How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
TERRITORIAL gains by conquest often seem to require that the frontiers shall again and again be extended further afield. Japan's expansion on the continent of Asia, which she has sought to justify on the grounds of security, is a case in point.
Since 1905 Japan has extended her possessions and influence by an almost continuous process. Her most recent moves in Inner Mongolia and in the northern part of China proper are an integral part of this process. But they differ in method from the action taken in 1931 and 1933 in Manchuria and Jehol, where control was won by armed force. In this last step the threat of force alone has been sufficient to enable Tokyo to secure its objectives.
The course and progress of Japan's advance on the Asiatic mainland may be seen from the accompanying map.[i] In 1905 she secured from Russia the southern portion of Sakhalin, the Kwantung Leased Area, and the South Manchuria Railway. In 1910 she annexed Korea. In 1931-32 she invaded Manchuria and set up the puppet state of Manchukuo with Henry Pu-Yi, the former Emperor of China, as Chief Executive. In 1934 Pu-Yi ascended the throne as Emperor Kang Teh. In 1933 Jehol was invaded and added to Manchukuo.
In the summer of 1935, following incidents which took place along the border of Jehol between Japanese and Chinese troops, Tokyo made vigorous demands on the Chinese Government. These included the removal of the Chinese general in command of troops in Chahar, a province of Inner Mongolia; the dismissal of certain officials in Hopei, a province in China proper south of the Great Wall; and the removal of the Chinese troops from that area. China's compliance with these demands placed two more provinces within the expanding orbit of Japanese influence. The provinces continue, for the time being at least, under Chinese sovereignty; but they are subject to Japan's dictates through the pressure which she is able to exert on the Nanking Government. Each week brings reports of still further Japanese encroachments on North China provinces. Those recently mentioned have included Shensi and Shansi, to the west of Hopei, and Shantung, to the south-east.
The ulterior purpose of Japan in extending her control over Chahar is easy enough to fathom. Strategically Chahar is important to her, for its possession makes more difficult any flanking movement by Russia directed at Manchukuo. Conversely, Japan can more easily outflank the Russians. Across Chahar runs the age-old caravan route from North China through the Gobi Desert to Siberia; while the principal city, Kalgan, is on the railway line which connects Peiping with Suiyuan, the western province of Inner Mongolia. The control of Chahar thus makes it possible to interrupt communication between China and Russia and also between China proper and Inner Mongolia. Possible Russo-Chinese joint action against Japan can be impeded. Control over Chahar also gives Japan the power to interrupt the infiltration of Communist influences into China. Finally, Japan's eventual purpose of bringing all Mongols under the sway of the Manchu Emperor is made easier of attainment.
But while Japan's action in Chahar may be due to fear of Russia, the extension of her influence to Hopei province, which is inside the Great Wall and contains the important North China cities of Peiping and Tientsin, must be ascribed to other reasons. Jehol dominates the North China plain. Its terrain is rugged and well-adapted to defense. It constitutes a natural frontier for Manchukuo. The extension of Japan's influence beyond this area is, therefore, an indication that her aspirations are not yet satisfied. She seeks to justify her move south of the Great Wall on the grounds of her declared aim to "preserve the peace" in Eastern Asia. So far she seems only to have demanded the removal of officials unfriendly to the Japanese, and of Chinese troops who might support anti-Japanese sentiment in the regions in question. Whether this will be followed by military occupation is not yet clear. But considering the bleak and unfriendly nature of the Jehol terrain it would not be strange if the Japanese and Manchukuo forces were tempted to move southward and enjoy the comforts offered by one of Asia's most attractive regions. And once they had established themselves on the North China plains the limit of their advance southward would be difficult to predict, for no important natural barriers exist for hundreds of miles.
W. H. M.
[i] See also map of Japanese rule in whole Pacific area, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, April 1935, p. 520.