The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 1909. FAR EASTERN PROBLEMS.
Tor the cause that lacks aasietanoe. For the wrong that needs resistance. Far the future in the distance. And the goad that we can de.
The news that Japan has formally rejected China's proposal to submit, to arbitration the disputes that have arisen between them in regard to the administration of Manchuria will not surprise anyone who has followed the recent course of events in the Far Ea3t. But this fresh indication of the aggressive and unfriendly attitude that Japan has assumed toward China since the war is distinctly ominous and disquieting. About some of the controversial points at issue there is probably room for argument on both sides. One of the most important of these debatable questions is the proposed extension of the Shan-hai-kwan railway to Fa-ku-nien. This step is the natural outcome of the progressive railway policy that China has adopted since the war. The new line would certainly open up valuable country in "Western Manchuria, and it is of special interest to England, because the Shan-hai-kwan line was originally built with British capital, and it has always been regarded as practically a British asset. But- Japan objects to it on the ground that it wouJd enter into direct competition with the South Manchurian railway, which was transferred to her after the war, and would thus infringe her treaty rights. This is a question of material evidence, and so far Japan has been able to make out at least a plausible case in her own farvour. But in other respects, there is, unfortunately, little reason to doubt that Japan's conduct in Manchuria is open to severe criticism, and the friction that has arisen, there between the Chinese and the Japanese is due, not to any specific cause to much as to the conviction now firmly rooted in the Chinese mind that Japan is working steadily and insidiously to secure Manchuria and all its immense industrial and commercial possibilities for herself alone. It must always be remembered that Manchuria is still in name neither Russian nor Japanese territory, but a province of the Chinese Empire. Russia still owns the northern half of the Manchurian railway, and Japan has annexed the southern line as her share of the spoil* of war; bnt the country is still nominally part and parcel of China. It is because the Chinese are determined that if possible Manchuria shall be saved from foreign aggression that they view the operations of the Japanese in their country with such ill-concealed anxiety. For they understand, in the words of Mr. Putnam "Weale, that "whilst each act of Japan is carefully put into agreement with the general policy by the publication of specific regulations, every additional step will deprive them of the monopoly which should be theirs in their own country, but which will be slowly plucked from them by the methodical building-up of artificial condition*, in which free competition has no fair chance." The last phrase strikes tne keynote of the whole situation. For the last two years in the Far East have made it only too clear that it is, Japan's intention, as far as possible, to create a. commercial monopoly for herself, not only in Korea and China, but throughout tho Orient. It is most unfortunate for the reputation of Japan that the civilised world should be compelled to contrast her frequent and emphatic declarations in favour of the "open door" before the war with the policy she has systematically followed in Korea and Manchuria since the war closed. To-day Korea, whose independence was secured to her by solemn pledges and treaties, is absolutely the vassal of Japan; and in Manchuria, which is practically under Japanese domination, the pioneers of European commerce find, in place of the "open door," a Japanese monopoly hedged round by the most rigid restrictions and buttressed up by every expedient that Oriental ingenuity can devise to check free competition and block the progress of Western civilisation and trade. Irksome and unfair as the restrictive methods employed by the Japanese seem to Europeans, they are, of course, infinitely more objectionable to the Chinese themselves. During the war the Manchurians for the moment hailed the coming of the Japanese as liberators. To-day they hate them, and express their detestation whenever their fears will permit them to speak their minds. For not only do the Japanese, when they think it necessary, treat the Manchurians with the arrogant contempt that has made them so offensive to the Koreans, but they are persistently Btriving by means perfectly manifest to the natives themselves to reduce the Manchurians to the level of a conquered people, and to extract from the country every farthing that a vigorous policy of exploitation will induce it to yield. Under such conditions, it is obviously impossible that ■the settlement of the Manchurian question can be regarded as permanent; in fact, Mr. Putnam Weale, the foremost authority on Far Eastern politics to-day, in his latest work "The Coming Struggle in Eastern Asia," suggests that China, in sheer desperation, may "be forced into a war in the hope of recovering her lost status in Manchuria. And such a possibility as this, quite
apart from the immensely valuable commercial interests involved, should be enough to concentrate the attention of the Western world upon China and Japan for some time to come. "Japan," says one of her critics, "has many admirable qualities, and the patriotism of her sons is beyond all, praise. But when there is imminent risk of the work of decades being undone by a sentimental obsession, then the time has arrived for tho plainest speaking." Japan has already practically annexed Korea. She is locking the door in Manchuria, and she is striving to extend her commercial and political influence throughout Central and Southern China. The Western nations cannot afford to stand by and see the Far East converted into a vast commercial and industrial preserve for Japan. England's position is unfortunately prejudiced by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; but even the common rights and duties that it represents should not blind her to the magnitude of the interests now at stake in the Far East History is making rapidly to-day in China and Japan. "Eastern Asia is once more on the eve of great events. What part shall England play?"