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Art. 7.-THE WASHINGTON CONFERENCE AND FAR
1. Histoire Générale de la Chine. By Henri Cordier. 4 vols Paris : Geuthner, 1920–21.
. 2. Foreign Rights and Interests in China. By Westel W.
Willoughby. Baltimore : John Hopkins, 1920. 3. Sea Power in the Pacific. By H. C. Bywater. Con
stable, 1921. 4. British White Book. Miscellaneous, No. 1 (1922).
The invitation issued by the President of the United States to the Government of Great Britain in August last, to participate in a Conference ,
a Conference to be held at Washington, had for its main purpose the limitation of armaments ; but it also expressed the hope that the facilities afforded by the Conference might lead to a solution of Pacific and Far Eastern problems. It is not the purpose of this article to deal with the results, notable and far-reaching as they were, which the Conference achieved in the reduction of armaments and in ensuring the maintenance of peace for a long period over a vast region which had threatened to become the scene of another world conflict. My task is the more modest one of considering the work of the Conference in its bearing upon the future relations of the various Powers in the Far East, more particularly China and Japan.
Without a settlement of Far Eastern questions, no limitation of armaments was practicable; and so strongly was this felt that the Conference of Prime Ministers and Representatives of the United Kingdom, the Dominions, and India, held at the time in London, was firmly convinced that the Conference on Disarmament should be preceded by a friendly exchange of views and a mutual understanding between the Powers mainly interested in the Far East and the Pacific. At Washington the various questions were considered concurrently; but it was soon realised that they were so interdependent that care had to be taken to prevent the discussions on disarmament getting ahead of the consideration of Far Eastern matters.
The Far Eastern question, as it existed at Washington, was one that had grown up during the last twenty-five years. It dated from the Chino-Japan War of 1894 and the intervention of Russia, Germany, and France, which obliged Japan to forgo largely the fruits of her victory and abandon her demand for the cession of South Manchuria. All three Powers claimed and obtained in quick succession substantial compensation for the services they had rendered to China. Within three years Germany obtained the lease of Kiaochow, Russia a lease of Port Arthur and Dalny, France a similar lease of Kuangchou Wan; while Great Britain reluctantly engaged in the scramble and, to maintain some degree of equipoise, secured leases of Wei Hai Wei and the Kowloon extension, opposite Hong Kong.
This was only the beginning of a process of disintegration which had
gone on ever since, and was proving not only a menace to China, but threatened, if unchecked within a measurable distance of time, to end in a conflict between the Powers themselves. China was carved into spheres of influence and enmeshed in a network of railway and other concessions, which, under the play of rival interests, retarded her economic development.
The only Power that had held aloof from this unseemly scramble was the United States; and it was fitting that the Conference which was to disentangle the complicated situation should be held under its auspices. The Far Eastern policies of most of the other Powers were largely influenced by the exigencies of European politics; and China complained, not without reason, that she was being used as a pawn in a game in which she had no particular interest. Free from European entanglements and self-contained in its own vast domain, the United States was in the happy position of being able to follow a disinterested course in China. They stood deservedly in high favour with the Chinese as the people who had never encroached upon Chinese territory and had contributed more than all the other Powers combined to the educational advancement of modern China, On the other hand, they had taken very little part in the material development of the country, and their efforts in this direction had not shown any marked consistency or continuity of policy. In 1898, they obtained the original concession for one of the most important railways in China, only to sell it back to China at a profit. Again, in 1913, one of the first acts of President Wilson's Administration was the withdrawal of the American Banks from the Consortium at the very moment when the Reorganisation Loan of that year was being concluded. The reasons given were that the conditions of the Loan seemed to touch the administrative independence of China and included the pledging of antiquated taxes. These 'antiquated' taxes, after eight years of British Administration, now form one of the chief national assets and produce as large a revenue as the Customs. It is to be hoped that the part which the United States Government has taken in the organisation of the Consortium, and the still greater service it has rendered in regularising through the Conference the whole situation in China, will release some of its vast resources for constructive work in that country.
Great Britain, which opened China to the trade of the world, and had long held the leading position there, had modified her attitude in recognition of the rising power of Japan. For nearly twenty years the Anglo-Japanese Alliance had been the dominating factor in British policy in the Far East, and even India had come within its scope. The Alliance was in its essence a military compact, and in that character had proved a most effective instrument in two great wars. It had kept the ring for Japan in her colossal struggle with Russia ; and ten years later Japan had repaid the debt she owed to Great Britain by the very material assistance she rendered to the Allied cause in the still greater struggle in Europe. But in preserving the independence and integrity of Korea and China, which was one of the ostensible objects of the Alliance, it did not attain the same measure of success. Korea's independence had vanished and disappeared from the Treaty in its later form, while China's integrity had fallen into a parlous condition. In the opinion of most competent observers, the Alliance was no longer of any great assistance in maintaining the principles it professed to advocate. It was felt both in Japan and Great Britain that with the disappearance of Russian and German aggression in China, the Alliance had fulfilled its purpose; and that if it was to have an extended period of usefulness, it should be merged in some larger arrangement, to include the United States as a Power which had great and rapidly increasing interests in the Pacific and which regarded the Anglo-Japanese Alliance as a barrier to Anglo-American friendship. Since the acquisition of the Philippines in 1898 and the construction of the Panama Canal, America had been drawn more and more into the orbit of Far Eastern problems, and as the points of contact between her interests and those of Japan threatened to increase, the relations of the two Powers developed a degree of friction which was in urgent need of appeasement. These were the conditions in which the Washington Conference met to consider the problems of the Far East and the Pacific, and we have now to see how far it succeeded.
The Conference evolved four main Treaties and ten Resolutions regarding the Pacific and Far Eastern questions. These were supplemented by several Declarations and Statements made by individual Powers on their own responsibility in explanation of their attitude and policy. The Treaties, which naturally occupy the first place of importance, are (1) the Four Power Treaty between the United States, the British Empire, France, and Japan relating to their insular possessions in the Pacific Ocean; (2) the Nine Power Treaty between the United States, Belgium, the British Empire, China, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Portugal, laying down the principles and policies to be followed in China ; (3) the Treaty between the same Nine Powers dealing with the Chinese Customs Tariff; (4) and the Treaty between Japan and China recording the terms of the Shantung settlement.
The first Treaty was signed on Dec. 13, and laid the foundation for all the subsequent work of the Conference. It superseded the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and substituted for it a quadripartite Treaty by which the Contracting Parties agree as between themselves to respect their rights in their insular possessions and insular dominions in the Pacific. Should any controversy arise between any of the Parties in regard to these rights, a joint Conference is to be held for the
adjustment of the matter. If such rights are menaced by the aggressive action of any other Power, the Contracting Parties are to consult together fully and frankly in order to arrive at an understanding as to the measures to be taken to meet the situation.
Though this is a very mild instrument as compared with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance which it ostensibly replaces, it does not follow that it will not be an equally effective means of preserving peace. It recognises the changed spirit of the time and, instead of holding out a threat of resort to force for the settlement of differences, it adopts by preference the reasonable alternative of meeting together and attempting to compose them by amicable discussion. As Senator Lodge said, in laying the Draft Treaty before the Conference, the surest way to prevent war is to remove the causes of war; and this Treaty represents an earnest effort to remove the causes of war over a great area of the surface of the globe by relying on the good faith and honest intentions of the four Powers who made it. Readers of books like Mr Bywater's Sea Power in the Pacific' will have realised the gravity of the situation between Japan and the United States; and a study of the Washington Treaties will, I think, convince them that no better solution could have been found for the acute differences that had arisen. The best proof of this is to be found in the cordial reception the arrangement has had not only in England and America, but also in Australia and New Zealand, the Dominions most closely affected by it.
Standing by itself, however, the Four Power Treaty would not have been an adequate substitute for the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. It covers only part of the ground included in the Alliance; and its complement is the Nine Power Treaty signed on Feb. 6. This deals exclusively with China, and prescribes, as already mentioned, the general principles which the signatory Powers agree to adopt as the basis of their policy in that country.
The Powers, other than China, agree : 1. To respect the sovereignty, the independence, and the
territorial and administrative integrity of China; 2. To provide the fullest and most unembarrassed oppor
tunity for China to develop and maintain for herself an effective and stable Government;