Arthur Rosenberg


Washington and the Future of China

(22 November 1921)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 1 No. 10, 22 November 1921, p. 77–78.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Mr. Wellington Koo, the parade diplomat of the Peking government, has transferred the field of his activity from Geneva to Washington. The very clever and worthy Chinese was representing his country in Europe in the League of Nations. For some time he even presided over that estimable institution and thus proved how high a Chinese can rise nowadays within the circles of international diplomacy if he only understands to swim with the stream. Mr. Wellington Koo, further, participated with solemn mien in the decision on the Upper Silesian question. Now he is to participate in the settlement of the Chinese question and it is now perfectly clear that he will have very much less to say in the Chinese question than he did in the Upper Silesian problem. Curiously enough, just twelve days before the opening of the Washington Conference, a very unpleasant accident happened – the Chinese government had to admit its insolvency. The Chinese government has not paid the interest on its American loan which fell due on the 1st of November. To put forward demands in the name of a bankrupt Government is not a very enviable position.

The international position of China, in view of the political dismemberment of that gigantic country, will in fact be extremely difficult. China passed through its Revolution ten years ago.

The Chinese middle-class at that time overthrew with surprising rapidity the feudal monarchy of the Manchus. The Chinese bourgeoisie was, however, unable to retain political power. In Peking there is a clique of reactionary generals who style themselves the Government of China. Further, in each province of China there is a military governor with some thousands of. soldiers. The chief steals precisely in the same manner as his subordinates and the military governors are fighting one another. The Peking government has no authority outside Peking. The Chinese Republic serves only as a cloak for a brutal, corrupt and confused military rule. Only in one part or that country, with its 400,000,000 population, is there a really republican, democratic government namely, in the big South China city of Canton, where Sun Yat-Sen is at the head of an independent government. The military governors at all events pretend to recognise the Peking government as the supreme authority, while Sun Yat-Sen has openly declared war on the Peking militarists. The citizens of Canton declare that if is their intention to liberate the country from military rule and to establish a united democratic Chinese Republic. Sun Yat-Sen was the most prominent spiritual leader of the first Chinese Revolution. He opposed the militarist development and was striving with his friends of Canton to bring the Chinese Revolution to a successful issue. Sun Yat-Sen was supported in the first place by the students and generally by the young intellectuals who have grasped the idea that only together with the workers and peasants of the country will they succeed in defeating the Reaction. Thus Canton is giving a new impetus to the Chinese Revolution. At Washington, Mr. Wellington Koo is representing the Peking government. The Canton government is naturally disliked by the international capitalists because the Chinese radical democracy is just as much opposed to the foreign exploiters as they are to the internal oppressors. At Washington the Peking government has been recognized as the actual representative of China. To this Sun Yat-Sen answered that he will consider as null and void all the decisions of the Washington Conference regarding China.

The prevailing chaos in China has been very clearly utilised by the Japanese. The Japanese set one governor or ruler against the other and thus obtained very valuable concessions. For Japanese capital, influence in China is an absolute necessity, because in Japan during the last few years industry has greatly developed. Japan has neither iron nor coal while China, on the contrary, is very rich in mineral wealth, the exploitation of which in most cases has hardly yet begun. The Japanese are striving to obtain from China the raw materials which they require for the development of their industries. Further, they desire to utilize China as a market for their commodities.

After the victory over Russia, the Japanese in the first place gained the peninsula Liau-Tung where the Russians had built Port Arthur. At the same time the Japanese obtained the railway, line which crosses Southern Manchuria. The Japanese managed through their control of the railway to attain the political and economic domination of Manchuria. During the world war the Japanese exploitation of China made great headway. Japan then seized Kiao-Chow from the Germans and in addition it laid its hand on the railways and mines of Shantung. By such means the Japanese succeeded in actually annexing huge Chinese provinces with a population of many millions east and south of Peking. Notwithstanding the bitter opposition of the Chinese population, which does not wish to be swallowed by Japanese capital, Japan has since the end of the world war obtained still more and more new positions of power in China.

In opposition to the Japanese aspirations for economic predominance in China, America puts forward the policy of the open door in China. Through this open door any one is to be able to enter China in order to do business undisturbed. What American capital really means by the open door is obvious from a proposal which recently was put forward by America. According to this proposal, American, English, French and Japanese banks, which are interested in China, should jointly establish a big consortium. All the loans, obtained up to the present by China from individual states should be taken over by this consortium. China would then have no longer the separate foreign groups of capitalists as creditors but united world capital. The international group of banks would thus establish its guardianship over the economic life of China. It is obvious, that in such a fraternity the American capitalists as the strongest would predominate. Thus the open door does not mean free competition but the replacing of Japanese predominance in China by that of America.

The Peking government regards American predominance as the lesser evil since America is further off than Japan and because the American capitalists would carry through their plans in a milder form than the Japanese. America would if she had her own way still keep up appearances in China while Japanese militarism desires to trample down China as it did unfortunate Korea. Wellington Koo, therefore, declared in Washington that China demands unconditional political independence, that China must have control over her own railways, i.e. the Japanese must give up the railways of Shantung and Manchuria. Wellington Koo further demands that the concessions lately granted to foreigners in China should be annulled. This too is directed against Japan. It is true the bankrupt gentlemen of Peking by themselves matter little, but the American capitalists like to hear these voices. Hughes, if he wishes to snatch from the Japanese their Chinese booty, can pretend that America, acting unselfishly as usual, appears now as the protector of the suppressed Chinese people. Meanwhile the directors of the American China banks are laughing in their sleeves.

Last updated on 27 December 2018