What Can Japan Do for China?

By K. K. Kawakami

[The Independent; May 17, 1915]

The demands which Japan is now pressing upon China have aroused great anxiety among Americans who have feared for the safety of the infant republic of China. But the discussion has been carried on in the dark because of the uncertainty as to what the Japanese demands really involve. Now, however, their nature is sufficiently understood and we have in the following article an explanation of just what Japan wants and why. Mr. Kawakami is a recognized authority on the international relations of Japan, and his books, "Asia at the Door" and "American-Japanese Relations," have had a great influence over American thought. He came to this, country in 1901 and took graduate work in political science at the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin.—THE EDITOR.

America's interest in China is twofold. In the first place, we are anxious to maintain her territorial integrity. In the second place, our interest lies in the promotion of our commercial opportunity in China. In the minds of most Americans the first is more important than the second.

In presenting her proposal to Peking, Japan has repeatedly assured the powers that she has no intention of infringing upon China's integrity. Indeed she seems to be acting upon the belief that China's integrity cannot be preserved without her assistance and guidance. To understand Japan's policy we must place ourselves in Japan's position. From Suez to Singapore there is not a single nation which has not been stript of its last vestige of sovereignty. In northern Asia Russia has swept everything before her and has made herself the mistress of the maritime province which was once China's. Facing the brunt of the Western advance China has more than once been on the verge of disintegration.

Under such circumstances is it not natural that Japan should feel restive and strive to stay the tide of European aggression in China? Placed in a similar position how would the American people feel? Suppose that the whole continent of South America had passed under the European yoke, that Mexico had repeatedly been invaded by European forces, that Canada was-occupied by a hostile power, and that the United States, with an area not larger than the single state of California, was the only nation which had, by dint of constant vigilance, managed to escape the fate of her unfortunate neighbors. In such a position the United States would go a step further than the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, and tighten her grip upon Mexico.

Here, however, we are chiefly concerned with Japanese influence upon American trade in the Orient. Notwithstanding all manner of unsympathetic criticisms, Japan's methods of commercial competition are fair and honorable. In Korea, for instance, American trade began to forge ahead as soon as Japan established a protectorate over the peninsula. In 1903 American export to Korea totaled only $199,188, while the figures for the preceding years were much smaller. With Japan the mistress of the country in 1904 American export to Korea suddenly increased to $906,557. Since 1904 the progress of American trade to Korea has been both steady and rapid, until in 1913 it amounted to the handsome sum of $3,925,000. In other words, American export to Korea has increased almost twenty times in the ten years following the establishment of the Japanese protectorate.

Apart from her export trade the United States has a considerable interest in Korea, as a number of Americans are engaged in mining and other enterprises there, while American missionaries exercize potent influence among the natives. As a Japanese I do not feel at liberty to speak in laudatory terms of what Japan has done for the benefit of such foreigners. I shall let foreign observers speak for me. "We are thankful," says Dr. James S. Gale, who went to Korea as the representative of the Toronto University Y. M. C. A., "for a good government, a fair government, a government that has treated the missionary and the church with marked courtesy, a government that is wise and far-seeing, a government that not only protects from epidemics of typhus and plague infection, but a government that is determined to rid the land of the spirit of lawlessness, which if it be in the church cannot but work its ruin."

A correspondent of the Boston Christian Science Monitor, writing from Seoul, tells us that when Japanese rule was established in Korea the traders and contractors who had special interests protested and grumbled and were both ready and willing to pay in order that their protests might be heard abroad. It was easy to play upon the string of the sentiment that always finds pity for the under dog to sound the false note that brings a ready response from the unwary sentimentalist. Yet, when the correspondent says, "under new conditions of hopeful, one might truthfully say, benign administration, the Korean is finding existence better worth while; there is hope for the people, and the millions in this new generation are building up Korea for the Koreans, protected by new laws, taught in new schools, free to come and free to go, free to labor and free to learn." As for foreigners, "the mining laws have been made equitable for all and now English, French, Germans, Americans and Japanese are digging minerals in ever increasing quantities and at ever increasing profit."


The Japanese Administration extended to all mining concerns, irrespective of nationality, the privilege of importing free of duty all machinery and materials to be used for mining purposes. It added copper to the list of minerals exempt from export duty—an immunity which had previously been applied only to gold and silver. In addition to such legislation, foreign concerns operating various mines in Korea have been materially benefited by the extension to their mining districts of postal and telegraph facilities, and the installation of police stations necessary to maintain order among mining laborers—facilities which under the old regime no foreigner could even so much as dream of enjoying.

In Manchuria Japan's activities have proved equally beneficial. In describing the business methods of various nations in Manchuria, Mr. Robert Porter, author of The Full Recognition of Japan, says: "The Japanese methods are distinctly modern, up-to-date, and pushing; the Russian cumbersome and bureaucratic; the Chinese conservative and easy-going." It must be admitted that the influence of Japan's economic policy in that territory is more distinctly noticeable than that of any other country. "The management of railways, the establishment of steamship lines, harbor construction, mining, factory building, the establishment of technical and other schools, of experimental stations, laboratories and of hospitals are all hopeful signs."

Much has been said' of Japanese discrimination against foreign commercial interests in Manchuria. And yet a British merchant in Changchun, Manchuria, writing in Mr. Porter's book, assures us that "Japan has fulfilled all her obligations and continues to do so in the development of Manchuria." "Woe betide the day," he exclaims, "if the country comes under Russian influence or if it is handed back to the control of the Chinese."

The fact that American trade in Manchuria has decreased since the establishment of Japanese influence is no indication that Japan has been resorting to inequitable means. Foreign merchants in Manchuria who are open-minded enough to see the situation in the true light freely admit that Japan's rapid commercial advance in that country is in no sense due to any favoritism on the part of the railways or of the government, but has been attained, as Mr. Porter tells us, "by a steady, careful nursing of the country on the part of the Japanese." For one thing, Japanese firms hold large stocks of goods at all the principal commercial centers and are able to supply the wants of the community at short notice.

It must be remembered that European and American merchants have been greatly handicapped in that they have been trying to sell goods for cash, the one thing the natives are short on. On the other hand much of Japanese trade in that country has been of the nature of barter, exchanging their merchandise with beans, bean-cake and bean-oil, which constitute, the premier product of Manchuria. Indeed the Japanese control of the soya bean is the key to Japanese commercial supremacy in Manchuria. Mr. George Bronson Rea, editor of the Far Eastern Review (Shanghai, China), touches the crux of the question when he says: "It is a far cry from high diplomacy to the humble soya beans, yet we hold to the belief that the past and present commercial situation and ultimate solution of the vexatious Manchurian question is bound up in the control of this one product."


Here is a country where there is no manufacturing industry and whose agricultural products can be enumerated upon five fingers. Beans and their byproducts, bean-cake and bean-oil, constitute its only important produce. The annual crops of beans is approximately 1,000,000 tons, which has-a value of $25,000,000. How is Manchuria to dispose of this enormous quantity? Manchurians themselves do not want them, for their staple food and their animal feed are millet. Europe and America do not know or at any rate have not known how to utilize them. Japan gaining the control of the beans naturally succeeded in establishing her commercial supremacy in Manchuria. As Mr. Rea justly says:

"Under these conditions the foreign merchants and their agents in the interior were placed at a disa

dvantage from the outset. As they could not penetrate into the interior and purchase beans by an exchange of commodities, they were reduced to selling their wares for cash—the one commodity universally scarce. The decadence of American and European imports followed as a natural consequence. This, in short, is the real reason for Japan's success in Manchuria."


It is unfortunate that America and Japan cannot act harmoniously in regard to China. On the one hand, America is loath to admit that Japan's steps in China are taken not to satisfy territorial ambition but for the purpose of self-defense for both China and herself. On the other, Japan interprets the American occupation of the Philippines and other American activities in the Far East as a part of the empire scheme upon which she thinks this country has embarked.

Back of this discord in the Far East is the immigration question, or more accurately, California's attitude toward the Japanese. Before the California situation loomed upon the diplomatic horizon, Japan was most considerate and courteous in dealing with America in the Orient, but the unhappy condition developing on the Pacific coast inevitably cooled her friendly feeling toward this country. Not that she insists upon sending her emigrants to these shores, but because her conciliatory attitude on the immigration question seems to receive no appreciable response from America. Worse still, certain forces in this country have been conspiring to create the ghost of Japanese invasion of Mexico, from what motives no one knows.

Japan never had any vital interest in the emigration of her subjects to this country. She knows that her destiny lies in the Orient. She has already made many important concessions to America on the immigration question. She will no doubt adhere to the "gentlemen's agreement" for many years to come. Just because Japan is ready to meet America half way in the matter of immigration, it is imperative that America should show a greater spirit of generosity in dealing with the Japanese. With the judicious treatment of the Japanese in America fully guaranteed, there is no reason why Japan would not receive with open arms Americans and American enterprise in al] parts of the Orient.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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