China and the Western World

Though China’s political fate seems uncertain and its people set in traditional ways, Lafcadio Hearn—a Japan-based journalist known for his writings on East Asian culture—predicts that China will one day pose a formidable economic threat to the West.

So much for the fancied mental supremacy of the Western nations. The delusion that other races are providentially destined to disappear before the so-called Aryan has been attacked by Dr. Pearson with a vast array of systematized facts and observations, including the results of studies made by himself in many parts of the world. Although it is true that some races, enable to bear the discipline of our civilization, have already disappeared, or are quickly disappearing,—such as the Tasmanian and Australian aborigines, certain Mann peoples, and North American Indian tribes,—Dr. Pearson has shown that these accomplished or threatened extinctions illustrate only the exceptions to the general rule of the effect of Western expansion upon alien races. Under our social system the condition of being able to live is to work hard, to work steadily, and to work intelligently. Those unable to do thus either perish at once. or sink into the slough of vice and crime which underlies all our civilization, or else find themselves reduced to a condition of misery worse than any normal experiences of savage life. But there are many inferior races, both savage and semi-savage, which thrive under the discipline of the higher races, and so multiply after the introduction of Occidental order into their territory that their multiplication itself becomes on effective check upon the further growth of the dominating race. Thus the Kaffir has multiplied under British protection, and the Javanese under Dutch. Thus the populations of the Straits Settlements and of British India steadily increase. The history of the various English, French, and Dutch colonies yields wide evidence that many weaker races, far from vanishing before the white, greatly increase in number. Such increase necessarily sets a limit to white multiplication in these regions, seeing that all labor needed can be supplied by natives at rates for which no white men, would work, even supposing the climate were in all cases favorable to Europeans.

Climate, however, is another question in this relation. Climate also sets a limit—probably a perpetual limit—to the expansion of the higher races. The tropics, apparently, can never become their habitat. In what has been termed the "pyrogenic region" the white races cannot maintain themselves without the aid of other races. Their domination now, as in the past, we find to depend upon constant supplies of fresh strengths from a colder region, and their numbers have never increased beyond an insignificant figure. The West Indies, from which the white race is slowly but surely vanishing, furnish a strong example: the estates are passing into the hands of the former slave race. Tropical Africa may be held, but never can be peopled by Europeans. Left to themselves for a few generations. the English in Hindustan would vanish, utterly, like those Greek conquerors who, after Alexander, rushed Indian kingdoms. The state of Spanish and Portuguese tropical colonies in both hemispheres tells eloquently the story of the limits set by nature to white expansion. 6

In the temperate zone, where the Western races come into contact with races indubitably civilized, though in some respects less highly organized, the former can only temporarily gain ground, for the white races can be most effectually underlived by peoples of nearly equal intelligence in production and its commerce. The Occidentals may conquer and rule, but they have even less chance of multiplying at the expense of Chinese than of multiplying at the expense of Hindus. All the great Oriental races have proved themselves able to learn enough of the wisdom of the West to more than hold their own in matters, of manufacture and trade. Under Occidental government a civilized Oriental race not only grows, but grows rich. In the matter of labor, whether common or skilled, the white artisan has no chance to compete with Orientals upon their own soil, or—except in the manufactures wholly depending upon the applied sciences—upon any other soil. White labor has never been able to compete on equal terms with Oriental labor.

V.

Those confessions, which all European nations have made at various epochs of their history,—and which some have made in our own time,—of inability to cope with the Jewish people upon equal terms have other sociological meanings than such, as might be implied by difference in average mental ability. They must also be considered as suggestive of the incapacity of societies not yet emerged from the militant stage to compete with a people essentially commercial from an epoch long anterior to the foundation of those societies. It is noteworthy that just in proportion as the militant form of society has changed toward the industrial, anti-Semitic feeling has diminished, whereas it is strengthened again by any reverse social tendency. The most essentially industrial nations, America and England, to-day give no exhibitions of anti-Semitic feeling; but with the military expansion of other societies or the marked return to military forms we find the sentiment reviving. Russia, Germany, and even republican France have given manifestations of it; those of Russia proving absolutely medieval and ferocious.

Now, we must remember, while considering the question of future race competition in the Far East, that the evolution of Occidental civilization from the militant toward the industrial state is yet far from complete, as its propensities to aggression bear witness; while the Chinese, however much below our level in certain phases of development, are a people that reached the industrial type of society thousands of years ago.

In Dr. Pearson’s book it is plainly stated that the industrial competition of China would be incomparably more dangerous to Western civilization than that of any other nation, not only because of its multiformity, but also because it is a competition to which nature has set no climatic limits. Thrifty and patient and cunning as Jews, the Chinese can accommodate themselves to any climate and to any environment. They can live in Java or in Siberia, in Borneo or in Thibet. Unlike the modern Jews, however, they are more to be feared in industry than in commerce; for there is scarcely any form of manual skilled labor at which they are not capable of killing white competition. Their history in Australia has proved this fact. But in commerce also they are able to hold their own against the cleverest merchants of other races. They are adepts at combination, excellent financiers, shrewd and daring speculators. Though not yet rivals of Europeans in that class of production dependent upon the application of modern science to manufacture, they have given proof of ability to master that science whenever the study can profit them. They are learning thoroughly the commercial conditions of every country which they visit; and though the history of their emigration began within recent times, they are already to be found in almost every part of the world. They have swarmed along the coasts of North and South America, and found their way to the West Indies. Every part of the East knows them. They do business in the cities of India; they created Singapore. They have multiplied in the Malay peninsula, in Sumatra, in Hawaii, in numbers of islands. They are said to have provoked, by threatening the existence of Dutch rule in Java, the massacre in which nine thousand of their race perished. Both Australia and the United States have found it necessary to legislate against their immigration and the Chinese ability to supplant the Malay races in the Eastern tropics has produced astonishing results within the memory of men now living.

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