Washington’s Missing China Strategy
To Counter Beijing, the Biden Administration Needs to Decide What It Wants
IN 1916 the American Congress passed the present organic law of the Philippines, popularly known as the Jones Law. Since that time three Governors-General have sat at Malacañang: the first a Democrat, Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison; the second and third Republicans, the late Governor-General Leonard Wood and Governor-General Henry L. Stimson. Under the same organic law these three chief executives established different governmental forms and practices.
It is easy to conceive how a Democratic Governor-General, sent out by a party with a liberal policy towards the Philippines and imbued with the ideals of self-determination propounded by Woodrow Wilson, would establish, as he did establish, a government which interpreted the Jones Law in terms of more democracy for the Filipinos. "To every Democrat," said Francis Burton Harrison upon his inauguration, "government rests only upon the consent of the governed." He announced "a new era" for the country and gave the Filipino leaders every opportunity to exercise autonomy, provided that no disloyalty to American sovereignty was shown. He believed that self-government must be a matter of experience and not of theory. In all domestic questions he followed the advice of the Council of State, excepting in matters affecting public order and the protection of American interests. He allowed the departmental secretaries wide discretion. He used the veto power very rarely; he vetoed only five bills throughout the period from 1916 to 1921. He established a party government, making the majority party responsible for the success or failure of the administration.
That there were mistakes committed under the Harrison régime the writer, a Filipino, will not deny. That there was more democracy in the Islands during that period than during any of the subsequent periods, no impartial observer can also deny. But democracy everywhere, as Bryce says, is not noted for its wisdom, but for its strength. And Governor Harrison believed that the evils of a democracy should be self-corrected. The process might be a longer one, but the results would be more lasting.
His successor, General Leonard Wood, had a quite different theory. He came as an administrator first and foremost, determined to correct in person whatever evils and errors had been committed under the previous administration. He endeavored to exercise legally all the powers granted him by law. He did not believe in a party government in the Philippines, and from the beginning he would have liked to do away with any semblance of party cabinet. While he was prevailed upon to retain a cabinet which was favorable to the Nacionalista party, he claimed that its members were fully responsible to him and not, even partly, to the legislature. "To try to dictate to my secretaries of department is just like my trying to dictate to your own private secretary," he was reported to have told President Quezon once. He created what was popularly called a military cabinet, composed of men who were independent of the executive departments, but who were assigned functions as advisers on departmental matters. In some cases these advisers (so certain bureau chiefs and departmental secretaries alleged) directly dictated to the bureaus as to what should be done, and thus assumed semi-administrative functions. The Governor-General exercised the power of control and supervision to a great extent. As a matter of fact, it was his interpretation of this phrase which was the immediate cause of the resignation of the Filipino members of the Council of State, leading to a condition of virtual non-coöperation.
Undoubtedly a great deal of good was accomplished during General Wood's administration. Philippine finances were rehabilitated, much politics was eliminated from the administration, unnecessary personnel were dispensed with, pork barrel legislation was vetoed, and a certain degree of efficiency was effected. But there were also mistakes committed. Methods of questionable legal validity were employed. Dissensions between Moros and Christians increased. Men with unclean records were protected because they showed loyalty to the Governor. There is no doubt that the better political elements of the Philippines, with a few exceptions, were on the side of the leaders. In formal state papers the Governor was accused of disloyalty to American ideals and principles, with reversing the policy of Filipinization, with disregarding the authority of the Filipino heads of departments, with using public funds in violation of law, and with favoring various selfish interests which wanted to exploit the country.
What would have been the result of the continuation of these strained relations between the American representative and the Filipino leaders, nobody can say. Then came the death of the Governor-General, and after some time the appointment of Mr. Stimson.
THE NEW GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S ARRIVAL
This much historic background is necessary in order to understand the problems that faced Governor Stimson upon his assumption of office. It was a critical period. President Coolidge had backed up General Wood in every instance. Yet the constant friction in the Islands could not have been to the entire satisfaction of the administration at Washington. Hence, the tact characteristic of Mr. Stimson must have been a factor in his appointment. Some of the leaders who had talked with Mr. Stimson were impressed with his relatively liberal views. President Quezon and Senator Osmeña were then in America, and they immediately expressed their unqualified endorsement of the appointment of Mr. Stimson and pledged their whole-hearted support and coöperation. Let it be confessed that at that time quite a number of people back in the Islands expressed surprise at this, for all they knew of the new Governor-General was his public avowal of General Wood's policies. Governor Stimson had visited General Wood and had given public support to his policies, as shown in the articles which he wrote for FOREIGN AFFAIRS and the Saturday Evening Post.[i] In the former, however, he had suggested the desirability of ultimately creating a semi-parliamentary or responsible government in the Philippines.
In his inaugural address the new Governor-General warmly invited a harmonious coöperation under our organic law. He evaded the question of future political relationship with America, saying that that question rested with the Government of the United States. The fundamental theme of his inaugural address was industrial and economic development; while the country had progressed educationally and politically, he said, it had not progressed very much along economic lines, and it was now the duty of all to coöperate to that end.
A favorable impression was soon created by Governor Stimson's settlement of the so-called Cornejo Case, arising out of a sale of public lands in Malibay conducted by the Director of Lands. Mr. Cornejo was not in favor of the procedure of the Director, and kept sending telegrams to the Governor-General asking him to intervene. The impression had often been given during the Wood régime that the Governor-General would intervene whenever he was appealed to, even in cases where the law gives the trust and responsibility to other officials. But Governor Stimson refused to intervene and in a letter to Cornejo explained his stand in such matters. He wrote: "The great power of supervision and control over the executive functions of government which that Organic Law imposes upon me should ordinarily not be invoked to interfere with the conduct of government by my subordinates, unless they have been guilty of some misconduct or neglect deserving of grave reprehension or even removal from office." This was interpreted in many quarters as not exactly in consonance with the practice of General Wood or his interpretation of the power of control and supervision.
Some people were suspicious when Mr. Stimson stated at the outset that he was bringing back some of the military assistants of the late General Wood. Governor Stimson insisted that he must have competent assistants and that hence there was necessity for the so-called Kiess Bill, introduced in the American Congress, making ample allowance for the civil assistants that he wanted. The Filipino leaders yielded and promised the administration at Washington that the Legislature itself would pass a bill giving funds to the Governor-General for his advisers. What is locally known as the Belo Act, making an annual appropriation of 250,000 pesos ($125,000) for the Governor-General's advisers was, therefore, approved. The Governor-General may spend this money in any way he likes. Evidently, however, Governor Stimson did not intend to allow the assistants to take up administrative work, for in explaining the measure he said that their duties would be limited "to giving advice upon technical matters or assisting the Governor-General in those informative and supervisory functions." He believed that the creation of the posts of civil assistants would help develop the autonomy of the heads of departments.
THE RESTORATION OF PARTY GOVERNMENT
A very significant step taken by Governor Stimson was his appointment in August of a cabinet composed of men possessing the confidence of the party which had triumphed at the last election. It meant the reëstablishment of party government. The Cabinet, which was immediately confirmed by the Senate, was composed of the following: Secretary of the Interior, Honorio Ventura; Secretary of Public Instruction, Eugene A. Gilmore; Secretary of Finance, Miguel Unson; Secretary of Justice, Jose Abad Santos; Secretary of Commerce and Communications, Filemon Perez; and Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Rafael Alunan. It was considered one of the strongest cabinets the Philippines had ever had.
The establishment of a party cabinet was followed on August 30, 1928, by the re-creation of the Council of State under an executive order reading as follows:
A Council of State is hereby created to advise the Governor-General on such matters of public policy as he may from time to time lay before it. He shall be the presiding officer of such Council of State, and it shall consist of such persons as from time to time may be appointed and summoned by him. Until otherwise ordered by him, it shall consist of the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Majority Floor leader of the Senate, the Majority Floor leader of the House of Representatives, and the heads of the six executive departments.
This, again, was a most signal step because, as may be remembered, the resignation of the Council of State under General Wood meant the severance of relations between the Filipino leaders and the Chief Executive. Also, the inclusion in the new Council of the majority floor leaders of both houses of the Legislature made it even more representative.
The Governor-General considered the creation of the Council of State the last of the four steps necessary to complete the framework of government under his administration. The first step had been the passage of the Belo Act giving him money for his advisers, the second had been the appointment of a party cabinet, and the third had been the amendment to the rules of procedure of both houses giving the cabinet members the privilege of the floor. "With the aid of these four steps to aid such cooperation," says the Governor-General, "it is hoped that a system of mutual action will gradually be established which will not subordinate either branch of the government to the other, but, on the contrary, will facilitate the necessary coöperation in their action and will materially assist in the development of an efficient administration in these Islands which will become more and more responsive to the deliberately expressed policies of a self-governing electorate."
Immediately after this explanation of the four steps taken under Governor Stimson's guidance, President Quezon, speaking in the Senate on behalf of the majority party, explained why he was supporting the Chief Executive. "The views of Governor Stimson," he said, "as to the proper relations between the Executive and the Legislature in the Philippines and the responsibilities and powers that should be granted to the Department Heads are substantially in accord with our own." He considered the appointment of a party cabinet and the revival of the Council of State as real advances towards responsible government, which, in his definition, is "a government under which our people can give expression to their genius and desires and where their rights and interests are left largely to their own care."
The social aspects of the Governor-General's position should not be lost sight of, for they affect official attitudes a great deal. How many questions have been decided over the dining table or at receptions! Coöperation paved the way for social contacts; and Malacañang was reopened to state functions. Senators and representatives have often been invited to dine at the Governor's palace. Mrs. Stimson agreeably surprised people by attending state balls and receptions in Filipino dress. All these things naturally helped create a more wholesome atmosphere.
THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S ECONOMIC PROGRAM
Once the necessary machinery for running the government had been established, Governor Stimson turned his attention to the economic development of the country, which he considers the fundamental problem of the Islands today. In his inaugural address to the Legislature he said that Philippine economic development must henceforward be carried on along corporate lines. What was needed were corporations with ample resources and capital. He intimated that he was in favor not only of amending the corporation law to attract corporate capital, but of "a wise and conservative revision of your land laws."
One of his first acts was to oppose the curtailment of the free trade relations with the United States. In this he of course had the support of both the Filipino leaders and the local Americans, who are naturally thriving under the free trade relations. It may be remembered that complete reciprocity in the protection of products does not exist today. While all American products are protected in the Philippines because of the tariff imposed by the Philippine Government on foreign goods (thus practically creating a monopoly of Philippine foreign trade by the Americans), not all Philippine products are protected in the United States. Philippine copra, for instance, which is one of our most important products, is on the same footing as copra from other countries.
Another discriminatory feature of present trade relations with the United States is the fact that while Philippine manufactures with 20 percent or more of foreign materials do not enter the United States free, all American manufactures whether or not they contain 20 percent or over of foreign materials are admitted free to the Philippines. Despite this already one-sided trade relationship, the movement is gaining ground in the United States for a further discrimination against Philippine products. For example, there is an agitation among some Pacific states against Philippine coconut butter because of its competition with American dairy products, and there is the Timberlake resolution presented in Congress which would limit the importation of Philippine sugar to the United States to 500,000 tons yearly.
The Philippine Islands have found in Governor Stimson a staunch supporter of the present free trade relations with the United States and an ardent opponent of further discrimination against Philippine products. Thus, in his address before the American Chamber of Commerce on August 15, 1928, he said that "the attempt to restrict freedom of trade between the Islands and the United States represents about the worst possible backward step that could be taken in American policy."
His economic program at first gave rise to some suspicion. It was rumored that he was in favor of giving huge tracts of public lands to American corporations. To allay the feeling engendered by this rumor, President Quezon gave a banquet on September 27, 1928, to afford the Governor-General a chance to discuss more fully his economic policy, and on that occasion he said that he was opposed to a land law which would give large tracts of public lands to corporations. What he planned was a temporary combination for the purpose of production and marketing in very much the same way that sugar planters have combined to have coöperative milling. He was in favor of establishing investment and holding companies to finance small, independent farmers.
His plan for an economic development which will not touch the land law has met with the approval of President Quezon and his party. Mr. Quezon said: "The world knows that our nationalistic creed does not entail only the realization of our political independence and the development of our national genius as a people but also the accomplishment of economic independence; and this economic independence does not mean that the country should be rich merely, but that its wealth should belong to its own people. We would be guilty of negligence in the fulfilment of our duty if, while struggling for our political rights, we completely abandon all activities in the economic field."
As the first step in his plan of economic development Governor Stimson favored a change in the corporation law. After much discussion, the Philippine Legislature approved amendments to the corporation law permitting the merger of two or more corporations without first dissolving them, allowing the issuance of no par value stocks and of stock dividends, and definitely permitting corporations to engage in more than one activity.
THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL AND THE LEGISLATURE
The first session of the Legislature has ended. Besides the corporation amendments alluded to above, the bill creating new posts for judges to facilitate the registry of lands and the franchise for a long-distance telephone company in the Philippines have been approved by the Governor-General as highly meritorious. He was forced, however, to veto twenty bills on the ground that they were poorly and immaturely prepared.
Probably the most serious difference of opinion between the Chief Executive and the Legislature occurred in the matter of appropriations. The amounts requested by the Governor-General for the general appropriations for 1929 and for public works were 56,330,872 pesos and 8,540,100 pesos, respectively; but the Legislature approved 57,229,323 pesos and 12,960,300 pesos, respectively, or an increase of 898,451 pesos for the general appropriations and 4,420,200 pesos for public works. In turn he cut off 508,972 pesos and 2,666,098 pesos, respectively. In explaining his veto of certain items in the appropriation and public works bills, he expressed himself in favor of a budget system whereby the administration would assume the responsibility for framing the financial program of the government, and the Legislature would be converted into a sort of board of control with power to cut but not to add items in the appropriation bills. He suggested that the corresponding legislative committees should discuss with the Council of State and the Secretary of Finance the financial program before the drafting of the general budget. The leaders, especially President Quezon, expressed approval of the proposal, but the final adoption of a real budget system will probably require a little further study.
"Pork barrel" legislation has long played an important rôle in Philippine politics. Senators and representatives have vied with each other in trying to secure the largest amount of appropriations for their districts. A strict budget system will take away from legislators much of the credit for securing appropriations, because the need for local public improvements will be decided from a scientific and national standpoint.
The Governor-General's policy towards Mindanao, as gathered from a study of his administrative measures, has been based on the development of that island by Filipinos and the unification of Christians and Mohammedans. Some people see in this an improvement over General Wood's policies in Mindanao, or at any rate over the acts of his subordinates there. It is commonly believed that, whether General Wood expressly allowed it or not, his American assistants encouraged the Moros to make constant complaints against their Christian brothers, thus fostering dissension rather than friendship between them. Moreover, General Wood publicly stated that he was in favor of turning over large tracts of land in Mindanao to corporations. Governor Stimson's first step in appointing Rafael Alunan, Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as chairman of a committee to look into the development of Mindanao, allayed suspicion as to his possible purposes with regard to that region, and in his trips to the Moro country he made it plain that he did not want dissensions between Moros and Christians, but on the contrary union between them.
WOOD AND STIMSON
Not only in their ideas with regard to administration, the Cabinet, the Council of State, the technical assistants, and the policy in Mindanao, do we find differences between General Wood and Governor Stimson; in their attitude towards the Philippines in general we may also notice certain individual characteristics, probably growing out of their past training and experience. General Wood was primarily an administrator and a social worker; hence he loved to display his executive experience and constantly spoke of the interests of the masses as against those of the leaders and the politicians. Governor Stimson has been connected with the activities of large corporations, first as a prosecuting attorney, when he prosecuted corporate abuses, and later as a corporation counsel. He is therefore acquainted with the good and bad points of corporations and is convinced that a corporation honestly and efficiently managed is a tremendous factor for economic development. He has also to his credit as a diplomat the settlement of the Nicaraguan dispute. His views, therefore, are those of a man who believes in economic development along corporate lines, and his services to the Filipino people in this regard will be of inestimable value, while his diplomatic gifts promptly secured him the coöperation of the Filipino leaders.
It must be remembered, however, that Governor Stimson came to the Islands in a more favorable atmosphere than did General Wood. The change from Harrison to Wood -- from a liberal-minded Democrat, anxious to give all the autonomy possible, to an administrator who wanted to administer unaided -- was necessarily abrupt and could not have been made without protests from the Filipino people and their representatives. In their struggles with Wood, however, the Filipinos found out that Washington, publicly at any rate, stood by the Chief Executive in every instance, so that by the time Governor Stimson arrived, though still fretting under the strain of severe disappointment, they were probably more disposed to follow a policy of coöperation. Add to this favorable circumstance Governor Stimson's gift as a diplomat and his relatively much more liberal policies as regards the machinery of government, and you have the explanation for the more wholesome conditions that obtain in the Philippines today.
AS TO INDEPENDENCE
On the question of independence we can also see a shade of difference between the two Governors-General. General Wood made it known to the leaders that he was ready to discuss the independence problem with them. During the first months of his administration he encouraged pursuit of the ideal of independence. After his break with the leaders, however, he was most outspoken in his opposition to early independence and he stressed the need of the United States to retain the Philippines as an outpost of American commercial expansion in Asia. Governor Stimson has preferred not to speak of independence, saying that the ultimate political relationship between the Islands and the United States remains with Congress to decide. Judged solely by their utterances, Governor Stimson is less for ultimate independence than was General Wood, but he does not believe in discussing the question with the leaders or the people. Before he was appointed Governor-General he seemed to favor a permanent connection of the Islands with the United States under some form of colonial self-government. In his FOREIGN AFFAIRS article, for example, he recommended the advisability of stopping all agitation for separation. He has told the writer, however, that he would not object to the Filipinos discussing the problem provided the discussion is carried on unemotionally and sanely, weighing realistically all the possibilities of independence.
While his views, or lack of definite views, on independence may not have been satisfactory to the Filipino people, there is no doubt that he came here imbued with the most friendly feelings for the country. His first idea of a Philippine policy came through his close associations with Secretary Root and President Taft, and these two men, it may be remembered, really laid the cornerstone of a Republican policy towards the Philippines, a policy based on enlightened trusteeship and hostile to all forms of selfish exploitation. One of the first men whom he consulted when the post was offered to him was Elihu Root, the author of President McKinley's famous Instructions to the Philippine Commission. This state paper was called in the early days the Magna Carta of the Filipinos, for it contains the great principles of American liberty and maps out a humanitarian policy.
Although they have coöperated with Governor Stimson, the leaders have not given up the ideal of independence. At the last session of the Legislature they passed the customary resolution in favor of immediate independence, and they have been talking of renewing their campaign for independence in the United States. They believe that independence is not incompatible with the program of economic development mapped out by Governor Stimson.
We might sum up by saying that the administration established by Governor Stimson lies midway between the Harrison and Wood régimes. The personal nature of the Wood régime gave way to a system which, Governor Stimson himself confessed, has attempted to approach a responsible type of government, with the administration becoming more and more responsive to the electorate and the Legislature. The Governor-General of course retains considerable checks through the veto and appointing powers and through the power of control and supervision. Further relaxation of these powers might be made if the Governor-General saw that it could be done wisely. A party cabinet has been established. The Council of State has been enlarged to include the majority floor leaders of both houses of the Legislature so as to make it more representative. While Governor Stimson has said that it will not take up matters of administration, the fact that he suggested that the Council might take charge of the budget shows that the Council may after all become a potent factor in administration.
The leaders pledged themselves to coöperate and have actually been coöperating enthusiastically. They have backed the Governor's economic program, including the introduction of foreign capital, though they would oppose a change in the land law or the monopolistic control of Philippine industries by foreign capital. To the charge made by the minority that this coöperation policy entails a surrender of the people's rights in exchange for a few positions, they answer, through Senator Osmeña: Coöperation means liberty, not submission; it means mutual understanding, not mistrust; it means working together for the common good, each standing by his constitutional rights and not encroaching upon that of the other. Coöperation means pulling together for the best interests of the Filipino people; it stands for friendship and goodwill, two elements necessary for the successful running of any government. Coöperation, in fine, means the return of the government to normalcy, where each organism performs its function and does it in harmony with that of the whole machine.
[i] "Future Philippine Policy Under the Jones Act," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, April, 1927, p. 459-471; and "First-Hand Impressions of the Philippine Problem," Saturday Evening Post, March 19, 1927, pp. 6-7.