Sen Katayama


The Four Power Pact and
the Far Eastern Situation

(14 March 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 20, 14 March 1922, pp. 145–147.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Washington Conference ended with a policy of questionable compromise on the Far Eastern problems. They call this compromise the Four Power Pact It contains four things, namely:

  1. The four powers (England, America, France and Japan) agree between themselves to respect their rights in relation to their insular possessions and dominions in the regions of the Pacific Ocean. Controversies will be dealt with in conference with the help of those powers not in the insolved controversy.
  2. The nature of the pact is defensive against any other power or powers.
  3. The pact is for ten years and after that any power can withdraw upon 12 months’ notice.
  4. When it is signed by four powers the Anglo-Japanese Alliance concluded July 13, 1911 in London shall be terminated.

The pact is a compromise at least for three powers, England, America and Japan. America wants the Anglo-Japanese Alliance abrogated at all costs. In order to obtain this America signed the pact against her traditional policy of non-entanglement in foreign affairs. The New York Times gives a rather painful apology to the effect that America’s position on the pact is not against her traditional policy in its editorial of December 9, 1921:

“President Harding and the American delegation are pleased with the result achieved. It has been their purpose to enter into no alliance, entangling or otherwise. The new arrangement is regarded by them as avoiding this complication.”

They may tell the American public that the pact is only an agreement with the three powers on the Pacific possessions and dominions but at the same time it destroyed the obnoxious alliance between England and Japan. Thus America gained her object without sacrificing hardly anything. True, the pact is not an alliance but its second article is a defensive agreement against other powers. The signing of the pact puts an end to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance but that does not mean that the British and Japanese break off their relations in the Far East. They are still allies under the pact. And moreover the present pact of the four powers is nothing but the British proposal of the triple alliance presented by the Lloyd George to the Washington politicians in a modified and moderated form and also disguised as an agreement.

England’s statesmen have accomplished their aim in concluding the four power pact and can now pacify the British public, because the pact puts the end to the very unpopular Anglo-Japanese Alliance and yet keeps Japan as her unpaid policeman for India as before. Present British interests in China are too great for Britain to make Japan her possible enemy, while she does not like to make the American people consider that the British government is not a friend of the American people. Thus England killed two birds with one stone – the Pacific Four Power Pact.

French colonial interests in the Far East are no possible danger to France, Japan or the other powers. But in case of trouble that threatens into develop into war between America and Japan France is able to retain her colonial interests in the Far East by taking side with either America or Japan provided that England is on her side. So France expects to hold very good cards in the coming contest in the Far Fast. The latter half of the first clause of the pact almost solely provides for the very possible conflict between America and Japan, hardly for no other powers.

Apparently Japan is also gainer under the four power pact! Under this pact there will be no immediate danger of war with America on the questions of the Far East. She has the tacit consent of the three powers in her activities in the Far Eastern regions. America, while maintaining her attitude toward China, the “Open Door” and “Equal Opportunity for All Countries”, somewhat changed her policy toward Japan since the return of the mission to the Far East in the Summer of 1920 headed by Frank Vanderlip and Thomas Lamont, the Wall Street magnate. They and the Japanese capitalist clique headed by Shibusawa and others seem to have come to a definite agreement on the Chinese markets under the China Economic Consortium. After some strenuous propaganda conducted by the Wall Street magnates mentioned above with the help of other small flies in the financial circle, they succeeded in convincing the big capitalists of the country of the advisability of the joint exploitation of China. During the Summer of 1921 the change in the American policy toward Japan appeared in the public press. It sounded somewhat as follows:

“Japan has teeming millions, that she must either feed, send outside the country and get material for her growing industry from other countries. The White countries, the American Pacific coast, Canada, Australia and other colonies held by the White races shut their door to the Japanese. Therefore it is fair and reasonable to let Japan develop her influence in the Far Eastern regions.”

This kind of talk has been taken up by various dailies and periodicals all over the country.

Thus America prepared herself for the Washington Conference. The militarist Japanese government had at first some suspicions as to the real motives of the Washington statesmen but the government had a certain understanding with the capitalists (Wall Street magnates) and accepted Harding’s invitation. For the first time the Japanese became interested in the foreign policies of Japan and they discussed freely the program of the Washington Conference. The disarmament question became a burning topic with the Washington Conference and the best and the most intelligent classes of the people openly declared that Japan’s best interest is not in militarism but in the peaceful pursuit of her national life. This change of attitude of the people toward militarism made the military representatives at Washington yield readily to the proposals made by the American delegates and Japan gave way to the demand of America in regard to the question of Yap.

While the Four Power Pact temporarily gives Japan a somewhat free hand in the Far East and tacit consent to help the reactionary Russians, she has already increased the troops in Siberia and occupied important places in the Amur Province. Thus Japan has started to act the hangman’s part for the imperialists of the world in the Far East under the Four Power Pact and is determined to crush the workers’ and peasants’ power and influence in Siberia and to destroy the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic of Russia. This gives Japan still freer hand to exploit the fisheries and other industries in the Marine Province and Kamchatka.

Thus the Washington Conference has at least temporarily decided upon the joint exploitation of China and Siberia. In the latter it tacitly permitted Japan to assist the reactionary elements of the old Russian Czarist and capitalist cliques. On the whole the Washington Conference succeeded in establishing a compromise imperialist policy of the big powers in the Far East and yet its results show that they are preparing for the coming imperialist conflict in the Far East. America wanted the British-Japanese Alliance terminated simply because America cannot fight against the combined power of England and Japan single-handedly.

Politically France has been very much interested in the Far East, especially in the Siberian situation, from the beginning of the intervention of the Allied Powers. French statesmen held the pretty idea that they can strike at Soviet Russia by helping the counter-revolutionary army in Siberia, but after the fall of Koltchak they withdrew their army and stopped their actual intervention in Siberia except for financial and other substantial support. They with the English and American governments left the task of actual support of the counter-revolutionary generals to the imperialist Japanese government. Among the imperialist powers the French government has been the most interested in the Siberian invasion next to the Japanese government and openly or secretly supported the reactionary leaders and Japan as its imperialist representative. The American and English governments equally supported and acquiesced in French and Japanese activities in Far Eastern Siberia. American government officially declared that she had no objections to Japan’s Siberian activity. But when Japan occupied the northern half of Sakhalin Island and also some important strategic points in the Island of Kamchatka American statesmen, unable to make any protest against the audacious Japanese army and navy activities, raised a feeble voice in a rather roundabout way making the declaration to the Russian people through the Italian Foreign Office: “The integrity of the Russian territories”. This was to deceive the Russian people on the one hand and enter the American protest against the Japanese occupation of the Russian territories, while all the time supporting the counter-revolutionary armies in Poland and other border nations.

The much commented upon and criticized French-Japanese secret agreements concerning Siberia played a quite important role in the diplomatic drama staged in Washington after New Year. On the 2nd of January the Manchester Guardian, printed over two columns on the secret agreements between France and Japan as to their policy against Siberia and Soviet Russia. French militarists are desperate and crazy about the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. They seem still to have an idea that they are able to crush Soviet Russia by financing Poland and Rumania and by helping the counter-revolutionary leaders in Siberia through the imperialists of Japan. It is not likely that the so-called secret agreements between Japan and France are as given by the Manchester Guardian in its last paragraph. The daily’s account does not give any detail of the conclusion of the treaty. But anyone can make it out by the cables exchanged between the two governments on the Siberian questions. Whether the secret treaty between France and Japan has been concluded or not it is a fact that Japan has been carrying officers of the Wrangel army from the Black Sea and Constantinople to Vladivostok since the defeat of General Wrangel in the Crimea.

Whether the Franco-Japanese secret treaty is true or not matters very little to the Far Eastern countries, they are both enemies of the Far Eastern workers and peasants. They are trying to exploit them and their countries for imperialist purposes. But the exposure of the secret treaty will serve a propaganda purpose for England and America. It is natural that all the white capitalist countries cannot but dislike Japan’s Far Eastern exploitation and they all want to crush Japanese imperialism in order to have a free play in the Far Eastern regions, but the fact remains that Japan is the strongest power in the Far East. Hence there arises necessity of ousting Japanese imperialism. If only they could do so! England can crush Japan with America’s assistance even if France sided with Japan. But although as the result of the war of 1914-18 England crushed her then rival, Germany, she has now a stronger rival in America. Lloyd George knows very well that crushing Japan with America will bring forth a greater rival of England than the rival she crushed in the last war.

All the capitalist countries want the Chinese markets for their goods and for their investments. But all cannot get it, at least all want it alone. There is only one way to get it alone for any country, namely, to fight for it. This is a plain fact that every capitalist country knows; but to fight for it is not an easy matter and to win it in the fight is not so sure as the “open door policy”. Thus the Washington Conference was called in order to sound the sea of public opinion. The result is the Four Power Pad in the Far East. The pact apparently assures the ten years’ security in the Far East, but really the situation in the Far East has become much more dangerous and unsteady than under the British-Japanese alliance, because the pact is a mere agreement among four powers and the conference that might be held in event of controversy, say of two powers (America and Japan), may meet a deadlock by the the vote of the two others (England and France). The probable decision of the conference has no obligatory force for either of two powers. It has, therefore, as little power as the Hague Peace Conference decision or its agreements. Thus the situation in the Far East has became more critical and dangerous than ever before. The imperialists’ war is unavoidable and it may come any time There is nothing now that guarantees the peace in the Far East. The Four Power Pact has, however, one good quality as checking imperialist Japan in the coming Far Eastern capitalist conflict, because Japan’s favorite tactics in war are “Steal a march upon the enemy”. Japan won its first war by these tactics in the China-Japanese war of 1894–5 and also in the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–5. These tactics of Japanese imperialism will not be used under the Four Power Pact. On the other hand it will give a certain advantage to America where the war spirit or jingoism can only be stirred by means of public opinion through the press and the public meetings. The pact will give such necessary time for the American government. This all means that the next imperialist war in the Far East will be facilitated for three powers: England, America and France.

The world imperialist powers. as I have somewhat extensively reviewed above, are ever ready to exploit the Far Eastern countries and especially China. With such aggressive organized imperialist powers of the world before them, the Far Eastern countries are in a deplorable and chaotic condition on account of the ever-menacing Japanese imperialism.

Korea is under the iron heel of Japanese imperialist rule. The people are oppressed, the poor peasants are exploited by the Japanese landowners, who really stole the land from those poor peasants. The Oriental Colonization Company has been organized for the special purpose of exploiting Korean agricultural industries and they are capitalizing Korea’s best land and making the Koreans all tenant farmers enslaved under the Oriental Colonization Company. The shareholders include the Korean capitalists including the Korean royal families, but they have no power in the management of the Company. The railways, mines, and other industries are monopolized by the Japanese capitalists or by the Japanese militarist government.

The Korean independence movement is vigorous, as is shown by its nationwide uprisings in 1919, although the latter were crushed by the bloody hands of Japanese militarism. Koreans paid unspeakably big prices—their lives, sufferings and also many years of prison. Yet the uprisings gave the Koreans hope and great impetus for their future struggles. They showed the entire world their capacity of revolt and national unity. The Korean uprisings of 1919 were directly influenced by the American missionaries and without doubt indirectly influenced by the Russian Bolshevik revolution. And they are nationally awakened for their emancipation from the foreign imperialist yoke.

The uprisings of 1919 and the invasion of five thousand Korean soldiers fitted out in Siberia which, although it dealt a strong blow at the imperialist army, failed utterly [and] must have taught the Korean independence leaders the necessity of better and wider as well as deeper organization among the Koreans outside as well as in Korea in order to strike the final blow against imperialist Japan. The Korean independence leaders who are outside Korea and in Korea should have firm organizations with strict discipline and well-regulated means of communication and they should always keep in touch and act in unison. They should also act in cooperation with the workers’ and peasants’ organizations of China and Japan as well as Siberia. They should realize that the independence of Korea can not be accomplished without the substantial support of the Far Eastern proletariat.

China is yet in the development stage of political revolutions started in the year 1911. China has no stable government with power and influence all over China. The Peking government lives on the support of the foreign creditor governments The Canton government has not much influence over the provincial governments which it has been fighting for its existence. Not only that but provincial governors and different factions are all the time quarrelling with one another. The Peking government is in the stage of bankruptcy and it only exists by borrowing. The Canton government is in no better financial condition than the Peking government. It has no relations with any foreign powers and is recognized by no country. Thus China is living or going through her revolutionary period; a period that must be settled by some strong government, whether that government be reactionary, liberal or democratic. China needs a strong government that could stand on its feet and fight against the foreign aggressions and imperialists of the world. But such a hope is utter utopian. China is already divided economically among the capitalists of England, France, Japan and America under the name of spheres of influence and interests. China’s only salvation is to became herself a Soviet Republic like Russia and throw off the yokes of foreign imperialism and capitalism. The supposed coming imperialist world war will not benefit China, whoever should come out as the victor, unless China takes advantage of the war to throw off the foreign yoke of the world capitalists and imperialists, and join hands with the Russian Soviet Republic.

The Chinese poor peasants and workers are exploited by both foreign and home capitalists and the poor people in general are in the most miserable condition still under the heavy yoke of the patriarchal and feudal regime. But since the 1911–1912 revolution the Chinese people began to awake politically, intellectually and socially. National consciousness among the Chinese has been exercising its power and influence conspicuously in the Shantung affair. Then it played a rather remarkable role in the boycotting of goods from Japan. Socially the Chinese are fast breaking down old feudal customs and usages. Until the first revolution Chinese social life was rigidly controlled by the old men; the old men in the family having the sole power and influence over the rest of the members of the family. But since the Chinese youth have awakened and asserted their due power and position in society, they have created a young men’s China that will decide the destiny of the country. The youths of China have infinite possibilities before them, if they see the Far Eastern situation and meet it boldly and radically and create the new Chinese social conditions necessary for the future.

Siberia is still struggling with the reactionary remnants of the Koltchak armies and others who are supported by the greedy and brutal imperialists of Japan. The latter have quite recently renewed their attacks on Siberian cities apparently encouraged by the tacit agreements among the capitalist powers gathered together at Washington to give at least temporarily a free hand to Japanese imperialism. It is quite evident that those reactionary leaders of old Russia can do nothing in Siberia without the help of the Japanese imperialists, who are trying to get a foothold m Siberia in order to exploit Siberia’s resources. Outer Mongolia has established a Free Republic and has now made a treaty with Soviet Russia. It is a matter of time for Siberia to establish a Soviet Republic as an indivisible part of the Soviet Republic of the Workers and Peasants.

Russia of the workers and peasants needs a breathing spell. England, France and Italy are asking Soviet Russia to negotiate. with them on economic questions. It means a great unfought victory for Soviet Russia. They have been beaten by Soviet Russia even in spite of the world economic blockade around Russia. Without Soviet Russia Europe and England are not able to restore their economic life and activities. Soviet Russia has become the greatest potential power and influence in the very economic life of Europe and Asia.

Soviet Russia within a short space of time will be able to help the Siberians to drive out the Japanese from Siberia and aid in making the Chinese workers and peasants allies of Soviet Russia. The Japanese imperialists will be easily beaten by the mighty army of Red Russia. Thus the future of the Far East is assured. The Far Eastern countries will emancipate themselves from the imperialism and capitalism of Japan, Europe, and America. When the world imperialist governments now gathered together shall be ready to fight their imperialist war in the Far Fast the great Red Army of Soviet Russia will be more than ready to defeat the greedy aim of the imperialist countries, and to help the Far East to establish the Republic of Workers and Peasants.

Last updated on 1 September 2019