Rebuilding Our Policy in Asia

The incarceration of the American consul at Mukden, President Truman has characterized as an outrage; it leaves no doubt of the determination with which the Chinese Communists are standing up to us. It e need a new policy, and for its definition the Atlantic turns to OWEN LATTIMORE, who has spent more than two decades in China, Japan, and the borderland between China and Russia. In 1943-1944 he was Deputy Director of the OWI in charge of the Far Eastern Division; today he is head of the Page School of International Relations. His new book, Pivot of Asia, will appear this spring under the Atlantic-Little, Brown imprint.

WHEN the White Paper on China was published last summer, one of its main purposes, beyond a doubt, was to shock the public into realization that an era of policy in Asia had closed. The Department of State has been in search of a new policy ever since. The search has been headed by a top-drawer committee consisting of Dr. Raymond B. Fosdick of the Rockefeller Foundation and President Everett N, Case of Colgate University, under the chairmanship of Ambassador-at-Large Philip C, Jessup. It has held conferences and consultations which prove that it realizes that in launching a major new policy it is as essential to take soundings of opinion at home as it is to calculate the forces abroad with which the policy must deal.

In clearing the way for a fresh approach, it is well to remember that it is never possible to sit down and draft an “ideal" policy as if no previous policy had existed. There is always the problem of disentangling the new policy from the lingering effects of whatever it was that went wrong with the old policy.

The White Paper has documented the reasons why the type of policy represented by support for Chiang Kai-shek has, in recent months, done more harm than good to the interests of the United States. Nor is there any modification of this type of policy that promises well for the future. In face of the temper of Asia today, to force any American nominee into the role of a Chiang Kai-shek is to condemn him in the eyes of his own people. To try to line up a team of little Chiang Kai-sheks, when support of the once great Chiang has failed, would be a confession of futility. For the Chiang Kaishek whose fall dragged American prestige with it had been in his time a unique figure in Asia, who had captured the imagination of his people as a leader during the war, but failed to hold their confidence as the builder of a new social and political structure after the war.

The eclipse of Chiang has not even left behind the moral prestige of a good but losing fight in defense of a weak cause. On the contrary, the Kuomintang, under the increasingly jealous and narrow leadership of Chiang, put up the worst possible defense of a cause that was originally good and should have won.

It is not probable that the new China can be brought into line by economic coercion. The Chinese Communists need to achieve only a minimum level of economic stability in order to make their regime politically tolerable enough to the majority of the Chinese people to prevent widespread risings. It would be exceedingly unwise to assume that they will fail to achieve this minimum. The record shows that during the years when their strongholds were in the worst regions of chronic famine in China they handled with competence the elemental problems of food and distribution.

A quick survey shows that there is no country in Asia that can serve as a substitute for China under the Kuomintang, as an instrument of the kind of American policy that tried, through support of the Kuomintang, to control the balance of power in Asia.

India, in spite of Communist accusations, is not under a “Kuomintang" type of government, nor is Nehru a Chiang Kai-shek. India is anti-Communist, and wary of Russia, but it is not ant i-Russian to the extent of being willing to serve in the front line against Russia. Nor will India offer to the United States the economic ascendancy that Kuomintang China was willing to offer. The bankers and industrialists of India are stronger than those of China. Having thrown off British political control, they will not willingly come under American cont rol.

Japan, though docile in defeat, cannot be made a satisfactory instrument of American policy. There are only two alternatives in Japan. The first is for the United Stales to keep Japan alive by “blood transfusions" of raw materials and credits. Under heavy enough subsidy — the cost is currently estimated at half a billion dollars a year — Japan can be given the surface appearance of a willing ally; but the reality will be overcommitment of American resources to a distant and vulnerable region.

Under the second alternative, Japan can keep itself alive by coming to terms, economically and politically, with its neighbors in Asia, and especially with Communist-controlled China, which is Japan’s natural supplier of iron ore and coking coal. Under this alternative, Japan cannot become a trusted American ally. Its own interests will compel it to balance and bargain between what it can gel out of Asia and what it can get out of America. The best that Japan can hope for in the way of true independence is independence of maneuver; and it is the honestly patriotic Japanese who will insist on a national policy of maneuver.

Southeast Asia is a region of no supreme power. Europe cannot possibly recover the power that it once exercised in its colonial domains. The power lost by Europe has not fallen to America, and cannot be created afresh by America. Yet, at the same time, no nation in Southeast Asia has yet won its own revolution, as China has, and not one has the power to direct its own future regardless of friendly relations with Europe and America, The region as a whole demands three-way European-AmericanAsian compromises, the basis of which must be the restoration of economic activity. Europe must make greater political concessions than it hits yet been willing to make. The United States must, for the sake of Europe, make economic grants to Southeast Asia and not simply grants to finance recovery of European economic control over Southeast Asia. The nationalist leaders of Southeast Asia must be persuaded that any sacrifices they are asked to make are not designed to give priority to the interests of Europe, but to bring joint benefits to Asia and Europe, on terms that advance, even if they do not completely satisfy, the Asian aspiration to equality.

Such minor countries as the Philippines and Korea cannot be made major bases of American action. South Korea, especially, Is an American liability. It is doubtful how long the present regime in South Korea can be kept alive. The mere effort to keep it alive is a bad advertisement which continually draws attention to a band of little and inferior Chiang Kai-sheks w ho as a barrier against the Communists have the backing of the hated, Japanese trained police but not the people, and have lost the respect of groups and movements throughout Asia which would like, with American backing, to move toward a future democracy.

Great wariness is needed in American handling of the relationship between China and Russia, The United States cannot assume that Russia will move in and take over direct control in China, and will thus become subject to heavy economic and strategic strains. It is dangerous to assume that there will be a diversion of Russian resources toward Asia that will limit Russia’s ability to maneuver in Europe. Recent developments in the Far East have been favorable to Russia, but not in a way that lessens the resources that Russia can deploy toward Europe.

When such a move as an economic cordon sanitaire around China is considered, policy toward Russia is also involved. Blockade would increase Chinese dependence on Russia, but probably would not force Russia to undertake a large program in China. It is possible for China to get along for years at a more comfortable subsistence level than that which prevailed during the long years of the war with Japan and the civil war.


WHEN an old policy will no longer work, it is a fundamental error to try to make if work by simply “turning on more juice.”Fortunately, however, a new policy can attain positive objectives.

Policy in Asia and policy toward Russia, whether the future holds peace or war, have a bearing on each other. It certainly cannot yet be said, however, that regional wars in Asia to stop the spread of Communism, involving a major over-all commitment of American resources, have become either inevitable or desirable for their own sake. Nor can it be said that, in the event of an armed conflict undertaken for the purpose of forcing Russia back from Europe, the Far East would be a decisive or even an advantageous field of operation.

Long-range policy must always keep in sight both alternatives — war and peace. If there is to be war, Russia can be defeated only in Russia — not in North Korea, Viet Nam, or even China. Sound policy should therefore avoid premature or excessive strategic deployment in the Far East. If peace can be maintained for a long period, it will be possible primarily because of stabilization of the relations between the United States and Russia. Sound policy should therefore aim at the maximum flexibility. If mutually accept able agreement s with Russia should become possible American policy in Asia should be in a position to contribute to the necessary negotiations. It should not be so mired down in local situations that major AmericanRussian negotiations are actually hampered.

At the same time, any new departure in United States policy in Asia must be proof against the accusation of “appeasing” Communism as a doctrine or Russia as a state. At this point, polities at home interact on policy abroad. Any proposed United States policy in Asia that is attacked in America itself as a bid for better relations with Russia runs the danger of being defeated.

On the other hand, any United States policy that is interpreted in various countries in Asia as a maneuver to create a league against Russia will merely increase the ability of those countries to bargain with Russia, as well as with the United States. It will also increase the identification, in those areas, between nationalism and Communism.

There is only one way to escape this dilemma. United States policy should aim to increase the ability of countries in Asia to do without Russia, by encouraging a steady improvement of the threeway economic relationship between Asia, Europe, and America, including the resumption of the supply of raw materials from Asia, the sale of Europe’s manufactures in Asia, and American financing both of industrialization in Asia and recovery in Europe. ’The American financing should be undertaken as a sound enterprise in increasing production and consumption, not as a doling out of subsidies to keep the economies of Asia and Europe stagnantly alive.

Even China is within reach of this kind of policy, because many of t he things that China needs can be got in better quality and greater quantity from the Enited States than from Russia. Such a policy is much more modest in aim than a policy of organizing hostility to Russia on a grand scale; but the aim is at least attainable, whereas the aim of a unified and organized hostility to Russia throughout Asia is unattainable.

In organizing non-dependence on Russia as an alternative to hostility against Russia, United Slates policy in Europe and Asia must be coördinated. Europe cannot become healthy by accepting American subsidy as a permanent “new order.” replacing world trade. America is not strong enough to subsidize Europe, coerce Asia, stockpile against Russia, and maintain a prosperous democracy in the United States, all four at the same time. Most

of Asia is strong enough to resist reconquest bv Europe, but with the exception of China is not strong enough to threaten to close its doors entirelv to European and American trade.

The grounds for compromise therefore exist. They are: less control over Asia than Europe wants; less political independence in some countries, and less economic independence in most countries, than Asia wants; more socialism, more stale enterprise, and more neighborly relations with Russia than America wants.

On these grounds of compromise, United Slates policy in Asia can be rebuilt successfully enough not only to stabilize Asia, but to contribute to the stabilization of t he world.

’To implement a policy of this general character, the first step should be to channel a 11 the necessary agreements through the United Nations. There has been an increasing tendency to make agreements, when they can be made, outside of the United Nations, in order to enhance national prestige, and to bring to the United Nations chiefly those debates that end in stalemate. ’There is no better way to mobilize American public opinion afresh than to bring to the United Nations negotiations that end in agreement.

For the problem of the recognition of the new government of China, the United Nations offers thi’ ideal avenue to a solution. If, with no pressure against China from the United States, a majority7 of non-Communist countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia should vote to seal new Chinese representatives to the United Nations, the United States should not vote against that verdict. Deferment lo the majority among the non-Communist nations would come gracefully from the United States, and would be a blow to the Russian propaganda that the United States seeks to dictate to the block that it leads.

After recognition in the United Nations, it should be made clear that direct relations between Washington and Peking depend on the friendliness or unfriendliness of Peking, not Washington. For the United States to penalize the Chinese people for having a government not approved in advance by Washington would be a diplomatic mistake that would have repercussions throughout Asia. For the Chinese government to inflict hardship on the Chinese people by denying them trade with America would be a mistake that would register instantly throughout Asia, and most deeply of all in the minds of the Chinese people.

If would be foolish lo think that the United States could ever win the real friendship of a Communist government. It would be equally foolish to go on neglecting the fact that people under a Communist government can only bring real pressure to bear on their government when it is the people, rather than the government, who benefit from friendly relations with the United States.