TOPICS OF THE DAY.
MR. CHAMBERLAIN'S SYLLOGISM.
IT is time to come to close quarters with the question of Russia and China. Are we, or are we not, to treat Russia as our natural, our inevitable, our essential, our perpetual enemy in regard to China ? We stand at the parting of the ways. We can either enter upon a struggle which shall be, for the next fifty years at least, the main-spring and causa causans of our whole foreign policy, and of all our efforts and aspirations outside these islands ; or we can do as we do at present, regard Russia as we do other Powers,—i.e., as a possible friend and a possible enemy, with whom we may quarrel, or with whom we may be at peace, according as circumstances shall determine. Depend upon it, we are not exaggerating when we say that if we choose the policy of Russian enmity, that policy will absorb all our energies and become our chief preoccupa- tion. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, but Mr. Chamberlain is clearly right in attaching the immense importance he evidently does to the question of opposition to Russia. If once adopted, the policy of withstanding Russia in China cannot be a side issue. It is bound to eat up all other questions in the realm of foreign policy. Let us endeavour to ask quietly and in a purely businesslike spirit whether it will be wise to adopt a new anti- Russian policy, and to make the holding in check of Russia in the Far East the keynote of our inter- national relations. We will not say offhand or on is :priori grounds that the policy is bad. We merely ask that if it is adopted it shall be with due con- sideration of all the facts and after a clear understanding of what it means. The problem is, most fortunately, one as yet dissociated from mere party cries. The Govern. ment are at present by no means committed to an anti- Russian policy. It is not, that is to say, the official Unionist policy. Again, the Opposition, though they have tried their best to injure the Government, have by no means taken up the line of saying that we are not to make antagonism to a Russian advance the central idea of our Far-Eastern policy. Some of them have, indeed, assailed the Government for not being anti-Russian enough, and it is asserted that when the Home-rule party was in office fear of a Russian advance in China was one of Lord Rose- bery's chief preoccupations. If, then, the Government choose to avoid the anti-Russian path, there need be no fear of any cry being raised that they are taking their policy from the Opposition.
If we consider the Russian-Chinese question on its merits, cve are at once confronted with what we may call Mr. Chamberlain's syllogism. ' If you do not prevent Russia, she will control all China, greatly to your injury. You cannot prevent Russia unless you have allies. Therefore, if you do not want to be greatly injured, you must shape your foreign policy so as to obtain an alliance capable of holding Russia in check.' Though we profoundly disagree with Mr. Chamberlain's syllogism, we cannot see why he should be blamed for stating it. Rather we think that he deserves the thanks of the nation for presenting us with so clean and intelligible an issue. A man less straightforward and less clear-minded would have tried to get support for his views by an indefinite rather than a definite state- ment. As it is, Mr. Chamberlain has made us see how the nation stands. That he has given his own solution of the problem, and that we do not think it the true solution, does not prevent us recognising that he has done a most useful work in stating it. Mr. Chamberlain has seen with a statesman's prescience that there is great danger, nay, a probability, that Russia may either actually take, or at any rate politically control, the greater part of China. But Mr. Chamberlain, agreeing here, no doubt, with a very large section of the nation, holds that if Russia were to exercise such control in China, we should suffer the most serious injury,—an injury so great, indeed, that it is a matter of vital concern for the nation to prevent it if possible. But Mr. Chamberlain is a statesman who holds, and rightly, that if once a great danger is perceived, it is the duty of those who per- ceive it to take immediate action. Accordingly he asks for action against Russia to prevent what he deems a great peril. He sees, however, and here we agree with him, that Russia cannot be effectively withstood in a half-hearted, limited liability kind of way, but that if we are to stop her it must be by putting out our whole strength, and by using any and every weapon which we can find,—and chief among these an agreement with Russia's great neighbours of the Triple Alliance. As we have said elsewhere, Mr. Chamberlain's logic is absolute, and unanswerable. Accept his premises, and you cannot avoid his conclusions. But we do not accept his premises. We do not believe—and if we read Lord Salisbury's latest speech aright he does not believe either—that even the complete control of China by Russia would lead to ruin and disaster in this country, either commercial or political. Let us, however, put the case in its most extreme form, and so make the most complete concession to our opponents. Even supposing that Russia were to assume as complete a• control over all the chief provinces of China as we possess. over India—we do not, of course, believe this possible within the next century, but we are quite willing to assume it—we still do not believe that our trade would be ruined. If China were to become a Russian India we hold, indeed, that our commerce would be infinitely greater with. every part of the Far East than it is to-day, for the very good reason that Russia is a civilised Power, and that you can always do far more business with a civilised.. Power—be its Protective tariffs never so high—than with an uncivilised. Take our trade per head with the Russian Empire, and compare it per head with our Chinese trade, and see which is the best customer, the Russian or the Chinaman. But, it may be said, to argue like this is. to give up the whole raison d'être of our Empire. If we are to let Russia take China, why not let her take India. also ? Such an argument is based on a misconception. We are quite willing to admit that we can do far better trade with a country when it is in British than in Russian hands. Commercially, it would, no doubt, be infinitely better to take all China ourselves than to allow Russia to have it. But this is not the alternative. No sane person proposes for a moment that we shall take China as we have taken India. It is admitted that we have not the strength to do so, and that though we have still a considerable power of expansion left, we must husband our surplus energies for " jobs " which are of more immediate importance. But once granted that we cannot possibly take China for our- selves, it is, in our opinion, most unwise to play the dog in the manger over China. On the contrary, we should un- grud gi n gly welcome Russia's attempts to tackle the problem. If she fails (and, remember, we nearly failed in India,, though we held the sea, and though the problem was a. far easier one), we shall not, as the liberal Power of the world, break our hearts at seeing the great despotism of Europe receive a rebuff. If she wins, we may be sure that our traders will do a far larger trade than they do at present, and this will be a consolation for the spread of autocracy with which they will be very well content.. The proposition, then, which we oppose to Mr. Chamber- lain's is this. We do not want to take China for ourselves. If China is taken by a civilised Power we shall do better,, not worse, trade than at present. Therefore, let us not enter upon a life-and-death struggle to prevent Russia trying to take China.
It will be said, no doubt, that our argument is incom- plete in one particular. We shall be told that it is not the China trade of the moment that we must consider, but its latent potentialities. It will be urged that if China were to be quietly and carefully developed on sound lines by- good European advisers, she would develop a, prosperity far greater and far less exclusive than in Russian hands. It is, then, for this latent potentiality of trade expansion under native rule that we are to oppose Russia tooth and' nail and exert the whole force of the nation. Surely that is a will-o'-the-wisp. We do not believe in this great expansion of trade under native rule, unless, of course, there is some well-backed diplomatist at Pekin able to put pressure on the Mandarins. No de- generate native State has ever developed voluntarily,. and of its free will. We have had plenty of experience in India of broken-down dynasties and corrupt officials. They have been put to rights and developed, no doubt, but only by means of the Political's iron hand. Unless there is political control at Pekin these much- talked-of latent potentialities of Chinese trade will remain latent potentialities. But if there is political control at Pekin it can only be by a single Power—dual, triple, or multiple control is a pure delusion—and that single Power will ultimately either have to give up the task or make an India of the greater part of China. But we have resolved not to be that Power under any circumstances. Therefore, it must be through Russia if the latent potentialities of Chinese trade are ever to receive full development. The Mandarin will not really move unless with a bayonet at his back, and Russia's is the only bayonet available. The people of this country have, then, two courses open to them. They can " go for " Russia " bald-headed," tooth and nail, by land and by sea, by means of alliances and subsidies, in fact by every means in their power, in order to maintain the integrity and independence of the Chinese Empire. That is the dog-in- the-manger policy. Again, we may let Russia go ahead and await the result, marking off, however, and, if need be, occupying, such places as we think it is essential for us to possess for ourselves. That is the policy of—" Do what you like with what I don't want myself." That is, in our opinion, the policy we ought to adopt in regard to China. No doubt if we adopt it we shall appear to get no thanks and no gratitude from Russia ; but that need not disturb us. Russia will be better than grateful;—she will be occupied, and not in trying to see how she can injure us, but in developing Northern China to a large extent by means of the results of English commerce. That in the end the anti-Russian policy will be rejected by the Govern- ment, and the policy of letting Russia alone but insuring our own interests will be adopted, we do not doubt. That is common-sense ; and in England common-sense as a rule prevails. We do not even despair of seeing Mr. Chamberlain reconciled to a policy of letting Russia do her worst in China; while as for Lord Salisbury, we feel convinced from his latest speech that this is the course of action to which his mind is now inclined. He does not evidently believe in our trade being annihilated by Russia, —even supposing she were to perform the miracle of absorbing all China offhand. But we want the thought of the nation to be clear.