HC Deb 13 December 1945 vol 417 cc749-60

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Joseph Henderson.]

10.30 P.m.

Mr. Callaghan (Cardiff, South)

The subject on which I desire to submit certain observations this evening, is the policy of the Great Powers in the Far East, and particularly the policy of the United States of America in China and Manchuria. I hoped to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, during the course of our discussions on the Loan Agreement, but I was unfortunate, and in consequence I have been walking round the whole day with two speeches in ray pocket. I hope I shall not get them mixed now, but if I do perhaps it would not matter very much, because the text of both speeches is that of the economic aggression of the United States. Let me say how grateful I am to the Minister of State for coming here this evening. He has had a long and trying day at the United Nations Organisation, and with our arrangements tonight he was not sure whether this subject would be taken, and I do not expect a full answer from him.

However, I think it important to make certain of these observations in order that, when the Foreign Secretary goes to Moscow very shortly, he should be apprised of the point of view of at least some of us in this House. May I say, because I want to be critical of the United States, that I have a great affection for them? I had the honour of serving with some United States members of the Forces during the war, and I have a great affection for them as anybody must have who has experienced their individual hospitality and their kindness. However, those traits do not reveal themselves when they are translated into some of their foreign policies, and in the case of their Far-Eastern policy, I am afraid that much of what they are doing is not in accordance with what most of us in this. House would like to see. There are important elements—such as General Hurley, the Ambassador, who has just resigned—who believe that the policy for the United States is to support General Chiang Kai-shek against the Communists, to stretch the Lend-Lease arrangements so as to continue the supply of armaments to General Chiang Kai-shek in order that he may continue his war against the Communists. That, if I may say so, is a rather wry thought—that this country should have to measure our shattered homes against a loan of several million American dollars, when some important sections of the United States are prepared to continue to stretch Lend-Lease arrangements in order to supply China with arms to continue a civil war.

There are other factors too. I believe that the Americans have failed to disarm many of the Japanese in these areas in China and Manchuria to which I am referring. Some of them—General Hurley, I believe, is one—seem to be prepared to support General Chiang Kai-shek in his policy of incorporating puppet armies, which formerly fought with the Japanese, into the Nationalist Army to fight against the Communist section and to support him in his appointment of pro-Japanese officials.

All these things are going on out there, and it is because they are so disquieting, that I felt bound to keep the House tonight after the very tiring day we have had. For what purpose are these things being done? It is, I fear, because the Americans have set out on a plan of economic aggression in the Far East. They desire to capture the trade of China, they desire to build railways, they desire to string China with roads and, for those reasons, I believe, important elements in America are pursuing a foreign policy in the Far East which will prolong indefinitely the civil war which has broken out there. For that reason I think it is important that our Foreign Secretary should go to Moscow with certain very strong representations that he should make on this situation.

I do not believe—in fact, I know—that the whole of the people of the United States do not share the views of General Hurley. There are some American Congressmen today who are opposing very vigorously American policy in the Far East, and they have the support of considerable numbers of the American people. However, the result of this dichotomy of American policy is confusion. What is their policy in the Far East? If I might use the words of the Foreign Secretary, "What is it they want? Let them put their cards face upwards on the table." Let us know which policy they are pursuing out there, because it is of such vital importance to the future of world peace. If the United Nations do not agree on their policy in this part of the world, let us be under no delusion as to the result. The seeds of world war are being sown today out there, and do not let us forget that just as the last shots in this present war were fired in the Far East, so were the first shots fired out there. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that our Foreign Secretary should go to Moscow prepared to say these things to the Americans and to ask them to state clearly what is their policy.

Two things should be done. The first is, that the Americans should withdraw all their troops from Manchuria, and the second thing is, that the United Nations Organisation or the Big Three—as the United Nations Organisation has not yet been clothed in a garment—should be responsible for the conduct of free democratic elections in China at the present time throughout the whole of the area. General Chiang Kai-shek talked about free elections in the future, but that is not good enough. We ought to have a decision on this issue fairly quickly and I believe that China could take it.

I would refer to the question of the Far Eastern Advisory Commission. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State told me three weeks ago, in reply to a question, that Russia had not declined to take part in the Far Eastern Advisory Commission and discussions were still proceeding, but the fact remains that she still has not taken part in it. Russia is outside those discussions for the excellent reason that she is asked to take part in an advisory commission and not a Control Commission. It is the Control Commission that Russia and Australia and China, and many other nations, who, too, have suffered from Japanese aggression, desire, and that is what we should have.

American policies in Japan at the moment are to some extent satisfactory; in other aspects they are clearly unsatisfactory. May I give one illustration. I have drawn the attention of the House before to the fact that Prince Konoye is still permitted to remain the voice of the throne in Japan. Anybody who examines Prince Konoye's record must know that he cannot be the friend either of the West or of democracy, in the sense that the United States and ourselves understand it. We are told that, if we insist on a.Control Commission, General Mac Arthur will resign his job, but with great respect to that very fine soldier, it is not a soldier's job any longer. It is not a job which should be done by the military. The period of military operations is over. What are we going to do to re-educate the Japanese? That is really the point to which we ought to address ourselves. I was aghast two or three days ago to read that Prince Konoye said that the Japanese constitution was really democratic and he thought it needed only minor alterations. If I had time, I would take the House, if it had the patience, with me through the Articles of the Japanese Constitution. Let me take just one. Article 3 says that the Japanese Emperor is "sacred and inviolable." Does that sound like a democratic institution?

I put it to the House that General Mac Arthur's own personal dignity and personal position must not be-allowed to stand between the attempt of the United Nations to re-educate the Japanese people to bring them into the comity of nations and if he will not subordinate his dignity, which is the reasonable thing to do, then, with great respect, General Mac Arthur must go. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to convey some of these sentiments if indeed, that is the view of the Government, too, and the other nations with whom we shall be negotiating in Moscow. I want to give the Minister time to reply, so I will conclude on one note. The Far East is the powder keg of the world. In the Foreign Affairs Debate we heard a lot then about South-East Europe, Jugoslavia and the Balkans. I have no doubt that they are important, but, with great respect to those who espoused the case of South-East Europe, they do not matter a jot by comparison with the peril which will confront the world if the problems of China and Japan are not settled. It is to these problems that we must turn our minds. These countries may be a long way away, but they affect vitally the whole future of the world, and it is for that reason that I have ventured to detain this House this evening on what, I believe, to be one of the most important subjects that concerns us.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

I wish to reinforce, in some respects, what the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has said. This matter was brought to the attention of the Government in the Debate on foreign affairs and problems of the Far East were brought up on this side of the House by the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) and to some extent by myself and others, as well as by hon. Members on the other side of the House. I think that the Government paid very little attention to the Far East in their reply, and that it is therefore incumbent upon the Minister of State to give tonight some sort of answer on these vital problems. The problems of the Far East with which I had the misfortune, or the fortune, to deal with at the Foreign Office, are of immense magnitude and importance, I feel, therefore, that the hon. Member was not exaggerating when he said that in these problems might lie the whole future of world security. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will devote a little time to the arguments of the hon. Member. I feel that what he has said about the Far Eastern Commission is very true. We are not aware, at the present moment, what is the position. We hope that there is a friendly attitude towards Soviet Russia, but we are not aware whether Soviet Russia is participating or whether it is intended that she should participate. I shall be delighted if the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, can give some answer on that point. The problems of the Far East have in them, I think, not only those ideological features which the problems of the West have, but have also immense physical features, and they are on a far larger scale, in relation to future world development, than the problems of Europe. They have the same characteristics, but in a larger degree. I do not want to complicate the task of the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think it right to say that the Foreign Office should regard Far Eastern questions as being such that they cannot be dealt with on the Floor of the House because they are too ticklish and too delicate. I think it is time that the Government told us what their policy is in this sphere, and I feel sure that they will be able to handle it with the same discretion as that with which they are attempting to handle other international problems.

10.18 p.m.

The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

I will do my best to give my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron ` Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) as good an answer as I can. I must explain my difficulties to the House. I have been at other meetings until about an hour ago. After the Division at 9.15 I received information that this subject was not going to be brought up tonight. I despatched my advisors to their homes, and thought no more about it. I must, therefore, answer ex tempore and without any advice on questions about the raising of which I had no previous information. I understood that my hon. Friend was to raise something entirely different. That being so, the House will realise that they will not get an extremely good answer. Perhaps we shall have another chance, and that I shall have a better chance, and that it will be better for all concerned. I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government desire nothing better than to discuss Far Eastern affairs here, whenever the usual channels can find the time, and to do so in the fullest and frankest manner. I assure him that Far Eastern questions are the subject of continuous and thoughtful deliberation in the Foreign Office, quite as much as the affairs of any other part of the world. We are well aware that the peace of the world depends on the willingness of the powers in the Far East to adjust their differences by frank discussion and mutual confidence. We believe that the principles on which our general foreign policy is based, our adherence to the institutions of the United Nations, the application of the principles of the Charter for dealing with international difficulties and disputes which are not otherwise resolved£we believe these principles apply in the Far East as they do elsewhere. We believe that if they had been applied in the Far East in 1931 we should not have had the ghastly tragedy in Europe through which we have passed.

My hon. Friend said that the period of military occupation in Japan was over. How many months is it since fighting really ended, since we were able to send even our advance troops into these areas? Not much more than three. Our experience in Germany has shown how very difficult it is, in the occupation of a great country, to combine the necessity of thorough disarmament and the punishment of the guilty with the necessity of preserving some central authority, which can carry out the orders of the occupy- ing Power, so that the whole work of maintaining order, of providing the police service, does not fall upon the soldiers of the occupying Power. It is a very difficult task, and it would be intolerable if the soldiers of the occupying Allied armies had to perform all the duties of the police force, to maintain the law against those who are now, alas, in all those countries much too well armed, and filled with the most dangerous doctrines; it would be intolerable if Allied soldiers had to bear the full burden of maintaining peace and order against criminals and gangsters of every kind. That task, in Germany, has proved extremely difficult. We have not solved it yet. And in Germany, with much simpler problems to deal with. we are not yet out of the period of military government.

Owing to the peculiar structure of the Japanese State, whose institutions depend so directly on the Emperor, General MacArthur has encountered that difficulty in its most acute form, and I want to pay a great tribute, on behalf of the Government, to General MacArthur, as a great military leader and a soldier of incomparable gallantry, who rendered immense service to the Allies in the earlier stages of the war, as well as throughout the whole period of his command. I cannot now accept any criticism of him. I do not answer, of course, for the United States Government, but I must say that the United States Government has shown itself willing and anxious to share the burden of solving this difficulty with its Allies. There is no suggestion that final decisions on policy will be taken about Japan by the American Government without consultation with her Allies. The machinery by which that consultation can be carried out, the working out of a common policy, can be most effectively achieved by means to which we are now giving our full attention, with the hope that results will come in the relatively early future.

I turn to China. There, if I may say so, my hon. Friend made some sweeping assertions. He said that the Americans were failing to disarm the Japs. He said that General Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the Government we recognise, the head of the Government which resisted the Japanese in 1931, and again later, is appointing pro-Japanese officials. He went on to say that the United States have set out on what he called a campaign of American economic aggression, and that they were planning to build roads and railways and other public works in China. This House tonight has expressed approval of the receipt by this country of a great loan from the United States. I confess I hope that China will also receive a loan from the United States, that roads and railways will be built in China, that rivers will be controlled, as the Tennessee River was controlled, that the people of China will be saved from the appalling disasters which have overtaken them and their land, and will be enriched as the United States has been enriched by the T.V.A. Scheme which President Roosevelt initiated and carried through. And, if that is done, I do not believe that the Americans will do it with any intention whatever of establishing their political control over the Chinese Government. I utterly repudiate that suggestion.

I fail completely to understand what my hon. and gallant Friend wants us to do about those who are called the Chinese Communists. Of course, H.M. Government are anxious that all difficulties in China shall be solved without further bloodshed. We have done everything in our power to encourage, so far as we properly can, the settlement by agreement of any internal difficulties there may be. But these are, in the last resort, matters for the Chinese themselves. I do not know if my hon. and. gallant Friend proposes that we should recognise those whom he called the Chinese Communists, as the government of the Northern part of China. Does he suggest that the three provinces in Manchuria, which were taken from China by Japan as the first act of aggression in the world war, should now be retained by Russia, or by the Communists, and should not be taken over by the Government we now recognise as the government of China? I do not think that we could now accept any policy like that and, if I may say so, my hon. and gallant Friend himself did not seem to me very clear in his own mind as to what he thought was wanted. I am quite certain that it would not be in the general interest of the world if anybody attempted to obstruct the reoccupation of Manchuria by the forces of the government which we recognise today.

Lastly, my hon. and gallant Friend said that there ought to be free democratic elections in China at once. I do not know when the last tree democratic election was held in China, but I think it was a little time ago. Certainly Sun-Yat-Sen proposed a series of stages, and did not think that they could reach the stage of free democratic election for some time. In local government, there have been elections, and they have worked extremely well; but local government:s a very different thing from the national government of an immense area like China, the people of which cannot even understand each other when they speak, because the spoken languages are quite different; and there are 450 million of them. France has been liberated for nearly 18 months. She only held her first free, democratic election the other day, and France has had free, democratic government for a very long time. Norway has had an election, but Belgium and Holland have not yet got to a stage where they can have one. To demand that there should be free democratic elections now, in China, is to ask for something which is over-optimistic in the conditions which now obtain.

Mr. Caltaghan

General Chiang Kai-shek did expect that there would be elections.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I hope there will be. but it will be some time before they are prepared. The Japanese have not yet all been cleared out, and their final disarmament must still be carried through; order must be re-established; we must have some settlement between the Communists and the rest. Of course, all these are essential pre-conditions of an election. We hope that these conditions may be fulfilled as rapidly as possible. We want to see China progress, as we believe she can and should progress, with rapidity towards an ordered democratic system in which all Chinese shall live in peace together, without resort to violence of any kind. We look forward to economic development and democratic progress in China. Whatever His Majesty's Government can do to promote these things, will certainly be done. But we shall not promote them by using hard words about our American allies, who have performed so great a task in the Far East.

10.30 p.m.

Flight-lieutenant Teeling (Brighton)

I would like to say a few words, in view of the fact that the Foreign Secretary is going tomorrow to these conferences, at which, no doubt, questions concerning the Far-Eastern situation will be raised. These matters are causing the greatest worry to those who know about the Far East. The Foreign Office is, as far as we can see, taking the greatest care over the whole matter, but there arc, unfortunately, very few people, in the United States or in this country, who can speak Japanese. Yet, we hear that General Mac Arthur is telling the Japanese Government completely to alter its system, to commence at once the alteration of the feudal system of the country, though there is in that country a most illiterate and politically ill-educated people. There will be the most frightful chaos there unless you have specialists on the spot, who, knowing the language, can tell the Japanese what to do. There are only a few specialists in the United States and in Great Britain, and these are mainly missionaries and I am not at all happy that the right people are going to Japan, or that the missionaries are the right people to start the essential reforms. In the Foreign Office at present there are some experts on the Japanese language, but not many. Not everybody I met from the Foreign Office when I was out in Japan could speak Japanese. It is a very serious problem, and I hope it may be possible to do something at this Conference of Foreign Ministers, to see that the discussions which will have to take place, on Far Eastern problems, will not be continued outside Japan but will be discussed inside Tokyo.

There is one other point. We should watch very carefully what is done about replacing the Emperor or undermining his position unless we are certain that we have someone who could take his place. I knew the Emperor's brother fairly well, because he was educated at my college at Oxford, and I formed the opinion that he and the small group round him, were about the only people in that country who had anything like democratic ideas. They were Liberal statesmen and I think that only these and their like could help us at the present moment. Unfortunately their sons were taken away from them during and before this war, and their fathers were threatened, even blackmailed, and told that their sons would probably be shot if the fathers persisted in their Liberal beliefs. These older men might be of great use to us today. With regard to China, I would like to make one suggestion. In most of the interior of China when I was there the people I spoke to, whether from the North or in the South, happened to speak "pidgin English" and often only understood each other in "pidgin English." I quite seriously suggest that as soon as possible the subject of Basic English should be studied by the Foreign Office with a view to having it taught there. It would have to be at some future date, but the Russians, were, I understand, before the war very keen on it, and it might well be of use in Japan and China where there are so many languages, and so few people understand each other.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-eight Minutes to Eleven o'Clock.