The Far East


WE ARE not getting out of China. The flurry of excitement when Secretary of State Marshall announced the end of the American mediation effort quickly died down. The Marines are being withdrawn, but the Navy remains at Tsingtao, where its striking power matches anything the Russians can put into Port Arthur. Both our Army and our Navy are continuing their training of Chinese armed forces. At very short notice, American aid to China can be stepped up again to the intensity of intervention.

What really counts now is the balance between the new Secretary of State and the Republicans, intensely partisan as individuals, who stand at his shoulder to make sure that he conducts a bipartisan or unpartisan policy to their satisfaction.

Senator Vandenberg ushered Mr. Secretary Marshall into the State Department by first saying that “he has always enjoyed the total confidence of Congress” and then coming out with his own interpretation of the situation in China, on which Marshall had made a long and careful statement.

In his January speech at Cleveland, Senator Vandenberg professed hope in the new, Kuomintangtailored Chinese Constitution, though it only verbally legalizes the idea of other parties and creates no institutions that we would accept as representative if we were asked to approve them in certain other countries. He then suggested that “our Far Eastern policy might well now shift its emphasis. While still recommending unity, it might well encourage those who have so heroically set their feet upon this road, and discourage those who make the road precarious.”

This Vandenberg emendation in fact goes much further than a “shift of emphasis.” It amounts to stringing along with those whom the Marshall statement called “the reactionaries in the Government [who] have evidently counted on substantial American support regardless of their actions.” Do the Republicans form a solid majority behind Vandenberg on this issue, or will they split, with some of them backing Marshall?

Turning off the tap

We have not yet failed to promote a coalition government in China, because we are now putting pressure on both sides. In the earlier months after the collapse of Japan, when the situation in Manchuria was not clear and the intentions of the Russians still less clear, our aid to the Kuomintang was much too headlong and undiscriminating. No guarantees of good faith were asked.

More recently, by diminishing aid to the Kuomintang and by withholding the half-billion-dollar Export-Import Bank loan, we have largely equalized the pressure. The method has been not to switch our policy suddenly, but to start turning off the tap, slowly diminishing the flow of aid to the Kuomintang. In exact proportion to the tapering off of our aid, the Kuomintang must cease to dictate and begin to negotiate.

When Marshall left China it was his intention to deposit the key to the situation in the hands of the moderates and liberals, whom he called “a splendid group of men, but who as yet lack the political power to exercise a controlling influence.”

How are they to get the power? In China, there is no political power without armed power. As a State Department wag put it (first looking cautiously both ways along the corridor), “If Marshall thinks so much of the Chinese moderates, why doesn’t he assign the Marines to act as their army?

That would put them up in the big time with both the Kuomintang and the Communists.”

Actually, the Truman-Marshall policy has been to do something of the kind, by throwing what the GI in Asia calls a Chinese forward pass: that is, by cutting down the supplies of the extremists instead of arming the moderates. The move can be only tentative, for it implies a bid to the Russians for understanding and coöperation.

It cannot be successful unless there is reasonable assurance that the Russians will not crowd us by beginning to aid the Communists. In this connection it is significant that Marshall, when asked on his way home whether the Russians were aiding the Chinese Communists, replied bluntly that they were not. Our note suggesting that the Russians open Dairen to international traffic was also significant. It meant that although Marshall was leaving China, he was not abandoning it.

Korean transformation

With surprising smoothness, and with the Russians curbing their fondness for sarcastic remarks, an important transformation has taken place in Korea. General Hodge is to be credited with recovering the most awkward fumble made by the American side in the early phase of the occupation. He has eased Syngman Rhee out of the picture.

Syngman Rhee is one of those tragic figures that fall by the wayside in every nationalist revolutionary movement. He is the typical exiled leader who bravely kept the flag flying in a foreign country only to find, on returning at last to his own country, that the movement had adopted a new flag.

In all occupied countries and oppressively ruled colonies the nationalist leader who is forced into exile begins to be replaced, as a popular hero, by the underground leaders who arise within the country. Sun Yat-sen of China knew this. So did Masaryk and Beneš of Czechoslovakia. So too, in his strange, morose, and mystical way, did de Gaulle of France.

But when Syngman Rhee returned to Korea, the Americans made a serious mistake. While proclaiming the political field open to all democratic and representative leaders, they high-lighted Syngman Rhee by giving him luxurious quarters, lots of that motorcar prominence which makes a man a big shot in Asia, and armed guards.

This otiose treatment, combined with the tense hostility between Americans and Russians in the two halves of Korea, gave Syngman Rhee notions. Assuming the idea of the unification of Korea by agreement between America and Russia to be permanently dead, he had a vision of himself as the head of a Southern Korean government which, backed by America, would assert a claim for the “recovery” of Northern Korea.

General Hodge is not a man who will swap any quid with the Russians without getting his full pro quo from them. But Syngman Rhee’s idea of a crusade to recover a Korea irredenta in the North was, as American soldiers in Japan say of the Emperor, a white horse of a different color. He felt that he might do better for himself by returning to America and taking the stump; but he made the mistake of saying that General Hodge is “favoring leftists,”and that the American Military Government is guilty of “efforts to build up and foster the Korean Communist Party.”

General Hodge, on the other hand, backed by the State Department, has issued a warning “directed against rightist rather than leftist groups” and against the “ill-advised propaganda that if South Korea is given a separate government it can itself unite all of Korea and solve all of the international problems”—and that looks like the end of the political career of Syngman Rhee.

We put on the brakes

Farther south in Asia a political vortex is spinning which is caused by the differing interests of America, Britain, France, and Holland. The vortex itself represents the relative unity of the colonial liberation movement.

There are conservative Filipino business interests, as well as Communist-tinged Hukbalahaps, with a stake in making Philippine independence more real and self-government more democratic. In India the Moslem League and the National Congress, though bitter rivals, also have interests in common. In Indonesia and Indo-China, even more markedly, nationalism has become a wide popular movement.

America, once the hope of colonial peoples, now has the most conservative government of any large nation. We have developed a technique of trying to slow down the rate of change in the world by isolating and constricting the areas of change. It is this technique which provides the major element of uniformity in our policy toward Russia, toward the Russian satellites in Europe, and toward all countries in Asia, free or unfree.

Britain, no longer able to circumscribe the geographical areas of change, even in her own colonial empire, is attempting to make the process of change as orderly as possible by participating in it.

Since it is of the nature of colonial Asia that the minorities usually tend to be conservative, while the majorities range from liberal to radical, the British are able to manipulate with considerable success the paradox of a Labor Government participating in policies more liberal than those of the United States, but in alliance everywhere with local conservatives.

The trigger-happy French

In France the political center of gravity lies further to the left than in Britain. The Communists are stronger, and even the Catholic MRP is in some ways more liberal than the predominantly Nonconformist and Low-Church British Labor Party. Yet the French in Indo-China have indulged in a shooting spree that would crack not only India but Britain wide open if the British were to imitate it.

A writer in the Bulletin of the usually well-informed Foreign Policy Association suggests that “in striving for political rule over the world’s second largest colonial empire, the French Communists . . . are in the fortunate position of having no difficulty with Moscow.”According to this argument, “if the French were driven out of Indo-China, the resulting political vacuum would eventually be filled by the influence of China or of Britain and the United States. It is therefore advantageous to Moscow that the French should maintain their position.”

Such reasoning, whether indulged in by Communists who believe that the hand is quicker than the eye, or by the commentator who believes that his eye is quicker than the Communist hand, is a symptom of the widely prevailing confusion over the nature of the colonial liberation movement.

There was once some justification for assuming that all movements subversive of the status quo, whether Communist, part-Communist, or nonCommunist, could be stimulated by a switch in the Kremlin turned on by the Third International. The assumption no longer holds. The colonial liberation movement swelled to its present dimensions in the years between Pearl Harbor and the collapse of Japan, when Japan occupied colonial Asia and when Russian influence was at an all-time low. The Russians did not develop the liberation movement, and they cannot control it.

Russia stands by

The only advantage the Russians have in Asia is the fact that colonial nationalism exists; but a still more important political phenomenon is the ability of colonial nationalists to take advantage of any and every tension between Russia and the countries which still maintain some measure of control over colonial peoples.

This phenomenon spreads beyond the countries which can properly be called colonial. The Chinese Communists are extracting every ounce of advantage from the fact that, while Russia is not aiding them, Russia does exist; and the existence of Russia clouds the thinking of Americans who fear Communism — and Russia. As for the Viet Nam nationalists in Indo-China, their reasoning is not governed by any supposed caution of Russia toward France, but largely by their confidence that France will not get sufficient aid from Britain and America.

The French policy of shoot first and settle later in Indo-China can only be explained by analysis of France’s own society and the structure of French government. French colonial administration was always much more authoritarian than France itself. The colonial fonctionnaire was practically untouched by the ideas of the Resistance, in contrast with the younger men in the British service, who were quite widely tinged with Fabian Socialist thinking.

It was through forgetting nothing and learning nothing that the French lost Syria and Lebanon. The same Bourbon thinking threatens them with the loss of Indo-China, where the professional trigger men of the colonial police and colonial armed forces gambled on their ability to shoot nationalism full of holes in the interval between provisional government and permanent government at home in France.

The Dutch keep the lid on Indonesia

The problems of Holland and Indonesia fall in a special category, since Holland is in part a true colonial power, and in part only the imperial caretaker for powerful American and British consumers of such colonial raw materials as oil, tin, quinine, and rubber. Fighting in Indonesia, in spite of an armistice, has been quite as severe as fighting in IndoChina, but the curtain of censorship has been kept down much more effectively.

Both sides have tried to wedge into better positions. The Dutch have especially concentrated their efforts on creating incidents which would enable them to get into positions dominating oil fields and refineries. There has been some savagery. The Dutch have bombed and machine-gunned villages from the air. They have also intercepted British and Chinese vessels, perhaps in order to increase the economic stringency in ports and areas held by the Indonesians.

The Indonesian leaders have rallied their followers with fighting statements, but in the main they have concentrated on situations leading to negotiations. It is to their advantage to negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate again, because the more negotiation is publicized in Holland, the less likely it is that the Dutch will continue at fighting pitch.