§ Motion for Adjournment.
§ (4.30.) Mr. NORMAN
, Member for South Wolverhampton, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., "the Agreement between Great Britain and Japan, a Copy of which has recently been presented to the House"; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places and not less than 40 members having accordingly risen:—
§ * MR. NORMAN
I do not take this step without a realisation of the responsibility which attaches to it. I am well aware that questions of foreign policy cannot be discussed with the same freedom, and ought not to be discussed with the same, freedom, as the issues of our ordinary party warfare; more especially when the subject in question is an offensive and defensive Treaty of Alliance, involving a momentous change from the traditional foreign policy of this country, and placing the British Empire in a situation in which it might be compelled to declare war in a cause which was not of its own seeking. I know, Sir, I am walking on very thin ice, and I shall try to walk lightly and warily; and in all sincerity I desire to say that I do not bring this forward as a mere party matter. If any immoderate or indiscreet word should fall from me during the few remarks I shall address to the House, it will have escaped me through inexperience or inadvertence, and it will be contrary to my intention and desire, and I shall greatly regret it. My purpose is not to address an argument to the House, but if I may say so, to administer an interrogatory.
The Agreement in question came upon the country, without doubt, as a complete surprise. No word of warning prepared us for it. No foreign events had foreshadowed its appearance. No international complication, so far as this country is aware, had arisen to justify it. The country was aware that our relations with Japan were as good as they happily have been for a long time. The country also knew that negotiations were proceeding between various powers for the safeguarding of our commercial interests in Manchuria. But this Agreement, when we awoke yesterday morning to find it in the newspapers, came upon us as a bolt from the blue. It is not only, as I said just now, a momentous departure from the time-honoured policy of this country, but for the first time Great Britain has concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with a foreign Power, and it is the first time also in modern history that any European Power has concluded an alliance of this nature not with an Occidental but an Oriental race. More than that, the haste with which this Agreement 1274 was presented appears to me to call for some explanation. It would seem to indicate a situation of some immediate urgency. We have had for a long time a Treaty with Italy. I do not know whether it is still in existence or not. It has been kept secret. We have at the present moment a Treaty with Germany. It is kept secret. This Treaty with Japan, which is a much more binding and compromising Treaty, is suddenly rushed into the knowledge of the world, and I think it is not unreasonable to ask what is the cause of this impetuous publicity. I think the fact that Lord Lansdowne's covering letter to the British Minister in Japan cannot reach him until three weeks after it is published in this country, is sufficient answer to the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite what evidence there is of impetuosity. Lord Lansdowne's letter is a very important document indeed; it has to be read together with the Treaty, and it cannot reach the British Minister until weeks after it has been presented to the public in Europe.
I come now, Sir, to the document itself. What does it commit Great Britain to? Of course, hon. Members will have very carefully studied the document, and therefore I need only refer to it very briefly. Lord Lansdowne says in his letter that both parties to the Agreement have desired that the integrity and independence of the Chinese Empire should be preserved, that there should be no disturbance of the territorial status quo, that all nations should be afforded equal opportunities for the development of their commerce and industry, and that peace should not only be restored, but should for the future be maintained. These are most admirable sentiments, and I am quite sure there will not be found in the British Empire a single person who will disagree with them for one moment. But these moderate sentiments are very soon left behind in the despatch, and a little further on we come to the words which explain under what circumstances warlike measures might become necessary, and might be legitimate to take. I will read the important words—Not only in the case of aggressive action or actual attack by some other Power, but in the 1275 event of 'disturbances arising in China or Korea, and necessitating the intervention of either of the High Contracting Parties.'Who is to be the judge of the necessity? Obviously either of the High Contracting Parties. But again, proceeding further in the despatch, Lord Lansdowne's despatch runs away again from this rather alarming sentence which I have quoted. He says that the TreatyContains no provisions which can be regarded as an indication of aggressive and self-seeking tendencies,and that itCan operate only when one of the allies has found himself obliged to go to war in defence of interests which are common to both.I submit with all respect that these words are not a correct statement of the facts. There is not a syllable in the text of the Treaty to justify these statements. These statements in Lord Lansdowne's despatch are not justified by the text of the Treaty, and they cannot be found in it. Art. 1 saysIt will be admissible for either of the parties to take such measures as may be indispensable in order to safeguard those interests, if threatened, either by the aggressive action of any other Power, or by disturbances arising," etc.Then Art. 2 goes on to say thatIf either Power should become involved in war the other Party would maintain a strict neutrality and prevent other Powers from joining in the hostilities.Art. 3 says thatIf any other Power does join in hostilities against the Ally, the other contracting party will come to its assistance and will conduct the war in common or make peace in mutual agreement with the Ally.Now, what is this country committed to by these articles? What kind of situation is here envisaged in which England may be compelled to take up arms? If Japan of its own independent, free, unfettered decision, which according to this text we cannot control, considers Russia to be taking aggressive action in Korea or Manchuria, Japan may take up the quarrel and call upon us to keep the other Powers out of the dispute. But it must be remembered that Russia, has already the Dual Alliance with another Power, and if Russia is attacked aggressively by any other Power France is bound to come to her assistance. Therefore France is brought in, and then 1276 England is bound by this Treaty to declare war against Russia and France. This seems to me to follow logically from the terms of the Treaty, and I ask the noble Lord to explain, if he can, why it is not so. Moreover, we are bound not only to declare war, but not to make peace except in agreement with Japan. This is the definite question I put:—"Is not British policy by this Treaty tied hard and fast to the wheels of Japanese policy, and should we not, under certain circumstances, have to go to war, however unwilling we might be to do so, or however adverse to British interests such a war might, be? "I venture to think that the seriousness of such a situation can hardly be over-stated.
I have alluded to the Dual Alliance. The terms of neither the Dual Alliance nor the Triple Alliance have been published, but they are pretty well known, and it is understood by diplomatists that under neither of those Treaties is one of the Allies bound to come to the assistance of the other unless the latter has been aggressively attacked. But under this Treaty we are apparently bound to come to the assistance of Japan under circumstances in which Japan may have been the aggressor. The policy of England had always been freedom from alliances; but we have been suddenly thrust headlong into an alliance far more stringent and binding than has been ventured upon by any of the great Continental Powers whose very existence depends upon alliances in arms. It is reasonable, therefore, under these circumstances—unprecedented and alarming—that the House should ask at the earliest possible moment for some further explanation and justification.
Now, Sir, what is the stake for which we are taking this action? As regards Manchuria, we know the potential value of British interests there, but what are British interests in Korea? It would be rather difficult for any hon. Member to define them. Our only interest in Korea is that it is of very great importance to Japan, whose welfare is always a matter of consideration to us. It is a worthless country, with a grossly corrupt and incompetent Government. Its frontier towards Russia is a sort of no-man's-land, inhabited by refugees from justice and ruffians of every kind, and is not safe for an ordinary traveller to pass through without escort. In fact, Korea 1277 is in a most dangerous and unstable position, and it is upon the state of a country like this that the question of peace or war for the British Empire might have to depend. As regards Japan, my position is a little difficult, if the House will pardon an allusion to myself, because I have been for many years one of the strongest advocates for good relationship with that country. I advocated long before it was accepted by the Government, indeed, I wrote a book advocating, that Japan should be welcomed into the comity of nations, I yield to no one in my admiration for the Japanese people or their statesmen. I have not the slightest sympathy with the parrot cry that Japan is merely a nation of assimilators and imitators. Like everyone else, I have the profoundest admiration for the power of Japan, and for the gallantry and humanity of her soldiers, and I find myself embarrassed at offering criticisms which might seem to put me in a hostile position to Japanese interests. I hope the House will pardon this personal explanation, as the matter lies very close to my sympathy. It must be remembered however that Japan and Russia have been preparing for war for a considerable period. When Russia planned her magnificent railway—the largest and most costly railway in the world—Japan at once announced a programme of military and naval expansion to mature at the same time as the Siberian Railway, which places Russia in a position to greatly increase her forces in the Far East at short notice. It is undesirable to dwell further on this rivalry, although I might give very many examples of it. But it is a fact that both these two nations believe and fear that a situation may arise which will compel them to resort to war to settle their differences. It is into such a situation as that that we come with this treaty of offensive and defensive alliance.
On one point there cannot be the least possible doubt, and that is that this new Treaty is a most excellent thing for Japan. All I ask is, have our interests been sufficiently considered? We have happily for a long time been on the very best possible terms with Japan. It was under a Liberal Government, when Lord Rosebery had charge of the foreign policy of this country, that we, first of all 1278 civilised nations to do so, admitted Japan to the council board of civilised humanity. That was an act of statesmanship of the highest possible wisdom, and it bound us to Japan by ties and bonds which can never be broken. Then again Lord Rosebery, on the occasion when there was a partial alliance of European Powers to snatch from Japan the fruits of her hard-earned victory, refused to be a party to it, and that drew tighter still the ties which bound us to Japan. The question is, were not these relations good enough? Was it necessary to assume all the responsibility and risks of an offensive and defensive alliance when we had already attained a position which appeared to respond to our needs and character of our policy? I read these the words in The Times this morning—If the fabric has been reared and completed to its present stage by Lord Salisbury and Lord Lansdowne, the site was cleared and the foundations were laid by Lord Rosebery.I have no means of knowing what Lord Rosebery thinks about this Treaty, but I wonder if he will appreciate this attempt to invoke his authority for a diplomatic act to which he has been no party. I do not know what Lord Rosebery may think, but I should certainly be surprised if he does not regard with astonishment, and perhaps with some alarm, the sky-scraping edifice that has been run up on the foundation laid by his wise and consistent statesmanship.
I fear, Sir, that I am trespassing on the time of the House, but it is impossible to discuss this question without making a more direct allusion to Russia. It is quite useless to deny that this Treaty is aimed at Russia. It must be so, from the nature of things, because no other Power can be suspected of cherishing any designs against Korea. It is well known that there is a party growing in this country who are looking forward to better relations between this country and Russia than have existed in the past. Many of our most serious political writers and thinkers, led indeed by the Prime Minister himself, in a remarkable utterance, desire that the past between Russia and ourselves should be left behind, and that a better understanding should be entered on. That point of view was put with great force and lucidity by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division in a debate in this House the 1279 other day.†Have hon. Members reflected upon the attitude of Russia towards this country during the long period of the war that we have been passing through? We have been, engaged in a war which has held us fast. Every single soldier was occupied, and we had in those days no alliance at all. We had for a time perhaps, hardly a friend, and it would have been, of course, impossible for us to defend the North West frontier of India with our Fleet, however powerful it might be. Surely if there was any occasion which any Power desiring to strike at us would have seized, that was the occasion. Has Russia done anything of that kind? It must certainly be said that her attitude has been admirable and friendly. She has taken no step whatever to embarrass us. Her regular way of bringing pressure on us is to mass a few regiments upon the Afghan frontier. She has not even done that, although it was at one time stated that she had, but it was found afterwards not to be so. On the contrary, she has given us this proof of friendship and goodwill. I wish I could point to any similar goodwill we have shown to her. I think I am entitled to ask the question, has the Government tried to come to terms with Russia about Manchuria? Many of us think some modus vivendi is possible. All we want to know is that before taking this step no stone was left unturned to come to such terms with Russia as would safeguard the political and commercial interests of both countries. If not, can Russia be blamed if she regards us as going about among the nations looking for an alliance against her? First she sees us concluding a treaty with Germany, which the German Government at once repudiated, declaring it had not the meaning our Government attached to it. That having failed, Russia will say that we have gone to Japan. With regard to France, I suppose not for many years have the British and French Governments been on such cordial terms as at present; and yet this Treaty, owing to the diplomatic alliance between Russia and France, will necessarily bring her into antagonism with us.
As to the United States, I asked the noble Lord this afternoon whether it†See preceding volume p. 608.1280 had been informed and had expressed any opinion. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs replied that the United States Government had been informed but had not expressed any opinion. If only informed a day or two ago, they might not have had an opportunity of replying; but if they were informed some time ago and have not expressed any opinion, that surely is a matter which the House should consider. The interests of America and our own have been identical with those of Japan, and the obvious course would be to endeavour to take step by step in this matter with America. A reply may easily be made that the policy of the United States is against entangling alliances; but until the publication of this Treaty that policy was ours also. Finally, are we so free from anxiety, is our Army so ready, are our six Army Corps so prepared to take the field, are our relations with other nations so friendly, that we can afford to look with complacency on a treaty in which a declaration of war by ourselves is so bluntly foreshadowed? I think, Sir, that the whole country is looking forward with eagerness to an era of peace; this offensive and defensive alliance is the Government's reply.
The cheers which the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary received when entering the House remind me of another point. The right hon. Gentleman, in the eloquent Address which he has just delivered in the City, said he hoped in future that the orbits of the Colonies would move in harmony with our own. Sir, at the present moment Australia is engaged in preventing the immigration of citizens of the nation with whom we have made this Treaty—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The only question which the hon. Gentleman is entitled to discuss is the agreement between Great Britain and Japan.
§ * MR. NORMAN
What I desired to point out, Sir, was that we are making an alliance with a country whose subjects are being excluded from one portion of the British Empire.
There is just one other point I wish to allude to with regard to the effect of this Treaty in altering the balance 1281 of naval power. Is it the intention of the framers of this Treaty to strengthen us in one part of the world by enabling us in consequence of this alliance to remove our ships from another part? I thank the House for having listened to me with so much patience, and I hope I have kept my promise not to employ any indiscreet or extravagant language. I have no desire either to condemn the Treaty or to oppose it. My sole desire is to obtain information and explanation; and in view of the abrupt change of policy, of the momentous issues involved in view of the fact that we may be plunged into war for interests not our own, in a cause we did not foresee or create, in a quarrel not of our own seeking, is to ask the two questions, "Is it wise?" "Was it necessary?" I beg to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Norman.)
§ *(5.6.) The UNDER SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord CRANBORNE,) Rochester
Mr. Speaker, I confess that as the hon. Gentleman opposite developed his speech I became rather astonished that he had made this Motion at all. He apologised to the House for explaining that whereas he has always been hitherto an advocate of Japan and of close friendship between this country and Japan, yet he was appearing in the capacity of a critic of this Agreement, which consecrates the friendship between England and Japan. I certainly do not think that his explanations were unrequired, but he will forgive me for saying that I did not think personally, nor does it appear to me that the House thought, he had really sufficiently explained why, holding the views which he avows and which he himself published in a book, he should have appeared as a critic of the Government on the present occasion. First of all, he complained of the undue haste which the Government had shown in this matter. If he imagines that the Agreement itself has been hastily concluded, he labours under a complete misconception.
§ LORD CRANBORNE
I understand that it is not undue haste in its preparation of which he complains, but undue haste in its publication. I ask him, and I ask the House of Commons, what view they would have taken of the Government if, having made such an Agreement—an Agreement which undoubtedly does lay certain important obligations on this country—we had kept it secret and not communicated it to the country? It is manifest that an Agreement of this kind was bound to be published, and, if published, published, of course, at once. Why should we delay? We have nothing to be ashamed of in it. The real origin of this treaty was our anxiety to maintain the status quo in China. I venture respectfully to recall to the House some observations which a few days ago I made in reference to Persia. Speaking generally of the East, I said that the policy of this country was almost everywhere the maintenance of the status quo; that with that end in view we were not only ready, but anxious, to have understandings with any Power which would have understandings with us, all conceived, of course, in the unaggressive spirit of this Agreement. Well, it was the status quo which we desired to maintain, and that status quo is more particularly described in the opening words of the Agreement, in the preamble—the two elements of English policy in the East which have been so often referred to, the maintenance of the open door and of the territorial integrity of China. I would like to recall to the House the diplomatic situation in respect to those two great divisions of policy. There has been a great deal of diplomatic arrangement on the subject, and several conventional instruments between the Powers of Europe have been effected accordingly. There are, of course, first, the treaties that this country and other countries have with China herself—treaties which secure to us the most-favoured-nation treatment in China. The most-favoured-nation treatment, I need not say, involves the principle of the open door. Then there was the American Note, which, the House will remember, was issued by the United States in September, 1899, and which was an 1283 invitation to the Powers of Europe to declare themselves in favour of the policy of the open door. That Note was assented to, I think, by every Power in Europe, and by Japan. Later there was the Anglo-German Agreement. That contained in itself the same two principles to which I have referred—the open door and the territorial integrity of China; and that met with a large measure of agreement from nearly all the Powers of Europe. Then, in order to finish at once this historical retrospect, I may mention that there was one important conventional arrangement in respect to Korea—namely, that which exists between Russia and Japan. In 1898 an agreement was come to between Russia and Japan, in the course of which it was laid down that, in view of the great development of the commercial and industrial enterprise of Japan in Korea and the large numbers of Japanese subjects residing in that country, the Russian Government would not in any way hamper the development of commercial and industrial relations between Japan and Korea. That is the diplomatic language, but, speaking the language of everyday life, that means that Russia recognised that Japan had a special position in Korea.
What, then, Sir, is the situation? It is this: that in respect of the three main foundations of this Agreement—the open door, the integrity of China, and the special position of Japan—we have before us, already agreed to, conventional arrangements by which almost every Power has endorsed those two principles in respect to China, and in which Russia herself has endorsed the principle which has regard to Korea. The House will follow the tendency of my argument. It is to show that this Agreement merely follows on principles which have already been accepted by almost every other Power. This goes to show that every Power has interests of this kind in the Ear East; yet England and Japan have special interests. There is, as regards our own country in the first place, the great position we have always occupied in the East; the influence and power of this country, which exist, of course, wherever the ocean flows; 1284 but besides that there is our commercial position in China. I want the House to realise how very important that position really is. We own, I think, roughly speaking, 60 per cent. of all the shipping which trades with China; we own about one-half of all the commerce which goes to and comes from China; so that our commercial position is one of the very greatest importance. And if that is its importance now, who shall say what in the future its importance will become? There is in China an almost infinite capacity for commercial expansion, and, speaking as representing a commercial country, I think there can be no consideration more important in its Imperial politics than that of the commercial future of China.
But the position of our trade, though very great, is not unchallenged. There is, in the first place, the great increase in the commercial development of other countries. There is what I may call the spontaneous competition of other countries. But competition is not always spontaneous. There is a certain tendency towards territorial privilege and artificial barriers, which prevents that competition having the purely spontaneous character, of which we have no reason whatever to complain. Indeed, in the last resort, I do not think some European Powers are opposed to the policy of spheres of influence in China. That places us in a situation of some difficulty, because from our point of view the policy of spheres of influence is a very objectionable policy. We do not want "spheres of influence" in China. We may be driven to adopt that policy, but it is not one that suits us. We want the whole of China to be open to commerce and industrial enterprise. That places us in a position quite different from that of any other Power. What, then, is our position? It is that our interests are mainly commercial—that they are of the highest importance, but that there are special difficulties attaching to it. I say that, under these circumstances, the Government were not only right, but were bound to take every care to safeguard our position in China.
I have spoken of the special position of Great Britain in these regions. It is hardly necessary for me to speak of the 1285 special position of Japan. That special position is dictated by geographical considerations. Japan has a growing commerce in both China and Korea, and any hon. Gentleman who wants to know why Japan is specially interested in the maintenance of the integrity of China, and in the particular position she has achieved in Korea, has only to get the atlas and look at the map. That being so, we have this situation. There are two Powers—Great Britain and Japan—who have a peculiar interest in maintaining the integrity of China, and the position of Japan in the Far East, and who are peculiarly able—the one on account of her Navy, and the other on account of the nearness of her military base—to maintain that policy. Under these circumstances, the question which presented itself to the Government, and now presents itself to the House of Commons, is, could we not go one step further than we went in the previous conventions and agreements which I have described to the House? Could we not go a little beyond the mere declaration of our policy of preserving the open door and maintaining the integrity of China by defining how that policy must be carried out? The answer to that question is dependent on the conditions attached to the instrument in which we are going to make this definition. We cannot enter into responsibilities lightly. We have far too great a stake to do anything in a hot headed manner. We are not international knights-errant who are going to make binding Agreements because of the good looks of any Power. Therefore it is necessary for us to look closely into the conditions which surround the obligations into which we have entered.
What are the conditions? I have already described, to the House the preamble. What are the rights and obligations which the two contracting parties acquire under the Treaty? It is said, in the first place, that under certain circumstances, it will be admissible for either party to take certain measures—not compulsory, but admissible. That does not mean that the two allies are going to use the machinery of this Agreement for any trifle. On the contrary, it contemplates a serious, 1286 or even a very serious invasion of our respective rights: Then—It will be admissible for either of them to take such measures as may be indispensable.There again there is a limiting word. As I have said, it is not compulsory on either Party to enter upon the defence of its own rights, nor in regard to any trifling invasion of those rights. It is only when it considers it is indispensable in order to protect its interests that such a course is admissible. When does it operate? Only when the interests of the contracting parties are threatened by the aggressive action of any other Powers. We recognise no right of the two contracting parties to undertake this defence of their interests when the danger is due to their own aggression and not to the aggression of others. Lastly, it is provided that the Powers may claim this right to defend their interests when they are threatened by disturbances so grave as to endanger the lives and property of their own subjects in China or Korea. The House will see, therefore, that the conditions under which either Power may claim to exercise these rights are strictly limited.
I will now turn to the ally. The ally has obligations under this Treaty only in the event of aggression. The hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think that the ally was bound to intervene in the case of serious disturbance threatening the lives and property of the subjects of either Power.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I am glad I misunderstood the hon. Member, because that would have been a wrong impression. It is not so. The ally is not under any obligation at all except in the case of an attack on the other Power.
§ MR. NORMAN
Will the noble Lord kindly point out the portion of the Treaty containing that provision?
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
Of course it is only in defence of their respective interests as above described—that is, when attacked by the aggressive action of a third Power—that any obligation is thrown upon the ally. I need not say that whether the action is aggressive or not 1287 is a question for what I call the second Power, or ally, to determine. Either Power, before it undertakes any obligation, has a right to judge whether or not the conditions of the Treaty have been fulfilled. When such a case does arise the House will observe that the conditions are still very moderate. In the case of an attack by a single Power, all the ally is bound to do is to maintain neutrality; and to do its best to restrict the quarrel to the two Powers involved. It is only when another Power intervenes, when there is a coalition against either Great Britain or Japan, that the extreme obligation on the Ally of interfering by armed force comes into operation.
I have shown how cautiously and moderately this Agreement is worded. We should be very glad, of course, if other Powers were willing to pursue the same objects as we are pursuing, and to follow our example. In this connection, I may speak of the attitude of the United States to which the hon. Member for South Wolverhampton referred. All through the difficulties in China we have worked on the most cordial terms with the United States. I think I may say that in almost every crisis, and even in every small difficulty—which has arisen during the negotiations at Peking—the representatives of the United States and our representatives have been acting together. I entertain no doubt that in this Agreement we shall command the full approval of the Government of the United States. Sir, the fact is that the power of England is essential to Japan and the power of Japan is very important to England. We have watched, as I believe almost all the world has watched, with interest and approval, the remarkable progress which Japan has made in the ways of civilisation and in its ascent to the rights and responsibilities of a Western Power; and on one recent occasion—namely, when the representatives of all the Powers were in such imminent danger in Peking, Japan earned the gratitude of the whole of Europe by being first in the field to rescue them. For ourselves, our policy in the Far East, as I have often had occasion to say in this House, is not aggressive. We fully recognise the position of profound responsibility which the extent of our 1288 Empire has placed us in. Our policy has always been sober and cautious; and I think it may be said in China, as it may be said of the East generally, whether in our negotiations elsewhere or in the agreement which we have had the honour to lay before the House, our only desire is progress and peace.
§ (5.35.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, Burghs)
I do not think that any one in or out of the House will be surprised at the course taken by my hon. friend behind me, because there cannot well be imagined a matter of greater gravity, a more serious step, than that which was announced to the country yesterday. I certainly think that it is incumbent on the House of Commons to obtain at the earliest possible moment as full an explanation of the matter as the Government think it within their duty to give, and this is not a bad example of the utility for the public and patriotic purposes of Parliament of this particular method of bringing important matters before Parliament.
Now, Sir, the Under Secretary of State has made a very plain, careful, and reasonable reply to the inquiries made by my hon. friend behind me with equal care and equal reasonableness; but I do not know that the noble Lord has completely satisfied us. I do not mean satisfied our opinion, but satisfied our reasonable and proper curiosity. The noble Lord, as far as I understood him, has not given us any reason for this step that has been taken. He has recounted what has happened in the past; he has given a statement of the present position of affairs; he has declared the general intention and policy of the Government; but when he referred to what this Treaty involves, as going one little step beyond where we have been before, I wonder whether he realises fully that this step was a positive obligation upon this country in certain emergencies to go to war. That surely can hardly be described as one little step beyond where we were. The noble Lord says that the Government was very anxious to maintain the status quo, and one of the objects which in these documents are held out as the groundwork of the Agreement between this country and Japan is the territorial 1289 integrity and independence of China. Well, I want to know a little what "China" means, because I find that the language, in a geographical sense, is vague. In the beginning of one of the earlier paragraphs of Lord Lansdowne's despatch, it speaks of—The integrity and independence of the Chinese Empire,and that—There should be no disturbance of the territorial status quo, either in China or in the adjoining regions,that all nations should within—Those regions as well as within the limits of the Chinese Empire be accorded equal opportunities for the development of their commerce and industry.So that there are three definitions of the territorial effect of this Treaty. There is China; there are adjoining regions; and there is the Chinese Empire as well. Now, I should have thought that that was unnecessary, and it may give rise to confusion in the minds of hon. Members to mention all these separate items which I presume are all included within the Chinese Empire. The Chinese Empire includes territory as far as Yark and and Kashgar. It includes Tibet, I presume; it includes Eastern Turkestan; it takes a very wide flight, and I think we ought to have from the Government some more exact definition of the country, of the geographical superfices, to which those interests are supposed to refer. On the main question I believe there is substantial agreement amongst us as to the policy to be pursued. To begin with, we have nothing but goodwill towards Japan and the Japanese Government. We are all agreed in our admiration of the wonderful enterprise and the progress they have made, and their love of progress. They had established their position as one of the great Powers of the world, and we have given indisputable proof, to which the noble Lord referred in the past that we have been among the first and foremost to recognise these facts and to act upon them. We are also, I think, agreed that our interests, so far as China is concerned, are mainly identical—I mean the interests of Japan and ourselves. We have no other desire than to maintain the integrity and inde- 1290 pendence of China. What we are most concerned in is the maintenance of the freedom of trade which we enjoy under treaties with China. That is the matter which comes closest to our real interests; but at the same time I do not think that anybody has a desire or the wish to see the independence and integrity of China interfered with, and I was glad to hear the noble Lord so explicitly disown the policy of establishing some sphere of influence of our own, and prefer the so much better, wider, and wiser policy of the open door for the trade of all nations alike. We are all agreed that there should be an equal opportunity to all nations of developing commerce and industry, and we are all agreed in favour of peace, and if any of these rights and interests are endangered, we ought, of course, to take all due steps. But the noble Lord then described how satisfactory was the position at present. He quoted admissions of declarations which had been made in various agreements between different pairs of States, and said that all accepted these principles.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It cannot be said that the principles have been accepted all round. Then I come to ask him—Why this sudden step? Seeing that things were established on so satisfactory a basis, why take this step? Does it involve some danger of interfering with the present satisfactory position by arousing some new jealousies and suspicions amongst the Powers themselves? Of course, in saying this we are speaking without knowledge of many circumstances which may be in the knowledge of the Government; and I do not wish to be considered as at all pronouncing any opinion, because we are not in a position to do so, as to the wisdom or unwisdom, the necessity or the lack of necessity, of this Treaty. But I think we have not yet received from the noble Lord any reason why this great change of policy has been entered upon; no change in the ultimate object of policy surely, but change in the means by which that object is to be attained.
The noble Lord said that although the position was satisfactory, yet we have so 1291 large a share of the trade of China, and such huge interests involved, that we are exposed to great and constantly increasing competition. How does this Treaty affect competition? It has nothing to do with competition. I am afraid that the best way by which we can meet competition is by competing better ourselves. That is probably the high road to success. But how will this Treaty affect competition and trade with other countries? Let us look more closely to the terms of it. To begin with, there is not perfect consistency between the letter of Lord Lansdowne and the Treaty itself. As my hon. friend behind me pointed out, the passage at the top of the second page in Lord Lansdowne's letter is not borne out in the Treaty, it says—That part of the Treaty which renders either of the high contracting parties liable to be called upon by the other for assistance can operate only when one of the allies has found himself obliged to go to war in defence of interests which are common to both, when the circumstances in which he has taken this step are such as to establish that the quarrel has not been of his own seeking, and when, being engaged in his own defence, he finds himself threatened, not by a single Power, but by a hostile coalition.There is nothing in the Treaty as to the nature of the quarrel which is entered into. That is surely a very important matter.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Who is to judge of the aggressive action? Is it both the Powers? Must they agree upon aggressive action? I will put a case to the noble Lord in order to bring out what the real conditions of the Treaty are. Under the Agreement, it seems to me, supposing our common interests—I am sorry to see that the Foreign Office uses the word "mutual" in the ungrammatical wording of the text of the Treaty, but "common," I think, is preferable to "mutual"—supposing our common interests in China are affected injuriously either by foreign aggression or by disturbance, and one of the Powers interferes. What is the other Power going to do? Is the other Power bound to neutrality? Is it bound to stand by with its arms folded while the other Power is conducting military operations?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Let it be clear. When it says it shall be neutral, it means it shall abstain from interfering in the war.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It means that it is not to take part with the other side, I suppose. Well, if that is so with regard to that particular case, supposing there is trouble in Korea, where Japan has a large number of Outlanders, who are not always a very manageable or reasonable class of people. They have trouble with their Outlanders—somebody picks a quarrel. When Outlanders get to loggerheads with the Government of the country in which they happen to live, it is sometimes difficult to discover who is the author of the quarrel which arises, and we may take a different view from Japan upon that matter. Japan which is recognised in the Treaty, has political as well as commercial interests in Korea. Its political interests are affected; a disturbance arises; Japan finds itself threatened by two Powers; we are bound, whatever we may think of the origin of the quarrel—I am putting the case hypothetically, I shall be glad to know it is not so—whatever we may think of the origin of the quarrel, we are bound to join Japan in the war. I hope it will be made clear that that is not so; but, to the best of my reading of it, that would follow from the terms of the Treaty.
Sir, I think the House will do well to remember that our stake in this matter is a huge one. I do not mean only the necessity of our maintaining our rights in the Far East—our commercial and our other interests—I refer to stakes in another sense, in another shape. Supposing we were involved through this Treaty in a war; is the burden equally divided between us and Japan? Japan's interests are in China and within her own borders and in Korea. She has full responsibility, of course, for her domestic defence. But when we are called upon under this Treaty to go to war with two Powers, we find those Powers touching us in 1293 every part of the world, so that it is not at all an equal thing to us and to Japan to be involved in a war such as is contemplated here. I saw it stated in this morning's papers—I think it was the French Press—that this arrangement is very much better for us than for Japan. Well, Sir, I doubt it very much in respect to the matter to which I am referring—namely, that Japan, after all, runs but a small risk compared to the enormous disturbance of our position and the enormous risk which any such eventuality would force upon us. This is, I believe—the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—the first occasion since the end of the Great War that we have formed a defensive or offensive alliance with any Power. We have always, even in this particular matter of the Far East, had the advantage of the freedom which individual action gives. I am not one who thinks it is very admirable to boast of our isolation, because there is a kind of isolation which does not reflect very much credit upon this country. But, on the other hand, there is a freedom of individual action which is of immense importance to this country, and this Treaty, so far as it goes, deprives us of that freedom of individual action. I agree with my hon. friend behind me that the peaceable commercial interests and other material interests of this country, and of Japan and of the United States, are very much the same in the Far East. Might not common action have been sufficiently secured by an interchange of diplomatic Notes, and not by an explicit undertaking of this kind, imposing upon us aninternational contract of binding validity"?I should like to know also from the Government—I may say that I put all this criticism in a hypothetical way, because we have not yet received what must be the real reason for this developed policy—I should like, before I sit down, to ask one more question. What have been the communications made, before this Treaty was ratified or published, with the other Powers concerned—with Germany, with the United States, and with the other Great Powers who are concerned in this matter? Let me repeat, we have no desire to change the policy which has now been established 1294 as the policy of this country in the Far East. We desire to be on friendly terms with Russia, on far more friendly terms, in fact, than we have ever been before. We desire to associate ourselves, as closely as you please, with the Japanese, with whom there is a certain strong sympathy in this country. But we wish to be sure that in order to carry out these desirable objects, so great and important an obligation as this was necessary for the purposes we have in view.
§ (5.53.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I shall only detain the House for a short time, but the questions of the right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, require that I should take some notice of the speech which he has just delivered.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to be of opinion that there is some occult reason lying behind the transaction which we are now commenting upon; that His Majesty's Government have a great deal of secret information which indicates the necessity of making this Treaty with Japan. So far as I am aware, every Gentleman in this House is perfectly competent to understand the full weight of the grounds upon which we have made what I quite admit is, at all events in recent years, a new departure. I am not prepared to minimise in the slightest degree the importance of the step we have taken. I do not at all pretend that it is one of the ordinary, everyday diplomatic transactions between Power and Power. But the reasons for it seem to me to lie not in the secret archives of this or any other Foreign Office, but upon the broad facts and the large necessities of our interests and our policy in the Far East.
Sir, I am amazed both at the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman appears to find in discerning any reason for this policy, and at the interpretation which he puts upon the instrument in which that policy is embodied. Actually, if I do not misunderstand the right hon. Gentleman, he went this extraordinary length. Because in the Treaty we bind ourselves if Japan were at war—as Japan binds herself if we go to war in regard to our interests in the Far East—to maintain, in the first instance, and until a third Power is engaged, a neutral attitude, the right hon. Gentleman, 1295 who has studied this document, appears to think its provisions carry with it this extraordinary consequence, that however much we might desire to go to the assistance of Japan, if Japan were in difficulties with a single Power, we should be prevented from doing so by the fact that the word "neutrality" comes in in this Treaty.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think not. I think even the subtlest of lawyers would hardly contend that any interpretation of that kind could be put upon those words. Common sense is against it, and, I venture to say, the ordinary canons of interpretation which every man adopts in the work of daily life. When you pledge yourselves not to fight against persons, you do not pledge yourselves not to fight on their side. That, really, is the whole thing put in a nutshell.
I do not feel it in my power to expand for more than five minutes the grounds on which the Government have thought this a most expedient policy for us to adopt. It is admitted on all hands that our interests in the Far East and Japan's interest s in the Far East are identical; it is admitted on all hands that what we both want in the Far East is the maintenance of the status quo. It is admitted on all hands that there can be no greater blow to the policy which not only Japan and Great Britain, but also America, Germany, all the commercial nations, I believe, have—their interest is also the status quo—there can be no greater blow to the status quo in the Far East than that two Powers should coalesce to crush either us or Japan. That they should crush us, I will not argue. But if we were at war with a Power in the Far East, the value of Japan to us is clear and manifest. But is it conceivable that we should permit two Powers to crush Japan? I do not think that it is. And I think it is not so, not only for the reasons stated by my noble friend, but also for the reason stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that the interests of Great Britain and Japan are identical. That is the first broad ground on which we think this Agreement desirable. The 1296 second ground is not less important, and it is that in our judgment a Treaty of this kind makes strongly for peace. I do not discuss the great alliances referred to by the hon. Member who brought this Motion forward, which we all know to exist in Europe at the present time. But that, on the whole, they have made for peace, no human being will deny, and for this obvious reason. In these days, while a war between two Powers is sufficiently formidable, a war in which a larger number of Powers is involved is practically so great an undertaking that even the most adventurous statesmanship would shrink from it. If it were possible for two first-class Powers to coalesce to fight against Japan, the result would be either that Japan would be crushed, would suffer very serious losses, and be practically crippled, or that before that event took place she would modify her policy to suit the demands of her two antagonists. Neither of these changes can we contemplate with equanimity. It is neither good for us that Japan should be crushed, nor that through a coalition of two Powers she should be obliged to mould her policy in a direction antagonistic to our interests. Now that this Treaty has been carried out, it is quite evident that that contingency cannot take place. There never can be two Powers ranged against Japan alone, any more than there can be two Powers ranged against us alone in the Far East. That fact clearly and evidently makes for what is the greatest interest of the civilised world—the interest of peace.
It has been suggested and hinted by some who have spoken in the debate, that this Treaty must be of an unfriendly character to other nations. Sir, I say that it is nothing of the kind. I entirely concur with what fell from the right hon. Gentleman when he said that he desired that this country should be on friendly and cordial terms with Russia, and that there should be no lack of confidence dividing the Governments of those two countries. There is no wish dearer to the heart of His Majesty's Government. We are most anxious for that result. The dangers which this Treaty guards against are the dangers of an adventurous policy, of which His Majesty's Government are 1297 very far from suspecting the Russian Government in the Far East. Nevertheless, it is well known that there are schools of thought on the Continent of Europe which would like to see such adventurous schemes carried out. Whether those schools will ever gain such influence in their own countries as to make them a danger to the peace of the world, I know not, but I trust not, and I am inclined to believe not. But that by this Treaty we have done much to strengthen all the forces which, make for peace, that we have done much to place upon a solid and permanent foundation, or as long as the Treaty lasts, the interests common to the whole of the commercial world, and not least of our American brothers, I have no doubt at all. Though I began my speech by criticising some of the interpretations of the right hon. Gentleman, and by explaining to him that he was wrong in supposing that there was any occult motive lying behind our open and avowed policy, I may, I think, interpret the general ten our of his observations as being in favour of the course which we have pursued. He suggested, indeed, an alternative—the exchange of Notes between this country and Japan and the United States, which was to have the same effect as a Treaty.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
At any rate, they were to conduce to the same objects. I fail to understand what the value of that policy would be. In so far as the Notes differed from the Treaty, they would differ in this respect—that Japan would not know what we meant, and we should not know what Japan meant; and the result of that doubt and ambiguity would be that there would be an uncertainty in the policy of the two countries, which now, I hope, will never occur. I do not deny for one moment that this Treaty throws an obligation on this country which might possibly be onerous. I do not pretend that by a Treaty of this kind you get everything and you risk nothing, nor do I believe in the policy which asserts that any such object is within the reach of diplomacy; but I do 1298 believe that it makes for peace, and I do believe that it builds up into a more solid and coherent alliance all the forces which tend towards an object which every man in this House has in view—the object of maintaining the status quo in the Far East, with equal trade opportunities for every nation anxious to take part in Eastern commerce. That is the one motive which animated us in making this Treaty, and I am sure that the House and the country will think that motive sufficient.
§ *(6.10.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
No one will cast any doubt on the motives by which the Government have been actuated. They desire peace and the maintenance of the status quo in China. That we all willingly acknowledge. The question is whether the method which they have pursued to achieve those ends is the best method that could be adopted. The right hon. Gentleman has not thrown as much light on this matter as might have been desired. He has simply confined himself to the statement that the obligation of this country to go to war in certain circumstances is the best method of preserving peace, but he has said nothing that would satisfy me that that is the best method in the circumstances. There are many things which he has not explained. The status quo is spoken of in this document. But what is the status quo to-day in Manchuria? That is an important question. Every Power, including ourselves, has impaired the integrity and independence of China by appropriating, under the terms of a lease, a portion of her territory. You have taken Wei-Hai-Wei; Germany has taken Shangtung, and Russia has taken Port Arthur. The status quo has been impaired. The right hon. Gentleman ought to give us some idea of the status quo which we are to maintain. What is the position which you assume with reference to Manchuria at this moment? You have not told us what is the status quo of Russia in Manchuria. It has been assumed that we are going to act in this matter with Japan upon interests which are common to the two countries. Lord Lansdowne says so in his despatch. But the Treaty itself, in the first article, 1299 points out that the interests are not identical. It discriminates between our special interests in China and Japan's in Korea; and it makes provision, not for action in common in these respects, but for separate action in both. That is the meaning of the next article with reference to neutrality. I agree that we may remain neutral. But what a singular situation. You call yourself allies. Your ally goes to war, and you expressly stipulate that either party may remain neutral. But what is the consequence? You may be engaged in a war on account of your commercial interests in China, or of the integrity of China being attacked. Japan is at liberty to remain neutral. If so, you cannot enter her harbours, and therefore the whole advantage which you might expect to gain from the alliance with Japan may be totally neutralized. The war may be with China, with Russia. France, or Germany, but one contracting party is at liberty to be neutral when the other is attacked by one Power. That seems to me to be a most extraordinary arrangement. Take it the other way. Suppose that Japan is attacked by one Power, it may be a Great Power far stronger than herself, yet we are at liberty under this Treaty, the origin of the hostilities being separate, to say that we are neutral, and Japan may be abandoned to the mercy of that Power, and so may be crushed. What an extraordinary arrangement that is! Then if Japan is embarked on hostilities we may take our choice; we may say, "It does not suit the interests of England to embark on these hostilities, we will be neutral." That is provided for in the second article of the Treaty, and the words are used, "in the defence of their respective interests," not their common interests, but their "respective interests." And throughout the whole of this Treaty it is regarded as a fact that Japan and Great Britain are not necessarily acting in defence of their common interests, as to which their common consent would be required in order to justify hostilities.
It is contemplated here that the two countries, "in the defence of their respective interests," may become involved in war with another Power. One of the contracting parties, as I have 1300 said, is at liberty to leave its ally in the lurch in the case of hostilities with only one Power. But a neutral and an ally are not compatible words; when you talk of a man who is an ally you mean a man who is not neutral. It is a most extraordinary state of things. The Power that attacks may be a great and overwhelming Power—it is not necessary to say what Power—with an unlimited command of troops, which in the near future will approach Japan; and, positively, under this Treaty we are under no obligation to prevent Japan from being crushed by that single Power. Then, if we have determined justly that the particular incident on which the hostilities with Japan have arisen is one which does not concern us, and have declared ourselves to be neutral, the advent of another Power will leave us no option in the matter, war will be forced upon us despite our determination. You are compelled therefore, having determined to be neutral, to cease to be neutral, and to enter into the contest simply by the advent of another Power, or the coalition of other Powers. We have every reason to be satisfied with the course which this country has pursued before? The Government of Lord Rosebery, of which I was a member, were very strongly pressed by a great European coalition to join them in depriving Japan of the fruit of the war she had waged with such wonderful gallantry and vigour; but we declined altogether to take part in that transaction by which Port Arthur was transferred from Japan to Russia. That apparently is the status quo which is now to be maintained in the interests of the integrity of China. Therefore we have taken the line, and I believe it was a line approved of on all hands, of refusing to take a course which would have been injurious to Japan. My right hon. friend referred to a great inequality between the contracting parties in the event of war. If you are to have war with a Great European Power, as he truly said, it will not be confined to China, or Korea, or the China seas.
And if you are going into a war such as you are contemplating, when attacked by two Powers—everybody knows whom you mean, it is no use endeavouring to conceal it—that war will not be waged 1301 in China, Korea, or the Gulf of Pe-chi-li; it will be waged in Central Asia. It will be waged by a Power which has the capacity of pouring unlimited forces into Persia and into Afghanistan, upon your Indian frontier. In this Treaty you are staking upon the dice the peace and the future of your Indian Empire. Your fleets will be engaged not only in the China seas, but in the Mediterranean and in the Baltic. I only ask, when you are lightly undertaking such a responsibility as this, how would it have been in that dark December, after the disaster of Colenso, if you had been called upon under this Treaty to encounter in war two of the greatest Powers in Europe? That, in my opinion, is a situation which requires much more mature consideration, much more careful explanation of the perils it involves in the future than any we have received, especially at a time when you are piling up hundreds of millions of debt, when you have to search in all your possessions in order to get men enough to man your Army, and when you have actually depleted the defences of India. It has been said, and truly, that this is a policy which is contrary to the traditional policy of this country ever since the great war. We have refused to embark in many of these treaties, all advanced on the same grounds, that are advocated by the right hon. Gentleman, that they were in the interests of peace. Beginning with the Holy Alliance, and coming down to the Triple Alliance and the Dual Alliance, all are propounded as being in the interest of securing peace. We have maintained without these alliances now, for the better part of the century, a great and potent influence in Europe, and now we are going to abandon that policy and embark upon a future which no man can foresee.
There is one question to which I would direct the attention of the House, and upon which we have received no information from the Government. What is to be the position of China in this matter? You talk of the independence and integrity of China, and yet, it seems to me, you claim the right to refuse to China what naturally belongs to an independent nation. Suppose that China chose of her own free will to give preference to particular countries, is she not to be 1302 allowed to do that? If you deny her the right to do that you deny her a right which belongs to every independent country, and therefore we really ought to understand in what position we are placed. I quite agree with the noble Lord who said that we do not favour the principle of "spheres of influence." No, Sir, I think it is very much better that we should have, and that all the world should have, access to all parts of China; but surely you cannot deny to China some independent right in herself of dealing with questions of that kind. Are you going to war with China if she makes a Treaty with some one else? You have bound yourself to Japan, but you have not bound any other Power, and is it to be a casus belli if China with Russia or some other country makes an Alliance. We ought to be told very distinctly on that point, because this affects the whole question of Manchuria, which everybody knows lies at the bottom of this Treaty. We want to know what the situation is in reference to that, and whether the existing status in regard to Manchuria is part of the status quo which you desire to maintain. Lord Salisbury said, I think very wisely, some time ago that the great danger to the world is the situation of the decaying nations. Everybody knows what he meant by "decaying nations." Everybody knew what he meant by that, and one of the decaying nations, at all events, is China. You have a Government restored there at this moment. What do you think may be the position of that Government in the next five years, during which this Treaty is to last? You are binding yourself to the maintenance of the integrity and independence of China for five years, and that at the price of war if necessary. What may be the change in the condition of China during that period? In my opinion all these questions come under this dilemma, and all treaties of this kind are exposed to this criticism—either your interests and your ally's are identical—and then without a Treaty you will be compelled to act together, or else your interests are not identical, and then if you are compelled to act with her it may prove a disaster to you; and, as a fact, history shows that when the time comes you will refuse to act. That is the history most of these treaties guarantee. It happened, I think, at the time of the war with America, when 1303 you called on Holland to act on a Treaty of this kind. If you and Japan have the same interests, as I believe you have, then when the necessity arises you will act together; but if the time comes when it is contrary to the safety of this country, and you find yourself bound by an obligation of this kind, the Treaty will fall into ruin. That is the fundamental objection to all treaties of this kind. We did five-and-twenty years ago enter upon a treaty—not so stringent as this, but a separate dual treaty. It was at the time we were being engaged in the general European settlement of the Treaty of Berlin. It was called the Anglo-Turkish Convention. What has become of the Anglo-Turkish Convention? It has been repudiated. It was a treaty under which we engaged—and we took Cyprus for the purpose—we engaged to maintain and defend alone the integrity and independence of the Turkish dominions in Asia Minor.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Oh, yes, if certain reforms were carried out. I am glad that the noble Lord put the point to me. How do you know that the condition of China will not change as much in the course of the next five years as the condition of Turkey changed after that Convention was made? Then there may be reasons for repudiating this Treaty, as you repudiated the Anglo-Turkish Convention. There you are, left with Cyprus on your hands. Cyprus, which used to be a place of arms, is as little a place of arms as Wei-Hai-Wei will be, and it is in exactly the same situation. It is absolutely useless. Treaties of this kind, which are founded upon the anticipation of events which it is impossible to predict, have this immense evil, that they may impose on you the necessity of doing that which will be disastrous to your fortunes, or else leave you in a state which is injurious to your credit in the world. Therefore, I confess, I do desire still to have some fuller explanation, something which will be intelligible to us and to the people of this country, of the reasons which have led to the departure from principles which have been consecrated by the traditions of nearly a century.
§ (6.38.) SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
It was impossible to listen without emotion to the mournful prophesies of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but although I listened with great attention to both the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman who preceeded him I could only gather from their speeches that this is not a sufficiently offensive and defensive treaty with Japan. Their complaint was that if Japan was attacked by only one Power we were not bound to assist her, but would have to wait until they were attacked by a second Power. The right hon. Gentleman asked what was the status quo given in the Far East. He has only to consult the Consular Reports to see that it is a trade of many millions which it is essential that we should maintain. I am only going to detain the House for a moment. I have travelled in these regions and know the people in the Far East, and I do not believe there is a single British subject in China or Japan who would not be thankful to His Majesty's Government for having negotiated and for having concluded this Treaty with Japan. I am quite sure it is of the greatest advantage to this country, and I cannot for the life of me understand the policy suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that instead of concluding a Treaty, open and above-board and communicated to foreign Powers, there should simply have been an interchange of Notes between His Majesty's Government and Japan. This Treaty is open to the whole world, and it surely is the surest guarantee of peace we could possibly have. As representing an industrial constituency, and as knowing the difficult problems which concern British interests in the Far East, I desire as a humble Member of this House to record my vote with grateful thanks to the Government for having negotiated the Treaty. I believe to the full the letter of Lord Lansdowne to Sir Claude Macdonald in which the noble Lord saysIt contains no provisions which can be regarded as an indication of aggressive self-seeking tendencies in the regions to which it applies. It has been concluded purely aw a measure of precaution to be invoked should, occasion arise in the defence of important British interests.1305 The important British interests which are concerned in the enormous trade in China and Japan which we have at the present time—a trade at 28 or 30 treaty ports with only a duty of 5 per cent. against us. A trade which in the condition of affairs in the Far East with two great Powers so closely allied, is liable to be interfered with at any time. I am quite certain this Treaty is a guarantee of peace, and I am grateful to the Government for having negotiated it.
§ *(6.43) Mr. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Barnsley)
The House will perhaps pardon me for taking up a brief space of its time upon this most important question of British interests in the Far East, but it is a question to which I have given some attention, and it is for that reason that I venture to address the House. The question of safe-guarding our interests in the Far East is a question which ought to be approached from no Party standpoint because it affects the whole nation, and indeed the whole empire. We have had reason occasionally in the past to blame the Government for not having been vigilent enough in upholding the trade rights of this country in China. We have had again and again to accuse them of having pursued a policy of drift and surrender, and, indeed, what is the situation of British treaty and trade rights with China today? We know that some agreements have been entered into, notably the Anglo-German Agreement, which professedly was entered into for the purpose of maintaining the independence and the integrity of China, and of giving all nations equal opportunity to trade there. Then there was the Anglo-Russian Agreement, and there have been other understandings such as that with Germany. In spite of all these Agreements and understandings, is it not the fact that our Treaty trade-rights in the great country of Manchuria have been to some extent lessened and unfavourably affected? Is it not the fact that Germany has planted herself in the province of Shan-tung, and that in all human probability we shall not in the future enjoy the same trade-rights there as we ought under our treaties with China? The question with 1306 me is not whether the Government have made too much haste, but whether they have not been much too slow in concluding some effective arrangement for co-operating with Japan in support of our mutual interests in the Far East. In my opinion the first mistake was made when Russia, France and Germany sought to deprive Japan of the fruits of victory, and compelled her to evacuate the Lao-tung Peninsula. Had England when requested, as she was by the Powers, given Japan the benefit of her influence and insisted, as a condition of her withdrawal from the Lao-tung Peninsula, that Russia, France and Germany and other nations should enter into an agreement not to occupy Port Arthur or any part of the Lao-tung Peninsula, the chances are that the situation in China today would have been very different.
This Treaty which has been concluded with Japan is a most important Agreement; it may be far reaching in its consequences. The question is, is it an Agreement of a menacing or aggressive character? I am bound to say that the objects set before the two Powers are most laudable. Those objects are simply to maintain the status quo, the independence and integrity of the Chinese Empire, and equal trading rights for all nations. The contracting parties most unselfishly seek no advantage or preference for themselves, they simply seek to preserve what they already enjoy under their Treaty trade-rights in the Chinese Empire, and to ensure that those rights should be equally enjoyed by all other nations. There is nothing in the policy set forth in this Treaty in regard to which foreign Power can have any reasonable ground of objection. We were told by my hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton that if Japan made an attack upon Russia the Treaty would become operative. But according to its wording, the Treaty becomes operative only in the event of aggressive action by any other Power against England or Japan. Therefore, in the event of aggressive action on the part of Japan herself against Russia or any other Power, the Treaty would not become operative.
The question we have to consider is whether this Treaty makes for peace or for war. My honest opinion is that the Treaty will do much to safeguard the just commercial rights and interests of this country in the Far East, and that it is a 1307 guarantee of peace rather than an incitement to war. I believe that the alliances in Europe have undoubtedly maintained the peace of Europe. When I was in Japan two years ago, the Marquis Ito and every other statesman with whom I had interviews said to me: "It is all very well telling us that the interests of England and Japan are identical, but what is the use of saying that unless we arrive at a common understanding for giving practical effect to our policy, and for supporting our mutual interests." I do not disguise from myself the fact that in certain eventualities we, under this Treaty, take upon our shoulders a grave responsibility; yet, on the other hand, I believe that, with the full knowledge on the part of the other nations of the world of the existence of this Treaty, the likelihood of aggressive action on their part such as would cause us to be plunged Into war under our new obligations is much lessened rather than increased. After all, we have most important trade-rights in the great Empire of China. Have we so lost the qualities of our forefathers that we are not prepared to take the slightest risk to uphold and maintain these rights? I have often accused His Majesty's Government of making humiliating surrenders. I still hold that they have done so, but in regard to this particular Treaty, I think they are showing a practical desire to safeguard the just interests of this country in China, especially in a commercial sense, and that their action will commend itself to the great bulk of the British nation. The Treaty runs for only five years. That is not a long period. If during those five years any reason is found which makes it unwise to renew the Agreement, it will be open to His Majesty's Government to terminate it.
Reference has been made to the fact that we are allying ourselves to an Oriental nation. Well, I know something of Japan, although not so much as my hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton. But have we not admitted Japan within the pale of civilised nations by recently giving her jurisdiction over foreigners? Did not the Japanese nation and the Japanese troops set an example to European nations in the recent operations in China? I believe that in allying ourselves to the Japanese nation we are allying ourselves to a nation at the head of which are 1308 statesmen as capable as our own. The marvellous progress which Japan has made during the last 30 years justifies us in reposing in them this confidence, and being willing so to recognise that our interests in the Far East are identical as to enter into the mutual obligations contained in this Treaty. It is absolutely essential to Japan that the independence of Korea should be maintained. Japan's population is increased at the rate of half a million a year, and her area of cultivable land is very limited. My hon. friend the Member for South Wolverhampton spoke discouragingly of Korea, but I believe it is the fact that Korea is very much under-populated, that there is a considerable area of cultivable land which is unoccupied, and that as a country into which the surplus population of Japan may pass, it is essential to that country that Korea should not pass under the domination of any other Power. But we, as well as Japan, have interests in Korea. We have trade interests and treaty rights in Korea equally as in China, though I must admit that the interests of Japan, so far as Korea goes, are much superior to and of much greater importance than our own. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire told us there was no precedent for any such arrangement. But we guarantee the independence and integrity of Afghanistan. That is an enormous undertaking. We are under a treaty with the Ameer to drive out any invading foe from Afghan territory. The wisdom of that arrangement may be open to question, but there it is, and it is a precedent for the course the Government has taken with regard to Japan.
I gather from the speeches of some of my hon. friends on this side of the House that they would prefer that Great Britain should remain in the position of splendid isolation we have recently been enjoying. Personally, I do not like that position. I deeply regret that—to my mind—the mistakes of His Majesty's Government has led to international animosities between ourselves and foreign nations, which have made our position in the world one of much greater danger than it was when our relations were those of 1309 amity and concord. The objects for the forwarding of which we are, under this Treaty, to co-operate with Japan, are objects to which all the other nations having interests in Japan have already subscribed. Is it not the fact that the United States sought the assent of the various Powers to practically the same objects as are here set forth, but that for some reason, best known to the United States Government, after being very active for a short time, they ceased their efforts, and since then have occupied a more neutral position? There is no doubt although we may not have their formal adhesion in this particular Agreement, we should have the moral if not the material support of the United States in furthering the policy here laid down.
Then, again, I do not see how Russia, France, or Germany can possibly have any objection to the aims set forth in this Agreement, because they have repeatedly declared that their policy is practically the same. However that may be, the immense importance of British commercial interests in the Far East justify the Government in making such arrangements for safeguarding those interests as in their opinion would be most effective, even though those arrangements may bring about, in certain eventualities, a risk of war. My own opinion is, however, that this Agreement will safeguard our commercial interests better than they have been safeguarded hitherto. Hon. Members, on my own side of the House especially, ought to attach enormous importance to these commercial interests, because we, more than hon. Members on the Government side, represent great industrial constituencies. [Ministerial cries of "No."]
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON
I except the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield, but as a rule we do. The hon. Member opposite represents an industrial constituency and we as a rule also represent industrial constituencies. [Cries of "No, no."] However that may be, we have important commercial interests in China and the new departure made is to my mind a wise departure, con- 1310 ceived in the best interests to safeguard the interests of the Empire. I wish for this Agreement all that those who concluded it hope it may achieve. I trust that it will be the means of strengthening our position in the Far East and preserve for the commerce of this country that great neutral market of China, without which, and without other markets of the same character, we could not expect the prosperity of this country to continue.
§ *(7.3.) EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
I could add my voice to that of the hon. Member for Central Sheffield in congratulating the Government upon having concluded this Treaty. The hon. Member for South Wolverhampton said that the policy of His Majesty's Government is only the legitimate corollary of the policy which was pursued by Lord Rosebery's Government. We are all very willing to acknowledge the friendly action which that Government adopted towards Japan, but if the policy of His Majesty's Government is only the superstructure raised on Lord Rosebery's policy, all I can say is that that superstructure has been very much strengthened by this Treaty.
§ * MR. NORMAN
The noble Lord is not correctly representing what I said. I do not regard it as the natural corollary.
§ * EARL PERCY
I am glad to be able to agree with the hon. Member, for I think it is very different indeed. When after the war between China and Japan the three Powers—Russia, Germany and France—combined together to rob Japan of the legitimate fruits of her conquest, Lord Rosebery's Government stood aloof and maintained a neutral attitude. In the face of such a Treaty as that which has just been concluded, such acts of spoliation will be absolutely impossible in the future. We cannot deny that this Treaty entails responsibilities of an onerous character upon this country. It is not necessary to inquire too minutely whether those responsibilities are likely to be more onerous to us than to Japan. I agree with the Leader of the House who said that he did not believe diplomacy was capable of securing advantages without corresponding con- 1311 cessions. Nor is it dignified for a great country like this to grudge such sacrifices When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire tells us such a treaty is unnecessary if our interests are identical, then I think that there is one obvious answer and it is that prevention is better than cure. I rather doubt if such a treaty had been in existence whether we should have had any of those long series of incidents in Shan-tung, Port Arthur, and Wei-hai-Wei.
Then the right hon. Gentleman drew not a very convincing parallel between the present Agreement and the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and he asked, "How do you know that China will not act like Turkey or be willing to surrender to some other Power some part of her vast territory?" I do not think anyone will find in the Blue-books issued recently any desire on the part of China to surrender territory, for China has come to us and asked repeatedly if we will assist her in resisting the demands of foreign Powers. We agreed with Turkey to guarantee the integrity of the Turkish Empire, but in the present case we are not guaranteeing the independance or the integrity of China at all. All we say is that we will combine to resist any attack upon Chinese integrity by two other Powers which, at the same time, invades any of the rights of the contracting parties. I will only say that I think it is a very remarkable fact, of which I hope the country will take note, that upon the first occasion upon which we have contracted a Treaty Alliance with a great military and naval Power, the principal speakers upon the Opposition side of the House have denounced the Treaty, although they were the very men who went about upon every platform in the country denouncing us for our splendid isolation. If ever there was a Treaty which justified us in departing from our traditional policy, it is this Treaty. It is not aggressive, for, on the face of it, it professes to recognise the rights of China, and not to aim at any absorption of territory either for ourselves or Japan. For my own part—and I believe this opinion is shared by a good many people in this country—I think the greatest guarantee for European peace and the peace of the 1312 Far East, and the greatest guarantee against any further acts of aggression in those parts is that you should make your intentions known and show other countries that you have the power, if necessary, to enforce them.
§ (7.10) MR. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
I desire to join in the chorus of praise which the Government has so justly earned for itself, and that it has at last received the full reward of Lord Salisbury's masterly patience and perseverance in identifying his policy with the "open door" theory consistently all through the wearisome vacillating and selfish aims of all the other Powers, who were anxious to cut up China and completely dismember it to the satisfaction of their own greed. I have gone over most of the ground in China and I have seen a great deal of the Chinese people. By this union with Japan we are allying ourselves with what has proved to be one of the pluckiest little nations in the world. I believe that the bravery of the Japanese troops during the storming of the walls of Peking when they fought side by side with the British troops, was worthy of any nation in the world which is proud of its military history. I believe this Treaty will mean the continuance of peace and prosperity in the Far East, and the development of our trade. Ever since England took possession of Wei-Hai-Wei, the Chinese people have been looking to our policy as the foundation of future commercial enterprise. No document could be drafted which would show more friendly feeling between England and the Chinese people than is shown by this Treaty. Therefore I feel perfectly confident that this Treaty will inaugurate an era of commercial prosperity, because the Japanese are a nation as commercially enterprising as ourselves. In this Treaty with Japan Lord Salisbury has capped and completed a most illustrious career as the most brilliant Foreign Minister England ever had. The result will be to increase our prosperity and prestige amongst the nations, and to extend our trade enormously.
§ *(7.14.) Mr. NORMAN
My only object in moving the adjournment was 1313 to elicit information, and that desire having been gratified to some extent—though not to a very great extent—by the interesting speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I now ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion by leave withdrawn.