The Far East


TREATIES of peace for the Far East still wait on the writing of treaties for Europe. But the pattern which is emerging at Paris is highly significant for all Far Eastern peoples. Several countries, Australia and China in particular, are attempting to stake out claims and establish precedents at Paris with a view to coming discussions about Japan. Will the small countries have a voice in the Far Eastern settlement, or will it be arranged by the great powers?

In the Far East we are more directly involved and heavily committed than we are in Eastern Europe. While we are pressing for multilateral settlement of European questions, we are attempting, in the Far East, unilateral disposition of the most important issues. There is considerable doubt that our right hand knows what our left hand is doing.

The case for approaching the problems of the Far East on a multilateral basis is strong. The devastation caused by Japanese occupation and defeat, the collapse of the intricate pre-war political and economic systems, the responsibilities of administering conquered peoples, the adjustment to a new balance of power, the very aspirations of millions of Asiatics — all these factors make it impossible to settle anything on a parochial basis.

Nationalism and food, civil war and trade, power and currency, all are interrelated. In every area of the Far East, economic enterprise, cultural and educational relations, and even private travel, come under government regulation of some sort and are related to power politics.

The projection of domestic difficulties onto the international scene, and the impingement of international complications on domestic affairs, are especially apparent in China. It is the political weakness of an ally, rather than the dismemberment of an enemy, which inevitably pulls the powers together whether they wish it or not.

The 400 millions in China have lived in a goldfish bowl ever since the beginning of the last century. It has always been an objective of our policy to keep the bowl itself intact, regardless of what happened to the fish. Even now we are pursuing the same objective, although the circumstances have changed radically. After the war the United States took the place of the pre-war collection of powers interested in China. The legal limitations on Chinese sovereignty were swept away and the only problem that seemingly remained to endanger the bowl was the internal struggle between Nationalists and Communists.

The President went so far in his December 15, 1945, statement as to justify practical American concern with the internal struggle in China. At that time he said that this issue was related to world peace and therefore to the United States, which was presumably acting on behalf of the United Nations. The catch here is that other powers have the same “right” to intervene in the same way and for the same purpose.

China is a test case

We have reached a turning point in our China policy. Much depends on what we do now. The conflict in China is the place where many other issues meet, the focal point for questions of international relations, of race, of social structure, of economic development and political climate. Everything conspires to put the issue in dramatic terms and, by overemphasis, to move it out of focus.

For one thing, we have more information about the Chinese conflict than about the bloody and significant struggles in Indonesia and Indo-China. Our prestige is also highly involved. Furthermore, the Nationalist-Communist conflict is thought of mainly in terms of the power relations between the United States and the Soviet Union — which are important but not the whole story, because political organization is bound up with broad economic issues in the Far East.

The greatest risk, it is argued, of inviting the Russians to help solve the problems of Asia before the peace conference gets around to that part of the world arises from the revolutionary situation in Asia. Whatever political expression it takes, from Indian nationalism to Korean frustration, it is bound up with a changed and desperate economic situation.

Must millions starve?

Asiatic countries which fed themselves during the war find themselves hungry in peacetime. The agricultural experts trace the food crisis to many causes, among which are an increase of population, land shortage, and a decreased capacity to produce. According to P. Lamartine Yates of the Food and Agricultural Organization, in this current year the production of foodstuffs is well below normal in the Far East. The most serious shortage is in cereals, which provide by far the greatest proportion of the diet. There is practically no export surplus in Burma, Siam, India, and Indo-China, which normally export over eight million metric tons a year.

The total supply of food is down by 15 per cent but the demand for food has increased. The populations of Far Eastern countries have increased rapidly. During the last fifty years the population of India has risen by more than 10 per cent every decade. The rate is even higher in the Netherlands Indies and the Philippines. Population growth in China may have been temporarily neutralized by the war, but the war did even more damage to agricultural production.

Mr. Yates says in the Far Eastern Survey that “world import needs of food grain for 1946-47 were assessed at thirty million tons (in terms of wheat equivalent) and prospective exportable supplies at twenty million tons. There was, therefore, a gap of some ten million tons which could be filled only if countries with sufficient food supplies would be prepared to make further sacrifices.”

To bring the level of nutrition in the Far East up to very modest standards would involve staggering problems of increased production. A population increase of 35 per cent in twenty-five years, not uncommon in this area, combined with a modest increase in diet — still far below Western standards — would require almost a doubling of agricultural production. Clearly, millions will go hungry and millions will die.

One solution is to increase the amount of agricultural land, a job that calls for vast expenditure in irrigation, drainage, malarial control. It takes two acres, given Western levels of agricultural efficiency, to provide one person’s diet in Western countries. But in Eastern Asia there is only half an acre of crop land to each person, and Eastern agricultural efficiency, once far ahead of Europe’s, is now far behind.

Even on the technical level the requirements of Eastern agriculture are so stupendous that they can best be met through international cooperation. The International Emergency Food Council, which includes Australia, China, India, New Zealand, and Siam, a development from the old Combined AngloAmerican-Canadian Food Board, could be a step in that direction.

The countries of the Far East face, therefore, a dual problem. In order to raise their standards of living, or merely to maintain the present standards and meet the increase in population, they have to develop both agriculture and industry.

Meanwhile the most heavily industrialized countries of the world not only have to feed themselves, but must assist in feeding the most heavily populated and predominantly agricultural areas of the world. What sort of relation between East and West is this going to produce? Inevitably food is going to be used as a political weapon. The question is how and to what purpose.

If the problems of population, land shortage, and agricultural efficiency were merely technical questions, they would be much simpler. Unfortunately, all are political questions and have to be handled by governments which are often in themselves stumbling blocks.

The Army goes into business

The relation between politics and economics comes out clearly in Japan, where our occupation forces have had to face the food problem realistically. It is estimated that Japan has to earn 400 million dollars in foreign credits to pay for the food and other essentials not produced at home.

Japanese food shortages are real, even if Japanese propaganda has grossly exaggerated their extent. That is why Headquarters permitted the revival of a certain amount of foreign trade. The export of raw silk to the United Stated brings in 30 per cent of the dollar value required. For the rest, the United States Army is now acting as business agent for the Japanese in seeking markets for Japanese goods in the United States to help make up the balance.

The economic policy is based on a political policy of stressing the maintenance of law and order and of effecting changes through democratic methods. We long ago decided that stability in Japan would be the objective, but in the early period of occupation a series of brilliant directives was issued which seemed to strike at the very heart of the Japanese social and political structure. They called for the removal of economic monopolies, reform of the land system, emancipation of women, and the liberalization of education and politics.

Great changes have certainly taken place. But there is no doubt that apart from the disappearance of the armed forces, the shedding of the imperial divinity, and the revival of free elections, nothing fundamental has gone.

Headquarters has lost many good men from the staff and has grown more cautious in policy. The Japanese have taken our measure and know well how to resist change. Premier Yoshida has been quick to exploit the outspoken anti-Russian temper of Headquarters by starting a drive on labor unions at home and referring openly to the menace of the Soviet Union abroad.

We have made very little impression on the old Japanese bureaucracy and apparently have no plans to reform it. We have done no great damage to the old agrarian and industrial systems. If change comes, it will come slowly.

Japan is still an American show. The Russians, blocked in the Allied Council for Japan and the Far Eastern Commission from having any real say in the governing of Japan, have intensified their propaganda broadcasts in the Japanese language from Siberian stations.

New walls in Asia

By their influence over Northern Korea and their special position in Manchuria, the Russians assure themselves a voice in shaping the economic future of both China and Korea. If Northern Korea and Manchuria were cut off from the area to the south, there would be a serious limitation of the economic potential of China proper and Southern Korea and an added difficulty in solving the agrarian and industrial problems of the Far East. Yet this is the line of least resistance.

The worse the situation becomes in China, the more likely our military ambassadors are to think of Japan as a better potential ally than China. There will be a great temptation to cut our losses in China, to agree to a division of spheres of interest across Asia in fact if not formally.

The weakness of our China policy is that it is unilateral. The Russians have demonstrated that they have enough strength in China to block a purely American solution. The risks involved in sharing the problem with the Soviet Union are less than those involved in the alternatives of getting out completely, backing the Nationalists to the hilt, or recognizing the Communists and finding another Yugoslavia on our hands.

Russia plays the game both ways

What can we assume Soviet interests in the Far East to be? Whatever the Russians may think of the prospects for, and the desirability of, a strong United Nations, it is clear that they are taking no chances and are attempting to break up any possible combination of powers which might be aligned against them. They will stay in the United Nations because to leave it would mean presenting the rest of the world with a ready-made alliance in working order.

It is to Soviet interest to have a dependent China which will vote with the Soviet Union in the United Nations. But if this is not possible, then the next best thing may be to have a weak and divided China, part of which will sooner or later be legally separated and will come under Russian influence. Since the Communists are certainly in no position to take the rest of China by force at the present time and cannot persuade the Nationalists to surrender control without fighting, the only policy left for the Soviets and the Communists is to play a waiting game.

This means keeping up negotiations with Nanking in order to avoid blame for starting the civil war, and at the same time holding on to as much territory and population as possible, retreating, if necessary, to areas contiguous to Soviet territory. This is exactly the policy the Chinese Communists have been following.

Knowing the weak points in our liberal armor, the Russians accuse us of trying to dominate China. The cry of imperialism and dollar diplomacy is again raised against us. Why should we quail before this accusation? We certainly have a strong interest in China’s stability and economic development and we most assuredly do not want a Communist China.

What, then, shall we do? Retreat is impossible because it would be no solution and would hand over the field to the Soviet Union. Coming down on the side of the Communists is equally out of the question. There is the present policy of limited dealings with the Nationalists while we are encouraging the formation of a coalition government and a national army. The chances of success are slight. Only two possibilities remain.

One is to give all-out support to the Nationalists and trust that they can suppress the Communists by force. The alternative is to face the issue head on with the Soviet Union, as part of a general settlement of the Far East. Both politics and economics demand that this solution be attempted.