Li Fu-jen

Japan Admits Long Fight Ahead
to Conquer China

But Rivals Are Preoccupied in West, Soviet Stands Off

(September 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 6, 18 September 1937, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Japan’s latest empire crusade in China is now well in its third month. Confounding all the optimistic expectations of the Tokyo military specialists, the Chinese armies in North China and at Shanghai have resisted the imperialist invader with remarkable tenacity and bravery. Japanese spokesmen are now obliged to admit the necessity of girding for a struggle which may last three or four years.

The Kuomintang government, hurled into the struggle against its will (its entire record since the inauguration of Japan’s continental policy in 1931 has shown its preference for compromise) is waging its defensive campaign on a purely military basis, hoping the while that Japan’s imperialist rivals, first of all Britain and America, will step actively into the picture and save the day for China. Nanking also looks for possible aid from the Soviet Union.

China, largest single potential market and field of investment in the world outside of the Soviet Union, has been the scene of sharpest imperialist rivalry, especially since the end of the World War. Japan has, however, an indubitable advantage over her rivals and plans to oust them from China in order to make that country her own exclusive preserve. To achieve that aim, all organized Chinese resistance to Japan’s continental policy would have to be stamped out and a government installed at Nanking which will unquestioningly do the bidding of Tokyo.

Opportune Moment

The Japanese imperialists could scarcely have struck at a more propitious moment, shrewdly calculating that none of their rivals was in a position to obstruct the carrying through of their plans. Imperialist Britain, beset with the problem of maintaining its Mediterranean life-line to India against the attacks of the European fascist powers, is obliged to watch helplessly while Japan damages and wrecks the vast British properties and trade in China. An illuminating test of Britain’s helplessness was afforded by the diplomatic exchange which followed the shooting of the British ambassador to China. Tokyo thumbed its nose at Britain’s protest and the British lion has not even emitted a roar by way of answer. In the heyday of the British Empire’s ascendancy a lesser incident would have led to war.

American imperialism, rising gradually to the stature of the world’s dominant power, is not yet in the full stride of its march to empire destiny and therefore not ready to stake itself in a serious war with its imperialist rivals. The Neutrality Act of the Roosevelt Government is the formula of the unpreparedness of America imperialism. Washington’s policy in China at this time is confined to a passive “protection of American lives and property” accompanied by vague hints that both Japan and China will be held accountable for damage to American interests.

Moscow Compromises

No threat to the Far Eastern stake of French imperialism is immediately present in the war of Japan and China. France’s trade with China is infinitesimal and her principal interests are her colonial territories in Indo-China and her “concessions” at Shanghai, Hankow and Tientsin. The former are far from the scene of Sino-Japanese hostilities, while the latter, because of their location, have suffered practically no damage in the latest fighting.

The one country which was a real source of worry to the Tokyo warlords was the Soviet Union. Would Moscow, concerned for its strategic defenses in the Mongolian People’s Republic, permit Japan to grab North China and Inner Mongolia? In June, Stalin framed and executed the flower of the Red Army commanding staff. The Japanese army immediately seized two strategic islands in the Amur River which indisputably belonged to the Soviet Union. In subsequent negotiations, Moscow virtually ceded control of the islands to Japan. The Tokyo warlords rightly concluded that if Moscow feared to defend “its own” territory, it certainly could not be expected to obstruct Japan’s attempts to seize North China and Inner Mongolia.

Pact Meaningless

In a feeble effort to offset the advantages thus given to Japan, Moscow has now concluded a non-aggression pact with Nanking. It is a fact of common knowledge in the Far East that negotiations for the conclusion of this pact were commenced as far back as 1933, when diplomatic relations between Moscow and Nanking, ruptured in 1927, were .restored. Moscow sought by this pact to hinder Nanking from making an alliance with Japan against the Soviet Union. Nanking, hoping to make a satisfactory deal with Japan, delayed signing but kept the pact in reserve as a threat to the Tokyo warlords. In signing it now, Nanking hopes to frighten Tokyo into sweet reasonableness. But, having no fundamental common interests with Moscow it will wrap the pact if opportunity occurs to make what seems a favorable agreement with Tokyo.

The Stalin government, which abandoned the German and Austrian proletariat to their fate and which today sabotages the struggle of the Spanish workers, will not intervene in the Sino-Japanese struggle on behalf of China unless such intervention should be vitally dictated by the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. Stalinist foreign policy is still conducted within the conservative framework of the status quo. That which does not immediately affect the interests of the bureaucracy is no concern of Stalin.

Japan Unopposed

From this brief analysis of the positions of the principal Far Eastern powers an inescapable conclusion emerges: Japan will be able to carry through the present phase of her conquest of China without foreign hindrance. Japanese imperialism’s only actual foe is the Nanking government and its armies, since the exploited masses of both China and Japan are held down by military dictatorship.

China’s defeat by Japan is certain unless the defense against imperialism is wrenched from the control of the Kuomintang regime and the defense campaign transformed and enlarged into a general offensive, against imperialism on all fronts. This requires the intervention of the masses under a revolutionary leadership. Nanking, if it does not succumb to a humiliating military defeat, will effect a “compromise” with Japan – a compromise which will be dictated by Anglo-American imperialism at the expense of China’s sovereignty and independence, a compromise which will still further enslave China’s millions.

Last updated on 19 November 2014