CANADA is to be heard at the Washington Conference. Overlooked by President Harding, we have, after some nervous signalling been singled out by Lloyd George; and when on November 11th the epoch-making gathering convenes, the Dominion, through representation on the British delegation—almost certainly ex-premier Sir Robert Borden—will have a voice in its deliberations and decisions. A far-reaching event, both for the privilege which it affords and for the recognition which it implies, it is at the same time but the concession of a claim of which justice prohibited a denial.
For Canada, quite apart from a general interest in disarmament, has a special, direct and compelling concern in this Conference and its consequences. We are, to begin with, a Pacific Power. Three thousand miles of our coastline and two of our greatest harbors are on the Pacific; ovr trade, carried by our own marine, extends rapidly to the Orient; Canadian financiers are extending loans to China; and as the centre of world gravity shifts to the Pacific, as Japan emerges as a mighty naval and military Power, and “Eyes East!” becomes the command of the times, Canada, with vital interests at stake, and as a possible cockpit in a Pacific-made Armageddon, must have a voice in Far Eastern policy.
At the heart of the Pacific problem is China. To the average Canadian the fate of China may seem a thing remote, distant, something with which he is but dimly concerned. Alas, we used to think in similiar terms of the Balkans. Before 1914 Serbia was but a name in Canada, yet it saw the beginning of the conflagration which consumed billions of Canadian treasure and sixty thousand of Canadian lives. And so, today, with China. That historic, ancient, mysterious country overshadows the entire Pacific problem.
Why is it that Japan and the United States are engaged in a mad race of naval rivalry? Why is it that we hear so much of Britain’s Far Eastern naval problem, of the need of an all-Empire naval squadron on the Pacific?
It is not because any of these countries fear attack or the seizure of their possessions. It is simply because of trade rivalry in China, because they talk about the “Open Door” and suspect each other of wanting to close it, because they have commercial interests in a country which, torn by dissension and civil strife, is at the mercy of other and richer peoples.
In the past twelve months the position has become serious. Rivalry has reached a point of peril and within the past few weeks the writer has been privileged to witness evidence which appeared to indicate with all too much impressiveness that unless the Washington Conference can find a way out a war of the greatest magnitude is coming in the Pacific.
Far Eastern Door only “Ajar”
BECAUSE she wants peace in the Pacific, because she looks askance at any condition that might in the future compel her to contribute to the maintenance of a powerful Imperial Pacific squadron, because—as Mr. Meighen demonstrated at the Imperial Conference—she favors settlement of Pacific problems by conferences and understanding instead of by force and alliances,
Canada at Washington will raise her voice for a unified, unexpioited and commercially and politically independent China. In other words, she will stand for the “Open Door” in the best and fullest meaning of the phrase.
For years past, the “Open Door” in China has been to most nations but slightly ajar. Propounded in ancient, musty treaties, expounded and defined in the famous notes which John Hay addressed to the European Powers and to Japan in 1899 and in 1900, interpreted as “spheres of interest” in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the policy,
examined in its only proper meaning, has all but ceased to function. In its place there have been intrigues and struggles for advantages, concessions won by the right of force, discrimination and exploitation. Against all of such evils Canada will press. Fortified by the fact that she has an economic interest in China that cannot be ignored, that she is a partner in the larger interests and responsibilities of the British Empire, and with a voice made more authoritative because a century-old agreement on her own Lakes provides a model for peace on the Pacific, she may well say to the Conference:
“The world as a whole needs a unified China: wants to trade with her, helping her to develop her resources, her labor, her minerals, her raw products.
There is an immense demand for it all, for imports and exports—room for every nation to contribute and to receive. Instead of individual activities and intrigues among the Great Powers, let our efforts be welded into a desire and an attempt to put China where she ought to be, to make her strong, prosperous, peaceful and self-reliant, thus removing a great peril to the peace of the world and making possible the limitation of armaments we all profess to desire.” Whether such an attitude will harmonize with the views of the representatives of Great Britain, remains to be seen. Britain, it must be remembered, has vast interests in China; also an alliance with Japan. It may well be that her interests as well as her Alliance will either make it difficult or entirèly prohibit her from taking the more altruistic view that Canada will or ought to press; it would not be the first time that the opinions of the Dominion failed to blend with the position of the statesmen of the Motherland. One of the glories of the Empire indeed, is that its constitution permits its component parts the diversity of disagreement. The Imperial Conference debates on the Japanese Alliance were a striking example of that truth.
Canada, the Originator
THERE is an added reason for Canadian interests in this Pacific Conference. It is that—and this can be supported by official and ascertainable facts—without Canada’s stand at the Imperial Conference the gathering at Washington would never have been held. Months before, as early as February, 1921, the Government of Canada, in an official communication to the Government of Great Britain, proposed such a Conference as is now being held. The proposal was not acted upon, but Mr. Meighen, realizing that an unmodified Anglo-Japanese Treaty stood as an obstacle to the adjustment of Pacific problems, and, consequently, as a menace to the continuance of peace, carried the fight to London. What he did there, how he opposed the Alliance, how he won the support of British statesmen and British journals who at first favored the Treaty being renewed, and how his demand for a Pacific Conference carried the Empire Congress and resulted in President Harding’s epochal invitation, are matters of history.
Hence it is Mr. Meighen’s, it is Canada’s policy that will be on trial in Washington in November. If failure should be its lot, which Heaven forbid, then we in Canada can at least have the consciousness that failure was in a splendid cause. If, on the other hand, the Conference succeeds, if, (in the words of Lloyd George) the Pacific Ocean is really made pacific, if a China, united, prosperous and happy is substituted for a China the prey of exploiters, the centre of intrigues and the breeding place of war, then Canada can with just pride claim credit for one of the finest achievements on behalf of humanity since statecraft became the hope of enlightened men.
So much for the Pacific; what of disarmament? Canada’s concern in disarmament, or, to be more precise, in the limitation of armaments, while not as vital as the concern of some other nations, is nevertheless very great.
There are many who will disagree with this statement. They will say, as Mr. Meighen has recently said, that Canada is paying less for naval and military defence than any other nation in the world, and that, therefore she has nothing to disarm. It is a narrow, superficial view. It is a superficial view, because it takes no account of the future, nor of a change that has taken place in our relationship to the rest of the Empire. Let us see what that change is, and what are its implications. At the Imperial Conference, this year, as, indeed, since 1918, we have insisted on a voice in British foreign policy. We have demanded the right to be consulted and heard upon all questions which, conceivably, might involve the Empire in war. We have carried our point to the extent of being consulted about the Japanese Alliance, about Silesia, about matters in question with France; and Mr. Meighen joined, at the Imperial Conference, in the expression of “a deep conviction that the whole weight of the Empire should be concentrated behind a united understanding and common action in foreign affairs.”
Now the meaning of this is clear. It is simply this: that if Canada is going to insist on having a voice in British foreign policy, insist on giving advice and expect to have it taken, then she must be prepared to back up the consequences of that advice to the full extent of her power. It will not be enough for her to say that she will be willing to fight; she must be able to demonstrate that she has force to employ. She must be in a position to say to Downing Street: “If my advice gets you into trouble,
here are men and ships in readiness to get you out of it. There is no other course, with honor.
Hence our interest in disarmament. If this Conference should fail, and the suspicions excited by failure should result in the nations that met to disarm parting to arm, the meaning for Canada would be clear. To play our promised part in “concentrating the whole weight of the Empire” behind “common action in foreign affairs, as well as to prepare for the possibility of a great conflict in the Pacific, we should have to commit ourselves to a gigantic expenditure on naval defence.
What a Further Burden Would Mean
IT IS NOT necessary to pause here to explain what this would mean. In five years we have seen our National Debt grow from $350,000,000 to $2,500,000,000. We have seen our inescapable, obligatory annual expenditures grow from $150,000,000 to $400,000,000 or more. We have seen our railways pass into a position where their losses represent a tax upon the Canadian taxpayer almost as great as the cost the British navy imposes upon the taxpayer of Britain. If, therefore, a situation arose whereby Canada was called upon to engage in the construction of armaments, whence would come the money? The truth is that, having regard to our present position, having regard to our crowding deficits, to our prodigious railway losses, the prospect of an additional fifty or seventy-five millions for naval and military defence simply appals. Such will be our fate, if the Conference fails.
Hence it is that Canada goes to this Conference with a hope and a yearning for peace. With her undefended boundary line, and her Great Lakes without ship or cannon as examples of what Rood-will can achieve, with her high mission as interpreter of the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race to inspire and sustain her, she will weigh in the balance for peace.
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Well may Canadians pause in their electioneering strife to wish the Conference well. Not that we should desire that all force should be wiped out, that the nations of peaceful motives should render themselves impotent to sustain justice and right, but because the condition of the peoples, and the terrible consequences that would ensue'from another war, decree that military and naval rivalry cease. Finally, and greater than all else, there is the debt that we owe to our dead. The sixty thousand Canadians who lie in God’s acre in Europe died for something better than that their descendants should be crushed under armaments or that they should suffer a more dreadful war. They died for the ideal of peace. If this Conference fails, as fail it must if it be not fortified by the public opinion of the world, then Armageddon was for naught, and there is no hope. If, however, it succeeds, as please God it will, then, in the mighty words of Jan Christian Smuts, humanity will have struck its tents and will be on the march once
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