Articles

STALIN IS LOSING IN ASIA

First Uncle Joe exploited Asia’s cry, “No Outsiders!” Now Uncle Sam has learned a lesson — and it may pay off

WILLIAM COSTELLO February 15 1949
Articles

STALIN IS LOSING IN ASIA

First Uncle Joe exploited Asia’s cry, “No Outsiders!” Now Uncle Sam has learned a lesson — and it may pay off

WILLIAM COSTELLO February 15 1949

STALIN IS LOSING IN ASIA

WILLIAM COSTELLO

CBS Ajiatic Correspondent.

TOKYO—In Asia six months ago the western democracies were on the verge of losing the cold war. Today, notwithstanding the apparent successes of Communist armies in China, the tide of communization is receding. There is a tentative conviction among Asiatics that the United States is at last evolving a humanistic foreign policy for Asia. There is a feeling that Harry Truman—no longer living on borrowed time in the White House —is ready to assert the Four Freedoms and his own civil rights program on a world-wide scale.

Let, there, however, be no misunderstanding: there is still a revolutionary ferment in Asia. The ricksha coolies of Shanghai are sullen; so are the stevedores of Korea, the tin miners of Malaya, and a motley assortment of disillusioned students, intellectuals and landless peasants throughout the rice-eating half of the globe. There is a deep undercurrent of unrest often expressing itself in Com-

munist slogans, but it is increasingly difficult, to identify this species of mass discontent with the authentic made-in-Moscow brand of Stalinist doctrine.

Prior to Mr. Truman’s surprise victory at the American ballot box, the western world had coasted along in a complacent belief that decisions in Asia could be postponed. Intelligence reports showed Russia was making no systematic, concerted effort to win control of governments in the Far East; the assumption, therefore, was that the western democracies were under no urgent, compulsion to court allegiances in the Orient. American economic aid, in small quantities, was being scattered with fine, impulsive generosity but with no visible attempt at over-all planning and co-ordination.

It was not. until the armies of Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese Red leader, posed a threat of Communist mastery in the heart of Continued on page 8

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First Uncle Joe exploited Asia’s cry, “No Outsiders!” Now Uncle Sam has learned a lesson — and it may pay off

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the Asiatic continent that storm signals were hoisted in the chancelleries of the western world. Even t hen the reasons for sensational Chinese Red success remainedlargely incomprehensible to westerners.

The democracies have been slow to recognize that there exists an essential difference between the anticommunist. struggles in Europe and in Asia. The ideological warfare in Europe is a straightforward, bare-knuckled slugging match between the Soviet Union and the western democracies. There are only two antagonists. In Asia the battle is triangular. Both Communism and democracy in the F’ar East are puny second-raters by comparison with the giant forces of nationalism.

More than anything else the people of Asia hunger for freedom, independence, the right to govern themselves and make their own mistakes. The most successful political slogan, as Communist Michael Borodin told Chiang Kai-shek in 1923, is “anti-imperialism.” First and foremost, the nations of the Far East want liberation from outside domination, whether that domination be greedy or benevolent. They are willing to make friends with anyone who will help them achieve independence.

With the onset of the cold war in Europe, western statesmen proceeded on the assumption that they could fight Communism as they had fought Germany and Japan—with a single set of strategy and tactics. They made no distinction between Europe and Asia. They made no allowance for the third gladiator in the Far Eastern arena.

It was that oversight which, until six months ago, threatened to let Asia go to Communism by default. So long as the western democracies ignored the Orient’s passionate desire for nationalism and self-determination, it was easy for Communism to make friends and win converts. In the mind of most Orientals, Communism was merely an avenue of protest, a weapon with which to carry on the struggle against foreign exploitation and imperialism. Communism in Asia received its greatest impetus, not from Moscow, but from the stubborn refusal of western nations to recognize the freedomloving aspirations of the submerged peoples of Asia.

By historic coincidence the Communist military machine in China reached the peak of its power just at the time of President Truman’s re-election. This was Communism’s score in Asia up to then:

Group I. Communist: Siberia, Outer Mongolia and Manchuria.

Group II. Half-Communist: Korea and China.

Group III. Communism possible: Indo-China, Malaya and Burma.

Group IV. Communism possible but unlikely: Indonesia, Siam and Afghanistan.

Group V. Non-Communist: India, the Philippines and Japan.

In the first four groups, where Communism is either entrenched or conceded a theoretical possibility of winning control, the population is roughly 800 million—twice the population of group five. Moving in a path from northwest to southeast, Communism had plunged deep into the Chinese land mass, and was taking skilful advantage of economic hardship and unrest to further its aims in southeast Asia. Potential opposition to Communism existed only in the arc extending from the British Commonwealth’s anchor in India, through the Philippines to the emperor-worshiping, Communist-hating Japanese who had miraculously become the anchor of the United States’ Far Eastern hopes.

Throughout the Far East the Communist party has consistently preached two doctrines. The first was nationalism-—the plea that backward and subject peoples are entitled to complete independence. This is peddled as the “democratic revolution.”

The sales appeal of the democratic revolution lies in the fact that it stands ready to compromise with capitalism. It does not insist on immediate expropriation of land, on elimination of private trade, or abolition of private employment for wages. Through personal interviews with Communist leaders in Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines, I have satisfied myself that Asiatic Communism consistently follows a pattern laid down in Moscow between 1923 and 1927. It employs what might be called the method of “Fabian Communism”—a gradual, evolutionary transformation from feudal society through the stage of modified capitalism and socialism into pure Communism.

The second doctrine, which is frankly avowed but not generally used in Communist party propaganda, is that the democratic revolution must ultimately be succeeded by the stage of “socialist revolution.” The distinction was made clear by the leader of China’s Communist Party, Mao Tse-tung, in his book, “China’s New Democracy,” in which he said: “Besides the stage of democratic revolution, there is also the stage of socialist revolution to Communism.”

Reduced to its simplest political terms, the situation in Asia during Continued on page 44

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the summer of 1948 was this: the nations of the Far East were crying out passionately for independence. The Soviet Union was supporting their demands as a means of weakening the western democracies but not at the same time working aggressively to install Communist governments controlled directly by Moscow. The western nations, ignoring the fundamental problem, were throwing random punches at Communism—or what they thought was Communism. Actually, most of their blows were landing on the sensitive feelings of native nationalism wearing a Communist disguise. By their blundering tactics, the western allies were pushing Asia into the arms of the Kremlin.

It is dangerous to predict how far Communism might have been able to carry its successes in Asia, or to what extent the gains already made can be consolidated and held. The povertystricken masses of the Far East have been ripe for revolution since the end of World War 1. The farmers want what General Douglas MacArthur has given them in Japan—the abolition of feudal land laws and liberation from the clutches of the landlords. Industrial workers want more machinery, higher pay and shorter hours. Merchants want more trade and the right to buy and sell without interference from colonial monopolies. Observers have long predicted the Communist movement in China—which now appears to be achieving such miracles—would subside as quickly as it emerged if crop rentals and land taxes were reduced, if arrogant war lords were suppressed, and if crooked politicians and bureaucrats were fired.

Temperamentally, the bulk of Asia’s population is not Communist-minded. Except in Japan, few Orientals have learned the doctrine of patriotism or accepted the cult of the omniscient: state. The rice bowl is the fountainhead of the common man’s political philosophy; the best government is the government which can assure him a full rice bowl. Poverty makes every family

fiercely self-serving. There is no quicker way to alienate the peasant than to threaten the ownership or occupancy of the land he tills. Merchants big and small cherish the profit motive as an inalienable right; they would struggle insidiously and tenaciously against any Communist attempt to circumscribe the fine art of making money.

Asiatics may tolerate Communism as a necessary expedient in an uncertain world, but it is not in their temperament to embrace it unreservedly. What the Kremlin calls “deviationism” is more likely to be the rule than the exception in Asia. Anything Communism stands to gain in the immediate future could easily be lost in the course of a generation.

Nevertheless, even a temporary expansion of Communism in the Far East could postpone indefinitely the hope of achieving economic stability and world peace. If the Soviet Union could win the friendship or neutrality of a billion Asiatics, the balance of world power would be radically altered. So long as western Europe, the Americas and Asia remain non-Communist, the odds against Russia are better than three to one. If Asia were to shift into the Soviet orbit, the odds would be roughly even and the entire Eurasian land mass would become a Soviet air base.

Chronicle of Failure

These alarming speculations were implicit in the Communist capture of Manchuria and the invasion of the Yangtze valley of central China. Japan’s Communist leader, Sanzo Nozaka, crowed victoriously: “In the Allied Council for Japan, Russia has always been outvoted, three to one . . . but when China becomes Communist, the division will be two to two —with Britain and America lined up against China and Russia!”

The western allies could hardly ignore such a challenge. For 20 years they had pampered the nationalist regime of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek in the belief he could and would lead the people of China toward unity, reconstruction and modern statehood. Now they know he has failed.

The discovery could hardly have

come as a surprise. Chiang’s party, the Kuomintang, has suffered from a creeping paralysis ever since his successful campaign against the Communists in 1927. In large measure, the fault lies with Chiang himself. He came to power as a revolutionary and promised his party would lead the way toward fundamental reform and modernization. Chiang called himself a Christian, and paid fulsome lip service to the doctrines of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, father of the Chinese revolution.

In reality, under Chiang’s leadership, the revolution came to a dead halt. For 10 years he squandered China’s wealth and energies in fruitless forays against a handful of Communists. During that time, there was no land reform, no tax reform, no administrative reform. He failed to provide transportation, financial stability or industrial development. From first to last, Chiang’s outlook remained Confucian rather than Christian. In his mind, so his intimates have told me, Chiang conceives of China as a vast family with himself at its head. As in the Confucian family system, Chiang reserves to himself the right to rule with arbitrary singleness.

The Military Failure

An incident 15 years ago betrayed his attitude. Dr. T. V. Soong, his brother-in-law, had returned to China with a brand-new Harvard education in banking and business administration. Soong, having been made Finance Minister, persuaded the Generalissimo that China, as a modern state, must have a budget, and Chiang gave enthusiastic approval. But no sooner had the budget been drafted and approved than Chiang sent for his Finance Minister and explained he must have $200,000 at once with which to repay a southern war lord for a political favor. Soong protested there was no item in the budget covering such expenditures and insisted no money was available. Chiang peremptorily demanded the $200,000—and got it. To him, China’s public revenues were a part of his privy purse and no budget of his has ever been worth the paper it was written on.

One of the more colorful myths in Chiang’s repertoire concerns his alleged military genius. During the war an attempt was made by General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell to dispel that myth, but it remained for Chiang himself to prove Stilwell was right.

In 1946, when the failure of General George Marshall’s mission to China had become apparent, it was generally agreed the Chinese civil war had reached a stalemate. Numerousexperts, including Lt.-Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, asserted the conflict could not be resolved by forceofarms. Atthattime, it was admitted officially, the National government had an army of 3,700,000. Included in this force were 39 divisions which had been wholly or partly trained and equipped by the United States. At the same time, according to Kuomintang figures, the Chinese Communists possessed a military force of fewer than 400,000 men.

In the summer of 1948, correspondent Joseph Fromm of World Report, after careful investigation, reported the 39 American-trained divisions had virtually ceased to exist as a fighting force. Nanking admitted its army had dwindled to two million. By December it had suffered additionallossesexceeding 500,000 men. In one month, incompetent Chinese generalslost 16 brigades totaling 360,000 men, and their loss of weapons was the greatest for any month on record in the civil war.

Meanwhile, by the summer of 1948, the size of the Communist army had increased six times, to 2,600,000,

according to the Minister of National Defense, General Ho Ying-chin. Chiang Kai-shek, therefore, started the civil war with a military preponderance of nearly 10 to one; three years later his men in the field were outnumbered nearly two to one!

In the postwar period Chiang received something like two billion dollars’ worth of American supplies, a good portion of which wound up in the hands of Communist armies. Some material was lost in legitimate combat operations, but great quantities were sold to Communists by corrupt army commanders in the field. In addition, the Communists found it easy to buy UNRRA and other relief supplies through black-market channels and through deals with Chinese smugglers. Chiang Kai - shek’s military headquarters never succeeded in visiting effective punishment on dishonest field commanders. Neither did Chiang ever provide wholehearted support for generals like Li Tsung-jen and Fu Tso-yi who were honestly trying to beat back the Communist wave. Neither would Chiang confer commands on honest, capable young generals like Sun Li-jen, who was trained by Stilwell in Burma. Neither would Chiang accept the advice of conscientious generals that the army must enlist the support of the peasants in order to be able to conduct effective operations against Communist guerrilla tactics.

Chiang let his military establishment disintegrate by clinging to a swivel-chair army clique in Nanking which placed Kuomintang party politics ahead of military considerations in the field.

In addition to his military failures, Chiang must accept personal responsibility for the economic bungling which has strangled his regime. He allowed corrupt officials to make Shanghai and Nanking a cesspool of graft. With Chiang’s tacit consent, foreign trade was conducted on a basis of bribery and favoritism which weakened the nation’s entire economy. Nor was an effort made by Chiang’s corrupt bureaucracy to establish a tax system which could sustain the war program. Not until the late autumn of 1948 did Chiang order paymasters to distribute wages directly to his troops instead of handing it over in lump sums to divisional commanders for their private enrichment.

The story of Chiang Kai-shek’s failure in China is crucial in the cold war against Communism because it is a symptom of a disease afflicting all Asia. In essence, it is a story of thwarted nationalism, of a revolution that was murdered by its authors, of reforms which were stillborn. Chinese who were once prepared to believe wholeheartedly in Chiang’s brand of nationalism are now equally ready to welcome Communist control, not because they have become pro-Communist but because they have become bitterly anti-Kuomintang. By disowning the revolution which fathered him, Chiang has in effect delivered his people to the Communists.

The Americans Wake Up

When Chinese Communist armies in October and November swept through the Yellow River valley and converged on Nanking, other Far Eastern nations were quick to recognize that their own dikes were in danger. Unless the western democracies were able to come to terms quickly with native nationalism, frustrated revolutionaries throughout Asia might embrace Communism as their only alternative.

By the time President Truman was assured of re-election, it was apparent that the United States would have to formulate special terms and tactics for

the prosecution of the cold war in Asia. There followed in quick succession a series of major policy decisions. In December the United States committed itself to a three-year program of economic assistance in South Korea. That represented the first long-term commitment in Asia since the end of the war. In return, the American Government exacted promises of rigid economic controls which by implication were far more socialistic than anything the United States itself would contemplate.

The problem of Japan’s rehabilitation was overhauled in three decisions of major importance. In the first of these the American Government ordered General MacArthur to take no further action in breaking up the monopolistic structure of Japan’s economy. In the second, the Far Eastern Commission instructed MacArthur to discard all possible wartime controls over Japanese trade and industry —in effect, to call off the economic blockade despite the absence of a formal peace treaty. In the third, the Army and State Department imposed on Japan the same controls on budgeting, currency, exchange and economic policy which had been accepted by President Sy ngman Rhee’s government in Korea.

As if to demonstrate that these decisions were in no sense unilateral dictates by the United States, the Economic Commission for Asia and the

Far East, meeting in Sydney, Australia, under United Nations auspices, recommended that trade with Japan be encouraged and that part of a 13billion-dollar fund for Far Eastern rehabilitation be allocated for the development of Japanese industry. In effect, that ECAFE decision endorsed the contention that Asia as a whole cannot prosper while even a defeated enemy is economically prostrate.

Probably the most significant step in the reorientation of U. S. Far Eastern policy took place in December as a result of Dutch military action against the republican forcesin Java. When the United States joined other members of the UN Security Council in denouncing the surprise Dutch attack, the action was interpreted in Asia as a forthright repudiation of e very thingimplied in the word “imperialism.” It was considered significant because at no time in this century had the United States ever challenged the position of the colonial powers in Asia. The tendency in the State Department had always been to maintain the status quo.

In the over-all view, however, the American action was not inconsistent. After the war, the whole concept of colonialism had been undermined when Britain and the United States granted independence to India, Burma and the Philippines. These concessions to the spirit of native nationalism had left only two colonial powers in Asia—the

French and the Dutch. With the onset of the cold war in Europe, the United States had found it necessary to provide economic aid to France and the Netherlands, and for a time had felt impelled to support the French and Dutch in Asia also. In the end, however, it was inevitable that the United States should have adopted the policy of native self-determination; and the pressure of Communism in China served only to give impetus to a program which could not have been indefinitely postponed.

Overnight there was a change of feelings in Asia. Communism lost millions of potential allies. The action of the western democracies in recognizing the aspirations of Indonesian nationalists has convinced revolutionary leaders throughout Asia that Russia is no longer their only friend. A new possibility emerges—a possibility that the western world, far from insisting on imperialist domination, may in fact provide concrete moral and economic help in achieving national independence. By conceding the necessity of socialized controls, the capitalist democracies may be able to offer immediate improvements in living standards which will far outweigh the glib millennium pictured by Communist zealots.

Asia is waiting now for substantial evidence that democracy means greater self-respect and a bigger rice bowl, -fa