The Far East


A YEAR is not Jongin the history of policy or of peoples, but the year that follows the ending of a catastrophic war may well be one of the decisive years in the history of both. Japan’s defeat removed the threat of aggression by Japan towards other countries in Asia, destroyed the Co-prosperity Sphere, laid low the one Asiatic power which had in the past successfully challenged and defeated a major power.

At the same time the defeat of Japan brought up the whole subject of aggression and of rule over other peoples, and in particular deprived the imperial powers, including America, of the excuse that their presence was necessary to provide military protection against Japan. And now we must help to promote an alternative method of organizing the economic and political life of Far Eastern peoples.

Many of the basic difficulties of the Far East remain the same. There are still the big, broad questions of political freedom, of low standards of living, of illiteracy, disease, and political disorganization. But even these problems re-emerge in a different setting and require different handling. The setting differs from pre-war days in two important respects: both the balance of power and the nature of power have undergone radical changes.

The Far East is no longer an extension of the European political system. The peoples of Asia see themselves and their problems in relation to the major poles of world power: the Soviet Union and the United States.

From this point of view the whole matter of political freedom for colonial Asia has changed in significance. Before the war, we could assume that freedom for colonial Asia would be freedom within the Western democratic political and economic world. It would mean, in effect., from the American point of view, a diminution in the power and wealth of the European empires, an increase in the number of markets open to United States trade, and the addition of more countries to the “family of nations”—as the phrase is understood outside the Soviet Union.

But today we have to look at these problems in the light of the two major alternatives of world development: the development of one world or of two. We still welcome freedom, but the question has now to be asked: Freedom for what and from whom? To say that we can be indifferent to the political coloration of the aspirants for freedom is to indulge in political romanticism.

Limited independence for the Philippines

Whatever the future may have in store for the Philippines, it is clear that for the next two or three decades the Islands would find it difficult to depart from the American orbit, even if they so wished. American money is going into the rehabilitation of the Philippine economy, and Americans have a privileged trading position both with and within the Islands.

The Philippine Trade Act, as President Truman pointed out, provides for the establishment, through an executive agreement, of an “unprecedented plan of preferential trade relations with the Philippines, to last for twenty-eight years. We have never entered into similar agreements with any foreign government. Preferential trade relations are alien to the policy of this administration.”

The President also explained that in substance this is really a rehabilitation measure — and there the matter, in spite of considerable criticism at home and abroad, may well be allowed to rest.

It is true that American economic interests are well taken care of and the Philippines are not to be launched immediately into free-trade relations with other countries. It is also true that other legislation provides for agreements on American military bases in the Philippines, which is yet another infringement upon the spirit of political independence. There is no denying that our State Department is training foreign service officers for the new republic and may well represent Philippine interests abroad while the Philippine foreign service grows in numbers and experience.

The question is not whether the Philippines have received as much as they wanted, but what they do with what they have. The limitations which we have imposed will receive wide advertisement in other parts of colonial Asia, and Americans now living in those countries report an intense interest there in our policy towards the Philippines.

So far, the shortcomings of our Philippine policy do not outweigh its strength. Much will depend upon our handling of crises in the future, and on the attitude we take towards possible internal disturbances in the Islands. For the time being, we have demonstrated that the United States has not used internal economic difficulties in the Philippines as an excuse to default on promises made during the war.

Who is being encircled?

The change in the nature of power, the other contrast with pre-war days, is expressed in the much greater degree of United States activity in foreign relations and in economic and cultural matters. The American government has never before undertaken such broad and continuing commitments to other peoples. We are involved particularly in China and Japan. What are we up to? Is this a new American imperialism or is it the fulfillment of a responsibility not only to the countries concerned but to the United Nations?

Somewhere between the two lies the answer. The foreigner cannot fail to be impressed with the fact that two of our most important generals, Marshall and MacArthur, are each trying to influence, in different ways, the destinies of China and Japan. To the American who assumes that generals are firmly under civilian control, and who watches Congress decrease the size of the Army, this is not so significant as it may seem to others.

The bills before Congress for extending military assistance to China, South America, and the Philippines, in the form of equipment and military missions, have not aroused so much attention here as they have abroad. The possibility that this assistance would mean the standardization of military equipment and training in all these countries on the American model has vast significance to other countries.

To the Russians it appears that we are doing exactly what they are doing in their immediate border areas. They charge us with attempting to encircle the Soviet Union. What are the facts?

When requesting the legislation in Congress to provide United States military advice and assistance to China to aid in modernizing its armed forces, the Secretary of State said that the purpose was “the fulfillment of obligations which may devolve upon that country under the United Nations Charter.” Mr. Byrnes stated also that the legislation was prepared in collaboration with the War and Navy Departments and had the full approval of General Marshall.

Mr. Byrnes’s hopes

Mr. Byrnes, who by now has made his personal impression upon our foreign relations, seems to be preparing for the worst while working for the best. There is no reason to doubt that the War, State, and Navy Departments are planning for a possible war.

That theory would explain legislation to export our military training and equipment, the arrangements for bases in the Atlantic and the Pacific, the interest in Iceland and Spitzbergen, the enormous sums for atomic research, and the drafting of generals as diplomats. While there is no reason to doubt the Secretary when he says that “we have pinned our hopes to the banner of the United Nations,” it is important to note that he said hopes and not policies.

Mr. Byrnes’s reluctance to deal with the Russians on a bilateral basis before the Peace Conference convenes appears to us as an honest desire to rely on democratic consultation. But we should not be surprised if the Russians view it as the natural inclination of a powerful country with control of the majority of votes in the Security Council.

Seen in this light, Mr. Byrnes has done a masterly job of putting the Russians in the wrong with world opinion without having to face up to the doubtful question of whether our own Senate would approve of the abolition of the veto power.

Against this new and bewildering background of extended commitments and changed power relations the old and new problems of the East must be studied. We have to measure our achievements against this double standard of two policies: one, to build up potential allies without overextending ourselves; the other, to build up the United Nations to our own advantage, which we consider to be the advantage of all right-thinking men and nations.

The most remarkable fact about the new Asia one year after the end of the war is the contrast between defeated Japan and victorious China. Japan today is moving peacefully into democracy, while China, to put it mildly, is taking her time. Some think that Japan is moving along too quickly and that what we have is the form rather than the substance.

But it is important to remember that Japan in its curious way is a moderately well-organized industrial state. There is something to build on. The women’s movement, the labor movement, the farmers’ movement, all started before the war under adverse conditions.

China stands still

General Marshall is under instructions to bring an end to civil war in China at a time when we have made it very clear that we disapprove of Communism in Japan and the Philippines as much as in America. All reports indicate that Nanking, often the victim of wishful thinking in international relations, anticipates an early war between Russia and the United States.

Reluctance to come to terms with the Communists — assuming that the Communists wish to come to terms — is increased by the current anti-Russian press in the United States as well as by our political attitudes in Asia itself. The Chinese National Government naturally tends to exaggerate the strength and depth of our anti-Russian policy.

Such reflections would be more important if the prospects of peace in China were more favorable. Unfortunately, there is no magic touch that can solve the problems of that ancient land without struggle and long-continued turmoil.

When members of respectable organizations demonstrate, as they did in late June, in favor of internal peace and against American military forces in China, they are broken up and beaten by Nationalist thugs. The demonstrators were obviously Communist-inspired. Mao Tse-tung came out two days later with his denunciation of American troops in China.

This sort of behavior is possible because China does not have an enlightened middle class based on private enterprise. There are plenty of intellectuals with American training and ideas, but they do not exercise real power. They are servants of the militarists and the party, either directly or indirectly. Kuomintang China and Communist China are both based on the most backward part of the economy, the agrarian, and neither side has any strong vested interest in democracy. Herein lies our dilemma.

Can armies bring democracy to China?

Strange as it may seem, the policy of the American Army, that of training and equipping the Chinese forces, both Nationalist and Communist, if the latter will agree, is about the only way in which China can be industrialized. For a modern army requires modern technology, general education, good administration, heavy and light industry, and a great deal of money.

The strongest justification for our policy in China is that China cannot wait. To catch up with Japan, to meet in any reasonable time the responsibilities that her size and population indicate, Chinese development must be a forced growth. America is the one country which has an interest in the development of the Industrial Revolution in China and is also ready and willing to pour into China the accumulation of capital and experience that other countries have had to collect over the years.

In China, where power rests with armies, the only way to sound political reform may be through the training of a small professional army. Such a policy suits well the views of those Americans who see this as a useful instrument for future wars, but to describe this as the chief American aim is misleading. China needs that sort of army as the beginning of internal renascence. There is nothing else that can pull the country together. A decade ago we missed the alternative, that of supporting a then powerful middle class and stopping the Japanese career of conquest.

Contradictions in policy are bound to appear when we deal with a situation as complex and difficult as that in the Far East today. But the main concern is not with contradictions as they might appear abroad so much as with the inner coördination of American policy. In this connection the most urgent problem of foreign policy is the organization of government at home.

To quote Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson: “Our machinery was devised for a government which was thought of as soldier, policeman, umpire. It is actually engaged in the functions of management, and has to be. . . . We have any number of departmental and agency policies, but how to get, within measurable time, a government policy, even an executive government policy, has so far eluded us.” It is sobering to remember that the functions of management happen to include the management of Japan and a large share in the affairs of the rest of Asia.