Manchuria may be called the Promised Land of Asia, the Coveted Prize of the Far East, the Alsace-Lorraine of the Orient. Another has called it the "Cockpit of Asia," for here, in the three-cornered struggle between Russia, China, and Japan, over 500,000 lives have already been sacrificed, and the end of the struggle is not yet in sight. It is now a storm center of international politics, and may prove to be not only the cockpit of Asia, but of the world powers as well.
"China's faults have been condoned and Japan's magnified to such an extent," says Yosuke Matsuoka, Japan's representative at Geneva until her withdrawal from the League, "that the average American cannot look upon the Far Eastern situation clearly and fairly." 1
To understand the Far Eastern situation, it is well for us to study the major problems of Japan in so far as they relate to Manchuria. It seems evident that nothing short of an internal national calamity or actual defeat on the field of battle will again rob Japan of the fruits of her present victories in Manchuria. Why is Japan so determined to hold the 450,000 square miles of territory that she has already acquired in the present conflict? This is the question we wish to answer briefly in this article.
Japan's Population Problem
The first great problem of Japan, according to Japanese statesmen, is the problem or pressure of population. Japan is without doubt the most densely populated nation in the world, having an average of 2,774 people to every square mile of arable land. Holland stands second, with 1,000, Italy third, with 819, Germany has 806, while the United States has but 230.
The population of Japan is increasing at the rate of 750,000 each year. During the last decade more than eight million have been added to her already overcrowded population. This is more than the entire population of the continent of Australia. Any nation that has increased her population from 35,000,000 to 70,000,000 in. the short period of fifty years, and whose total area is less than 150,000 square miles, is rapidly approaching a state of congestion, and will need more room or be confronted with an explosion that may result in a national calamity. Where, then, is this surplus population to migrate? This is the problem with which the statesmen of Japan are confronted.
Since the Japanese have been excluded from a large portion of the earth's surface, and since most of the territories in the Pacific area have already been acquired by the Western powers, Japan is faced with the problem of opening up new avenues for her surplus population.
Manchuria, to which Japan feels she has first claim, is larger than France and Germany combined, is able to provide amply for a population of more than 100,000,000, and is therefore in a position to absorb the surplus population of Japan.
Should the powers "form a bloc against Japan's policy," or should they attempt "to oust her from Manchuria," says Walter Crocker, there "will be a war to the death. Her whole foreign policy is determined and will be shaped by this belief as to her numbers being greater than can be sustained at home. . . In order, then, to understand not only the determining forces of Japanese policy, but also what is the major issue, incomparably greater than any other issue, in the Pacific region today, we must analyze her problem of population." 2
Japan's Food Problem
"Japan's agriculture . .. can neither be much extended nor be greatly improved, can neither satisfy the old population nor support the new. . . . Under these circumstances it is becoming more evident every year that the time is forever past when the nation could rely solely upon agriculture for subsistence. . . . Japan's growing population may only be supported, as it has already begun to be, by an increased importation of raw materials and foodstuffs and an increased exportation of manufactures."3
Japan's food problem has therefore developed into a major problem. Since she is forced to purchase from abroad approximately 25 per cent of the food that she consumes, she is compelled, in order that a favorable balance of trade may be maintained, to develop her industries and increase her exports. Her success has been phenomenal. By 1918 her foreign trade had reached the enormous figure of $1,815,000,000. But soon the tide began to turn against Japan, for by 1930 she had an adverse trade balance amounting to $38,000,000. The eyes of her statesmen were therefore again directed toward Manchuria.
Manchuria, having one of the richest soils in the world, has rightfully been called the granary of Asia. The annual value of the agricultural products alone is estimated to be about $700,000,000. In 1930 the crops were estimated at over 800,000,000 bushels. The soy bean, which is easily the second leading food in the Orient, has made Manchuria famous. "Of the 4,000,000 tons of beans and bean products exported in 1930, more than 43 per cent went to Japan." Wheat is also grown in northern Manchuria, and bids soon to overtake the soy bean as the largest item among Manchurian products.
"The soy bean and its by-products . . . are the foundation of Manchuria's prosperity and commercial importance. They are also one of the factors which have caused Japan to regard her commercial position in Manchuria as a matter of vital consequence to her people. For the Manchurian bean has assisted, to a greater degree than any other single import, in solving the pressing food problem of heavily populated Japan."
Could Manchuria become an integral part of the Japanese Empire, her food problem would be readily solved, for Manchuria with a population of but 30,000,000, and with but 20 per cent of her agricultural land under cultivation, is well able to provide for the needs of at least 100,000,000 people.
Japan's Industrial Problem
"The more clearly the difficulties are realized under which the makers of the New Japan have labored," says Paul Hutchinson, "the more remarkable appear their achievements." It is a well-known fact that national power in a highly industrialized state depends primarily on an adequate supply of natural resources, such as coal, iron, oil, and a large amount of raw materials. "Yet Japan," continues Mr. Hutchinson, "has gained her present position with inadequate supplies of all three, and faces the future with her supplies increasingly endangered." 6
The estimated coal deposits in Manchuria amount to at least 1,500,000,000 metric tons. The Fushun coal field, which is not far from Mukden, is one of the largest coal mines in the world, and contains some 950,000,000 metric tons of coal. There are many other mines that have but just recently been tapped.
It is said that the iron deposits of Manchuria are estimated at about 800,000,000 metric tons. The Anshan Iron Works, located in Liaoning Province, has an investment of over $20,000,000, and has an annual output of 280,000 metric tons of 'pig iron. Many other iron works have been established throughout Manchuria.
Japan needs large quantities of oil. The oil deposits at Fushun are estimated at 5,500,000,000 tons, or sufficient to supply the needs of Japan for two or three centuries.
Magnesium, which is used so extensively in the construction of airplanes, is found in abundance in Manchuria. Here, too, are over 90,000,000 acres of forest and timber reserves. Manchuria may indeed be considered a "Promised Land." Is it any wonder, then, that Japan has turned her eyes toward Manchuria?
"Just as imperial Russia looked for concessions there to provide an ice-free port and naval base on the Pacific, so imperial Japan sees in an orderly development of Manchurian resources, under Japanese direction, the one sure source of continuous strength in the Pacific. For in time of war, if war came, Japan must count upon Manchuria, or perish."
(Continued in November)
1 Liberty, July 22, 1933.
2 "The Japanese Population Problem," by Walter Russell Crocker, p. 32. Macmillan Company.
3 "The Russo-Japanese Conflict," by K. Asakawa, pp. 7, 8. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
4 "Third Report of Progress in Manchuria to 1932," p. 5. South Manchuria Railway Co.
5 "Manchuria—The Cockpit of Asia," by Col. P. T. Etherton and H. H. Tiltman, p. 116. Frederick A. Stokes Co.
6"Storm Over Asia," by Paul Hutchinson, p. 42. Henry Holt & Co.
7 "Manchuria—The Cockpit of Asia," p. 138.