NO other nation will cross the threshold of the postwar world in quite the same mood as China. For China is a new nation, with a new attitude. That is the cardinal fact to be borne in mind by everyone who seeks to understand her or to appraise her future course.

The Chinese have had more than two centuries of unbroken contact with Western nations and Western civilization. But it was not until the time of the Russo-Japanese War that the Chinese people, the Court and the literati saw what the West meant for them. They saw that a rapid process of westernization had transformed Japan and had made her mighty. They perceived the concept of nationhood, and saw that the political entities called Great Britain, France and Germany were nations but that the Chinese Empire was not a nation. In the sixties and seventies they had realized that the firearms, fire boats and fire wagons of the Westerners were better instruments for killing than any which they possessed. Now they saw that Western civilization had many other elements of strength and even refinement lacking in the traditional Chinese civilization. Prior to the Russo-Japanese War, Dr. Sun Yat-sen's call for the overthrow of the Manchu régime and an advance toward nationhood fell on deaf ears. But when that war thoroughly shook up Chinese complacency Dr. Sun began to recruit followers from among the literati and elsewhere in great numbers.

This belated dawning of national consciousness cost China dearly. The delay gave her immensely greater difficulties in attaining freedom and unity than Japan had faced. It brought her more suffering. She finally had to pay the price of a long and devastating war before her own people and other states admitted that she was a nation. The National Government which the Kuomintang set up has had to devote virtually all its energies to the single purpose of achieving that nationhood, neglecting almost all the other goals that were equally precious to Dr. Sun.

The Sino-Japanese war of 1937 was the most important single event of China's coming of age. It can be expected to exert an altogether disproportionate influence on the Chinese attitude toward peace and the new world order. The new nation will be conscious of possessing undreamed-of force and strength. She will insist on meticulous equality of treatment in her dealings with other nations. She will be jealously watchful of her full sovereignty and freedom of action. The older nations may be ready to accept a degree of international government and restricted sovereignty; the new Chinese nation may behave chauvinistically. Perhaps the attitude of the resurrected Poland after the First World War is an instance of what is to be expected from China.

China gained nationhood only after long years of frustration, and nobody will find it surprising if New China looks with a suspicious eye on the nations which so recently dominated her. Foremost among these nations are the Japanese Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the French Empire (if it is restored).

It seems hardly necessary to list the reasons why China will be suspicious of Japan. She will wish to see her relegated to the status of a weak nation, militarily and economically. The British Empire is suspected because of its traditional use of the system of balance of power in maintaining its predominance and because of its territorial interest in lands bordering southwest China. The Chinese continued to think of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance with dread long after its demise; nor did the regret which they heard expressed for twenty years in powerful British circles over the abandonment of the Alliance add to their peace of mind. The Chinese cannot help knowing that if the British do again resort to the system of balance of power in the Far East, it will be because they feel that China, destined to be the principal Power there, must be held in a state of suspense. The British Government has not expressed a readiness to relax its hold on Tibet, a Chinese territory, or on Burma; nor has it ever declared itself in favor of the full restoration of Manchuria to China. Does it intend to make use of China's rich and fertile alienated provinces in a continuation of the balance-of-power game?

China watches the policy of the Soviet Union with great uneasiness. The support that Russia may give to the Chinese Communist Party is always a source of anxiety. The status of Mongolia is an exasperation. The Soviet Union clung tenaciously to the interests which Tsarist Russia had acquired in North Manchuria; then in 1934, under threat, it sold or otherwise ceded them to Japan. That did not help to correct the impression that Communist Russia, too, is capable of imperialist manœuvres.

These various suspicions could be removed, and China hopes they will be. But given China's jealous regard for her newly acquired national status, it would seem unrealistic to expect her to show a high degree of international-mindedness after the war. She will come to the peace table young and perhaps with a chip on her shoulder.

But other factors will come in to influence her attitude, and they are saving ones. Perhaps it is a virtue and perhaps it is a defect, but the Chinese mind, both in the individual and in the race, has a fundamentally defensive slant. That peculiarly Chinese weapon, the boycott, illustrates it. The refusal of a community to buy from and sell to the nationals of an offending country is essentially a defensive weapon. When other peoples are gripped by the kind of feeling that leads the Chinese to resort to a boycott they are apt to riot or indulge in some other form of violence. But the Chinese do not; they choose the more passive form of self-protection. The Chinese soldiers, officers and men alike, are good fighters. They nevertheless make a better showing in defense than in offense.[i] At any rate, the Chinese people are not impetuous. Chinese history is not without grandiose external exploits, but one observes that the empire builders came almost always from foreign races. Genghis Khan is an example. The early Manchus did much to expand the Chinese domain, but when the Mongols and the Manchus were absorbed by the Chinese they ceased to be empire builders. The greatest imperialistic Chinese was Chin Shih Huang Ti. Yet he consolidated only what was already Chinese territory, and after the consolidation he built the Great Wall to ward off the more martial Hsiung Nu people instead of undertaking to subjugate them.

In foreign affairs China has always moved cautiously. We need not dwell upon the anemic policy of the later Manchus and of the earlier Republican days. The Kuomintang proclaimed a bold foreign policy, demanding abolition of the unequal treaties rather than revision of them through negotiation. In practice, however, the National Government has pursued the policy of negotiated revision. In China's own self-interest and for the sake of consistency in the Party program a strong policy seemed called for time and again; but it was not forthcoming. One would have expected China to declare flatly in favor of universal disarmament and in favor of international aid to victims of aggression, such as Ethiopia in 1935 and Loyalist Spain in 1937-39. But the major League Powers were in favor of a program of appeasement. China took her cue from them and refrained from speaking out. In the early years of the Sino-Japanese war the behavior of Italy and Germany was revoltingly unfriendly. Self-respect demanded that China denounce them at once. She should have declared war on Germany on the outbreak of the war in Europe; but Britain was cool toward such a move and China did nothing. Caution has always been the watchword of Chinese foreign policy. It will indeed be a spectacular development if the Kuomintang Government breaks with that age-old tradition.

In brief, China's policy in the peace will emerge from a conflict between opposite attitudes -- the traditional one and the new one. As a result, that policy may shift from day to day. Outside factors will, it seems clear, supply the determining influence.


Discussions in America today about what is to be done after the war center on the general subject of world peace and the creation of a world order. Americans do not feel called upon to consider how to safeguard their national interests in the narrow sense of obtaining more fair boundary lines or achieving security from a particular neighbor. The Chinese, on the contrary, are absorbed in the question of how to fulfill their national aspirations and how to secure protection from further attack.

Chinese aspirations and demands are likely to cluster around four main themes: security against aggression; restoration of lost territories; opportunities for national economic development; and the acquisition of a position of dignity among the nations of Asia.

As we have noted, the nations that have done most in the past to endanger China's existence are Japan, Russia, Great Britain and France -- in the order given. At present all are China's neighbors. Since Great Britain is an ally, and since her colonial policy is expected to undergo radical changes, and since France's military power is likely to be negligible in the near future, British and French threats to China may be considered no longer to exist. In the case of the Soviet Union, much depends on how the war in the Far East is to be terminated.

The situation in regard to Japan is simpler. Japan will be defeated. As a condition of peace China will insist that she be completely disarmed. China is also likely to ask for penalties and reparations. She will need the former to prevent Japan from remaining an industrially more advanced and therefore militarily stronger power; she will need the latter as an aid to her own recovery.

Even when these demands for disarmament, punishment and reparations are satisfied, China will still live in mortal fear of Japan's sudden recovery in the Nazi fashion. She also will have the Soviet threat in mind. For security against danger from without, then, China is almost sure to propose a Far Eastern security plan, with Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States all participating. It will be the United States whom China will trust as the principal guarantor. If this plan is accepted by all, China's demands on Japan may be softened; if it is rejected, they will be more harsh.

What territories will China want returned? Before the Chinese Empire began to disintegrate in 1842 it was an immensely greater country than China is at present. It would be neither practical nor just for China to ask the return of all territories ceded to other countries (for instance, the Amur region, now a part of the Soviet Union) and of all tributary states now owing allegiance elsewhere (for instance, Burma and Indo-China). Fortunately, China is not in so jingoistic a frame of mind. What China will firmly demand is, first, the Chinese-inhabited territories snatched away from her by Japan since 1874, and second, full and undisputed control of Tibet and Outer Mongolia.

In the first category fall those islands of the Lu Chu group which are inhabited by the Chinese, and both Formosa and Manchuria. Formosa was a Chinese province before it was taken by Japan. Its inhabitants are still predominantly Chinese in spite of Japan's indefatigable efforts at colonization. The population of the Manchurian provinces is almost purely Chinese, and during all the years while they were under enemy occupation the National Government of China never failed to maintain skeleton governments for them. China will feel that a denial of her claim to these areas will be tantamount to questioning her right to free national existence. Such a denial would set the stage for the kind of bitter strife which filled Europe during the past century.

Tibet and Outer Mongolia present a more complicated problem. During the Manchu dynasty they were integral parts of China. They have remained Chinese territory. Even at the height of British influence in Tibet, in the years immediately following the Revolution in 1911, the British continued to accept Chinese suzerainty over that area. The Soviet Union has repeatedly acknowledged Chinese suzerainty over Outer Mongolia and did not repudiate it at the time of the Soviet-Japanese Non-Aggression Pact in April 1941. In that Pact the Soviet Union induced the Japanese to declare for non-intervention in Mongolian affairs. But Outer Mongolia has become an independent People's Republic, ostensibly by self-determination. The Tibetans have likewise been reluctant to return to the fold.

China believes that if British and Soviet influences are lifted from Tibet and Mongolia, neither province will insist on remaining a separate entity. China has consistently avoided raising the issue of either Tibet or Mongolia, because of the imperative necessity of keeping on the friendliest terms with both Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But it must be raised at the end of this war. China will then expect both Powers to facilitate her assumption of undisputed control over these areas.

Next to security and territorial integrity, China wants an opportunity for rapid and unrestricted economic development and the means for achieving it. She hopes to be exempted from the application of certain general economic arrangements; she also hopes that active economic help will be given her.

China is in full accord with the principles of free trade as embodied in the Atlantic Charter and as repeatedly enunciated by Secretary of State Hull. But she is also aware that the major nations with which she will have economic dealings are all her seniors in economic development. Free and unrestricted trade, including the equal access to resources, may be a perfect blessing to them but may conceivably work great hardships on her. She is inclined to ask for safeguards. Many Chinese believe that for ten years following the war China should levy protective duties and take other steps to give her infant industries a chance to prosper.

But such measures as protective duties alone will not be sufficient to put Chinese industries or agriculture on a firm footing. The Chinese will be most anxious to get assistance from the more industrialized nations, especially the United States and Great Britain. China needs capital, machinery and technical services. Her attitude on all major international questions will depend upon whether she gets them. Once she has them, her attitude toward Japan will be less harsh, her fears and suspicions of her neighbors can be largely removed, her absorption in her own affairs will lessen. She herself has not as yet any clear idea as to the form which the assistance should take. Perhaps it should be given as a collective enterprise of the new world organization. Perhaps it will come through agreements with the individual nations interested. Come in what form it may, China must have it.

The new Chinese nation will be sensitive, for a brief period at least, and not without vanities. The fourth group of aspirations and demands is related to the status of her nationals abroad and to the status of the tributaries and possessions of European Powers on her borders.

There are some eight to ten million Chinese abroad. Of these, nearly 90 percent are located in the Indonesian possessions of Great Britain, France and the Netherlands and in Siam and the Philippines. Before the Japanese invasion, they suffered varying degrees of discrimination and maltreatment. Even in peacetime the mother country felt the greatest anxiety for their welfare. For more than two score years they have contributed generously first to the party chest of the Kuomintang and then to the war coffers of the National Government. Their property and business are now shattered by Japanese invaders. When the war ends, China can only insist on their receiving the same treatment accorded to the nationals of the most favored nation in those areas, both as regards civil liberties and in the economic sphere.

The status of Korea, Indo-China, Burma and some other border states is a matter of concern to China. She does not covet any of them -- that would be against the principle of nationalism. But she cannot look upon their continued subjugation with equanimity. That some of the subjugators are her allies adds to the complexity of the question. She has no intention of embarrassing any of her allies, still less of forcing a particular solution upon them. Nevertheless she would rejoice if some general formula could be worked out whereby the border states would receive an assurance of early independence and she herself would be given a part in guaranteeing it. Such a procedure would give China a position of dignity in the eyes of the smaller Asiatic nations and should not bring her into conflict with the possessing nations of Europe.


In matters not affecting her direct national interests, China is less articulate, less certain, and is liable to be opportunistic.

The Chinese are indifferent as to the form of a possible world organization. Whether it is to be a loose league or a firm confederation does not interest them greatly. Their principal concern is that in this new set-up they shall enjoy a position of equality with the other Powers. China is aware that if the representative body of the new world government were based on population, she would have a dominant voice in it, but she knows that that would not square with the realities of the situation. But she has no alternative to propose. She is not too eager to see large executive powers granted to the new world government, not being quite free from the fear that the great nations may use their strength to the detriment of the weaker ones -- China included. A note of inconsistency can readily be detected here. Is China in fact one of the weaker nations or one of the great ones? She cannot be sure herself. She favors a strong international court of justice. She is genuinely interested in the question of sanctions, remembering that it was due to the lack of effective sanctions that the League of Nations failed to check the forces of aggression which made her the victim of this devastating war. She would welcome strong ones -- if she were sure that they would not work to her detriment.

Until China is sure of her own position she will, inevitably, be self-centered and without interest in matters which do not affect her immediate national future. Even on the subject of natural resources, which will soon be of great consequence to her, she is inclined merely to talk platitudinously and to echo what is high sounding. She does not care to go into any scheme very deeply. The Chinese are deeply interested in the manner in which Powers having colonies in the Far East may modify their colonial policies. But that the colonial system in Africa is even more complicated and may prove more fruitful of other wars means little to her. If it is the distinguishing mark of a mature nation to accept the maintenance of general peace and order as its duty, and to consider that its particular national interests are adequately safeguarded when there is general peace and order, then China has not yet come of age. Her chief concern is for her own security and for the possibility of her own growth. She is not thinking of the welfare of the commonwealth of nations as a whole.


If China were to adopt the attitude outlined above toward the problems of peace she would harm both herself and the community of nations. It would imply that she was set to pursue the disastrous course of excessive nationalism that most great nations of today have followed in the past. It would mean that the other nations of the world which are trying to base the peace on a solid foundation of universal concord were to be deprived of China's full coöperation. Fortunately there is as yet nothing fixed and immutable in China's policy. What has been said above represents only probabilities. China's attitude is subject to changes.

Because China has said little about her policy toward peace in general and the postwar world order there have as yet been few occasions for criticism of it. There has been some criticism, and it has had some effect. But criticism alone will ultimately be of little avail. Receptiveness to criticism has been a traditional virtue of the Chinese race; what China looks for today, however, is action which will satisfy her legitimate aspirations. Criticism of her nationalistic attitude without such action will only increase her suspicions. Weak, China wants to be stronger; poor, China wants to be richer. Chinese territories have been taken away from her; she wants them restored. In these and similar aspirations she sees nothing wrong, and seeing nothing wrong, she cannot but be wary of those who seek to wave them away by words. To be effective and fruitful, criticism of whatever dangerous tendencies she may have in embryo must be supplemented by action meeting her just demands.

There need be no insurmountable difficulties in dissuading China from embarking upon an ultra-nationalist course and in inducing her to strive wholeheartedly for the cause of world peace and order. She waits for the leaders of Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States to prove to her, first by some friendly gesture, then by concrete deeds, that her legitimate aspirations for full nationhood are recognized. Once she is sure they are, the world will not need to depend on the defensive mentality of the Chinese people and the traditionally cautious nature of Chinese foreign policy to hold wilder Chinese ambitions in check. Once China's fears and suspicions are removed, the more liberal and idealistic forces of the nation will be able to harness their people's instinctive love for peace, justice and universal brotherhood to the task of establishing a lasting world order. A commonwealth of the world was Dr. Sun Yat-sen's highest ideal.

[i] Perhaps this opinion will have to be revised when China's armies get equipment for offensive warfare.

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  • T. S. CHIEN, Professor in the Department of Political Science of Peking National University, now established in Kunming as part of the National Southwest Associated University; Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the People's Political Council
  • More By T. S. Chien