- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Mar 1947, p. 269-278
- McClure, Dr. Robert Baird, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The position of Canada as a bridge between Europe and the Far East, particularly as a bridge in relation to China. Some concrete actions that the speaker believes we as Canadians could take, and should take. Three chief causes for the civil war now engulfing China, with a discussion of each: war nerves or operational fatigue; economic disorganization; the divergence of political thought as to the plan for the future. Consequences of inflation. What Canada can do to help in the following fields, with a brief discussion of each: Commercially; Industrially; Politically; Culturally. Specific examples of assistance, such as sending out five of our best hydro-electric engineers to help in the surveying and designing of future power sites in China and aid in drawing up the specifications for the plants required, or sending out agricultural experts to aid in the solution of some of the problems of Chinese agriculture. Canada's unique position; the only nation of our size with a Pacific coast that is above suspicion in the Pacific. A summation of the speaker's belief in Canada and her ability to help other nations of the world to develop to their full stature and then unite them with mutual bonds across oceans.
- Date of Original
- 20 Mar 1947
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- Full Text
- CANADA'S PLACE IN THE PACIFIC BASIN
AN ADDRESS BY DR. ROBERT BAIRD McCLURE, M.D., F.R.C.S.
Chairman: The President, Major F. L. Clouse
Thursday, March 20, 1947
MAJOR CLOUSE: It seems appropriate that after last week's address by the High Commissioner from Australia that we should move up the Pacific and hear about Canada's place in the Pacific Basin.
I doubt if there is anyone in Canada today who could tell us more definitely about China, Burma and French Indo-China than our speaker, who has spent the greatest part of his life in those countries.
Dr. McClure was educated in Toronto and is a graduate in Medicine from our University, later studying in Edinburough where he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. After further study in Sweden he proceeded to China and in 1937 he was loaned to the British Red Cross and acted as the Field Director for Central China of the Red Cross Society.
For the last five years our speaker was Medical Director of the Friends' Ambulance Unit in China and is supposed to be home for a rest but, I understand from the United Church Department of Overseas Missions, that, although he gives good advice to his patients, he does not always accept the same from others and he is now under strict orders to actually undertake less work on his so-called vacation.
We are, therefore, doubly indebted to him today for his kind acceptance of our invitation to speak to the Empire Club and I now have a great deal of pleasure in introducing to this audience and the audience of the air Dr. Robert Baird McClure, M.D., F.R.C.S., who will address us on the subject "CANADA'S PLACE IN THE PACIFIC BASIN".
DR. ROBERT BAIRD McCLURE: In recent weeks several outstanding speakers on political matters have pointed out very clearly the position of Canada as a bridge between Europe and the Far East. I should like to further point out some of these features particularly in respect to Canada's function as a bridge in relation to China. I should also like to point out some concrete actions that I believe we, as Canadians could take. Not only are there several steps which we can take but there are several which I feel we should take if we are going to implement the things that we have talked about so much. Many other countries have, for economic and political reasons, to confine themselves more and more to talking about these advances. I believe that Canada has talked enough about these and I hope to show that we can because of our economic and political position actually implement some of these subjects.
Civil war and political upheaval are a familiar fact of the world in which we live. Since we do not believe too much in coincidences we must come to the conclusion that these things following on a long period of international war must be due to it. I certainly feel that that is so. In the case of China I believe there are three chief causes for the civil war which is now engulfing the country. (a) War nerves, operational fatigue, or whatever you like to call it is a very distinct entity to those of us who have lived the last few years in the far East. It is a lot more than a vague alibi for all kinds of political turmoil. The fact is that the very traits in character that enable a people to withstand the effects of modern war, do if these traits are carried over into the post-war period lead to great tensions and stresses within society. Such traits as firm convictions on political matters, willingness to sacrifice much for a "cause". The deep currents of feeling about all matters. The willingness to sacrifice for these "causes". These are what enable a nation under occupation or the threat of occupation to withstand that threat and to resist the enemy. If the need for this is kept up for year after year it becomes a habit of thought. The result is a serious national situation in which men become convinced that their cause is the right cause, they become adamant in their ideas, they believe intently in certain things and they are quite prepared to die for those things in which they believe. They become uncompromising and unable to see the other man's view point. Those who, during war are capable of compromise and seeing the other man's view point became collaborationists of the worst type. Carried over into the post-war world these cause civil war.
(b) Economic disorganization is a potent cause of civil war and unrest. In modern war when an enemy occupies a country he completely organizes the industries, the crafts and the agriculture of the conquered territory. It would be foolish if he did not do so. In China this tied in the whole production of farm, village and factory to the Japanese plan of "co-Presperity in East Asia". The Japanese are great organizers and they tied up this production very effectively if not very efficiently. Effectiveness is the important thing in modern war not efficiency. The result is that each producer in China was made into a cog in a great machine. He took no part in the design nor in the construction of the machine but he was compelled to be a cog.
The cotton farmer produced cotton instead of food materials. He was fed by the scheme and he produced cotton for the scheme. The cotton was taken by a military railway to the cotton mill which processed it up to the stage of cotton yarn and nothing more. The cotton mill workers and managers were reasonably well paid for what they did and food again was forthcoming for their efforts. The yarn was then handed over to another organization, sometimes in an entirely different country but always in the "co-prosperity sphere" where it was made into cloth to order for both civilian and military needs. The cloth was then allocated by a board. The merchant was not necessary and the middleman had no place in this.
The cotton mill had the needed coal delivered to his boilers at a fixed price. He knew not from whence came the coal. It was all part of the scheme. When the war terminated there was no designed "reconversion" of this complicated system. The militarily controlled railway stopped running, the hungry farmer was left with cotton when he wanted food. The mill had neither raw cotton nor coal for the power so he closed down and put his people out of work. The yarn ceased to flow to the looms and the people ceased to find textiles on the market.
Each of you can picture for himself the utter confusion that spread in this way right from Manchuria to Java. In a re-occupied country these problems are met one at a time but with the sudden collapse of an enemy they all come at once. I doubt if master minds are available in any countries to bring a quick solution to such a complicated and far reaching problem. Certainly it was impossible in the Far East for once more Malaya came under the British, Indo-China came under the French, China and Siam were on their own, Java was again brought under Dutch rule and shipping almost disappeared completely. The internal communications had been disrupted in attaining the victory and nearly all railway and highway bridges were blown up, not by the enemy but by glorious allies. The effect on the particular bridge is about the same whether it is done by a friend or an enemy. Both the retreating Japanese and the advancing Allies seemed unanimous in the desire to blow up things anyway. Economic collapse or at least a reversion to simpler economic organization was necessary.
(c) The third factor of this type was the divergence of political thought as to the plan for the future. When the Japanese war machine advanced in 1942 subject and colonial people were suddenly left to the Japanese. They found leadership among their own people who in nearly every case, while nominally collaborating with the Japanese actually controlled their own people and often headed up anti-Japanese underground activity. For years they were to witness the effectiveness of Japanese autocracy and they had the memory of conditions under their "democratic" imperialists. These all combined on the one hand to develop their own leadership and to profoundly shake their belief in "democracy" of the British, French and Dutch type. The experience of each nation was different and so each drew conclusions that were different from the others but one rather general conclusion of the Oriental was that he could do about as well without the white man ruling him as he could with that ruler. With the sudden surrender of the Japanese the whole situation was changed. Efforts were made to reconstitute authority from above and always in the name of "democracy". "Democracy" with the restrictions of war regulations put upon it is not the same as much of theoretical democracy. Even Canadians have found that out. Little wonder is it then that political unrest and turmoil followed in nearly every country. Not only did political turmoil follow but it followed almost in direct proportion to the resistance there had been against the Japanese. That fact is important to keep in mind.
This then is the background of China's civil war. As the political and economic sky grew darker the inflation gets worse and as inflation gets worse the moral deterioration grows more serious. The, end result of inflation is that new social standards tend to be set up. Those who play the game of life by the old rules tend to eat less and live more poorly than those who "adapt" themselves to the new conditions".
We must not forget the invisible destruction of modern war and the deterioration that can take place during inflation. I feel that in Greece and in many other countries who have suffered their inflations we should see the same terrible deterioration. This has two important meanings for us as Canadians. First of all we must be very sympathetic with these people who have passed through these circumstances that have been avoided in our own country.
Secondly we must grouse less about those regulations in our own country that have prevented us from falling into the same difficulties. In fact we, who have been spared so much of this part of war must be more sympathetic at all times with those who were not so fortunate.
Now as to what we can do about it. There are several things I should like to bring to your minds in this connection.
1. Commercially. In winning the war we have cut out the products of both Germany and Japan from the Far Eastern markets. It is not a matter of commercial rivalry but of trying to meet the consumer needs of these countries that we should strive. Aside from anything that increased exports might or might not do for Canada the fact is that we have a production capacity and we must see to it that these consumer needs other than our own get met in some proportion whether by quotas or some other means. One hates to think of the opinion the post-war world would have of us were we to refuse to meet these needs until all the needs in our own land had been met. If Canadians are ever going to think in terms of world affairs now is the time to do such thinking and then convert that thinking into action. 2. Industrially. We are among the fortunate few who have come out of the war with our industries in better shape than we went in. This should imply an obligation on our part. What nations like China need as much as anything else is the industrial technique which we can share with them and the machines which will allow them to produce for themselves. If we can take a broad enough view of things I feel sure we can see that every way we can raise the standard of living in these countries will be to our benefit in the increased market which they will supply. An impoverished nation is no great asset in a world order characterized by international interdependence. 3. Politically. Our experiments in recent years should make obvious to all of us that it is not possible for one nation to offer much aid in political matters to another nation. Great and I believe very sincere efforts have been made in this direction in recent years with very poor results indeed. The same conclusion can be arrived at by deduction also. For instance it becomes ludicrous indeed if we consider the reception that might be given to a Chinese delegation were they to come over to our country shortly before a federal election to help make things clear to the voters of Canada. Or think of the welcome awaiting a delegation from Turkey let us say if they were to come to our good neighbor to the south in the last month before a presidential election to help clear up the points for the electors! Why then should we seem so surprised that efforts of outside nations have been unsuccessful in bridging the difficulties in China. If outside and impartial political aid could be useful at all it would probably be between the native population and the ruling country as between the Annamites and the Republic of France or between Indonesians and the Government of the Netherlands or between India and Great Britain. We have not tried such political techniques for equally obvious reasons though experiments in this line might offer some contribution to international political science. The fact is then that as things are at present we, as Canadians, can offer little or no help in China's internal political dispute. The dangers of international complications as the Chinese say of "making another Spain out of China" are all too great a risk for what might be achieved. I will say this that when the time comes that some outside help does come Canada is in a position to be of great assistance because of our detached position. 4. Culturally. In the field of culture we have a very big contribution to make and it is this field, which up to now, we have neglected most remarkably. A great cultural vacuum has been created in the Far East generally and in China in particular by the defeat of Japan and Germany. Nature abhors this type of a vacuum as much as she does any other. Something is bound to rush in to fill the gap. We are in a unique position. During the war we saw the gratitude and the effectiveness of cultural missions. Both Britain and United States did fine work in this respect. British effort was in scientific and educational lines chiefly while that of United States was in agriculture and industry as well. There is no misunderstanding of such gestures. In my own profession I think of the effect of the gestures if through large-scale activity we were to strengthen all Canadian hospitals in China and make them model institutions capable of giving the same standard of medical care as we enjoy in our own country. We could expand still further and give one or two hospitals of say 500 beds to military surgery to aid in the mopping up of the war-injured both military and civilian, those injured in fighting a joint war. Or we could make a roster of teachers from our own institutions both medical and in other sciences and let some of our teachers at the rate of 10 or 20 per year go out for one-year lectureships to teach in universities where Japanese and German professors were formerly used. We could send out public health men on a one or two year term to help with some of the more obvious public health problems with small budgets sufficient to give demonstrations of the solution for some of the problems in that line.
Again, in Canada, we lead in hydro-electric development. Why not send out say five of our best hydroelectric engineers to help in the surveying and designing of future power sites in China and aid in drawing up the specifications for the plants required. At least one large German firm used to keep such a committee of engineers in China. Such men should be paid by Canada as a contribution to the development of a friendly country.
Again, in Canada, we lead in agriculture. Could we not send some of our agricultural experts to aid in the solution of some of the problems of Chinese agriculture. There is one country I can think of who if they sent 100 agricultural men to China I believe would draw forth a lusty budget from other nations for countermeasures. We in Canada should think of these things first. So one could go down the list. In all this Canada would be enriched as well.
One, could go on at some length, but your own minds can give you a lot of ideas far better than I can. You know what we have in Canada better than I do. You live here. What I want you to realize is that aside from the political there are so many fields in which we can help. We can give such help without any suspicion and without raising any questions. Concerted international action in time of war is taken for granted. Hundreds of millions can be spent in concerted action for the cause of destruction. Is it too much to hope that similar action on a much smaller scale might not be used in the cause of peace and in the cause of building a new world order?
Canada's position is unique. Unique in the world for we are the only nation of our size with a Pacific coast that is above suspicion in the Pacific. Not only in the Pacific but throughout the world. We are the only nation of our size in the world that is above suspicion. Even if they could do these things in many cases their efforts would be suspect in other countries. Britain would be suspected of strengthening her empire as some imperial holds are weakening. France would be suspected because of her stand in Indo-China. Holland because of her stand in Java. The nations fear Soviet imperial expansion as much as that of any other country and they seem to be clearer than some of our people in being able to distinguish between social doctrines and national ambitions. American economic imperialism is feared as much as anything. Canada on the other hand is above suspicion. We can do things that others cannot do. There is much that we can do that others are actually unable to do anyway. We can do them--the question is will we do them?
And so I do not apologize for offering these projects or suggesting this course of action. If it served in any small way from avoiding not merely war but international tensions it would be cheaper than many of the results of such tensions. That should not be our argument today however. This nation sacrificed money and materials but above all we sacrificed our best in flesh and blood to bring about a new world order. That sacrifice cleared the field for the new order. Even as they made the sacrifice they knew it was not bringing in the new order. It was preparing the ground that a new order might be built. If that new order is to be built it must be started soon. As we look over the map of the world today does it look as if we were going very much along that line today? I believe we are failing to do our share in this construction because of lack of imagination on our part.
So to close a talk to an Empire Club I say I am a Canadian nationalist and an imperialist. I believe that our Empire has much to give the world in lessons in political government. I believe that we have experience that is second to none. For the white members of the Empire we have shown what can be done to develop nations to their full stature and then unite them with mutual bonds across oceans. That same vision must now be applied across racial boundaries. As a nation I believe in Canada's destiny. I believe we have a job of work to do that can be done by no other nation. I believe we have a contribution that can be made by no other nation. I feel that our whole history has brought us to this place where we can make this contribution to the prosperity and unity of one world. In all sincerity I pray 'God grant that we shall make it".