Xi Jinping in His Own Words
What China’s Leader Wants—and How to Stop Him From Getting It
WHENEVER the future of the white man in the Orient comes to be discussed it inevitably means one question. Will the power and prestige of the white man in the Far East be what it has been in the past? It is acknowledged that for the moment these are at a low ebb. But can they rise again in the future to anything like their past glory?
I never hear that phrase, the power and the prestige of the white man in the Far East, without being reminded of a certain incident in my Chinese childhood which more nearly wrecked our peaceful missionary household than all the riots and revolutions of China put together. There came to our compound gate one winter's day a unique person. He was an American salesman. Any white man was strange at our gate, but a salesman we had never seen. My father admitted him at once because what he sold, it seemed, was Bibles, though anything more coals to Newcastle than Bibles to our house cannot be imagined. My father in the goodness of his heart never inquired how the man came to be selling Bibles, and the salesman himself never told us, so none of us ever knew. He was simply there, very dirty and hungry and with no baggage except some shopworn Bibles and a small cardboard suitcase that after several weeks of his steadfastly remaining a hungry guest in the house apparently provided him with no change of garments. The weeks grew into months and he stayed on, and my mother reached the point of mutiny. He had a change of clothes now, but they were my father's. When he finally left us, and it was entirely due to my redoubtable mother that he did so at all, he went out clothed in my father's second-best suit, with other garments of my father's in my father's suitcase, all his Bibles sold to my father, and his purse full of my father's meager funds. Only under these terms had he consented to move on.
My mother remarked after the gate had been bolted by the servants, "Thank God we still have the house and the furniture." Whereupon my father, in one of his few moments of self-doubt, said in an uncertain voice, "Maybe I should never have let him come into the house to sell me anything."
That Bible salesman represents in a simple way the white man who walked into the Far East to trade, who stayed to take all he could get -- and long beyond his welcome. There is about as much chance that he will be welcome again on the old terms as there was for that salesman to get back into my father's house.
I must therefore preface anything I have to write on the subject of the white man in the Far East by saying first that he ought never to have had that power and prestige, held and secured by force as it was. Power and prestige are not absolute good in themselves, and whether they are or not depends entirely on how they are secured and how they are wielded. In the Far East they were secured for the white man in ways of which he ought to be ashamed enough so that he would not want them back at the price of seizing them again upon the same terms. If he is to have them again, they must -- and this for his own sake, too -- be built upon new foundations.
But no one knows better than the white man that his power and prestige in the Far East are gone and that his future there cannot be like his past. And if the Chinese and the Japanese are agreed upon nothing else they are upon one thing -- that the white man's future in the Orient shall and must be different from his past. The Japanese are now making life in their country so difficult for the white man that he can scarcely live there at all. And when I have listened to Chinese talking together seriously of the future after the war, I have been impressed that it includes no place for the white man except upon strictly Chinese terms.
How has this come about? The white man's present plight in the Far East is entirely of his own making and his future there depends upon his present elsewhere. War of his own making is ruining him in the Far East as well as in Europe. Until the First World War, the Oriental looked upon the white man as invincibly his superior. Science was the white man's magic of which the Oriental understood nothing; indeed, he considered himself well-nigh incapable of understanding it. That First World War enlightened the Oriental in many ways. He saw white men destroying each other. This horrified him, but it encouraged him too. He ceased to consider the white man a superman, and he took hope for himself. White men were not, as he had supposed, solidly against the darker races. They were also against each other. In their division might be the yellow man's salvation. His unwilling admiration of the white man's abilities fell even lower, never to rise, when he saw the savage behavior of white men toward each other. Every Oriental understands cruelty to an inferior or to one deemed an inferior. But when during the last war the Oriental beheld, with his own eyes and upon Chinese territory, the cruelty of Englishmen directed against Germans -- against missionaries and merchants, men and women and children, sick and well alike, when he saw them driven from their homes and possessions, herded into cattle-ships and sent to the tropics to manage as best they could, he saw something new to him, and if he lost an illusion he also took heart for himself. For when the white man attacked the white man in the Orient, it was the end of an era.
The history of the white man in the Far East is too well known to need close repetition. It began when the great nations of Europe -- Portugal, Spain, England and France -- established regular trade with the Orient. The United States was the last but not the least vigorous in this competition. The need to control that trade was what drove England to the Opium Wars. These wars set in motion the waves which swept in the period of conquest, and upon these waves France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Russia and the United States rode high. They rode so high indeed that their greed nearly divided China into colonies. Only mutual rapacity and the Open Door Policy, which the skill of England and the prudence of the United States introduced at the eleventh hour, kept China at least physically whole, though actually divided into spheres of influence.
Had the Western World not fallen into war, China might still have been lost. But the World War saved her. When the strength of the white man was turned against himself, the Far East was given a breathing space. China used it to observe and to prepare herself for a new revolution based upon a revolt against the white man; Japan used it to begin solidifying her dreams of Pan Asia into reality. This she did by stepping into China and demanding control of what had belonged to the Germans. The white man, in the haste and exigency of the war, acceded to Japan, mistakenly thinking of her as an ally and that it would be easier to regain these possessions from Japan's temporary control than if they were returned to China, to whom they really belonged. This was the white man's first serious mistake in the Far East. Certainly it was the beginning of the long chain of events which have led to his weakened position there today. Had England, as the strongest white Power in China, taken the German colonies after the Germans had been expelled, or better still, had she returned them at once to China, they would not have given Japan her first real foothold upon the Chinese mainland.
Japan worked hard upon her plans during those years of the World War and in the years after it while the West was struggling to recover. Only an immediate and determined union of white men could then have restored even a measure of their power and prestige in the Far East. But such a union was physically and spiritually impossible, for peace after war brings no unity anywhere. Division between enemies is driven irrevocably deeper and the quarrel about peace terms alienates allies. Years are needed to heal the cleavages of war.
But if the victor nations could have taken a unified stand toward the Far East, they might have restored at least part of their former power. The Oriental understands human nature well enough to realize that bystanders must deal respectfully with victors, as China and Japan had already signified by their polite alliance with the Allies. But peace divided the victors. France, England and the United States drew away from each other, and, with the short-sighted arrogance, or the indifference, of the white man which may one day be fatal to him, they still failed to consider the problems of the Far East as of primary importance to them.
The period of the white man's conquest over the Far East ended, therefore, with the World War. From then until now the story has been one of his steadily declining power and lessening prestige. And England has led the procession down hill. For, though England emerged as the chief victor in the war, the Oriental knew that everywhere the white man was greatly weakened. He knew that even England could not afford, for a time at least, the energy necessary to enforce prestige. When English businessmen came back to China with all the old arrogance, the Oriental knew they were no longer backed by English armies. The English Government was tired and preoccupied with crises of its own. To the Oriental it therefore appeared unnecessary to bear further insults from the individual Englishman. These insults seemed slight but they were important.
Thus English merchants, seeking to restore English trade with China, took no more trouble than they ever had to be courteous to Chinese merchants. Long Chinese feasts, even of welcome and congratulation upon military victory, bored the average Englishman, who seldom learns to speak Chinese or even to like Chinese food. The Germans came back, too. But because they knew that there was no force back of them, they took great pains to learn Chinese manners and to be delighted with Chinese food; they had plenty of time to linger and to talk and to make themselves agreeable to Chinese merchants; their wives made calls on the Chinese merchant's wives, to the horror of Englishwomen; and thus were laid sound foundations for the future. China does not at all hate Germany. If Germany makes Fascism safe for the world, there is a Chinese Fascist party which, if the time becomes ripe, may be headed by a dictator with a very notable name. Chinese Fascism will not be German Fascism. Even the Christian God has undergone change at the hands of Chinese believers. But Fascism will scarcely be democracy, even in China. And Japan already is casting off the cloak of a democracy which she never liked anyway and which she wore only because everybody else was wearing it. Japan has always been Fascist in her soul.
No, the Oriental knew the white man's true situation when the World War ended, and how much and how little he was capable of doing for himself. He gambled, mainly on English weakness, and he won. The fact that England suddenly began to use diplomacy instead of gunboats in the Far East only hastened her downward progress. For the Oriental believes that the time to use diplomacy is when one is strong. The voice may be soft when the sword is drawn and in the hand. But when the sword is broken there must not be diplomacy but a loud voice and threatening eyebrows. That England used a soft voice after the World War meant to the Oriental simply that the Allies were exhausted and could never have won the war if the United States had not helped them.
The Americans, on the other hand, lost much of their own prestige for quite other reasons. The United States had never had any power in the Far East based on important possessions in China. But they had prestige based, for one reason or another, upon China's belief in America's sympathy and friendship. The Chinese, in a manner almost touching, believed in that friendship, and in China friendship carries with it the inviolate obligation of material aid if it is wanted. Thus if a man even admires a possession in his friend's house, friendship compels that what he admires be given him as a gift. How much more, then, when a man is in trouble, must his friend give him aid! When Japan began her encroachments, therefore, many Chinese really believed that the United States would do something about it. I remember very well how difficult it was to be an American in China when Japan was taking Manchuria. A dozen times a day one heard the confident belief expressed: "The United States will not allow this. The Americans will surely come to help us." And how hard it was to say: "I fear they will not;" how impossible to explain reasonably why not! But when it became apparent to the Chinese themselves that China must stand alone in the world, she quietly and gently lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-mast, and the United States took a place only a little better than that of England.
Japan, of course, observed this with pleasure. During the years since the World War she had had her own experiences which hardened her definitely against the West. But in her case it was the United States and not England who represented the objectionable white man. The League of Nations had for a brief moment held the possibility of coöperation between East and West, and Japan gave consideration to the benefits which such coöperation with the white man might give her. She began to doubt these benefits when in 1920 the League was set back by the refusal of the United States to be a part of it. But the liberals were in control in Japan then, and they were able to keep their hold, even to the point of agreeing in 1922 to the limitation of Japan's navy. The downfall of the liberals came in 1924, when laws were passed in the United States discriminating against the Japanese. In effect the Japanese liberals then gave up. What was the use, they felt, of maintaining the struggle for liberalism in Japan when the United States committed herself so definitely to an opposite course? Though most Americans were too ignorant to know it, the United States hastened the day of Fascism in the world by putting despair into the hearts of the only Japanese who might have kept their country from liningup with the Axis. Japan turned from the white man back to the Pan Asian dream.
She might have hastened, if not fulfilled, that dream had she been able to conciliate China at this moment in the white man's downward progression. There was definitely an hour, even after the taking of Manchuria, when China, in panic at finding herself alone in the modern world, would have come to terms with Japan, even at the cost of Manchuria. But Japan had absorbed the spirit as well as the tactics of Germany. She was imbued with militarism both by nature and by her modern education, and she preferred the speed and ease of conquest to the more civilized means of arbitration and compromise. Moreover, her enemies in the Far East were miraculously clearing themselves away. If a Second World War should begin, and it took no prophet to pronounce it probable, then half of her battle was won. She gambled upon such a war, and as time has shown, she has won. For even if the United States does not actually enter the present European war, it is already engaged in it psychologically and materially. Moreover, its interest in the Orient, never intelligently awake to the importance of what takes place there, is always overshadowed by its own immediate problems and those of Europe.
The present moment, therefore, sees the white man's prestige in the Far East at its lowest ebb in modern times, and power follows the trend of prestige. Both are at a point that would once have been inconceivable to the white man. But the strangest of all things in this strange present is the speed with which the inconceivable happens. How short a time ago the International Concession in Shanghai felt itself as impregnable as the Rock of Gibraltar because the English were that rock! Now it is a handful of foreigners left without defense. That is not to say that they are defenseless. Englishmen at least have a way of defending themselves somehow. But if they do so now in the Far East it is as individuals, and they are no longer England, as once every Englishman was England, wherever he was. I will not say that the Oriental is confident that England's power is gone. He has too often seen individual Englishmen come through trouble. Put it rather thus, that China is not counting on any help whatever from England against Japan and for the moment is prepared for English capitulation to Japan on all but the most important points, and perhaps even on those. Japan is simply working fast, with her weather eye not on England but on Germany. For the situation between Germany and Japan is not at all smooth. Germany is the big dog, Japan the little impatient one -- and the big dog has the bones. Germany is not allowing bones to be divided yet, particularly the prize ones of Indo-China and the Dutch Indies. They are valuable for bargaining, if for nothing else.
Thus the cause for the downfall of the white man's power and prestige in the Far East has been war and only war. Had he been able to keep his own peace in the West, he might by now have been lord of the East as well. Consider what a strong peace among white men would have meant on the eastern side of the world. China, if her partition had gone on, would have been the white man's prize. Even if he had allowed her to keep her sovereignty, trade would have been enough to strengthen the West in the East, and Japan would have been permanently confined to her islands, for she would never have dared arm herself to rebel against an un weakened West. The world would have belonged to the white man.
As it is, it may be that he has given it to the yellow man. Certainly the white man is no longer its master. He is still destroying himself by his own wars, and the Far East waits to see whether he will stop short of complete destruction. It may be that sooner than we think white men will be compelled to unite against a common enemy and that enemy will be a united Far East. This prophecy might be made with some confidence if Japan had not alienated China. As it is, the future is ambiguous, and the Far East waits.
But if the future is ambiguous from the point of view of the Oriental, it is not so ambiguous for the white man. Whether England or Germany wins in the present struggle for supremacy in the West, the white man's place in the Far East, in the old sense, is lost. The white man's prestige in the Far East was always underwritten by force, the force he possessed in his armies and navies with modern weapons, armies and navies which the Far East did not have. But by the time the white man is free to think about the Far East again, there will be vast modern armies there, Chinese as well as Japanese, and a primary condition in the relationship of East and West will have changed.
The nature of white power and prestige will have changed, too. In the past it was expressed in such terms as extraterritoriality, concessions of land, control over customs, railway construction, investment in industries, the right to station soldiers and vessels of war at various places along the coast and in inland waters -- all rights which should never be given away by one country to another. These rights have for the most part been restored to the Far East -- taken back, as a matter of fact, because of the crisis between white men themselves -- and it is very doubtful if they will ever become the property of white men again. The Far East has learned something.
If England survives, the problems of her survival will be so enormous that she cannot at once undertake to recover her position, especially in China. If England does not survive, it remains to be seen what a victorious Germany will do with the Far East. Even if Germany should be the victor in Europe, we may doubt whether she could take a strong hand in the Far East, not only because she would be exhausted, not only because her problems in Europe and with Russia will be many and severe, but also because it will take her some time to discover what she could do in the new Far East that would be to her greatest advantage. Even though she may have the prestige of the victor, actually she will probably have to use the methods of the diplomat rather than those of the conqueror. It is doubtful whether she can allow Japan a free hand. It can scarcely be to Germany's interest to allow a nation so like herself as Japan -- a nation organized upon strictly Fascist and military forms and principles, and whose ambitions are Germany's -- to come into territory and resources far superior to her own. The Soviets wait too, and it may be that Germany will need to play them against Japan, and she may even need to maintain the fiction that France and the Dutch Empire are independent. Meantime, Japan goes as far as she can.
As for China, she is now in a mood of impartiality, or simply of fatalism. The English can do nothing but damage themselves in Chinese eyes by their present diplomatic concessions, either to China or Japan. To the Chinese this is the behavior of a man in desperate straits, and even so, despicable. For when the Chinese is desperate, he becomes unyielding. He reasons that if all is lost, why yield further? Only if England ceases to seem to yield in the Far East will her prestige there take an upward turn.
And yet the issues are still not as clear as they would have been if Japan had not been so foolish and so shortsighted as to attack China. Japan has never understood the temper of the Chinese people. When she saw the white man departing, she thought a quick blow would bring China into her control. But there is no such thing as a quick blow against anything so huge as China. Progressive blows over her surface only infuriate her and strengthen her resistance, as time has shown. If for the past generation China and Japan could have been allies instead of enemies, the white man might by now have entirely disappeared from the Far East. With this Second World War entangling all white men, China and Japan together could simply have taken over the Far East, with or without Russia's permission. It would have been logical for Indo-China and the East Indies, and even the Philippines, to have joined together in a great Pan Asia. And that would have been the end of the white man in the Orient.
But militarism has again lost the day -- or saved it, depending upon which side of the world one's feet stand upon. This time it has lost it for the Far East and perhaps therefore to some extent saved it for the white man. For China is not in a mood, nor will she be in a mood for a long time, to join with Japan in anything. Japan's stupid cruelties have filled the Chinese with rage, and anyone who knows a Chinese knows that if his belly is full of rage he will do nothing until he has emptied himself of it. He believes that rage unrelieved by retaliation is poison in the system, and Japan has put a mighty dose of rage into his capacious belly.
So, unwittingly, Japan has in her turn helped the white man. If the white man could be clever and if he really wants a place in the Far East of tomorrow, he would offer himself as China's ally now that she stands alone and has given up hope of help. He could be Androcles and China his lion. Japan is still no more than a thorn in that great paw, but it is a painful and festering thorn and it may be that the lion will become helpless. It may be, too, that if China really becomes subjugated and Japan too great with power, the white man will succumb in his time. There are dreams being spun that reach beyond Pan Asia.
But Androcles was a brave man, of course, and he took some risk when he pulled the thorn out of a lion's paw, and the white man has not shown any particular bravery about lions, or indeed shown that he cares anything about lions. I am only saying that if there were an Androcles among the nations, now would be his chance of getting a lion as his grateful and faithful friend who might one day in turn save him. But England is at present in the position, not of Androcles, but of a wounded lion. France is no more, Italy has never been wise in the Far East, and the United States has no Far Eastern imagination. That leaves Germany and Russia.
It is not difficult to prophesy that the Germans will be the next white men in the Orient unless they are badly defeated in Europe. Germany has been laying her foundations well in the Far East ever since the last war. Today she is Japan's friend and not China's enemy. What she must now decide is whether it would not pay her better to reverse this relationship, and be China's friend without being Japan's enemy. If she is wise she will choose to exploit the enormous resources of China and limit the power of Japan. The Japanese might have made this difficult had they won a clean, quick victory over China. But victory lags. The war is well into its fourth year, with China unyielding and in her complete rage imperturbable even to the point of cheerfulness. What to do next is Japan's problem, for she is not quite succeeding anywhere.
What part Russia has to play depends on how white Russia is, a point which has never yet been settled. That Russians are white men has always been debatable even on their own admission. And yet, now that they are linked to Germany, it would be awkward for them to move toward territory which Germany might wish to guard for reasons of her own. Since Russia is inevitably the enemy of Japan, she might well applaud Hitler's befriending China and even hasten to compete by offering friendliness of her own. Perhaps Russia might discover that she is white after all, and that the Russians and Germans together should be the new white men in the Far East. A new history would then have to be written about the power and the prestige of the white man there.
But China has never forgotten one thing about Germany: that after the Boxer Rebellion the German troops sent to avenge the death of a few Germans behaved with a brutality the Chinese themselves had never imagined. The Chinese expected the lowest of behavior from soldiers, for their tradition had been that soldiers were the lowest of men. But the German soldiers had orders from their Emperor to be brutal so that the Chinese would never forget what the Germans were like, and it was this command which the Chinese have never forgotten. They were horrified to see that the spirit of brutality was imbedded in the highest places. It may be, therefore, that if Germany now approaches China, speaking of help and friendship, China will suck her own paw, preferring an enemy she knows and is used to rather than a friend so new and powerful. Or she may turn to Russia, and then Russia and Germany will cease to be friends. What the new white man in the Far East will then do may depend on how Germany feels she must confront this new situation. She might feel obliged to force her friendship on China. Japan might then decide to help Germany against Russia; or she might even lay aside her dreams of Pan Asia and help China.
But of course England may survive. Many are betting on her, though something more is wrong with her than a thorn in the paw. Still, she too is a lion. But if she survives she will have to begin anew in the Far East. The old power and the old prestige are gone and the Far East will have no more of it. Whether a victorious England succeeds or not in creating a new place for the white man depends on how much white men have learned in these recent years. Men usually learn a great deal by escaping death. Sometimes an actual conversion takes place. But it is hard to think of an Englishman really converted. He is more likely to be the tough old sinner who mumbles the Lord's Prayer when badly scared, but as soon as he feels better declares that he knew all along that he was not going to die.
If he goes back to the Far East, too proud and unregenerate, he will find doors slamming in his face and his feet wet because he is standing in the ocean outside without an inch of dry land to call his own. For China and Japan will remember how he looked when it seemed he might die, and they will not be afraid of him any more. Besides, they will have had a good deal of practice in war themselves by that time. In short, it will pay the English to be soundly converted before they go East again. Thus converted, England might be very good friends, with China at least, and do a brisk trade -- for they are, after all, both lions.
As for the white man from the United States, he has lost no power in the Far East for he never had any in any real sense; and as for his prestige, that depends upon the extent to which he can revive his traditions of friendship for China. The new tradition, however, must have fairly solid material foundations. The most solid would be for the United States to give China enough aid to stop Japan's aggression. But the Americans say they are a neutral people, and besides they are going to be busy for a long time getting ready to defend themselves against Europe. Their shadow upon the future of the Far East lies very light and indistinct, and will continue to do so as long as they do not make it a reality.
The whole future of the white man in the Far East is confused and no glass can show it otherwise than darkly. And the darkest of all is that possibility envisaged by Nazi leaders of an Asia united against Europe. It is the old familiar nightmare of the Yellow Peril; but it may be used again as an excuse for a new conquest of the Far East by the white man. If it is, the Yellow Peril will be a peril indeed, especially if Russia decides not to be white. Then war, now destroying mankind separately in the West and the East, will complete that destruction in a last gigantic struggle of East against West.
Where is the voice left in the world today to speak for the simple and practical wisdom of peace and good will among men?