JAPAN'S Pan-Asiatic Doctrine was announced by the official spokesman of the Imperial Japanese Foreign Office on April 17, 1934. The announcement was followed by similar but more explicit statements by Japan's official representatives in Washington, Berlin and Geneva, all of which were of the same spirit and contained the same fundamental principles: 1. Japan considers itself as primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in East Asia, along with other Asiatic Powers, especially China. 2. The time has passed when other Powers or the League of Nations can exercise their policies for the exploitation of China. 3. Japan intends in future to oppose any foreign activities in China which Japan regards as inimical, and she alone can judge what is inimical. Tokyo considered the third principle as of special importance; and in explaining it, Mr. Saito, Japanese Ambassador at Washington, declared that "Japan must act and decide alone what is good for China," and recommended that all "legitimate foreign interests should consult Tokyo before embarking on any adventures there." The manifesto was considered abroad as the most important declaration of Japanese policy in regard to China which had been made for many years. The sweeping character of the claims put forth and the peculiar form chosen for their announcement were equally startling.

The United States Government took account of the Japanese declaration in a note which the American Ambassador handed to Foreign Minister Hirota on April 29. It was pointed out that China's relations with the United States are governed, as are her relations with Japan and other countries, by generally accepted principles of international law and provisions of treaties to which the United States is a party, and that these treaties are lawfully modifiable or terminable only by processes prescribed, recognized, or agreed upon by the parties to them. The note continued that in its international associations and relationships the American Government seeks to be considerate of the rights, obligations, and legitimate interests of other countries, and expects on the part of other Governments due consideration of the rights, obligations and legitimate interests of the United States.

Great Britain was the first Great Power to demand an explanation concerning Japan's hands-off-China policy. A "friendly inquiry" was made by the British Ambassador in Tokyo calling Japan's attention to the fact that the principle of equal rights in China was guaranteed very explicitly by the Nine-Power Treaty, to which Japan is a party, and that His Majesty's Government must of course continue to enjoy all rights in China which are common to all signatories. The Ambassador explicitly told the Japanese Foreign Minister that the British Government naturally could not admit the right of Japan alone to decide whether any particular action, such as the provision of technical or financial assistance, was dangerous to China, and openly reminded Japan of her duty as provided in Articles 1 and 7 of the Nine-Power Treaty to call the attention of the other signatories to any action in China inimical to her security.

This "friendly inquiry" took a form which must have exercised Mr. Hirota's best talents in reply. As Tokyo decided not to publish its reply, we can only derive the gist of it from Sir John Simon's statement in Parliament on April 30. Briefly, Mr. Hirota confirmed that the British Government was right in the assumption that "Japan will not infringe the rights of other powers in China or her treaty obligations," and reaffirmed "emphatically" that "Japan would loyally observe the Nine-Power Treaty and continued to attach the greatest importance to the maintenance of the Open Door." The sponge was thus drawn across the blackboard. Japan's solemn assurance to respect the Nine-Power Treaty and to maintain the Open Door served as a handsome blanket to cover up her sweeping claims made through her official representatives, claims which she has neither denied nor withdrawn. The British Government was content with Japan's assurances, because, as Sir John Simon said in Parliament, Great Britain could not as a friendly nation very well reply, "We don't believe you."

Of the continental powers, Italy also demanded explanations and received similarly solemn assurances from Tokyo. Germany, according to a spokesman of the German Foreign Office, did not consider herself immediately concerned in the troubles of the Far East, which remained a question for other Powers to settle. France also seemed to have taken little interest, in spite of her important possessions in the Far East. Soviet Russia neither made any representations to Japan nor asked for any explanations. This attitude, however, was not because the Soviets did not attach much importance to the Japanese démarche, but rather because protests of the most serious sort had been made on so many previous occasions that further protests, couched in no matter what language, were apparently considered futile.

Being the most directly affected party, China naturally was bitter concerning Japan's declarations. Her position is explained by the statement of the Chinese Legation in London, which says that the Chinese people, conscious of their rights and obligations as an independent and sovereign nation, will not subscribe to the doctrine of a Japanese hegemony in Asia, and that they feel certain the other Powers cannot be bullied into accepting it.

The whole episode, which under present conditions the nations prefer to regard as closed, has at least had the satisfactory result of once more reminding the world of the definite trend of Japan's continental policy. Aside from other evil repercussions, the effect on the prospects of disarmament was disastrous and conclusive. Immediate steps were taken by all nations to increase their armaments, especially their air forces, in which Japan took the lead, with Great Britain, France, Italy and Soviet Russia following suit. The United States Government said remarkably little; but it did not take long for President Roosevelt to size up the situation and ask Congress for authority to devote part of the public works appropriation to naval construction. The President's reasoning seems to be that if there is no effective way of opposing Japan, short of a conflict which nobody desires, then nothing remains but to wait for concrete developments, and to build up the navy in the meantime. Thus in a jump starts an armaments race by all nations, the end of which is uncertain and gloomy indeed.

What the anxious world now wants to know is this: What are Japan's chances of success to carry out its Pan-Asiatic Doctrine, and what will be the consequences? To answer these questions we must realize that since the Geneva fiasco, and since the Great Powers took so lukewarm an attitude toward Japan's undeclared war of invasion on China, Japan is not to be moved from her present well-established policy by arguments or scolding, or even by the refusal to recognize "Manchukuo." Something that can be felt, not something that can only be heard, is required. Let us now disinterestedly examine the whole situation, and match the factors that are against with those that are in favor of Japan's fulfilment of her designs.

First of all, Soviet Russia is considered as most likely to offer resistance to Japan's continental expansion because she knows Japan's designs on Eastern Siberia and has made rapid preparations for eventualities. Japan's 50,000 expeditionary troops sent into Siberia in 1919, her support of Semenov in opposing the Soviet advance in 1920, and her prolonged occupation of Nicolaivsk beginning in 1921, to mention only a few events, must have demonstrated clearly to the Russians that Japan's "life-line," after having moved steadily onward from the Japanese Channel through Korea, will not voluntarily stop at the borders of Manchuria and Jehol. After consolidating its position in that vast and fertile country, known as China's four North-Eastern Provinces; with the Chinese Eastern Railway firmly in its grasp, by purchase or otherwise; and upon the completion of the numerous strategic railways now being energetically pushed forward day and night, Japan will soon be in a most advantageous position. By a simple glance at the map anyone familiar with Far Eastern affairs will be able to realize that Soviet territorial possessions east of Chita will be entirely at Japan's mercy.

Naturally Soviet Russia will be most reluctant to surrender those vast Far Eastern territorial possessions which are so rich in minerals, forest and other resources. On the other hand, she seems to realize the nature of the risks involved in a war with a great military Power such as Japan. She might not be too confident of internal solidarity in case of a protracted war, to say nothing of the attitude of the other Powers towards her. Therefore, the Soviet leaders seem to feel that while to give up Eastern Siberia will have serious effects, to suffer a defeat at the hands of Japan would probably disrupt the whole Soviet régime. Therefore, between two evils, the Soviets have clearly shown an inclination to avoid war with Japan almost at any price. Otherwise it would be impossible to account for their unequalled patience and most exemplary attitude in facing the innumerable provocations thrown directly at its face by Japan and "Manchukuo" during recent years, and its declared readiness to sell the Chinese Eastern Railway which is as essential to Russian interests in Manchuria as the lead is to the pencil. Therefore, unless and until some substantial support is assured by some other Great Power, Russia alone is not likely to accept Japan's challenge.

Next to Russia the United States has the most genuine reasons to be profoundly annoyed by the Japanese threats. Besides the open violation of the Nine-Power Treaty and the Kellogg Pact, both of which were sponsored by her statesmen, America's interest in the Pacific is substantial. Her longest seacoast is on the Pacific; Hawaii, which is American territory, and the Philippines, which are under American protection, are in the Pacific; and these islands form the front line in the way of Japan's expansion; while Alaska is nearer to Japan than most other territorial possessions of the Western nations. It is true that the United States has decided to withdraw from the Philippines, but this withdrawal will take many years to effect and before then all sorts of things are likely to happen in that part of the world. Moreover, after having wrested these islands from Spain and ruled over them for so many years with such excellent results, can the United States permit them to slip into Japanese hands even after her withdrawal? Will not such a retreat so weaken her prestige and so enhance Japan's as to expose Hawaii and parts of South America to some untoward consequences? Furthermore, the trade possibilities around the Pacific are of paramount importance to the United States. As President Theodore Roosevelt well said years ago, the importance of the Pacific is destined to outrank that of the Atlantic.

Being a Great Power on the Pacific, the United States cannot afford to permit Japan's unlimited expansion. It is to safeguard her own Pacific interests, both political and commercial, more than anything else, that she has insisted upon the Open Door policy and the integrity of China. Other than this, the United States has no Pacific policy. As this fundamental policy is threatened by Japan's Pan-Asiatic Doctrine, the United States naturally would have ample justification to call a halt. But the dangers to the substantial interests of the United States do not seem to appear to the average American so immediate as to justify the risks which might be involved in calling a halt. It is only natural for nations, as it is for men, to follow the course of least resistance. America may then be expected to wait for the other Powers to take the initiative, especially during the time when she is engaged in a vast reorganization of her national life.

Britain's interest in the Far East is as great as it is extensive. Her investment and shipping enterprises dominate the whole Chinese coast as well as the Yangtze Valley. Her steel, cotton and woollen goods occupy an enviable position in China's growing market; to say nothing about Hong Kong, India and the South Sea Island possessions. These extensive British interests in the Far East in general and in China in particular are threatened by Japan's Pan-Asiatic doctrine. It is well known that Japan is preparing to take over Britain's place in the Far East, which is badly needed by Japan's rapidly expanding trade. Much headway in that direction has already been made, in spite of the widespread prejudice against things Japanese which prevails as a direct result of Japan's military activities in China. The inroad made by Japan into Britain's place in the Far East is only checked by the British prestige, laboriously built up during the last hundred years, and the goodwill won by Sir Austen Chamberlain's friendly gesture of 1924, Lord Willingdon's mission to China of 1926, and Lord Lytton's far-sighted statesmanship of 1933. Once that prestige is gone, as it seems already in process of doing, Japan will be in a most favorable position to dictate to China from whom she should buy; and then the very name of Lancashire will become a forgotten word.

Another reason why Great Britain should energetically oppose Japan's continental policy is that the maintenance of the sanctity of treaties and the promotion of peace and security must be of vital importance to Britain, with her world-wide interests and far-flung possessions. Quite apart from its ethical aspects, then, Great Britain should oppose Japan's policy.

But a considerable number of British leaders do not seem to realize the true import of Japan's Pan-Asiatic Doctrine, or at least do not seem to feel that the Japanese menace, dangerous as it is, is so acute or so immediate as the dangers of the situation nearer home. While the political barometer in Europe is so unstable, with a downward tendency, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Vernon Bartlett, diplomatic correspondent of the News Chronicle, that "it is not probable that Sir John Simon will change a policy which has consistently found excuses for Japan since the Sino-Japanese dispute first came before the League;" and that, therefore, Great Britain is likely to wait for the United States or the Soviet to act first.

Thus, while nations with a stake in the Pacific are now genuinely alarmed by the steady execution of Japan's Pan-Asiatic designs, and all are anxious to see the onward movement checked, none of them will do anything effective about it. On the contrary, there has been a constant tendency, as we have seen, for each nation to let the other nations bear the burden of facing the island empire. Moreover, the Great War has swung the pendulum of Western mentality so far to the pacifist side that the very suggestion of war has been quite sufficient to frighten these Powers into a course designed to avoid displeasing Japan at all costs, so much so that they even dare not resort to their old and never-failing weapon of concerted action, lest Japan should declare war on all of them! Throughout the entire Far Eastern crisis the Western Powers have shown an extraordinary lack of aptitude to unite, especially in view of the fact that there is hardly any likelihood that, with the odium of a unanimous judgment of the League of Nations on her shoulders, and with her interests conflicting with those of all other countries, Japan can get any substantial support from anywhere. What is more, there is hardly any likelihood that these Powers will be able in the near future to free themselves from their present "spell" of individual timidity and collective disunity, into which they have sunk so deeply. After all, international relations must still contain certain elements of gamble. If no one is prepared to see Japan's hand, then Japan must gather in the pot.

The events of the last two years have revealed to the Japanese as a nation a vision of a splendid imperial destiny which matches most admirably with the spirit of "splendid isolation" prevailing in the West. This vision was formerly only clear to a few soldiers and chauvinists. It was befogged by bourgeois ambitions of the industrialists, financiers and diplomats to make Japan a respectable member of the white world's family of nations and was blurred by the fear of concerted Western interference. Nothing now stands in the way of fulfilment of this destiny except the vested interests of the Western nations in the Far East and the charters of exploitation which these nations wrote for themselves before Japan was ready to take her share.

The first step towards the fulfilment of this destiny has been well accomplished by the occupation of Manchuria and Jehol. This step has already had several results. It has cleared the vision of the Japanese people and has committed them so deeply to the policy of the militarists in Manchuria that no Japanese Government would now dream under any kind of verbal pressure of retreating an inch from the position won. It has turned the mass of people back from a sycophantic imitation of the Occident to an appreciation of the fact that they are Asiatics and that, as such, it is much easier to be respected than to be liked.

What Japan needs now is a breathing period -- a period of "peaceful development," as she will call it, during which she will try to consolidate her economic and military resources in "Manchukuo" on the one hand, and, on the other, try to confuse world opinion by broadcasting her benevolent intentions and her superficial achievements artfully accomplished by iron-hand methods. Given such a period of "peaceful development," which may be three to five years, and for which every Japanese partisan will now proceed to clamor, then Japan's success is assured.

The last hurdle to be got over, therefore, is Japan's own financial weakness. The national debt has soared into astronomical figures, expenditure on armaments is colossal, the industrialists are grumbling and so are the peasants. But these difficulties, formidable as they are, are neither likely to restrain the rulers of Japan nor indeed to prove insurmountable. On the contrary, they may well stimulate Japan's militarists to further adventures -- to the control of China, and then of territories beyond, de facto if not de jure, as a remedy for the discontent at home as well as a source of strength to face the West. This is the inspiration to Japan's militarists to move onward, because they argue that if they can get away with such a huge loot as Manchuria and Jehol without a scratch, in spite of the unanimous condemnation of all nations, at a time when Japan's economic condition is so deplorable, then what is there to fear after the "period of peaceful development," when Japan's continental possessions have been consolidated, when China's vast market and resources have come into Japan's hands, and when world opinion is no longer unanimous against her?

Of course, China will resist. But without outside help China is not in a position to offer any effective resistance to such a formidable power as Japan. And Japan will see to it that all outside help is stopped. Japan realizes that it cannot deter the Western Powers from giving help to China; but it can more easily stop China from asking for such help. Therefore Japan's recent manifesto was not so much for the purpose of preventing the Western nations from assisting China as it was for the primary object of frightening China so that she may not dare to ask assistance.

Prestige in the Far East has great value. To have successfully challenged the whole world at Geneva in 1932 and to have spectacularly defied the whole world once more this year -- these singular successes are bound to strengthen Japan's hands immensely in convincing the Chinese that the Christian countries are hypocrites which can only render lip service, that China has no real friends, and that it will be suicidal for China to resist Japan, who can successfully tell all the Great Powers to keep their hands off. The Geneva débâcle and the acquiescence of the Powers cannot but help to make Japan's subtle arguments most convincing. Indeed, the realization that the whole world is unable or unwilling to put its solemn promises into effect will do much to bring Japan near the fulfilment of the prophecy of a Japanese General, made in 1915, who said: "When China realizes that she can get no help against Japan, she will fall into our arms."

In the meantime Japan will do everything possible to stir up trouble in China, as she has so successfully done heretofore, and will bring every pressure to bear on Chinese officials, all for the purpose of preventing China from becoming united and strong. Missionaries of "Asiaticism" and super-patriots with pistols and bombs will help the work along. Pro-Japan politicians will be placed at important places and "pro-China" or "pro-West" elements will either be converted by the missionaries of "Asiaticism" or disposed of with the pistol or bomb, as Marshal Chang Tso-lin, Governor Wu Tsun-sheng, Premiers Hara, Hamaguchi, and Inukai, Baron Dan, Minister Inouye and others have been disposed of, quietly and with impunity, during recent years. Once China's resistance is broken, then militaristic Japan will finally have got her hands on the military resources she has dreamed of since the days of the Mikado Meiji.

Within a few years the nations having vital interests in the Pacific and the Far East will have to throw up their hands in despair at the "Frankenstein Monster" which is today being brought into being due to their lack of courage and their readiness to sacrifice a vital principle and permanent interests for temporary expediency. The whole Far Eastern crisis, therefore, plainly points to this painful conclusion: That which could have been nipped in the bud by a few firm actions in September 1931, was left to drift until it would have required sanctions to arrest it in 1933; and that which can still be stopped by sanctions today will be neglected to develop into a first-class war. My only prayer is that my deductions may be wrong.

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  • C. C. WANG, Director-General of the Chinese Eastern Railway, 1921-1924; Director of Chinese Government Purchasing Commission in London
  • More By C. C. Wang