In the December Ministry we showed that a break between China and Japan seemed inevitable. In this number we desire to bring before our workers the seriousness of this break in its international aspect. On September 18, 1931, at precisely 10:30 p. m., an explosion occurred on the South Manchuria Railway, not far from Mukden, which blew up several feet of track. This was the spark that started the Oriental conflagration.
The war was on. All night long the battle raged. By morning the Japanese were in complete control of Mukden, including the government buildings, the barracks, the arsenal, the airdrome, and the radio stations.
As the news was flashed around the world, statesmen were called from their beds. Hasty cabinet meetings were held in Washington, London, Paris, and other capitals. Fear was expressed that this explosion would result in another international war. Startled and aroused to the seriousness of the situation, the world seemed stunned for a moment. Having been busily engaged with their own domestic problems, and having paid little attention to the petty wrangling between the Orientals, the powers were unprepared for this new crisis, which might in time again involve every one of them.
On the following day the attack was continued, and in their rapid advance the Japanese took Changchun, Nanling, Antung, Changtu, Yinkow, in fact practically all the strategic cities along the South Manchuria Railway. The war seemed to be on in earnest.
T. V. Soong, in the absence of Chiang Kai-shek, appealed immediately to the League of Nations. As stated in a previous article, China was in no position to meet Japan on the field of battle. Entrenched behind the League covenant, the Nine Power Pact, and the Kellogg Peace Pact (also called the Pact of Paris), she felt confident that the powers would come to her rescue.
On September 21 an extraordinary session of the League of Nations was called at China's request. Alfred Sze, China's representative, insisted upon intervention by the League in behalf of China, in accordance with the League covenant. At this meeting it was also voted to provide the United gtates with "a statement of all its [the League's] proceedings." It then sent an earnest appeal to both Japan and China, appointed a special group to handle the Manchurian problem, and sent its minutes to the United States.
The United States supported the League of Nations by sending it a note of sympathy, and also notified the League that cables had been sent to China and Japan, encouraging them to arbitrate the matter. However, while the League debated the question Japan continued her advance, stood for direct settlement with China, and notified the world that she desired no interference on the part of any third power. China continued to urge action from the League, refused to deal with Japan directly, and accused Japan of being the aggressor.
"On September 30 the council of the League adjourned till October 14, after having passed a resolution requiring Japan to withdraw her troops by that date. Both China and Japan were disappointed: China, that the League had done nothing; Japan, that the resolution veiled a threat."
The statesmen gathered at Geneva October 14, and appeared surprised that Japan had not withdrawn her troops, and were amazed when they heard China's statement that bombing planes had attacked Chinchow, and that the armies had continued to advance into central Manchuria. Japan called the League's attention to the violent anti-Japanese boycott carried on by the Chinese, and also to the banditry in Manchuria. China continued to press for League intervention; Japan, on the other hand, for direct negotiation.
The council then invited the United States to sit with them. Japan opposed this step, and maintained that a nonmember of the League had no right or business to sit with the council. By a vote of 13 to 1 it was carried, and the United States entered the arena. Mr. Prentiss Gilbert, the consul at Geneva, took his seat immediately, and thus the Pact of Paris could be invoked.
"The League, after a long- effort, passed its famous resolution on October 24, practically giving Japan until November 16 to withdraw her troops into the railroad zone, that is, to evacuate the occupied areas in Manchuria. It also recommended that China and Japan commence direct negotiations on questions outstanding between them after the evacuation had taken place. Having passed this resolution, the council agreed to go into recess until November 16. China accepted the resolution; Japan rejected it." 2
The Japanese, continuing their advance, soon reached Tsitsihar, an important center on the line of the Russian sphere of influence. The League feared that Russia might soon be drawn into the conflict. Under these embarrassing circumstances, the council met on November 20. At this meeting Japan came straight to the point, and insisted upon international recognition of the 1915 treaties with China. The Chinese remained firm, and among other things said:
" 'This is a life-and-death issue for the Chinese government, which has staked its political existence on the policy of relying on the League. It is therefore bound to push this policy to its conclusion, and test the competence of the League to the utmost. If the League fails, the Chinese government will be forced to put the blame publicly where it belongs, namely, on the unwillingness of the great powers to lift a finger in defense of the covenant which they are solemnly pledged to defend. The matter is therefore also a life-and-death issue for the League and for the Disarmament Conference.' "
Finally, on the 10th of December, a commission of inquiry was appointed. Lord Lytton of Great Britain was appointed chairman; other members of the commission were General Frank R. McCoy of the United States; General Henri Claudel of France; Count Luigi Aldrovandi-Marescotti of Italy; Dr. Heinrich Schanee of Germany; and China and Japan were each to appoint one representative. The commission was ordered to go to Manchuria and bring back a definite recommendation for future action.
In the meantime the Chinese boycott continued. Jerome D. Greene said in the New York Times: "The immediate damage done by a naval bombardment of Osaka would have less serious economic consequences with resultant human suffering than has been caused during the past five months by the anti-Japanese boycott in China."
Japanese exports to China were 80 per cent less in December of 1931 than in December of 1930. The Japanese assert that the boycott originated with the Chinese government, and was enforced by associations, pickets, inspectors, special courts, fines, imprisonments, and even capital punishment; and further, that these acts, together with interference with shipping, confiscation, burning, seizure of cargo after it has legally entered the country, and other highly unlawful and provocative acts, are upheld by the Chinese courts as manifestations of pure patriotism; and moreover, that the boycott was an act of war.
On the other hand, the Chinese maintained that the only way to stop the boycott was to remove the cause, namely, the military occupa tion of Chinese territory.
Thus the deadlock continued. When Japan attacked Shanghai, the situation became more and more intense. The powers were careful in their commitments for fear the Shanghai affair would plunge the world into another world war.
"The great states hoped to avoid an aggressive resolution. The small states insisted upon protecting the prestige of the League and the principles of the covenant." 4
On March 3, 1932, Dr. W. W. Yen, China's chief delegate to the League, made the following important remarks:
"1. The defiance of the council by Japan is plain. 2. Nor is there any room for doubt that the covenant has been violated. If the forcible seizure of 200,000 square miles of territory and the dispatch of an army of 100,000 men to Shanghai do not constitute external aggression, where are the limits to action which can be called nonaggressive under the covenant? 3. That Japan, by refusing to arbitrate and by resorting to war, has violated the Pact of Paris, goes without saying. China places herself unreservedly in the hands of the League. Japan refuses. China offers to adopt any method of peaceful adjustment, including arbitration and judicial settlement. which the League may suggest. Japan refuses."
The Lytton commission reported its findings in the early part of 1933. The League accepted the recommendations of the commission, and finally condemned the aggressive attitude of Japan, whereby the Japanese delegates withdrew from the League. Time and space will not permit us to go further into detail. We, will, however, conclude this series of articles with a few extracts which will show the seriousness of the present situation in the Orient, a situation which, while temporarily quieted down, may soon burst into flame again and set the world afire with the great last war.
Present Situation Portrayed
"Never was a nation in an international dispute made to feel her isolation and the force of combined disapproval as Japan was in the closing debates of this council meeting."
"The formal political protests against Japan's course, which began so feebly with the notes of the disorganized Nanking and the preoccupied Moscow governments, and were followed with such evident reluctance by the United States, gained in volume until
all the major-nations were formally committed to condemnation of the Japanese procedure, and the member states of the League of Nations, convened in special assembly, stigmatized Japan as unfaithful to her obligations under the League covenant, and a wanton attacker of a neighbor state.
"This is serious business. Nations cannot thus solemnly record their verdict that another nation has broken its vows, without involving serious consequences." "
"The one serious question that is worth considering today is the question of the evacuation of Asia by the armies, navies, and air fleets of Europe and America. The expulsion of the West from the East is the sole preliminary to a discussion of fundamental peace terms. For the greatest problem before the statesmen of the world reconstruction in the interest of durable peace is that of the freedom of Asia. . . .
"The time is fast approaching when Europe and America will have to admit that their peoples must not command greater claims or privileges in Asia than the peoples of Asia can possibly possess within the bounds of Europe and America. The West will then be compelled to appreciate the justice of the demand that Asians must enjoy the same rights in Europe and America as Europeans and Americans wish to enjoy in Asia.",
"Ostensibly the truce signed at Tangku, a village near Tientsin, on May 31, 1933, is purely a military armistice. In effect, however, it pledges China not to resist further... Japan is committed not to invade China proper, south of the demilitarized zone along the Great Wall, but she is given a free hand north of the wall as far west as she wants to go. . . .
"Never before in all modern history have there been possibilities as pregnant with weal or woe as these. The outcome belongs to the future, but meanwhile Japan has gained and China has surrendered, in fact, if not in name, 500,000 square miles of territory."
"We ought indeed to clarify our minds as to our interests and intentions in the Pacific. Our neglect to do so is mischievous in the present and dangerous in, its future possibilities. But we are not very likely to do so until we are compelled by critical events, deplorable as the consequences of that postponement are likely to be." 9
"A situation of unimaginable danger to world peace has been created by Japanese policy in Asia. Officially acknowledged international war has only been avoided by resort to obvious legal fictions, and a political and economic condition has been created which makes it all but certain that, within the next decade, all safeguards will be shattered, and the nations will plunge into open warfare." 10
"So the clouds grow blacker. There is heat lightning all along the edges of the continent's horizon. The rumble of thunder draws closer. Everywhere in Asia there fly the signals of approaching storm." "
1 "The Tinder Box of Asia," by George E. Sokolsky, p. 231. Doubleday, Doran & Co.
2 Id., p. 236.
3 Id., pp. 239, 240.
4 Id., p. 263.
5 New York Times, Oct. 25, 1931.
6 "Storm Over Asia," by Paul Hutchinson, p. 27.
7 Henry Holt & Co. From The European Peril," in Asian Review, November, 1920.
8 From "Japan Dominates the Far East," by Wilbur Barton, in Current History, October, 1933.
9 Editorial in Chicago Tribune, Oct. 15, 1933.
10 "Storm Over Asia," p. 25.
11 Id.. p. 301.