- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Nov 1932, p. 303-315
- Whyte, Sir Frederick, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Placing this subject in its historic setting in order to understand the forces which have brought the disputants, China and Japan, to their respective positions in the Far East. Changes wrought in the Far Eastern situation by the impact on the entire continent of the tide of western culture. The respective positions of the disputing parties today to be explained by the attitudes which they took at critical moments in their respective histories to the suggestions which the West brought to the East, and in the general response made by China and Japan to what may be called the challenge of Western ideas. A detailed discussion of this theory follows, highlighting pertinent events which allow us to understand how each of Japan and China came to the current conflict. How it came about that in the last ten years Japan's policy seemed to direct its course in violation of the League of Nations. The Manchurian question in Japan, rapidly ripening to crisis in domestic Japan. A detailed examination of the Manchurian situation. The mistake to suppose that when we contemplate the problem of Manchuria in its international aspect we are dealing merely with the quarrel between Japan and China. Other problems involved. The new internationalism that has arisen over the last 12 years, in which the nations are lined more closely together than before. How the nations are linked together through the Washington Treaty. Consequences of the "wait and see" policy. The speaker's belief that a pursued and common policy common to two of the three governments who have most to say in this, namely, England, United States and France, two of these coming together and pursuing a genuine policy, even at this late hour, would secure some modification of Japanese policy, and bring about a situation in the Far East that would more directly lead back to peace in the Far East. Facing the situation today as realists. Recommendations of the Lytton Report. The need for a more genuine cooperation between the Governments of the English-speaking world. Moral responsibility for the break-up of the international system founded on the League of Nations.
- Date of Original
- 22 Nov 1932
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- Full Text
- THE CRISIS IN THE FAR EAST
AN ADDRESS BY SIR FREDERICK WHYTE, K.C.S.I., LL.D.
Tuesday, November 22, 1932
LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, President, introduced the speaker.
SIR FREDERICK WHYTE: It is always a pleasure to me to return to Canada, because I know that here I can always meet old friends and make new ones.
My subject covers a very wide canvas, and therefore it can only be painted in wide streaks and generous strokes in the limits of a short address, and those present who are authorities on these questions will recognize the limitations, and eliminate accordingly.
It is necessary to place this subject in its historic setting in order to understand the forces which have brought the disputants, China and Japan, to their respective positions in the Far East. Fundamentally, this crisis derives from the changes wrought in the Far Eastern situation by the impact on the entire continent of the tide of western culture; and the respective positions of the disputing parties today are largely to be explained by the attitudes which they took at critical moments in their respective histories to the suggestions which the West brought to the East, and in the general response made by China and Japan to what I may call the challenge of Western ideas.
During the great war of the nineteenth century, the official attitude of the Chinese people, as represented by the Manchu dynasty, was one of resistance to the Western impact. It is true that large bodies of the Chinese went to the West to study the situation both on this continent and in the old country; but officially the attitude was one in which they intended to hold us, if possible, at arm's length. They did not recognize, in doing so, that they were refusing the opportunities offered, by Providence for them to learn those lessons in leadership and statecraft that are necessary to a modern state. And so it was that not only the mass of the Chinese people, but a great part of the educated minority, were unprovided with political leadership, or in any reasonable way prepared for the gigantic task of social and political reconstruction with which they were suddenly faced when the Manchu dynasty fell in 1911 as the result of the revolution. And the principal reason why China has undergone such a cruel experience since the war is this lack of preparedness on the part of the very men who should have taken the most trouble to prepare themselves as leaders of the new movement which they established in China.
It may be said in excuse of that that the task they have undertaken was so gigantic that no amount of preparation would have been a guarantee of success. The fact that success has not followed the wide disturbance of order in China is due to the fact that the Chinese people as a whole were not prepared, mentally or politically, for the task of creating a modern state on a Republican basis. The only way they prepared was to organize the national forces of China and provide them with that material equipment necessary for warfare either in the military or naval direction.
The temporary result of this marked attitude of the Chinese people towards the tide of Western culture is that when they reached the crisis of war in Manchuria the other day, they were unable to provide themselves with the moral forces necessary to meet the onslaught of the Japanese, and they had to resort to other measures. Before I pass on to describe the Manchurian problem" it is essential to understand the fundamental reasons why the Chinese did not welcome the message that Western men brought with them in the nineteenth century. The Chinese, for a longer period in history than any other nation, lived under a stable form of society which had maintained its character substantially unchanged through many centuries; and neither invasions and incursions from the West, nor penetration into China for religious ideas, for instance, Brahmins from India, did in any substantial way change the culture and social structure of China. That being so, the Chinese were entitled to contend that their method of life had the sanction of age; that it had maintained itself spa long, through so many vicissitudes, that there must be some natural stream of virtue in the particular type of society that they had created for themselves. So there came to be in; the Chinese mind an arrogant attitude to all the other peoples in the world; and their very title-the Middle Kingdom, or the Middle People-denotes that they stood at the centre of the universe, and we and all the other peoples occupied the more contemptible and barbarian fringe on the outskirts.
Having that attitude of mind, being separated from the Western World by mountains and ocean and desert, they were not aware that growing up in the Western, World there was another form of society with an infinitely greater capacity for the development of economic and political power than the;Chinese, and that the day would come when that other society would challenge the right of China to close her door to western enterprise. Therefore the explanation that history offers to that attitude is that the Chinese had in fact established a perfectly satisfactory system for themselves, and they resented the intrusion because they disliked the contamination of the foreign ideas. It may be said for the Chinese society, with its marked traditionalism, that having had that touch with the foreigner, that introduction to western ideas, that China might have maintained itself politically. But Providence decreed otherwise, and the "Ocean Men" as they were called by the Chinese, on the shores of China, came bearing all kinds of gifts-some times so disguised that they were not known as gifts. The first to arrive were opium and arms; but the most important thing that the Western World brought to China was no material cargo, but an invisible cargo of ideas. While the Chinese dynasty was able to insist that the foreigner should not deal in lands" and should be confined to the coasts, not even the Chinese dynasty could prevent Western ideas from penetrating the country; and that penetration was the cause of the revolution.
We are sometimes told that the Chinese revolution owes its origin, to the inspiration of the Soviet regime. That is an absolutely untrue reading of the situation, for we, the western people, were the original creators and the pioneers of national liberty. We provided the Chinese with those models of government, and those political lines which are the real parents of the movement known as the "Chinese Revolution"; therefore when we try to fasten these ideas on Lenin and his friends the answer is that as to the revolution which culminated in 1911, and which we assented to as disastrous, we were the original parents, and I hope we will not deny our offspring.
Now I will talk about the other side-the attitude of Japan. Japan took much the same view as China, as a people, and if they had been left to themselves they might very likely have pursued the same course as the Chinese, and held the Westerners at arm's length. But the fact was that about the middle of the nineteenth century the successful leaders of the revolution decided that they would restore the Japanese Emperor to his usual place, and make him a true sovereign. But they made a much more important admission at the same time. They were aware, as were the Chinese, of the military power, and one might almost say the spiritual power, of the Western nations who came from overseas, so that instead of holding those Western nations at arm's length, as the Chinese had done, they said, "We are to make an empire of Japan,, equal to the other nations of the world, and unless we can discover the .sources from which the Western man has drawn his power, from which he is able to establish those invincible states of Europe, we shall remain in a subordinate position, unable to demand or receive the prizes of international quality with the rest of the world."
And so it was that a man like the old Admiral went out to the sea with the idea that he could sink an American warship. He really swam out with his knife in his teeth. He wanted to get an object lesson as to the real power of the western world. He was determined to find out whence those western governments drew this inherent power. So Japan sent out commissions of inquiry to look over the situation in Europe, to study every phase of its organization, in particular manufacturing, politics, and military organization, and to see what lessons they held to teach to the Japanese people.
The date of the Japanese revolution which is more commonly called the restoration, because it replaced the Emperor in his true position-is very significant, 1868. It lies between the dates 1864 and 1866 on the one hand, and 1871 on the other. So that the very moment that the leaders of the Japanese had determined to explore the secret sources of Western power, the one thing most prominent on the whole international horizon was the figure of Prussia. It was a curious but fateful stroke of Providence that Japan should awaken from her long medieval sleep when Prussia was teaching Europe the philosophy of militarism.
Within ten years the Japanese made a series of enquiries in Europe. They found in England a more or less highly developed system, based upon the idea of popular opinion., and they said" "We are not yet in sight of the millennium in Japan, and, moreover, the constitution we have just set up is expressly designed to place the Emperor in the very centre of power, and not to base the constitution in any way on the population". So they turned from England, but they carried with them one kind of lesson, namely, naval organization; so that their naval organization has been based on the English model. We can only regret that they did not learn other lessons aside from naval warfare, but they did not.
Then they turned to France, but could not see very much there, because the French system was based on a republic, which was far removed from the Japanese at that time. Moreover, France had just emerged from the Franco-German war, so they turned to Germany, and they framed their constitution on that model, placing they Emperor in the centre, placing the military power in a position almost invincible within the constitution, and thus setting the seal of German militarism upon the constitution of Japan. It was undoubtedly a fateful decision, of which we are seeing the results up to this moment.
To give a picture presented by these two, which I have tried to draw in as abstract a way as possible, it is necessary for us to bear in mind the features of both before we can decide the present dispute.
In Japan, the two fighting services, the army and navy, are both under the direction of ministers chosen from themselves. The civil power has nothing to say with regard to the two fighting services except in so far as the Minister of Finance is able to check military expenses; but the ministers of the two departments must be admirals in the navy and generals in the army. Nothing important can be done by the cabinet that has not the word of these two. If any cabinet undertakes a flotation without the consent of these two powers it is condemned, and has to go out of business.
Haw did it come that in the last ten years Japan's policy seemed to direct its course in violation of the League of Nations? You all know that original model was Germany. You also know that thirty years ago Japan and England formed an alliance which only came to an end in 1922. But in spite of the fact that Japan was allied with Great Britain, and fought as an allied force in the war, there were large bodies in Japan, especially in military circles, and even outside, that not only believed but hoped that Germany was going to win the war. You see, if they had contemplated for one moment that Germany would be defeated" it meant that the nation that they had chosen as their idol would disappoint their hopes, and the whole philosophy on which they had founded their empire would be defeated. But that is how it turned out. In 1918 everything that the military party in Japan had worked for seemed to fall, with broken pieces in their hands" by the defeat of Germany at the end of the war. The result upon the position of the military party in Japan was the shattering for the moment of their political power. So it happened that cabinet control of Japan's policy generally, both domestic and. foreign, fell into the hands of the civil party, because it took some years for the military party to recover from the shock of the defeat. Further, from 1919 to about the middle of 1931, the successive governments, with some variations in temper and policy, pursued, on the whole, a line in which they discharged in a substantially favorable way their international obligations.
Then there came into operation a factor which is difficult to discuss very briefly, which you can only understand by studying the Japanese situation on the spot. As I have said, in their original decision the Japanese leaders felt that their people were not ready for parliamentary government. That was in the eighties but between that time and 1928-about 40 years-there was a growth of political feeling in Japan, so that though they had divested their representative system frown the outset by a narrow franchise, they had complete manhood sufferage. Progress was too fast, and while it had in the mind of Japan all the qualities necessary for responsible government, it disappointed the hopes of Japanese leaders; with the result that the parliamentary regime never had a sound footing in the public mind, and the civil authorities-in those years the Manchu-found when the test came that the growth was not based on solid ground.
The civil leaders were drawn from the circle of men like Shilehara, Inouye, Inukai, Hamaguchi, many of whom are now dead by assassination, a very significant fact. These men were thrown from authority for two reasons. They were made responsible by the masses of the Japanese people for the growing economic depression, which was costing Japan so much, both in her agricultural and industrial life, and the distress which has been so widespread among the peasants, the working class, and the smaller bourgeois, of Japan. This, briefly, was the result of the policy of those men who had been in office during the last few years. Therefore, they were discredited, until the military party was able to resume power, and the defenders and keepers of what appeared to be the foundations of the civil constitution suddenly found that the basis on which they had been operating had gone.
Not only did the Japanese public opinion make them responsible for the economic distress as the result of the world wide depression, but they pointed to the fact that those political leaders had consistently corrupted the parliamentary regime by the use of money, which was notorious through the public life of Japan.
The last straw came over the Manchurian question. While this condition of affairs was rapidly ripening to crisis in domestic Japan, the civil authorities of Japan, right up to the midsummer of 1931, were endeavoring to assume a more or less conciliatory policy in relation to Manchuria. They made one final effort, in the summer of 1931, to make a conclusive settlement over the Manchurian railway situation, but the fact that they failed to get their conference to meet, and therefore failed top produce the result in that long-standing railway problem in Manchuria, meant that the last card of the civil forces of the people, ranged against the military, failed in a night.
I must explain the foundation of that situation. Manchuria is an immense and rich agricultural territory which up to recent times has been sparsely populated. Under the Manchu dynasty, the Emperors forbade immigration, because they wished to keep Manchuria free from the Chinese domination. They used the garrisons drawn from the deserts of Manchuria to garrison the towns in China, and from these the Manchu dynasty governed the Chinese people. The Manchu dynasty was a military power" and they refused to allow the Chinese to migrate into Manchuria and mix with the Manchu population. China was becoming more heavily populated, and Japan also.
This section of land in Manchuria between China and Japan was empty land. It is only in the last ten years that the immense tide of Chinese immigration has been flowing from the north provinces of China to fill up that golden land. There is in Manchuria not only rich agricultural land, but great mineral resources and grand labour opportunities, so that for every one who can exploit the country there are very rich rewards.
In 1895 the Japanese had established themselves through the South-Manchurian Railway, which runs like a backbone through the country. It was necessary to maintain that because Manchuria was necessary to Japan for strategic purposes. She had already made some agreement as to Korea, and finally annexed Korea. The military power pushed forward the same policy, and if they were allowed to carry out their policy to its destined end they would be able in a year or two to annex Manchuria. But they will encounter much open military resistance from China, because it is such a popular resistance that the military adventure promises to be very costly. You might say, from the costliness of this venture it might appear that the military power has gone too fat, when the Japanese budget has only been balanced in the last two or three years by loans, and the Government will have to go and ask for a very large loan in June, in the first place to balance the budget, and then to meet the extraordinary strains in Manchuria.
The military party seem to 'be oar a slippery slope that leads to death; but the difficulty is that the military power is in such domination at present and it has inspired such terror for their very existence in the minds of their political opponents that when the task of settlement passes from the political parties to business circles, the business circles themselves will say, "Can we, and dare we take the risk of using our financial power to oppose the policy of the military party?
Now, I cannot bring home for one moment to known members of the military party that striking series of assassinations by which some of the finest leaders in, modern Japan have been removed during the arrival of military policy; but you cannot dissociate those assassinations altogether from the military movement in Japan, and one is not surprised-as not only political leaders have been
assassinated, but at least one prominent leader of the business world that today, when bankers and business men are called upon to finance the military power" they hesitate to throw their financial power in a sacred way, namely, to
secure the throne from the military government. Therefore you may take it that the government is only bankrupt so far as taxation and revenue are concerned; and therefore it may be assumed to be in a mood to reconstruct the policy which has greatly increased the expenditure. Nevertheless, in these circumstances you find not only opponents of the military school virtually maintaining the financial extra expenses, but very far from using their power to prevent the military party from carrying out their policy.
It is an entire mistake to suppose that when we contemplate the problem of Manchuria situation in its international aspect we are dealing merely with the quarrel between Japan and China. Manchuria is only one problem in Japan itself. Therefore you see that the problem of international diplomacy is not so easy as some would make out. What are the other problems involved? If it were only a Manchurian issue, if it were only an attempt by the younger class of Japanese soldiers to revert to the past in Japan, and to wipe out once more the parliamentary regime, it would have been smashed up. But it is not a local situation, and must have international application. It is more than that. In the last twelve years a new internationalism has arisen, in which the nations are lined more closely together than before.
We have had from the American Secretary of State a reminder as to how the nations are linked together through the Washington Treaty. That Treaty may be a question, of controversy, but there are two documents to which the powers are subject. Mr. Stimson suggests that the other ought to be observed. Let me repeat to you the position as presented from Mr. Stimson's end; I do not say he may not have gone too far, but that is an affair for the people of the United States.
Mr. Stimson's contention was this: By the Washington Treaty no doubt as the result of the existence of the League in European attempt was made to put the map of the world in the Pacific Ocean on a new foundation. The four powers principally concerned-France, England, Japan and the United States of America-attempted to avert war between themselves, and so guaranteed to one another their island possessions, and by certain clauses dealing with any questions that might arise threatening the possessions in the Pacific Ocean. The second part was the Nine-Power Treaty, in which Japan also had a part, which in a sense provided international surety for China, and provided that the signatories of that Treaty would cooperate with the group in China to help on the revolution. That was signed by both Japan and ourselves. The three powers most concerned, namely, the United States, Japan and England, signed the Treaty on Naval Disarmament, by which, incidentally and this has special significance, of course, for the Pacific-the United States undertook not to place on the basis of modern fortifications either the Philippine Islands or Guam, arid we undertake not to fortify Hong Kong.
There you have a three-fold basis of a new system. It was not a completed structure; it was only a beginning, an experiment in internationalism. The point of Mr. Stimson's doctrine is this; that if Japan, in a fit of impatience with the way China has handled her own problem, violated her obligations under the Nine-Power Treaty, and proceeded to go on violating and ignoring them as a military party, and doing it through their activities in Geneva, then the other powers of the three power Treaty-.the United States and England-might reconsider their attitude to the Disarmament Treaty. Then we may be plunged into a naval war in the Far East. So far as that is concerned" the Japanese policy might only be the first clod of earth taken out of the dam, and that loosening of that stone in the dam might let loose the whole of the eastern war throughout the world.
We have been told by Japanese belligerents themselves that if the united public opinion of the world had taken a firmer stand, and even applied a slight pressure to the railway problem a year ago, we might not have been presented with the Manchurian problem today. As a late minister of the Japanese Government said in London, the result of the "wait and see" policy on the part of the powers is that the military have been able to consolidate their position, and they were heading for a war through-out the world. I believe that a pursued and common policy--common to two of the three governments who have most to say in this, namely, England, United States and France-two of these coming together and pursuing a genuine policy, even at this late hour, would secure some modification of Japanese policy, and bring about a situation, in the Far East that would more directly lead back to peace in the Far East.
But as we are realists we must face the situation: today. We must acknowledge that the discussions going on today in Geneva have not made the prospect nearer of bringing the military power in Japan to reason. While it may be true that the recommendations of the Lytton Commission cannot at the moment be made applicable in Manchuria, through Japan's attitude in the face of world opinion-the proposals are based on sound principles, and they can be made operative provided there is a change of party political power in Japan. Time is on the side of the Lytton Report.
If we allow Japan to go along in her proposed line, the conclusion we must inevitably draw frown this course is that we must have a more genuine cooperation between the Governments of the English-speaking world. We should contrive to do much today which could more easily have been done months ago, and which, if .not brought into operation during the next five months, would make us morally responsible for the break-up of the international system founded on the League of Nations. (Loud applause.)
PRESIDENT DREW thanked the speaker for his informing and vital address.