IMPACT OF WORLD FORCES IN THE FAR EAST
AN ADDRESS BY MR. JOHN W. BEATON
Thursday, January 16th, 1936
MR. H. C. BOURLIER: Honoured Guest and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: Last week you will recall, it was our good fortune to hear from the lips of a very charming Frenchman his impressions with respect to the position at present occupied by France, Great Britain and Italy. Today, a native born Canadian is going to speak to us on very much the same line, that is to say, the entire relationship of those countries which are directly affected by the constantly changing checkerboard of continental politics.
Before presenting the speaker, I would like to say one or two things about him. I have already told you that he was born in Canada„ his birthplace being Chesley. He has been for sixteen years the energetic Metropolitan Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association at Montreal, and in that connection I might say that we endeavoured to have with us today at the head table certain of the gentlemen who were prominent in the Young Men's Christian Association's current campaign. We have been able to do that to a limited extent, in the persons of Dr. Best and, Mr. Frank Waterman, and I think we might include Colonel McGee who is always interested in everything of a good nature in the City, but the majority of those asked found with campaign luncheons and so on that they were unable to be present, but we can identify them with Mr. Beaton in this very excellent enterprise now under way.
Mr. Beaton has been on a six months' trip around the world. He has travelled over 20,000 miles and has made minute observations of conditions in all the major cities, we might say, of Europe and the Orient, and it is out of. the fund of his experience so gained that he is going to address us today on the subject: "Impact of World Forces in the Far East." I have much pleasure in presenting Mr. John Beaton.
MR. JOHN W. BEATON: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I should like first of all to acknowledge on my own behalf and on behalf of the Young Men's Christian Association, the honour which you have done me in inviting me to address you today. When one recalls the long line of distinguished speakers who have occupied this place, one's appreciation is quite real and sincere.
As the Chairman has said, I have recently returned from what for me was a most thrilling experience, to completely encircle the globe and to come into contact with some of the great influences which are playing upon the nations of the world today and which, perhaps, have reached a point of tension in the Far East that is not paralleled even in Europe.
My work took me to Japan, China, Korea, Manchuria, and across Siberia to Moscow, into Poland, and to Germany, to Switzerland, and to France, finishing up in , Great Britain, where I had an opportunity of meeting"' some of the leading political figures in the Empire. But one returns to Canada with a very profound impression that great cyclonic forces of Bolshevism and Nationalism and Internationalism are something that must concern the people of Canada. There is, I think existing in the world today a sense of impending tragedy. One feels this in Nanking, the capital of China, as one talks with those brilliant young officials of the Nationalist Government. I recall with a particular sorrow and a' sense of personal loss the half day that I had the privilege of spending with His Excellency, Wang Ching-wei, the then Premier of China„ who as you know, had an attempt made on his life by way of assassination a few weeks ago and who has since resigned and turned over entirely the leadership of the Government of that great Republic to General Chaing Kai-Shek, who was at that time the military dictator of China and is now the sole dictator of China. But one senses this feeling of tragedy, too, in Japan, as one realizes the feverish activity of the military group, both in Japan proper and in the Asiatic mainland and in Manchuria, as one observes the violence being done to Chinese personality, the tragic position occupied by the three-quarters of a million Russian refugees who at the time of the Great Dispersion were forced out of Russia or who bet on the wrong nation, or the wrong revolution and who are now without citizenship in the world. Or one senses it as one travels across Siberia and observes the extraordinary development of the Soviet military and air preparations for defence; and perhaps most of all in the official utterances and addresses of the statesmen of the Empire.
I say that we are in the midst of great events in the political life of the world. So far as the East is coned the European situation of these recent months has, of course, tended to obscure the significance of these recent events. With the not unexpected news in this morning's press with regard to the desertion by Japan of the London Naval Conference, the statement to the Soviet Congress by the Central Executive that the Soviet Army is now the largest in the world, 1,300,000 men under arms, their military budget having just been doubled, we face as Canadians a situation which is of very serious moment for all.
I should like, Mr. President, to sketch, for a moment or two to review something of Canada's stake in the Far East. As you know, geographically this country has borders both on the Atlantic Ocean and on the Pacific Basin. Geography has determined for us that we shall be and are on the great highway of world travel. Thoughtful students of world events have gone so far as to say that the Pacific Basin is destined to be in the centuries immediately ahead the third Mediterranean in history, just as the Atlantic Ocean has been called the Second Mediterranean, and just as in the days of classical Greece and when the Roman Empire was at the height of her power and influence during the centuries that followed the founding of the Christian era the Mediterranean Basin was the centre of the world's great cur- rents of thought and of life. With the discovery of North America by Columbus and the revolution in the United States, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Great War, the Atlantic Ocean became the second Mediterranean in history. When one considers the rise to the place of a first class power by Japan, following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1902, when one thinks of those great forces that are moving in China today among, the 450 millions of people that make up that great continent, when one considers the forces that are moving in India, one realizes that with the United States and Canada, the entire Pacific Basin is likely to hold within it the destiny of a great part of the world and this country being now and since the establishment of the League of Nations a signatory to that covenant, a signatory on our own account„ not merely as one of the members of the British Empire, when one realizes the position that we occupy, a position of great responsibility as a mediating force between Great Britain and the United States with all that that relationship connotes for the peace of the world, when most thoughtful observers today say without qualification that the way in which Great Britain and the United States think and act will determine in very considerable measure the extent to which peace will prevail in the world, Can- ada, I say, situated geographically as we are, with the most intimate relations which we have both to the United States of America and to Great Britain, has a responsibility for understanding among these great English-speaking peoples which we can not escape.
If one views the position of Canada in relation to the Far East from an economic standpoint it is perfectly obvious with the enormous volume of foreign trade which is ours, second on a per capita basis in 1934 among all the nations of the world, fifth in point of volume, our outlook economically in point of trade is of profound significance for us all. If we are unable to see our wheat and our flour and our minerals and the products of our forests in the markets of the world, economically we are in a very bad way, indeed.
So, I say that Canada's stake in the Far East is a very important one. It is a very vital one for ourselves and for the world.
One is frequently asked by Canadians with respect to the clash between Japan and China, this question: "Why has China, that great country with that enormous population, why has China surrendered so easily to little Japan? Well, in the first place, Japan is not little, any more than Great Britain is little. Japan is a great nation in point of population and in point of energy and resources that make her powerful in a military and a naval and an air sense. In the second place, China has not surrendered to Japan. Any surrender that has gone forward to the present time has been a surrender to helplessness. She is quite unable to deal in a military sense, in a naval sense, with the country that has militarized herself to the extent that Japan has.
I should like to make a plea for a better understanding of China. It seems to me that that great Republic is one of the most misunderstood nations of the world and it is perfectly apparent, I think to any student of the Orient that in her fight for national unity and for her sovereignty, that she deserves the active, whole-hearted sympathy and co-operation of all thoughtful students. There are not enough people who appreciate, as you do in Toronto and in Ontario by the establishment of this amazing Royal Museum of Art in which recognition has been given, the debt the world owes China, which from the point of view of art is something that should be more widely understood by our fellow citizens throughout the Dominion. The amazing contribution that China has made to the philosophy of the world, her classics, her culture, has left us in a debt that we can never repay and I think the actions of the British Government a few months ago, with the consent and co-operation of the Nationalist Government of China, whereby on a British battleship there was taken to London and is on display today in Burlington House, the finest exhibit of Chinese art that has ever been brought together in any one place in the history of the world, I say, as a matter of diplomacy, or from the point of view of appreciation of what the world is under by way of a debt to China, is something very fine and as Britishers we should be very proud of it.
May I suggest to you a few of the problems, the great problems confronting China, which are in very considerable measure responsible for this helplessness which I have already referred to. First of all, there is the great depression. China was the last country in the world, perhaps, to feel the effects of the great economic depression, caused financially in large measure by first of all the invasion of Manchuria, and subsequently other provinces in North China, by Japan. Secondly, the extraordinary policy of the Roosevelt Administration with respect to silver. It is quite incomprehensible to me how a nation like the United States of America with her traditional attitude of friendliness to China, an attitude that has been quite outstanding, should with a view solely to dealing with her own national economy, take an action with respect to silver which should prove so demoralizing to the economic and financial and industrial fabric of China.
In the second place, these great recurring floods that the Chinese Government has to deal with year after year. I live on, the banks of one of the great rivers of the world, the St. Lawrence River. In the memory of the oldest inhabitant there has been nothing in the nature of a flood that could be characterized in the same terms as these great floods in the Yellow River Valley and the Yangtse Valley and, as you know, the loss of life that is associated with floods is perhaps the least important of all the consequences, serious though that is. But it is the famine that accompanies these floods, it is the chaos, it is the misery, it is the devestation, it is the Bolshevism, it is the lawlessness, the bandits and all of those components that go with floods in a country like China.
If one thinks of the struggle that is on in that Republic today by the Nationalist Government with respect to Communism, 200,000 Communist troops engaged in a life and death struggle for several years now with a Nationalist Army, as to whether Communism shall make headway in that country or not, one realizes it is something that is a very serious menace to the spirit of unity among the provinces which make up the Chinese Republic. The study of Communism in China is an extremely fascinating study. As you know, in 1925, Soviet Russia was the first power to give up her extraterritorial rights in China, thereby doing for that country an act of friendship which was very significant indeed, and if it were not for some of the basic elements in the character of the Chinese people, there is very substantial evidence to suggest that Communism might be the controlling method of government as well as the economic principle in that country today. From the point of view of China's assets, it seems to me that the spirit of co-operation that has characterized so many of the nations of the world in respect to China in her fight for unity is quite impressive. The influence of the United States and Italy in the development of those marvellous air services of China is quite impressive. The rise of Sir Frederick Leith Ross, representing the British Treasury, who is in China today is a most significant matter. What the result of that visit will be one cannot foretell. The co-operation of the League of Nations with respect to rural reconstruction and public health is a matter of record. The contribution of organizations like the Christian Church - I was quite impressed with the effectiveness of the missionary enterprises of the Christian Church in China. Too many people misunderstand the nature of missions today. Hospitalization, social service, rural reconstruction, schools and colleges, as well as the propagating of the Christian philosophy of life, and the organization that I happen to represent, the Young Men's Christian Association, has become indigenous to China. It has had a part in the development of leaders in that country that I was quite unprepared for.
I think the greatest asset China has in her fight for sovereignty is time. I think China has time on her side and I am betting on China in the long run.
Before I leave this subject, I want to suggest for your thinking three immediate consequences to the world of the possible disintegration of China. If China disintegrates there are three things that it seems to me must inevitably follow. First of all, a total dislocation of world trade with China which has already happened in Manchukuo, or Manchuria; second, the end of any hope of securing any return from foreign funds invested in China, and that is a very substantial amount, as you know; in the third place, it will make quite impossible the position of the foreign population in Shanghai, and those of you who know the extraordinary development in the international settlement in Shanghai, can have some appreciation of what that will mean for Canadian interests, British interests, as well as other interests in the Far East.
May I say a word now, Sir, with respect to the present situation in Japan? One visiting Japan for the first time is greatly impressed with the character of the Japanese people, their cleanliness, their sense of order, their industry. It is perfectly unbelievable the way Japanese people work, the way in which boys and girls go to school' at eight o'clock in the morning, the way in which they drill all day Saturday - alder boys - and the amazing respect for authority which is characteristic of all the Japanese people. From the point of view of the achievements of the Government they are quite remarkable. As you know, modern Japan is identical in its age with Canada, since Confederation. Since Commodore Perry with his United States warship steamed into Nagasaki Harbour and insisted that the doors and the ports of Japan should be opened to foreign trade, a transformation in that country has taken place, to describe which no language could be extravagant, and all adjectives would be dull and colourless. As I say,, the rise to the position of a first class power in a military sense since 1902 is in itself an amazing achievement. The conquest of illiteracythere is no one in Japan who cannot read or write. The sense of mission that the Japanese have today, the civilizing mission, why it parallel's the old British idea that we must bear the white man's burden. The mastery, the complete mastery of this amazing western mechanized civilization, whether one views it from the point of heavy industry or the lighter industries, shipyards, railways, textiles, the whole of this mechanized civilization of ours in the West has been taken over by Japan and it has been mastered in a way that makes it quite impressive.
A few words about the problems of Japan. First of all, there is the fear of Russia, a perfectly unbelievable fear by the Japanese military group, of Russia. Afraid, first of all perhaps, of ideas. Well, it seems to those of us in the West that the way to fight dangerous ideas, any ideas, is to fight them with ideas. If the youth of Japan or of China or of Canada have certain ideas, the way to deal with those ideas is with better ideas and not by force and not by driving them underground. Fear of Russian ideas, fear of territorial aggression which I submit, is thoroughly baseless and ungrounded. If one thinks of a map of the world, territorially, what in the world could Russia want any more territory for? She might want that ice-free port of Dairen but it is impossible to think of Soviet Russia risking what would be involved in attempting to secure an ice-free port. Japan has real problems with respect to population and flood supplies and they are the same kind of problems that Great Britain faced during the past century. If you think of the map of the world, it is the most fascinating comparison of the parallel between Great Britain and Japan - those little islands of Japan lying contiguous to `, the mainland of Asia, just as the British Isles lie in relation to Europe. The British, as you know, solved their problems of over-population in two ways. First of all, by emigration to Canada, to the United States, Australasia, and the world over; and, secondly, by industrialization, the establishment of industry and the securing of markets throughout the world. Japan has those identical problems. Her people would like to migrate to British Columbia. The Government of Canada has a gentleman's agreement with Japan whereby only a few Japanese may come into this country in a given year. The United States Senate has passed an Exclusion Bill whereby no Japanese may enter the United States of America. Australasia, as you know, was to be reserved for the white people and so some of the great sparsely populated areas of the world are denied to Japan. She has a problem with respect to over-population. Now that she has Manchuria, a territory as large as Germany and France put together, there would seem to be a good deal of space there for her surplus population. Unfortunately her people do not like the kind of climate that there is in Manchuria, but it does seem to an unbiased observer that the great markets of China are open to Japan and industrialization could proceed in a way that would help her to solve many of her problems.
Another of her problems seems to be associated with the structural defects in her government which enables the military group in effect to act independently of the Diet, or Parliament, a most extraordinary thing from a British point of view. Take, for example, the conquest of Manchuria in 1921 when that military group in Japan, in solemn disregard of the fact that Japan was a signatory to the Covenant of the League, and the Nine-Power Treaty by which she guaranteed the territorial integrity of China, and her signature to the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact, whereby along with the other nations of the world she renounced war as an instrument of national policy. I say that the military group in Japan, because of this curious structural defect in the government, by her deeds has broken all three of those solemn covenants and obligations and any nation or group of nations which undertakes to destroy or endanger the still fragile structure of international peace shoulders a responsibility, in the light of the loss of eleven million of the flower of the world's youth in the Great War, I say shoulders a responsibility that is too hideous for human speech to express.
What, then, is the hope of the situation with respect to Japan? It seems to me it lies in the moderate group in the country and no man knows how large this group is. It may be very large. Certainly the military group are in the saddle today but whether they will call a halt, permit their industrialists to conquer the markets of Asia in friendly rivalry with other powers or not is some thing history will have to tell us. Some students of the political situation in the East feel that finance is really the all important factor which may yet impress the military group with the attractiveness of peace and of goodwill. That is to say, Japan is a relatively poor country, the cost of the occupation of Manchuria has been very great. Visualize for yourselves the cost of the maintenance of the army in those great northern areas of China or the cost of the purchase of the Chinese Eastern Railway, that Soviet Railway in Manchuria which two years ago was bought by the Japanese Government; or think of the price of Soya beans in the market of the world, or the coking qualities of coal, or the disappointing returns in shale oil, and one can get some appreciation of what the cost of this policy of territorial aggression in Asia may mean and does mean for the Japanese government and people. In modern warfare as you know, the bill is always presented and must somehow be paid. Many students of international finance say that their need is greater resources, far greater resources than even energetic Japan commands to make their country the Mistress of, the Pacific in opposition to the interests and the conscience of the civilized world.
I wish time permitted of making a contrast between the Japanese idea or policy of colonial administration and that of Great Britain. It is a perfectly fascinating study. Japan has adopted in her colonial policy as evidenced by her administration of Korea, which country she has had now for over twenty-five years, she has adopted the policy of centralization on the old Spanish idea, the German idea, the French idea, as contrasted with the British idea of decentralization.
I live in the Province of Quebec where we have, as you know, French Canada-a large number of French people. The principle of self government, the maintenance of the language and the culture and the religion of these people who make up the British Empire is thoroughly well known by you all and very easily demonstrated in my own province. At Quebec we have Mr. Taschereau, a French-Canadian Prime Minister-just now- and his Legislature is predominantly French, Mayor Houde of Montreal and his Council, in the parochial schools of the Province of Quebec, Roman Catholic priests, the French language, their own religion. It works, self-government of the people.
Similarly in South Africa with the Boers. There is no attempt to make Londoners out of the Boers or Londoners Gut of the Hottentots, or Englishmen out of Frenchmen, or what have you?
But in Korea, the idea of self-government of. subject people is quite foreign to the Japanese colonial administration and in all of the government processes and in the schools, the Japanese are in control. There is a thorough-going policy of the Japanization of that country which suggests that a study of the relative colonial policies might prove to be very rewarding to any one interested in the future of the Pacific.
I want to say a few words about Russia because it is the frontier provinces of China that this modern Japan, with its mastery of this western civilization on a materialistic side comes into conflict in the sharpest way with Russia, Soviet Russia, the nursery of Bolshevism, and I should like to say a few words about Soviet Russia today. As one crosses through Siberia on the trans-Siberian Railway which, as you know, is the longest railway journey one can take in the world, there are so many distinct and obvious and impressive evidences of progress that it is simply undeniable and one must accept Soviet Russia among the nations of the world as a going concern and it would seem to me that the Russian Experiment is likely to be of the greatest possible value to the world. One must admire greatly, I think, many of the institutions and the ideas which characterize the Soviet system, or life in Russia. Their prison system, it is quite true it is most humane. There is no stigma attached to a prisoner upon completing his term as there is in my Province. Of course that is for persons who commit crimes within the Party. Those who commit crimes against the Party receive no mercy within the merciful system of the Soviet. But with regard to the school system or the hospital system or their attitude toward other races, you realize it is a criminal offence in Russia to speak disrespectfully of a Jew. In Montreal that isn't the fact. In their Peoples' Courts their efforts to develop a co-operative society, to develop a society where there are literally no parasites -I think there are many things in the Soviet system that are most commendable and admirable and challenging. I think they are a great asset to the collective system of security among the powers. But Canadians, to be realistic at all about Russia, and I am thinking now of young Canadians, ought to realize that the standards of living in Russia are so far below the standards of living in this country that to look out on that land and that government and those people as the Paradise of the world is to disregard realism in its entirety. Canadians, too, I think, should understand that there is no freedom in Russia. There is no freedom of thought, no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, or of association, or of the press. There just isn't any freedom except to the 2,000,000 members of the Party who control the destinies of the 162 million other citizens of Russia. There is the suppression of opposition to. the Party as by violence and not by the slower processes of the Anglo-Saxon, world and furthermore that absolute power tends to produce corruption.
That idea of world revolution is a fact. I didn't speak to anybody in Moscow on en route across Siberia who did not say that the idea of world revolution by the workers. of the world - Capitalism will not budge, up with the workers and down with Capitalism sort of thing-I didn't speak to any who didn't say that was a fact in the Russian mind however unofficial it may be. For myself, as a Canadian, I resent the whole idea of our revolutions being determined or in a large measure influenced in a country so remote from Canada, from its institutions, where the ideas are so different, the standard of living is so different. I am quite persuaded that whatever changes are necessary can quite competently be dealt with by ourselves. (Applause.)
I am interested in the idea and philosophy of religion. In Russia, the Soviet Government, as you know, is the implacable foe of organized religion and all forms of religion and they have an extraordinarily influential method of propagating their anti-religious views and doctrines and they preach very capably the idea that "Religion is the opiate of the people." I ask you for a moment whether there is anything in the nature of a narcotic that characterized the heroism of the Buddhist missionaries in Japan or in the religion of the Moslem missionaries, that great flaming religion of the world.
Is there anything in the shape of heroin or opium in the followers of Mohammed? Or if one looks on Judaism and reflects the fortitude of the Jewish people, is there anything in the nature of a narcotic about the qualities that have enabled the Jewish people through their long history to stand true to what they thought was reality, or in the history of the Christian religion to which you and I owe so much. It is a thoroughly unworthy doctrine is this doctrine of dogmatic atheism that is being preached to the youth of Russia.
Mr. President, in conclusion, there are many thoughtful students of the international situation who feel we are now at one of the great turning points in the history of the world, comparable perhaps to that period when the Middle Ages gave birth to the modern world and it seems to me there are three alternatives for mankind First, of all, the idea of Bolshevism. r don't mean by Bolshevism-Communism, either as an economic theory or a political principle. I mean by Bolshevism, the methods of Communism as revealed by the Russian Revolution and its effort to impose Communism on China, and the idea of Bolshevism with its idea of bloodshed, disorder, lawlessness and chaos - it is thoroughly intolerable for us all.
The second alternative is that of Nationalism, the policy of isolation, the interests of one state above the welfare of all, and it seems to me any nation that follows that pathway will by the inescapable working of the cosmic moral law be the cause of her downfall, and you know the nations of the world today who would seem to be following that pathway are Germany and Italy and Japan.
The third alternative is that of Internationalism, which is the policy today of the British Empire and emphasis on co-operation and not force, a spirit which seeks to develop the collective system of security. It is an attitude, I think, which seeks to conserve the best in all governments and voluntary agencies at work, internationally and inter-racially, for a better world. There are great international tasks and challenges which can and should appeal to every nation in the world working together through the League, if you will. The struggle for peace is a common task, challenging all the nations of the world. The suppression of the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs which the League of Nations has given such splendid leadership to is a great challenge. There is the problem of these refugees through out the world. It seems to me, Sir, Canadians as partners in the Empire should stand four-square behind the Empire in the policy being pursued today by her statesmen for a sane and fine and noble internationalism. (Hearty applause.)
MR. H. C. BOURLIER: Gentlemen, with a view to developing public speaking among the executives of The Empire Club, I am going to ask our Second Vice-President, Mr. Armstrong to thank the speaker.
MR. J. S. P. ARMSTRONG: Mr. President, Gentlemen, and our Guest Speaker: This isn't fair-it was sprung upon me at the last minute. However, let me on behalf of The Empire Club and the members express to you, Mr. Beaton our sincere appreciation of the excellent address we have just listened to. It has been a policy of The Empire Club to devote the majority of their luncheon addresses to questions of vital interest to the British Empire. Undoubtedly, the Far East today is of vital interest to the British Empire. They hold a tremendous stake there, as does Canada, and I feel it is incumbent upon all thinking Canadians to give a sane, quiet, sympathetic understanding to the problems of the Far East, because within the next ten years we will find that Canada will play, undoubtedly, a major part in whatever happens in that particular boiling pot of the world.
We extend to you, Sir, our appreciation of this excellent and comprehensive address which has covered a subject that is of such vital interest to all of us. (Applause.)