For the sake of argument
China may soon be the world power
EDWARD B. JOLLIFFE CONTENDS
TWO PERSONAL REPORTS FROM OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE STRAIT OF FORMOSA
Lawyer-writer JoUiffe headed the CCF i/i Ontario from 1942 to 1953.
Having spent most of my first seventeen years in China, I grew up thinking of it as a backward Oriental country. After four weeks there in August and September, 1 am obliged to think differently. It seems to me the issue of “recognition”—or of seating Communist China in the UN—is only part of a much larger and more serious problem: the failure of the West to notice that China has suddenly become strong and may be the strongest of them all within a few years. Our myopia results from a collection of outdated illusions and fallacies.
Ever since. 1945 we have been getting used to the idea of two giants dominating our hopes and fears. The USA and the USSR seem to dwarf all others. We take it for granted no country could possibly match the military and economic might of the strongest, the American giant, or the biggest, the Soviet colossus. For us, Washington and Moscow are the two capitals of our world, each with
friends, allies, satellites and followers. We even suspect that any event of international importance must have occurred by direction from the White House — or the Kremlin.
The titanic rivals compete in producing and testing H-bombs, in launching mysterious submarines, man-made moons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, in fierce debates at the UN as well as propaganda campaigns which crowd the air waves. By these meai^s the two-power illusion has become well established in North America, if nowhere else.
The usual comment on China does nothing to disturb the illusion: “Oh, I know they have six hundred million people and twenty million more every year, but what else have they got?” It’s a question that implies there can be no valid answer. On this sandy foundation rests the widespread belief that China must forever be an impoverished coolie-land, unfortunately fallen under Russian influence.
Western policy, including that of Canada, appears to assume a two-power
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For the sake of argument
continued from page 10
“No great power will tolerate hostile harassment on its coast. China is becoming a great power”
world is here to stay and our future depends on the peaceful if uneasy co-existence of the Americans and the Russians or — if worst comes to worst — on the capacity of the Strategic Air Command to inflict “massive retaliation” at a moment's notice. In all of this we are deluding ourselves if in fact the shape of things to come must now be decided by Peking as well as Washington and Moscow.
The basic fallacy was nakedly exposed when Chinese shore batteries opened fire on Quemoy and a new crisis flared into headlines. Great was the surprise of Western statesmen whose anxious attention had been focused on the Middle East and North Africa. It was naïve of them to expect the People’s Republic would long endure sporadic raids or Chiang Kai-shek’s blockade of Amoy and Foochow. No great power will tolerate harassment by hostile forces in its own coastal waters. What we had not yef grasped is that China is fast becoming a great power.
Many Chinese have watched the U. S. Seventh Fleet cruising their coast, from the straits to Shanghai and back, only twenty miles from shore. Others have seen Chiang’s guns shelling local fishermen and neutral freighters. Strange though it may seem, the Chinese feel much the same about these goings-on as the Americans would feel if foreign warships patrolled from Frisco to Puget Sound, or if Staten Island were fortified by hostile troops and parachutists came dropping in by night to act as spies and saboteurs. Now that the Chinese feel their own strength, Peking has acted in the same way as any other strong government in similar circumstances.
»hat Mao taught Khrushchev
Even before the Quemoy crisis, Chinese diplomacy adroitly demonstrated that non-recognition does not necessarily prove non-existence.
Nikita Khrushchev, of all people, had to learn his lesson the hard way. In July he was busy corresponding with Messrs. Eisenhower, Macmillan and De Gaulle about a “summit conference”—forgetting to mention the People’s Republic. What passed between Peking and Moscow is anybody’s guess, but Khrushchev suddenly found it necessary to take flight eastward and spend four precious days as the guest of Chairman Mao Tse-tung. It seems clear that hereafter summit meetings will not be discussed without reference to China.
What makes a great power? Obviously a huge population is not enough, even if united in support of a vigorous government. The essential ingredients are material and human—above all, a vast industrial potential and the ability to use and expand it effectively, as the USA did between I94Ü and 1956. We tend, however, to discount the human factor, forgetting that the German system, far more advanced and efficient than the Russian, lost out against the fierce tenacity of Soviet soldiers, partisans and workers.
The Japanese underrated China’s human resources when in 1937 they began an eight-year war of aggression. Highly industrialized, with a big air force and a first-class army, Japan—by all the rules —ought to have crushed resistance and quickly occupied the mainland. The
Chinese were weakened by civil strife, by famine, pestilence and1 chronic poverty, their leadership corrupt and inept, their industry primitive and vulnerable. And yet the invaders never gained more than a part of China, they held only a
few strongly garrisoned cities and they were slowly fought to a standstill by a host of peasant boys, badly armed, badly fed and badly led. The Japanese learned that industrial might, heavy bombing and a great army of occupation were not
enough to subdue the Chinese—not even when China was weak, as it was twenty years ago.
China is no longer weak. The West correctly believes that China still lacks great industrial power, but the West fails
to notice that China is overtaking the leaders, at a speed and on a scale the world has never before seen. We have been misled by the easy assumption that none of the announcements made by a Communist government can be believed, as we were during all the years when we complacently assumed that Russian technology was retarded and inefficient.
There was befuddled amazement on this continent when the Soviet sent aloft the first sputnik. One of these days some equally dramatic performance by the Chinese will produce equal amazement.
Of course, as the pundits say, it takes a long time for any country to become highly industrialized. They forget the Japanese record. A backward, isolated oriental despotism, Japan opened its first little railroad in 1872. Thirty-three years later, with a modern army and Count Togo's navy, it smashed the old Russian Empire. In another decade it drove the German fleet out of the Pacific and by 1918 had become the third great power, ranking next to the U. S. and Britain. Its industrial transformation was led by conservative aristocrats with a shrewd eye for private profit and national advantage, but lacking the revolutionary dynamic or the hard-driving haste of the twelve million party members who now lead China’s all-out effort to make what they call “the great leap forward." And Japan was always handicapped by its poverty in natural resources; China is now beginning to exploit vast reserves of coal, iron ore and oil, some of it with very advanced equipment.
The new China has a legacy such as Japan never knew.
On recovering Manchuria in 1945, the Chinese inherited an industrial complex created by the Japanese to feed their war machine. It has been expanded enormously and its skilled workers provide key men for industry in every province. “The northeast” (as the Chinese call it now) made possible a rapid rise in steel production. Never more than a million tons a year before 1950. it climbed to over five million last year— more than Canada's. This year, with many new furnaces in the south and west, the Chinese are aiming at almost eleven million tons—about half the UK production. The figures are not impressive, if measured by American or Russian yardsticks. More important: what other country ever attempted so much in so little time? If the Chinese can double their output of steel in two or three years, what is to prevent them from doing it again—and again? To do so they are prepared to make sacrifices and work harder than anybody in the West is willing to work.
These herculean efforts only mean, in the skeptics’ view, that the Chinese will eventually turn against the regime. In Russia the consumer may be the forgotten man: not so in China. In fact the regime has made sure that a rising standard of living coincides with industrial expansion, that prices remain stable and shops well-stocked. At Wuhan I saw a new fully integrated steel mill under construction, much larger than any in Canada. There are fifty thousand workers on this job. They and their families do not live in hovels like the ones most of them came from. They live in eleven hundred apartment houses built in only two years, a city in itself. The apartments are not up to the Canadian standard, but they are well built and bear not the slightest resemblance to the squalor of old China. Most of these workers perform crude coolie-labor—both men and women—but they live in modern homes, eat well and can see with their own eyes a power
plant and giant blast furnace rising fast among the rice fields of the Yangtze Valley. And their own schools, theatres and shopping centres are close at hand. They have no reason to regard their lot as one of hardship and slavery; it is incomparably better than anything they ever knew before and their mood appears to be one of elation and pride.
There are many such new communities and the rate of construction must be seen to be believed. From the air, one can view apartment houses and factories sprouting in countless villages and hamlets. and in open country.
And the peasants? Their lot too has radically changed. All but a few are in co-operatives, farming by teamwork and sharing the proceeds. The Chinese are naturally gregarious and work well together. Division of labor has its advantages: specialized teams are assigned to crops or livestock, others to transport, road repair, brick-making and building houses, schools, canteens and a health clinic. Some have improvised their own little power plant, blast furnace, foundry and machine-shop so that they can make simple implements. They are resourceful and ingenious people.
Having visited such communities this year—and having entered many a peasant home forty years ago—I am amused by the story, zealously spread by certain writers from their posts in Hong Kong and Formosa, that the peasants (five hundred million of them) are kept in the co-ops by coercion and terror. My im-
pression is that Chinese farmers—unlike their stubborn Russian counterparts— take to the co-ops as ducks take to water. They have boosted production to a fantastic degree, which they celebrate with old-fashioned parades to town, complete with gongs and firecrackers.
In 1958. says The Times of London. China actually has surpluses of wheat and rice, adding gloomily that Western commodity markets are disturbed—wondering what the Chinese will do with them.
For over-populated China to produce an exportable surplus of food is a remarkable achievement, proving the extraordinary vitality of the peasants and the land on which they toil. Both help to explain why China is becoming a great power. It has been famous for famines and starvation, mostly due to lack of transport, to periodic flooding and the greed of landlords and warlords who collected extortionate rents and taxes, often forcing peasants to grow opium rather than food. All these evils have been dealt with vigorously—and ruthlessly.
Soviet leaders are still complaining about “the agricultural problem.” In nine years the Chinese can claim more success than the Russians had in forty.
Chinese achievements are due in part to an unrivaled capacity for hard work and an almost superhuman energy which I cannot explain. Theirs is definitely the only country in which I have ever seen hard-fought soccer games at seven o'clock
in the morning. This is the human power plant now being developed and controlled with skill and intelligence by Communist leaders.
The U. S. State Department says only two percent of the Chinese people are Communist's—meaning the twelve million party members. This is like saying that the dues-paying members of Eisenhower’s party are the only Republicans in the U. S. A. By such childish reasoning an unrealistic policy is built up on self-deception. Whether we like it or not, most Chinese will support Mao Tsetung or his successor. There is not a shred of evidence to the contrary.
Most of my Chinese friends are not party members, and never will be. I found them solidly loyal to the Peking regime. Among the more eloquent were several capitalists—one of them still a millionaire — who talked to me in the privacy of their own homes at Shanghai and Chungking. And among others: an Anglican bishop, three Catholic priests, a YMCA secretary, the president of a great university and a scientist who attended Cyrus Eaton’s Pugwash conference. Their loyalty is not often ideological. In essence they say just' what a sound American businessman says: “Our system works! Look what we’ve done already—and it’s going to be bigger and better next year.”
I could catch no whisper of fear or resentment or pessimism such as I found very easily in Prague and even in Moscow. And the Chinese workers, peasants and shopkeepers echo the same words: “Bigger and better!” Only the most ardently wishful thinker could imagine that these people are going to rebel or return their country to the tender mercies of Chiang Kai-shek and the Soong family.
The friendly neighbors
The West, having watched the USSR set up at least six puppet governments in eastern Europe, and having received millions of refugees from that area, is inclined to assume that Peking is just another puppet, created by the Russians and surviving by tyranny and terror. Actually the Chinese Communists achieved power after twenty-eight years of desperate struggle on their own. Trotsky and his followers were purged in 1927 for advocating world revolution and intervention in China. The Stalinists remained lukewarm or coldly indifferent through most of the Chinese civil war: there was even a period when Stalin himself urged Mao Tse-tung to compromise with Chiang and abandon what he thought to be a hopeless cause. Unlike Mao, Stalin had no faith in the Chinese peasant and underestimated the potency of militant nationalism in the East.
In China today, national pride and anti-imperialist feeling seem to overshadow Marxist theory. Mao Tse-tung is regarded as the nation’s leader as well as the world’s senior Communist. The men who made and won their own revolution are not likely to be puppets of any foreign power.
The State Department claims that if the U. S. were to recognize Peking, the free countries of Asia might feel abandoned. The implication is that the Chinese now live in disgraceful isolation, feared and hated by their neighbors. Actually most Asian countries established normal diplomatic relations with Peking long ago, and both trade and travel between them are rapidly increasing. Among these friendly neighbors are India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Indonesia and Cambodia—none of which have Communist rulers. Chinese trade is
growing, not only with the Soviet Union and its satellites, but also with the Middle East, Switzerland, West Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and all of Scandinavia. In this historic re-routing of trade, it is the U. S. A. and Canada which are becoming isolated, not China. The American "embargo” has had two important results: it forced the Chinese to open new channels of commerce and it stimulated their drive for self-sufficiency in machine tools, instruments and other essentials.
Our refusal to face the reality of the new China has strong emotional roots. We hold a deep and well-founded distrust of all dictatorships and an awareness of the dark Communist record in Eastern Europe. There is resentment that ow missionaries as well as our imperialists were driven out of China. The U. S. in particular has bitter memories of Korea, where—for the first time since 1812—American forces failed to attain their objectives. There is an unspoken reluctance to concede that a non-white people can become pre-eminent in a world supposedly led by white men. We have been acting like escapists, slow to turn our attention from the known to the unknown—from the Soviet Union to its Eastern neighbor.
Emotion must now yield to reason. Government policy and public opinion ought to rest on fact rather than fiction, knowledge and understanding rather than ignorance and self-deception. It is possible that one day East and West will clash in an apocalyptic world war. The only practical alternative is to find some way of living together on the same planet, in mutual tolerance if not mutual admiration. In either case a new look at Communist China is long overdue.
Take off the blinkers and we shall see a nation of six hundred million, growing daily in numbers, power and confidence, certain of its own success and boldly led by men whose judgment was tested in the fires of war. They look forward eagerly to enjoying the fruits of their own science, industry and hard work, but they would fiercely resist. Communists and non-Communists alike, any attempt to trespass on their land again. They know that the Soviet Union, France and even the United States of America were born in revolution, and after nine years they demand for China a respected place in the family of nations. The reality of power makes it inevitable, and this the Chinese know.
When I v/as among them, whether in a Szechwan farmhouse or a Peking palace, I could find no trace of fear or doubt as to their future.
The West should undertake at once the most agonizing of all reappraisals.