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Hugo Oehler

The Imperialist Conflicts
over the Chinese Markets

(May 1935)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 19, 12 May 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

White supremacy in the Orient is again being seriously challenged This time it is not the workers of the world who are demanding “Hands Off China”, in the interest of the Chinese Revolution. Now it is Japanese imperialism which is demanding that the American and British imperialism check their aggressive action in the Chinese markets. China, the main country concerned, has little or nothing to say and must continue to play the role of expressing her bourgeois needs through imperialist spokesmen.

The declaration of Amau of the Japanese Foreign Office which was the unofficial announcement of official action taken two mouths prior in communications to China, was followed up by government declaration which affirmed the Japanese policy of the “Monroe Doctrine” for Asia. Japan, the leading imperialist power in Asia, long ago decided that the American imperialist policy of “America for the Americans” is a good policy for Asia.

In 1915, when Japanese imperialism endeavored to impose the twenty-one demands upon China, while the western imperialists were engaged in armed conflict, everyone knew that this meant the establishment of a protectorate over China. Japan did not succeed in 1915, and all indications are that she has not succeeded this time. But Japan is in a far more favorable position now to continue her Mauchurian policy of acting first and speaking afterwards.

The Struggle for China

The struggle for domination over China, which can only be accomplished at the expense of other imperialist powers, to say nothing of the interests of the Chinese workers and peasants, has been the consistent policy of Japanese and other imperialist powers. While the main strategy of American and European imperialist powers, for domination and markets, revolved around hegemony in Europe, and, in turn, in the colonial countries as the outcome of domination on the continent, the main strategy of Japanese imperialism for the whole century revolved around the struggle for domination of Asia.

U.S. imperialism won its position of domination in Americas as the broader base of operations for the struggle to place Europe on rations. Japan seeks a broad Asiatic base as her first step in an attempt to prevent American imperialism from “organizing the world” to her own liking.

America’s attempt to organize the world presses heavily upon Great Britain, Japan, France and Germany in all parts of the world. At present it finds one of its main focal points over the struggle for hegemony in China. It expresses itself in opposition to Japan’s closed door policy. But this in no way signifies a lessening of the antagonisms to England.

The Chinese market, for all purposes, is the prize and most important conquest of the imperialist needs today. No one realizes this better than Japanese imperialism. The steady encroachment of the Western Imperialists since the defeat of the second Chinese revolution compels Japan, as a life and death matter, to answer each step of further penetration by other imperialists with a more aggressive policy for her own ends. This is leading directly to the new imperialist war.

International Policy Decisive

The reorganization of the different imperialist nations within the depression cycle has passed the initial stage. The internal reorganization, based on one form of nationalism or the other, through inflation, currency devaluation and reduced wages and concentration and centralization of finance and capital, has reached the stage where the international policies, coordinated with the internal policies of the imperialist nations, become decisive.

This phase primarily expresses Itself in a war for markets. Trade wars and dumping intensify all the economic contradictions that national internal reorganization was supposed to have modified, if not eliminated altogether. The only stage that can follow this under capitalism is the stage of open armed conflict expressed in imperialist wars and civil wars between classes.

The main contending forces concerned in this struggle in the Orient are: Japan, the United States and Great Britain as the main imperialist contenders; the oppressed millions of China; the Soviet Union and the proletariat of the world which will defend the U.S.S.R. against imperialist attacks.

The pressure of the crisis of world economy upon Japan was almost as great as that which affected Germany before Hitler took power. But Japan was faced with a more favorable capitalist variant and found an outlet in the armed invasion and further conquest of China. With this military strategy Japan was forced to intensify her trade war with the other imperialist powers and has successfully invaded and challenged the Western robbers on every continent, making inroads in strongholds of the United States and Great Britain.

Enlarging the Contradictions

Japan’s way out of the crisis and the contradictions of world economy is proving no more successful than the way attempted by Germany or any other imperialist power. Japan’s way out has accomplished in the Far East what Germany’s way out is accomplishing in Europe. It is extending and enlarging the contradiction and causing a concentration of the war clouds which inevitably lead to war.

Therefore, China, as the most important market for Japan, as well as for the other imperialists, is at the same time the base for Japanese war supplies in the struggle against Western Imperialism. Japan cannot let go of China and retreat. Diplomatic retreats will only cloak economic and military advances and preparations for Japan’s defense of her “rights” to domination in the Orient.

Great Britain sees this problem as clearly as do the American imperialists. But England does not hold the same favorable world position. This forces the British imperialists to take more drastic steps at once which are resulting in a gigantic trade war between England and Japan. It has reached the point where British diplomacy must openly and bluntly speak of a trade war with Japan.

The U.S. and England

To some this implies a united front of the United States and England against Japan. But in reality a trade war by England aimed a Japan, which gains the support o the Empire, will at the same time become an intensified force against the American imperialists in their search for markets. This will intensify the antagonisms and, unless agreements and concessions between British and American imperialism can be arranged, it will result in an extension of the trade war to new heights and bring the war just that much closer.

This increasing war danger am growing reaction in Europe will tighten the grip of world economy around Soviet economy. With Stalin at the helm, the Soviet Union will undoubtedly give more concessions to world imperialism. The American imperialist recognition of the Soviet Union, which was cloaked as a peace move and heralded by the Pravda as a big step to further world peace, was in reality a strategic move in the war preparations of America, aimed on the one hand against the new Hitler Germany and on the other hand against aggressive Japanese imperialism in the Orient.

Upset “Balance of Power”

The successful invasion of China by Japan and the victory of Fascism in Germany upset the “balance of power”, both in the Orient and in Europe, and called for a regrouping of forces in preparation for the coming war. Of course it also called for increased armaments, a mad race of imperialism for war supplies and instruments of death.

The position of the United States in regard to Japan was as firm as the position taken by England, but could be presented in a different fashion. The battle of diplomacy over China is only a spark of what is really going on under the surface. The moves and preparations of American imperialism in the race for the Chinese markets, and other markets Japan is invading, are laying the basis for a gigantic explosion.

America’s imperialist success in Latin America, and her strategic position in relation to decadent Europe, make it necessary to challenge the Japanese or any other imperialist power aiming to dominate the Orient. Otherwise, America’s desire to organize the world for her economic needs will receive a blow which it will be difficult to recover from.

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