JAPAN'S economic and political expansion southward is bringing her ever closer to the Netherlands East Indies. These islands, with a native population of some sixty-five millions, form one of the richest of all colonial domains; yet it is held by a nation which is one of the weakest, militarily speaking, in Europe. There may be no truth in recent reports that Japan and Germany have divided these islands into prospective spheres of influence. But that such rumors can be given credence in responsible quarters is evidence that the extent of Japanese economic penetration there is of political importance.
In terms of world trade the productivity of the Dutch East Indian empire, including as it does the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Dutch Guinea, Madura and Celebes, is enormous. Here is produced 99 percent of the world's supply of quinine, 50 percent of its wrapped tobacco, 20 percent of its copra and tin, and 11 percent of its petroleum. It has also been estimated that at the present rate of demand these islands could supply practically the entire rubber market. In addition, they export one-eighth of the world's tea requirements, some 80,000 tons of coffee annually, and much palm oil and sisal. They are also the principal source of such gums as benjamin and dammar, and of citronella, patchouli, lemon grass, and cajeput oils. Finally, they provide a good part of the world's rattan and large quantities of cloves, cinnamon, pepper and other spices.
For the present, Japanese penetration in this tropical empire is economic rather than political. Although Dutch colonial rule is one of iron, this is not altogether apparent to the native population, which for the moment appears to have small liking for the Japanese. The Dutch therefore have little fear that any project of these to secure the ownership of the islands will receive native support. But there is sentiment in favor of the idea of an independent native empire; and possibly Japanese strategy contemplates encouraging it at some future time. For the time
Loading, please wait...