Courtesy Reuters

Chinese Public Opinion

THE strength of public opinion in China is well recognized despite the apparent dearth of means for its registration or mobilization. For example, the Kuomintang triumphed in 1926-28 primarily because it had gained general public support; and the Nineteenth Route Army fought at Shanghai against the desires of China's constituted leaders and in response to popular pressure. Again, the possibilities of Sino-Japanese conciliation remain practically unexplored because Chinese statesmen feel bound by the popular insistence that there shall not be the slightest tendency toward compromise.

In general, the Chinese philosophy of government is based on the reason of the governed, rather than on law. The final check on the autocratic power of the ruler, whether of the county, the province or the nation, is that he must conform to the traditions and ethics established for the people as a whole. When dynasties collapsed, they were said to have exhausted the mandate of heaven; in most cases they really had forfeited public confidence.

The laws which govern this force are imperfectly understood alike in China and America. To borrow an analogy from physics, we know its statics, but have only limited means for ascertaining its dynamics. The power of a disciplined and determined minority to impress its will on an apathetic or demoralized majority exists throughout the world, regardless of governmental forms. Intensity of feeling is more powerful than mere volume. That is why any method of counting heads furnishes an imperfect and incomplete indication of the real popular will. And those men who win renown as leaders of public opinion have never been able to rationalize or formulate their methods. In the last analysis they rely on instinct, intuition and tact to determine what the public wants and how badly it wants it.

But even admitting this limitation we still are able to make some sort of qualitative comparison of Chinese and American public opinion. It so happens that the ethos of each people provides a common starting point. In both

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