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Japan Defies Other Imperialist Powers in China

(February 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 12, 24 February 1933, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If the world had any illusions that Japanese imperialism had actually relinquished its twenty-one demands forced on China in 1915 those illusions are by now completely dispelled. Japan is staking all on subjugating China before that nation can be unified, whether under bourgeois or proletarian hegemony. If the bourgeoisie succeeded in unifying China with the aid of American dollars it would mean the ultimate “peaceful penetration” of U.S. finance-capital and the ousting of both England and Japan from the Chinese market.

English capitalism, badly damaged by the War and no longer dominant on the international market, is not averse to seeing America become involved in war with Japan. Hence the attitude of the English government, reflected in the London Times, that the League has “done its part” and now countries with interests in the Far East (read America) “must themselves decide what policy is most likely to conduce to the early restoration of peaceful conditions,” etc. However the English press is likely to change its tune as soon as British interests in China are themselves directly threatened.

This threat to the other imperialist powers will not be long in the making. For the Japanese generals, following a schedule prepared long in advance, have given due notice of their next move; namely, an advance on Peiping and Tientsin. Of course, this new invasion is purely “defensive”; to oust Chang Hseuh-liang from North China so that his armies cannot attack the Japanese, and also to protect Jap nationals from the retreating Jehol armies. As the comments on the League’s Report made public by the Japanese diplomats state: “Japan is responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in the Far East” and she “intends to deal with China with the utmost good-will and forebearance”!

Meantime Jehol is being “mopped up”. With Manchuria completely in the hands of the Japanese army, perhaps the profits of the South Manchuria Railroad will be once more restored. Those profits began to decline alarmingly when the Chinese, with the aid of British and American capital, particularly the latter, began to build a unified network of railroads running North and South through Manchuria from Aigun on the Amur to Hulutao. This city on the sea-coast south of Dairen, was intended by the Chinese to compete with that Japanese terminal of the South Manchurian Railroad. Although the Chinese network was never completed, it had already begun to divert traffic from the Japanese-controlled road. The Japanese protested at this outrageous violation of “treaties” with China in which the latter had promised not to build parallel, competing railroads to the South Manchurian. This was one of the more immediate causes of the present campaign. The Japanese generals made it their first objective to gain the important strategic railheads on the Chinese network. Thus they have just occupied Peipiao, a railroad in the Jehol coal mining region. Hulutao will divert no more trade from Dairen if the Japanese can help it.

But the Japanese army will not stop even in Peiping and Tientsin if all goes well. The twenty-one demands attempted to set up four spheres of influence: Shantung, Manchuria and Eastern Inner Mongolia, Liaotung leased territory, and the Yangtse iron region. The campaign may yet develop along the Yangste River.

But a campaign South of the great wall will inevitably involve international “incidents”. Just as the murder of Captain Nakamura gave the Japs a pretext in 1931, so some similar occurrence may precipitate the world war that is brewing. For Japan this will not come unexpectedly. Having asked on the frontispiece of a new book The Army Manual, under a picture of the yawning muzzle of a great American field-piece, “Which way is this pointed?” Japanese imperialism answers by laying in supplies of cotton and iron for a long war. With Manchuria to supply food and ores the generals say they can “face the world”.

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