China’s New Vassal
How the War in Ukraine Turned Moscow Into Beijing’s Junior Partner
CHINESE opinion on the problem of preventing renewed Japanese aggression cannot be divorced from the basic Chinese attitude toward human relations. The traditional Chinese view is that the world is a family and "all within the four seas are brothers." Each member of a family has his own virtues and vices; each should cultivate his virtues and eradicate his vices; and all should learn to forgive and tolerate one another, so that the family may live in peace. The Chinese believe that this principle is applicable to international relations, and that the application of it is mandatory in view of the speed at which the world is contracting. All must learn to live with one another peacefully as good neighbors.
China and Japan are neighbors. For nearly two thousand years, Chinese culture spread to Japan and exercised an influence over the Japanese people. But this special relationship underwent a great change in the last hundred years. After the middle of the nineteenth century, when the influence of western science and technology began to permeate the Far East, Japan made phenomenal progress in methods of modern industry and warfare while China's progress was much retarded due to her immense territory and backward communications. At the same time Japan attempted to carry out the so-called continental policy, which aimed at the conquest of the whole of China and eventually of the entire world. For several decades before 1931 China's leaders were aware that China could not escape a life-and-death struggle with Japan; and the Chinese had to study the Japanese mind, and the nature of the Japanese threat, more realistically than did any other people.
In keeping with traditional Chinese philosophy, however, they now wish to destroy only Japan's aggressive ambitions, not to annihilate the Japanese as a nation or as a people. China hopes that the two nations may live together as good neighbors, each a member in the great family of nations, each contributing its share in the development of world civilization. Will this hope be realized? Will the Japanese people, whose treacheries and atrocities have darkened the pages of modern history, repent and reform? My answer is yes.
The two preconditions for the realization of this objective can easily be formulated. The militaristic nature of the Japanese state structure must be eradicated. And the Japanese pattern of thinking must be changed. Two equally plain warnings, sometimes disregarded, must be emphasized. The task will take a long time; and it cannot successfully be performed by military occupation alone. In my opinion, the present policies of the United States forces in Japan are unquestionably necessary and generally sound. But it is a mistake to look upon them as more than temporary arrangements. We must have a long-range program in dealing with Japan. A prolonged military occupation can create only resentment and hatred. Force alone will not change Japan's social and political structure or reëducate the Japanese people; as Mencius put it, "to use force to conquer a people is not to win the hearts of a people." What methods will bring the Japanese people truly to become aware of the mistakes and crimes they have committed?
First let us review the background of Japan's present social and political structure. Centuries of geographical and mental isolation made the Japanese outlook narrow and small. Japan actually absorbed only the superficial aspects of Chinese and western cultures. Her feudal institutions exist to the present day. The people are divided into rigid classes: the royal family, the aristocrats, the warriors, the commoners. There is no social or political equality. The foundation of modern Japan was laid during the Meiji Restoration which began in 1868. But the program was imposed from above; it never constituted a genuine political and social reform. The authority of the royal family was increased; and the noble and warrior classes became the actual ruling classes, controlling practically all political, economic and military power. The famous Meiji Restoration brought the oppressed masses of the Japanese people no blessings. They became a paradoxical mixture of modern industrialism and medieval feudalism -- an explosive and dangerous combination.
Military expansion followed in due course. Korea was overrun, and there were easy victories, first over China and then over Russia, in 1895 and in 1905. The Japanese militarists were now more powerfully in the saddle than ever. After the unification of Germany, the system of military training in Japan was modeled after the German; Bismarck and Wilhelm II became Japanese idols.
The Meiji period saw one further development of particular significance: the rise of the Japanese modern financial oligarchy. This was not a middle-class movement in the western sense. The Zaibatsu, like the militarists, came from the old aristocratic class. There were occasional conflicts between warriors and financiers, but for the most part they coöperated closely in exploiting the Japanese people and in pushing the program of expansion abroad. The first modern industries in Japan were mostly war industries. The Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War brought the famous Mitsui and the Mitsubishi combines into prominence. And the new members of the Zaibatsu, such as Gizke Aikawa and others, who controlled practically all the enterprises in Manchuria, supported the militarists unconditionally.
Political parties were organized during the Meiji period, but we must note once again that the movement was one from above. The founders of the parties, Taisuke Itagaki, Hirobumi Ito and Taro Katsura, came from the old aristocratic class. Ito was always dependent upon the military, and Katsura, once Minister of War, was himself a militarist. These men never understood the meaning of democracy. Parliamentary institutions were a sham. Bribery and fraud were common practices in elections, and members of the parliament often sold themselves to militarists: the railway scandals are a well-known case in point. The financial oligarchy controlled the parliament; the military controlled the financiers; the people were voiceless. No Japanese cabinet could be formed without the consent of the Army and the Navy. The Minister of War and the Minister of the Navy had to be, respectively, a general and an admiral on active duty; and although they were members of the cabinet, they were independent of cabinet control and enjoyed direct access to the Mikado.
In 1931, after the outbreak of the Manchurian "incident," a Japanese friend told me that Premier Takeshi Inukai had said: "The group of Japanese militarists in Manchuria is like a horse running amuck. The Japanese Government cannot control it. We have had to adopt a hands-off policy. There are only two conditions under which the militarists will stop. Either they will eventually become exhausted and stop of their own accord, or they will be annihilated by stronger forces." I was then Editor of Ta Kung Pao in Tientsin and published what Premier Inukai had said. When this news reached Tokyo, Inukai was greatly worried. He was assassinated in 1932. Inukai, an old politician, did not dare to criticize openly the militarists, much less did he dare to check them. There were too few great political leaders in Japan, and too many powerful militarists. After the assassination of Premier Yuko Hamaguchi, leader of the Minseito, in 1930, the political parties virtually evaporated.
The Japanese people enjoyed no freedom of thought and speech. Education was completely controlled by the state. Newspapers and periodicals, presumably organs of public opinion, were merely appendages of the Japanese military. The Asahi, which was supposed to represent liberalism, supported the Japanese policy of war and aggression after having been warned several times by the militarists. The Mainichi, the powerful organ of the financial oligarchy, was always notoriously reactionary and imperialistic. The Yomiuri, whose latest publisher was a man closely connected with the special service and police, was super-patriotic and ultra-nationalistic. The newspapers in Japan must be held guilty of the crime of promoting war as a national policy.
The so-called Meiji Restoration warns us, in short, how superficial a reformation sponsored from above can be in Japan. It solidified the governmental powers in Japan in the hands of the royal family, the military cliques, and the financial houses, with the military wielding decisive control. The masses of the Japanese people, lacking political knowledge, knowing no freedom, became the slaves of the financial oligarchy on the one hand and the terroristic agents of the gigantic war machine on the other. Through the Ex-Service Men's Association, a fanatically patriotic organization found in all villages and towns throughout the country, the militarists held the Japanese population, body and soul, under absolute control.
The final instrument for the coercion of the people was the institution of the Mikado. The legend of the divinity of the Emperor is, of course, of comparatively recent growth. Before the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 the Japanese were genuinely interested in western ideas and institutions, and the theory of popular sovereignty was not considered dangerous. Constitutional lawyers at that time did not claim that the position of the Mikado was sacred or inviolable. The concept of his divinity, as a person, was not fully developed. Professor Tatsukichi Minobe, the leader of the Anglo-American school of legal and political philosophy in Japan, who taught in the Tokyo Imperial University from 1900 to 1935, maintained throughout his teaching career the theory that, as an institution, the Mikado was merely a "constitutional organ" or a "fictional organ having certain legal functions." This doctrine, however, met with violent opposition from the militarists, and Professor Minobe was compelled to resign from the House of Peers and retire from teaching. (On October 14 of this year the Associated Press reported from Tokyo that Professor Minobe has not changed his opinion, and that he maintains that the "divinity" of the Mikado is a myth manufactured by the militarists.)
Professor Katshiko Kakehi, the leader of the German school of legal and political philosophy in Japan, was the academic spokesman for the new conception of the Mikado's rôle. In political behavior, he asserted, there are the "small self" and the "great self," the former being the individual, the latter the state. In Japan, he maintained, the Mikado was the state, and as such was sacred and inviolable. The militarists found the doctrine useful. The divinity of the Mikado and the creed of Shintoism were synchronized into one state religion, which became the ideological basis of war and aggression. Increasing poverty and misery among the Japanese people around 1920 brought widespread interest in the doctrines of Communism and Socialism. To check the spread of radicalism, the reactionary Japanese militarists and the royal family started the movement of Nipponism. This was the capstone of the fantastic and terrible state structure. Nipponism held, quite simply, that Japan was the center of the universe, and that the Mikado, as a divinity, was ordained to rule over all.
To sum up: the Meiji "reform" from above altered the Japanese feudal structure almost not at all, but it enabled the feudal elements to control the powerful new industrial forces for their own selfish and medieval ends. Over a period of about forty years, the Japanese had ceased to admire western ideas and institutions and had come to hate them. The result was an insane attempt to conquer the whole of Asia as a first step in the conquest of the world. This aberration was not primarily due to the nature of the Japanese people as a whole, but to the disequilibrium in the Japanese social and economic structure, plus a deliberate inculcation of fantastic and vicious ideas in Japanese minds.
What reforms, then, are needed to reorganize Japanese society and reëducate the Japanese people? First, the present political and legal system in Japan, of which the Mikado is the center, should be thoroughly destroyed. The United Nations have declared that the Japanese people must decide for themselves whether they wish to retain the Emperor. The Mikado as an institution should, on principle, be abolished. But if the Japanese people wish to keep the Mikado, his rôle should in any event be limited to that of nominal head of the Japanese state. He should possess neither political nor military power. The present Japanese constitution should be basically revised, in keeping with the principles of constitutional democracy.
Public opinion pays too much attention to the existence of the Emperor as a person and too little attention to the problem of political and constitutional reform. As far as I know, Hirohito himself was opposed to the Manchurian adventure in 1931. He expressed regrets in person to General Chiang Tso-ping, then Chinese Ambassador in Tokyo. Foreign Minister Koki Hirota, who was present at the audience, requested General Chiang not to make public the imperial expression of regrets, fearing that the militarists might harm even the Emperor.
The special powers of the Japanese Army and the Navy should be destroyed, and the conscription system abolished. Formerly, Japanese living abroad or on business trips in foreign countries were obliged to give secret reports to the Japanese Government on conditions as they found them. Japanese fishermen had to make surveys of naval establishments and harbor installations in the territorial waters of foreign countries. Geisha girls were generally trained as spies. Such ramifications of military power as these must be brought to light and obliterated.
We must be skeptical of individuals who take control of Japanese affairs. Two such individuals deserve special attention now. Newspapers have recently reported that Hirohito might resign and that his brother, Prince Chichibu, might become regent. If this report is true it must be considered a dangerous imperial plot -- not because the abdication of the present Mikado is undesirable in itself, but because Prince Chichibu would be no less militaristic than Hirohito, and probably more so. All members of the imperial family received military education. Prince Chichibu is a graduate of the Japanese Military Academy, his brother, Prince Takamatsu, is a graduate of the Japanese Naval Academy. Prince Chichibu, in particular, has been closely associated with the young officers, and is himself the leader of the notorious militant Cherry Club. He has been opposed to a policy of peace, and to all proposals to lessen the importance of the Mikado. He was partly responsible for the paradoxical policy of imperialism abroad and socialism at home in the early thirties. His treacherous character is well known to the Chinese; but, surprisingly, many American and British newspapers are ignorant of his record.
It is even more surprising that the United States does not fully understand Prince Fumimaro Konoye. He is a member of the oldest and most aristocratic family; and he is an opportunist and thoroughly unreliable. In his youth he believed in Marxism. Later he became a protégé of Prince Saionji, last of the Genro, and was made the President of the House of Peers. In 1937 he became Premier and coöperated wholeheartedly with the militarists in the invasion of China. Now he presents himself as a liberal and talks about democracy; and even General MacArthur seems to have been deceived by him. The Chinese are of the opinion that Prince Konoye shared the responsibility of war with the militarists and should be prosecuted as a major war criminal.
The economic system in Japan should be entirely revised. General MacArthur has made a sound beginning, in the investigations of individual and corporate finances. The disclosures should be pressed relentlessly, and should include investigation of the property of the royal family, about which neither Cabinet nor Diet could ask a question, the property of the military leaders, and the resources of the financial houses and the large banking institutions. Partial or total confiscation may be justified. Thorough examinations should also be made of Japanese industrial and banking assets in formerly occupied territories, and of gold, silver, art objects and other valuables, which officers of the Army and Navy have looted in occupied territories.
All the heavy industries in Japan, especially armament industries, must be destroyed. But this does not mean, in my opinion, that the Japanese people cannot earn a livelihood. The Chinese would not oppose any Japanese effort to establish reciprocal trade relations. Trade with China would, of course, be subject to Chinese regulations -- that is to say, China will never allow the revival of Japanese trade in China if it is used to create spheres of political or military influence. (Premier Kijuro Shidehara said recently that the Sino-Japanese War started because the Chinese refused to coöperate with the Japanese economically. The disclaimer of responsibility is nonsense; all students of international affairs know that Japan's economic activities in China were backed by political and military force, and were never purely commercial in nature.)
Economic and social questions are entwined, and social reforms are essential before the Japanese economy can be soundly based. The redistribution of land holdings is a primary necessity. Class distinctions and feudal systems must go, the position of women must be raised -- in short, there must be democratic institutions, political and economic. Once the Japanese have abandoned the ambition to expand militarily, the population problem may be more manageable. The Japanese Government has constantly tried to increase the birth rate, at the same time using "over-population" as an excuse for territorial expansion. As long as such policies are followed, the problem of over-population is of course insoluble.
Educational reform is the basic problem. How can the Japanese mind be opened and the doctrine of Nipponism be superseded by the facts and viewpoints of the modern world? As a people the Japanese are not generous or chivalrous; they are rather cruel and cowardly. They may be first-rate imitators; they are not original and creative. Their character is as unstable as the cherry blossom, their national flower, which begins to fade as soon as it blooms. But fortunately they take readily to education. Schooling in Japan has been quite universal, and the percentage of literacy is very high.
This offers a good point of attack. A new liberal educational system should be introduced. Japanese textbooks, movies and radio should be strictly supervised by the Allies, so that the Japanese people may not be misled by the military again. The Japanese people can also be reached through their newspapers, which are widely read; and, as has been suggested above, it would be salutary if some journalists and newspaper proprietors were held partially responsible for the war. I have visited many countries, but have never found one in which newspapers were so effectively controlled by the government as was the Japanese press by the Japanese militarists. In my opinion, the Japanese people have no profound faith in Shintoism as such. Given access to liberal education, uninfluenced by the military, I think they would shake off the spirit of Shinto. Indeed, if given a chance, they may be found surprisingly receptive to the spirit of democracy and peace.
Let us remind ourselves that this will take a long time. But let us also, in fairness, remember that the Japanese people have certain fine qualities. They are patient and hard-working. They have great organizational power. And they are willing to be educated. Properly guided, they can change their ideas and improve their livelihood. But we cannot guide them toward peace and international coöperation by force alone. We must, of course, expose the crimes the Japanese ruling classes have committed, all the atrocities and barbarities -- the killing of civilians; burning of cities, selling of opium, the plundering and the raping -- so that the Japanese people may learn the real facts about the war. We should demand that Japanese newspapers publish the truth about these crimes. We must prosecute war criminals -- I would include Prince Konoye and General Kuniaki Koiso, who are still at large; and some members of the Zaibatsu are also top war criminals. Furthermore, we have to expose the crimes of those who have already died -- of General Giichi Tanaka, for instance, author of the notorious "Tanaka Memorial," the basic document of the Japanese policy of war and aggression. But in addition to these stern measures, presumably to be taken under military rule, there is important work to be done by educators. I include newspapermen of the United Nations among the teachers, for I strongly believe that Japanese newspapers, which were a powerful instrument of war, could be an effective instrument of peace. And it is my belief that, when the Japanese people know all the facts about the war, they will be ashamed of their nation's actions and will repent.
Finally, I wish to emphasize that in my opinion the task of reforming the Japanese social and political system and reëducating the Japanese people should be undertaken by the principal United Nations jointly. General MacArthur, whose military successes have won universal admiration, should remain as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and the chain of command under him should be preserved intact. The principal United Nations, however, should jointly formulate broad policies. I believe that a United Nations Council should be established, that it should have the power of making and executing policy, and that it should sit in Tokyo, not in Washington.
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