Forestalling a Fight in the Pacific

From the turmoil and strife of an Asia seething with hatred of the foreign devil comes one clear note of hope for restoration of amity. That note is interpreted by Mr. Nelson, who speaks with special authority, for he was a Canadian delegate to the meeting of the Institute of Pacific Relations held in Honolulu during the summer.

JOHN NELSON October 1 1925

Forestalling a Fight in the Pacific

From the turmoil and strife of an Asia seething with hatred of the foreign devil comes one clear note of hope for restoration of amity. That note is interpreted by Mr. Nelson, who speaks with special authority, for he was a Canadian delegate to the meeting of the Institute of Pacific Relations held in Honolulu during the summer.

JOHN NELSON October 1 1925

Forestalling a Fight in the Pacific

From the turmoil and strife of an Asia seething with hatred of the foreign devil comes one clear note of hope for restoration of amity. That note is interpreted by Mr. Nelson, who speaks with special authority, for he was a Canadian delegate to the meeting of the Institute of Pacific Relations held in Honolulu during the summer.


“The things that you learn from the yellow and brown Will help you a lot with the white.”

—Rudyard Kipling.

AT HONOLULU this summer there was a gathering which has been incontinently referred to in the sunny southern corner of MacLean’s, as “highbrow.” Perhaps the term was justified. There were many men and women there with degrees both before and after their names. By comparison there were too few from the walks of business. There were ethnological and sociological experts. Many had records of distinct achievement in various -climes. Some dressed after the manner of their kind. They talked in various tongues. But the things of which they spoke together as they consumed vast quantities of ices and punches under the fragrant poinseannas that throw their grateful shade across the wide campus of Punahou college, were neither impractical nor highbrow. They were as vital to the well-being of Canada tomorrow as the price of wheat seems to be to-day.

More than one hundred people of goodwill, foresight, and experience gathered there from nine countries that border the Pacific basin. They came from Canada and the United States; from Australia andNew Zealand; from China, Japan, and Korea; from the Philippines and Hawaii. None felt that they were dealing with abstractions. Briefly, their object was to take the initial steps to prevent a struggle about the borders of the Pacific, as senseless and as futile as that which has stained the shores of both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean with blood. If you ask men in the streets or clubs of San Francisco, Los Angeles or Seattle, four out of five will tell you that Japan and the United States will fight. You will not get as positive a declaration in Tokio or Yokohama. But the reason is more likely due to greater national reticence than to a different opinion. The European cataclysm taught us that war springs from a mental attitude. The folk who gathered at Honolulu thought it better to confer before fighting, instead of after, as has been done in Europe, where they are seeking to disarm minds after millions of bodies have been broken in combat.

The Institute of Pacific Relations was an adventure in friendliness. “Proprieties before arms,” quoted one of the Chinese delegates from his own classics. And all found that it was as natural and as easy for individuals of different nationalities to mingle and be real friends, and even come to have an affection for one another, as it seems easy and natural for governments to come into conflict.

Canada’s Interest

CANADA’S special interest lies in the fact that the causes which would bring the United States into such a struggle would almost certainly involve Canada, Australia and New Zealand. “I believe,” said Roosevelt, “that our future will be determined more by our position on the Pacific, facing China, than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe.” If true, that statement applies to Canada as well as to the United States. And it was uttered before the Great War had so vitally altered the relative “market” values of Asia and Europe.

The real issue is race prejudice and discrimination. In North America, the white man refuses the Oriental admission; in Asia he declines to submit

his laws. Every Caucasian nation, from the Asiatic standpoint, has offended. The United States has long since excluded the Chinese; it now debars the Japanese. Canada has heavily taxed the one, and rigorously limited the influx of the other. Australia veils racial discrimination behind a nominal literacy test of doubtful morality. To submit Sanscrit to a Japanese laborer as a test of intelligence, borders on buffoonery.

The Japanese have long protested. They have obtained more consideration than the Chinese. Sir Wilfrid Laurier urged that they merited different treatment because they had adopted western civilization. The Japanese comment ironically on this. They say they obtained full treaty recognition only after they had demonstrated in the Russo-Japanese war that they could murder as well as other civilized countries. China asks if she must wait for her rights till she can enforce them by arms. The recent action of the United States in totally excluding Japanese has caused deep bitterness. It came with a special shock because of the generous largesse of the States after the Tokio disaster. The Japanese are now saying that the United States is divided into two classes—Christians and Senators. At the Institute, Zamuto, the wise old legislator and editor from Tokio, made a shrewd thrust at this continent when he said:

“The trouble with America is that generally the talking and discussing of matters of high spiritual and cultural significance is done by one section of the community, and the practical job of shaping governmental action is left to another section. This national division of labor may, or may not, promote national efficiency, but it is certainly a convenient arrangement. It undoubtedly saves the noble-minded section a lot of trouble of an unwelcome nature. But its operation is very unfortunate for those who have to suffer by it.”

Maple Leaf and Rising Sun


DR. SAWAYANAGI, a member of the House of Peers, drew a contrast between Canada’s conduct and that of the United States, complimentary to the former which he said “had shown more tact and wisdom in dealing with this difficulty.” Canada, he pointed out, had regulated the matter by “diplomatic arrangement,” and Australia, in a way, “not openly offensive, though the real purpose of the law was easily perceivable.”

The refusal of British Columbia to grant the franchise even to Canadianborn Japanese elicited a different kind of comment. “Of course,” said one Japanese, “you can shut your door as tight as you please—only if you bang it with too much vigor you are in danger of disturbing the serenity of your neighbor. But once you take people in, the world expects you to treat them with ordinary decency and hospitality. That is only what an elementary sense of the duty one owes to oneself would demand.”

China, with an older and hence a greater cause for complaint, has been less vocal until recently in expressing it. This has been due in part to lack of coherence in her government. But her greater sensitiveness of late is due to a new sentiment growing out of the student agitation there. Yusuke Tsurumi, a son-in-law of Viscount Goto, and a frequent contributor to prominent United States magazines, tells the

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hippopotamus story to illustrate this new consciousness. “Why did you strike this man?” asks the judge. “Because he called me a hippopotamus.” “But when did he call you a hippopotamus?” “Three years ago.” “Why, then, did you not strike him till yesterday?” “Because I never saw a hippopotamus till yesterday.” The Japanese saw the mammal some time since; a new national consciousness has just disclosed his forbidding form to the Chinese.

The Ethics of Exclusion

THERE is an unmistakable tendency toward a combination of Asiatic powers. Tsurumi admitted frankly that young Japan was seeking a rapproche-

ment with China, just as in January his nation had made a more comprehensive treaty than had any European power, with soviet Russia. A plausible explanation is that Japan, seeking economic salvation, has became industrial, and must insure her supply of raw materials on the adjacent Asiatic mainland of Russia and China. By foregoing her extra-territorial rights, Russia has done something to placate China. Her propagandists meantime are not idle, and grave possibilities are involved. A Pan-Asiatic group of 900,000,000 people would speak on more subjects than emigration in a voice that could not be disregarded.

Canada and Australia, as well as the

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United States, were concerned in a broad principle advanced by Baron Sawayanagi. “It may be questioned,” he said, “from a purely moral point of view, and from the standpoint of world economy, whether any group of human beings can rightly enclose a large extent of land, and make little practical use of it, when there are other and larger groups, who are in urgent need of a breathing space.”

This tentative suggestion was later expanded in a significant paper by Dr. Takayanagi of the Imperial University of Tokio. He held that the right to migrate was an inherent and natural one, though qualified in international practice by the sovereign right of states, by virtue of pre-occupancy, to regulate immigration, for the protection of their national types. While accepting that qualification temporarily, the Japanese professor insisted that if sovereignty were conceived to be absolute and unlimited, it would make international life unbearable, and destroy all hope of cooperation in the cause of world civilization. Social requirements should modify it, as it had modified the eighteenth century view of the absolute character of property rights. The sensibilities and rights of other peoples had to be considered and respected whenever sovereignty was exercised.

Rather full reference is made to this proposition because of the impression it created, and its probable resurgence in future discussions on international relations and obligations. Dr. Takayanagi thinks all the nations on the Pacific should have immigration policies where the standards of admission should be objective and open; where the equality of states should be recognized; where conditions and regulations should be enforced by rule, and not arbitrarily; and where discrimination should no longer be based on race, but on personal merit, age, health, education, etc.

The immigrant, on the other hand, should receive the same treatment as nationals, draw the same scale of wages, participate in fixing labor conditions, and by merging himself fully in the life of the community should justify his recognition as a citizen.

How can this be done in the face of race prejudices?

The discussion which followed raised the whole problem of racial antagonisms, and the sociological experts had many theories with which to explain them. In this connection, a well known journalist, Chester Rowell, developed an interesting thesis which, in its implications, constituted a justification for the exclusion laws of his own country.

Antagonism of Race

RACE prejudice, he held, was the result of national apprehension, following mass migration from without, or rapid increase of those of another culture, within, a nation. Hence both the negro problem, and the Japanese Exclusion bill. He argued that if either Canada or the United States were to permit free entry of the Japanese the latter would present an even more difficult problem than the negro. The United States, he pointed out, had done several notable things for the colored man. It had found him ignorant and had given him knowledge; heathenish and had given him Christianity; enslaved, and had made him free; low in the economic scale, and had given him opportunity. In spite of all these boons, it had condemned him by convention, though not by law, to a caste. And that fearful doom of caste was too great a price to pay even for the great benefits mentioned.

This continent, he argued, could give the Asiatic practically none of the benefits it had given the negro, for the former already had culture, religion, and freedom. America can give opportunity, and that only. But with that opportunity must go, in the present state of public sentiment, the handicap of caste. This, Asiatics would not accept, and strife would follow.

He used the Indian and the Chinese as illustrations of an altered public attitude following the virtual disappearance of the one and the cessation of immigration of the other. Once, every man’s hand was against the red man; to-day with his disappearance, people do not hesitate to boast of Indian blood. When immigrating in mass, the Chinese

were the cause of bloodshed and riot; to-day, through exclusion, public apprehension has been allayed, and the Chinese are among the most popular of foreign races in the States. Mr. Rowell predicted that the total exclusion of the Japanese would soon result in a similar popularity for that race.

Though certain fallacies may mar the argument, it held sufficient logic to arouse much attention, and helps to justify some Canadian policies, as well as American ones.

The Canadian Viewpoint

THOSE in attendance from Canada were at some pains to explain Canada’s policies in dealing with Asiatics. An earnest effort was made to show the conditions which have compelled this country to proceed with great caution in accepting immigrants from across the Pacific. Prominent among these are the comparative infancy of the country; the fact that it is the home of two races instead of one, and that time has not yet permitted a fusion of these dual strains. A strong infusion of European blood has slowed down the processes of assimilation, and this has been aggravated during the past two decades by the trend of migration from southern, rather than from northern, Europe. Until Canada’s national type is more definitely established it is considered unwise, so the Canadian delegates told the Institute, to permit the Asiatic element to exceed a certain proportion of the whole. And the saturation point has now been reached. But Canada’s desire to protect herself with as little offence as possible to her neighbors was reflected in the courteous terms of the Gentlemen’s Agreement.

President Wilbur, of Stanford University, speaking for the Americans, also stressed the painful steps by which the United States had approached that degree of homogenity which President Low has declared every democracy must have if it is to succeed. He also spent some time in seeking to have the delegates from Asia understand the difficulties of a democracy whose government is responsive and responsible to a majority of the people who must be educated to an international point of view. Speaking of miscegenation he declared that the birth of children, misplaced socially, was an inevitable source of social dissatisfaction and discontent, and that a democracy, for its very existence, depended on a contented citizenship. It was satisfactory to hear Dr. Chen declare, at the close of the Institute, that while the Chinese delegates had come intent on certain reforms, they now realized it was idle to seek the improvement of external relations till their internal ones were adjusted, and that they were going home with a determination to become apostles of national unification.

Justice for China

IT IS evident that there can be no restoration of kindly relations between western nations and China until certain things are removed which now leave China with a sense of bitter injustice. Outstanding among these are the extraterritorial rights enjoyed by many western powers where, within territory which is theirs to control, they dispense law and justice through their own consuls. The Washington conference approved the removal of this abuse, following the report of a Commission which could indicate that Chinese courts could be relied upon. Chinese nationals are clamorous for this reform; but the issuance of the Commission is apparently delayed at the instance of the Chinese government itself. The Chinese also ask for the abolition or revision of the “unequal” treaties imposed on China in her days of distraction, and tariff autonomy with the removal of the five per cent, ad valorem duty on foreign goods, which facilitates dumping, is another demand.

Early recognition of China’s grievances will be not only an act of justice but of discretion. The mass education movement has swept over the republic; the people’s groups for common thinking and action; the New Thought movement to recover the intellectual heritage of China: the revival and socialization of the ancient religions; the students’ movement; and the new trend in finance are converging in a new national spirit. The old regime is still in control, but in ten

years, according to T. C. Koo, the younger element will be in the saddle. Four hundred millions of organized people need not pray for justice; they

can enforce it.

Honolulu was a significant place for the meeting. There the west meets the east as nearly as possible half way; and that was the spirit of the Institute. Hawaii is a world in miniature, in the midst of an ocean so vast that it equals the land area of the globe. More than twenty races live together there. Racial admixture is t he ethnic foundation of the Hawaiian democracy. The llawaiians are a diminishing minority, but control the legislature. The Japanese are now the major group, having forty per cent, of the population, but have no representatives in parliament. The 30,000 whites predominate in the financial and social world. When racial troubles arise the heads of the various groups meet and adjust them.

Europeans and Japanese preserve in the main the purity of their racial strains though a red-headed girl from Cincinnati is married to a dusky Japanese, and their offspring constitute a daring color scheme. Inter-marriage cuts across one-quarter of the racial lines. The Chinese inter-marry with others most freely, and the resultant cross is not inferior to the parent stock. A pretty Chinese girl of twenty-two is a professor in the University of Hawaii; folk songs of old China sung by some of the Chinese visitors were unintelligible to the Hawaiian Chinese. So “Jimmy” Yen, and some other Chinese graduates of Yale, had to call in Wong the banker, erstwhile of Harvard, and plague him with derisive college yells. Honolulu leaves many predelictions and prejudices topsy-turvy in the attic of the Caucasian mind.

Christianity and the Orient

THE United States has profited by Roosevelt’s prescience, in making the American Boxer indemnities available for the education of Chinese youths in American universities. American college graduates are heading up the nationalist movements; American financiers are endowing chairs in American politics in Eastern universities. “Jimmy” Yen, protagonist of the mass education movement, says his new text books have chapters on Washington and Lincoln, but none on British statesmen.

Canadian universities might take some steps to attract such students; and might increase their facilities for the study of Oriental languages and history. Graduates in these should man our immigration staffs, and our consular offices in the East. Greater contact and intercourse would do much to forestall misunderstandings and to facilitate and foster trade_ia-. -C;

One remaining impression. With few exceptions the Chinese delegates were Christians. But their acceptance of Christian teaching was marked by none of the reservations which western nations have found necessary in following Christian precepts. As interpreted and reflected by men like Koo, it leads to speculation as to whether Christianity, which is an Asiatic religion, has not waited for two thousand years for adequate interpretation at Oriental hands. Koo is an advanced leader in Christian thought to-day. It may well be that in the marvellous changes which are sweeping over the East, Christianity may cease to be an exotic religion of the west, but the true faith of the reilective and cultured philosophers of Asia. And in their hands it may become a hundred-fold more significant and vital than in the inadequate hands which so long have held it in keeping.