China, Japan and the U.S.A. Present-Day Conditions in the Far East and Their Bearing on the Washington Conference

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Excerpt IOn Two Sides of the Eastern Seas It is three days’ easy journey from Japan to China. It is doubtful whether anywhere in the world another journey of the same length brings with it such a complete change of political temper and belief. Certainly it is greater than the alteration perceived in journeying directly from San Francisco to Shanghai. The difference is not one in customs and modes of life; that goes without saying. It concerns the ideas, beliefs and alleged information current about one and the same fact: the status of Japan in the international world and especially its attitude toward China. One finds everywhere in Japan a feeling of uncertainty, hesitation, even of weakness. There is a subtle nervous tension in the atmosphere as of a country on the verge of change but not knowing where the change will take it. Liberalism is in the air, but genuine liberals are encompassed with all sorts of difficulties especially in combining their liberalism with the devotion to theocratic robes which the imperialist militarists who rule Japan have so skilfully thrown about the Throne and the Government. But what one senses in China from the first moment is the feeling of the all-pervading power of Japan which is working as surely as fate to its unhesitating conclusion—the domination of Chinese politics and industry by Japan with a view to its final absorption. It is not my object to analyze the realities of the situation or to inquire whether the universal feeling in China is a collective hallucination or is grounded in fact. The phenomenon is worthy of record on its own account. Even if it be merely psychological, it is a fact which must be reckoned with in both its Chinese and its Japanese aspects. In the first place, as to the differences in psychological atmosphere. Everybody who knows anything about Japan knows that it is the land of reserves and reticences. The half-informed American will tell you that this is put on for the misleading of foreigners. The informed know that it is an attitude shown to foreigners only because it is deeply engrained in the moral and social tradition of Japan; and that, if anything, the Japanese are more likely to be communicative—about many things at least—to a sympathetic foreigner, than to one another. The habit of reserve is so deeply embedded in all the etiquette, convention and daily ceremony of living, as well as in the ideals of strength of character, that only the Japanese who have subjected themselves to foreign influences escape it—and many of them revert. To put it mildly, the Japanese are not a loquacious people; they have the gift of doing rather than of gab. When accordingly a Japanese statesman or visiting diplomatist engages in unusually prolonged and frank discourse setting forth the aims and procedures of Japan, the student of politics who has been long in the East at once becomes alert, not to say suspicious. A recent illustration is so extreme that it will doubtless seem fantastic beyond belief. But the student at home will have to take these seeming fantasies seriously if he wishes to appreciate the present atmosphere of China....
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