THE sudden estrangement between Japan and the United States is one of the saddest events in contemporary history. For half a century, up to the end of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan proudly regarded herself as a protégé of the great Republic, while the latter cherished a fond admiration for the achievements of the infant nation to which it had virtually been acting as sponsor and guardian. When, so to speak, Japan reached man’s estate at the termination of the Russian War, the long and tried friendship began to cool. Was this America’s fault or Japan’s?
To-day we can no longer speak,without a sense of grief, of the ‘ traditional friendship’ between the two nations. No longer can we point to the beautiful statue of Commodore Perry, erected by the Japanese on the pine-clad beach of Kurihama, where the American sailor first set foot upon Nippon’s soil, without a painful realization of the fact that this monument has ceased to be a symbol of unalloyed friendship and a guaranty of everlasting peace between the Republic and the Empire. In those early days of Japan’s happy relationship with America, the American people spoke of the modest achievements of the Japanese as versatile and brilliant; now they are inclined to condemn the Japanese as imitative and superficial, as aggressive and ‘chesty.’
When the ‘preparedness’ propaganda was launched in this country two years ago, Japan was amazed. Not that the Japanese were reluctant to see America increase her armament. Of America’s just and legitimate desire to establish an army and a navy adequate to safeguard her vast empire, they had, of course, no reason to complain. What astounded them was, not the stupendous programme of armament proposed for adoption, but the stentorian pronunciamentos, reiterated by so many Americans of prominence, that this country must prepare for the approaching conflict with Japan. Could it be, they wondered, that the United States, their teacher and guardian of yesterday, had so completely changed her attitude, and had made up her mind to contest with the Japanese in the arena of battle for the ‘mastery of the Pacific ’ ?
I need not present here the galaxy of distinguished publicists and editors who have diligently been painting, to the mingled amazement and indignation of the gullible public, frightful pictures of the Mikado as the inevitable enemy of America. But I cannot refrain from noting the fact that in some public schools on the Pacific coast even teachers have been poisoning the youthful minds of their pupils, teaching in the class-rooms that war with Japan is certain to come. Is it any wonder that the Japanese have been frightened? They had hoped that, if America felt the need of a larger armament for selfdefense, she would go about the task in the right spirit, and attain the end without injecting into the matter the bogey of Japanese designs which have in reality never existed. Their hopes have been sadly blighted by the persistent cry raised in this country of the Japanese menace on the Pacific coast, in Mexico, in China, in the South Seas, in the Philippines — everywhere.
Apologists for America, who are peculiarly anti-Japanese, have recently invented or discovered a fact which they are exploiting to the utmost for the purpose of proving that before the American people ceased to be friendly to Japan, the Japanese had virtually launched an anti-American propaganda in their own country. They tell us that when the peace treaty of Portsmouth was signed between the envoys of the Mikado and the Czar, with no indemnity offered to Japan, mobs broke loose in Tokyo and attempted to attack the American Embassy, to give vent to their dissatisfaction over Mr. Roosevelt’s failure to secure a peace treaty more favorable to Japan. From that moment, they say, the Mikado’s subjects completely changed their attitude toward the United States, while the Japanese government, perhaps intentionally, connived at the popular agitation against the United States and failed to tell the public the true story of the peace conference.
To the open-minded, this contention would appear to be a quibble unworthy of any self-respecting man. If these apologists expected the Japanese government, as they obviously did, to proclaim to its subjects and to the world that it had begged the American President to mediate between it and the Russian government, and that it had no alternative to accepting peace without indemnity, because its resources had been taxed almost to the limit in the titanic struggle on the Manchurian fields of war — if they expected Japan to make such extraordinary confessions to exonerate the United States and Mr. Roosevelt, they certainly expected the performance of a feat which no government, as such, would stoop to perform.
Apart from such consideration, we must remember that the riot which occurred in Tokyo on the conclusion of the Portsmouth treaty was, to all intents and purposes, a demonstration against the Japanese government. For almost two years the Japanese had been living under the severest mental and physical strain, struggling to win the greatest war they had ever waged. Thanks to their self-sacrifice and their unwavering devotion to the State, they had scored brilliant victories on land and on sea. It was, therefore, but natural that they should expect their leaders in diplomacy to secure peace terms which would assist in lightening the taxation they had loyally shouldered to carry the war to a victorious end. When the news was flashed from Portsmouth, announcing Komura’s failure to win indemnity from Witte, their disappointment was unspeakable, and the disappointment soon grew into a frenzy of indignation, condemning everybody connected with the conclusion of the peace treaty. They attacked the offices of the newspapers which supported the government, and made a violent demonstration before the Foreign Office. A section of the mob wended its way toward the American Embassy, but was happily intercepted by the police.
There was, of course, no excuse for dragging Mr. Roosevelt and the American Embassy into the demonstration, which was essentially directed against the Japanese government; but considering the strenuous condition under which the Japanese had been living for two years, can we not sympathize with them in their temporary loss of the faculty of reasoning at an instant of stunning disappointment? Their lapse was, to say the most, only momentary. But for the anti-Japanese agitation which broke out on this side of the water in 1906, and which has ever since been kept alive, the Japanese not only would have quickly forgotten the unfortunate incident, but would have sincerely repented their guilt in forgetting, even for a moment, the kind assistance that the United States had rendered in securing the best peace terms obtainable under the circumstances. To utilize that incident as an excuse for the persistent, insidious antiJapanese agitation in this country is, I repeat, a contemptible quibble.
I have dwelt upon the Tokyo incident of August, 1905, not because I attach importance to it, but because many prominent American writers have, of late, shown a disposition to exploit it. It is more essential to deal with the problems now pending between the two nations, and threatening to grow into burning issues. America’s relations with Japan must be adjusted, not by cherishing unpleasant memories of past events, but by weighing the problems that are of direct concern to the present and future of the two nations.
Broadly speaking there are three problems, and only three, which threaten to tear asunder the friendship between Japan and the United States. They are the immigration question,the recrudescent anti-Japanese agitation for legislation on the Pacific coast, and the Chinese question. Before entering into the details of these questions, we may at once set down our conclusions.
It may be safely asserted that America will not hesitate to go to war if Japan insists upon free immigration or the immediate withdrawal of the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ which has placed a ban upon Japanese immigration. On the other hand, Japan will resist, if need be, even at the point of the sword, any American attempt to interfere with what she considers to be her justifiable activities in China.
Fortunately, the truth is that Japan would not fight for the purpose of securing unrestricted emigration. Her statesmen, her publicists, her thinkers all realize the certain outcome of such a futile attempt. To attain that purpose by the arbitrament of the sword Japan must be so powerful and so successful in her military operations that she could conquer and permanently hold at least the territory west of the Rockies. Unless the Japanese are incurable lunatics, they cannot entertain so fantastic a dream. Should the Mikado fail, as he certainly would, to secure permanent occupation of the Pacific coast, and be compelled to accept American terms of peace, he would have, not only to abandon all hopes of sending any fresh emigrants to these shores, but to remove even the sixty thousand Japanese who are now settled in this country. This the Japanese statesmen clearly foresee, and their vision is a safeguard against war on the score of emigration.
Turning to the Chinese question, it seems unthinkable that America would ever be so nearsighted as to go to war on account of the ‘open-door’ doctrine, much talked about but little understood, especially when Japan has done and will do nothing to hurt American interests in the Far East. The overwhelming majority of the American people neither know nor care to know what the ‘open door’ means.
But there is the third question — the spasmodic agitation against the Japanese in the Western states of the Union. How long will Japan be patient under the pin-pricking attitude of those states? Will she sit eternally unruffled under the rebuff which is being meted out to her in the shape of discriminatory laws restricting the rights of her nationals residing in the West? I have not sufficient confidence in Japan’s equanimity to hazard the prediction that, whatever the Western states may do against her nationals, Japan will never go to the length of appealing to the tribunal of arms. Sad to say, I am inclined to think that, unless the government at Washington and the far-seeing leaders of the American people make earnest efforts to find means to safeguard the rights and privileges of the Japanese who are lawfully here, the time may eventually come when the situation will assume a most critical aspect. Perhaps Japan may fail to receive any satisfactory decision in the court of war; but she is a nation whose sense of calculation is not yet so fully developed as to consider every national question in the light of material gain or loss. Fortunately or unfortunately, she is one of those old-fashioned nations which still believes that there is, even in this commercial age of ours, such a thing as national honor to be defended, regardless of cost.
Lest I may be misunderstood, let me emphasize that Japan will have come to such a supreme resolve only when she has exhausted all the peaceful means available to ward off the provocative policy of the Western states. Remember that this question, the attitude of the West toward the Japanese, is totally different from the question of Japanese immigration; for the Mikado’s government has, as I have already emphatically stated, no intention of embarrassing America by sending emigrants of the laboring class to this coast. Rightly or wrongly, Japan thinks that, inasmuch as she has shown herself to be conciliatory and accommodating in the matter of immigration, it is the duty of the authorities and leaders at Washington to make at least honest efforts to extend citizenship to the Japanese now here, and thus shield them from the whimsical legislation of the various states.
Viewed in its broad outlines the situation before us seems clear and simple. Its real nature and scope have been somewhat obscured, its contour, so to say, somewhat blurred, by the injection of absurd fancies and irrelevant contentions, born and nurtured in the editorial sanctums on both sides, but especially on this side, of the Pacific. The nature of such fancies and contentions has already been indicated in the story of the Tokyo riot just told. Mr. George Kennan gives us in a paragraph a list of imaginary incidents charged against Japan’s account since 1906:—
Beginning with the San Francisco public school troubles [he says], the Japanese have been accused of preparing for war with us by buying 750,000 rifles from the Crucible Steel Company (1908); of plotting against us in Hawaii and the Philippines (1909); of excluding Americans from the Manchurian mining fields (1909); of discriminating against our commerce by means of transportation rebates on the Manchurian railways (1909); of seeking to monopolize the truckfarming lands in California (1909); of sinking the drydock Dewey in Manila Bay (1910); of planting mines in that same bay (1910); of taking soundings and making charts of Californian harbors (1910); of secretly conspiring with Mexico against us (1911); of attempting to secure Magdalena Bay, in Lower California, for a naval base (1911); of secretly taking photographs and making maps on the coasts of Alaska (1911); of trying to get supreme control in Manchuria under pretense of fighting the bubonic plague (1911); of conspiring with Mexican insurgents against us (1912); of persecuting American missionaries in Korea and trying to abolish Christianity there (1912); of conspiring with Germany to overthrow the Monroe Doctrine (1912); of attacking the American consul in Newchwang (1912); of forming an alliance with our west coast Indians against us (1912); of threatening to attack Java, and thus compelling the Dutch to seek our support (1912); of trying to buy Lower California from Huerta (1914); of attempting to get spies into the fortifications of the Panama Canal (1915); of seeking to secure a foothold in Lower California by running a vessel ashore and sending warships to assist in salvage operations (1910); of conspiring with Germany to get control of the San Blas Indian lands in Panama (1910).
Add to the list the wild stories of two hundred thousand soldiers in Mexico; of Japanese firing at the American troops at Mazatlan; of the Japanese government supplying Mexico with arms and ammunition; of Japan scheming to make Mexico her ally; of Japanese diplomats guiding Carranza’s hand in writing protests against America’s ‘punitive’ expedition into Mexico; of the Japanese in California urging the Carranza government to declare war upon the United States, and so on and so forth, and you can understand how, in the mind of the public, Japan’s complaints against the United States seemed to wax larger and larger until their patience has been lost.
Not content with telling their home folk such wonderful tales of the gathering storm over American-Japanese relations, some Americans had the kindness to cross the Pacific two years ago and scare the credulous subjects of the Mikado with the frightful story of America’s warlike preparations against Japan. One of these crafty tattlers published in a number of Tokyo newspapers a self-manufactured interview in which the paymaster of a certain American cruiser at Manila (giving the specific names of both the man and the vessel) was made to state that America was making feverish haste to complete preparations for the war which she was to declare upon Japan within a very short time. This same gentleman contributed to Mr. William Randolph Hearst’s enterprising newspapers an article asserting that the National Defense Council of Japan, of which ex-Premier Marquis Okuma and other foremost publicists were members, had published a book on the coming war with America; while the truth was that the book was but a flimsy fiction written by an unknown scribe. As I write these words a number of newspapers, the foremost among the American press, are disseminating the news that Japan has served an ultimatum upon China, demanding immediate severance of her diplomatic relations with Germany! And yet Japan’s critics tell us that the Japanese press is more anti-American than the American press is anti-Japanese!
Of the three questions now casting a shadow over American-Japanese relations, that of Japanese immigration calls for our first consideration. So far as the Japanese government is concerned, it may safely be asserted that this question has ceased to be a vital issue, for the government regards it as settled through the instrumentality of the ‘gentlemen’s agreement.’
The effect of that instrument upon Japanese immigration is briefly told. The high-water mark of Japanese immigration was reached in 1908, when the report of the Immigration Bureau at Washington recorded the entry of 9544 Japanese into continental United States. With the gentlemen’s agreement working effectively in the year following, Japanese immigration to the main land of America fell to 2432, against which as many as 5004 Japanese departed from these shores. Again, in 1910 only 2598 were admitted, while 5024 returned to Japan. In 1911 the figures increased considerably, 4282 Japanese having been admitted to continental United States. Nevertheless, those returning to Japan in the same year numbered 5869, that is, 1587 more than were admitted. In 1912 Japanese arrivals numbered 5358 as against 5437 departures. In 1913 there were 6771 arrivals against 5647 departures; in 1914, 8462 arrivals, and 6300 departures; in 1915, 9029 arrivals and 5967 departures; in 1916,9100 arrivals and 6922 departures.
It will be seen that in the eight years during which the gentlemen’s agreement has been in force, 48,032 Japanese entered the mainland of the United States, whereas 46,170 left for Japan. This gives only 1862 arrivals in excess of departures.
The anti-Japanese critics point to the steady increase of Japanese arrivals since 1912. But they overlook or ignore three vital points. In the first place, the above figures for arrivals include both laborers and non-laborers. In recent years a majority of the Japanese arrivals consisted of men and women of the non-laboring class — travelers, merchants, students, and wives of the Japanese residing in this country. Thus, in 1913, 5400 of the total arrivals of 6771 were not of the laboring class but those rightfully entitled to admission. In 1914, 6700 of 8462 were nonlaborers; in 1915 and 1916, 6815 and 6142, respectively, were non-laborers. The gentlemen’s agreement does not, and cannot, of course, aim to exclude Japanese of the non-laboring class.
The second reason for the increase of Japanese arrivals in the past few years is found in the fact that those Japanese who had returned to Japan in such large numbers during the few years preceding, have, in accordance with the provisions of the gentlemen’s agreement, been steadily coming back to this country. They have found the economic and other conditions at home uncongenial to them, and have almost invariably availed themselves of the privilege granted in the gentlemen’s agreement.
In the third place, the same agreement permits the Japanese residing in this country to send for their parents, wives, and children with a view to making homes here. That is why, in late years, Japanese women, many of whom are the so-called ‘picture brides,’ have been coming in increasing numbers. In the past session of Congress the picture bride was made a topic of discussion at the hands of the House Committee on Immigration. Congressman John L. Burnett went so far as to assert that picture brides, with few exceptions, come here with little intention to make homes with their fiancés, and that they are in many cases brought for immoral purposes.
To explain the picture bride, we must first of all explain marriage customs in Japan. In Japan when a child, whether boy or girl, reaches a marriageable age, it is the duty of the parents to find a suitable partner for him or her. Custom, however, rules that the conduct of the affair must be entrusted to a gobetween, usually some discreet married friend. Having found a desirable person, the go-between arranges a meeting of the prospective bride and groom, usually chaperoned by their parents. But before this interview takes place, the parents on either side spare no pains in inquiring into the character, social standing, family relations, genealogy, health, education, and what not, of the young man and woman. If, as the result of this investigation, the young man and woman express themselves in favor of the consummation of a marriage, the parents and go-between proceed to make final arrangements for the wedding. If, on the contrary, their opinion is unfavorable, the matter is dropped.
When a Japanese living in America desires to marry, he writes to his parents, asking them to find a suitable woman for his bride. The parents, following the usual customs and rules, fix on an eligible person. If the prospective groom were in Japan the customary meeting with the prospective bride would follow. But when he lives in this country, this meeting cannot be had. So he sends his photograph to the woman, and receives her photograph in exchange. If this ‘interview’ by photographs proves satisfactory to both parties, the nuptial knot is tied at a ceremonial dinner, from which the groom is naturally absent, but which is attended by the parents and relatives on either side. This done, the parents register the marriage with the proper authorities.
In the light of Japanese law, therefore, the so-called ‘picture bride’ has already been legitimately married before her departure for America, where she is to join the groom, and no further proceedings are necessary in order that they may call themselves man and wife under American law. But to conform to the American custom and requirements of marriage, the couple, on the arrival of the bride, go through the procedure required in this country.
Like any other system of marriage, this Japanese system is not without its defects. But, on the whole, the picture bride is happily united. There have been only a few instances in which such marriages have proved unsatisfactory. Indeed, it seems to be the opinion among the more experienced, conservative Japanese residents in America that marriage following the exchange of photographs results in more felicitous unions than in those cases where the young men go over to Japan and find the brides themselves; because in the former case the precaution, wisdom, experience, and good judgment of the parents are fully utilized.
So far as we are able to ascertain, the Japanese government has no intention to demand, in any measurable future, the abrogation of the gentlemen’s agreement. Japan recognized the courtesy of the Wilson Administration in respecting her equally courteous request that the restriction of Japanese immigration be not made a provision in the statutes of the United States, but be left to the accommodating spirit on the part of Japan. In the new Immigration law adopted by Congress over Mr. Wilson’s veto, no clause is found prohibiting Japanese immigration, and the fact has been appreciated by the Japanese government and people. Modest as its achievements are, the Mikado’s Empire has been recognized as one of the foremost powers of the world. Naturally it sees an affront to its dignity in a statutory provision of a foreign power singling it out as an object of discriminatory treatment. Can we not sympathize with its desire to restrict the emigration of its subjects of its own accord rather than submit to an exclusion law of the United States, though the effect would be the same in either case?
Japan’s attitude and policy with regard to the immigration question,then, permit of no misconstruction. She has in no uncertain terms told the United States that she would voluntarily stop the emigration of her laborers to the United States, and she has faithfully adhered to the pledge. At the same time, she has unmistakably intimated to the American government that her subjects legitimately admitted into this country must not be discriminated against. This is a proposition just and incontrovertible. All that has to be done is to extend citizenship to the Japanese. It is absurd, as it is unjust, that ignorant immigrants from countries far more backward than Japan should be freely naturalized, while the Japanese, with all the qualifications for citizenship, are compelled to remain aliens, however devoted they may be to this country.
International usage, unwritten but nevertheless in force, rules that no nation should be discriminated against by any power with which it is on a plane of equality. A nation admitted by universal consent into the comity of the world’s foremost powers has the right to demand of any foreign nation with which it enters into intercourse the treatment usually accorded such powers. Now, Japan is the only nation in the Orient which has attained such a position. In discussing the immigration question, therefore, Japan speaks only for herself and not as the champion of Asiatic peoples.
In spite of all the concessions Japan has made to this country in the adjustment of the immigration question, the states on the Pacific coast are still complaining about Japanese immigration. Certain classes of people in that section have an ingrained habit of grumbling about the Japanese, and they do not know how to stop it even when Japanese immigration has been cut off. Now that Japanese of the laboring class have ceased to come, they are worrying themselves about the coming of picture brides and the consequent increase of the birth-rate in the Japanese community. Theirs are peculiar minds, snobbishly inclined, devoid alike of generosity and politeness, incapable of appreciating anything foreign to their set ideas and habits. To the mutterings of this class of people Japan is not likely to lend ear. What matter if a few thousand Japanese babies are born in California? Their training, their mental attitude, their way of thinking will be entirely American, and in the end they will prove themselves to be citizens as desirable as children of any other immigrants.
I have often wondered how much of the anti-Japanese agitation in the Western states is sincere; that is, called forth by real necessity. At the present moment the legislatures of Oregon and Idaho are each considering bills prohibiting Japanese ownership of land. Yet Idaho has only two thousand Japanese, whose land holdings amount to scarcely five hundred acres. In Oregon there are only four thousand Japanese, holding less than a thousand acres of land. When in 1913 California created a world-wide sensation by adopting an anti-Japanese land law, Japanese land holdings in that State, according to the State Board of Agriculture, amounted to only 12,720 acres, divided into 331 farms. A little figuring will show that the Japanese in California owned only one acre out of every eight thousand acres in the State. Remembering that 101,320,000 acres were at that time owned by two million and a half Americans, or European immigrants, increasing at the rate of sixty per cent in a decade, it is hard to understand why these small holdings of the Japanese should constitute a menace requiring a drastic measure at the expense of international amity.
The last question to be considered is the Chinese question. We must remember that this question, so far as Japan is concerned, has a vital bearing upon her embarrassing problem of surplus population. Not that Japan intends to make China a dumping-ground for her emigrants, for she certainly does not. In her efforts to relieve the pressure of population at home without causing embarrassment to foreign nations, especially the United States and England, Japan will inevitably follow two lines of action. First, she will utilize the territories already under her control, such as Hokkaido, Korea, Formosa, and a certain section of South Manchuria; and, secondly, she will follow the footsteps of England and strive to convert herself into a great commercial nation. It is the second line of action which has a direct bearing upon Japan’s Chinese policy.
Japan’s foremost aspiration to-day is to become a great factor in the commerce of the world. If she succeeds in this direction she will be enabled to support more comfortably than hitherto her increasing population upon the comparatively small area of land at her disposal. It is, therefore, but natural that she should make supreme efforts to become a dominant economic factor in China. She sees in that country of two million square miles untold resources yet little exploited. She sees in the four hundred million souls of China the possibility of creating a vast market for her merchandise. These are the bottom facts which afford impetus to Japan’s action in China, though her ambition on the Asian continent must at times have seemed political rather than economic.
In pursuing this policy Japan has no intention of embarassing American activities in China. In his address in the Imperial Diet at Tokyo two months ago Viscount Ichiro Motono, the Japanese Foreign Minister, made this statement: —
‘ I note with great pleasure the symptoms of real sympathy manifested for some time between Japan and the United States. A proposal for common financial action has been made by American capitalists. The imperial Government will follow with lively interest the development of the economic rapprochement between the two countries.’
There is no reason why Japan and the United States cannot coöperate in China, not only for their own benefit, but also for the advantage of the Chinese. Once Japan clearly understands that America has no political ambition in the Far East, she will be only too glad to welcome her to China. It may sound curious to Americans, but it is nevertheless true, that a large number of Japanese are inclined to see political ambitions in American policy in the Orient. They think that America, not content with the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine in her own hemisphere, is embarking upon an imperialistic career. She is, they fear, stretching her hands across the Pacific, intent upon extending, not only her commercial interests, but her political influence, in China. In Secretary Knox’s proposal for the neutralization of the Manchurian railways, in his scheme to construct the Chinchow-Aigun railway, in the Bethlehem Steel Company’s project to establish a dockyard in Fukien, not to mention the American occupation of the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, the Japanese see the ominous rise of the United States in world-politics. They think that these American activities, like the similar activities of European powers, are not merely commercial, but political. They have seen enough of the sinister designs concocted by European powers against Korea and China, menacing the very existence of their own sphere. In their minds it seems next to impossible to differentiate American enterprises from European. Moreover, American entrepreneurs, backed by unlimited resources and capital, will, they apprehend, sooner or later drive Japanese trade and enterprise in China to the wall, if Japan does not resort to measures of self-protection against their onslaught.
All European investors in China have enjoyed the backing of their respective governments. The railways that they have built in China are as much political railways as they are commercial. The concessions that they have wrested from Peking also have political meaning. Will not the same unfortunate situation develop from American investments in Chinese railways and canals and mines?
There is another class of Japanese, whose opposition to American activities in the Far East is due to different motives from those I have just described. These Japanese are not so much concerned with American ‘imperialism ' as they are desirous of show - ing the Americans what they can do in the way of retaliation. Their mood is one of resentment and defiance. They have been resenting America’s discrimination against the Japanese and her apparent eagerness to forestall all their enterprises in Mexico and even in South America. They have been deeply annoyed by the cry of ‘Wolf!’ raised by publicists at Washington and a large number of American newspapers every time Japan takes a step on the Asian mainland. ‘ Let us show these troublesome meddling Yankees what we can do to them if they insist upon annoying us all the time with no justification whatever’ is the sentiment of these people.
The Japanese are but human. You cannot expect them to turn their left checks to you after you have slapped them on their right cheeks. They can understand you when you raise an issue over Japanese immigration to your own country, but they do not understand and will never understand why on earth you have to pursue them in Mexico and South America, when there is nothing to make ado about. There was absolutely no truth in the much exploited story of the Japanese designs upon Magdalena Bay, and yet one of America’s foremost publicists introduced a resolution in the Senate, declaring that the United States could not see without grave concern the acquisition of any harbor on the American continent by a foreign corporation ‘which has such relations to another government, not American, as to give that country practical control for military or naval purposes.’
Fortunately, however, Japan is not going to follow a policy of revenge in dealing with American enterprise in China. About a year ago Baron Yeichi Shibusawa, foremost among Japanese financiers, came to the United States with a view to sounding the sentiment of American capitalists with regard to Chinese enterprise. It was highly unfortunate that his real motives were willfully misinterpreted by a certain class of Americans whose business seems to be to put unexpected meanings to every Japanese opinion and action. These wiseacres have been spreading the report that Shibusawa’s proposal is to grant Japan a vetoing power with regard to every American enterprise in China. If this extraordinary scheme were carried into effect, they fancied, American capital would be permitted to enter China only upon Japan’s approval.
Nothing could be more sinister than such a misinterpretation. What Shibusawa expressed was his desire and hope for the coöperation of American and Japanese capital. Certainly he did not entertain the quixotic idea of forbidding the activities of American capitalists who would invest in China independently rather than in coöperation with the Japanese.
The aptness of certain Americans to misrepresent Japan’s measures in China is seen in their comment upon the abandonment of the Standard Oil Company’s project of exploiting oilfields there. They tell us that the project was dropped because of Japanese objection. Yet I know, on the authority of the engineers who surveyed the oil-fields for the Standard Oil, that the abandonment was due to the fact that the fields gave no promise of yielding sufficient oil to justify the enormous expenditure involved in the enterprise.
This American habit of blaming the Japanese every time something goes wrong with China is a serious impediment to the maintenance of friendly relations, not only between Japan and the United States, but also between Japan and China. It is due to the same mental habit of many Americans that they see a menace to American trade in the Japanese domination in Korea. And yet statistics show that American export trade to Korea increased twenty times in the decade that followed the establishment of Japanese rule in the peninsula. The Tokyo Jiji-shimpo, admittedly the most influential financial newspaper in Japan, discussing, in its recent issue, China’s economic outlook, invites American enterprise in that country, either independently or in coöperation with Japanese capital. So sane is the editorial that I am tempted to quote therefrom the following passage: —
The rapid progress of Japan’s export trade to China is largely due to the increase of China’s purchasing capacity, stimulated by the introduction of foreign capital,which built railways, opened mines, and contributed in many another way to the economic advancement of the country. Had it not been for the work accomplished by foreign capital, China’s demand for foreign goods would have remained very small, and our trade in China would never have forged ahead as it really has.
The ‘open door’ and ‘equal opportunity’ for all trading nations have been our fixed policy in China. Unfortunately, people have not been lacking who are so shortsighted as to fear the competition of foreign capital with our enterprise in China. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that our wisest course lies in the most faithful adherence to the policy of the open door, and in encouraging the exploitation of natural resources with the aid of foreign capital.
Is not this a counsel which American critics of Japan as well as Japanese critics of America would do well to take to heart? It seems, however, inevitable that, as Japan’s influence in China grows greater, she should be made the butt of Western envy and censure. Unless Japan commits such serious blunders as she committed two years ago in submitting the so-called twenty-one demands to China, she may go on with her own plans, unafraid, and unhindered by Western criticisms.