and which is the only independent state facing Japan from the mainland of Asia, follows with deep interest day-by-day events in the Far East. She cannot afford to be indifferent to the changes which are taking place in the Pacific. She is convinced that in the long run the policy of the Japanese imperialists will prove extremely costly to the Japanese people. Japan has entered the path of expanding her colonial possessions at a time when the colonial system all over the world is displaying unmistakable signs of deterioration. That system is under attack by nations which have much lower standards and a much less developed national consciousness than China. It is not impossible that as a result there may be a great conflict between the Chinese masses and the Japanese imperialists, a conflict which will end by transferring the leadership of China into the hands of the elements which are the most capable of uniting the Chinese masses in their struggle for independence.
In particular, the Soviet Union cannot remain indifferent to the changes which are taking place in Manchuria, through which or near which pass the lines of communication giving access to her Pacific ports. Her industry does not need foreign markets because, however rapid may be its growth, the demands of her population grow even more rapidly. The Soviet Union was never a party to any policy of dividing Manchuria into spheres of influence, but she cannot but observe that her interests there are threatened by the rule of foreign military cliques.
The Soviet Union is strong enough to defend her territorial integrity and her interests. Concentrating her efforts on building up peaceful industries for meeting the needs of her own population, keeping aloof from armed interference with the affairs of foreign nations, the Soviet Union will seek a peaceful settlement of all conflicts which may arise between her and her neighbors. She will base her policy exclusively on her own interests, which correspond with the interests of peace both in the east and in Europe. But she will know how to defend her vital rights. Those who think that she will sacrifice them because she is afraid of a conflict are just as wrong as those who believe that she will become a tool of foreign interests.
It must be hoped that this will be understood both by the Japanese imperialists and by their opponents. Let no one expect to win an easy victory over the Soviet Union or look upon her as an easy prey. Foreign Powers who have occupied Soviet territory in the past were forced to withdraw. No state can expect to ignore with impunity the interests of a nation with a population of 165 millions -- certainly not a state which is already waging war on another front. To disregard these simple truths would be to court terrible misfortune. That can be avoided by reaching reasonable agreements not directed against a third party but serving the general cause of peace. In the effort to maintain peace the Soviet Union will collaborate with any Power which desires the peaceful development of the Far East.
[i] Problems of China, Nos. 6-7.
[ii] John E. Orchard: "Japan's Economic Position." New York: McGraw-Hill, 1930, p. 8.
[iii] See map in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. 10, No. 2, p. 230.