Does Japan Want War

CHARLES L. SHAW July 15 1935

Does Japan Want War

CHARLES L. SHAW July 15 1935

Does Japan Want War


A CROSS THE vast blue sweep of the Pacific, which for centuries has been faithful to its name, the sky is darkening. Canadians are asking—and they have a valid reason for asking—if a storm is

coming, or whether those threatening clouds in the Far East are merely part of a mirage. They are asking if behind those clouds the blood-red sun of Japan is rising to menace their security.

During the last few years Canadians have watched with increasing anxiety the signs of coming war in the Orient, the prospect of a clash between Russia and Japan or between the United States and Japan, and, looking at the map, have probably realized that such a conflict would concern them vitally. They have read of Japan’s defiance of the world; of Japan’s combing of the world for munitions; of Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations and the naval treaty; of Japan’s invasion of the world’s markets with cheap merchandise. They have read of growing hostility toward Japan’s policies especially in the United States and in Britain, and of both these nations’ vast preparations for defense. They have wo ndered what it all means—to Canada and to themselves and the peace of the world.

What, they ask, is the answer?

This article ventures merely a guess at the answer, but the guess is based on the opinions of recognized authorities, on statistics, and considerable study of the problems involved. And the guess, given for what it is worth, is that there won’t be war. There won’t be war—first, because there isn’t sufficient justification for it; because soberminded Japanese realize that a hot-headed war policy, if carried to its inevitable conclusion, could result only in national disaster; and because a war, to put it in terms that everyone understands, would cost too much.

But, first of all, before analyzing the background, let us

The Answer Is “No,”

look at the picture that meets the eye first—the outward signs of war. Frankly, the signs are visible in many places. Very little attempt has been made to hide them. Take war preparations, for instance. Never before has the United States made such a show of preparedness as this summer, when more than 200 of Uncle Sam’s fighting ships carried out extensive manoeuvres almost within sight of a resentful Japan. Bills were before Congress this year calling for an expenditure of $38,000,000 on naval establishments, including a $10,000,000 floating drydock on the Hawaiian Islands and additional appropriations for establishing bases at Midway and Wake islands and Guam, convenient stopping places for an American trans-Pacific air service that would be of great value in time of war.

More interesting perhaps from the standpoint of Canadians is the establishment of American air bases in Alaska, and the request to Ottawa for permission to build other such bases in Canadian territory to facilitate planes flying between the United States and Alaska. The military assumption behind all this is that an Asiatic force would strike at the United States by way of Alaska rather than by a more southerly route, for the shortest route from Seattle to Yokohama, passing just south of the Aleutians, is less than 5,000 miles, while from Yokohama to the nearest point in the United States via Hawaii is 6,316 miles. “Once the enemy is in possession of Alaska,” declared Alaska’s delegate to Congress this spring, “the enemy would be on the inside strategic line.”

Just what “the inside strategic line” is, the delegate did not specify, but if you consult your map you will possibly understand; and you will see, too, that British Columbia is also in that line. That conviction will be strengthened by the knowledge that in the United States a road through British Columbia from the State of Washington to Alaska is being advocated in part because of its “strategic value.”

Japan has also put on a “show.” Last fall her fleet staged war games in the North Pacific while jingoes in the United States grumbled and wrote editorials telling how easy it would be for Japanese planes to drop bombs on San Francisco. Japan is planning similar manoeuvres later this year. It was characteristic of the two peoples that while the American manoeuvres were accompanied by columns of publicity, the strictest secrecy prevailed about the Japanese strategy. The Japanese were less successful in shielding from the world the knowledge that they had passed the highest

naval and military budget in the nation’s history and that they intended to keep their mandated islands in the Pacific, even though, technically speaking, the mandate was no longer operative when Japan left the League of Nations.

Britain also put on some war games in the Pacific zone this year, chiefly with a view of testing Singapore’s claim to being the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” After spending $50,300,000 on the defense of this key spot in the Far East, Britain was curious to see what the investment had given her. A fleet representing a theoretical sea power of a hostile nation steamed toward Singapore, while scouting destroyers and bombing planes cruised in search of the “enemy.” An aircraft carrier, with twenty-three planes aboard, a cruiser and eighteen destroyers approached their rendezvous among the islands of the China Sea to make a surprise attack if the defending bombing planes—the real centre of the tactical problem being worked out —failed to halt the fleet. Four thousand soldiers of the Singapore garrison defended the base, in addition to destroyers, planes and guns. The demonstration was mimic warfare on a grand scale, and it indicated that a powerful fleet with large ships could penetrate the Straits of Malacca despite Singaix>re’s mammoth guns, and that once it had done so British seaborne trade with India would be at the mercy of the foe.

But it was also shown that squadrons of torpedo planes and flying boats, the former designed for attacks on warships a hundred miles from shore and the latter for patrol and defense of mercantile vessels, could alter the fortunes of the day, even after the Straits had been penetrated and the great fort silenced. The extensive use of planes, shown to be so essential in British strategy in the Orient, faced one serious difficulty—nature, in the form of monsoons at sea at one season of the year and dry river beds for the nine remaining months. Seaplanes couldn’t land under such conditions. But shrewd negotiators found a means of circumventing that obstacle. They knew that pious Moslems and Hindus had years ago built a series of artificial lakes, most of them in memory of relatives. Their original purpose had been irrigation, but the advancement of engineering had rendered them useless except to mosquitoes. British airmen visualized these lakes as a chain of incalculably valuable landing places for war planes, drove a bargain with the native owners, and provided Singapore with an important auxiliary defense.

British-Japanese War Unlikely

SO MUCH for the “signs” of war and the physical display of naval and military might by the powers that concern us most.

The vast expenditures which such activities represent are

not made merely for the fun of the thing: there is deadly seriousness about these war games. But while they may be necessary to demonstrate the power of the parties concerned and thus act as a check on possible aggression, they do not in themselves give valid cause for the belief that war is inevitable. Even though naval and military spokesmen have a reputation for making public statements with their tongues in their cheeks, there is universal denial that aggression is contemplated. Always, these sham battles are for purely defensive reasons.

Why should they be for anything else? Japan has no quarrel with Britain. While the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was in force both nations worked in friendly partnership in the Orient, and since the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen at the Imperial Conference in 1921 persuaded Britain to jettison this alliance because of the possibility of offending the United States, there has been no apparent lessening of goodwill between London and Tokio. So long as Japan does not attempt to extend her sphere of influence in China to such an extent as to menace Britain’s huge commercial interests there, Britain would probably prefer a strong Japan than a stronger Soviet Russia in the Far East, for the extension of communism through China to India is not a possibility for pleasant contemplation. Partly for this reason, Britain lias been patient and exceedingly cautious toward Japanese territorial policies in Manchuria and Japan’s flouting of the League and the naval conference.

Japanese merchandise, especially textiles, has interfered with British goods in many markets during the last two years, but hardly to an extent to warrant hostilities, as will presently be shown, and British safeguards have so far been adequate to curb the manifestations of Japan’s trade war most dangerous to British trade.

Other Possibilities

'“PENSION between Japan and Russia, the old adversaries, has eased appreciably this year. So long as Russia had control of the Chinese Eastern Railway through Manchuria and manned the road with communists there was constant irritation for Japan; but Russia has sold out and withdrawn from the Chinese Eastern, and everyone seems happy, particularly Japan. Fishing disputes that used to be a source of mutual annoyance have been settled amicably by Moscow and Tokio. The spread of communism in China might have provided another motive for war, but the Chinese soviet republic has so weakened in recent months that Japan has ceased to regard herself as the only bulwark against communism in the Orient. In addition to all this, Russia, now a member of the League of Nations, is more

interested just now in happenings on the Western front.

There is a long list of grievances between Japan and the United States, chiefly due to American insistence on the Open Door policy in China and the barrier against Japanese immigration in the Coast States. These have been the basic cause of endless friction, but, however exaggerated, it does not seem sufficient to touch off the sjxirk of war. Japan was annoyed when the United States compelled Japan to accept the terms of the Russo-Japanese treaty without indemnity; when Theodore Roosevelt made his spectacular “show of might” by sending his fleet around the world; when Taft declared that the American Government would always uphold China’s political independence; when Washington exposed Japan’s Twenty-One Demands on China in 1915 and Japan’s effort to enforce them three years later; when the United States insisted that Japan evacuate Siberia after the Russian revolution; when the United States interfered with Japan's 4 plans in Shantung and criticized Japan’s aggression at Shanghai and in Manchuria, afterward refusing to recognize Manchukuo.

Nearly everyone who has voiced the expectation of war in the Pacific pictures Japan as the attacking force. Japanese statesmen and even Japanese militarists have protested their peaceful intentions in vain. Japan has been judged on her record, and that unquestionably has been such as to strengthen the contention that the Japanese are proud, ambitious, excessively sensitive, convinced of the efficacy of force in driving bargains, and carry an eternal chip on their shoulder. In other words, they have the temperament for war.

Modernization Forced on Japan

AND JUST WHY should the Japanese be that kind of nation; why should they always take the view that their neighbors are trying to put something over on them? Why should they have clone so many things to create the impression among other nations that Japan will not be satisfied until it has made war on the West?

To find the answer to these riddles, it is necessary to go back a long time.

In the early fifties, of the last century the Western nations, represented by the American, Commodore Perry, and his gunboats, presented an ultimatum to a Japan that until then had been strongly isolationist. Japan would trade with the Western nations—or else. Japan had no desire to have foreigners carve up small but valuable slices of her territory for their own use, as they had done in China. Japan accepted what she considered the lesser of two evils. She opened her ports to world commerce, but retained

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control of them; and. having gone so far, she soon decided to go the whole way and Westernize. Not only would she do business with the foreigners; she would do business in the foreign way, adopt foreign methods even if it meant revolutionizing her whole system. No nation in all history has attempted so complete a transformation in such a comparatively brief span of time— and succeeded.

Japan adopted the Western style, as we have said, about eighty years ago. And what was that Western style then? Fundamentally, it stood for modernization, the application of steam to production and transportation, the adoption of machinery, urbanization of labor and, lastly, the recognition of power by the sword. What was that decisive gesture of Commodore Perry with his gunboats if not a spectacular demonstration of the West’s belief in the principle of force? The final factor that determined Japan to make her historic step from feudalism to modernism had been the show of armed force, the threat of bombardment.

Rising from the long slumber from which she had been so roughly awakened, Japan, looking out on an Asia that had already been pretty thoroughly subdivided and allotted, decided that if imperialism was part of the Western game, she would play it too. Slowly at first, then with a rapidity that astonished the world, Japan built up a war machine, and in the Sino-Japanese war demonstrated that she had learned and profited from her lesson in imperialism.

“Unfair Competition”

A FACT THAT has always puzzled Japan is that, almost concurrently with her “coming of age,” the Western nations altered their code of ethics. John Buchan in his book, The People's King, tells how the change affected Britain. “The dream of imperialism,” he writes, “the closer union of the British race in one great pacific commonwealth, had lost something of its glamor, tending to sink to a form of race chauvinism or a mere scheme of commercial protection.” Other nations felt a similar change in national spirit, and when Japan gained a small foothold in Manchuria as a result of her Sino-Japanese victory, those other nations, acting as umpires, informed Japan that she could not keep it. Surprised and disappointed, Japan withdrew and her suspicions that there seemed to be one rule for the white nations and another for the yellow were strengthened when the German Kaiser raised the “Yellow Peril” cry.

For the first time, Japan became raceconscious. Her prestige rose again when she whipped Russia and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was born. She won political equality in world counsels, but the exclusion laws in California, drafted in such a way as to hide nothing of the insult they implied, stung her to the quick; and she felt hurt, too, when the “White Australia” policy was enunciated. Canada was more diplomatic in the handling of the gentleman’s agreement that restricted Japanese immigration, but this was just one more intimation to Japan that she was very foolish indeed if she imagined that by agreeing to play the Western game she could play it in the Western clubrooms.

But Japan could not tum back. In building her war machine, she had not neglected the industrial arts. With a natural genius for imitation and tireless industry, Japan took full advantage of the war boom and the preoccupation of the warring nations to gear her factories to the highest speed, and to spread her trade tentacles to all sections of the globe-—much to the alarm of the commercial nations of the West.

Now, Japan did not push her manufacturing and foreign sales merely because it was amusing to watch the older industrial nations wince. In a country whose experiences in other spheres had already made her

extremely sensitive, it was anything but pleasant to listen to the bitter criticism of an angry world and the protests of “unfair competition.” Obviously there was a deeper motive for a programme so damaging to reputation. The motive was nothing less than national self-preservation. The population of Japan had been practically stationary during the two centuries that preceded her westernization. When isolation ended and Japan turned from agriculture to industry, the birth rate multiplied. Biologists will tell you there was nothing new in that phenomenon. It has occurred in all countries experiencing the same transformation, and it is worth mentioning that the Japanese birth rate has at no time exceeded that of Britain during the middle of the last century.

Japan Must Expand

T)RESSURE of population is the driving j

force now behind Japan’s industrial I programme. She has been unable to send I her sons and daughters abroad in the same ! degree as, for instance, Britain could, because she lacks the overseas possessions of Britain and because many countries, even in South America where for a while she entertained high hopes, have raised immigration bars against them. Thus restricted, Japan has been forced to create as many jobs as possible at home; has been obliged to contend with countries which under different circumstances might have been willing to co-operate in her industrialization, but as it is are unable to do so. Countries, for instance, such as Canada, which have raw materials to sell Japanese factories, but must be paid in money. Japan, producing very little gold, must obtain that money by the exchange of goods and services.

But what nation is eager for those goods and services? What nation has not sought protection of its own industries by attempting restrictive measures against Japan? Silk was once Japan’s great medium of exchange, because this was a product in almost universal demand and Japan enjoyed virtually a monopoly in its production. But silk is no longer king, and the monopoly is broken. Textiles were the next expedient, and in these Japan has met ixnverful opposition, as instanced by the British quotas to protect the looms of Lancashire. Japan’s only means of access to world markets lately has been through lowering of costs, improvement of product, price-cutting, shrewd dealing and depreciated currency. She has resorted to all these, but in return has encountered only a growing hostility.

Is it any wonder then that Japan should occasionally give signs of resentment and despair? From the Japanese standpoint, is there not sound reason for retaliation against Canada for imposing regulations that have kept down Japanese exports, as compared with imports from Canada, to a basis of one to four? And Canada is only one of many countries that have checked the Japanese industrial tide.

Japan tries to regard this hostile Western market philosophically. But she sees no reason to so regard the Orient. This surely is her own sphere, Japan argues, and she intends to dominate it. Is it any wonder that Japanese statesmen, seeing their country isolated in the world’s goodwill almost as completely as it was eighty years ago when the Western powers pounded at her doors with threats of force, should risk almost everything, even international censure, in pursuing an aggressive ]X)licy in the one section of the world where they feel reasonably safe from outside interference?

War is Too Costly

WAR? Would Japan go to war over these issues? There was a time when nations did not count the cost when they went to war; but the events of the last quarter century have impressed everyone j

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:hat wars, like other luxuries, must be paid ibr. Hard-headed Japanese business men, supported by their Confucian restraint that so olten finds itself in conflict with the impulsive designs of Tokio’s militarists, know that Japan cannot afford a war. They protested when they found that Japan’s preparedness budget this year accounted for forty-six per cent of the national revenue; and when the naval appropriations of half a billion yen were being voted on. there were angry denunciations and a Cabinet crisis was narrowly averted. Japanese business men have known what the militarists have tried not to think about—that Japan has limitations as an industrialist and financier; that Japan has very nearly reached her peak as a money-maker; that the rising line of Japanese export trade is definitely straightening out; and that, in spite of three prosperous years, Japan has been unable to wipe out the excess of her imjxirts, but has in fact lound the unfavorable balance climbing again—a condition which led to her demand for a new trade deal with Canada. These business men have had sleepless nights, worrying over rising costs of production, overproduction and failure to reach sales quotas.

Nor have Japan’s losses been confined to trade. Typhoons, floods, earthquakes have brought widespread ruin ; and in addition to all these calamities and partly because of them, a series of stock-market jolts have been a terrific blow to the Japanese financial structure. The public debt is enormous. Figures representing Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States are sufficient to make our heads swim, yet the public debt of Japan is more than one-third that of the United States, in which the income of the people as a whole is sixteen times greater. The cost of a war, coming on top of all these other things, would inevitably bring an economic smash-up in Japan.

It is an old practice of nations to divert the minds of their people from domestic problems by creating a common peril with a foreign war, but apart from the backbreaking cost, what could Japan hope to gain eventually from war? And who would be her foes? Cause for conflict with Russia, as we have pointed out, has been weakened. A war with either Britain or the United States—and that would probably mean a war with both those powers because of their great community of interests—could result only in national disaster for Japan. A war against Canada or Australia is unthinkable if only because of the inevitable involvement of Britain and the United States.

Japan’s Argument

IF THERE IS any sense in Japan’s vast naval and military exjienditures, the explanation of the Japanese themselves must be accepted. The Japanese claim that, by virtue of geographical, racial and economic considerations, their stake in the Orient, is predominant; that Japan is the power best fitted, because of the same considerations, to maintain the peace and security so essential to Asia’s future progress. In the rather outmoded Western styie, Japan annexes Manchuria and tries for a while to convince the world that Manchoukuo is not a puppet state. She blames bandits for the conquest at first, and then confesses that, after all, Japan has invested too much and is otherwise too much involved in the affairs of continental Asia not to assert herself there. Japan’s contention is that the Orient needs a stabilizer and that Japan is it.

Officially denying imperialistic designs, Japan is in Manchuria and intends to stay. She is also in Korea and Formosa and several other sjxit.s in the Far East. It doesn’t look as though anything can lie done about it; and to thcrèe who have given the subject much thought, it doesn’t seem as though anything should be done about

it, although formal protests are sometimes good for the soul. Japan believes she has a job to do in the Orient and she intends to do it, and if she can bring order and tranquillity into lands that have not known real peace for generations, then the powers should be ready to congratulate Japan on a job well done. More than any other country, ! Japan needs peace and stability in the Orient. When her spokesmen say that such is Japan’s only aim and that this is the explanation for her demand for naval equality, they probably are sincere. They think that Japan should be prepared to protect her own sphere in the same way that the United States insists on the Monroe Dextrine.

Because they are still feeling their way in the Western game—in politics, in industry and in society—and so often have been frustrated, the Japanese are keenly suspicious. Japan feels, not without some I warrant, that the world is against her. And this feeling, fanned to unreasoning intensity sometimes by the sword-shakers, accounts for Japan’s preparedness programme, her i top-heavy appropriations for a war that may never come.

Japan is still on trial and knows it; and she is so sensitive and determined to “save face” I in the eyes of the world that she will prob: ably step warily. So long as she demon! strates her sincerity to accept the rôle of stabilizer in the Orient, the Western nations —strong enough in their inevitable combination to ensure their own security in an emergency—need have little cause for alarm. An orderly Orient, absorbing the overflow of Japan’s production, both human and material, and thus acting as a safety valve for the world, should be a blessing instead of a curse.

No Insoluble Problems

MEANWHILE there is vital need for a fuller understanding in Western countries of the problems of the Pacific; and Canadians, with so much depending on the course of events in that realm, should make those problems their concern. Canadians, by and large, seem aware of the Orient’s existence only when the cables bring news of new war scares, or when British Columbia fanners, fishermen and small storekeepers make their periodic outcry against Asiatic competition. That is hardly good enough if we are to regard the Orient as it should be regarded—as a valuable neighbor eager for our trade and friendship.

Peace cannot persist in an atmosphere of ignorance, distrust, threats and jingoism. Treaties have been defied and broken. The Open Door to Asia remains ajar. Diplomats have wasted days in fruitless discussion, and yet only a pessimist will assert that all avenues to settlement have been thoroughly explored. Representatives of both East and West admit there exist no problems fundamentally incapable of amicable solution. Nearly two years remain before Japan’s notification of withdrawal from the naval treaty becomes effective; nearly two years for the working out of a reasonable ; peace formula by compromise and concesj sion.

The instrument is not imix>rtant so long ' as the end is attained. One proposal has been the formulation of a security pact essentially for the Pacific in which all major Pacific parties would join—an amalgamation and development in one treaty of various existing and prospective agreements for the preservation of peace and the harmonious development of trade. Perhaps in the initiation of such a plan there is a part that can be effectively played by a nation that so far has been standing on the sidelines, a nation not entangled in controversies that have caused bitterness in the past, a nation whose sincerity and lack of prejudice can be respected. Perhaps

this is a job for Canada.