DRIFT TO DARKNESS: “if the Yankee doesn’t look out these so-called Yankees of the East are going to beat him at his own game.”

Excerpts from James Scherer’s JAPAN’S ADVANCE, 1934

“If the average American cannot be reached with up-to-date information about Japan someday there may be trouble between the two countries. At present his ignorance of his next-door neighbour is colossal. The Japanese know us and our history vastly better than we know them and theirs. “There is no darkness but ignorance” Shakespeare said, and war is a thing of darkness. Not only so. If the Yankee doesn’t look out the so-called Yankees of the East are going to beat him at his own game. For his own sake he ought to know what they are doing. Perhaps they can teach him some things, who knows? Perhaps even it would be to his advantage to make up his mind to sit down at the same table with them and try to reach an economic understanding, a working agreement.

There is a new Japan. This is what it says to the Man in the street across the Pacific:

"The United States possesses a vast territory, rich in natural resources and in the number and energy of its people. In these respects Japan cannot compare with America, but the greatness of a nation should not be judged by material elements alone. The Japanese do not consider themselves inferior in any way to the Americans, and talents, culture, or morality. What Americans have done, the Japanese believe they also can do. Japan has made great progress in recent decades, and the Japan of today is not the Japan of yesterday. Estimates of Japan which may have been accurate enough 20 years ago are no longer adequate. The world is on the move, and the nations which compose it a growing or decaying. Japan must be measured as she is today, not as she was before.

Asia is different from the west, and it may be the plan of nature that the difference should persist. Asia is becoming self-conscious, and is passing through the agony of rebirth. Whatever errors Japan may make, whatever may be her limitations, it is beyond question that Japan alone among Asiatic nations has the power and the will which make her the stable element in this turbulent and changing continent. The hope of stability in eastern Asia depends on Japan. If America chooses to cooperate with Japan, that hope, though dim at present, will gradually grow brighter. Any policy which disregards the strong and stable nation in Asia can only perpetuate the weakness in the insecurity which are the source of Asia’s troubles now."
 Contemporary Japan, December, 1933, Mr Tokichi Tanaka

Contemporary Japan, December, 1933-Mr Tokichi Tanaka is speaking – formerly Ambassador to Moscow and now president of a leading financial journal in Tokyo. He speaks with authentic voice; no words could be more true or more timely. To persuade Americans to heed them is one of the aims of this book.(Scherer, 1934, pp. v-vii)

“To represent His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan at Moscow went Tokichi Tanaka, ex-counselor of the Japanese Embassy at Washington, ex-Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, ex-Director of the Intelligence Bureau at Tokyo, as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary..”
JAPAN:So Naive? TIME, Monday, May 04, 1925

“Until the beginning of the Great War Japan’s industrial advance was sufficiently impressive, but since then it has gathered such impetus as to become positively startling. In 1914 Japan was an agricultural country; in 1934 it ranks among the leading industrial nations of the world.”(Scherer, 1934, p. vii)

“Informed Japanese on the train said that in Korea and Manchuria, and in all the new area, the Japanese had adopted a wide gauge, 4 feet 8 ½ inches, instead of 3’6”. There is plenty of coal in Manchuria.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 7)

“Few factory chimneys punctuated the Japanese landscape 30 years ago. Today a British resident of long-standing complains that “almost every town has its sheaf of smokestacks, 5000 breaking the skyline in Osaka and its suburbs alone. Not a month passes without seeing new manufactories of cement, carpets, soap, glass, umbrellas, hats, matches, watchers, bicycles, smelting works, electrical works, steel foundries, machine shops of every sort.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 10)

“It is fundamental facts like these that explain the amazing economic interdependence of the two countries. One third of Japan’s foreign trade (exports and imports combined) is with the United States. On the other hand, next to the huge British Commonwealth – misnamed empire – Japan is America’s best patron. She outbuys any nation in Europe. As for Asia, the United States sells more goods to Japan than to all the rest of the Far East combined including the Philippines. And Japan pays!... Without the default, without even any delay in interest or principal payments on Japanese bond issues sold abroad, Japan today has a credit exceled by no other country. And this notwithstanding the fact that circumstances have notoriously lined up against her.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 11)

“The writer is an American, with extensive experience of Japan. All humanitarian considerations aside – and of course they loom the largest – it seems to him that two countries that do such an enormous and satisfactory business with each other, largely in raw materials one of which neither can produce for itself, should seek to avoid dangerous and unnecessary rivalry.

After all, this is a humanitarian consideration. The causes of most modern wars are economic. If, by economic modus vivendi, Japan and America succeed in keeping the peace, “the Pacific era” will indeed be “the greatest of all,” as Theodore Roosevelt prophesied.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 12)

“To foreigners the progress in aviation seems remarkable. But Japan is not satisfied. “Japan illustrated” says: “Japanese aviation industry is far behind those of other countries of Europe and America. Today, most of aeroplane motors and bodies are still imported from foreign countries. The government is encouraging the development of this industry.”(Scherer, 1934, pp. 24-25)

“Still, in spite of the high costs of coking, is now produced in Japan in sufficient quantity to supplies 60% of her needs. In fact, she exports tubes and pipes, which are manufacturers Excel, not only to Asia, but to North America. A merger between governmental and privately owned steel works, now understood discussion, is expected to benefit in the industry. Of greater effect is Japan’s alliance with Manchoukuo, which will permit the South Manchuria Railway, controlled by Japan, to function without further embarrassment from bandits or Chinese soldiers.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 28)

“Only those foreigners with insight into Japanese character and with the good luck to be in the country at the time of the Imperial birth can fully appreciate its effect. One realises as never before the fundamental fact that Japan is a family, the Emperor the revered father of his people. Rejoicing was profound, overwhelming, universal. Every Japanese heart seemed to be singing. Never before in all the long history of the people have they been more completely unified or more buoyant with hope.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 38)

“By the time Japan had a next career, thus adding from 20 to 30 million tons to her iron reserves.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 38)

“with the recent completion of railway lines in central Manchoukuo running due eastward to the sea, Japan has quicker and cheaper access to the Anshan Iron Mine, which she controls through the South Manchuria Railway.(Scherer, 1934, p. 39)

“The big trouble with the Japanese iron situation is the inferior quality of all the ores, in Manchoukuo as well as in Japan. For better ore to feed into the Imperial Steel Works at Yawata, Japan sends all the way to Singapore, whence she brings a million metric tons a year. She even goes as far afield as Australia.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 39)

“The comparatively high cost of coking coal and iron ore has placed the Japanese iron and steel industry at a distinct disadvantage as compared with that of the leading Western countries. In order to develop the industry, it has been necessary to grant tax exemptions and give much more than the usual amount of subsidy and tariff protection.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 40)

A Japanese authority writes:
It goes without saying that the Manchurian are people and the consequent Shanghai incident directly stimulated the heavy industries of Japan, especially the iron and steel industries, and indirectly promoted the merger movement of the principal ironworks of Japan. Since the beginning of the disturbances in Manchuria in the autumn of 1931, the progress of Japanese heavy industries has been remarkable. The prosperity of the steel industry and its allied industries has been the most noteworthy. Military activities in the Far East since the autumn of 1931 stimulated the so-called war boom among the industries connected with army supplies. For example, the manufacturing of aeroplanes, tanks, bullets, projectiles, arms parts, motorcars, internal combustion engines, ships, communication apparatus, delicate measurement instruments, engineering apparatus, etc., was stimulated by the so-called emergency. Thus the iron and mechanical engineering industries again enjoyed the boom that had abated after the world War.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 36)

“Early in 1934 there are no signs of any decline. On the contrary, the nation seems radiant with hope.
The devaluation of the yen seems to have been a blessing in disguise. It is now more than two years since Japan went off the gold standard, and none of the dire predictions regarding the departure have been fulfilled. Quite to the contrary. On the one hand, a cheaper yen made the manufacturer and the exporter rich. His labour, cost him less, and with his good but inexpensive products he was able to climb over tariff walls and capture foreign markets by the score. (Scherer, 1934, p. 36)

“Sansom’s and Kermode’s report to the British “Department of overseas trade” on economic conditions in Japan refers to the charges of “dumping” in connection with rubber goods, and adds:

Such charges are as a general rule without any foundation, if by “dumping” is meant the sale of goods abroad are below production cost. There are doubtless been cases where stocks have been disposed of at a sacrifice, and some small traders and producers have probably taken orders at un-remunerative prices. But the bulk of the export trade has certainly been conducted at a profit, and the government, far from encouraging cheap sales, have urged small export trade to combine for maintenance of higher export prices. No good, but possibly much harm, can come from ascribing the success of Japan in foreign trade to unfair methods. This report would fail in its purpose if it did not bring out the fact that those successes have been obtained by a deadly combination of low wages, good workmanship, and favourable exchange.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 57)

“It is the fashion in some quarters to disparage the originality of the Japanese, to call them imitators. The Japanese have borrowed everything. So did the Greeks. It whosoever questioned the creative faculty of the Greeks!”(Scherer, 1934, p. 72)

“With regard to modern invention, the impression is so widespread in western countries that “the Japanese never invent anything” as to demand computation.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 72)

“It seems likely, in view of such a remarkable showing, that we Westerners have hardly been fair to Japan. Eighty years ago we began to thrust our own inventions on her, and no one can deny that she has appropriated them with wonderful rapidity and thoroughness. Perhaps it was not quite fair to expect her to invent on her own account while she was appropriating and assimilating what the West had to offer. Now that she has done that, she seems to be striking out with an initial success that is startling.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 78)

5. Nothing can exist alone. Love must be the basis of existence.” Tsunekichi Takuma(Scherer, 1934, p. 86)

“Certainly the Japanese work far harder, and for about one quarter the wages of British factory hands. But that does not mean that they are “sweated.”

They do it willingly, by inherited have, and with their low wages they get as much comfort and happiness – and twice as much cleanliness – out of life as the British workman for four times the money.

Nor can we attribute Japan’s invasion of our markets to the depreciation of the currency. The Japanese cotton industry, like our own, has to buy its raw material abroad, so that the depreciated yen does not help it there.

Admittedly, before the end went off gold, manufacturers placed large advance orders for stocks, but those are now exhausted.

The reasons which make Japan so formidable a competitor are that:

her cotton industry is equipped with the very latest plant, where as much of ours is out of date;

her mills are not over capitalise, and can afford to work for small margins of profit;

her merchants are restless in seeking new outlets overseas, and travel constantly in search of customers; and

her manufacturers work 10 hours a day, six days a week, in their offices.”(Scherer, 1934, pp. 98-99)

“The advantage of Japan in commercial rivalry with other nations are numerous. Control of transportation lines by land and sea, government subsidies, and, in the trade with Asia, shortfall are important factors. Japanese are so near to the great markets of the mainland that they can fill an order from Korea, Manchuria and China within a week or 10 days. Labour is so cheap that the cost of production is much less than in Europe and America, and the prices can be kept low consistently with good profits. – The Japanese, moreover, move as a unit in furthering their commercial ambitions. Several of the great enterprises are controlled either directly or indirectly by government. In some instances, the government owns them outright; in other instances, high officials and members of the Imperial family are heavy stockholders. The nation as a whole rules in commercial as well as in government affairs. The businessman does not have to fight alone for foreign trade, as the American business man usually must. He has the backing of his country. Shipping companies give him every possible advantage. He is a part of an immense “trust,” only the trust is a government instead of a corporation.”(Scherer, 1934, pp. 99-100)

“Peace Preservation Act, “adopted by the Diet in return for the passage of universal manhood suffrage,” completed by compulsion what suffrage was achieving through suasion. “Fearing that the great increase in the number of voters might strengthen the political status of labour unduly, any movement or proposal to abolish private property was made punishable. Thus, the advocacy of socialism by any political party was prohibited. All parties that favoured the abolition of private property were considered as ‘communistic’ and were dissolved.”(Scherer, 1934, p. 137)

“The United States and other western powers were at a loss on how to respond to the rapidly developing crisis. Even as the Japanese moved far from the original site of the “attack” at Mukden to bomb the city of Jinzhou (Chinchow), there was little sense that U.S. interests in the area were anywhere near profound enough to make military intervention necessary or desirable.”
TheMukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine, Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State

Scherer, J. A. (1934). Japans Advance. 

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