There is nothing more entertaining than the indignation of one gang of imperialists at the unsportsmanlike conduct of rival gangs. An imperialist newspaper recently reproached Mussolini with stirring up both Jews and Arabs in Palestine and the Near East by promising to support the claims of each of them. The writer pointed out that both promises could not be kept. What he forgot is that the British Government during the Great War did the same thing, down to the last dot and comma, and now could not keep the impossible pledges if it wished.
British imperialists are outraged at the behaviour of the Japanese Government, which hardly troubles to disguise its greedy intention to rob the British in China as well as the Chinese. The Times says that British capitalists have £250 million invested there, of which £180 million is in Shanghai (The Times, August 19th, 1937). The News Chronicle City Editor thinks that the amount is even larger, about £300 millions (News Chronicle, August 27th). The Times wants the Government to take a strong line. It tells Japan that “the free hand which she desires in Eastern Asia will in no circumstances include license to play havoc with the lawful interests of Great Britain.”
The City Editor of the News Chronicle (August 27th, 1937) comments on the strong anti-Japanese feeling in the “City,” and contrasts it with the City’s placid acceptance of General Franco’s brigandage. The reason for the difference of attitude is that in Spain British capitalists have only £40 million, half in Franco territory and half in Government territory, and of the two—
Property in Franco’s territory is probably a rather better “risk” than property in the Spanish Government’s territory, whereas no one has any illusions as to the relative friendliness of the Chinese and Japanese Governments to British capital.
The City Editor says: “I have no desire to be cynical about the City’s attitude on China and on Spain—but money does talk, doesn’t it?”
The Co-operative newspaper, Reynolds News, (August 22nd, 1937), takes The Times to task for wanting armed action to protect British capitalist interests in Shanghai. This is sound enough, but lest Reynolds News should overlook one of its past editorials, we would like to remind it that, in 1932, when Japan seized Manchuria, Reynolds News wanted action by the Powers to restrain Japan, for the reason that—
If free rein is given to her vaulting Imperialist ambitions in the Far East, the large economic interests of the Western nations must be imperilled gravely. Their trade and capital investments will collapse. Their treaty ports and extra-territoriality will be lost. Their every right will be abrogated.— (Reynolds’s Illustrated News, February 21st. 1932.)
When Japanese imperialists see the Western imperialists thus blatantly justifying their right to hold Chinese territory they can hardly be blamed for claiming that their “right” to do the same cannot be less. Anyway, what is more important is that the Japanese capitalists have great armed might and are on the doorstep of China, which gives them a big advantage. Badly armed and industrially backward, China is unable to meet Japan’s forces on equal terms.
One organ of British capitalism, the Daily Express, is taking the line that the British Government should in effect walk out of Shanghai and let the new gangsters take-over. If investors have sunk £300 millions there, that is just too bad for them but not worth a war. This is in line with Beaverbrook’s policy of “splendid isolation” for the British Empire. He probably thinks that British capitalists will have enough difficulty holding the Empire without trying also to hold investments outside it.