The Moralists’ Morals

As “scraps of paper” are very much in the air just now, it may not be uninteresting to see how the forces of “liberty, justice, and the rights of “small nations” (that is the allied [for the moment] Governments) will view Japan’s bullying demands upon China.

According to the “Nation” (20.3.15) the matter stands thus if Japan’s demands are acceded to :

“China will, in short, stand to Japan as Persia stands to Great Britain and Russia. This is at one blow to settle the largest political question of the East, and the conomic consequences are hardly less serious. Japan seeks many exclusive opportunities for herself now, and clearly she will, by controlling Chinese finance, be able, in fact if not right, to control the future economic dealings of China with other Powers. The situation is extremely delicate, and there may be limits to the action which the Allies can take now. whether to protect China’s political independence (which we have guaranteed by treaty) or to safeguard their own economic interests.”

The Allies, of course, have pretty well got their hands full, hence it denotes no uncanny insight to arrive at the conclusion pronounced by the writer quoted, that “there may be limits to the action which the Allies can take now. .” There may indeed. However, later advices prove in very amusing fashion, that on the plane of capitalist cunning, though it is as true as ever that “East is East and West is West,” the twain do meet. For Japan discovered that her demands infringed certain “dormant concessions” to British firms. So she showed a very fine appreciation of the Western spirit in general and of British “honour” in particular. She acted upon the theory that, though as regards the violation of the political independence of China, the accomplished fact might be nine points of the international law, with China’s guarantors so busy redeeming their “plighted word” elsewhere, any direct attack upon British economic interests would certainly mean trouble. The way this ally of the allies who are pouring out the blood of their workers over the matter of the violation of the independence of Belgium applied the same set of principles to China is a refreshingly candid interpretation of those principles. There is no rift among the looters, but that is entirely due to the size and number of the British guns.

J. B.

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