Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 11 June 15, 1938
The East Moves West
The East Moves West
The war in the East is more than a struggle between Japan and China. It is probable that the course of human affairs for the next hundred years is being decided on the Asian shore of the Pacific.
A glimpse of what is involved is seen in the famous Memorandum of the then Prime Minister, General Tanaka, to the Emperor of Japan in 1927. The authenticity of this little-known document has been disputed but never officially denied, and the close adherence of subsequent Japanese policy to the details of its contents shows that it is entitled to more publicity than Japanese statesmen or consuls allow it. Here it is:
"In order to conquer China, we must first conquer Manchuria and Mongolia. In order to conquer the world we must first conquer China. If we are able to conquer China, all the other Asiatic countries and the countries of the South Seas will fear us and capitulate before us. The world will then understand that Eastern Asia is ours.
"With all the resources of China at our disposal, we shall pass forward to the conquest of India, the Archipelago. Asia Minor. Central Asia, and even Europe. But the first step must be the seizure of control over Manchuria and Mongolia. . . .
"It seems that the inevitability of crossing swords with Russia on the fields of Mongolia, in order to gain possession of the wealth of North Manchuria, is part of our programme of national development . . . Sooner or later we shall have to fight against Soviet Russia. . . .
"One day we shall have to fight against America. If we wish in future to gain control over China we must crush the United States."
If the present conflict can be fitted into its place in this plan, and seen in perspective, it appears that more is involved than the Japanese Consul has told us.
The first move was the invasion of Manchuria in 1932. It proved to be the first of the steps which led from a relatively secure and peaceful world to the international anarchy we know to-day, and the responsibility for that movement rests to a large extent upon the British Government. The invasion of Manchuria was the first important act of aggression by a major power in the post-war world. Had it been stopped by a united League of Nations—and. make no mistake, it could have been stopped—it would have had no successors. But Sir John Simon, then Foreign Secretary, told the League that Japans action "should be viewed in a spirit of conciliation and sympathy." and by using the whole influence of Britain, prevented the League from taking action. More outspoken still was Sir Nair Stuart Sandeman, who told the House of Commons on 27th February, 1933: "I am frankly pro-Japanese, actively pro-Japanese, because I believe that the Japanese will settle this question of Manchuria, and the less time that is spent in settling the row in Manchuria the sooner we shall get on doing trade in China."
As British warehouses in the Yangtse Valley go up in flames, and as the £180,000,000 worth of British big business interests in Shanghai totter on the verge of seizure by the Japanese, it is faintly consoling, if consolation be possible amongst the slaughter involved, to recollect these wise words of a representative "Nationalist" back bencher, and to watch the bird liberated in 1932, coming home to roost.
But what lies behind the extending Japanese war offensive? There are two important groups of factors. The first is the internal situation in Japan. Here, the growing economic difficulties of a highly-concentrated monopoly capitalism (some say that industry in Japan is controlled by fewer than 20 families), necessitating a drive for markets and places to invest capital, have combined with increasing poverty amongst the peasants to produce serious unrest, forcing the ruling militarist-Fascist elements to try to find a solution along the now orthodox capitalist lines of war and expansionist adventure. The second group of factors which have precipitated war is the cross current of conflicting international interests in China, especially those of America. Britain, and the Soviet Union; the common interests of the imperialist powers and of the growing capitalist class in China against a rising tide of Communism. The key to the success of the Japanese up to a few months ago lay in skilfully using these antagonisms; the Anglo-American rivalry to assure that no effective action (e.g., sanctions or economic boycott) shall be taken, and the internal antagonisms in China to set up puppet governments in the northern provinces. The first of these cards may take yet another trick, but the second has taken its last. It is this international background that is of critical importance in the present world situation. If Japan is defeated the plans for the re-division of the world already prepared by the three signatories of the Anti-Comintern Pact, will have to be abandoned. That this