Gabriel de Wesselitsky.

The problem of Asia : a lecture delivered by G.D. Wesselitsky before the Central Asian Society of London, June 1st, 1904 ; with an introduction by Donald Mackenzie-Wallace online

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Online LibraryGabriel de WesselitskyThe problem of Asia : a lecture delivered by G.D. Wesselitsky before the Central Asian Society of London, June 1st, 1904 ; with an introduction by Donald Mackenzie-Wallace → online text (page 1 of 2)
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JUNE 1ST, 1904,



K.C.I. E.,


S. SIDDERS & CO., 17 & 19, BALI. STREET,



I have been requested by M. de Wesselitsky, whom I
have long known as the able and universally respected
correspondent of the Novoe Vremya in London, to write a
few lines of introduction to a lecture which he delivered lately
on " The Problem of Asia " ; and I gladly comply with his
request, because I believe his views are deserving of care-
ful attention. They may be accepted or rejected, but they
should not be overlooked. We are at present entering on
a new phase of what the Germans call Weltpolitik, and it
is certain that in the political combinations of the near
future Japan will be an important factor. Is that young
vigorous State to be cordially received into the great family
of the civilised nations, or is it to be regarded as a danger-
ous enemy of the family, so far as the Far East is con-
cerned ? When we have dismissed as a harmless bogey the
Yellow Peril in its original shape, we have still to examine
it in other forms. Granted that there is no danger of
Mongol Hordes overrunning and conquering Europe, is it
not possible that a yellow race, by adopting the products of
European civilisation, may oppose successfully the aggres-
sive tendencies of the European nations in the Far East ?
In that case what attitude should these nations adopt?
Should they combine to maintain by force of arms what
they consider their civilising mission ? Or should they limit
their pretensions in such a way as to leave room for the
civilising activity of a young Oriental nationality which
may some day raise the cry of " Asia for the Asiatics ! ".
The former course was adopted by Russia, France and
Germany, when they compelled Japan to relinquish the
conquests which she had made in Manchuria during her
war with China, and when the present war is terminated
the question will again come up for decision.

We naturally feel inclined to turn away from the
thorny problems which we would gladly bequeath to future
generations intact, but unfortunately we are very near to
the parting of the ways. As to which way we should
choose I refrain from expressing any opinion. All I wish


to say is that common prudence suggests our looking a
little ahead and considering the burning question in the Far
East in its broader aspects. The war which is at present
raging is not a mere struggle between two rival Powers
for a bit of territory coveted by both. It is the beginning
of a much greater struggle in which all nations having
Eastern possessions and Eastern ambitions will be com-
pelled, sooner or later, however reluctantly, to take part.
Anything which prevents us from shutting our eyes to dis-
agreeable realities is to be welcomed, and it is for this
reason that I venture, without endorsing all M. de
Wesselitsky's views, to recommend them to the attention
of the British public. On one point, at least, I cordially
agree with him, that the preponderating feature of the
situation in Asia is the rivaly of England and Russia, and
that the interests of Europe and of Asia alike demand that
this friction should cease.

2jrd July, 1904.


An address delivered by Mr. Gabriel de Wesselitsky
before the Central Asian Society of London, June 1st,
1904. Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Lyall, G.C.I. E., in the chair.

I AM fully conscious of the great honour of addressing
you on so momentous an issue, but not less conscious
of the manifold difficulties of the task, and of the in-
adequacy of my power to fulfil it. I would never have
dreamed of attempting it if, in listening a month ago to
our Chairman's lucid paper on the situation in Central and
Eastern Asia, I had not felt that a suggestion of a friendly
understanding with Russia from the English side ought to
be followed by a response from our own ; and on receiving
Sir Alfred's kind request to address you here, in spite of
professional work taxing my energies to the utmost, I did
not hesitate to accept it. I would have preferred to listen,
with you, to a more competent advocate than myself; but
unfortunately there was no one else available who, while
pursuing an independent career, had made politics his life-
study. I must caution you, however, against attaching to
my words more importance than they deserve They are
only a free expression of my own views, for which no one
else is responsible. They are, naturally, identical with
those contained in the London telegrams and letters to the
Novoe Vreinya of St. Petersburg, yet they in no way
engage that journal. For in one respect at least there is
more freedom in a Russian newspaper than in any other.
No strict unity of opinion is insisted upon, and permanent
contributors have a wide latitude. Provided that they are
all inspired by the same considerations of national interest,
they may differ as to the means of attaining it.

Sir Alfred Lyall sees the predominating feature of the
situation in Asia in the rivalry of England and Russia ;
and he believes that the interests of Europe and Asia
alike demand that this friction should cease. Our Chair-
man expects from the present war a turning-point in Asiatic
politics affecting, not merely Russia, but all Europe and
particularly England. I am happy to be able to endorse
those views, only I consider this war but one link in
a chain of developments of which it is the most striking,
yet not the most unexpected, nor even the most im-

Two other white nations the United States and
Germany have become Asiatic powers, and represent in-
calculable elements in the situation. But the changes
introduced by European nations are overshadowed by the
changes in the Asiatics themselves ; the awakening of the
peoples of Asia. It is impossible to speak of it without
mentioning Japan. I am in no danger of forgetting that I
am addressing her allies. Even if it were not so, Japan
would still have a claim on my courteous consideration.
National policy as well as national pride, forbid me
to disparage an adversary. But it is no disparagement
of the Japanese to disagree with their over-zealous
friends who pretend that they are not Asiatics at all, but
a race apart, a remnant of the population of a sunken con-
tinent. Race, language, culture and traditions make them
Asiatics ; and it would rob Japan of her strongest claim to
the world's respect if she were dissociated from Asia.
Those who say that the Japanese cannot be Asiatics because
they are active, progressive and efficient, ignore the fact that
all those qualities have belonged to other Asiatic peoples for
thousands of years. The deciphering of cuneiform in-
scriptions has revealed a condition of things in the past
which, judged by the same standard, ought to be declared
quite un-Asiatic. We must not forget also that the pro-
gress of the Arab culture revived the Byzantine learning
in the tenth century, and that the Arabic university of
Cordova became a model for that of Paris. Our contempt
for Asiatics is based only on our acquaintance with the
Mongol and Turanian tribes which established themselves
on the ruins of ancient and highly civilised empires and
have stereotyped the decadence which they produced.

Japan's insular position permitted her to escape that
latest and most baneful conquest ; and the long preserva-


tion of her feudal regime provided her with excellent ma-
terial for national expansion. The Samurai, who had, dur-
ing tht internal wars and rivalries of the Daimios, developed
great military, diplomatic and political talents, are apply-
ing them now to the service of national greatness, with the
same passionate loyalty which they used to display while
serving their feudal lords. The proficiency of the Japanese
in naval and military matters has been much exalted ; but
little justice has been rendered to some of their other
achievements. Since the days of the Baghdad Caliphate,
when the Arabs were the only great travellers and ex-
plorers, no Asiatics had visited foreign lands for the purpose
of study. For the last thirty years the Japanese have not
only travelled widely and observed with keenness, but have
applied what they learned and perfected it still further.
Hand in hand with their studies went the propagation of
sympathies for their own nation, and her aims, which, in
two great white countries, at least, achieved singular success.
Unnoticed by Europeans, but even more important in their
consequences, were their travels and sojourns on the con-
tinent of Asia, whose peoples began in their turn to visit
Japan and to study there. Thus personal intercouse, to-
gether with the prominent political role of Japan, have done
more than centuries of European trade and conquest to
shake off the lethargy into which the peoples of Asia were

Speaking of the relations of the Japanese with other
Asiatics, I must expect to be accused of trying to conjure
up the bogie of the Yellow Peril. It has been lately
the daily task of Japanese statesmen and of their white
sympathisers to ridicule and to discredit in advance
any reference to such dangers. I will endorse their denial
of a specifically Yellow movement. "Yellow" and
" Mongol " are not the watchwords which rally Asiatic
now. And I do not believe in the existence, for a well-
organised and self-conscious nation, of any terror-striking
peril ; except only that of closing her eyes on the realities
good or bad, of her inner and outward situation. As for
the Japanese propaganda amongst white as well as coloured
nations, I consider it to be the work of ardent patriots,
and I do not see in it anything which they had reason
to deny or be ashamed of. Nay, I admire the ingenuity of
their means, and their self-sacrificing devotion to their cause.

I hear from English sources all the information
contained in this address is derived from such that it is

customary in Japan for young men of rank and fortune to
undertake the hard and servile work of coolies in order
better to serve their country. Taking advantage of the
similarity of features, common to all peoples of the Mongol
stock, they go to Canton, grow pigtails there, learn the
local dialect and customs ; then on to Pekin, where they
figure as Chinamen from the South. These Crypto-
Japanese join the staff of Chinese newspapers, and enter
the secret societies which are daily growing in importance,
and direct their policy to serve their own objects. They
support the overt propaganda of Japanese ideas which is
permeating China ; and these combined influences have
brought that vast empire under the moral sway of Japan.
Indeed she might now precipitate China into a war pregnant
for the latter with the gravest dangers; and is prevented
from so doing only by consideration of the inconveniences
which would arise therefrom for herself.

Europeans are aware of this influence over China, but
believe it to be limited to China alone. That is a great
mistake. Since the war of 1895, Japan is the refuge of
malcontents from all parts of Asia and the focus of their
activity. The Filipinos' revolt against Spain has been
fostered by Japanese pensions to Aguinaldo and other chiefs,
and, but for the Spanish-American War, the Philippines
might now have Asiatic masters. Refugees from those
islands, as well as from the Hawaian group, are receiving
allowances from Japan, and the same practice has been long
in force regarding the Malays, Many of the latter have
been adopted by the Japanese, and with the help of their
new relatives have returned to their own country and
attained a prominent position there. Thus a refugee from
Natuna, a group of islands near the West coast of Borneo,
who had become a Japanese, succeeded in making himself
the Sultan of one-half of that Archipelago. Whether
rumours of an alliance between this Chief and Japan be
true or not, their intimate relations are beyond all doubt.
Two Japanese cruisers, now used as training ships, the
Kongo and Hiwei, are often seen in Natuna, from which
they make frequent voyages to the Malacca and Sunda
Straits. The inhabitants of the adjacent shores are won
by presents and propaganda to the cause of Japan, whose
influence extends to many of the semi-dependent Malay
Sultanates, nominally under Dutch sovereignty.

Since 1895 Japan's influence is firmly established in
Siam. Two Japanese magistrates act as legal advisers of-

the King. Japanese officers are instructors in the army,
most valuable concessions have been granted to Japanese ;
a high Japanese school and a branch of the Panasiatic
Society have been created at Bangkok ; and the intimacy
between the two courts has been consummated by the visit
of the Crown of Siam to Tokio in 1903.

The scientific curiosity of the Japanese was also at-
tracted by French Indo-China. For a number of years it
was visited by military and commercial missions from
Japan, which examined roads and rivers, ports and
markets, and these were discontinued only when they were
discouraged by the French authorities. Yet a considerable
residue was left behind bytraders and commercial travellers,
Buddist priests or teachers, among whom French investi-
gators have detected many reservists, non-commissioned
officers and officers of the Japanese army. A young and
eloquent French writer, Henri Moreau, has voiced the
apprehensions felt in French colonial circles concerning
Japan's views on that great French colony, the practical
fulfilment of which is of course adjourned for the present.

The greatest historical and philosophical interest is
presented by Japan's influence in British India. It did not
originate in the Japanese propaganda. It is the work of
the British Press, from which Indians learned the victories
won from China by Japan, of whose existence they were
hardly aware. But it was the praises by the English
papers ot her troops during the Boxer' troubles that en-
deared Japan to the heart of all Indians. At that epoch
Anglo-Indian papers began sending correspondents to
Tokio, and Indians became frequent visitors to Japan.
Traders and ex-Samurai also went to India ; and though
they had not the same motives there, they used the same
methods as in China. They frequently disguised them-
selves as Nepalese, whose Mongoloid type permits the
Japanese to pass as such. The absence of any political
object for this conduct points to a great force of habit, if
not at an excess of zeal It is interesting to note how
much of their power religious differences have lost in Asia.
If the Buddists were the first sectaries in India whom the
Japanese approached, they found through them access to
Brahmins and even to Mussulmans. Japanese, pretending
to be Nepalese, have been recognised by Englishmen,

who know both Japan and Nepal, at the Court of the
Nizam of Hyderabad and at other Indian Mussulman

A sensation was produced in India last year by the
arrival of a group of Japanese from Afghanistan. The
alleged object of this journey thither was to visit the
remains of an ancient Buddhist shrine at Bamian. In fact,
they had passed several years at Cabul, and their chief was
in high favour with the Amir. His name was Tani, and
he was a member of a princely family, related to the
Mikado, and high priest of the Chief Buddhist temple at
Tokio. It seems that these pilgrims were not exclusively
occupied with the contemplation of the Bamian ruins, for
soon after their arrival in Cabul, Afghans began to travel
to Japan ; and intimate relations were established between
the two peoples. Only yesterday I had the information
that the Amir recommended to the consideration of his
Diwan the study of the Japanese constitution, in which he
sees the cause of the firm cohesion of the Japanese State.
He would like to see the Chiefs of the Afghan tribes re-
nounce their privileges, as the Daimios did their power ;
and the tribes themselves contribute as substantially to the
needs of the Afghan State as is the case with the provinces
of Japan.

Other Japanese went to Persia and made valuable
friendships there. 'It is reported that an informal Japanese
mission is at present at Teheran, and a similar Persian mis-
sion at Tokio. Many have been the efforts of Japan to be-
friend Turkey, and several Japanese have even embraced
Islam. The Sultan took their conversion so seriously to heart
that he sent a steamer with two Pashas on an extraordinary
mission to Japan, which was escorted back by two Japanese
cruisers. Turco-Japanese relations might have acquired great
importance if the Germans, who favoured them at first, had
not become jealous of the Japanese, and succeeded in
ousting them from Turkey. Last year Japanese were
noticed in Syria, and were said to be active in all Arab
Countries. A month ago two Japanese were reported to
be travelling in Bulgaria and Macedonia, studying the

Balkan question.


The current of political missionaries from Japan
towards all parts of Asia called forth a counter-stream
of adepts towards Japan, and Tokio has become the moral

capital of Asia, the Mecca of Panasiaticism. Mr. Stephen
England, one of the Daily Mail's special correspondents
in Tokio, himself an enthusiastic friend of Japan and writ-
ing in a decidedly pro-Japan organ, speaks of the statesmen
and princes from all the countries of Asia who have been
coming to Tokio from 1902 to 1904. He says that he
could " give a long list of notable men representing all the
East who have been conferring with the leaders of Japan."
At the same time Japanese schools, colleges and universities
were admitting hundreds of scholars from the mainland of
Asia. At present at the Tokio university and some high
schools alone there are 108 Indians, 32 Nepalese and 400
Chinese, besides several Siamese, Burmese, Afghans and
Per.'ians. Considering that the curriculum is couched in a
language which cannot be of practical use to the students
in their future careers, their presence there is a solid proof"
of their own and their parents' devotion to the ideal of
Asiatic unity.

Besides a number of local associations there are two
great political societies comprising all the zealous partizans
of the movement. One of them is called To-a-Dobunkai (One
Script Society), whose members include all who use the
literary Chinese language, i.e., the cultured Chinese, Japanese,
Koreans, Siamese, Burmese, Annamites, all belonging to
the Mongolian race. The other society, Dojin-Kai
(Philanthropic Society), is still more important, for
it admits all Asiatics, and has particularly a very large
proportion of upper-class Indian members. The meetings
of this society, held at the Nobles' Club of Tokio, which
receives illustrious strangers into its midst, were the
occasion of speeches which even the Japan Mail, a
semi-official Japanese organ in the English language,
blamed as imprudent and alarming. I do not wish to dwell
on that matter, and must refer those interested in it to the
Japan Mail itself, to the Yelloiv Whirlwind, by Mr. S.
England in the Dail Mail; and to Mr. F. J. Norman's
letters in the Spectator of February and March last. A
report reached me yesterday, which I mention in the hope
of seeing it rectified, if untrue, by someone of those present
here, namely, that a Maharaja whose part in the proceedings
of the Dojin Kai, and in the Panasiatic movement in general,
had attracted much attention, has been requested to return
to his State, but preferred to remain in Japan.

You find the inspiration of Modern Japan, says Mr.
S. England, in a nutshell, written in The Ideals of the East,


by Kakasu Okakura, the most renowned writer of the
present generation in Japan. The following extract is the
most characteristic : '' Asia is one. The Himalayas divide,
only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese
with its communism of Confucins, and the Indian with its
individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy
barrier can interrupt for one moment that broad expense
of love for the ultimate and the universal which is the
common thought and inheritance of every Asiatic race."

" If Asia be one, it is also true that the Asiatic races
form a single mighty web. Arab chivalry, Persian poetry,
Chinese ethics, and Indian thought, all speak of a single
ancient Asiatic peace, in which there grew up a common
life, bearing in different regions different characteristic
blossoms, but nowhere capable of a hard-and-fast dividing
line. Islam may be described as Confucianism on horse-
back, sword in hand; and Buddhism, that great ocean of
idealism in which merge all the river systems of Eastern
Asiatic thought, is coloured not only by the water of the
Ganges, for the Tartaric nations have made their genius also
its tributaries."

" It has been, however, the great privilege of Japan
to realise this unity in complexity with a special clearness.
The Indo-Tartaric blood of the race was in itself a heritage
which qualified it to imbibe from the two sources, and so
mirror the whole of Asiatic consciousness."

The Ideals of the East, written in the classical Japanese
language, appeared first in the Japanese weekly Nippon,
and afterwards, translated into English, in the monthly
The Far East. According to Mr. Stephen England, the
Emperor of Japan did an unprecedented thing when
Okakura's work appeared. " He praised it, and made his
praise known ; therefore it is to be assumed that his ideals
are those based upon the theory that Asia is one, and that
Japan is the impregnable rock upon which its regeneration
and salvation are to be based."

Against those facts we have the assurances of Japanese
statesmen that Japan has cast in her lot with the white
peoples, and adopted western conceptions of policy. Let
us accept those assurances; and suppose Japan has adopted
western ideals, and is acting upon them and has even
succeeded in teaching them to China and other Asiatic
peoples, what will be the consequences of it all ? Will not


the Europeanised Asiatics demand the application of
European principles to themselves? Will not China, for
example, demand the abolition of the extra-territorial
European settlements in China, as well as free emigration
of Chinese to all countries under white rule? In the future
it would be very difficult to stop the flow of emigration,
first of Japanese, and then of Chinese, into such countries
as Australia, South Africa and West Africa, where the
white population is so small and is increasing so slowly.

Concerning Japan's external relations, especially with
Australia, Sir Tollemache Sinclair (formerly M.F. for
Caithness), in a letter to the Westminster Gazette (repro-
duced in his very valuable pamphlet Russia and Japan},
speaks as follows : " It was clear to the Government of
Queensland, from 1890 to 1898, that Japan had set her
eyes on the tropical part of Australia, and indeed she had
largely populated the Northern Territory of South Aus-
tralia and the Pearl Shell Fisheries of Thursday Island.
She had also a number of labourers working in the Queens-
land sugar plantations. So serious at last did this invasion
become, that the Government was compelled to negotiate
with Japan to restrict this influx ; and only after endless
trouble could they succeed in getting a promise that the
numbers would not be increased. During these negotia-
tions our Government sent one of their best soldiers to
visit Japan, and after a considerable stay there and a
thorough inspection of their military system he made a
report, of which a copy was given to the War Office in
London, in which it was stated that the tropical portion of
Australia was considered by Japan as her natural heritage,
and that in every school the soldiers, from their earliest
enlistment, were educated to view this position as their
inevitable possession, and that all were taught the neces-
sary military methods to acquire it, if ever an occasion
arose. The correspondence between Japan and Queens-
land on these subjects can be seen in the Blue Books."

Leaving, however, to the author the responsibility for
the details of his statement, based as it appears on official
correspondence, I shall only remark that it cannot be
denied that Australia greatly attracts Eastern Asiatics,
and that she will be the first white country to feel the
pressure of their immigration. Such is the point of view
of the Australians themselves, and it explains their attitude


Online LibraryGabriel de WesselitskyThe problem of Asia : a lecture delivered by G.D. Wesselitsky before the Central Asian Society of London, June 1st, 1904 ; with an introduction by Donald Mackenzie-Wallace → online text (page 1 of 2)