CHAPTER XIV. The Open Door

The United States arrived in the Orient at a moment of high excitement. Russia was consolidating the advance of two centuries by the building of the trans-Siberian railroad, and was looking eagerly for a port in the sun, to supplement winter-bound Vladivostok. Great Britain still regarded Russia as the great enemy and, pursuing her policy of placing buffer states between her territories and her enemies, was keenly interested in preventing any encroachment southward which might bring the Russian bear nearer India. France, Russia's ally, possessed IndoChina, which was growing at the expense of Siam and which might grow northwards into China. Germany saw in eastern Asia the richest prize remaining in the world not yet possessed by her rivals, and it was for this that she was seeking power in the Pacific. Having missed the Philippines, she quickly secured Samoa and purchased from Spain the Caroline Islands, east of the Philippines, and all that the United States had not taken of Spain's empire in the Pacific.

These latent rivalries had been brought into the open by the Chino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, which showed the powerlessness of China. The western world was, indeed, divided in opinion as to whether this colossus of the East was essentially rotten, old, decrepit, and ready to disintegrate, or was merely weak because of arrested development, which education and training could correct. At any rate, China was regarded as sick and therefore became for the moment even more interesting than Turkey, the traditional sick man of Europe. If China were to die, her estate would be divided. If she were really to revitalize her vast bulk by adapting her millions to modern ways, she had but to stretch herself and the toilfully acquired Asiatic possessions of the European powers would shiver to pieces; and if she awoke angry, Europe herself might well tremble. The really wise saw that the important thing was to determine the kind of education which China should receive, and in solving this problem the palm of wisdom must be given to the missionaries who represented the great Christian societies of Europe and America. To small-minded statesmen it seemed that the situation called for conquest. No nation was willing to be late at the division, if division it was to be; while if China was to awake, the European powers felt that she should awake shackled. By no one was this latter view so clearly held as by the Kaiser. With his accustomed versatility, he designed a cartoon showing the European powers, armed and with Germania in the forefront, confronting the yellow peril. On sending his troops to China in 1900, he told them to imitate the methods of the Huns, in order to strike lasting terror to the hearts of the yellow race. By such means he sought to direct attention to the menace of the Barbarian, when he was himself first stating that doctrine of Teutonic frightfulness which has proved, in our day at least, to be the real world peril.

It was Japan who had exposed the weakness of the giant, but her victory had been so easy that her own strength was as yet untested. Japan had come of age in 1894 when, following the example of Great Britain, the various powers had released her from the obligation of exterritoriality imposed upon her by treaties when their subjects were unwilling to trust themselves to her courts. It was still uncertain, however, whether the assumption of European methods by Japan was real, and her position as a great power was not yet established. In the very moment of her triumph over China she was forced to submit to the humiliation of having the terms of peace supervised by a concert of powers and of having many of the spoils of her victory torn from her.

The chief fruits that remained to Japan from her brilliant military victory were Formosa and the recognition of the separation of Korea from China: These acquisitions gave her an opportunity to show her capacity for real expansion, but whether she would be able to hold her prize was yet to be proven. The European states, however, claimed that by the Japanese victories the balance of power in the Orient had been upset and that it must be adjusted. The obvious method was for each power to demand something for itself. In 1898 Germany secured a lease of Kiao-chau Bay across the Yellow Sea from Korea, which she at once fortified and where she proceeded to develop a port with the hope of commanding the trade of all that part of China. Russia in the same way secured, somewhat farther to the north, Port Arthur and Talien-wan, and proceeded to build Dalny as the commercial outlet of her growing railroad. Great Britain immediately occupied Wei-hai-wei, which was midway between the German and Russian bases and commanded from the south the entrance to Pekin, and also, much farther to the south, Mirs Bay, which gave security to her commercial center at Hong-kong. France took Kwang-chau, still farther to the south, and Italy received Sanmen, somewhat to the south of the Yangtszekiang. From these ports each power hoped to extend a sphere of influence. It was axiomatic that such a sphere would be most rapidly developed and most solidly held if special tariff regulations were devised to throw the trade into the hands of the merchants of the nation holding the port. The next step, therefore, in establishing the solidity of an Asiatic base, would be the formulation of special tariffs. The result would be the practical division of China into districts having different and opposed commercial interests.

The United States did not arrive in this energetic company as an entire stranger. With both China and Japan her relations had long been intimate and friendly. American merchants had traded ginseng and furs for China silks and teas ever since the United States had been a nation. In 1786 the Government had appointed a commercial agent at Canton and in 1844 had made one of the first commercial treaties with China. In 1854 the United States had been the point of the foreign wedge that opened Japan to western civilization and inaugurated that amazing period of national reorganization and assimilation which has given the Japanese Empire her place in they world today. American missionaries had labored long and disinterestedly for the moral regeneration of both China and Japan with results which are now universally recognized as beneficial, though in 1900 there was still among the Chinese much of that friction which is the inevitable reaction from an attempt to change the fundamentals of an ancient faith and long-standing habits. American merchants, it is true, had been of all classes, but at any rate there had always been a sufficient leaven of those of the highest type to insure a reasonable reputation.

The conduct of the American Government in the Far East had been most honorable and friendly. The treaty with Japan in 1858 contained the clause: "The President of the United States, at the request of the Japanese Government, will act as a friendly mediator in such matters of difference as may arise between the Government of Japan and any European power." Under Seward the United States did, indeed, work in concert with European powers to force the opening of the Shimonoseki Straits in 1864, and a revision of the tariff in 1866. Subsequently, however, the United States cooperated with Japan in her effort to free herself from certain disadvantageous features of early treaties. In 1883 the United States returned the indemnity received at the time of the Shimonoseki affair - an example of international equity almost unique at the time but subsequently paralleled in American relations with China. The one serious difficulty existing in the relationships of the United States with both China and Japan resulted from an unwillingness to receive their natives as immigrants when people of nearly every other country were admitted. The American attitude had already been expressed in the Chinese Exclusion Act. As yet the chief difficulty was with that nation, but it was inevitable that such distinctions would prove particularly galling to the rising spirit of the Japanese.

John Hay was keenly aware of the possibilities involved in these Far Eastern events. Of profound moment under any circumstances, they were doubly so now that the United States was territorially involved. To take a slice of this Eastern area was a course quite open to the United States and one which some of the powers at least would have welcomed. Hay, however, wrote to Paul Dana on March 16, 1899, as follows: "We are, of course, opposed to the dismemberment of that empire [China], and we do not think that t2he public opinion of the United States would justify this Government in taking part in the great game of spoliation now going on." He felt also that the United States should not tie its hands by "formal alliances with other Powers interested," nor was he prepared "to assure China that we would join her in repelling that demand by armed force."

It remained, then, for the Secretary of State to find a lever for peaceful interference on the part of his country and a plan for future operations. The first he found in the commercial interest of the United States. Since the Government refrained from pressing for special favors in any single part of the Chinese Empire, it could demand that American interests be not infringed anywhere. The Secretary of State realized that in a democracy statesmen cannot overlook the necessity of condensing their policies into popular catchwords or slogans. Today such phrases represent in large measure the power referred to in the old saying: "Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws." The single phrase, "scrap of paper," probably cost Germany more than any one of her atrocious deeds in the Great War. Hay's policy with regard to China had the advantage of two such phrases. The "golden rule," however, proved less lasting than the "open door," which was coined apparently in the instructions to the Paris Peace Commission. This phrase expressed just what the United States meant. The precise plan of the American Government was outlined and its execution undertaken in a circular note of September 6, 1899, which the Secretary of State addressed to London, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. In this he asked the powers to agree to respect all existing open ports and established interests within their respective spheres, to enforce the Chinese tariff and no other, and to refrain from all discrimination in port and railroad charges. To make such a proposal to the European powers required courage. In its essential elements the situation in the Far East was not unlike the internal economic condition prevailing at the same time in the United States. In this country great transportation monopolies had been built up, having an enormous capitalization, and many of them were dependent for their profits on the advantage of price fixing that monopoly may be expected to bring. Then state and nation stepped in and asserted their right to fix prices in the interest of the consumer. The consequent political struggles illustrate the difficulties besetting the Secretary of State in his somewhat similar attempt to take the chief fruits from the powers which had just acquired Chinese territory - an undertaking in which he had none of the support of legal powers effective in the United States.

That Hay so promptly succeeded in putting at least a toe in the door which he wished to open was due to a number of circumstances. Great Britain, devoted to the principle of free trade, heartily approved of his proposal and at once accepted its terms. The other powers expressed their sympathy with the ideas of the note, but, in the case of Russia at least, without the faintest intention of paying any heed to it. Hay promptly notified each power of the others' approval and stated that, with this unanimous consent, he would regard its acceptance of the proposals as "final and definitive."

The force which Hay had used was the moral influence of world opinion. None of the powers dared, with its hands fresh filled with Chinese plunder, openly to assert that it had taken the spoils for selfish reasons alone - at least, after another power had denied such purpose. Hay saw and capitalized the force of conventional morality which, however superficial in many cases, had influenced the European powers, particularly since the time of the Holy Alliance. Accustomed to clothe their actions in the garb of humanitarianism, they were not, when caught thus red-handed, prepared to be a mark of scorn for the rest of the world. The cult of unabashed might was still a closet philosophy which even Germany, its chief devotee, was not yet ready to avow to the world. Of course Hay knew that the battle was not won, for the bandits still held the booty. He was too wise to attempt to wrench it from them, for that indeed would have meant battle for which the United States was not prepared in military strength or popular intention. He had merely pledged these countries to use their acquisitions for the general good. Though the promises meant little in themselves, to have exacted them was an initial step toward victory.

In the meantime the penetration of foreign influences into China was producing a reaction. A wave of protest against the "foreign devils" swept through the population and acquired intensity from the acts of fanatic religious leaders. That strange character, the Dowager Empress, yielded to the "Boxers," who obtained possession of Pekin, cut off the foreigners from the outside world, and besieged them in the legations. That some such movement was inevitable must have been apparent to many European statesmen, and that it would give them occasion, by interference and punishment, to solidify their "spheres of influence" must have occurred to them. The "open door" was in as immediate peril as were the diplomats in Pekin.

Secretary Hay did not, however, yield to these altered circumstances. Instead, he built upon the leadership which he had assumed. He promptly accepted the international responsibility which the emergency called for. The United States at once agreed to take its share, in cooperation with the Great Powers, in whatever measures should be judged necessary. The first obvious measure was to relieve the foreign ministers who were besieged in Pekin. American assistance was active and immediate. By the efforts of the American Government, communication with the legations was opened; the American naval forces were soon at Tientsin, the port of Pekin; and five or six thousand troops were hastily sent from the Philippines. The United States therefore bore its full proportion of the task. The largest contingent of the land forces was, indeed, from Germany, and the command of the whole undertaking was by agreement given to the German commander, Graf von Waldersee. Owing, however, to his remoteness from the scene of action, he did not arrive until after Pekin had been reached and the relief of the legations, which was the first if not the main object of the expedition, had been accomplished. After this, the resistance of the Chinese greatly decreased and the country was practically at the mercy of the concert of powers.

By thus bearing its share in the responsibilities of the situation, the United States had won a vote in determining the result. Secretary Hay, however, had not waited for the military outcome, and he aimed not at a vote in the concert of powers but at its leadership. While the international expedition was gathering its forces, he announced in a circular note that "the policy of the Government of the United States is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese Empire." To this position he requested the powers to assent.

Again Hay had hit upon a formula which no self-respecting power could deny. Receiving from practically all a statement of their purpose to preserve the "integrity" of China and the "Open Door" just when they were launching the greatest military movement ever undertaken in the Far East by the western world, he made it impossible to turn punishment into destruction and partition. The legations were saved and so was China. After complicated negotiations an agreement was reached which exacted heavy pecuniary penalties, and in the case of Germany, whose minister had been assassinated, a conspicuous and what was intended to be an enduring record of the crime and its punishment. China, however, remained a nation - with its door open.

Once more in 1904 the fate of China, and in fact that of the whole Far East, was thrown into the ring. Japan and Russia entered into a war which had practically no cause except the collision of their advancing interests in Chinese territory. Every land battle of the war, except those of the Saghalien campaign, was fought in China, Chinese ports were blockaded, Chinese waters were filled with enemy mines and torpedoes, and the prize was Chinese territory or territory recently taken from her. To deny these facts was impossible; to admit them seemed to involve the disintegration of the empire. Here again Secretary Hay, devising a middle course, gained by his promptness of action the prestige of having been the first to speak. On February 8, 1904, he asked Germany, Great Britain, and France to join with the United States in requesting Japan and Russia to recognize the neutrality of China, and to localize hostilities within fixed limits. On January 10, 1905, remembering how the victory of Japan in 1894 had brought compensatory grants to all the powers, he sent out a circular note expressing the hope on the part of the American Government that the war would not result in any "concession of Chinese territory to neutral powers." Accustomed now to these invitations which decency forbade them to refuse, all the powers assented to this suggestion. The results of the war, therefore, were confined to Manchuria, and Japan promised that her occupation of that province should be temporary and that commercial opportunity therein should be the same for all. The culmination of American prestige came with President Roosevelt's offer of the good offices of the United States, on June 8, 1905. As a result, peace negotiations were concluded in the Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) in 1905. For this conspicuous service to the cause of peace President Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel prize.

Secretary Hay had therefore, in the seven years following the real arrival of the United States in the Far East, evolved a policy which was clear and definite, and one which appealed to the American people. While it constituted a variation from the precise methods laid down by President Monroe in 1823, in that it involved concerted and equal cooperation with the great powers of the world, Hay's policy rested upon the same fundamental bases: a belief in the fundamental right of nations to determine their own government, and the reduction to a minimum of intervention by foreign powers. To have refused to recognize intervention at all would have been, under the circumstances, to abandon China to her fate. In protecting its own right to trade with her, the United States protected the integrity of China. Hay had, moreover, so ably conducted the actual negotiations that the United States enjoyed for the moment the leadership in the concert of powers and exercised an authority more in accord with her potential than with her actual strength. Secretary Hay's death in 1905 brought American leadership to an end, for, though his policies continued to be avowed by all concerned, their application was thereafter restricted. The integrity of Chinese territory was threatened, though not actually violated, by the action of Great Britain in Tibet and of Japan in Manchuria. Japan, recognized as a major power since her war with Russia, seemed in the opinion of many to leave but a crack of the door open in Manchuria, and her relationship with the United States grew difficult as she resented more and more certain discriminations against her citizens which she professed to find in the laws of some of the American States, particularly in those of California.

In 1908 Elihu Root, who succeeded Hay as Secretary of State, effected an understanding with Japan. Adopting a method which has become rather habitual in the relationship between the United States and Japan, Root and the Japanese ambassador exchanged notes. In these they both pointed out that their object was the peaceful development of their commerce in the Pacific; that "the policy of both governments, uninfluenced by any aggressive tendencies, is directed to the maintenance of the existing status quo in the region above mentioned, and to the defense of the principle of equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China"; that they both stood for the independence and integrity of China; and that, should any event threaten the stability of existing conditions, "it remained for the two governments to communicate with each other in order to arrive at an understanding as to what measures they may consider it useful to take."

The immigration problem between Japan and the United States was even more serious than that of the open door and the integrity of China. The teeming population of Japan was swarming beyond her island empire, and Korea and Manchuria did not seem to offer sufficient opportunity. The number of Japanese immigrants to this country, which before the Spanish War had never reached 2000 in any one year, now rose rapidly until in 1907 it reached 30,226. American sentiment, which had been favorable to Japan during her war with Russia, began to change. The public and particularly the laboring classes in the West, where most of the Japanese remained, objected to this increasing immigration, while a number of leaders of American opinion devoted themselves to converting the public to a belief that the military ambitions of Japan included the Philippines and possibly Hawaii, where the Japanese were a formidable element in the population. As a consequence there arose a strong demand that the principles of the Chinese Exclusion Act be applied to the Japanese. The situation was made more definite by the fact that the board of education in San Francisco ruled in 1906 that orientals should receive instruction in special schools. The Japanese promptly protested, and their demand for their rights under the treaty of 1894 was supported by the Tokio Government. The international consequences of thus discriminating against the natives of so rising and self-confident a country as Japan, and one conscious of its military strength, were bound to be very different from the difficulties encountered in the case of China. The United States confronted a serious situation, but fortunately did not confront it alone. Australia and British Columbia, similarly threatened by Japanese immigration, were equally opposed to it.

Out of deference to Great Britain, with which she had been allied since 1902, Japan consented that her immigrants should not force their way into unwilling communities. This position facilitated an arrangement between the United States and Japan, and an informal agreement was made in 1907. The schools of San Francisco were to be open to oriental children not over sixteen years of age, while Japan was to withhold passports from laborers who planned to emigrate to the United States. This plan has worked with reasonable success, but minor issues have kept alive in both countries the bad feeling on the subject. Certain States, particularly California, have passed laws, especially with regard to the ownership and leasing of farm lands, apparently intended to discriminate against Japanese who were already residents. These laws Japan has held to be violations of her treaty provision for consideration on the "most favored nation" basis, and she has felt them to be opposed in spirit to the "gentlemen's agreement" of 1907. The inability of the Federal Government to control the policy of individual States is not accepted by foreign countries as releasing the United States from international obligations, so that, although friendly agreements between the two countries were reached on the major points, cause for popular irritation still remained.

Philander C. Knox, who succeeded Root as Secretary of State, devoted his attention rather to the fostering of American interests in China than to the development of the general policies of his Department. While he refrained from asking for an American sphere of influence, he insisted that American capitalists obtain their fair share of the concessions for railroad building, mining, and other enterprises which the Chinese Government thought it necessary to give in order to secure capital for her schemes of modernization. As these concessions were supposed to carry political influence in the areas to which they applied, there was active rivalry for them, and Russia and Japan, which had no surplus capital, even borrowed in order to secure a share. This situation led to a tangled web of intrigue, perhaps inevitable but decidedly contrary to the usual American diplomatic habits; and at this game the United States did not prove particularly successful. In 1911 there broke out in China a republican revolution which was speedily successful. The new Government, as yet unrecognized, needed money, and the United States secured a share in a six-power syndicate which was organized to float a national loan. The conditions upon which this syndicate insisted, however, were as much political as they were pecuniary, and the new Government refused to accept them.

On the accession of President Wilson, the United States promptly led the way in recognizing the new republic in China. On March 18, 1913, the President announced: "The conditions of the loan seem to us to touch nearly the administrative independence of China itself; and this administration does not feel that it ought, even by implication, to be a party to those conditions." The former American policy of non-interference was therefore renewed, but it still remained uncertain whether the entrance of the United States into Far Eastern politics would do more than serve to delay the European dominance which seemed to be impending in 1898.