Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 16. August 14, 1952
"Peking Nearer Than London" — Quaker Tells the Truth On China
"Peking Nearer Than London"
Quaker Tells the Truth On China
A Detailed description of the "moral regeneration" which the new Government has brought to China and a stern reminder that Peking is closer to us than London, highlighted an address given in the College last week by Mr Courtney Archer. Mr Archer is a New Zealander who went to China with the Friends' Ambulance Unit in 1945 and has since been working with Rewi Alley at Sandan. He spoke in C.3 on Tuesday, August 5, to a meeting of over 150 people, sponsored by the S.C.M. and the Socialist Club. Mr. James Bertram was in the chair.
Quietly-spoken and carefully factual, Mr. Archer immediately impressed his audience with his sincerity and his thorough knowledge of China and her people.
Mr. Archer attributed to the war the impetus for recent events in Asia. Japan had shattered the White Invincibility Illusion, and resistance to Japan had taught the Asian peoples how to organise themselves. Western governments had failed to recognise the altered mood of the Asian people—who were demanding self determination and economic advancement. Both these demands implied an end to colonialism and foreign exploitation.
"The success of the Communists has not been in conversions to Marx's philosophy," said Mr. Archer, "but in their practical tackling of these two demands."
Land for the People
One of the hardest tasks had been the breakdown of old barriers between China proper and the national minorities in the Republic. Years of racial discrimination had to be overcome.
Immediate result of land reform was an increased standard of living for the man on the land. With an end to rack-renting and crippling taxation, peasants felt they were working for themselves, and worked with a well to increase output.
The Malthusian myth that China was suffering from over-population was exploded by the fact that largo arable areas had never been cultivated. Productivity had greatly in creased since 1949. The sending of grain to India during the famine was made possible by a hugely increased grain harvest.
Challenge to the Church
Greatest characteristic of the government had been the honesty and democracy of the administration. Ordinary local inhabitants had been brought in at all levels. "The new Government has developed democracy from the grass-roots—upwards from the ordinary people."
All facets of life were controlled by organisations of the common men and women. There was complete freedom to criticise, and an end to corruption and privilege. There is a strict insistence on honesty, and everything relating to the people's livelihood is fully discussed by everyone concerned before it is carried out.
"Christian missionaries have described this change in moral attitudes us a 'spiritual regeneration'," said Mr. Archer. 'They are a tremendous moral challenge to the Christian church."
As on the land, the fullest democracy, and "criticism and self-criticism" had been earned into the big urban work-places, and even into the schools.
Far East : Near North
Mr. Archer described the role of students in the revolution. Under the [unclear: K] Min Tang, the enthusiasm and [unclear: legalism] of young students were frustrated by police pimping and brutal persecution. Many ran away to the north to join the Peoples Army. Today they were occupying responsible positions. Universities have a new role in training older as well as young citizens.
"The picture I have given you of China today is not entirely the same as the one presented in your newspapers." said Mr. Archer. "Some people in New Zealand tend to get emotional about changes in Asia, and when that happens, truth is the first casualty.
"The people of China are our neighbours. What happens in our Near North affects us. Peking is a great deal closer to us than London."
Mr. Archer ended his address by appealing to students to make-sure that New Zealand sent a big and representative delegation to the Asian and Pacific Peace Conference in Peking next month. The chairman announced that a collection was being taken up for this purpose—which topped £5/10/-.
What About Missionaries?
Questions were many and varied, but mainly concerned details of the Chinese scene.
Of the position of the Christian, Mr. Archer stated that religious freedom was guaranteed both on paper and in practice. He had seen the congregation going into the Southern Baptist Church at Sandan the day he left. Unsatisfied, the Full-bright questioner rose again to describe how several missionaries had been killed and tortured.
In reply, Mr. Archer said that like everything else, the Chinese Churches were being increasingly run by Chinese. Closing of missions was largely the result of U.S. embargo on finance. In practice, any way many missions had little effect on the ordinary people. The simplest home in a mission compound was more lavish than a landlord's, and at most only 5 of China's 500 million were Christians. Moat mission hospitals (except Quakers') were almost full of paying patients—which meant the wealthy. Missionaries were linked in the people's minds with overseas interests.
Mr. Archer's experiences of justice under the new regime made the "torture" stories hard to believe, but he said that some missionaries had been political agents first and missionaries second.
Of Corso aid to Sandan, Mr. Archer said that Government aid had made it unnecessary. They would rather Corso money went were it was needed—to Greece, Pakistan, etc.
Evidence of Germ Warfare.
On germ warfare: Mr. Archer had seen a Peace Committee exhibition in Peking of evidence that U.S. forces had used germ warfare in Korea and North-East China. Photographs, documents, statements by P.O.W's. combined to make up a convincing case. "The only question I have, said Mr. Archer, "is: 'Was the evidence found at the places and under the conditions stated?' I don't know the answer—but I do know that the Chinese scientists who made the investigations are among the best qualified in the world most of them educated in Britain or the U.S. I know one of them personally, and hold him to be a man of integrity. Still, the only final answer can be given by an impartial investigating commission acceptable to all parties."
On land reform: There certainly would be collectivisation of land at some later stage. Mutual aid terms" already pointed that way, but further mechanisation was a necessary preliminary.
On trade: China would welcome N.Z. wool and dairy produce, and had much to offer in return-notably tea and silks.
At vote of thanks was carried with a hearty round of applause. Although the meeting closed before 10.30. a group of about 30 members of the two sponsoring clubs gathered around supper, and cross-questioned Mr. Archer until 1 in the morning.