Routledge Library Editions: Modern East and South East Asia, 7-Volume Set 9781138892583, 9781315697925, 9781138901209, 0043020119

This 7-volume set reissues a range of classic out-of-print texts that cover a host of issues that have contributed to th

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Routledge Library Editions: Modern East and South East Asia, 7-Volume Set
 9781138892583, 9781315697925, 9781138901209, 0043020119

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
1: The End of an Era
A Reluctant Farewell
The Asean Way
When Bad News is Good News
Watch What We Say, Not What We Do
No Shortage of Shooting
Commodity Windfalls
Chinese Financiers and Footloose Factories
Second Time Around: Japan's Regained Ascendancy
Industrial Images, Industrial Mirages
Sub-contracting or Substitution?
Cutting Down a Resource
Commodity Con Games
Overlooking Maintenance
A Primitive Business Culture
The Chinese Connection
The Shadow of Debt
The Blunt Side of the East Asian Edge
An Indigenous Technological Culture?
Home Movies
The End of an Era
2: Full Circle in the Philippines
Portent of Things to Come?
Behave or Go Home
Drawing Comparisons
No Portent from the Philippines
The Cojuangco Factor
Specific Charges
The Arrastre Business
Gambling Dens, Barter Trade and Other Diversions
Plus ça Change . . .
Plus C'est La Même Chose
What's in a Name?
Early Gains
Duty-Free Duppies
Broadcasting Blues
Full Circle in the Philippines?
3: Malaise in Brunei and Malaysia
I: Toll Gates: A Cautionary Tale
Political Troubles
The Racial Conundrum
Banking Problems
Commodity Markets Crumble
Scandal of Scandals
Nep-otism at the Share Market
Sultans Galore
Move over Mat Salleh?
Damned Dams
Other Bright Ideas
'Looking East'
II: The World's Richest Man
Bribes, Backhanders and Favours
Bank Scandals
The Shell-Fare State
CONTRA-Dictory Generosity
III: Malay Economics: Getting it Right
Malay Business Culture: Getting it Wrong
Longer-Term Problems
The Religious Conundrum
The Educational Time Bomb
Ruminating About the Malay Malaise
4: ABRI-Culture: Dual Functioneering in Indonesia
Number Games
New Order, Old Habits
The Archipelagic Reach
The Curse of Oil
Khaki Commerce
Technocratic Influence
Cukong Friends
The First Family
Hidden Costs of Business Favouritism
Runs on Rupiahs
The Oil Future
Revenue Loss
Harbouring Thieves
Musical Pirates
Bogus Notes of Another Kind
The Bright Side
Urgent Needs, Slow Corrections
Intimations of Change
But No Easy Way Out
5: Boomtime in Bangkok
Southeast Asia's Brightest Star
Foreign Fund Managers Flock to Bangkok
Mass Capitalism?
Looks Good on Paper
Earlier Growth Models
Foreign Investment Invasion
Resourceful Thailand
The Newest NIC?
Rocketing Corporate Profits
The Mid-1980s: A Trial Run of Trouble
Financial Frights
Siam City's Travail
Problems for Krung Thai
Boardroom Bedlam
Risky Whisky
Superbike Racer and Santa Claus
Another Early Warning Signal: Foreign Debt
A Narrowly-based Success Story
Once Again, the Chinese
Addictive Habits
Looming Uncertainties
First Uncertainty: The Monarchy
Second Uncertainty: The Military
Third Uncertainty: Regional Conflicts
Fourth Uncertainty: Will the Domestic 'demand Base' Be Rich Enough?
The Parasitic City
The Fast-baht Crowd
Fifth Uncertainty: Disappearing Forests
Sixth Uncertainty: The Wrong Skills
Let's All Be Lawyers (or Civil Servants)
Seventh Uncertainty: Infrastructure
Eighth Uncertainty: Laggard Farmers
Vulnerable Miracle?
Free Riders After All
Korean Comparisons
6: Singapore: The Exception That Rules the Proof
Success Story
Crossroads or Revolving Door?
A Glance at the Recent Past
Entrepreneurs' Lament
Reversing Gear
The Financial Centre of Asean
The Pan-el Shock
Home Truths or Awkward Facts?
Meddling Foreign Journalists
An Unhappy Episode
Trading in a Protectionist World
Political Uncertainties
Internal Politics
Hong Kong's Future
Whither the Yen?
Whither the State?
Politics and Confidence
7: Chinatown
The Chinese Puzzle
High Turnover, Quick Return
Straight Talk at the Banquet
Awkward Opinions
A Recent Exodus
A Less Than Enthusiastic Welcome
Thailand: Easiest for Chinese
Muddling Through in Malaysia
Indonesian Chinese: The Region's Wealthiest
Different Kinds of Chinese
Ali on the Lookout for Baba
Trying to Explain the Sino Magic
Community Values
Chinese Gain from New Policies
Chinese Corporatism
The Cukong's Cukong
A Royal Tiff
Foreign Bankers Beware
Other Alarums and Excursions
Chinese Credit Lines
The Chinese Juggernaut in Perspective
Renewed Nervousness
Chinatown's Corporate Future
8: Wellsprings of Wealth: Southeast Asia's Commercial Crucibles
Asean Share Markets: Much 'aduh' About Rather Little?
1987 and All That
Second Thoughts About the Bourses
Immature Markets
Yes, We Have No Fundamentals
Baubles, Bangles and . . . Bangkok
Abortive Paper Markets
Mice That Roar?
But Qualified Praise Is Due
Banking: Whirlwind Growth
Big Banks . . . and Bigger Banks
Where's the Money Going?
A Vogue for Private Banking
Hong Kong Jitters
Looking Ahead
Some Thing New: Asean's Multinational Corporations
The Richest of Them All?
Astra Group's Growth
Another Crucible: Industrial Whistle Stops
Spilling Over?
No 'open Skies'
Shipping: No Open Waters
Rust Bucket Labour Market
Investment Incentives: Another Distortion
Corporate Management: Form and Substance
In the Family Way
Book-keeping Illiteracy
Product Piracy: Another Free Ride?
Apart from (someone Else's) Ships, No Free Labour Market
Business Education: How Good Really?
9: Commodities: Glutted Cornucopias
Commodities: First and Foremost
Commodities Today
Still a Regal Earner. . .
. . . But Prices Badly Faltered in the 1980s
The End of the Golden Weather?
When Boom Goes Bust: Sabah's Experience
Sabah's Lament: into the Valley of Debt
Falling Prices Hurt Many Others
Star Commodities Also Falter
Disappearing Forests
Back to the Futures
Following OPEC . . . into the Sunset
Longer-Term Trends
The 1990s: Vulnerable Markets, or Reborn Hope?
'Downstream Processing': A Way Out?
10: Development Bunk
An Asian Birthday
Signs of Age
Poor Little Rich Bank
Mid-Life Crisis
A Question of Quality
Boardroom Wrangling
Procurement is the Game
A Question of Control
Sour Grapes
11: Reluctant Regionalism
Swords into Bonus Shares
False Starts Towards a Regional Club
An Enduring but Overrated Framework
Regional Realism
The Myth of the Evolving Regional Market
Bureaucratic Smoke and Mirrors
No Substance but Plenty of Suitors
A Diplomatic Merry-Go-Round
A Record of Failure
The Asean Finance Corporation
The Bankers' Acceptance Scheme
A Lack of Energy
Serious Proposals Ignored
Industrial Complementation Fizzles Out
Praise Where Praise is Due?
Asean Trade Diplomacy: How Successful Really?
The Reasons Why
Asean Be Damned: When Necessary
Preparations for the 1987 Summit
Some Straight Talk
The Manila Summit: So What?
Another Charade?
Invest Now, If . . .
The Japanese Dimension
The Regional Vacuum
Game Playing
Others Play Games Too
The Future as an Extension of the Past
12: The Clouded Future
Steady as She Goes?
The World in Flux
Inexorable Growth of Another Kind
Who's in Charge Here?
Neglected Agriculture, Neglected Land
More Giveaways
Debt Valley
Loans Unwisely Spent
Who Needs Maintenance?
Asean Economies: How Resilient?
Who Gains?
Education: Quantity, Not Quality
Lacking: A Culture of Innovation
Industrialisation Without Technology
Market Moves of Another Kind
Let the Market In, Get the Governments Out?
For All That, an Achievement
The Second Time Around: Japan in Southeast Asia
Is Japan Irresistible?
Practising What They Don't Preach
Trade Disputes
China Is Eyeing the Same Markets
So Are Other Eyes
Politics, Politics
A Crippled Culture?
Underlying Potential
Bigger Stakes
Further Reading
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Part I: Return to South-East Asia
1: Wartime Planning and Diplomacy
2: The Dilemma of Peace in South-East Asia
3: ‘Famine Averted’: The Special Commission in Singapore
4: Regional Cooperation and Regional Defence
Part II: Asian Nationalism
5: India, Vietnam and the Limits of Colonial Cooperation
6: Singapore and the ‘Radiation of British Influence’
7: Regional Competition: India and Australia
8: Regional Competition: The United Nations and ECAFE
9: Western Union and South-East Asia
Part III: Communism
10: Cold War and Commonwealth
11: Enter the Dragon: South-East Asia and the Chinese Civil War
12: Regional Cooperation and Regional Containment
13: The Final Stages of Regional Planning
14: To Colombo and Beyond
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Editorial Preface
Communism in East Asia: The Production Imperative, Legitimacy and Reform
The Reform Process in the People’s Republic of China
Reform, Local Political Institutions and the Village Economy in China
China: The New Inheritance Law and the Peasant Household
North Korea: The End of the Beginning
Ideology and the Legitimation Crisis in North Korea
Vietnam: The Slow Road to Reform
The Mongolian People’s Republic in the 1980s: Continuity and Change
The Soviet Union and the Pacific Century
China and the Asia–Pacific Region
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Translator's note
Table of Contents
Part I: The Pattern of Settlement in Indochina
1: The Geographical Framework
2: Prehistory
Part II: The Founding of the First Indochinese States
1: The Chinese Conquest of the Red River Delta and the Birth of Viet-Nam
2: The Introduction of Indian Culture into Indochina
3: The spread of Indian Cultural Influence in the Peninsula
1. In the South: Fu-Nan
2. The Spread of Indian Influence in The East of The Peninsula: Champa
3. The Spread of Indian Influence in The Centre and The West of The Peninsula: Shrikshetra and Dvaravati
Part III: The Indochinese States from the Sixth to the Thirteenth Century
1: Viet-Nam
2: Cambodia
3: Burma
Part IV: The Crisis of the Thirteenth Century and the Decline of Indian Cultural Influence
Part V: The Indochinese States after the Thirteenth Century
1: Siam or Thailand
2: Laos
3: Burma
4: Cambodia
5: Viet-Nam
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
I: The Scene Revolution and Intervention in South East Asia
Communist Revolts: 1948
Sino-Soviet Dispute: (People’s) War and Peace
US Reaction: The Vietnam Commitment
Indonesian Reversal: New Balance of Power?
II: The Model China: Conditions for Success
Peasant Revolt: Mao’s Separate Course
Protracted War:
(1) Contradictions
(2) Mass Support
(3) Base Area
(4) Guerrilla Warfare
National Appeal:
(1) Resistance to the Enemy
(2) United Front Tactics
Downfall of the Régime:
(1) America’s Dilemma
(2) The Débâcle
III: Success Struggle for Vietnam
August Insurrection
Resistance War
Unity and Organization
IV: Failure
China in Maphilindo
Lessons from Malaya and the Philippines
Indonesian Exception
United States in lndo-China
Post-War Policy
Confusion in Laos
Backing into Vietnam:
(1) Commitment and . . .
(2) Credibility
Peace—and the Tet Offensive
Annotated Bibliography
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter II: Theoretical Framework
Chapter III: The Impact of Globalization on Human Rights
Chapter IV: Prospects for a Regional Human Rights Regime in East Asia
Chapter V: Conclusions
Appendix A: A Cover Letter
Appendix B: A Questionnaire Sent to Nongovernmental Organizations
Appendix C: A Questionnaire Sent to Individuals
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Book One: The Foundations of Southeast Asia
1: The Origins of Southeast Asia
2: Invasion from the West
3: Imperialism at the Flood
4: The Birth of Nationalism in Southeast Asia
5: Two Colonial Cases
Book Two: War and Revolution
6: Invasion from the North
7: Transient Empire
8: An Unforeseen Peace
9: The Nationalist Revolt
Book Three: The Future of Southeast Asia
10: United Nations and Divided Counsels
11: The Bad Conscience of the West
12: The Economic Mainspring
13: Capitalist Adventurers and Communist Agitators
14: Voluntary Association in Southeast Asia

Citation preview



Volume 1


BEHIND THE MYTH Business, Money and Power in Southeast Asia


First published in Great Britain in 1989 by the Trade Division of Unwin Hyman, Limited This edition first published in 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 1989 James Clad All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-138-89258-3 (Set) eISBN: 978-1-315-69792-5 (Set) ISBN: 978-1-138-90120-9 (Volume 1) Publisher’s Note The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of this reprint but points out that some imperfections in the original copies may be apparent. Disclaimer The publisher has made every effort to trace copyright holders and would welcome correspondence from those they have been unable to trace.




' ' ' ' 11 IE










First published in Great Britain by the Trade Division of Unwin Hyman Limited, 1989

© James Clad, 1989 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Unwin Hyman Limited.

UNWIN HYMAN LIMITED 15-17 Broadwick Street London WIV IFP Allen & Unwin Australia Pry Ltd 8 Napier Street, North Sydney, NSW 2060, Australia Allen & Unwin New Zealand Pry Ltd with the Port Nicholson Press Compusales Building, 75 Ghuznee Street, Wellington, New Zealand

British Liltrary Cataloguing in Publication Data Clad, James Behind the myth : Business, money and power in Southeast Asia. I. South-east Asia, economic development I. Title 330.959 ISBN 0-04-302011-9

Typeset in ten on eleven point Plantin Printed in Great Britain by The University Press, Cambridge



page xi



1 The End of an Era A reluctant farewell - The Asean way - When bad news is good news - Watch what we say, not what we do - No shortage of shooting ­ Commodity windfalls - Chinese financiers and footloose factories - Second time around: Japan's regained ascendancy - Industrial images, industrial mirages - Sub-contracting or substitution? - Cutting down a resource - Commodity con games - Projectitis - Overlooking maintenance - A primitive business culture - The Chinese connection - The shadow of debt - The blunt side of the East Asian edge - An indigenous technological culture? - Home movies - The end of an era - References


2 Full Circle in the Philippines Portent of things to come? - Behave or go home - Drawing comparisons - No portent from the Philippines - The Cojuangco factor - Specific charges - The arrastre business - Gambling dens, barter trade and other diversions - Plus fa change . . . - Plus c' est fa mime chose - What's in a name? - Early gains - Duty-free duppies - Broadcasting blues - Full circle in the Philippines? - References


3 Malaise in Brunei and Malaysia I: Toll gates: a cautionary tale - Political troubles - The racial conundrum­ Banking problems - Commodity markets crumble - Scandal of scandals ­ NEP-otism at the share market - Sultans galore - Move over Mat Salleh? - Danmed dams - Other bright ideas - 'Looking East' II: The world's richest man - Bribes, backhanders and favours - Bank scandals - The Shell-fare state - CONTRA-dictory generosity III: Malay economics: getting it right - Malay business culture: getting it wrong - Longer-term problems - The religious conundrum - The educa­ tional time bomb - Ruminating about the Malay malaise - References


4 ADRI-culture: Dual Functioneering in Indonesia Number games - New Order, old habits - The archipelagic reach ­ The curse of oil- Khaki commerce - Technocratic influence - Cukong friends - The First Family - Hidden costs of business favouritism ­ Runs on rupiahs - The oil future - Revenue loss - Harbouring thieves ­ Musical pirates - Bogus notes of another kind - The bright side - Urgent needs, slow corrections - Intimations of change - But no easy way out ­ References





5 Boomtime in Bangkok Southeast Asia's brightest star - Foreign fund managers flock to Bangkok - Mass capitalism? - Looks good on paper - Earlier growth models - Foreign investment invasion - Resourceful Thailand - The newest NIC? - Rocketing corporate profits - The mid-1980s: a trial run of trouble - Financial frights - Siam City's travail - Problems for Krung Thai - Boardroom bedlam - Risky whisky - Superbike Racer and Santa Claus - Another early warning signal: foreign debt - A narrowly-based success story - Once again, the Chinese - Addictive habits - Looming uncertainties - First uncertainty: the monarchy - Second uncertainty: the military - Third uncertainty: regional conflicts - Fourth uncertainty: Will the domestic 'demand base' be rich enough? - The parasitic city - The fast-baht crowd - Fifth uncertainty: disappearing forests - Sixth uncertainty: the wrong skills - Let's all be lawyers (or Civil Servants)­ Seventh uncertainty: infrastructure - Eighth uncertainty: laggard farmers - Vulnerable miracle? - Free riders after all - Korean comparisons ­ References


125 6 Singapore: the Exception that Rules the Proof Success story - Crossroads or revolving door? - A glance at the recent past - 1985 - Entrepreneurs' lament - Reversing gear - The financial centre of Asean - The Pan-El shock - Home truths or awkward facts? - Meddling foreign journalists - An unhappy episode - Trading in a protectionist world - Political uncertainties - Internal politics - Hong Kong's future - Whither the yen? - Whither the state? - Politics and confidence - References 7 Chinatown 146 The Chinese puzzle - High turnover, quick return - Straight talk at the banquet - Awkward opinions - A recent exodus - A less than enthusiastic welcome - Thailand: easiest for Chinese - Muddling through in Malaysia - Indonesian Chinese: the region's wealthiest - Different kinds of Chinese - Ali on the lookout for Baba - Trying to explain the Sino magic ­ Community values - Chinese gain from new policies - Chinese corporatism - The cukong's cukong) - A royal tiff - Foreign bankers beware - Other alarums and excursions - Chinese credit lines - The Chinese juggernaut in perspective - Renewed nervousness - Chinatown's corporate future­ References 8 WeUsprings of Wealth: Southeast Asia's Commercial Crucibles 165 Asean share markets: much 'aduh' about rather little? - 1987 and all that­ Second thoughts about the bourses - Immature markets - Yes, we have no fundamentals - Baubles, bangles and ... Bangkok - Abortive paper mar­ kets - Mice that roar? - But qualified praise is due - Banking: whirlwind growth - Big banks ... and bigger banks - Where's the money going? ­ A vogue for private banking - Hong Kong jitters - Looking ahead - Some­ thing new: Asean's multinational corporations - The richest of them all?­ Astra Group's growth - Another crucible: industrial whistle stops - Spilling over? - No 'open skies' - Shipping: no open waters - Rust bucket labour mark~t - Investment incentives: another distortion - Corporate manage­ ment: form and substance - In the family way - Book-keeping illiteracy­



Product piracy: another free ride? - Apart from (someone else's) ships, no free labour market - Business education: how good really? - References

9 Commodities: Glutted Cornucopias

Commodities: first and foremost - Commodities today - Still a regal earner. .. - ... But prices badly faltered in the 1980s - The end of the golden weather? - When boom goes bust: Sabah's experience - Sabah's lament: into the valley of debt - Falling prices hun many others - Star commodities also falter - Disappearing forests - Back to the futures ­ Following OPEC ... into the sunset - Longer-term trends - The 199Os: vulnerable markets, or reborn hope? - 'Downstream processing': a way out? - Outlook - References


10 Development Bunk 205 An Asian birthday - Signs of age - Poor little rich bank - Mid-life crisis ­ A question of quality - Boardroom wrangling - Procurement is the game - A question of control- Sour grapes - References 11 Reluctant Regionalism 215 Swords into bonus shares - False starts towards a regional club - An enduring but overrated framework - Regional realism - The myth of the evolving regional market - Bureaucratic smoke and mirrors - No substance but plenty of suitors - A diplomatic merry-go-round - A record of failure - The Asean Finance Corporation - The bankers' acceptance scheme - A lack of energy - Swaps - Serious proposals ignored -Industrial complementation fizzles out - Praise where praise is due? - Asean trade diplomacy: how successful really? - The reasons why - Asean be damned: when necessary - Preparations for the 1987 summit - Some straight talkThe Manila summit: so what? - Another charade? - Invest now, if ... ­ The Japanese dimension - The regional vacuum - Game playing - Others play games too - The future as an extension of the past - References

12 The Clouded Future




Further Reading




Steady as she goes? - The world in flux -Inexorable growth of another kind - Who's in charge here? - Neglected agriculture, neglected land - More giveaways - Debt valley - Loans unwisely spent - Who needs maintenance? - Asean economies: how resilient? - Who gains? - Education: quantity, not quality - Lacking: a culture of innovation - Industrialisation without technology - Market moves of another kind - Let the market in, get the governments out? - For all that, an achievement - The second time around: Japan in Southeast Asia - Is Japan irresistible? - Practising what they don't preach - Trade disputes - China is eyeing the same marketsSo are other eyes - Politics, politics - A crippled culture? - Underlying potential- Bigger stakes - References

To the memory of my mother





In the 19805, the world became aware of the extraordinarily economic success of East Asia - Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Few realise, though, that economic growth in Southeast Asia has been almost as successful. Over the past two decades countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Brunei have grown at an unprecedented rate. From 1980 to 1987 their economies increased by 4.8 per cent per annum, a very respectable rate by any standard. So why should one not trumpet the story of Southeast Asian success as well as that of East Asia? Few are better qualified to do this than James Clad. He has served in the Asian branch of the New Zealand foreign service and understands the diplomatic issues. As a former lawyer specialising in company law, he has a keen sense of the businessman's point of view, and after a year each at Harvard and Oxford on fellowships he has a wide academic knowledge of the area. In his years in Southeast Asia he has developed friendships that give his writing a sense of intimacy. But above all, he writes as a journalist who has covered Southeast Asia for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the leading journal of the region. He is fascinated by the throb of each country and writes tersely, as if trying to cram in every detail a page will hold. Clad searches persistently for the inside story and, alas, the story he finds is often not an entirely happy one. Behind the glossy exterior and the myth of success lie a host of problems. East Asian countries have undoubtedly achieved extraordinary success in providing high levels of education and standards of living for all their people, and in spawning businesses and an economic bureaucracy which enable their nations to be masters of their own fate. In Southeast Asia, however, the base of success is weak, tattered and fragile; large numbers of people still receive only a low level of education and live in poverty. Businessmen and political leaders, meanwhile, have siphoned off enormous fortunes without playing any constructive role in promoting their countries, and the fortunes are not reinvested. Too many local businessmen have been content to sell off their nations' resources - their oil, rubber and tin. Perhaps worst of all, they have profiteered while vast tropical forests have been felled, and are now dangerously close to depletion with no plans for their replacement. The success of Southeast Asia depends on outside finance, outside technology and outside management. Some local leaders have shared in the fruits of the success, but not enough have learned the secrets of that success and how to capture it for their own country, or how to develop their own initiative. Even Singapore, the best educated country in Southeast Asia, with the finest bureaucracy, is very dependent on outside companies for its economic health. The infrastructure projects instigated by foreign loans and technical assistance are often poorly maintained. Hovering in the background of Clad's account of Southeast Asia is the re-emergence of Japan as the dominant power in the region. In recent years, direct Japanese investment there has been more than three times that of the Vll



United States. The closest thing to a regional financial institution is the Asian Development Bank, dominated by the Japanese. So far every president of this bank has been nominated by the Japanese and, not surprisingly, a substantial amount of the goods procured by bank loans come from Japanese companies. And yet, for all its managerial skills and information, this bank does not emerge in Clad's account as a very happy or successful one. The Japanese have shown only a limited interest in building up strong local economies and in making direct investment - they prefer self-owned subsidiaries. Since local governments and business do not have the ability to provide a counterweight, one can imagine future conflicts as Japanese power, galloping along at great speed, encounters the forces of local nationalism. One wonders why the people of Southeast Asia have not been as ambitious as those in East Asia in making their countries strong. Why have so many Southeast Asian leaders been content merely to siphon off the fruits of their earnings while countless East Asian businessmen and bureaucrats have been willing to live modestly and plough the fruits of their earnings into productive assets? Why have so many Chinese in Taiwan built up their own manufacturing plants while Chinese in Southeast Asia (many of whom were originally from the same province of Fujian as those in Taiwan) are apparently happy to stick with commerce, finance and profits? Why would leaders with tens of millions of dollars not be content with their wealth and not be willing to reinvest additional earnings in their country? Clad is not so pretentious as to give systematic answers to these questions, but a careful reader who ponders the meaning of his stories will be able to reach some very informed conclusions. EZRA F. VOGEL Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University


This book describes the links between business and politics in Southeast Asia, an unseen system of business favouritism that lies behind the myth of free market enterprise. At a broader level, my central point is this: despite the glitter, Southeast Asia's prosperity rests on shaky foundations and depends on external forces well beyond its control. The region's growth, in its essence, results primarily from outsiders' capital, outsiders' technology, outsiders' management and outsiders' markets. Although this premiss may appear controversial, I hope this book will prove to be stimulating both to people in Southeast Asia and to those who have business, investment, banking, journalism, trade, travel or other interests in the region. I hope readers will welcome the following pages as a caveat, and a corrective, to the undifferentiated praise of Asia's 'economic miracle' now much in vogue. Throughout the book, I deal rather sceptically with claims that countries belong­ ing to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as 'Asean', are fast developing sophisticated, self-propelled economies. To be sure, much of the region's impressive economic growth over the last two decades is self-generated, self-sustained and achieved without patronage or insider advantage. But much more is not. In separate chapters on Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines I try ~o probe behind the myth of indigenous success. In a chapter on Singapore, I discuss the vulnerability of that island's phenomenal economic accomplishment. Although I concentrate throughout on the commercial crises of the 1980s, I devote special attention to the financial power of Chinese minorities, to volatile commodity prices, to multinational companies and to the region's casino-like share markets. Separate chapters also analyse both the failure to build economic regionalism through Asean and the slipping reputation of the Asian Development Bank, the world's richest regional financial institution. All these, I stress, are different issues from the indisputable fact of Southeast Asia's quickly won and highly visible wealth. Mter a severe recession in the mid-1980s, the region once again has recorded high, if uneven, rates of growth. Yet it is probable that these improved terms of trade are but a temporary respite in a longer-term, downward trend; meanwhile, profoundly anti-market attitudes and habits still retard the region's potential. My business friends in Southeast Asia usually find these arguments irrelevant. 'Who cares?' they ask. 'Money is money, what does it matter how it is earned?' To underline this point, some ofthe world's wealthiest tycoons have made their fortunes in Southeast Asia. This rarified circle includes the two richest men on earth, one a Malay sultan, the other a well-connected Chinese. Both are beneficiaries of the system described in this book. Business practices naturally vary among the Asean's five island states (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore) and one mainland nation (Thailand). Throughout the region, wealthy manipulators of the nexus between IX



business and politics have different names. In the Philippines they are known as 'cronies'. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the words towkay and cukong carry a similar meaning. Yet beneath the diversity lies a secretive but similar business culture, one in which public and private interests mix as effortlessly as the shuffled halves of a deck of cards. The book comes after twelve years either in the region itself or studying it from afar, during sabbaticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at Oxford. I do not attempt to be comprehensive or particularly analytical about the economies, social structures or political elites discussed in these pages. Specialist and general surveys of the region abound, and I refer to some of these in the text itself and, at the end of the book, in a list of recommended further reading. Much of my material rests heavily on my experience in the foreign service or, later, on interviews and research done as a staff writer for the Far Eastern Economic Review; to that extent the book is episodic and personal. It should not be necessary to add that I have an extremely high regard for most Southeast Asians, whether powerful or peripheral, whom I have met during the last twelve years. To some extent they are all inheritors of the culture of business patrimonialism, which is basically a frame of mind consolidated over hundreds of years of native and colonial rule. In writing this preface and the words that follow I am acutely aware that people, wherever they live, must deal with the world as they find it. The sphere of political and business power has its own rules, in Asia and elsewhere. Staying in power or keeping the family business afloat, from street peddling to multinational corporate finance, requires Southeast Asia's business families to play the game by the locally prevailing rules. In this part of Asia, these rules are invariably antithetical to liberal market capitalism. That is the essential point. It will take a long time to tease out these habits but, until this happens, Southeast Asia will continue to be a reactive player in the world economy, not a proactive one. There is still a slim chance that the region may yet lead, rather than follow, the trends now shifting the world's centre of gravity to Asia and the Pacific. But that chance is quickly slipping away. New Delhi, India

31 August 1989



Many friends and colleagues, some no longer living, have helped to sharpen my perceptions of Southeast Asia. Many kindly offered advice while I was writing this book. I have learned much from all of them and wish to express my appreciation to the following people in particular: the late Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr, Joker Arroyo, Susumu Awanohara, Robert Barnes, James Bartholomew, John Berthelson, Rodolfo Biazon, Ian Buruma, Peter Carey, Paul Chan, Jenny Clad, Sir Ra1f Dahrendorf, Lester Dally, K. Das, Derek Davies, Eduardo del Fonso, C. S. Eu, Carlos Fernandez, Jonathan Friedland, Jose Galang, Tony Gatmaitan, Tenku Ghafar, Philip Gibson, Goenawan Mohamad, Kim Gordon-Bates, Nigel Holloway, Dorojatun Koentjoro Jakti, David Jenkins, Jomo K. S., Clayton Jones, Kamal Hassan, David Kersey, V. G. Kulkarnee, Paul Leong, Victor Limlingan, John McBeth, Hamish McDonald, Jeffrey McNeeley, Rosnah Majid, Nono Makarim, Robert Manning, Matt Miller, Musa Hitam, the late Neil Naliboff, Adnan Buying Nasution, Richard Nations, Roger Peren, Raphael Pura, Ron Richardson, Anthony Rowley, Nelly Sandayan, Margaret Scott, the late Robert Shaplin, Greg Smith, Juwono Soedarsono, Anthony Spaeth, Paisal Sricharatchanya, Rodney Tasker, Nic Thorne, Marites Vitug, Ezra Vogel, Paul Wachtel, Wahjudiono, Roger Ward and WuAn. There are a dozen other friends whom I would wish to thank but, given the prevailing climate in their respective countries, it would be doing them scant service to mention them by name. They will know I am in their debt. Especial thanks are due to Philip Bowring, Editor of the Far Eastern Ecorunnic Review, for allowing me to rewrite much material which appeared originally in that magazine's pages; to Mary Butler at Unwin Hyman and to David Cox, my long-suffering but ever patient editor. Finally I shall always be grateful for the understanding I have received during the preparation and writing of this book from my two daughters, Katherine and Rachel, who have only rarely shown impatience at Daddy's long absences. And lowe more to my wife and friend, Carmen Jones-Clad, than I can say. The author and publishers are grateful to the following for permission to reproduce copyright material: Asian Development Bank for Table 4 (Chapter 8); Far Eastern Ecorunnic Review for Table 1 (Chapter 4); International Monetary Fund for Tables

7 and 8 (Chapters 8 and 11); PA Consulting Group, Australia for Tables 5 and 6 (Chapter 8); UNESCO for Table 2 (Chapter 5); Vita Development xi


BEIDND TIlE MYIlI Corporation, Manila for Table 3 (Chapter 7) from V. Limlingan The

Overseas Chinese in ASEAN: Business Strategies and Management Practices (1987); and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for Table 9 (Chapter 12). Especial thanks are also due to James Bartholomew for quoting from his book The World's Richest Man, published in 1989 by Viking Press.







A Reluctant FareweU On 25 February 1986 President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines took a long hard look outside his palace gates. Judging the moment both opportune and pressing, he dashed off to a comfortable though bemoaned exile, helicoptering over chanting crowds. Neighbouring Southeast Asian politicians watched his twenty-year presidency collapse with fear and relief. Fond of his fading photographs as a Manila muscleman, the 67-year-old Marcos left behind a country so thoroughly ravaged that the incoming regime, led by a woman he called 'a mere housewife', needed months just to count the missing money. To the disquiet of Manila's hungry new politicians, it soon became clear that hair-raising amounts of cash had left the country long before the dictator did. He was indulged right to the last minute, the Americans allowing him to stack hundreds of millions of his country's sadly eroded pesos on board his farewell plane. For Marcos it must have been force of habit; he would not be able to spend them in Hawaii, his place of exile. Relief at the dictator's departure cascaded elsewhere in Asia, although for different reasons from those animating the jubilant crowds in Manila. Marcos had long since become a colossal embarrassment to the Southeast Asians living around him, a region home to 300 million ve.. 5

business education 187-8

conflicts 8, 23

conglomerates 177-8

co-operation problems 218--35

debt load 243-4

development funds 12,221

diplomacy 6-7,220,235

Four Farms II, 192,233, 251

free trade zones 179-80

labour market 187

Manila summit 227-9, 231

trade 227-9, 254

Asean Finance Corporation 221

Asean Industrial Complememation 223-4

Asean-Japan Development Fund 12,232

Asean Trade Community 230

Asian Currency Unit 131

Asian Development Bank 24, 167, 170,205-14,232

Japanese factor 206,212-13

loans 6, 206-7, 209

scandal 210

staff 207

Association of Southeast Asian Nations ste Asean

aviation industry 5, 181

Bamboog Trihatmodjo 82, 84, 85

Bangkok 116-17

Bangkok Bank 96, 173, 174,175

Bank Bumiputra 2,19,52-4,173,174,175

Bank Nasionallndonesia 173,175

Bank Negara 49-53, 54, 174

Bank Rakyat 16

banks 173-7

in Malaysia 46-54

scandals 65, 105-7, 158-61

Bapindo 80, 209

Benedicta, Robeno 'Bobby' 30, 40

Besar Burhanuddin, Tunku Mohamed 157

Bimantara Group 82


Chinese 152

cocoa 191

forests 14, 194,204

Brunei 63-73

bank scandals 65

Chinese 147, 148, 149

copyright laws 186

cronies 65

loan from Indonesia 66

National Bank debts 158, 159

oil 9, 10,66-7,87

palaces 64

population I

Brunei, Sultan of ,u Hassanal Bolkiah Burma

forests 14

oil 9


aptitude 185-6

culture 2~, 18,29-36

education 187-8

ethics 186

Campos, Jost 30, 39

Carrian Investments Ltd 52-3

Chang family 161

Chia, Eric 156

Chia Siow Vue 24

China 254-5

direct foreign in vestment 183

relalions with Hong Kong J41, 163

relalions with Vietnam 8

Chinatown 1#>-7 Chinese 19, 146-64,216,249-50

banking scandals 158-61

business acumen 148--9, 153-7, 163

community values 15~

corporate organisation 157-8

financiers 10, 19-20

in Brunei 147, 148, 149

in Hong Kong 141, 163

in Indonesia 81, 147, ISO, 151, 152

in Malaysia 16,47,49,51,71, 147, ISO, 151

in Philippines 147,150,152,154,162

in Singapore 10,125,126,147,148,149

inThaibnd 10, lU).. ll, 147, 149, 150-1, 152,156,163

investment 153, 157

Cojuangco, Eduardo 'Danding' 30, 31, 35,39

Cojuangco, Jost 'Peping' 30, 35, 41

gambling 32-3

Cojuangco, Margarita 'Tingling' 32, 34-5

Coj uan8CO, Pedro' Don Pedro' 30



Cojuangco, Ramon 39

Cojuangco family 15,30--0,41

Commission on c;"oo Government 16,37-42

commodities9, 1~14, 102,190-204

futures trading 197-8

price fluctuations 192-3

trends 199-200

Commodity Price Agreements (CPAs) 24, 193, 199

Cooper,; & Lybrand 47, 132-3

copyright law 27, 110, 137, 186

corporate management 184-5

crony capit~sm 1,29-42,251

definition 38-9

Cuenca, Rodolfo 30

Daim Zainuddin 4, 44, 67

money making 49-51,60

debt service 242-3, 244-5

deforestation 14-15,72,197,204,240

Development BankofSingapor.174, 175

Dew.yDee 16

Directly Unproductive Profit-seeking (DUP) 16

Disini, Herminio 30

edible oils )3,191,196,201

education 5, 187-8,246, 248-9

Indonesia 188

Malaysia 71

Philippines 188,246

Singapore 129, 142

Thailand 118-19, 150,187-8,246

electronics industry 69, 180,248

exchange controls 20

financial industry 5, 22

First Pacific Holdings of Hong Kong 5

First Pacific International 81, 177,178

Floirendo, Antonio 'Tony' 30, 39

forests 14-15, 72, 197,204,241

free trade zones 179-80

Fujioka, Masao, 205, 206, 207,211

Garuda Indonesian Airways 5

Generalised System of Preference (GSP) 137-8

Goh Chock Tong 127, 133, 134, 144

Goh Keng Swee 127, 163

Golden Triangle 112

Gonzales, Antonio 39-40

Guthries 190

Habibie, B. J. 88-9

Habibie, Mohamad 17

Harrisons 190

Harrisons & Crosfield 58, 65

Hashim Shamsudding 53-4

H.ssana! Bolkiah, Sultan of Brune; 23, 63,158, 159, 177

contribution to Contra rebels 29,66

Hatibudi 44, 47

Hiew Min Yong 160

Hong Kong

future 140-1, 163

population 141

relations with China 141, 163

stock exchange 22, 168

Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation 173, 174

Hu, Richard 128, 133, 137

Inchcape 58, 190

Indonesia 74-95

Abri 77-81,90-1

aircraft industry 88

and Asean 35, 216

Chinese 81,147,150,151,152

copyright laws 18f>-7

cukong friends 81

customs service 89-90

debts 24~5

dual functioneering 77-80, 93

education 119, 188

entrepreneur,; 185-6

foreign debt 20, 84, 8f>-7, 24~5

forests 204

gross domestic product 6

investment climate 237

investment policies 94-5

Japanese investment 11,76

labourforcel 39

loan to Brunei 66

military in1Iuence on business 77-81, 90-1

monopolies 84-6

Muslims 29

New Order 74, 75

newspapers shut down 27 , 89

oil 9, 7f>-7, 87-8

palm oil 191

plastics monopoly 84, 85

population 1, 25, 75

projects 17, 88

reform package 92

spice trade 190

stock exchange 166, 172

tax regime 88

trades unions 187

inverunent in Asia 6, 167,183-4,239-42

by Japan 1U-12, 24, 76,142

by US 101

debt finance 242-3

direct foreign investment 183

incentives 183

long-term trend 241-2

Iskandar, Sultan Mahmood 44, sf>-7

Islam 23

in Malaysia 7U-I

rebcllion 29

Japan 251-3

Asia Development Bank 206, 212-13

banks 174, 177

in Indonesia 11, 76

in Malaysia 11, 62-3

in Philippines 11 ,

investment in Asia IU-12, 24, 76, 142,231-2,251-2

Java 240

Chinese 152

population 152

journalists 27-8, 34,43

Khoo Ban Hock 66, 158

Khoo Kay Peng 156

Khoo Teck Puat 2, 66,156, 158

banking debts 159-60

Krung Thai Bank 98, 10f>-7, 174, 175

Kuala Lumpur 72

Commodities Exchange 171, 198

Stock Exchange 49-50

Kuok, Robert 15,60,156, 163

INDEX Kwek family 156

labour force 12, 187,239,249

Lee Hsien Loong 78,127,130,142,144,163

LeeKuanYew6,23,125, 126, 127, 144,218

anti-Vietnam policy 8

control of Singapore 133-4

disagreement with press 135-4>

visit to Manila 21

Lee Yan Lian 156

Liem Sioe Liong 2, 5, 156, 163, 178

association with Suhano 66,81,151,158

Lim Chong Eu 179

Lim Goh Tong 156

Lim Kit Siang 43

Locsin, Teodoro 'Teddy Boy' 4{)

Loo Cheng Ghee 171

Lop" Ricardo 'Baby' 3 J

Lop" Tessie 31

Mah Boonkrong 107

Mahathir Mohamad 4,14,23,61-2

expelled journalists 27, 43

filmed cabinet 23-4

Malaysian Car project 59, 61, 179

Malayan Banking Berhad 173, 174, 175

Malaysia 43-63

and Asean 216-35

banks 46-54

business 43-63

Carrian Affair 52-3

Chinese 16,47,49,51,71,147,150,151,185

copyright law 27, 186

culture 256

debts 24>-5

deforestation 14, 72

economy 67-8

education 71, 119

electronics industry 69, 180

entrepreneurs 185

foreign debt 2H-5

highway construction case 43-4

holding companies 177

industries 69

Internal Security Act 43, 45

investment 167

Japanese investment 11,62-3

Look East campaign 62

motor industry 17,58,59,61,179

New Economic Policy 15,16,52,54-6,60-1,71, ISO,


newspapers shut down 27


palm oil 171, 191

plantations 58, 70

politics 45-4>, 69

powers of judiciary 27,43, 69

publie enterprises 5S-6O

race problem 46-7

religion 70

stock markets 4S-5 I, 167, 169

sultans 56-7

trades unions 187

United Malay National Organisation 43, 45-4>, 61

Malaysian Airline System 5, 5~1, 66,181-2

Malaysian ('-at Project 58, 59,61, 179,226

Marcos, Ferdinand 1, 2,64

cronies 29-30


ill-gonen gains 30, 37, 41

palace papers 37-8

Marcos, Imelda 39

ill-gouen gains 30, 37,41

murder of Aquino 31

market economies 9,21, 165, 161>-9, 185

mass capitalism 4, 98, 167, 185

metals 200

motor car industry 17, 58, 59, 61, 179

multinational companies 5

Multi-Purpose Holdings Berbad 184-5

Muslims 23, 29

National Alcohol Programme 202

National Bank of Brunei 65, 1'58, 159

New Economic Policy 15, 16,52, 54-6,60-1,71, ISO,



relations with Singapore 138


in Indonesia 27, 89

in Malaysia 27

Noah bin Omar, Mohamed 49,157

Nubia, Ralph 30

Oei Hong Leong 178

Oen Yin-

foreign debt 20, 243-5

forests 14, IS, 24{)

gambling 32-3

graft and corruption 3~

investment climate 237

Japanese investment 11



labour force 239

National Alcohol Progranune 202

political transitions 240

population 25

privatisation programme 3(",,7, 170

projects 17

refugees 256

stock market 167, 169

sugar 19S--Q, 202

Tourist Duty Free Shops Inc (TDFS) 16, 39--40

Philippines for the Filipinos 156

plantations 58, 70, 190,202

population 239

Brunei I

Indonesia 1,25,75,239

Philippines 25

Singapore 25, 239

Thailand 25, 98-9, 239

Prem Tinsulonond 23

product piracy 90, 18(",,7

projects 17, 88

Promet Berhad 177-8

race problems in Malaysia 46--7

Rahardja, Harry 156

Rajaratnam, S. 29, 127

regionalism 215-35

commercial prospects 238

conflicts ll5

religion in Malaysia 70, 152

Romualdez, Benjamin 'Kokoy' 2, 38

Romualdez family 33

rubber 193, 196,199

Sabah 193-5,215

SaUeh, Harris 194

Salonga, Jovito 37-42

Sarawak 193

share markets see stock markets

Shearson Lehman Brothers 1S9


in Brunei 66

in Sumatra 76

shipping S, 182

Siam Cement Company 96, 103, llO, 170, 177

Siam City Bank 96, 1OS--Q

Siam Food ProductS 170

Sime Darby Group 5, 50, 77,178,202

Sin, Cardinal Jaime 29-32

Singapore 125-45

and Asean 21(",,35

binh rate 134

Chinese 10, 125, 126, 147, 148, 149

commercial strategies 130

compared to Hong Kong 140-2

copyright law 27, 137, 186

education ll9, 129, 142

financial services industry 126, 131, 141

foreign investment 142-4

Generalised System of Preferences 137-8

government-owned companies 143

gross domestic product 6, II, 126

investment climate 237

investments 21

Internal Security Act 139

journalists expeUed 27-8

labour 12, 139--40

Monetary Exchange 141-2

oil refineries 9

politics 139-40

population 25, 125,134

pri vatisation 143

recession 127-9

relations with US 137

relations with NZ 138

share market 4, 166, 167

Stock Exchange of Singapore 131-3, 166

technology 21, 128-9

tourism 126


western press 27-8, 135-7

Singapore Airlines 5, 181

Soeryadjaya, William 157, 178

South Korea compared to Thailand 123

spice trade 190

Standard Chartered Bank 1S~, 173

stock markets 4, 22, 165-88

capitalisation 167, 168

Causeway market 167

futures trading 171

immaturity 168-9

in Malaysia 48-51

Thailand 96-7


sugar 19S--Q, 20 I, 202

Suharto 17,23,74,79,81,89,151,158

family businesses 82-4, 178

import monopolies 158

Suharto, Probosutedio 82

Suharto, Tien 82, 83

Sukarno, Ahmad 74, 75, 215, 216


Chinese 152

forests 14, 204

oil 76

Tan, George 2, 52

Tan, Lucio 30

Tan, Tony 127, 128, 133

Tan Khing Ing J56

Tan Koon Swan 2, 48, 49,60,72, 132,



157, 167,

Tantoco, Giliceria 39-40

Tarlac Development Company 31, 35

technology 21, 128-9,247-8


Thai Farmers 96,173,174,175

Thai International Airways 5, 98, 103, 181

Thai Petroleum Corporation 5

Thailand 9(,...124

agriculture 120

and Asean 21~3S

bank scandals 105-7

Chinese 10, llO-12, 147, 148, 150-1,152,156,163

copyright laws llO, 186

corruption 28

deforestation 14, 117-18, lSI, 204

direct foreign investment 100-3, IB

education 118-19, ISO, 187-8,246

exports 102, 115

foreign debt 20,99, 109,243,244

gross domestic product 6, 98-9

investment climate 237

Japanese investment ll, 101-3

Korea compared 123

labour force 239

INDEX military 114

monarchy II ~ 14

oil9,87,104 opium 112

politicians 10~9 population 2S, 9~9 poveny 116

projects 17

Securities Exchange 96-7, 166, 170--1

stock market 167

tapioca 191

tourism 121

trades unions 187

US investment 101

whisky wan; 107--8

timber business 14, 194, 197

tin 196-7, 199

tourism in Thailand 121

Tourist Duty Free Shops Inc (TDFS) 39-40

trades unions 187

trickle-down economics S, 47, 93


Asian migrantS 18, 249-50

investment in Asia 10, 186

relations with Singapore 137

United Engineering 44,47

United Industrial Corporation 177-8

United Malay Banking Corporation 40, 161, 175

United Overseas Bank 174, 175

value-added 23, 24, 99

Vietnam 7-8, 240, 25S

Wee Boon Peng IS6

World Bank Loans 6



Volume 2




First published in 1995 by Routledge This edition first published in 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 1995 Tilman Remme All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-138-89258-3 (Set) eISBN: 978-1-315-69792-5 (Set) ISBN: 978-1-138-90126-1 (Volume 2) eISBN: 978-1-315-69789-5 (Volume 2) Publisher’s Note The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of this reprint but points out that some imperfections in the original copies may be apparent. Disclaimer The publisher has made every effort to trace copyright holders and would welcome correspondence from those they have been unable to trace.

Britain and Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia, 1945-49

Britain and Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia, 1945-49 traces plans by the British Foreign Office to establish an inter­ national regional system in South-East Asia, that would allow Britain to dom inate the region politically, economically and militarily. T ilm an Remme explores the changing emphasis of Britain’s regional policies, from plans in 1945 for cooperation with other colonial powers to the aim of drawing India and other fledgling Asian states into a Singapore-based regional organisation. Dr Remme examines the effects of nationalism and of the colonial wars in Vietnam and Indonesia, as well as com peting regional initiatives by India, Australia and the United Nations which threatened British dominance in the region. He further shows how, after the Malayan Emergency of 1948, regional cooperation became B ritain’s key strategy to contain comm unism in Asia. By tracing Britain’s foreign policy initiatives, T ilm an Remme puts the issues affecting South-East Asia in the postwar period into a wider context, discussing events in the light of the sudden Japanese defeat in the Second World War, the transfer of power in India, the com m unist struggle for supremacy in China, the development of Anglo-American relations in Asia and the beginnings of the Cold War. T ilm an Remme is a writer and producer of historical and political television documentaries.

Books published under the joint imprint of LSE/ Routledge are works of high academic merit approved by the Publications Committee of the London School of Economics and Political Science. These publications are drawn from the wide range of academic studies in the social sciences for which the LSE has an international reputation.

Britain and Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia, 1945-49

Tilman Remme

LSE London and New York

First published in 1995 Published 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint o f the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © 1995 Tilman Remme All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library o f Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN-13: 978-0-415-09753-6 (hbk) Typeset in Baskerville by EXCEPTdetail Ltd, Southport


Acknowledgements List of abbreviations Introduction Part I Return to South-East Asia 1 Wartime planning and diplomacy 2 The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 3 ‘Famine averted’: the Special Commission in Singapore 4 Regional cooperation and regional defence Part II Asian nationalism 5 India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation 6 Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 7 Regional competition: India and Australia 8 Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE 9 Western U nion and South-East Asia Part III Com m unism 10 Cold War and Commonwealth 11 Enter the dragon: South-East Asia and the Chinese civil war 12 Regional cooperation and regional containm ent 13 The final stages of regional planning 14 T o Colombo and beyond

vii viii 1

9 27 44 54

67 82 96 105 119

133 151 164 183 200


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Notes Bibliography Index

217 243 250


First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to the British Council, whose financial support from 1985 to 1988 enabled me to research and write the thesis on which this book is based. I would also like to thank Dr Alan Sked of the London School of Economics for his help, advice and guidance. Further­ more, I would like to thank Professor R alph B. Smith and the members of his special seminar on South-East Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies for their helpful advice and criticism, and for giving me the opportunity to present some of the ideas developed in my thesis. I would also like to thank Edward Lucas, the late Dr Roger Bullen, Dr Richard Aldrich, Dr Taka Tanaka, Dr Michael Leiffer, Shams Ul-Alam, Professor Peter Lowe and Professor Ian Nish for their advice and encouragement and for giving me inspiration. Thanks also to the staff at the LSE’s International History Department and at the Public Record Office in Kew. In addition, I would like to thank Professor Ernst Nolte, Professor Michael Erbe and the late Professor H ellm ut Becker for their support during the preparation of this project. This book is dedicated to my wife Fiona, w ithout whom it would never have come about.


AFPFL Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, Burma ALFSEA Allied Land Forces, South-East Asia ANZAM Informal defence agreement between Britain, Australia and New Zealand in South-East Asia ANZUS Burma Office BO Colonial Office CO COS Chiefs of Staff Commonwealth Relations Office CRO DO Dominions Office DRV Democratic Republic of Vietnam ECAFE Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, United Nations ECE Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations ECOSOC Economic and Social Council, United Nations Foreign Office FO IEFC International Emergency Food Council IO India Office Joint Intelligence Committee, Chiefs of Staff Jic Joint Planning Staff JPS Malayan Planning U nit MPU North Atlantic Treaty Organisation NATO Organisation for European Economic Cooperation OEEC PH P Post-Hostilities Planning Staff PRO Public Record Office PUSC Perm anent Under-Secretary’s Committee, Foreign Office RAAF Royal Australian Air Force SACSEA Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia


SEAC South-East Asia Command United Malay National Organisation UMNO UNRRA U nited Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Adm inistration War Office WO



Britain and Regional Cooperation

South-East Asia in the 1950s Source: John Bartholomew 8c Son, 1958. Published by The Times Publishing Company Ltd., 1958.


On 8 January 1950, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, arrived in the Ceylonese capital of Colombo to attend the first Commonwealth conference ever to be held on Asian soil. The British had asked the Ceylonese government at very short notice to convene the week-long meeting. The official purpose was to discuss foreign policy issues of m utual concern. However, there was one topic that the British were particularly concerned about: the rapid spread of communism in the Far East. For eighteen m onths now, comm unist forces had been threatening British interests in eastern Asia. In Malaya - a highly lucrative British possession because of her dollar-earning rubber exports to the United States - groups of comm unist insurgents were conducting a destructive guerrilla campaign against British plantations and installations. Burma and Indonesia, too, were affected by com­ m unist strife, while in Indochina the French were waging a fullscale war against the communist-dominated Viet Minh. Most worrying, from the British point of view, was the fact that China had only recently been ‘lost’ to the communists, jeopardising British trading interests in the country and threatening to export Chinese-style revolutions to the rest of Asia. By the end of 1949, the British had decided to regard Asian communism not in isolation, but as a regional problem. London feared that if the rice-exporting countries of French Indochina, T hailand and Burma were going to fall to communist forces loyal to Moscow or Peking, the result would be food shortages and widespread unrest in the rice-importing countries of SouthEast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. To counter this trend, the British believed that, similar to the provision of Marshall aid in Europe, the non-com m unist governments of South and South-


Britain and Regional Cooperation

East Asia should be granted Western aid and financial assistance that would help to stabilise the economies of the region. The finance for this could only be provided by the United States, but the Americans could only be convinced if the original initiative came from the Asian countries themselves. At the Colombo Conference, the British thus encouraged the Asian members of the Commonwealth to propose the establishment of an international plan for ‘m utual self-help’ and for the economic development of Asia. The Colombo proposals paved the way for the Colombo Plan, an aggregate for the provision of bilateral aid to South and South-East Asia, which eventually included some twenty-three Asian and Western countries from inside and outside the Com­ monwealth. Between 1950 and 1961, the Colombo Plan chan­ nelled almost 10 billion dollars of bilateral aid and assistance to the non-com m unist countries of South and South-East Asia. The bulk of this assistance was provided by the United States. When I started the initial research for this book, my intention was to examine the development and achievements of the Col­ ombo Plan during the 1950s. Instead, I ended up tracing its origins. The Colombo Conference was in fact the culm ination of years of interdepartm ental planning at the British Foreign and Colonial offices. It was based on a policy which British officials in W hitehall and in South-East Asia referred to as ‘regional cooperation’. The notion of regional cooperation in South-East Asia first appeared in a British cabinet paper drafted by the Colonial Office in December 1944. However, London dropped the paper, which formed part of protracted Anglo-American negotiations on the future of colonial empires, following the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The reasons for this were first outlined by W illiam Roger Louis in his book Imperialism at Bay. This book picks up the thread in the second half of 1945, when the British Foreign Office developed new regional pro­ posals for South-East Asia. The departm ent’s somewhat vague idea was to use the British-led South-East Asia Command (SEAC) under Lord Louis M ountbatten as the basis for a Britishdom inated international organisation in South-East Asia. Immediately after the war, SEAC was in temporary control of T hailand as well as of the British, French and Dutch colonies in the region. By im plication, the Foreign Office hoped that a regional organisation would m aintain a maximum degree of British influence in the area after the return to civilian rule.



Yet it wasn’t until 1950 that the Foreign Office’s plans came to fruition. T hroughout this period, the general aim of the Foreign Office’s regional policy was to establish a South-East Asian regional organisation under British leadership that would provide for international cooperation at the economic and poli­ tical levels. Eventually, this m ight also lead to a regional defence arrangement in South-East Asia. T hrough such an organisation the British hoped to m aintain and extend the regional hegemony of South-East Asia which they enjoyed immediately after the Japanese surrender in 1945. However, while the underlying aim of B ritain’s policy of regional coope­ ration remained the same until 1950, the means of achieving it underwent some fundam ental changes. Britain’s regional plans were affected by a num ber of key historical factors in Asia. First, there was the unexpectedly difficult task of postwar relief and adm inistration in South-East Asia. The war had ended much sooner than anticipated, and M ountbatten’s command had at the last m inute been given responsibility for a much larger area than originally planned. Apart from the volatile political situa­ tion in the various South-East Asian territories, the British also had to deal with widespread food shortages resulting from wartime mismanagement and destruction. Due to a shortage of rice, South-East Asia was even facing a famine by February 1946. T o alleviate the rice crisis, Britain established the so-called Special Commission in Singapore. Its m ain function was to organise the international allocation and distribution of food in South-East Asia, through regular meetings of international liaison officers sent by the various countries in the region. T hough the Special Commission was a Foreign Office body under the direction of Lord Killearn, it was also the first organisation in South-East Asia ever to organise regional coope­ ration at the ‘technical’ level. In the long run, the Foreign Office hoped to develop the Special Commission as the nucleus for a wider regional commission. Another key factor affecting the Foreign Office’s regional policy was the rapid advance of Asian nationalism in South and South-East Asia, and the transfer of power in India in August 1947. Under its impact the Foreign Office enlarged the geogra­ phical scope of its planned regional scheme, aim ing to include India, Pakistan and Ceylon in a British-led regional system with its centre in Singapore. The outbreak of the internationally


Britain and Regional Cooperation

unpopular war in French Indochina served as a catalyst for the form ulation of the Foreign Office’s new regional concept. How­ ever, the further effect of Asian nationalism was that it encour­ aged the idea in Asia of establishing exclusively Asian regional alignments. This goal was first pursued by India during the 1947 Asian Relations Conference. In its wake, the United Nations and Australia too emerged as competitors to Britain, vying for the lead in organising regional cooperation. Despite the redefinition of the Foreign Office’s regional policies at the beginning of 1947, Asian nationalism thus had a highly detrimental effect on L ondon’s plans. At the same time, B ritain’s increasing financial weakness severely jeopardised the Foreign Office’s plans to turn the Special Commission in Singapore into an international regional commission. Finally, Britain’s regional policy was fundamentally affected by the shift of the Cold War to South-East Asia. In 1948, after the beginning of the Malayan Emergency and a series of com m unist victories in China, the Foreign Office revived its by now flagging regional plans. Regional cooperation became one of the Foreign Office’s prime strategies in containing communism. L ondon’s plans culminated in the Colombo Con­ ference and the subsequent Colombo Plan. T hroughout the period between 1945 and 1950, regional cooperation remained prim arily a Foreign Office policy. The department even had to fight a series of bureaucratic battles with the Colonial Office over the issue, the latter fearing that regional cooperation was synonymous with international interference in the affairs of Britain’s colonial territories. W ithin the Foreign Office, it was Esler Dening, M ountbatten’s political adviser during the war and subsequently Assistant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, who was the leading architect of British regional policies in South-East Asia. The regional idea originated with him in 1945; he also seems to have been the main author of the 1949 cabinet paper that led to the Colombo Conference. Lord Killearn, Britain’s Special Commissioner in Singapore, also had considerable influence on the Foreign Office’s plans for SouthEast Asia. He was enthusiastic about the idea of a Singaporecentred regional arrangement that m ight eventually include East, South and South-East Asia. His was also the idea of progressing empirically from technical to wider regional cooperation through his Special Commission. The British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, on the other hand, was less involved in the



form ulation of his departm ent’s regional plans. However, at times he too played a crucial role. It was at his initiative that the government went ahead with Lord Killearn’s appointm ent as Special Commissioner after the extent of the rice crisis had become fully apparent in February 1946. In 1948 and 1949 he was also instrum ental in carrying his departm ent’s regional policies through the cabinet. However, his own ideas on regional coope­ ration were sometimes inconsistent with those of his department. D uring the 1946 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting, for example, Bevin suggested turning the Special Commission into a proper regional commission that would include Australia. This was done w ithout previous departmental consultation and caused great confusion at both the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. Another example was Bevin’s reference to the resources of the European colonies in his speech on Western U nion in January 1948. It led to Asian accusations of a European conspiracy in South-East Asia and contradicted Foreign Office plans for cooperation with the new Asian states. Finally, a word on the geographic terminology used in this book. In line with modern historiography, ‘T hailand’ rather than ‘Siam ’ is employed. Equally, ‘Indonesia’ refers to the Dutch East Indies after September 1945. However, rather than speaking of only Vietnam, the term ‘Indochina’ or ‘French Indochina’ has sometimes been used in reference to all the French colonies in South-East Asia, which included Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. T he term ‘South-East Asia’ has been the cause of some confusion: it only came into fashion after the creation of SEAC in 1943 and it originally included Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya (including Singapore and N orth Borneo) and Indonesia. By 1949, in line with Britain’s growing interest in regional cooperation w ith the United States, W ashington’s former colony, the Philippines, was added to W hitehall’s definition of South-East Asia. This slightly broader definition is indeed in line with the one applied in this book. It should, however, be noted that in 1949 some British officials were beginning to include South Asia (i.e. India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet and Afghanistan) in the definition of South-East Asia, reflecting the new British tendency towards a Singapore- rather than Delhi-centred view of South and South-East Asia. Further confusion is caused by the term ‘Far East’. At the time, it could describe anything from East Asia (i.e. China, Mongolia, M anchuria, Korea and Japan) to the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

whole of South, South-East and East Asia. Where the term is used in this book, it refers to East and South-Ea st Asia.

Part I

Return to South-East Asia

Chapter 1

Wartime planning and diplomacy

On 26 July 1945 King George VI asked Clement Attlee, the leader of the British Labour Party, to form a new government in Britain. Unexpectedly, Labour had won a landslide victory in the country’s first general election since the end of the war against Germany. Attlee and his party had won on a ticket that promised the British electorate both prosperity and social reforms, includ­ ing the establishment of a national insurance system and a national health service and the provision of a costly housing programme. Foreign affairs had only played a secondary role during the campaign. Yet it was B ritain’s taxing international commitments and responsibilities at a time of severe financial weakness that were to present the most serious challenge to the new government. When Labour came to power in 1945, the geographical extent of Britain’s power and influence had never been greater. Her empire stretched from Africa and the Middle East via the Indian subcontinent to the Far East and the Pacific, where the war with Japan was drawing to a close. In Europe, she was responsible for the adm inistration and postwar order of a large part of defeated Germany. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, British troops were also pu t in charge of large parts of South-East Asia, including T hailand and the Dutch and French colonies in Indonesia and Indochina. Yet Britain found it increasingly difficult to shoulder her international commitments. In Germany, the British had to feed the undernourished population in the country’s devastated industrial heartland, the Ruhr area, which was part of the British occupational zone. In war-torn South-East Asia, too, the British soon faced the prospect of widespread famine. In addition to these costly hum anitarian


Britain and Regional Cooperation

obligations, Britain was facing nationalist turmoil and unrest in Palestine, India and Burma, preventing the country from scaling down her defence expenditure to prewar levels. Added to this was the growing conflict with the Soviet Union in Europe and the Middle East which demanded continuous vigilance and high defence spending. Even six m onths after the Japanese surrender, Britain had more than two m illion troops under arms who were spread across the globe, and her defence expenditure for 1946 was estimated at about 2 billion pounds, compared to the govern­ m ent’s long-term target of 500 m illion pounds.1 Attlee’s m ain problem was that the country he had come to lead was close to bankruptcy as a result of the war. Britain had entered the war with debts of just under 500 m illion pounds, a burden that had been offset by massive reserves of gold and dollars, and by substantial foreign investments. By 1945, most of these reserves had all but disappeared, and the country’s debts had spiralled to 3.5 billion pounds. At the same time, Britain’s m anufacturing industry was becoming increasingly obsolete geared to producing war materials rather than the consumer goods now wanted by the British population. Traditional sources of invisible income, such as banking, insurance and shipping, had also suffered greatly because of the war.2 It soon emerged that Britain’s economic weakness would have a significant effect on her standing as a world power, in particular vis-a-vis the United States, which had emerged from the war as the most powerful nation on earth. Since 1941, the lend-lease agreement with the United States had allowed Britain to im port both consumer goods and arms from America while deferring payment to a later date. However, after the Japanese surrender in August 1945, President T rum an suddenly cancelled the agree­ ment, exposing Britain’s dependence on American financial support. Unable to purchase vital American imports, the British had to accept an American loan of 3.75 billion dollars which had certain strings attached. T hough the interest was low, the loan was linked to a British promise to eventually dismantle the system of imperial trade preferences and to make sterling fully convertible. Sooner or later, Britain would thus have to open up her colonial empire to powerful commercial competition from the United States. Not only was Britain effectively broke in 1945, but her tra­ ditional markets in the Commonwealth were under pressure

Wartime planning and diplomacy


from the outside. The new Labour government was also con­ fronted with strong secessionist forces at the heart of its empire, India, where the political situation had been fundamentally transformed by the war. Britain had taken India into the war w ithout consulting any of the Indian nationalist leaders. As a result, the Hindu-dom inated Indian Congress Party under the leadership of M ahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had organised the powerful ‘Q uit India’ campaign directed against British rule. The movement was forcibly suppressed for the duration of the war, but when the interned Congress leaders were released in the summer of 1945, Attlee and his ministers lacked the stomach to put up with a new civil disobedience campaign in the country.3 Unlike the Conservatives, the Labour Party was at least morally committed to eventual Indian independence,4 though the new government was hoping that India would m aintain strong economic and military ties with Britain.5 Soon, the question was no longer if but when and under what circumstances India would be given independence, in particular whether demands by the Indian Muslim League for a separate M uslim-dominated Pakistan would be met. The Labour government reacted to the changed international realities with considerable flexibility. Many politicians and government officials sensed that B ritain’s influence in the world was on the wane and that the future of the Empire was by no means certain. Under the pressure of events, it was often decided to withdraw where B ritain’s position had become untenable. W ithin two years, Britain handed over power in India and Burma, and decided to abandoned her mandate in Palestine. However, both in Africa6 and in other parts of Asia, Attlee and his ministers had no intention of giving up power. In China and South-East Asia, the British made every effort to re-establish their prewar position, in particular in the trading centres of H ong Kong and Singapore, and in the prize colony of Malaya. In fact, while the British were preparing to withdraw from India, South-East Asia assumed increasing importance in British thinking. Singapore, not Delhi, soon became the focus of British power east of Suez. As will be seen, London was hoping to use Singapore as the ‘centre for the radiation of British influence’ in the region, laying the foundation for continuing British hegemony in both South and South-East Asia after the com­ pletion of European decolonisation. The British called their


Britain and Regional Cooperation

ambitious new policy ‘Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia’. Prior to the Second World War, the British had tended to underestimate the importance of South-East Asia, both for the security of their empire and for Britain’s worldwide trade. As a Foreign Office paper pointed out in 1946, South-East Asia, before the war, had been regarded as an ‘unim portant and little-known area’; only the war had demonstrated its political, economic and strategic im portance.7T he region’s prewar trade with Britain had in fact been considerable. South-East Asia’s main products were rubber, tin and rice, as well as sugar, tobacco, tea and palm oil. The region took up 9.5 per cent of Britain’s total prewar exports and provided 6.5 per cent of British imports.8 British investments in the region, including the Philippines, were equally significant, am ounting to about 775 m illion dollars before the war, nearly three times as much as those of the United States in the area. More than half of Britain’s investments were in her possessions in Burma, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, though considerable assets also existed in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.9 Malaya played a particularly im portant role in B ritain’s trade with South-East Asia. It was one of the w orld’s largest producers of rubber, the bulk of which was exported to North America. These exports provided Britain with some of the dollars needed to finance her increasing trade deficit with the United States. When, after the war, the triangular trade pattern between Britain, Malaya and the United States was resumed, Malaya provided the British with dollar earnings worth 60 m illion pounds in 1948, an income that London considered to be vital for the British economy.10 The fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 emphasised South-East Asia’s enormous strategic importance for the British Empire and Commonwealth. Not only was the region the western gateway to China and Japan. It was also the last natural defence before the Japanese or any other eastern invader could reach India, as well as the last major obstacle on the way to Australia. After the Japanese captured the rem aining Western colonies in South-East Asia, the British were forced to retreat to the line west of Burma. All Western trade with the area was completely cut off, adding to B ritain’s wartime shortages, and

Wartime planning and diplomacy


depriving her of vital dollar earnings. T hroughout the war, the British remained determined to reconquer their lost territories from the Japanese in order to resume their prewar position in the region as well as their lucrative trade with Malaya and Burma. Back in London, officials in W hitehall were soon beginning to draft blueprints for the postwar administration of their former South-East Asian colonies. Completely cut off from South-East Asia, they paid little attention to the possibility that Britain’s prestige had suffered greatly as a result of the fall of Singapore, and that the war m ight have fundamentally altered the political situation in the region (see Chapter 2). By the time that the Attlee government came to power, British planning for the future of Burma was in its most advanced state. Having gone on the offensive at the end of 1944, the British-led South-East Asia Command (SEAC) under Lord Louis M ountbatten had recaptured the Burmese capital of Rangoon on 1 May 1945. Soon after, the Churchill government had published a White Paper on the future of Burma. The paper cautiously mentioned the ultim ate goal of granting Burma self-government and dom inion status; however, during an interim period of three years the returning British Governor of Burma would be given sweeping administrative powers.11 The White Paper reversed some of the concessions made to Burmese nationalists in the 1935 Government of Burma Act, which gave the Burmese a limited say in their country’s government. Critics argued that all that London was interested in was the restoration of British com­ mercial interests in the country: before the war, Britain had investments worth about 200 m illion dollars in Burma - the Burmah Oil Company being one of the most im portant British investors.12 As will be seen, the attempted implem entation of the policies outlined in the White Paper was to result in a massive disobedience campaign by Burmese nationalists in 1946. Coinciding with the Burma White Paper, planning for the postwar adm inistration of Malaya was entering its final stages. Under the watchful eye of the Colonial Office, a special Malayan Planning U nit (MPU) under General R alph Hone had spent the previous two years drafting a streamlined new constitution13 that would merge the federated and unfederated Malayan States, as well as Penang and Malacca, into a single British colony, the Malayan Union. The aim was to create a unitary state embracing the whole Malayan peninsula with a citizenship-scheme appli­


Britain and Regional Cooperation

cable to Malays, Chinese and Indians alike, and to prepare the country for eventual self-rule.14 Although Singapore would remain a separate colony, a Governor-General would be appointed who would control the British administrations in the area as well as coordinate British policies throughout the Malayan Union, Singapore and Borneo. In great secrecy, the M PU ’s recommendations had on 31 May 1944 been given provi­ sional approval by the war cabinet.15 After the war, London’s policies were to run into considerable trouble, as the Malay sultans were required to surrender even more of their rem aining sovereignty to the British Crown. Planning on the future of the non-British territories in SouthEast Asia fell to the Foreign Office. Like the rest of W hitehall, the Foreign Office, which was largely detached from the events in South-East Asia, assumed that Britain and the other European powers would be able to continue where they had left off in 1942. Apart from this, the department had given the future of the region relatively little thought. It expected French and Dutch rule to be restored in Vietnam and Indonesia, failing to take into account that the European defeat in 1942 m ight have fundamentally shaken the basis of colonial rule in Asia. So far as Indonesia was concerned, the British, like their Dutch and American counterparts, were almost completely unaware of the extent of the nationalist fervour that the Japanese had fostered in the country during the occupation.16Britain’s commitment to the restoration of Dutch sovereignty was expressed in a civil affairs agreement with the Dutch, which came into power immediately after the Japanese surrender in August 1945. It gave the Dutch wide-ranging administrative powers during the Allied occupa­ tion and was to be followed by the swift re-establishment of Dutch colonial rule.17 In Indochina, too, the British failed to anticipate the strong nationalist feelings generated by the war, expecting the French to swiftly regain control of their colony after a Japanese defeat. The case was, however, complicated by the fact that the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, wanted to prevent the French from returning to Indochina. Instead, he wanted to place the colony under international trusteeship. Roosevelt was particu­ larly critical of the fact that for most of the war the French colonial administrators in Indochina had openly collaborated with the Japanese troops in the country, similar to the Vichy

Wartime planning and diplomacy


regime’s collaboration with the Germans in France: it was only in March 1945 that the Japanese arrested all French personnel in Indochina to take complete control of the country. However, the British Prime Minister, W inston Churchill, vehemently opposed Roosevelt’s ideas: twice in 1944 the war cabinet endorsed pro­ posals by the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, that France should be allowed to return to Indochina.18 As one senior Foreign Office official wrote at the end of 1944, the British believed in ‘the colonial powers sticking together in the Far East’.19 In Thailand, as well, the British were aim ing to restore the status quo ante. Before the war, the bulk of Western investments in the country had been British, and London wanted to reimpose B ritain’s dom inant prewar position. But again differences with the Americans came into play. As the Foreign Office admitted in a policy paper of July 1945, the T hai question was by no means straightforward: under Japanese pressure, the Thais had in 1941 ‘flung themselves into the arm s’ of Japan and were now in a state of war with Britain. The paper recommended pressuring the Thais into an agreement with Britain which provided for the delivery of 1.5 m illion tons of free rice. Furthermore, Thailand was to be forced into a close defence relationship with Britain, allowing the latter to deploy troops in T hailand during times of war. However, the problem was that the Americans did not regard themselves as at war with Thailand, and they were bound to sympathise with the new T hai government that had succeeded the collaborationist government of Luang Pibul from 1941.20 Anglo-American differences over the future of T hailand and Indochina were in fact part of a m uch wider debate between W ashington and London on the future of the European colonial empires after the war. Ever since C hurchill’s attempts in 1940 and 1941 to draw the United States into the war against the Axis powers, the Americans had been pressing for greater economic access to the European colonies in Africa and Asia. At the same time, W ashington saw itself as the cham pion of national inde­ pendence movements throughout the world. In August 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt had signed the Atlantic Charter, which in its third article declared respect for ‘the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live’. T hough Churchill publicly m aintained that this did not affect developments inside the Commonwealth,21 the charter triggered

16 Britain and Regional Cooperation

a debate between London and W ashington about the future of colonial empires that would continue until the end of the war. The Anglo-American dispute over the future of the Western colonies reached a high point in March 1943, when W ashington handed a paper titled ‘National Independence’ to the British. It demanded that all colonial powers, including Britain, should prepare their colonial territories for self-government and eventual independence. As a first step, after the end of the war, all colonies should be opened up to international supervision. At the same time, the colonial powers would collaborate through a num ber of international regional commissions. In addition, an international trusteeship adm inistration should be set up in order to prepare all dependent peoples for independence. The American draft instantly set the alarm bells ringing in Whitehall. While the tone of the document was enough to upset the guardians of the British Commonwealth in W hitehall, London regarded the two emotive terms ‘independence’ and ‘interna­ tional supervision’ as completely unacceptable, the latter being im plicit in the American understanding of international trusteeship.22 T o regain the initiative in an increasingly heated debate with W ashington, the British decided to make a unilateral statement lest the Americans try to force them into unacceptable commit­ ments.23 The Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley, told the House of Commons on 13 July 1943 that it was Britain’s policy to keep sole responsibility for her colonies. But he welcomed greater international cooperation in colonial areas: [He had in mind] the possibility of establishing certain Commissions for certain regions. These Commissions would comprise not only the States with Colonial territories in the region, but also other States which have in the region a major strategic or economic interest. While each State would remain responsible for the adm inistration of its own territory, such a Commission would provide effective and perm anent m ach­ inery for consultation and collaboration so that the States concerned m ight work together to promote the well-being of the Colonial territories. An im portant consideration in designing the machinery of each Commission will be to give to the people of the Colonial territories in the region an opportunity to be associated with its work. . . . In this way it

Wartime planning and diplomacy


would be possible to have international cooperation which consisted of something more than theoretical discussion but would be able to grapple with realities and get down to the solution of individual problems.24 Stanley’s statement was little more than a tactical move to publicly dissipate the American initiative on colonial policy. It picked up the least im portant part of the American proposal, namely the creation of regional commissions in colonial areas, yet dropped the idea of international supervision and colonial independence which was at the centre of the American declara­ tion. Stanley’s regional commissions would nom inally involve the United States in European colonial affairs while the colonial powers would remain in complete control of colonial develop­ ments. A precedent existed in the Anglo-American commission in the Caribbean. The organisation had recently been established after Britain had allowed the United States to lease a num ber of air and naval bases in her Caribbean dependencies, and it was meant to provide for bilateral cooperation towards the economic and social development of the British and American possessions in the Caribbean.25 However, the commission had no executive powers, only consultative functions restricted to dealing with 26 general economic, social welfare and health matters. It is doubtful whether Stanley would ever have followed up his regional ideas if it had not been for renewed international pressure for the international supervision of colonial territories. In January 1944, Australia and New Zealand picked up the regional idea in a bilateral agreement in which the two countries effectively demanded a greater say in international planning for the postwar world. The agreement included proposals for the creation of a South Seas regional commission in which Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the United States and France would be represented. The commission would have advisory powers, enabling it to recommend arrangements for the participation of natives in colonial administration, with a view to prom oting the ultim ate aim of self-government. It would also advise on econ­ omic development, on the coordination of health and medical services, and on education. The Australian-New Zealand sugges­ tions were ‘based on the doctrine of trusteeship’, the term so disliked in London.27 The Australian-New Zealand agreement forced Stanley to

18 Britain and Regional Cooperation

formulate his regional ideas in greater detail. Stanley opposed recent American plans for a central international commission with supervisory powers for colonial territories. Instead, he suggested to the cabinet that they should ‘make the idea of international regional associations our m ain contribution to the solution of Colonial questions’. The commissions he had in m ind would have no executive functions, and there would be ‘opportunities for participation by the people of the region’ w ithout obliging Britain to accept some particular form of association. Defence would be excluded from the commissions’ 28 scope. By the end of 1944, a major policy paper written by H ilton Poynton and Kenneth Robinson of the Colonial Office’s Interna­ tional Relations Department formally proposed the regional commissions concept as an alternative to American plans for international trusteeships and supervision. The paper, titled ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’, also tackled the internationally contentious issue of the future of the mandated territories which Britain and France had taken over from the Ottom an and German empires after the First World War. The authors proposed to scrap the mandates and turn them into proper colonies. At the same time, a new international colonial system would be established - based on international cooperation through regional commissions and through so-called ‘functional bodies’, dealing mainly with social subjects, which would be attached to the new world organisation (namely the United Nations). Areas eligible for regional commissions were the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South-East Asia, West Africa and Central, East and Southern Africa.29 Unlike under the American and Australian-New Zealand schemes, the commissions pro­ posed by the Colonial Office would be consultative bodies w ithout executive or supervisory powers, leaving the question of self-government and eventual independence to be decided by the respective colonial power. As H ilton Poynton had told a French official in W ashington in September 1944, the emphasis of the regional commissions should be on collaboration and consul­ tation on practical issues, ‘not supervision and “inquisition” ’.30 The paper had enormous potential implications for British interests in South-East Asia. In contrast to other colonial regions, South-East Asia included both colonial territories and indepen­ dent or ‘emerging native states’.31 Unlike the South Pacific’s

Wartime planning and diplomacy


‘small, prim itive and weak com m unities’, one official lamented, South-East Asia was made up in the m ain of communities which were either independent states or states ‘which it would not be an absurdity to expect to develop into national independent states w ithin the foreseeable future’. The representatives of the SouthEast Asian territories would therefore expect a much more substantial voice in a regional commission than those in the South Pacific.32 Another problem, from the British point of view, was the fact that the area was still under enemy occupation and that no detailed plans could be made prior to liberation from the Japanese. In addition, the Colonial Office regarded South-East Asia as particularly prone to outside interference: the region had much greater wealth than the other areas under discussion, possessing rubber and tin, and a large population of around 120 m illion people. Outside countries like the United States, Aus­ tralia, China, India and possibly even Russia would therefore have m ajor strategic or economic interests in the region.33 A further problem was that in any regional organisation China was likely to make claims on behalf of the Chinese im m igrant communities in the area.34 Added to this was the membership problem. W ould Burma, Ceylon and H ong Kong be considered part of the region, and should outside powers like the United States, Australia, China and India, as well as the Soviet Union, also be included?35 And if India was included, would it be an outside or an inside member? The question of Indian participation in a South-East Asian commission had first been raised by Sir Maurice Gwyer, a retired Chief Justice of the Indian Federal Court. Gwyer argued that India, after achieving ‘autonom y’, would be left at the mercy of China and Russia, who were likely to dominate postwar Asia. He therefore suggested an Anglo-Indian defence council that could also include parts of South-East Asia, and that could be linked to some kind of Anglo-Indian economic council.36 As will be seen later on, his ideas were not dissimilar to the Foreign Office’s regional plans in 1949, when China and Russia were indeed making their influence felt in South and South-East Asia. However, in 1944 the Colonial Office argued against Gwyer’s proposal for economic or defence cooperation between India and South-East Asia.37 As Stanley told his colleague at the India Office, Leo Amery, whatever the views of the services depart­ ments on the suitability of the Indian Ocean as a strategic unit, it


Britain and Regional Cooperation

certainly was not a natural economic or political unit.38 Finally, the Colonial Office had to address the question of what a South-East Asian commission should actually be dealing with. Before the war, the only institutionalised form of coope­ ration in South-East Asia had been the exchange of epidemiological inform ation and a certain am ount of political coordination concerning opium smoking through the League of Nations. In addition, there had been the International Regula­ tions Agreement on T in and Rubber, which had offered the governments and chief producers in the area ‘scope for consul­ tation and coordination’.39 London saw few other matters that would require regional coordination. As one Colonial Office official pointed out, any cooperation on rubber had to take account of synthetic production. So far as tin was concerned, other producers such as Bolivia, Nigeria and Congo also had to be considered. The only commodity that could be considered on a purely regional basis was rice.40 Despite the many difficulties and uncertainties tied to the question of regional cooperation in South-East Asia, the Col­ onial Office included the region in its proposals of December 1944, as it wanted to present the Americans with a coherent new policy applicable to all colonial territories around the world. ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’ thus stated reluctantly that South-East Asia too ‘seems to be an area suitable eventually for the establishment of a Regional Commission, though clearly it is impracticable to make any progress with the form ulation of regional organisation while the area is still in enemy occupa­ tion’. The membership of a South-East Asian commission would include: the United Kingdom with its Malayan territories, Singapore, North Borneo and Hong Kong; the Netherlands with the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia); Portugal with Timor; France with Indochina; the United States with the Philippines; T hailand as an independent state w ithin the region; and Aus­ tralia, China and India as interested outside countries.41 So far as the comm ission’s scope was concerned, the department decided in an internal mem orandum that a South-East Asian regional council should be limited to research into the improvement of tin, rubber and agricultural production, the control of im m i­ gration and emigration, the development of fisheries and the preservation and protection of the area’s distinctive fauna.42 T hough the war cabinet endorsed the Colonial Office’s paper

Wartime planning and diplomacy


on the future of colonial territories, it soon became apparent that Stanley’s ambitious colonial scheme would never be implemented, as neither the dominions nor the United States were w illing to replace the mandates system with the new regional commissions plan.43 Further bad news emerged during the Yalta Conference in February 1945. During the conference, Churchill unw ittingly accepted a ‘trusteeship form ula’ worked out by the American Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius.44 Yet it was the despised term ‘trusteeship’ that the Colonial Office had hoped to eradicate in the first place. Even worse, the Yalta Protocol also im plied that the future of the mandates would be discussed at the forthcoming San Francisco Conference on the new world organisation, the United Nations. An angry Oliver Stanley, whose department had not been represented at Yalta, stressed in March 1945 that the policy outlined in ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’ had orig­ inally been intended to be discussed with the United States alone, after agreement with the dominions, but not w ithin the United Nations. As the original argum ent for the abolition of the mandates had been a plan which applied to the entire colonial empire, Stanley argued that it would now mean ‘throwing the whole Colonial Empire open to discussion by this motley assembly [the UN], a procedure which I should regard as hazardous in extreme’.45 In other words, proposing the mandates’ replacement with the Colonial Office’s regional cooperation scheme now m ight have required discussing the future of the British empire in a potentially hostile international forum. At Stanley’s initiative, government ministers therefore decided to continue the mandates system and to withdraw ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’.46 While the Colonial Office was disappointed about the failure of its worldwide regional coope­ ration plans, it was relieved in so far as South-East Asia was concerned. Of all the regions mentioned in the departm ent’s paper, South-East Asia had after all been regarded as least suitable for a regional organisation. However, a few months later, after the end of the war in Europe, the Foreign Office at last became interested in the future of South-East Asia. Previously, the department had not been involved in the drafting of ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’. In fact, the Foreign Office had done hardly any planning work on the future of East and South-East Asia. During the war,


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Eden had tended to neglect Far Eastern questions in favour of those concerning Europe, allowing his departm ent’s Far Eastern machinery to deteriorate. As Roger Buckley has argued, C hur­ chill and his ministerial colleagues suffered from an unfortunate inability to consider the nature of the postwar international situation in Asia.47 In June 1945, the new head of the Foreign Office’s Far Eastern Department, J.C. Sterndale Bennett, brought the lack of Far Eastern planning to the attention of his superiors. He com plain­ ed, in an extensive memorandum, that upon his return to Far Eastern work in August 1944 he had found a small department organised to deal only with current work, and that there was virtually no machinery for Far Eastern planning. The Foreign Office seemed to regard the Far Eastern war as a sideshow: diplom atic issues involving Russia and the United States were dealt with on a ‘hand-to-m outh basis’ with little regard to B ritain’s m ain Far Eastern interests or her relations with the dominions. At the higher level of the Foreign Office, no one had given attention to the Far East, and at international conferences vital decisions had been taken w ithout members of the Far Eastern Department being available for consultation. On the interdepartm ental level as well, all was not right. Although the Official Far Eastern Committee had recently been revived, there was a continuing tendency to ‘watertight departments’, and plans for the future of Burma, Malaya and H ong Kong were prepared w ithout Foreign Office participation. Sterndale Bennett believed the Foreign Office required a more com­ prehensive machinery to deal with questions such as the future of China, the Japanese settlement and the satisfaction of Russian claims, as well as the more immediate problems of relief, rehabilitation, economic recovery and population movements. He suggested a Minister of State or a Parliamentary Under­ secretary be appointed to ensure the coordination of Far Eastern foreign and colonial policies; alternatively there could be a small m inisterial committee superimposed on the Far Eastern Com48 mittee. The mem orandum made a considerable impression in W hitehall. T hough Sterndale Bennett failed to secure the appointm ent of a London-based Minister of State responsible for East and South-East Asia, his initiative immediately resulted in the establishment of a Civilian Planning U nit for Japan,49 and it

Wartime planning and diplomacy


paved the way for a special ministerial committee on the Far East a few m onths later. In addition, the Foreign Office’s Far Eastern Department was provided with additional staff and divided into three sections, one dealing with Japan and the Pacific, one with China and one with South-East Asia (including Thailand, Indochina, Indonesia and Nepal). In the following years, a separate Foreign Office department was created for South-East Asia. Once the new Labour government had taken over, Sterndale Bennett’s paper immediately caught the attention of the new Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who assumed office on 27 July 1945. Bevin showed m uch greater interest in Far Eastern affairs than his predecessor, and he was highly concerned about the lack of interdepartm ental coordination in the area. Despite the recent changes in W hitehall, Bevin complained in November that the newly appointed committees were only concerned with individual Far Eastern questions. He therefore proposed a con­ ference of British officials and ministers to discuss overall Far Eastern policies and organisation.50 T hough Bevin’s planned conference never materialised due to the logistical difficulties of bringing back British representatives from abroad, and because of his own overburdened timetable,51 he had nevertheless alerted ministers and officials to the urgency of East and South-East Asian problems. In addition to Sterndale Bennett, another Far Eastern expert, Esler Dening, was pushing for change both at the Foreign Office and in the way that Britain was conducting her affairs in SouthEast Asia. As Dening was to become the chief architect of B ritain’s regional policies in South-East Asia, his position in 1945 and his initial ideas have to be explained in greater detail. T hough appointed by the Foreign Office, Dening had since 1943 served as political adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia, Lord Louis M ountbatten (SACSEA). His offi­ cial job was to advise M ountbatten on matters relating to foreign territories including Japan, T hailand and Indochina, as well as on political warfare. After eighteen m onths in office, Dening had gained considerable political influence at the headquarters of South-East Asia Command (SEAC), in Kandy, Ceylon.52 His position was strengthened by the fact that he had independent cipher comm unications with the Foreign Office, which in turn relied on him to make its and the Colonial Office’s voices heard


Britain and Regional Cooperation

at SEAC. Despite this, Dening and M ountbatten were not always on best terms, and the latter sometimes ignored his chief political adviser’s views. In June 1945, Dening visited London for consultations with the Foreign Office. Dening found it increasingly difficult to work for both M ountbatten and the Foreign Office. He argued that the Supreme Allied Commander was overburdened with the increas­ ing speed of m ilitary developments, and SEAC, theoretically responsible to both the British and the American governments, should not be p ut in the situation of having to take sides when the two governments’ policies differed, i.e. regarding the colonial territories. In an interdepartm ental memorandum, Dening there­ fore proposed to strengthen the position of the civilian depart­ ments at SEAC, and to curb some of M ountbatten’s political powers. He suggested two alternative courses of action. The first option was to increase the staff and the powers of the political adviser at SEAC, to make him directly responsible to London, and to ask him to advise M ountbatten not only on foreign affairs but also on political, economic and financial matters, regardless of the departm ent involved. The second option was to appoint a Minister of State for South-East Asia, on the precedent of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, who would report to the cabinet and who would coordinate the views and needs of the British territories concerned, and relate them to developments in foreign territories. Dening personally favoured the second option, not least to avoid some of the mistakes of the prewar years. He argued that before the war: British territories east of Suez tended to be governed largely on parochial lines . . . unfam iliar with each other’s problems, and still less with the problems of non-British territories in the Far East. . . . T hat such a state of affairs was both strategically and politically undesirable was proved by subsequent events when Japan delivered her attack. To-day there is a danger that, with the preoccupations of reconstruction and rehabilitation . . . we shall drift once more into the same position as before the outbreak of hostilities.’53 The Foreign Office approved of Dening’s recommendations. When Dening returned to SEAC, Sterndale Bennett was con­ fident that he could gain the approval of other W hitehall departments for either of Dening’s suggestions before subm itting

Wartime planning and diplomacy


the matter to the cabinet.54 Copies of his m emorandum were sent to the Colonial, India, Burma and Dominions offices and to the services departments. In an accompanying letter, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, Sir Orme Sargent, further explained that ‘it would be most desirable to have in SEAC some political authority of high standing to undertake local centralisation and coordination of matters affecting more than one Departm ent’, while relieving the Supreme Commander of a great deal of non-military work. Sargent therefore favoured the appointm ent of a Minister of State, possibly after the recapture of Singapore.55 W hitehall’s response to the Foreign Office initiative was mixed. The India, Burma and Dominions offices and the Air Ministry gave their consent to either of Dening’s alternative proposals, the Dominions Office m entioning that the dominions m ight themselves find it convenient to appoint political repre­ sentatives to such a coordinating authority.56 Only the War Office fully opposed Dening’s plans, arguing that after a Japa­ nese surrender the tendency would be to bring the British territories w ithin SEAC back under the direct control of the appropriate departments in W hitehall.57 The Colonial Office was in two minds about Dening’s proposals. Before his return to South-East Asia, Dening explained his ideas to colonial officials in London, arguing that M ountbatten tended to send telegrams to the Chiefs of Staff which were prim arily political and had only the ‘flimsiest strategic significance’. A Minister Resident would relieve the Supreme Allied Commander of the burden of political decisions, though he admitted that M ountbatten’s objections to the scheme could be expected.58 Initially, the Colonial Office was tempted by D ening’s suggestions as they promised to give the department an early foothold in South-East Asia.59 However, the head of the Colonial Office’s Eastern Department, Edward Gent, opposed a ministerial appointm ent. The Colonial Office itself had in m ind ‘the appointm ent of a ‘Governor-General’ with direct powers over the British authorities in Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak’, an appointm ent which had been provisionally approved by the war cabinet in 1944. Gent there­ fore believed that all that was required was the appointm ent of a political adviser in SEAC who was of greater political weight than Dening, and who was directly responsible to London.60 G ent’s objections were shared by the Permanent Under-Secre­


Britain and Regional Cooperation

tary of State at the Colonial Office, Sir George Gater, and the new Labour Colonial Secretary, George Hall, who was seeking final cabinet approval for the Colonial Office’s plans for the develop­ ment of Malaya. This included the appointm ent of a GovernorGeneral with direct powers over British authorities in Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak.61 As Gater replied to the Foreign Office, his department only agreed with the more moderate option of m aking the political adviser at SEAC respon­ sible to London. Once civil government was re-established there m ight be an appropriate place for the Foreign Office’s political adviser to be attached to the staff of the Colonial Office’s Governor- General.62 G ater’s reply made it clear that the proposed appointm ent of a Minister Resident conflicted with his departm ent’s own plans for South-East Asia. The Colonial Office was eager to regain its dom inant prewar position in B ritain’s South-East Asian terri­ tories. A superior minister undoubtedly would have had the power to overrule Colonial Office decisions; this would certainly have upstaged the new Malayan Governor-General. It is obvious that after years of intensive planning, the Colonial Office didn’t want its new constitutional scheme for Malaya to be spoilt by the Foreign Office, which had entered the South-East Asian scene belatedly and ill prepared. However, by the time that Gater’s letter arrived at the Foreign Office, the situation in South-East Asia had been radically transformed: Japan had just announced her surrender to the Allies. Suddenly, the future organisation of South-East Asia was no longer in the realm of postwar planning. It had to be decided swiftly, and under the pressure of rapid and often dramatic events.

Chapter 2

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia

On 14 August 1945, after two American nuclear bombs had wiped out the Japanese cities of Hiroshim a and Nagasaki, Japan announced her surrender. The Allies had finally trium phed over the last of the Axis powers. In Britain, joyful crowds instantly took to the streets to celebrate the news, and the government declared a special two-day holiday. In South-East Asia, however, the British were soon confronted with problems that were completely unexpected and for which they were hardly prepared. As the headline of Pacific Post, the daily newspaper of the British Pacific Fleet in the Far East, predicted on 16 August 1945: ‘War is over - the job isn’t’. In the previous m onth, M ountbatten had visited Germany for the Potsdam Conference. While attending the conference, he was told of a highly im portant decision to extend the operational boundaries of his command. Since its creation in 1943, SEAC’s operational responsibility had included Burma, Malaya, Singapore and the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra. He was now informed that the American and British Chiefs of Staff had agreed to transfer the rest of Indonesia from the Americanled South-West Pacific Area Command (SWPA) to SEAC. They also added the southern half of Indochina to M ountbatten’s command, and confirmed SEAC’s responsibility for T hailand.1 T he decision im plied that after Roosevelt’s untimely death in April, W ashington decided to accept Britain’s desire to re­ establish her prewar position in South-East Asia.2 At the same time, the United States could concentrate on Japan, which was to be prim arily an American responsibility. Also in Potsdam, Churchill told M ountbatten about the existence of the nuclear bomb. He was instructed to prepare for a Japanese surrender in


Britain and Regional Cooperation 3

the middle of August. Not only would SEAC have to liberate and relieve a vastly increased command area; it would also have to do so at least six m onths earlier than planned. Initially, M ountbatten was confident that he would be able to cope with his additional geographical responsibilities.4 How­ ever, it soon emerged that SEAC was stretched beyond its limits. It was a military command geared to fighting the Japanese, not to deal with the complex logistical and political problems of postwar relief, reconstruction and adm inistration in most of South-East Asia. As M ountbatten reflected in a television interview in the 1970s: Suddenly, I found myself responsible as the Supreme Com­ mander for an enormous area of the globe, with a distance of 6,000 miles across it . . . with 128 m illion starving and rather rebellious people who had just been liberated, with 123,000 prisoners of war and internees, many of whom were dying,. . . and at the very beginning I had some 700,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors and airmen, to take the surrender, disarm, put into prison camps, awaiting transportation back. Even look­ ing at that it sounds a big problem, but I had no idea what I really was in for - what I really was in for was trying to re­ establish civilisation and rule of law and order throughout this vast part of the world. We didn’t even know what the conditions were going to be. I had no staff really trained or qualified to help me in this task, except some professional civil affairs officers from various countries whose one idea was to go back and carry on where they left off three or four years 5 ago. SEAC’s official postwar task was to disarm and enforce the surrender of the approximately 740,000 Japanese troops in South-East Asia before their eventual return to Japan, and to restore law and order in the reoccupied territories. It was also in charge of recovering approximately 125,000 Allied prisoners-ofwar and internees in the area, some of whom were held in remote jungle camps. T o fulfil his task M ountbatten had at his disposal a total of about 1.3 m illion British and Indian troops of whom only 350,000 were initially deployed. His fleet consisted of only 120 warships, and his air force included only 50 RAF squadrons6 - a small force considering the vast geographical extension of his command. At the same time, there was pressure from home to

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia


further scale down SEAC’s strength; the PYTHO N repatriation scheme, introduced at the end of 1944, had already reduced the time that British soldiers had to serve in the Far East from five years to three years and eight m onths.7 SEAC’s resources were thus fully stretched, and one wonders what would have happened if the Japanese had refused to obey Allied orders in defiance of their country’s official surrender. In the event, the Japanese showed themselves cooperative and M ountbatten decided to m aintain their chain of command. This allowed SEAC to use Japanese troops for its own purposes: even months after the surrender the British often relied on the Japanese to police the recaptured territories. Of the many problems facing the British in South-East Asia, the question of how to deal with the nationalist movements in the region was of param ount importance. During the occupa­ tion, the Japanese had fostered the fledgling nationalist move­ ments in each country in order to secure the collaboration of parts of the population. By 1945, many nationalist movements had gained enough self-confidence to put up armed resistance against the returning European powers. The first South-East Asian country where the British were confronted with the new brand of m ilitant nationalism was Burma. Even before the war, nationalist sentiment had been stronger in Burma than anywhere else in South-East Asia. After occupying the country in 1942, the Japanese had tried to exploit Burmese nationalism for their own purposes, by establishing the Burma Defence Army under the command of the Burmese leader Aung San, and by declaring the country’s ‘independence’ in 1943.8 However, following clan­ destine negotiations with British forces Aung San’s troops swapped sides ip March 1945 and engaged the Japanese in guerrilla warfare. This greatly helped the advancing British forces under General Slim to recapture Rangoon before the onset of the monsoon rains in the late spring of 1945. Aung San’s involvement in the recapture of Rangoon con­ stituted a political dilemma for the British. On the one hand, they were committed, under the Burma White Paper, to re­ establish direct British rule for a transitional period. On the other hand, demands for self-government and independence by the nationalist movement behind Aung San, organised in the AntiFascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), could not be ignored. M ountbatten sensed that open conflict with the Burmese natio­


Britain and Regional Cooperation

nalists would make Burma untenable. In May, he recognised the Burma National Army, renamed the Burmese Patriotic Forces, as a British ally. In September an agreement was signed with the league providing for the creation of a Burmese army out of the Burmese Patriotic Forces.9 However, while M ountbatten temporarily succeeded in appeasing Burmese nationalism (before the return to civil government in October brought matters to a head), armed conflicts soon broke out in other parts of South-East Asia. Things weren’t helped by the fact that SEAC’s troops had been prevented from landing in Indonesia and Indochina before the beginning of September; General MacArthur, the designated American Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the Far East, had ruled that no Japanese-held territory should be reoccupied by any of the Allied troops before the official surrender documents had been signed in Tokyo on 2 September.10 As a result, a power vacuum existed in the Japanese-held territories that was playing into the hands of both Indonesian and Vietnamese nationalists. In Indonesia, as in Burma, the Japanese had since 1942 fostered nationalist movements to increase local cooperation. On 17 August 1945, the Indonesian nationalist leader, Sukarno, used the opportunity of the Japanese surrender to proclaim an inde­ pendent Indonesian republic. In the following weeks, Indo­ nesian nationalists, many of whom had previously received param ilitary training from the Japanese, seized arms from the now passive Japanese troops and gained control of large parts of the islands of Java and Sumatra. When British troops eventually reached Batavia in the west of Java they were too weak to force the Indonesian Republic into surrender. In November 1945, a fierce battle ensued for the control of Surabaya in the east of the island. T hough the British eventually gained the upper hand, they had also experienced at first hand the fanaticism and determination of the Indonesian nationalists. The episode finally convinced M ountbatten that a British military campaign to restore Dutch rule was out of the question.11 In view of SEAC’s experiences in Burma and Indonesia, it slowly dawned on the British that they had completely under­ estimated the significance of the war for the growth of South-East Asian nationalism. In Indonesia, the British soon used their position in the country to urge the Dutch that they should enter

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 31

into negotiations with the Indonesian nationalists. As Dening wrote to Sterndale Bennett at the beginning of October: These independence movements in Asia must be treated with sympathy and understanding. Otherwise they will become really serious. As I have indicated, they are half-baked and treated the proper way they should not be very terrifying. But treated the wrong way, they may well, in the end, spell the end of Europe in Asia. . . . Let us therefore stand no nonsense from the French or the Dutch.12 Despite this, Britain’s flexible postwar policies in Burma and Indonesia were in marked contrast to those pursued by SEAC in Indochina. Here, too, nationalist forces had seized the oppor­ tunity given to them by the delayed arrival of the Allied troops. D uring the war, the communist-dominated Viet M inh movement had kept a low profile, while the French colonial administrators were grudgingly cooperating with the vastly superior Japanese forces occupying the country. In March 1945, the Japanese finally took over complete control of Indochina and interned all the rem aining French troops and civilians. After the Japanese surrender five m onths later, the French were thus unable to regain the political initiative in the country. Instead, the Viet M inh’s m oment for action had come. As in Indonesia, the nationalists obtained large quantities of arms from the Japanese troops, who were w aiting passively for the arrival of Allied forces. On 2 September, the Viet M inh leader, Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) during a large open-air rally in H anoi in the north of Vietnam. The DRV’s m ain power-base was to be in the northern province of T onkin where it was tolerated by the Chinese occupational armies until the return of the French in the spring of 1946. According to M ountbatten’s new directive, SEAC was in charge of liberating the southern half of Indochina, where the Viet M inh had effectively taken over control of the local adm i­ nistrations in and around Saigon. However, the commander of the British occupational forces in the country, Major General Douglas D. Gracey, decided not to make any concessions to the Vietnamese nationalists. Soon after his arrival in the country on 13 September 1945, Gracey declared a state of siege around Saigon and released and armed the few thousand French troops held in Japanese prison camps. On his own initiative, Gracey


Britain and Regional Cooperation

then organised a coup d’etat against the Vietnamese. On 23 September, his British, Indian and crack Gurkha troops arrested the surprised Viet M inh authorities in Saigon’s public buildings, and firmly reinstated the French administrators. In the following weeks and months, SEAC units became involved in active fighting with Viet M inh forces for the control of Saigon and its surrounding areas, an episode which one historian has called ‘The First Vietnam W ar’.13 New French troops under the com­ m and of General Philippe Leclerc arrived in October, and by February 1946 the French and British completed the reoccupa­ tion of Saigon and of large parts of Cochin-China in the south of Vietnam. British forces gradually withdrew and in March General Gracey officially transferred his rem aining authority to the French. Nationalism wasn’t the only unexpected problem confronting the British in South-East Asia. SEAC was also faced with serious economic problems throughout the region. It soon became apparent that South-East Asia’s agricultural economy lay in ruins as a result of the Japanese occupation. Traditional riceproducing countries like Burma, Indochina and to a lesser degree T hailand had all suffered from serious neglect and mismanage­ ment under the Japanese, and there existed hardly any stocks of rice or other foodstuffs in the area. No new crops had been planted, and the indigenous transport systems were disintegrat­ ing. The Japanese supply system - never very efficient - broke down completely at the time of the surrender, and there was a shortage of clothing, consumer goods, coal, machinery and fertilisers.14 As a result, South-East Asia was soon threatened by famine (see Chapter 3). The British had only very limited means to deal with the economic crisis in the region. SEAC’s own food stocks were completely insufficient to meet the area’s food demands, and since the shortage of rice was not confined to South-East Asia, the Combined Food Board in W ashington, responsible for world­ wide food allocations during and immediately after the war, was in no position to provide large-scale imports either.15 Another problem was SEAC’s lack of transport facilities. M ountbatten had a fleet of only 130 cargo ships, too little to keep up the flow of supplies to and w ithin his enlarged theatre. Things were made worse by the fact that the turn-around of ships was usually delayed by the lack of port equipm ent and the shortage of labour.

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 33

SEAC’s inadequate shipping resources were further strained by the need to transport Indian coal supplies to South-East Asia; the latter’s coal production was seriously reduced as a result of the war. All this had the effect that the few surplus stocks of rice, which existed for example in Thailand, were extremely difficult to transport to deficit areas.16 Last but not least, SEAC had hardly any qualified staff to deal with the civil administration, let alone the economic rehabilitation, of the re-occupied territories. However, as difficult as the political and economic situation m ight have been in South-East Asia, it also provided Britain with a unique political opportunity in the region. SEAC, which was completely controlled by the British, was temporarily responsible for the adm inistration of almost the whole of South-East Asia. If the British played their cards right, SEAC m ight be turned to long-term advantage, providing the basis for lasting British hegemony in the region. No one grasped this more clearly than M ountbatten’s political adviser, Esler Dening, who soon pro­ posed setting up a British-led civilian successor organisation to SEAC that would be responsible for the relief and economic development of the whole of South-East Asia. As Dening told London after first hearing of the Japanese surrender, everything depended on how Britain coped at this critical moment in history: By the creation of the South-East Asia Command, which is predom inantly British, we assumed responsibility for the areas contained w ithin its boundaries. T hat is all to the good provided we discharge that responsibility. If we do, then we stand a fair chance of restoring British prestige in a part of the world where it had sunk to a very low ebb. If we do not, then I should expect that, as the years roll on, the peoples of the Far East will tend to look less and less to Britain and more and more to any Power which is in a position to afford them strategic, political and economic security.17 T o cope with the enormous economic problems in the region Dening soon suggested setting up a ‘coordinating agency’ in South-East Asia which would deal with economic questions such as rice distribution, inflation or price fixing. Dening argued in a telegram dated 23 August that w ithout such an agency: There will be no overall economy which I believe to be


Britain and Regional Cooperation

necessary to future prosperity of South-East Asia, and we shall find ourselves drifting back to bad days when a number of political entities existed in this region with no consciousness of, or interest in, the problems of their neighbours, and no coordination of their economy or security.18 In September, Dening further wrote to Sterndale Bennett: I am all for the setting up of local civil administrations as soon as possible. At the same time I have not altered my view that it would be a pity to split up once more into isolated parishes, and some organisation should, I think, be preserved which will preserve the unity of purpose engendered by the war. Regional economy and regional security are, at any rate, essentials, and the more we can break down political barriers at this stage the better.19 T aking into account Dening’s earlier proposals, his ideas amounted to a scheme that provided for the establishment of a regional successor organisation to SEAC that would be linked to or led by the proposed British Minister Resident. Senior officers at SEAC were apparently thinking along similar lines to Dening. According to the War Office, there was enthusiastic support am ong top SEAC officials for a scheme which would make the m aximum political use of the command under the lead of 20 M ountbatten. At the Foreign Office, Sterndale Bennett con­ cluded that ‘if the scheme were properly handled SEAC m ight become the nucleus for a consultative regional commission in South-East Asia which has long been one of our tentative objectives’. However, due regard would have to be be paid to the susceptibilities of foreign countries, as it m ight appear that Britain was trying to fasten her control over French and Dutch territories; so far as T hailand was concerned it would also ‘revive American suspicions of our wish to reduce that country to a kind of subject State’. In the early stages the scheme would therefore have to apply to British territories, Indonesia, Indochina and T hailand only.21 Sterndale Bennett’s comments highlighted one key aspect of Dening’s and other officers’ proposals. The creation of a civilian successor organisation to SEAC, linked to a British Minister Resident, im plied the continuation in the postwar years of Britain’s factual hegemony in South-East Asia under SEAC.

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 35

Although the proposed organisation was to secure the economic revival and development of South-East Asia, there is no doubt that Dening also saw it as a potential tool for British great power interests in Asia. It was this aspect of Dening’s proposal which would have made the concurrence of France and the Netherlands in such a British-dominated regional scheme questionable, despite the two countries’ weakness in 1945 and their reliance on British support in South-East Asia. Despite these potential pitfalls, the Foreign Office supported the idea of prom oting regional cooperation in South-East Asia on the basis of SEAC. However, before launching an interna­ tional initiative in this direction, the department had to try and convince the rest of W hitehall to back Dening’s proposal. His telegram of 23 August was therefore passed on to the Official Far Eastern Committee and to the other departments involved, thus reviving the issue of regional cooperation which had been dorm ant since the failure of the Colonial Office’s worldwide plans earlier in the year. As Sterndale Bennett pointed out to Ernest Bevin on 9 October, three issues were now under consider­ ation. First, there was the question of whether a Minister of State or merely a high and independent government official should be appointed in South-East Asia, as SEAC was unprepared for dealing with the political and economic problems arising in the area. The second point was the serious supply problems in SEAC and the need for some better coordinating machinery. Third, there was the tendency of the various territories to ‘drop back into more or less water-tight com partm ents’. However: The existence of South-East Asia Command does provide an opportunity for working on a regional basis and perhaps for laying the foundation of some kind of regional organisation when the immediate m ilitary tasks of South-East Asia Com­ m and are over.22 On 18 October, cabinet ministers discussed the various plans for the future organisation of South-East Asia. It was argued that although SEAC urgently needed a stronger political machinery, there were signs that M ountbatten did not favour the appoint­ ment of a Minister Resident and that such an appointm ent would be embarrassing to the Indian Viceroy and to the Gov­ ernor of Burma. In view of these objections, the meeting decided


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instead on the appointm ent of an official of ambassadorial status, responsible to the Foreign Office, who would deal with political questions in the non-British territories and who could achieve further coordination in consultation with the Indian Viceroy and the Governor of Burma. Concerning the supply situation in South-East Asia and the region’s future economic organisation, it was generally accepted that coordinating m achi­ nery for economic and supply matters was needed. However, it was left to the various departments to discuss whether this machinery would be under the supervision of the proposed high official.23 Although the minutes of the meeting do not mention any objections by the Colonial Office, there is little doubt that the departm ent’s plans for a Malayan Governor-General helped to tip the balance against the appointm ent of a Minister Resident. Although the Foreign Office had initially supported a new m inisterial appointm ent in South-East Asia, it was pleased that the planned appointm ent of a senior diplom at would increase the departm ent’s influence w ithin the region. It also offered the Foreign Office the opportunity to assume some regional econ­ omic responsibilities - so long as the new post would be linked to the new economic machinery also envisaged by the ministerial meeting. If it played its cards right, the new Foreign Office post m ight even become the basis for an international regional commission. However, it soon became clear that W hitehall was divided over the question of regional cooperation. During a first interdepartm ental meeting on the issue, Sterndale Bennett invited other departments to comment on the desirability, from the economic point of view, ‘of setting up some machinery for cooperation as between the territories at present included in SEAC’. This subsequently inspired the meeting’s chairman from the Ministry of Production, McGregor, to circulate a paper proposing an ‘international advisory supply council’ for SouthEast Asia, composed of high-ranking officials, and with a secretariat in charge of the daily work. The council would deal w ith issues such as colonial economic policies, short-term rehabilitation and price control of the region’s commodities such as rubber, tin and rice.24 The Colonial Office was surprised by McGregor’s paper, arguing that the meeting on 22 October had reached no agree­ m ent on any aspect of long-term economic cooperation: there was no reason why SEAC should be taken as a nucleus for a

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 37

regional economic council, as the comm and’s boundaries were determined by reasons other than economic. Furthermore: While fully appreciating the advantages of regional economic cooperation . . . it is not the most propitious moment for proposing a regional body providing for coordination and cooperation in respect of economic matters on a regional basis. If the proposals are p ut forward now, they m ight be met with some suspicion on the ground that we are trying to take advantage of our m ilitary position in the Far East. . . . We would suggest that the question should be deferred for, say, a year, and reviewed at the end of that time in the light of the then conditions.25 The Colonial Office had thus expressed its opposition to any plans for regional economic cooperation in the near future. Its officials further argued that the resources of Britain’s South-East Asian colonies were too scarce to be shared with their non-British neighbours. Regional cooperation would also be complicated by Britain’s problems with Indonesia and Thailand, and there was a chance that other countries would be highly suspicious of British intentions behind a regional scheme. If a regional organisation was eventually created, it would have to be on the lines of the Caribbean Commission, which had only token economic and 26 political powers. However, the Ministry of Production w ouldn’t give up easily, circulating a revised paper that had the support of the Board of Trade and that again stressed the need for economic collaboration.27 The Foreign Office too continued to lobby for some form of regional cooperation in South-East Asia, hoping that it would be linked to its new appointm ent. As Sterndale Bennett wrote in a departmental minute, the question was now whether the planned Foreign Office post would be given responsibilities for the coordination not only of foreign affairs but also of general political, economic and financial questions in the area. The problem was that the Colonial and Burma offices would oppose anything which looked like im pinging on the prerogatives of the governors of the various British territories.28 A high-ranking interdepartm ental meeting on 19 November reconsidered the whole issue. It decided that the title of the new Foreign Office appointm ent would be Special Commissioner and that his headquarters would be in Singapore. He would not


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concern himself with the internal problems of the British territories in South-East Asia; nor would there be any derogation from M ountbatten’s authority. It was also agreed that for the time being the Governor of Malaya and, when appointed, the Governor-General of Malaya would be the King’s principal representative in Singapore. The duration of the appointm ent was left for further consideration.29 However, no agreement could be reached on the Special Commissioner’s economic respon­ sibilities. Sterndale Bennett had written a draft directive which stated that the new appointm ent would encourage political and economic coordination and that it would preside over a regional economic advisory council in Singapore. The directive was criticised by the heads of the Colonial Office, Sir George Gater, and of the Treasury, Sir Edward Bridges. The latter apparently wanted to avoid additional financial commitments in connection with the new post. So far as economic coordination and co­ operation in general were concerned, representatives from the ministries of Supply and of Food further argued that ‘raw materials from South-East Asia were wanted by the rest of the world and only to a small extent by the territories themselves’; trade would be with the outside world and the scope for interchange was not great. As a result of these objections, consideration of the Special Commissioner’s economic functions was postponed to a later date.30 Despite this set-back to the Foreign Office’s South-East Asian plans, further reports on SEAC’s inadequate economic organisa­ tion strengthened the departm ent’s hand. In the middle of December, Dening repeated his demand for a civil successor to SEAC. There were many matters that a military command should not be dealing with, such as the allocation of Indian textiles to South-East Asian territories. This was more for a civilian organisation which would be equipped with a staff trained in international affairs and in economic and financial matters, as well as in civil government. As most territories in South-East Asia had been liberated w ithout having to undergo the horrors of battle, the populations were expecting an earlier return to normalcy. The result was growing unrest and dis­ content. The proposed civil organisation would alleviate the position more quickly than the military ever could, removing the suspicion of neglect, coordinating the area’s requirements so as to ensure equitable distribution, and dealing with political

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 39

developments of more than a local significance. As in his earlier representations, Dening also saw use for such an organisation beyond the immediate postwar period: Burma, Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and the Netherlands Indies were all completely parochial in their outlook before the war and we had no organisation which was capable of surveying the scene as a whole and of m aking appropriate recommenda­ tions to HMG, while in W hitehall reports from these areas were canalised with the Foreign Office, as the case m ight be, so that again there was no comprehensive picture. I think we should avoid doing that in the future. In London I understand that the necessary machinery has been set up. O ut here I do not consider that a m ilitary command can fill the bill. Dening added that links should be made between such a ‘clearing house’ and Australia, New Zealand, China and India.31 Inspired by Dening, the Foreign Office took the opportunity of an interdepartm ental meeting on 18 December to press for a link between regional cooperation and its new appointm ent. As the attending Colonial Office official was insufficiently briefed and unfam iliar with the Special Commissioner’s appointm ent,32 the Foreign Office managed to steamroller any opposition. Accord­ ing to the official minutes, the meeting agreed that regional cooperation could be useful in matters concerning supply, distribution and pest control and that the Special Commissioner should be invited to make recommendations on whether the existing machinery in South-East Asia was sufficient to deal with economic questions. He should also recommend what arrange­ ments should be made for the period immediately after control had been handed over to the civil governments, and whether the foundations could be laid for a long-term organisation for regional cooperation.33 T he head of the Colonial Office, Gater, was furious when he heard of the m eeting’s outcome, and he asked Kenneth Robinson, the Colonial Office’s leading expert on regional commissions, to comment. Robinson, who had not been consulted before, warned of the ‘dangers involved in Regional Commissions’. While the Colonial Office was in general agreement that South-East Asia was an area suitable for regional commissions, the present situation underlined in the most acute form all the problems which were considered in Stanley’s paper on ‘International


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Aspects of Colonial Policy’. Regionalism would be used by the Americans and the two Pacific dominions to undermine the position of the colonial powers, assisted by China, and probably by India and Russia. Because of this, the French were already highly suspicious of all these regional proposals. While regional cooperation was of vital importance in raising the standard of living throughout the area, it should not be considered w ithout realising the wider political issues involved, particularly the ‘Colonial Q uestion’.34 R obinson’s reservations against any regional schemes in South-East Asia were the same as those voiced by the Colonial Office after the Yalta Conference in February 1945: regional cooperation bore in it the danger of international interference in colonial territories. This danger was particularly acute during the current political troubles in the South-East Asian territories. In a letter to the War Office, Gater therefore expressed serious doubts about including any reference to international regional cooperation in the Special Commissioner’s directive. This issue involved many problems of a political character, in particular the question of the relationship between such regional machinery and the United Nations Organisation.35 W hile W hitehall was considering Robinson’s objections to regional cooperation, the men on the spot had eventually got wind of the Colonial Office’s plans for Malaya.36 As Dening telexed to London on 5 January 1946, M ountbatten, Dening, MacMichael and Hone had concluded that instead of a Malayan Governor-General there was need for an overall civilian orga­ nisation to coordinate British domestic and foreign policy in the region. It would also act as a clearing house for the resolution of regional problems which were at the same time of concern to individual British territories. The functions of the head of such an organisation would be those of an umpire, coordinator and perhaps adjudicator rather than of an executive officer. His authority would furthermore derive from the cabinet, and he m ight one day m aintain links with any United Nations offices in the region.37 Dening added in a second telegram that the appoint­ ment of two high officials would be wrong, and that a GovernorGeneral’s m ind would ‘naturally be influenced towards colonial problems only as opposed to problems of the whole area of South-East Asia’.38 However, D ening’s comments arrived too late to make any

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 41

difference, as the cabinet had long decided against the appoint­ m ent of a Minister Resident in South-East Asia. Even the Foreign Office had come round to the view that it would be more practicable, if less ambitious, to make the Special Commissioner responsible to the Foreign Secretary, and to keep him out of inter-Malayan affairs.39 Nevertheless, Dening’s telegrams encour­ aged the Foreign Office not to relent on the Special Commiss­ ioner’s economic directive. T hough there was a risk of delaying the new appointm ent, officials at the Foreign Office argued that the departm ent should not for the sake of speed agree to the restrictions on the Special Commissioner’s terms of reference suggested by the Colonial Office.40 The m atter was subsequently referred to the Permanent Under­ secretary at the Foreign Office, Alexander Cadogan, who told Gater in a letter of 10 January that some civil organisation was needed to meet the overall requirements of South-East Asia. The value of regional cooperation had been accepted by the Colonial Office in other parts of the world and some form of regional organisation would help to increase the wealth and welfare of the region and of its inhabitants. The Foreign Office had a particular interest in regional developments since South-East Asia com­ prised, apart from T hailand, ‘colonial territories with the mother-countries of which it is our general policy to develop the closest comm unity of interests’. Cadogan therefore saw a good case for having the problem investigated by the Special Commis­ sioner who would merely make recommendations.41 However, Gater was not convinced that any reference to regional cooperation should be made. He had ‘very clear indica­ tions of the sensitivity and suspicion with which the French view any form of regional cooperation involving their Colonies especially if any outside powers such as the United States or, in this case, China are to participate’. There were good prospects for appropriate ad hoc collaboration with the French and with other colonial powers, but the inclusion of non-colonial powers as contemplated by Stanley in 1943 was fraught with great difficulty. Furthermore, relations with the Dutch in the Neth­ erlands East Indies were uneasy, and the situation in Indonesia, and to a lesser extent Indochina, was being used by ‘anti­ im perialist’ elements in the United States and elsewhere to support the case for international intervention in the area.42 However, the Foreign Office was far from satisfied with Gater’s


Britain and Regional Cooperation

reply, Sterndale Bennett com plaining that the Colonial Office had been ‘very obstructive’ about the Special Commissioner’s terms of reference: ‘Their fears about regional commissions may have some substance, but this letter gives no real argum ent why the Special Commissioner should not be asked to consider the question of regional cooperation in economic matters and to make recommendations about it.’43 The Foreign Office was in fact becoming increasingly concerned that agreement of the terms of its new appointm ent m ight be delayed. A departmental memo stressed that SEAC, which had provided a previously non­ existing link between the South-East Asian territories, was now ‘dw indling’.44 Moreover, Dening’s relations with M ountbatten were at an all-time low after a row over SEAC’s Far Eastern publicity division and it was clear that he would soon have to be transferred.45 Unless the Special Commissioner were soon appointed, D ening’s departure would leave the Foreign Office unrepresented at a time when SEAC was handing over to civil governments in the various territories.46 Furthermore, someone was urgently needed to report on regional economic develop­ ments affecting both foreign and British territories in the area. By the end of January 1946, W hitehall was thus divided into three different camps so far as the issue of regional cooperation was concerned. The first group was the traditionalists, for example at the Ministry of Supply, who saw no need for any kind of regional cooperation in South-East Asia. They believed that the prewar pattern of trade between a colony and the m etropolitan power should be resumed, and that inter-regional trade should be discouraged. By implication, the economic development and welfare of the colonies were of secondary importance. However, this group was in the minority. The second group, namely the Colonial Office, agreed in principle that economic collaboration was im portant for SouthEast Asian prosperity and social welfare. However, colonial planners feared at the same time that the establishment of a regional commission would lead to outside interference in the South-East Asian colonies, for example by the United States. Furthermore, they expected that any regional proposals tabled by Britain would be regarded with suspicion by France and the Netherlands. So far as colonial officials in charge of Malayan affairs were concerned, they were also disinclined to spare the colony’s limited resources for the economic reconstruction of

The dilemma of peace in South-East Asia 43

neighbouring foreign territories while there was still a shortage of food and basic consumer goods. Of equal importance was the Colonial Office’s objection to a link between regional coope­ ration and the Foreign Office’s new appointm ent. From the outset, Colonial Office officials had regarded the Foreign Office’s plans with suspicion, fearing that a Special Commissioner with economic responsibilities would trespass on the grounds of the Governor-General. The third group consisted of the promoters of regional coope­ ration. Officials at the Ministry of Production were enthusiastic about greater inter-regional trade and the control of commodity prices by an international organisation. The Foreign Office, too, believed in the short- and long-term economic benefits for SouthEast Asia’s war-shattered economy. However, the department was prim arily interested in the political opportunities that a regional scheme m ight offer - helping to promote British influence throughout the region. After the Colonial Office objected to the establishment of a regional organisation based on SEAC, the Foreign Office’s m inim al aim was to keep the regional option open by officially instructing the Special Commissioner to make recommendations on regional cooperation. W ithin the third group, certain differences existed between officials in South-East Asia and those in London. For example, Dening did not intend to involve the Americans in any regional arrangement, whereas Foreign Office officials in London were prepared to include the United States as well. Furthermore Dening, who was not fully aware of the developments in W hitehall, was adam ant that the proposed organisation should be linked to, or even headed by, a British official or minister responsible to the cabinet. The Foreign Office, on the other hand, accepted the m inisterial decision that the new appoint­ m ent would be responsible to the Foreign Secretary. Dening also kept pressing for the immediate establishment of a civil organisa­ tion in order to relieve SEAC of its non-military responsibilities. T he Foreign Office, by contrast, came to realise by the end of January that regional cooperation would have to be a long-term policy. The prim ary aim was to ensure that Britain would rem ain the dom inant power in South-East Asia for years to come.

Chapter 3

‘Famine averted’: the Special Commission in Singapore

Since the Japanese surrender, the Attlee government had con­ sidered the problems of South-East Asia to have been of second­ ary importance compared to the problems in Europe, the Middle East and India. However, at the end of January 1946 the region went right to the top of the cabinet’s agenda. During talks in W ashington, the British Minister of Food had learnt that the world production of grains had been overestimated and that a shortage of 5 m illion tons of wheat could be expected during the next year. Apart from expected shortfalls in Germany, both South-East Asia and India would be seriously affected because of crop losses and procurement failures on the subcontinent.1On 31 January, cabinet ministers were further told that South-East Asia was now facing famine because of a worldwide shortage of rice, the m ain diet of the region. The estimated supply of 3.1 m illion tons of rice was 0.7 m illion tons below the expected annual world demand of 3.8 m illion tons (excluding Ja p an ’s requirements of 1 m illion tons).2 Due to the shortage of wheat, rice could not be replaced by other crops. The gravity of the situation was brought to the w orld’s attention when on 11 February the United Nations General Assembly urged all governments to take immediate and drastic action against the worldwide shortage of food.3 Four days earlier, Britain had already announced the introduction of bread rationing and the cessation of her rice imports. The rice shortage was a direct result of the Japanese occupa­ tion of South-East Asia. During the war the Japanese had forced the territories under their control to aim for economic selfsufficiency, with the result that the production of rice-exporting countries, such as Indochina, Burma and Thailand, had been scaled down while rice-importing countries like Indonesia and

‘Famine averted’ 45

Malaya were facing starvation. Indochina’s rice-exports were affected the most and had fallen from 1.3 m illion tons before the war to a mere 0.1 m illion tons after the war. The country’s rice production further declined because of the fighting between the French and the Viet M inh in the rice-producing south of the country. At the end of 1945, the Chinese-controlled north of Indochina was hit by famine. The only country that was still producing rice on the prewar level was Thailand, as she had been spared the destruction of war due to her collaboration with the Japanese. On 1 January Britain had signed a peace treaty with Thailand in which the latter promised the free delivery of 1.5 million tons of rice as part of her war reparations. However, hardly any rice had been forthcoming as Thailand’s rice trade was controlled by Chinese merchants who were busy selling the commodity on the black market.4As a first measure to deal with the food crisis, the cabinet grudgingly decided to modify claims for free rice from Thailand, hoping that a postponement of British repa­ ration demands would increase Thai rice supplies. It was also decided to set up a ministerial committee for world food supplies to monitor the situation at the highest level.5 The announcem ent of an im m inent rice crisis helped to speed up the appointm ent of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia. After the cabinet meeting on 31 January, Bevin suggested to Attlee that the new Special Commissioner should be charged with coordinating South-East Asian food supplies. His choice for the new post was Lord Killearn, the British ambassador in Egypt. Attlee agreed, and on 3 February Bevin sent a telegram to Killearn, offering him a two-year appointm ent as Special Com­ missioner in South-East Asia, stressing the gravity of the food situation and the need for someone who could ‘coordinate the efforts of Governors and other agents in the area’.6 Killearn was completely surprised by Bevin’s offer, but after two days of hesitation decided to accept.7 He was in his mid-sixties and realised that it was either Singapore or retirement. After Bevin told the cabinet about the new appointm ent on 11 February an official committee on South-East Asian food supplies was appointed in London under the chairm anship of Lord Nathan, a junior minister. Its aim was to increase food and rice supplies in South-East Asia, and to coordinate the actions of the Special Commissioner and of the ministries concerned with South-East 8 Asian food problems and related economic questions. •


Britain and Regional Cooperation

The Special Commissioner’s terms of reference were approved by the middle of March. He was responsible to the Foreign Secretary, and would advise the government on foreign affairs in the area of Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya, Borneo and Indonesia. He would give guidance to SACSEA on foreign affairs and would m aintain contacts with the British governors in the area, with the British minister in Thailand, and with the representatives of the dominions in Singapore. He would furthermore direct the activities of the Foreign Service officers in the area, except for Thailand, and would contact foreign administrations after the restoration of civil adm inist­ ration.9 A compromise was found on his economic responsibili­ ties. Apart from being invited to make recommendations on whether the existing machinery in South-East Asia was suf­ ficient to deal with the economic problems in the region, he was asked to advise the government on the issue of regional col­ laboration. It was, however, left to London whether or not it would accept his recommendations.10 In addition, the Special Commissioner was instructed to ensure that all possible steps were taken to alleviate the food crisis in South-East Asia: he would m aintain close contact with the Indian government and the dom inions, and would invite the French and Dutch authori­ ties in the region to cooperate in matters relating to food whenever it appeared desirable to do so. He would also try to secure agreement with any other foreign authorities on the adoption of measures designed to alleviate the food crisis.11 The Foreign Office had thus succeeded in providing its new Singapore office with considerable economic responsibilities for South-East Asia, and in keeping the issue of regional coope­ ration alive. However, the department was forced to com­ promise in its choice of candidates. Originally, it had been looking for someone from outside the department, in order to make the new appointm ent more acceptable to the rest of W hitehall. Potential candidates included Sir Harold MacMichael, an experienced colonial official, who was preoccupied with renegotiating the Malayan treaties prior to the Malayan Union, and Malcolm MacDonald, the former Colonial Sec­ retary and son of the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. Malcolm MacDonald currently served as British H igh Commissioner in Canada but was already designated to become Governor-General of Malaya.12

‘Famine averted’ 47

At the last moment, Lord Killearn was chosen from inside the Foreign Office. He had considerable experience of the Far East and had served as British Minister to China between 1926 and 1933 when he had renegotiated the ‘unequal treaties’ with China.13 Since 1934, first as H igh Commissioner and then as ambassador in Cairo, Killearn had been one of the true powers behind the Egyptian throne - indeed ‘one of the last great Proconsuls’ as W illiam Roger Louis has described him .14 During the war, he had gained experience of Middle Eastern supply questions; this made him suitable for dealing with the task of rice distribution in South-East Asia. His transfer to Singapore coincided with the Labour government’s reassessment of British policies in Egypt following the Egyptian government’s request to revise the 1936 treaty relations with Britain.15 Partly because of Killearn’s reputation as an old-style im perial­ ist, British press reaction to his new appointm ent was mixed. T hough the Sunday Times saw the new Singapore post as proof of the British government’s recognition that utmost efforts were needed to avoid disaster through famine in Asia, it also suggested that Killearn, at sixty-five, was too old for such a difficult job in Singapore’s enervating climate.16 More critical voices argued that Killearn was not only too old but also out of touch with public opinion in Britain, and that his appointm ent was dangerous in an area where change was so rapid that it would test the understanding of even the most sympathetic m ind.17 However, the Foreign Office was confident that Killearn’s diplom atic and political standing would give its new post enough clout both to promote British diplom atic influence throughout the region, and to be able to compete with the local British governors. Killearn arrived in Singapore in the middle of March. Apart from his diplom atic activities during his two years in office - he played a key m ediating role in the conflict between the Dutch colonial authorities and Indonesian nationalists - his primary, if less glamorous, task was to tackle the regional rice crisis. T hroughout 1946, South-East Asia remained on the brink of famine. Burma, T hailand and Indochina constituted the traditio­ nal ‘rice bow l’ of Asia, yet in 1946 the three countries only produced about 2 m illion tons of rice compared to the annual production of 6 m illion tons before the war. At the same time, the demand for rice by traditional im porting countries such as India, China, Malaya and Indonesia had grown significantly because of


Britain and Regional Cooperation

the increase in their populations. Apart from the hum anitarian aspects of a widespread famine, the governments of the region were extremely worried about the prospect of politically unset­ tling hunger riots in their respective territories. Killearn soon assumed M ountbatten’s responsibility for the ‘equal and fair distribution’ of the existing rice stocks to the countries of the region. His intergovernmental powers derived from the Combined Food Board in W ashington (superseded in June 1946 by the International Emergency Food Council, the IEFC), which was responsible for the world distribution of food 18 after the war. As a first step, the new Special Commissioner organised a conference of regional food experts in South-East Asia, followed by a high-level conference of British representa­ tives in the area. D uring these conferences initial plans were made to increase production, and to control the consumption of foodstuffs.19 The two food conferences were succeeded by regular m onthly meetings in Singapore attended by British as well as foreign representatives who were acting as liaison officers to their governments. By the beginning of 1948, the membership of these so-called Liaison Officers’ Meetings had grown significantly and included representatives from Burma, Ceylon, the Federation of Malaya, H ong Kong, India, North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore, Indonesia, Indochina and Thailand. There were also unofficial observers representing China, the Philippines and the United States. To ensure harm ony between the attending representatives, the meetings strictly avoided political issues. According to British diplomats, decisions were made unanim ously and no 20 voting was ever necessary. In fact, Killearn’s international Liaison Officers’ Meetings soon became his chief instrum ent in dealing with short-term food problems in South-East Asia. The meetings’ main aim was to agree on the fair distribution of the available rice supplies in South-East Asia allocated by the IEFC. The attending officers also discussed ‘every problem connected with food which m ight confront any of the territories at any time’.21 To ensure close collaboration, the IEFC in October 1946 appointed a subcommit­ tee in Singapore whose members immediately endorsed or amended the shipping programmes decided at the Special Com­ m ission’s regional meetings. T he m ain reason why non-British territories regularly sent delegates to Killearn’s rice and food meetings was the simple fact

‘Famine averted’ 49

that only the Special Comm ission’s Economic Department had the administrative machinery to prepare shipping and distribu­ tion programmes, and to implem ent them once they were agreed by the Liaison Officers’ Meetings and the IEFC subcommittee. From the outset, Killearn had asked for sufficient staff to be attached to his organisation, including food and technical experts, as well as experienced administrators.22 Attlee and Bevin had agreed, and by April 1947 the Special Commission had a staff of approxim ately 500 people. Most importantly, the Special Commission had the support of Lord N athan’s Rice Committee in London, which was doing a lot of the coordinating work for the Singapore office, for example by working out the movements of transport ships at a time when shipping space continued to be 23 scarce. T o give an example of the work of the Special Commission’s Economic Department, it was the job of the rice and cereals assistant to determine how far the rice available from South-East Asian sources in any given m onth would fulfil the allocations from these sources. If required, temporary switches from one territory to another to meet ‘spot critical conditions’ were then arranged by common agreement during the m onthly Liaison Officers’ Meetings, whose membership was virtually identical with that of the regional IEFC sub-committee meeting immedi­ ately afterwards. Once a programme had been agreed, the ship­ ping assistant, another im portant expert, would ensure the program m e’s implem entation. Coal was another area covered by the Special Com m ission’s economic staff, which negotiated with the Indian government, with the Supreme Allied Commander in Japan and, by liaison, with the London Coal Committee.24 In addition to the immediate problem of rice distribution, the Special Com m ission’s Economic Department also tried to deal with the long-term task of increasing the food production in South-East Asia. Apart from encouraging the cultivation of rice fields, for example in traditional im porting countries, a number of regional conferences were held in Singapore dealing with special subjects. These conferences, like the Liaison Officers’ Meetings, were attended by representatives from British as well as foreign territories. The first such event was a N utrition Confer­ ence in May 1946 ‘to discuss ways and means of improving and supplem enting the diet of the local populations on a scientific basis, and to prepare for assimilation of alternative foodstuffs in


Britain and Regional Cooperation

the event of a breakdown in rice supplies’. This was followed by the South-East Asia Fisheries Conference in January 1947, a Social Welfare Conference in August 1947 and a Statistical 25 Conference in January 1948. T hroughout Killearn’s term in office questions were asked about the Special Commission’s success in dealing with the rice crisis in South-East Asia. In the Malayan press, the Special Com m ission’s activities were seldom mentioned except at moments of rice shortage: ‘Killearn’s Empty T alk Does Not Help to Relieve Rice Shortage’ was not an untypical headline, and only the Straits Times in Singapore would draw attention to the difficulties faced by the commission.26 As Killearn wrote in his diary at the beginning of 1947, his commission had inevitably come in for many kicks over the food shortage, ‘but there was a m oment when some of the gutter press went well beyond their limits of decent criticism - the m ain offender was the editor of the notorious Singapore Free Press, a most objectionable little bounder’. While local papers were critical of the continuing shortage of food, Conservative MPs in London complained about the high costs of the Foreign Office’s organisation in Singapore, which were initially estimated to be about £150,000 a year. Despite this, the Special Commission’s regional distribution programmes played a vital part in averting famine in South-East Asia. According to Killearn’s final report to the Foreign Office, it was ‘touch and go’ throughout 1946, as it was uncertain whether the small rations on which the populations in the deficit areas existed could be maintained. In October 1946, only 55 per cent of the estimated available rice actually materialised. In 1947, the situation was never as critical, but rations in the recipient territories ‘remained at a level scarcely high enough to avoid starvation and serious m alnutrition for the poorer sections of the comm unity who had not the means to buy extra rice in the black m arket’. Killearn thus concluded that, on the economic side; ‘The achievements of the Special Commission may be summed up in the statement that famine was averted and that most has been made of every means towards the production and distribu­ tion of foodstuffs.27 The Foreign Office accepted Killearn’s conclusion. Apart from coordinating the fight against famine in SouthEast Asia, the Special Commissioner soon became a chief advo­

‘Famine averted’ 51

cate of greater regional cooperation. T hroughout his term in office, Killearn travelled widely, including to China, Indochina, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Indo­ nesia, as well as most British territories in the region. He used his trips to discuss political issues as well as regional economic problems with national governments or the local colonial auth­ orities. As will be seen, he also kept pushing the idea of increasing international cooperation in South-East Asia - if possible under British leadership. During a visit to Bangkok at the end of April, for example, Killearn told the T hai Prime Minister Pridi Phanom yong how the whole of South-East Asia should become ‘some sort of bastion of civilisation’: I told him [Prime Minister Pridi] how, after the April Food Conference, we had talks with the Governors of the surround­ ing areas, and also with our people from French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies. It seemed to me vitally im portant that some form of political consolidation, of course nothing to do with territorial questions, should be set in train. . . . He said that he entirely agreed and would be more than ready to play up.28 Killearn also mentioned his ideas to a senior Dutch official in Indonesia, Van Byland, telling him in June that he had in m ind something really big and constructive in regard to South-East Asia. [Van Byland] only had to look at the map to see what I meant. . . . There was the whole stretch of SouthEast Asian territories strung out in a circle from Siam through Burma, French Indochina, Malaya and Dutch East Indies right up to and including the Philippines. I did not pretend to have crystallised my th o u g h t. . . but daily it seemed clearer to me that something really big would come of it to be set in train by the building up of all areas to form a valuable part of a new scheme of world security. Killearn admitted that all this was still quite vague in his m ind it was his personal idea and he did not know how it would strike London. But he hoped that the Dutch and the Indonesians would end their difficulties, because the Dutch East Indies would have to play an im portant part in this constructive work lying ahead. Killearn’s ideas for regional cooperation also included outside powers interested in South-East Asia. During a visit to China at


Britain and Regional Cooperation

the beginning of June, Killearn told the leader of the Chinese nationalists, Chiang Kai-shek, of his ‘pet idea of a bastion of stability in South-East Asia and, God willing, in the Far East’.30 Australia, too, would have to play a much more im portant role in the area, Killearn telling the Australian Commissioner in Singapore, Claude Massey, of ‘the big idea, getting all the interested regions here jointly into consultation, with a view to a discussion of the future world lay-out’. The idea was that: Sooner or later we should all meet here in Singapore, to discuss our m utual problems, including representatives from French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies. Also quite possibly America, owing to her special status in the P hilippi­ nes. Massey said he was well aware of this scheme, of which he personally approved most heartily. But he agreed that it was a matter that must be approached most delicately.31 Killearn also tried to win over W hitehall to his ideas. On 17 June he telexed a ‘Survey of Co-ordination w ithin the Territories of South-East Asia’ to London. The report had the backing of both M ountbatten and MacDonald, the newly appointed Malayan Governor-General. T o begin with, Killearn argued that South-East Asia would ‘continue to be a bastion of vital political, strategic and economic importance to the British Common­ w ealth’. T hailand, France and the Netherlands had territorial stakes in the area, while Australia, New Zealand and India were interested neighbours. Furthermore, China and the United States were intimately concerned, and the Soviet Union m ight become active w ithin the area in the future. The area was facing a num ber of potential threats, such as the collapse of law and order, the troubles in Indonesia, and difficulties with various nationalist movements as well the ethnic Chinese. Killearn recommended a coordinated approach to the area’s problems. W hat happened in one part of the region was of interest to all other parts, and a ‘reversion to the prewar system of handling these problems in water-tight compartments and penny packets would be a fatal step’. He added that in ‘matters of Colonial Adm inistration cooperation should be encouraged between Great Britain and other colonial Powers in the Far East’.32 Killearn in fact hoped that the Special Commission’s Liaison Officers’ Meetings, which now provided for cooperation on the technical level, should one day deal with wider regional coope­

‘Famine averted* 53

ration, including defence. As he wrote in his diary in January 1947, the system of m onthly Liaison Officers’ Meetings was proving to be extremely valuable and had the advantage of ‘setting the example of how supplies of comm unal interest to the whole region can profitably be handled’. He added: What one hopes is gradually to proceed from subject to subject until all these adjacent territories form the habit of acting together to discuss and plan regarding their various problems of m utual interest. My deliberate intention is that gradually this system shall lead up into the realm of international politics, and from that into the most im portant sphere of all, 33 namely regional defence. Killearn’s regional plans had considerable influence on the Foreign Office’s thinking. In April 1946, the Special Commissio­ ner sent a telegram to London which reported on a high-level meeting of British regional authorities in South-East Asia. D uring the meeting, Killearn had stated that he regarded SouthEast Asia as an essential strategic bastion of the Commonwealth. M ountbatten had agreed, urging the necessity of coordinating thinking and action in terms of the area as a whole. The ensuing general discussion had furthermore emphasised the importance of carrying the Dutch, French and Thais along with the British. T he hope of general collaboration with the United States had also been expressed.34 It is highly likely that Killearn’s telegram was shown to Ernest Bevin, and that the Foreign Secretary was particularly impressed by the Special Commissioner’s reference to South-East Asia’s strategic importance. A few days later, Bevin was to attend a Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting in London, the first of its kind since the end of the war. He used the occasion to raise the issue of regional cooperation in South-East Asia with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. What Bevin prim arily had in m ind was the issue of regional defence cooperation.

Chapter 4

Regional cooperation and regional defence

The announcem ent of the rice crisis to the cabinet, and the subsequent establishment of the Special Commission, had made the new Labour Foreign Secretary increasingly aware of his departm ent’s regional plans for South-East Asia. In April 1946, Bevin decided to float the issue of regional cooperation during a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London. How­ ever, while he seemed to be genuinely interested in the long-term economic development of South-East Asia, his initiative was equally motivated by new worldwide defence plans of the British Chiefs of Staff, which had been drafted as a result of Britain’s deteriorating relationship with the Soviet Union. By the spring of 1946, relations between London and Moscow had in fact reached a new postwar low. It had long become clear to the British that the Soviet Union had no intention of withdrawing from the eastern zone of Germany, and that she was turning East European countries like Rom ania and Bulgaria into mere satellite states. However, London was even more concerned about Soviet intentions in the Middle East. In September 1945, during the first Council of Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in London, a stalement had been reached over the future of Germany and the question of an Italian peace treaty. At the same time, the Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, had demanded that Russia should be given a base in the former Italian colony of T ripolitania (Libya).1 From London’s point of view, Molotov’s demand was a worrying indication of Soviet expansionist am bi­ tions in the Middle East, where Britain could not rely on the political support of the Americans. The British were equally concerned about Moscow’s bullying tactics towards Turkey, a country that was linked with Britain by a prewar treaty of

Regional cooperation and regional defence 55

alliance. At the end of 1945, there were even rumours that the Soviet U nion m ight be going to war with Turkey over the latter’s eastern territories and the question of the control of the straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In March 1946, Anglo-Soviet differences in the Middle East came to a head. The focal point was Iran, where British, American and Soviet troops had been stationed since 1941 to guard the Allied supply lines to the Soviet Union. The w ith­ drawal of all foreign troops from Iran was scheduled for March 1946, six m onths after the end of the war. However, Moscow announced on 1 March that it would delay its troop withdrawal. Furthermore, the Iranian Prime Minister was asked to recognise the separate state of Azerbaijan inside Iran, and there were reports that Soviet troops were heading for Teheran. Though the Soviets eventually climbed down and withdrew their troops in the face of fierce protests by the United States and Britain, the crisis finally changed the political atmosphere between the former allies. It happened to coincide with W inston Churchill’s famous speech in Fulton, Missouri, where he proclaimed the t an iron curtain had come down between eastern and western Europe.2 The Cold War had at last become reality. T he developments in Europe and the Middle East had a significant impact on B ritain’s defence plans, including those relating to South-East Asia. British military planners had long mistrusted the Soviet U nion’s worldwide ambitions. During the war, the Chiefs of Staff had set up a special military planning unit, the Post-Hostilities Planning Staff (PHP), in order to assess Britain’s worldwide defence requirements following the end of hostilities.3 By the middle of 1945, the PH P had drafted compre­ hensive recommendations for the postwar defence of British interests around the world. The P H P ’s m ain assum ption was that the Soviet U nion was the most likely adversary in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. A PH P paper of June 1945 on ‘The Security of the British Em pire’ therefore proposed the creation of a num ber of regional defensive systems around the world, including Britain, the United States and in some cases France and the Benelux countries as participants. So far as South-East Asia and the Pacific were concerned, the Soviet threat was seen as remote. Despite this, the paper argued that Britain, France, the Netherlands and T hailand should cooperate in regional defence measures. There should also be a system of


Britain and Regional Cooperation

forward naval and air bases in the Pacific in cooperation with the United States and China.4 The P H P ’s recommendations failed to convince either the Chiefs of Staff or the Foreign Office. At the time, neither shared the planners’ view that the Soviet Union was the most likely adversary in a future war, and the paper was shelved as strategic background m aterial.5 The PH P itself was dissolved a few m onths later. However, in February 1946, in view of the deterior­ ating relations with Moscow, the P H P ’s worldwide analysis and defence recommendations were revived by a newly created Joint P lanning Staff (JPS). In South-East Asia, the JPS argued that any direct threat to British interests in the region was most likely to come from the Soviet Union, with possibly China, Japan or both under her control. The JPS therefore proposed the estab­ lishm ent of two defensive systems. The first would be a chain of forward air and naval bases in the Pacific, running from H ong Kong via Formosa, the Philippines and the Marshall and Mid­ way islands to the Aleutians. They would be held by Com­ m onwealth countries an d /o r the United States. The second defensive system would be in South-East Asia and the SouthWest Pacific. Here, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in cooperation with France and the Netherlands, would m aintain an alternative system of bases along a general line from Indo­ china, which had special importance for the defence of SouthEast Asia, through Samoa, the Celebes, the Admiralty and Solomon islands and Fiji.6 The paper’s m ain difference to the P H P ’s proposals from 1945 was the inclusion of Australia and New Zealand in the regional defence of South-East Asia. The JPS paper was incorporated into two Chiefs of Staff reports distributed to the delegations attending the Com­ m onwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting in April 1946. One paper, titled ‘Strategic Position of the Commonwealth’, argued that recent developments indicated that Russia was the most likely potential enemy of the British Commonwealth. Should a conflict with Russia occur, American participation on Britain’s side would be vital. The Commonwealth, it was further argued, depended on four m ain support areas, namely the United King­ dom, the North and South American continents, the southern half of Africa, and Australia and New Zealand. To ensure the security of the Commonwealth, the Chiefs of Staff argued that it was essential to secure enough ‘depth’ in front of these four

Regional cooperation and regional defence


support areas before the start of a conflict, in order to win time for m obilisation and for American resources to be brought in. T he areas that needed to be secured for in-depth defence and for the m aintenance of strategic air bases were Western Europe and the Middle East, where Russian pressure was already evident, as well as India and South-East Asia, where Russian pressure could be expected.7 A second COS paper stressed that to ensure the Com­ m onw ealth’s security, South Africa had to take on greater responsibility in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean, while Australia and New Zealand would have to share responsibility for South-East Asia. While in some areas political and economic action was required to prevent a potential enemy from gaining a dom inating position, in others the actual presence of military forces would be necessary. As this principle developed, it seemed reasonable that other members besides the United Kingdom should contribute to the efforts required. In short, Australia and New Zealand were invited to contribute to the defence of SouthEast Asia. London must have been aware of the fact that both Australia and New Zealand w ould be reluctant to commit themselves to the defence of South-East Asia, not least because of the costs involved in large-scale troop deployments. It therefore appears that Bevin, who as Foreign Secretary knew of the Chiefs of Staff’s proposals, decided to sweeten the bitter pill. In return for an Antipodean defence comm itm ent to South-East Asia, he decided to offer Australia and New Zealand a larger share in the region’s markets. At the same time, the two dom inions would be given a greater political say through the medium of the Special Commission. Bevin launched his regional initiative in his introductory speech to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting on 23 April 1946. He began by describing the ‘rising tide of natio­ nalism ’ as the dom inant political factor in South-East Asia. As the people of the area were becoming better educated they realised the extent to which the West had in the past drawn from their resources which m ight have improved their own standards of living. However, Bevin postulated, the people of the British Commonwealth were now prepared to help the people of this area to develop their economy and raise their living standards. Later on in the meeting Bevin explained what he had in mind: South-East Asia had great resources while the general standard of


Britain and Regional Cooperation

living was low; the raising of this would be to everyone’s benefit. W ith an eye on the delegations from Australia and New Zealand he stressed that many countries were concerned with this area, that there existed a ‘vast and untapped’ market and that a coordinated effort in this area would be to the ‘common advan­ tage’. Getting to the point, Bevin suggested that Singapore and the headquarters of Lord Killearn’s organisation were the focus around which Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India could build up the development of the whole area. The new organisa­ tion, he hoped, would provide the meeting point for certain practical purposes, and could form a binding link between the different parts of the empire. So far, Killearn’s organisation was prim arily concerned with food supplies, but further useful work could be done in the field of nutrition, broadcasting and publicity services as well as the coordination of shipping. Bevin therefore proposed that the opportunity should be taken to discuss fully the possibility of developing the new organisation.8 There is little doubt that Bevin was genuinely concerned about the low standard of living in South-East Asia, that he was interested in a new relationship with South-East Asia’s indige­ nous population9 and that he wanted to improve the regional standard of living through the provision of Australian consumer goods which Britain could not provide. On the other hand, though the records of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ defence discussions are not available, circumstancial evidence suggests that Bevin was trying to lure Australia and New Zealand into a defence comm itm ent to South-East Asia,10 so that Britain could reduce her defence expenditure in the region. In return, he was offering the two countries greater access to the region’s markets (and implicitly raw materials), and a political say through the medium of the Special Commission. Bevin’s initiative played on Australian economic ambitions in SouthEast Asia. Prior to the war, Australia had, for example, had extensive tin m ining interests in Thailand, but she had been unable to resume them .11 Furthermore, the idea of jointly developing the Special Commission seemed to fit in with Aust­ ralia’s wartime proposals for regional cooperation in colonial areas. The Australian Foreign Minister, Dr H.V. Evatt, welcomed Bevin’s emphasis on the need for higher economic standards in South-East Asia, which he saw as im portant from the point of

Regional cooperation and regional defence


view of both security and welfare. He also saw great possibilities in the idea of closer association for regional purposes, and he suggested that in studying the subject earlier proposals made by Australia and New Zealand for the establishment of a regional 12 commission in the Pacific should be included. Bevin agreed; the issue of regional cooperation in colonial areas was thus back on the international agenda. However, while the Australians favoured Bevin’s economic initiative, the two dominions flatly rejected the Chiefs of Staff’s defence proposals. During the conference’s fourth meeting the Australian Prime Minister, J.B. Chifley, stated that his country naturally accepted primary responsibility for her own security and that she was w illing to make a greater contribution to the common defence of the British Commonwealth than before the war. But she simply lacked the financial resources and men to accept special responsibility for South-East Asia.13 Canberra thus expressed its reluctance to become financially or politically involved in the defence of Britain’s South-East Asian colonies. It disagreed w ith the British Chiefs of Staff’s assessment of a worldwide Soviet threat14 and refused to accept that SouthEast Asia was threatened by any outside power. Chifley further suggested that he regarded the acceptance of the defence commit­ ments demanded by the Chiefs of Staff as an impingem ent on his and other Commonwealth countries’ sovereignty. Attlee, who had not anticipated this response, showed himself ‘struck’ by Chifley’s comment that strategic requirements must be con­ sidered in relation to manpower and financial resources. T hat certainly was the case with the United Kingdom as she had very heavy overseas commitments which were a great strain on her resources.16 Despite Attlee’s protestations, the British defence initiative had failed. However, while the Australians refused to commit themselves to the defence of South-East Asia, they m aintained their interest in Bevin’s proposals for economic cooperation. On 27 April Chifley circulated a m em orandum which suggested the immediate establishment of a South Seas regional commission for the prom otion of welfare and the advancement of native peoples in the Pacific area in cooperation with Great Britain, a proposal dating back to Australian and New Zealand initiatives in 1944. So far as South-East Asia was concerned, Chifley’s mem orandum recalled that consideration had been given in the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

past to a South-East Asian commission, including Australia and New Zealand as well as the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and other interested countries, which would give at least some attention to air communications and the allocation and disposal of vital raw materials besides the more strictly welfare aspects such as health, nutrition and social and political 17 developments. T hough stopping short of demanding the crea­ tion of a South-East Asian regional organisation straight away, the Australians had called Bevin’s bluff. As a result of Chifley’s paper, London was forced to define its line on South-East Asian regional cooperation more clearly. It also had to decide whether to agree with the proposal for a regional commission in the Pacific. Officials in W hitehall hastily arranged a meeting to work out the British response to the Australian paper. The problem was that Bevin had failed to clear his earlier proposals on regional cooperation with either his own department or the Colonial or Dominions offices. As civilian departments they were also unaware of the defence proposals by the Chiefs of Staff which had triggered Bevin’s initiative. Yet Bevin was unavailable for consultations as he had left London for the Council of Foreign Ministers in Paris soon after the 18 opening of the Prime Ministers’ Conference. Before the meet­ ing, the head of the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Depart­ ment, Richard Allen, who appeared to be as surprised by Bevin’s initiative as the Colonial Office, explained to the Colonial Office that his department was hoping to use Killearn’s organisation as a centre for cooperation with the dominions. The best course would be to inform the dom inion representatives of how Killearn’s organisation was being developed and to what extent the dom inions could usefully develop their own collaboration with it - over and above already existing cooperation.19 The Colonial Office agreed with the proposed establishment of a regional commission in the South-West Pacific but it warned of the dangers of international supervision inherent in proposals for a regional commission in South-East Asia. A departmental mem orandum stressed that there was ‘a consensus of opinion that some form of regional collaboration in economic and social welfare matters is desirable in South-East Asia’; however, the area had not yet recovered from the effects of the Japanese occupation, while further difficulties had arisen through the clash between insurgent nationalism and the restoration of the French and

Regional cooperation and regional defence


Dutch colonial systems. It was therefore ‘unlikely’ that under the present circumstances ‘anything but harm would be done by the creation of an international body such as a Regional Commis­ sion’. If at a later stage it was decided to set up a regional commission, it should fall w ithin the scope of the Malayan Governor-General, not the Special Commission. Britain’s major interests in the Far East arose out of her colonial dependencies, which should not be ‘sacrificed to diplom atic convenience’.20 In line with the Colonial Office’s paper, the interdepartmental m eeting on 2 May approved the suggested establishment of a regional commission in the South-West Pacific area. There was also consensus that in South-East Asia a regional commission could hardly be suitable for the time being in view of the abnorm al and disturbed conditions there. Killearn’s organisa­ tion, it was further agreed, could be seen as the first step towards the eventual constitution of a regional commission once SouthEast Asia had settled down to more peaceful and prosperous conditions. However, it was left open whether the Special Commissioner or the Governor-General would ultimately be Britain’s representative on a regional commission. In the absence of the Foreign Secretary, a brief was drafted on the lines of the m eeting’s conclusions for the use of the Colonial Secretary during the Prime M inisters’ Meeting.21 D uring the interdepartm ental meeting, Allen failed to follow up Bevin’s ambitious proposal to use the Special Commission for the joint economic development of South-East Asia. It seems that after the Australian refusal to contribute to the defence of SouthEast Asia Bevin had decided to withdraw his regional economic bait, and that he had instructed the Foreign Office accordingly. Allen was therefore satisfied with the Colonial Office’s line that regional cooperation was desirable in principle, though at a later date. A further reason for the Foreign Office’s reservation was that the Australian proposals now under consideration went m uch further than Bevin’s suggestions, as they envisaged United States membership in a regional commission. The Colonial Secretary, George Hall, clarified Britain’s line during a Commonwealth meeting on 3 May. He stressed that he would be ‘extremely ready to see a regional commission established in the South Seas, and he suggested that the details should be discussed between the officials of the three Govern­ m ents’. Other countries, such as the Netherlands and France


Britain and Regional Cooperation

m ight be invited to join in at a later date. So far as South-East Asia was concerned, Hall said that a regional organisation of the same type was desirable in the area, though he doubted whether the time was ripe for such a body as civil government had only just been resumed. Lord Killearn had recently been appointed as Special Commissioner and his organisation m ight provide the nucleus around which a more formal organisation could later develop. In the meantime, Australia and New Zealand should 22 attach special liaison officers to Lord Killearn’s staff. The British had thus committed themselves to the establish­ ment of a regional commission in the South-West Pacific. From the Colonial Office’s point of view, conditions for such a body were m uch more favourable in this area than in South-East Asia. All the territories in the South-West Pacific were governed by colonial powers, while the indigenous cultures were at a much lower level of political and economic development than those of South-East Asia. Regional cooperation would be limited to politically safe issues such as welfare or health, and there were no independence movements demanding representation. Another factor influencing L ondon’s decision was that only a few days earlier the British, Australian and New Zealand delegations had reached an understanding on defence cooperation in the SouthWest Pacific.23 Evatt welcomed H all’s initiative, and soon after the end of the conference Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands and the United States started negotia­ tions that led to the establishment of the South Pacific Commis­ sion on 6 February 1947. Similar to the Caribbean Commission, the organisation was to be a consultative and advisory body dealing with the economic and social development of colonial territories in the region.24 The conference’s outcome for SouthEast Asia was less spectacular. T hough Hall endorsed the principle of regional cooperation in South-East Asia, he refused to establish a regional commission in the near future. The conference’s only visible achievement was the despatch of an Australian liaison officer to the Special Commission in the following m onth. The new appointm ent overlapped with the work of the Australian trade commissioner in Singapore, Claude Massey, who was already attending all im portant meetings convened by the Supreme Commander or the Special Commis25 sioner. Despite the conference’s limited outcome on South-East Asia,

Regional cooperation and regional defence


the meeting had at least revealed Australian ambitions in the region. While Canberra refused to commit itself m ilitarily to what it considered was the defence of British colonial interests, it nevertheless demanded a greater political and economic say in the area. In the following years, Australia would continue to promote greater regional cooperation in South-East Asia, emerg­ ing as one of Britain’s m ain competitors for the region’s leader­ ship. The British, on the other hand, remained prim arily inter­ ested in involving Australia and New Zealand in South-East Asian defence cooperation. Under the pressure of the Cold War in South-East Asia, London eventually succeeded. At the end of 1948, Britain, Australia and New Zealand secretly concluded the ANZAM treaty, an informal agreement which coordinated defence planning by the three countries in the South-East Asian 26 area. In addition to the issue of regional defence cooperation, the Commonwealth Prime M inisters’ Meeting introduced another new aspect to the Foreign Office’s plans for regional cooperation. Prior to the conference, the Foreign Office had been thinking in terms of cooperation prim arily with the colonial powers, possi­ bly also involving outside powers like Australia and the United States. After the conference, Asian nationalism began to play an increasingly im portant role in B ritain’s plans. As Bevin stated in his introductory speech, nationalism had become the single most im portant factor in Asia. More importantly, W hitehall agreed in the course of the conference to postpone its plans for regional cooperation partly because of the disturbances caused by the nationalist uprisings in Indonesia and Indochina. The confer­ ence in fact marked a turning point in British planning. In the wake of the meeting and under the pressure of rapid events in both South and South-East Asia the Foreign Office would soon prepare the ground for regional cooperation in post-colonial Asia.

Part II

Asian nationalism

Chapter 5

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation

The year of 1946 was a turning point in the history of Asia. It marked the beginning of the end of European colonial rule in the South and South-East Asian regions. The Indian subcontinent was of crucial importance to the rapidly changing situation. After the late spring of 1946 there was little doubt that India was edging towards independence. Inevitably, developments in the world’s second most populous country had a profound effect on her neighbours, fuelling the nationalist aspirations of countries like Burma, Indochina and Indonesia. In addition, the establish­ ment of an Indian nationalist government indicated that India would soon emerge as a powerful independent player in Asian politics who would compete with, rather than supplement, B ritain’s Asian policies. In fact, India soon took a keen interest in the affairs of South-East Asia, at the same time prom oting herself as the cham pion of the Asian independence movements. As will be seen, both the rapid advance of Asian nationalism and the emergence of an independent India would soon induce London to completely redefine its plans for regional cooperation in South-East Asia. Ever since coming to power, the British Labour government had been confronted with a potentially volatile situation in India. In November 1945, the Indian Viceroy, Wavell, told the new Secretary of State for India, Pethick-Lawrence, that he feared there would be another ‘Q uit India’ campaign unless there was the firm prospect of independence. Britain had the choice between capitulating to the Indian Congress Party and accepting its demands, or suppressing the movement with the use of all resources.1 As the British had little enthusiasm for attem pting to suppress Indian nationalism with military means, Attlee and his


Britain and Regional Cooperation

ministers soon privately considered handing over power in India, although hoping that the country would remain closely linked to Britain. However, there remained a major stum bling block in the way of an Indian settlement. While the Hindu-dom inated Congress Party insisted that India should remain united after indepen­ dence, the powerful Muslim League advocated the country’s division into separate H indu and Muslim states. To find a constitutional formula acceptable to all sides, Attlee despatched a special cabinet mission to India, which remained in the country between February and June 1946. It came up with a complicated proposal for a three-tier government of a U nion of India that satisfied neither H indus nor Muslims. Eventually, the Congress accepted the British initiative which led to the creation of the H indu-dom inated Indian Interim Government in September 1946, under the prem iership of Jawaharlal Nehru. However, the Muslim League initially remained opposed to the British pro­ posals, calling for a ‘day of direct action’ in the middle of August which triggered the first in a series of gruesome inter-ethnic killings in the country. When the Muslims subsequently joined the interim government, deadlock ensued over the country’s future constitution. As London saw itself unable to break the deadlock, the cabinet’s India Committee soon considered an early withdrawal from the country.2 On 20 February 1947, Attlee announced Britain’s intention to withdraw from India within the next eighteen months. Lord M ountbatten was appointed as the last Viceroy in charge of negotiating the transfer of power. After further ethnic clashes between Muslims and Hindus, power was transferred to India and a separate Pakistan in August 1947. Despite the clashes between H indus and Muslims, the develop­ ments in India greatly encouraged the nationalist movements in South-East Asia, in particular in neighbouring Burma. Since SEAC had handed over to civilian rule in October 1945, the country had been shaken by nationalist unrest. Unlike M ountbatten and his m ilitary adviser, Brigadier Hubert Ranee, before him, the new British Governor of Burma, Reginald Dorman-Smith, refused to make concessions to Aung San and his powerful Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), who were calling for full self-government and independence. In line w ith the recommendations of the Burma White Paper of May 1945, Dorman-Smith insisted that for a three-year period his

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


adm inistration would have sweeping emergency powers, thereby giving Burmese politicians less of a say in their country’s government than they had had before the war. Aung San and the League soon embarked on a collision course with the British, organising mass protests which further destabilised the precar­ ious political and economic situation in the country. DormanSmith threatened to arrest Aung San, adding further fuel to the dispute; soon there were constant clashes between the police and rem nants of the Burmese guerrilla forces, while the Burmese economy and in particular the production of rice further declined. When the situation in Burma threatened to get out of hand, Attlee intervened, replacing Dorman-Smith with Sir Hubert Ranee in June 1946.3 The decision marked the turning point in Burm a’s struggle for independence. After widespread strikes in September, Ranee appointed five AFPFL members to im portant posts in the country’s executive council, m aking Aung San the council’s vice-president. After further Burmese pressure and demands for national independence, Attlee announced on 20 December 1946 that he would enter into constitutional talks with a Burmese delegation in London and that Burma would be given independence w ithin the next year.4 Although Aung San and his ministers were killed by Burmese assassins in July 1947, Burma was formally granted independence on 17 October under the prem iership of U Nu, a former political associate of Aung San. On 1 January 1948, Burma left the Commonwealth to become a republic. Undoubtedly, the events in India and Burma encouraged antiBritish opposition in Malaya. T hough there existed no indige­ nous movement towards national independence in the country, the Colonial Office’s Malayan Union scheme had run into serious trouble after the British had pressured the often collabor­ ationist Malay rulers to accept new treaties with Britain. The once politically apathetic majority Malay community was enraged by the proposed Malaya citizenship scheme which would grant equal political rights to Malaya’s Chinese, Indian and Malay communities. The Malays feared an erosion of their political privileges in favour of the economically dom inant Chinese. The United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), under the leadership of Dato O nn bin J a ’afar, soon demanded the replacement of the Malayan Union by a federal constitution.5


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Malay protests culm inated in a boycott by the Malay leaders of the inauguration ceremonies of Sir Edward Gent as Governor of the Malayan Union on 1 April and of Malcolm MacDonald as Governor-General for Singapore, Malaya and the British territor­ ies in Borneo on 22 May 1946.6 The events in India and in B ritain’s South-East Asian territor­ ies were closely watched by the Foreign Office’s Asian experts. Some argued that Britain needed to approach the problems of South and South-East Asia in an entirely new way. As early as May 1946, a mem orandum written by a former Indian civil servant, J.P. Stent, who now served with the Foreign Office, predicted that in the next twelve to eighteen months eastern Asia would cease to be a vast area of colonial territories. India was described as the key to the whole situation; the country had to be kept w ithin the Commonwealth and on pro-Western lines at all costs: ‘W ith India and South-East Asia securely w ithin the sphere of influence of the British Commonwealth and the USA, com­ m unism on the Russian pattern is much less likely to make headway in the Far East proper.’ Britain should thus launch an ‘overture of friendly cooperation on a basis of equality’. As a first step, the author demanded a ‘greater measure of coordination and interchange of views on foreign policy not only am ong the countries of South-East Asia but between them and India as well’. Eventually, Stent expected ‘the logic of geography and common interest’ would lead to some sort of close association between India, Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Indonesia and probably Indochina.7 The head of the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Department, Allen, could only ‘warmly endorse all that is said about the importance of coordination between these territories, where there was a complete lack of it before’. Furthermore: As regards some closer association between India, Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Indonesia and Indo-China, which Mr Stent also favours, we have in a sense already advanced a step along this path. . . . Killearn’s organisation m ight provide the nucleus from which [a regional commission] m ight develop later. One of the im portant truths which emerges from Mr Stent’s mem orandum is that any such Regional Commission would be meaningless unless it included representatives of an independent India.8

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


Allen sent copies of Stent’s memorandum to other W hitehall departments, but he failed to convince the Colonial Office. It remained opposed to any new regional initiatives in South-East Asia, whether or not they included India.9 The India Office also had its doubts, pointing out that the Indian leadership m ight not even be w illing to participate in Killearn’s coordinating m achi­ nery in Singapore: the Indian leaders would probably view any such attem pt to bring India w ithin the orbit of Commonwealth policy with considerable suspicion.10 The India Office had made a valid point. Not only were the Indian nationalists likely to m istrust the British. They would be even more suspicious of anything that involved the Dutch and the French, as both these refused to compromise with the nationalist movements in their respective South-East Asian colonies. In 1946, Indian public opinion was particularly critical of French policies in Indochina, and Indian leaders would not want to be seen as teaming up with unreconstructed European imperialists. Indochina soon became a m ajor stum bling block to British regional ambitions in SouthEast Asia. Unlike the British in India and Burma, the French had never seriously contemplated m aking any real concessions to the Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina. By the time that the last British troops left southern Vietnam in the spring of 1946, the French had successfully suppressed the Viet M inh’s forces in the south of the country, firmly re-establishing French authority in Saigon and Chochin-China. But France had yet to regain control of the north of Indochina, which was still under nationalist Chinese occupation. While the Chinese had agreed to withdraw their forces by June, France’s real problem was that the Viet Minh, after proclaim ing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), had established themselves as the true power in northern Vietnam, equipped with weapons taken from the Japanese or bought from the often corrupt Chinese troops. When in the late winter of 1946 the first French troops were preparing to land at the northern port of H aiphong, they came close to an armed clash with Viet M inh forces. For the time being, an open conflict could be averted, not least because neither side was ready for a prolonged war. On 6 March 1946, the Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi M inh, signed an agreement with Jean


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Sainteny, who was representing the French, in which France formally recognised the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state with its own government, parliam ent, army and finances, yet as part of the Indochinese Federation and w ithin the French Union. The Vietnamese in return accepted the stationing of French garrisons in the northern province of Tonkin. How­ ever, in the following m onths fundam ental differences emerged over the status of the DRV. It soon became evident that France merely intended to rule with native support rather than cede any real autonom y to the nationalists.11 A further problem was the status of Cochin-China in the south which the Viet M inh insisted belonged to Vietnam but which the hard-line French High Commissioner in Indochina, Admiral Thierry D’Argenlieu, in June unilaterally declared a free state. Subsequent high-level talks in Fontainebleau near Paris failed to achieve a compromise on either the issue of Vietnamese sovereignty or the status of Cochin-China. After the departure of the Vietnamese delegation only a modus vivendi was signed between the French Overseas Minister, Marios Moutet, and the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, on an Indochinese monetary and customs union.12 The future of Indochina was looking increasingly bleak. In the meantime the British, whose intervention in 1945 had facilitated the French return to Indochina in the first place, continued to support the French war machine in South-East Asia, albeit in great secrecy. In September 1945, London had in fact agreed to arm and equip France’s Far Eastern forces.13 In the spring of 1946, as Bevin later admitted in Parliament, Gracey’s departing troops also handed over ‘a certain am ount’ of war m aterial to the French.14 Furthermore, following a secret agree­ m ent between Paris and the British Admiralty, British vessels continued to provide logistic support for French supplies to Indochina. The agreement, which was unknown even to the Foreign Office, was crucial for the continuing flow of French arms and equipm ent to Indochina, particularly as there existed a worldwide shortage of shipping space. In addition to the pro­ vision of transport facilities, the Admiralty was involved in the covert sale of am m unition for French warships of British origin used in South-East Asia.15 However, despite the fact that Britain was France’s main foreign arms supplier in South-East Asia and that British troops had ensured France’s return to Indochina, the French authorities

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


in Saigon initially showed little interest in close relations with their British counterparts in Singapore. In trade matters as well, the French adm inistration in Indochina soon resumed its prewar habit of discrim inating against foreign banks and enterprises. As a Foreign Office m em orandum pointed out in January 1947, it did not appear that ‘the French authorities contemplate throw­ ing open the Indo-Chinese market to foreign trade at the present m om ent’ - despite reports of a new pro-British mood in Saigon and Paris resulting from ‘the tactful way in which the situation in Southern Indo-China was handled (under the able leadership of General Gracey)’.16 Initially, Saigon was also reluctant to cooperate with Britain’s efforts to fight the regional shortage of rice. As Killearn reported to the Foreign Office in October 1946, Indochinese rice exports were essential to overcome the food shortage in South-East Asia. However, French administrators were highly suspicious of the Special Commission and of the International Emergency Food Council in W ashington (formerly the Combined Food Board) behind it, and in July 1946 completely halted their rice supplies from Indochina - at a time when the food situation in South-East Asia was particularly serious. Killearn later concluded that the French had been stubborn and that they had not received any 17 instructions from Paris. It was not until August 1946 that a French official from Indochina for the first time attended one of Killearn’s Liaison Officers’ Meetings in Singapore. Killearn used the opportunity to test French willingness for greater regional cooperation, explaining to the French official, Clarac, his ‘dream of fuller consultation and cooperation . . . amongst all regional authorities w ithin the South-East Asia area’, in particular French Indochina.18 Clarac reported the conversation to Saigon and Paris. One week later, Admiral D’Argenlieu invited the Special Commissioner to Saigon.19 Although an injury prevented Killearn from travelling, his deputy Michael W right visited Saigon between 4 and 6 September 1946. Much to his surprise, W right found the French authorities in an ‘extremely friendly and co-operative frame of m ind’. They told him that they owed largely to Britain the initial re-establishment of their position in Indochina and that they fully appreciated the interdependence of British and French interests in South-East Asia and elsewhere.20 W right replied that the British desired improved cooperation between the neighbourly and friendly countries in


Britain and Regional Cooperation

South-East Asia, and that a beginning had already been made through the Liaison Officers’ Meetings. In addition, a common approach with France towards security and other problems was required - there was for example the im portant question of the common use of airfields.21 D’Argenlieu replied that he would continue sending representatives to the meetings in Singapore and that he hoped to discuss increased cooperation on infor­ m ation and publicity matters. In defence and other matters, progress could be made on an informal basis. He further appreciated the impact of famine on the political situation: comm unism was after all the greatest danger, and failure to improve material conditions would play straight into the hands of the communists.22 As a sign of French goodwill D’Argenlieu subsequently sent 8,000 tons of emergency rice deliveries to Singapore.23 Shortly after W right’s return to Singapore, D’Argenlieu travelled to Paris where he informed his superiors of his talks with Killearn’s deputy. His reports encouraged Paris to instruct an official at the French embassy in London, LeRoy, to take up the matter of South-East Asian cooperation with Esler Dening, who was back at the Foreign Office. Referring to W right’s visit, LeRoy told Dening in the autum n of 1946 that, in addition to the m onthly food conferences and to normal diplomatic consul­ tations, there could be an additional interchange of visits and views between the territories facing the problems of reconstruc­ tion after the Japanese occupation. His enquiry was purely tentative, he assured, and he was aware that several W hitehall departments were concerned; he would nevertheless be grateful to learn in due course whether London was receptive to his 24 suggestions. LeRoy’s cautious approach coincided with an increase in tensions in Indochina. The negotiations between the French and the Viet M inh had reached a stalemate, and both sides were secretly preparing for war. By the end of 1946 the Viet M inh had an estimated 100,000 men and women under arms, controlling large parts of the countryside in Tonkin as well as parts of Cochin-China. In contrast, French troops in their Tonkinese strongholds, though better equipped for open warfare, numbered little more than 20,000.25 There is little doubt that Paris and Saigon were trying to improve relations with the British in case France needed Britain’s political or even military support in the

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


event of a showdown with the Vietnamese nationalists. The British initially failed to assess the full gravity of the situation in Indochina. As Dening told the Colonial and Burma offices after his meeting with LeRoy, the problem was that ‘at a time when nationalism is running high in most areas in South-East Asia, a visit by French officials to say Rangoon, Singapore or Kuala Lum pur m ight not be welcome’. On the other hand, if dis­ cussions were explicitly limited to economic and reconstruction questions, he expected no great harm to result: since France had manifested a desire for it, the Foreign Office did not wish to discourage the French from friendly cooperation.26 Indeed, LeRoy’s initiative also coincided with the start of Anglo-French talks on economic collaboration in Europe, which were helping to improve the flagging relations between the two countries.27 There were also negotiations on an Anglo-French defence treaty in Europe, the first in a series of military alliances signed under the shadow of the Cold War.28 Bevin, in fact, attached great importance to better relations with Paris, and Anglo-French cooperation played an im portant role in his plans for a British-led Western European grouping.29 The Foreign Office’s Western Department, which was closely involved in the current negotiations with the French, consequently welcomed Paris’s initiative on South-East Asia. Furthermore, as one official pointed out in November, ‘we have been doing our best to promote Anglo-French cooperation in the colonial field . . . we are of course entirely in favour of any step forward on the thorny path of Anglo-French colonial cooperation’.30 The Burma Office, however, took a different view. One of its officials, F.W.H. Smith, argued that French colonialism was unpopular in Asian nationalist circles. He was therefore not convinced of the political wisdom of closer collaboration with French Indochina. After all, any official contacts by French visitors with Burma would have to be made prim arily with the Burmese political leader holding the office of counsellor to the governor in respect of external affairs.31 Subsequent events in Indochina strengthened the Burma Office’s case. On 23 November 1946 a m inor dispute over H aiphong’s customs control resulted in a French naval bombardment of the city during which up to 6,000 Vietnamese were killed. On 19 December Viet M inh forces retaliated and attacked French garrisons in H anoi and in other parts of Tonkin. On 20


Britain and Regional Cooperation

December Ho Chi M inh called for a nationwide people’s war against French colonialism.32 The outbreak of war in Indochina roused considerable antiFrench resentment in both India and Burma. Sarat Chandra Bose, a member of the All India Congress Committee, urged patriotic Indians to fight side-by-side with the Vietnamese as part of Asia’s struggle against Western dom ination, while leading members of the All India Trade Union Congress called for a boycott of French ships at Indian ports. At the end of January 1947, a violent anti-French demonstration in Calcutta resulted in 500 arrests and in 19 people being injured. Initially, Prime Minister Nehru was more cautious. He seemed to be apprehen­ sive about Ho Chi M inh’s comm unist affiliations,33 and wanted to m aintain good relations with France to secure the return to India of the French colonial enclaves along the Indian coast: Franco-Indian talks on the issue were to begin soon after the eventual transfer of power.34 However, increasingly under the pressure of Indian public opinion Nehru announced on 18 February that French operational and combat aircraft were no longer allowed to fly over Indian airspace.35 It took some time for the significance of the war in Indochina to sink in on London. At the beginning of January, the Colonial Office discussed Anglo-French cooperation in South-East Asia with MacDonald, who was visiting London. The meeting gener­ ally favoured closer collaboration with the French authorities on technical problems, leaving out political issues for the time being. Any cooperation would have to be part of a regional system and should be dealt with in Singapore by Killearn and MacDonald. However, further action should be postponed until the situation in Indochina had become clearer.36 The Burma Office was even more cautious, warning that the current political situation in Burma was very delicate, and that recent correspon­ dence about the passage of French military aircraft through Burmese airspace had further emphasised the unpopularity in Burma of French policy in Indochina. The Burmese Governor therefore felt it inopportune to pursue the French proposal for high-level visits to British territories.37 The question of Anglo-French cooperation in South-East Asia took on a new m eaning when France made an urgent request for British arms supplies to Indochina. Only one m onth after the fighting had begun, French troops were short of arms and

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


am m unition and on 24 January 1947 the French Military Mis­ sion in Singapore approached the headquarters of Allied Land Forces in South-East Asia (ALFSEA) for the supply of large quantities of arms (and am m unition) from British stocks in Singapore. Killearn, who until recently had been a leading proponent of closer relations with Saigon, now urged caution: a similar situation had previously arisen in Java, where only by great luck had the British managed to prevent the Indonesians from m aking an issue of British arms supplies to the Dutch. In view of obvious political repercussions Killearn therefore dis­ liked the prospect of ‘laying ourselves open to the charge of supporting the French by supplies from Singapore’. Preferably, supplies should come from Europe, though even this m ight land Britain in extremely deep waters.38 London knew that any large-scale arms supplies to the French in Indochina could not be kept secret. Thus, the arguments for and against arms shipments were clearly cut: on the one hand there was the im pending alliance with France in Western Europe, as well as Anglo-French rapprochement in South-East Asia, which favoured meeting France’s demands. Open British support for the French war effort would be proof of Britain’s genuine desire for closer relations with France, while refusing the French offer m ight jeopardise the Anglo-French alliance in Europe. On the other side of the argum ent were Britain’s Asian interests. India and Burma were moving closer towards selfgovernment, and London was keen on m aintaining good rela­ tions with the Indian Interim Government and with Prime Minister Jaw aharlal Nehru. In view of Indian and Burmese condemnation of the French war in Indochina, arms shipments m ight have alienated Asian opinion and jeopardised Britain’s political prestige on the subcontinent. There was the further danger that Britain m ight herself be drawn into the hostilities in Indochina. Whatever B ritain’s response to the French request for arms would be, London would have to decide between the priorities of its Asian and its European policies. Foreign Office opinion on the issue was divided. The British ambassador in Paris, Duff Cooper, wanted to meet the French demands in full. He argued that it was in Britain’s interest for France to restore order in Indochina, as a prolongation of the Indochinese situation would afford a ‘stimulus to elements in our Far Eastern and other dependent territories hostile to all


Britain and Regional Cooperation

European control’. Another im portant reason was the forthcom­ ing conclusion of an alliance with France.39 Cooper failed to convince officials in London. Gordon Whitteridge of the Far Eastern Department acknowledged that it was desirable to help France at this m oment when an Anglo-French alliance was in the offing, and when contacts with the French authorities in Indo­ china were being developed as part of British plans for regional cooperation in the whole of South-East Asia. However, he also believed the French were pulling against the tide with their policy in Indochina: the future was with the native people not only in Indochina but throughout the Far East. Britain therefore had to be careful not to stultify her policy towards India, Burma, Malaya and Indonesia by openly supporting France in Indo­ china. Britain was under no obligation to continue supplying portions of French forces with arms. Whitteridge concluded that open support for a colonial power in a struggle against an independence movement would gravely affect Britain’s position in the Far East. The French should therefore be told that no arms or am m unition could be spared from Singapore, but that m etropolitan France could be supplied from surplus stocks elsewhere. As a gesture of goodwill, the Treasury m ight also be asked not to insist on payment in advance.40 At the Foreign Office’s Western Department Moynehan agreed with W hitteridge’s conclusions. It was unfortunate that the whole issue had cropped up at this moment when AngloFrench relations on the spot were developing satisfactorily, and when an alliance was under consideration. T urning down the French request would no doubt lead to hostile criticism in France, but it would be a great deal less than the criticism that would be provoked not only in India and the Far East, but in Britain as well, if France were supplied with stocks from Singapore. In the long run, Anglo-French relations would indeed suffer more if London took action which m ight start an outcry aginst French policy in the Far East. Moynehan added that: French policy towards some of their dependent territories is not in line with our own views. While we have every desire to work as closely as possible with the French in all these colonial matters we must not let the French, or indeed our own Embassy in Paris, think that the conclusion of the

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


Alliance will necessarily mean that the French will be able to count on our support in their dealings with their dependent territories, regardless of the merits of the case.41 Dening subsequently summed up the departm ent’s views in a m em orandum for Orme Sargent, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. According to Dening, the Foreign Office’s telegrams and minutes brought out clearly the difficulties now facing London: If we turn down the French altogether, this is bound to have an adverse effect on our relations at a time when we are hoping to conclude an alliance. On the other hand, we do N O T wish the French or anyone else to suppose that we necessarily support their policy in their Colonial Dependencies.’42 The French made a further approach on the subject of British arms deliveries at the beginning of February. This time the British embassy in Paris was contacted about the supply of am m unition from Singapore stockpiles, which had long been the subject of secret negotiations, to be used by French warships of British origin operating in Indochina.43 For the Foreign Office, this was ‘the first inkling that we have had that the Admiralty were engaged in shipping am m unition to the French in the Far East’. As W hitteridge learnt from the Admiralty, the latest order had been placed by Paris some three months before but had not been fulfilled ‘because the French found our price too high and have been arguing about it ever since’. The Admiralty now wanted to know from the Foreign Office whether deliveries from Singapore could go ahead. Whitteridge stressed in a depart­ mental m inute that: In view of the urgency of the matter, we cannot wait to see whether the French Govt is in fact about to embark on a new and conciliatory policy towards the Viet Nam [Viet Minh], and I suggest therefore, that we should now tell the Admiralty what we have already unofficially told the War Office, that we are opposed to direct supply to the French in the Far East, but would have no objection if similar am m unition were supplied to m etropolitan France.44 The issue was now referred to the highest political level. Dening explained the problem in a draft memorandum to the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Prime Minister. Dissenting from the rest of the Far Eastern Department, Dening argued that at the moment of establishing an alliance with France, French demands should be met in full. France was suspicious of British indifference to French colonial interests, a frame of m ind which dated back to events in the Middle East during the war when Britain more or less compelled the French to grant independence to Syria and the Lebanon, and which had been revived by differing policies over the economy and future of Germany. On the other hand, Dening recognised that ‘we have to be careful that we do not run into trouble through supplying arms to the French from Singapore’; a decision was thus required: as to whether we should supply the French from Singapore in the interest of Anglo-French friendship, or whether in the light of possible repercussions in the Asiatic territories we should only agree to supply arms and am m unition to m etropolitan France from this country.45 The Prime Minister himself made the final decision. During a staff conference on 11 February 1947 Attlee ruled that ‘we ought not to ship m ilitary supplies to the French from Singapore but that there was no objection to our doing so from the United Kingdom’.46 His decision has to be seen in the light of his policy on India. On 20 February, only nine days after his ruling on war m aterial for Indochina, Attlee announced Britain’s intention to transfer power in India w ithin the following eighteen months. Britain was of course deeply interested in m aintaining a close relationship with an independent India in the sectors of both foreign affairs and defence - through either the Commonwealth or a special bilateral treaty.47 At such a crucial moment for Anglo-Indian relations open support for the French war effort in Indochina m ight well have wiped out the political credit that Britain was likely to gain in the subcontinent by announcing her withdrawal from India. At the same time, London did not want to openly offend the French immediately before the signing of a bilateral defence treaty. Paris was therefore told that Singapore stocks represented local operational reserves which could not be spared, but that the services departments would do their best to meet French demands from the British m ainland to m etropolitan France as soon as possible.48 In March, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office,

India, Vietnam and the limits of colonial cooperation


Hector McNeil, told Parliam ent that no aid specifically designed for Indochina had been given to the French armed forces. He did not m ention, however, that London had imposed a de facto embargo on direct arms deliveries to Indochina in order to prevent Britain from being associated with, or becoming involved in, the unpopular war in the country. As J.E.D. Street of the South-East Asia Department warned later on in 1947, if Britain’s public attitude contained even an implied criticism of French policy in Indochina, ‘we should lose much, if not all, the goodwill which France bears us and which, in the condition of Europe at the moment, is so vital a factor’.50 Although Britain refused to publicly condemn the French war against the Viet M inh, the debate on the urgent question of arms deliveries to Indochina nevertheless had a profound effect on the Foreign Office’s regional plans in South-East Asia. While the Stent m em orandum of April 1946 had made Foreign Office officials aware of the fact that an independent India would have to be included in a South-East Asian regional system, it now became apparent that Anglo-French cooperation in South-East Asia m ight well be incom patible with Anglo-Indian cooperation in the region. Cooperation with France had previously been at the centre of British regional plans. After the outbreak of war in Indochina, France was now becoming a liability to the British.

Chapter 6

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’

T he debate on British arms deliveries to Indochina and the developments in India inspired the Foreign Office’s Far Eastern experts to redefine their policies in the South and South-East Asian region. The department formulated its new regional strategy in a series of policy papers used as background for the Foreign Secretary. T hough the papers never reached the cabinet level, they still constituted a major landm ark in Britain’s policy towards South-East Asia. The first of the three papers was titled ‘Stock-Taking Memor­ andum - Far East’. It argued that Britain’s position in the Far East had been adversely affected by three key factors. First, there was the British defeat in 1942 and the loss of considerable British territory to Japan, plus the fact that the ‘Far East in general’ considered Britain subsequently to have played a relatively minor role in defeating Japan. Second, there was the factor that the United States had dominated the war against Japan, and that W ashington now assumed the leadership in Far Eastern affairs, particularly north of the tropic of Cancer. Finally, there was the ‘tide of nationalism which pervades the whole area, and which received great impetus as a result of the war’. The paper stressed that Britain’s position would be further affected by the fact that India would probably become a foreign power in the near future, and that Burma would at best become an independent entity w ithin the Commonwealth. In China, Britain’s prewar role had been virtually replaced by that of the United States, though a serious threat would arise only if the Soviet Union ever replaced the United States as the dom inant foreign power in China. However, while Britain’s position in India and China was declining, the paper argued that her influence in South-East Asia

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 83

was still strong: even in South-East Asia’s non-British territories, Britain’s leadership was tacitly, if not publicly, recognised. The area represented an im portant link in the strategic chain of Commonwealth defence, and it provided products such as sugar, vegetable oils, tea and coffee for soft currency and could allow Britain to cut down her (dollar) purchases from hard-currency areas. Britain should therefore devote close attention to SouthEast Asia, in order to improve her position there. Despite the political troubles in Indochina and Indonesia: It should not prove impossible in the course of the next few years to build up a regional system, with Singapore as its centre, which should not only strengthen the political ties between the territories concerned and facilitate a defensive strategy, but also prove of considerable economic and financial benefit to the United Kingdom.1 The second Foreign Office paper, titled ‘British Policy in SouthEast Asia’, took a closer look at British policies and interests in individual South-East Asian territories. In Thailand, it was B ritain’s m ain interest to promote stability and the development of democratic institutions in order to guard against ultra­ nationalist governments like the one before the war, which by experience tended to discriminate against Western interests. The paper believed that T hailand’s liberal elements needed to be strengthened. This would help to m aintain British trading interests in the country and ensure that in the event of any conflict in the area T hailand could be integrated into a (regional) British defence system. T he situation in Indochina was seen as more difficult. B ritain’s ‘cooperative attitude’ after the war, when she ‘did nothing to ham per French efforts to re-establish their sover­ eignty’ was much appreciated both locally and in Paris. How­ ever, the outbreak of hostilities in December and the continuing struggle between the French and the ‘Vietnam Republic’ had put Britain in an awkward predicament given her close relationship with France, and in view of the sympathies of the Burmese and Indian populations with the Vietnamese nationalists. There had also been little progress in the trade sector: British hopes that the French government would follow a more liberal economic policy and that Britain could extend her commercial influence in Indochina had met with little success. The paper recommended


Britain and Regional Cooperation

that Britain should promote any arrangements which provided for real long-term stability in Indochina; France should therefore resume talks with either the Viet M inh or the two nationalist parties. Almost predicting the Geneva settlement of 1954, the paper argued that at worst ‘it should be possible for the French to concentrate their forces and adm inistration in Indo-China south of Parallel 16° while allowing the territories north of Parallel 16° to develop into an autonom ous buffer state between themselves and C hina’.2 In Indonesia, on the other hand, the prospects for the extension of British interests were far more promising. After her direct postwar involvement, Britain still had considerable politi­ cal influence in the country: B ritain’s prestige stands high there today. We came as a victorious power (unlike the Dutch) and we went when our tasks were completed w ithout having sought to obtain any economic or other special advantage. Our disinterestedness, the restrained behaviour of our troops and the influence of two men in particular, Lord Inverchapel and Mr MacKereth, have strongly impressed the Indonesian leaders and intellectuals. However, Britain was not so popular with the Dutch who rum oured that the British had downed Indonesia in order to benefit Malaya’s tin and rubber industries, and who were cling­ ing to their m onopolistic commercial practices.3 The paper stressed that Britain had a unique opportunity in Indonesia. Before the war, British investments in the country had been worth £25 m illion, quite a considerable amount. The country’s economy was now run down after four years of Japanese occupation and eighteen m onths of bitter fighting after the war, yet it was not fully realised how much the great material resources of Indonesia were currently in demand. Exports on a prewar scale of the products of Indonesia would go far to relieve the world of some of its most acute shortages, such as of sugar, tea, vegetable oils and oil. Britain should therefore help to restore stable ccnditions as a basis for the country’s speedy economic recovery. Furthermore: It is clear that we have a remarkable opportunity in Indonesia to further British influence. It is perhaps a unique oppor­ tunity in the world today since nowhere else do we find an area

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 85

comparable in natural resources and population which is embarking on a new independent existence, which is eager to accept help and guidance from outside and which at the moment is looking to Britain to provide these things. . . . The m ain object of our diplomacy should therefore be to show the Indonesians at all times that we have their interests at heart and to guide the present leaders in the right direction. The paper then turned to developments in Malaya, which were closely watched by neighbouring territories. Britain’s stock in the country was still high, and her attitude towards nationalist hopes in India, Egypt and elsewhere had gained her trust and respect. This had, however, been lessened by her handling of the consti­ tutional question and of the situation in Sarawak. Everything therefore depended on successful negotiations with the Malays and the local Chinese on the new constitution. Furthermore, Britain should replace the old generation of colonial adm inis­ trators with younger men with a broader outlook.4 The paper finally turned to South-East Asia as a whole, where Britain should seek to extend her cultural influence. The nascent nationalism s following the Japanese occupation were looking round for a model, and although such models were being provided by Russia and the United States, Britain appeared to find much favour, particularly am ong the Indonesians. Having been cut off from British influence, the inhabitants of South-East Asia were now clam ouring for renewed contacts with Britain and for instruction in English. The scope for the extension of B ritain’s cultural influence was greatest in T hailand and Indo­ nesia - in Indochina it was the French, and in the Philippines the Americans who were dom inant.5 The paper concluded: All the Colonial territories of South-East Asia look forward to a future of greater self-government or total independence. At the same time they are looking to other countries for help, guidance and example. . . . We ought to grasp the oppor­ tunity which this tendency gives us, firstly by prom oting rehabilitation by every practical means, and secondly by offering them the advice and help they need in developing their lives on modern lines. Lord Killearn’s organisation, the paper added, should play a prom inent role in centralising these efforts in South-East Asia.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

The Special Commissioner had already built up a system of cooperation with other British authorities in the area and beyond, and had taken steps towards regional collaboration by holding m onthly food liaison conferences. Regional conferences on nutrition and fisheries had also been held, and there was no doubt that by beginning on a technical plane the value of regional collaboration had been demonstrated: ‘As confidence grows it should be possible to progress towards regional collab­ oration in political matters also. Our aim should be to develop Singapore as a centre for the radiation of British influence.’6 The two papers thus proposed a new British approach to the affairs of South-East Asia. First, it was argued that Britain’s declining power in India and China could be compensated through the extension of British influence in South-East Asia. As Dening commented w ithin the Foreign Office: W ith our im m inent withdrawal from India and Burma, South-East Asia becomes of even greater significance as a strategic link between the United Kingdom, Africa and Aus­ tralia. T hough it is not believed that our influence will entirely disappear from India and Burma, its focus will be centred in South-East Asia, and geographically the centre is Singapore. It may well be that the closer contacts of the UK with India and Burma will be m aintained through some organisation such as that of the Special Commissioner in Singapore, in view of the great distance from the U.K.7 Second, the papers stressed that rather than feeling threatened by the recent wave of nationalist successes, Britain should exploit the opportunities offered by the new political situation, by cooperating with the nationalist movements in the region. According to Dening: We must not appear to be ganging up with Western Powers against Eastern peoples striving for independence. Rather should our aim be to contrive a general partnership between independent or about-to-be independent Eastern peoples and the Western powers who by their past experience are best able to give them help and, in our case, to some extent protection.8 Dening regarded it as vital that B ritain’s regional activities should be coordinated through the Special Commission, not the Malayan Governor-General’s office: a colonial appointee in

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 87

charge of cooperation with foreign territories was bound to raise suspicion of British intentions.9 T he Special Commission should also be given responsibility for policies in the ‘cultural’ sector. The Defence Ministry had recently indicated its intention to withdraw ‘white troops’ east of India and Burma except where it was necessary to build up local formations. In this case, Britain would no longer be able to influence South-East Asia through the display of armed strength, but would have to rely on the impact of cultural and inform ation organisations on the local populations, bodies that should fall under the auspices of the Special Commissioner. Dening attached particular importance to the establishment of a powerful broadcasting organisation such as the ‘Voice of Britain’; at the moment, the only com­ petitors were the Americans, but one day the Russians m ight come up with a powerful station in eastern Siberia. By that time, a British station ought to have established its own audience.10 D ening’s recommendations were discussed during a depart­ mental meeting with the Foreign Secretary on 8 February 1947. Bevin agreed with Dening’s appreciation of South-East Asia, stating that: We should consolidate our position in South-East Asia as soon as possible, and before the attention of the world was focussed in that direction, which would happen when the Japanese Peace Treaty came up for consideration, possibly at the end of 1947 or early in 1948. Bevin also agreed to m aintain an organisation in charge of food allocations until at least the middle or end of 1948, and he promised to discuss with the Ministry of Food the desirability of extending the IEFC Rice Committee beyond 1947. When Dening drew attention to Colonial Office plans for the reorganisation of Malaya and Singapore under one governor, and the possible abolition of the Governor-General’s office, Bevin promised to discuss with the Colonial Secretary the question of the division of responsibility between Killearn and colonial officials. By im pli­ cation, this m eant pressing for an increase in Killearn’s coordi­ nating functions. Bevin was also keen on the expansion of B ritain’s cultural activities in South-East Asia, both through the activities of the British Council and through broadcasts by the ‘Voice of Britain’.11 The Foreign Office’s stock-taking papers and the subsequent


Britain and Regional Cooperation

departmental discussions constituted a highlight in the develop­ ment of Britain’s policy of regional cooperation. The Special Commission had firmly moved into the centre of the depart­ m ent’s regional plans. Killearn had started with regional coope­ ration on the technical level, and it was hoped that his organisa­ tion would provide the nucleus for a larger British-led regional organisation. As in 1945 and 1946, the ultim ate aim was to create a regional system or organisation in order to consolidate and extend Britain’s political and commercial influence in SouthEast Asia, in particular in Indonesia. However, there were also significant changes: contrary to previous regional concepts, great attention was given to cooperation with the nationalist move­ ments in South-East Asia. A further difference to previous plans was the enlarged geographical scope of a regional system, which was to include India, Burma and Ceylon. In fact, one of the main aims of regional cooperation was to m aintain close links with the countries of the subcontinent after their independence. In a nutshell, the Foreign Office was confident that in view of B ritain’s assumed popularity with the Asian nationalists, London would be able to use the proposed Singapore-based organisation to m aintain a high degree of political and economic influence in both South and South-East Asia. However, the three Foreign Office papers failed to address the question of whether France and the Netherlands should be included in the revised regional plans. T hough Britain had quietly decided to stop supplying French troops in Indochina, the previous autum n’s initiative by the French embassy in London still required an official reply. In the middle of Febru­ ary, the Foreign Office consequently agreed with Colonial Office recommendations that collaboration with the French should be lim ited to economic and technical subjects, leaving out political matters for the time being. This corresponded with existing Anglo-French collaboration in Africa. Furthermore, any collab­ oration with the French authorities in Indochina should form part of a regional system rather than being conducted on a bilateral basis. Questions like health, which called for a regional treatment, could best be tackled by regional technical conferences that included the French. Moreover, any such Anglo-French collaboration would best be organised locally, i.e. by Killearn and MacDonald, rather than by the British Colonial Office and the Ministry of France Overseas.12

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 89

As Gordon W hitteridge of the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Department pointed out in a departmental minute, no particular action regarding the French was required. They would continue to send representatives to the Liaison Officers’ Meetings and had been invited to the other conferences. T hough a visit by Killearn to Saigon m ight be useful, it was undesirable in the present political situation.13 Back in Singapore, Michael W right agreed with the Foreign Office’s line. Visits by French and British experts on rice, coal and economic matters were already going ahead, and there were periodic talks between the Special Com­ missioner and the French consul-general in Singapore. He added: It is clearly desirable to promote collaboration with neighbouring territories in South-East Asia, and not least with the French who are im portant to us in Europe and with whom we have just signed an alliance. On the other hand we must be extremely careful to avoid giving any false impression of a policy of ‘South-East Asia for Europeans’. So long as there is no agreement between the French and Asiatics in Indo China we must p ut each foot down warily.14 Dening, too, argued that Britain should avoid giving the impression of a European policy in South-East Asia. The French embassy in London should therefore be informed about the conclusions reached in London and Singapore. This should be done orally rather than in writing; after all, it had never been contemplated to ‘make a splash’ about it with the French. His own impression was that they were by no means unaware of the considerations which prom pted Britain to move cautiously in this m atter.16 The outbreak of war in Indochina had thus stalled efforts towards closer Anglo-French relations in South-East Asia. How­ ever, since Britain never admitted that she had imposed a de facto arms embargo on Indochina, it did not prevent Paris and London from signing a m ilitary alliance in Europe. T hough officially directed against Germany, the Dunkirk Treaty of 4 March 1947 was the precursor of an anti-Soviet security arrange­ ment in Western Europe;17 its signing h rther improved AngloFrench relations and helped to draw Paris closer into the AngloAmerican camp. The treaty also inspired closer Anglo-French cooperation in Africa; in September 1947 Bevin told the French


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Premier, Paul Ramadier, that he wanted to step up economic cooperation in the colonies.18In December, the French responded by officially suggesting bilateral talks on economic collaboration in West Africa.19 However, the British continued to avoid closer cooperation with the French in South-East Asia, with London rem aining prim arily concerned about Asian nationalist opinion. As Dening told the Colonial Office in December: T he question of regional cooperation in South-East Asia (not only of course with the French) has been very much in our minds, but we have rather steered clear of having anything laid on in the way of Anglo-French colonial discussions on Africa. T his is of course because of the political situation in Indo-China. Our colonial territories in particular are nervous of any association with the French which m ight be interpreted by the national movements in South-East Asia as having political significance. . . . If the French should by any manner of means contrive a satisfactory political settlement in IndoChina, things would of course be different.20 While the prospects for France’s inclusion in a South-East Asian regional system were thus greatly diminished as a result of the war against the Viet Minh, Dutch hard-line policies in Indonesia had an even more profound effect on the Netherlands’ chances of being included in a British-sponsored regional scheme. In November 1946, the Dutch and the Indonesian nationalists had signed a compromise agreement on the consti­ tutional position of Indonesia. Under the so-called Linggadjati Agreement - negotiated under British pressure and finalised only days before the departure of the last British troops from Indo­ nesia21 - the Dutch had recognised the Indonesian Republic’s de facto authority over the islands of Sumatra and Java. The Republic had in turn consented to a federal form of government for the proposed United States of Indonesia, which would be established not later than 1 January 1949 and which would be an equal partner in a Netherlands Union under the Dutch Crown. T hough ratified in March 1947, the agreement was never implemented. On 27 May 1947, the Dutch put an ultim atum to the Indonesian side, asking them to recognise de jure Dutch sovereignty in Sumatra and Java prior to January 1949, and denying the Republic the right to conduct her own foreign

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 91

affairs. After an Indonesian refusal to meet the ultim atum in full, the Dutch, ignoring the Linggadjati provision for arbitration by a third party, on 20 July 1947 launched a military campaign against the Republic. W ithin days the Dutch captured large parts of Java and Sumatra, failing, however, to destroy the bulk of the Indonesian guerrilla forces.22 The Dutch police action, as The Hague called it, put London in an awkward position. On the one hand, the British saw the aspirations of the Indonesian nationalists with sympathy. As the three stock-taking papers of February 1947 had shown, some officials at the Foreign Office hoped to exploit Britain’s compar­ atively good standing with the republicans in order to extend British commercial and political influence in Indonesia after the end of Dutch rule. On the other hand, Britain had continuing obligations to the Dutch as former wartime allies. It was also in London’s interest to see the Netherlands regain both economic and m ilitary strength at a time of heightening East-West tensions in Europe. After the war, Britain had supplied the Netherlands with m ilitary equipm ent worth 40 m illion pounds. T hough intended prim arily for the defence of Western Europe, British arms supplies had been crucial for the Netherlands’ military build-up in Indonesia: by June 1947 about 90,000 Dutch troops had been equipped, and in Java some 60 tanks as well as 12,000 to 14,000 vehicles and a num ber of surplus aircraft had been delivered.23 However, the worsening of relations between the Dutch and the Indonesian nationalists between the signing of the Linggadjati Agreement and the beginning of the Dutch police action had forced the British to rethink their arms policies regarding the Netherlands. In May 1947, Attlee warned the cabinet that a Dutch resort to force would have serious political and economic consequences. Britain would be criticised for having brought Dutch forces back to Indonesia. An armed conflict was ‘bound to disturb our own relations with native populations throughout South-East Asia’; it would also delay for years the food exports from Indonesia needed to reduce Britain’s dependency on hard-currency countries.24 In June, Richard Allen pointed out to the Foreign Office that ‘we are faced with the serious prospect of hostilities in the Netherlands East Indies in the near future’.25 The outbreak of war in Indochina had clearly made the British wary of Asian and, in particular, Indian


Britain and Regional Cooperation

opinion and the Foreign Office warned The Hague on 16 June that public opinion m ight pressure Britain to cut off the supply of war material in the event of the Netherlands resorting to force in Indonesia.26 The cabinet supported the Foreign Office’s line thus deciding in principle that Britain m ight have to impose an arms embargo against the Dutch.27 However, Foreign Office officials were still in the dark about how, and under what circumstances, to implement the cabinet’s policy. At the beginning of July, the Dutch authorities in Indonesia asked for permission to fly locally-bought British ordnance stores from Changi airfield in Singapore to Sumatra. Killearn asked London for guidance, arguing that: In the light of Dutch intentions and of extremely delicate position we are in as regards Asiatic opinion by reason of the fact that we have already supplied military equipm ent to the Dutch forces and stopped it to the Indonesians, my own view is that we should say frankly as each case arises that we are unable to furnish or facilitate transport of any further military stores from South-East Asia for the present.28 Killearn’s telegram raised once again the ‘thorny question of the Asiatic reaction to our policy in respect of the Dutch and the French’. As John Street m inuted at the Foreign Office, it was well known that Britain had trained and equipped almost all the Dutch troops presently in Indonesia. ‘What is not so well-known is our constant pressure on the Dutch not to make fools of themselves by resorting to force. ’ However, he added, ‘we cannot afford to forget that the Dutch are our allies in Europe’. If the Dutch had actually bought the stores concerned, Street thought they should be allowed to load them onto their planes.29 Gordon W hitteridge disagreed, arguing that even such local deliveries were likely to do Britain much harm in the eyes of the Asians, particularly as no deliveries had been made to the Indonesians. Stopping local deliveries would annoy the Dutch without affect­ ing their ability to wage war; however, if things were left as they were it would be difficult to defend Britain’s actions.30 In this particular case, the Foreign Office decided that the Dutch could not be stopped from buying or taking away surplus equipm ent which Britain had put on the open market in Singapore.31 However, the stakes were raised dramatically after the Dutch police action in July 1947 caused a worldwide outcry

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 93

against the Netherlands. India was one of the Netherlands’ most outspoken critics. The Indian press unanim ously condemned Dutch aggression. Nehru, too, was highly critical of the police action, using much stronger terms than in the case of Indochina: unlike the Viet Minh, the majority of Indonesia’s nationalist movement was not comm unist.32 He insisted in a telegram to London that Britain and the United States should put pressure on the Dutch in order to end the conflict. In public, he made it clear that he regarded the police action as an affront against the whole of Asia. The Dutch resort to military force was highly unwelcome in London. It destroyed the prospects for a return to normalcy in Indonesia and for a resum ption of full British trade with the country in the near future. Most seriously, it threatened to poison the political atmosphere in Asia less than a m onth before the transfer of power in India. Despite this, the British were forced to take a middle line, in view of their conflicting interests in good relations with both India and the Netherlands. Bevin told the House of Commons that Britain did not intend to lay the problems before the UN Security Council, but that she was hoping for other methods to end the fighting. The Dutch, however, refused arbitration.34 Further British efforts to negotiate a compromise solution failed when the Americans rejected a secret British proposal that London and W ashington should jointly induce the Netherlands to accept some form of arbitral solution to the conflict.35 At the instigation of Australia and India, the Indonesian question was subsequently taken to the Security Council, which in the following months repeatedly tried to arrange a cease-fire. Following the Dutch police action and the British failure to find a compromise, London was bound by the cabinet’s previous decision to im plem ent an arms embargo against Indonesia. However, as the head of the Foreign Office, Orme Sargent, pointed out, the question was whether only arms deliveries to Java would be stopped, or whether direct supplies to the Neth­ erlands should also be affected - to which Britain was committed in execution of her general policy of building up the Dutch armed forces in H olland for the defence of Western Europe. A public announcem ent that Britain would refuse shipping m ili­ tary supplies to the Netherlands was ‘likely to prejudice the readiness of the Dutch to collaborate with us in Europe’ and


Britain and Regional Cooperation

would cause deep and lasting resentment by the Dutch. It was also ‘liable to affect adversely our policy of standardisation since the Dutch m ight be led to adopt non-British types of standards of equipm ent and operational methods’. Sargent therefore suggested m aking the same distinction as in the case of Indo­ china by announcing the stoppage of military supplies to Java 36 only. The Chiefs of Staff supported Sargent’s line during a Defence Committee meeting on 23 July, but they failed to convince the Foreign Secretary. Bevin stressed that Britain had already offered her good offices to the Dutch; if a further approach failed, the provision of supplies and facilities in the Far East should stop at once. Furthermore, ‘if other action proved ineffective, it would be necessary to deny m ilitary assistance to M etropolitan H olland’.37 After Bevin convinced himself that his effort at mediation had failed, he told a staff conference on 28 July that it was now essential for Britain to announce her neutrality by declaring that no war materials would be supplied either to the Dutch or to the Indonesians. Nevertheless, supplies of British war materials to m etropolitan H olland and for training Dutch forces in Europe could be continued. Bevin’s line found the support of Attlee,38 and the Foreign Secretary told Parliam ent on 30 July that his government had prohibited the supply of war materials to Indonesia. The embargo also banned supplies to m etropolitan H olland which were intended for Indonesia.39 The terms of the Indonesian arms ban were much harsher than in the case of Indochina. The Dutch had to assure in the case of each British delivery that the supplied war materials were not destined for Indonesia, whereas the French, who of course had much greater international clout than the Netherlands, were free to do with their deliveries to the m ainland as they pleased. L ondon’s decision to impose an arms embargo on Indonesia meant that any ideas of prim arily colonial cooperation in SouthEast Asia, which had been at the heart of both Colonial Office and Foreign Office plans in 1945, were finally put to rest. At the same time, the prospects for joint European and Asian coope­ ration, laid down by the Foreign Office only four months earlier, were greatly diminished. The wars in Indochina and Indonesia were poisoning the political climate in Asia, and Asian leaders continued to attack not just the Dutch and the French but the colonial powers per se. Britain could not escape the fact that so

Singapore and the ‘radiation of British influence’ 95

long as the conflicts in Indonesia and Indochina remained at the centre of world attention, the prospects for any kind of Britishsponsored regional system in South-East Asia were dim. Things were made worse by the fact that the Special Commission, which was at the centre of British regional plans, had recently come under threat by a series of unexpected international develop­ ments. It is these developments that will be examined next.

Chapter 7

Regional competition: India and Australia

The crisis in Indonesia demonstrated the difficulties of drawing India and other fledgling Asian states into a British-led regional system in South-East Asia. As the unexpectedly vociferous Indian reaction to the Dutch police action showed, Delhi would not want to be associated with a South-East Asian grouping that involved either the Netherlands or France. To the contrary, Nehru regarded m utual Asian resentment of French and Dutch policies as an opportunity to further India’s own influence in South-East Asia. It slowly began to dawn on London that, if Nehru had his way Delhi, rather than London or Singapore, would be the focus of any South-East Asian regional develop­ ments. Indian interests in South-East Asia were historical. In the pre­ colonial period Indian cultural and religious influence, in the form of H induism and Buddhism, extended to Burma, Thailand, Indochina, parts of Malaya and Indonesia, and even the Philippines. Indian merchants also m aintained significant trade links with the area. T hough the appearance of the European colonial powers reduced the cultural contacts between India and South-East Asia, it strengthened the economic ties between the two areas. Under the British, Indian labourers settled in Malaya, and the country developed into an im portant trading entrepot for Indian goods and textiles exported to other parts of East and South-East Asia. Burma became an almost exclusive market for Indian m anufactured textiles and consumer goods. In return, British India heavily depended on Burma, Indonesia, Malaya, T hailand and Indochina for imports of oil, tin, rubber, rice and timber.2 South-East Asia was also of great strategic importance to India. The Japanese invasion of South-East Asia and neighbour­

Regional competition: India and Australia


ing Burma during the Second World War reminded Indians that South-East Asia was a key for the defence of India against an invader from the north-east. While preparing for independence in 1947, it seemed almost natural that India would try to establish a m aximum of political and economic influence in South-East Asia, a region that was itself undergoing radical political changes. Nehru showed a keen interested in South-East Asia, which he had toured in the spring of 1946. Shortly after assuming office in the Indian Interim Government in September 1946, Nehru explained the principles of his foreign policy in a broadcast speech to the nation. First, it was to be based on the principle of non-alignm ent and neutrality between the European powers, in particular the growing conflict between East and West: ‘We propose, as far as possible, to keep away from the power politics of groups, aligned against one another, which have led in the past to world wars and which may again lead to disasters on an even vaster scale.’ Nehru then outlined a second aim in Indian foreign policy, namely for India to become the cham pion of the Asian independence movements and to assume a kind of m oral leadership in Asia. He also seemed to be thinking of possible Indian associations with South-East Asia and the Middle East: We are of Asia and the peoples of Asia are nearer and closer to us than others. India is so situated that she is the pivot of Western, Southern and South-East Asia. In the past her culture flowed to all these countries and they came to her in many ways. Those contacts are being renewed and the future is bound to see a closer union between India and South-East Asia on the one side, and Afghanistan, Iran, and the Arab world on the other. T o the furtherance of that close association of free countries we must devote ourselves.3 Nehru soon put his ideas for greater cooperation with other Asian states to the test. In March 1947, he convened the informal Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi - attended by delegates from twenty-eight Asian countries, some of which were still under colonial rule. D uring the meeting, he publicly denied that India had any desire for Asian leadership. However, behind the scenes he proposed creating an inter-Asian organisation with a perm anent secretariat on Indian soil. Western observers


Britain and Regional Cooperation

suspected Nehru wanted to establish India as the moral if not political leader of the Asian independence movements. However, N ehru’s plan failed to convince the participating delegations. The (nationalist) Chinese successfully lobbied against an Indiandom inated Asian organisation, while the smaller countries of South-East Asia expressed their fear of both Indian and Chinese dom ination. Instead, some of them suggested an exclusively South-East Asian grouping. The Middle Eastern countries remained altogether uninterested and the six attending Soviet republics largely abstained.4 Despite the set-back to his regional am bitions at the Asian Relations Conference, Nehru was to intensify his efforts in the following two years to create for India a leading position am ong the states of South and South-East Asia. T hough Nehru was genuinely outraged by the Dutch police action in July 1947, it also provided him with a welcome opportunity to indulge in anti-colonial rhetoric aimed at uniting the smaller Asian countries behind him. The United Nations was a welcome international platform for his policies.5 London was slow to grasp Indian aspirations in South-East Asia. T hough the Foreign Office had acknowledged the fact that a South-East Asian regional system had to include the Indians, its plans from February 1947 underestimated N ehru’s desire for South-East Asian leadership. So far as the Asian Relations Conference was concerned, the British were initially apprehen­ sive: the India Office regarded the conference’s announcem ent in September 1946 as a sign of the Indian Interim Government’s expansive tendencies in foreign affairs, and the Foreign Office complained about Soviet participation.6 However, when the conference failed to produce a perm anent Asian organisation, London lost interest in the issue. It was only after India’s continuing agitation on behalf of the Indonesian Republic that the Foreign Office began to take Indian ambitions in South-East Asia into account. London also underestimated some of the knock-on effects of the Asian Relations Conference: the meeting encouraged a series of international initiatives for regional cooperation, most of which were directed against the European colonial powers. Weeks after the meeting in New Delhi, the Burmese leader, Aung San, called for a ‘South-East Asia Economic U nion’ consisting of Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, Indochina and Malaya.7 In June, the French proposed a rival plan for ‘Pan South-East Asian

Regional competition: India and Australia



U nion’, though this was little more than a tactical proposal during Franco-Thai negotiations on the fate of the Indochinese territories annexed by Bangkok. In September 1947, a group of intellectuals from T hailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indo­ nesia, Burma and Malaya officially founded the ‘South-East Asia League’. The league’s manifesto spoke critically of South-East Asia’s foreign dom ination and subjugation, postulating that the days of colonialism were past. It also claimed that there was an increasing sentiment am ong the subjected peoples of South-East Asia to ‘join in an effort toward a regional development of common interests’ as had been expressed during the Asian Relations Conference and in Rangoon with the late Aung San (Aung San had been assassinated on 19 July 1947). The league’s prim ary aim was described as the achievement of unity among the various peoples of South-East Asia, leading to a ‘Federation of South-East Asia’.9 T hough none of these proposals took off, they still demonstrated that B ritain’s idea of Asian-European collaboration was being superseded by proposals for exclusively Asian alignments. Even worse, from Britain’s point of view, were the competing regional proposals by one of her key allies in the area, Australia. Ever since the Canberra Agreement between Australia and New Zealand in 1944 (see Chapter 4), Australia had shown a much more active interest in South, South-East and East Asia - areas colloquially referred to as ‘The Near N orth’.10 Australian inter­ ests in a South-East Asian regional commission, expressed during the 1946 Prime Ministers’ Conference, were a further sign that Canberra - at a time when the political situation in Europe’s Asian colonies was in a state of flux - was aim ing for greater influence in the region. When Nehru failed to invite Australia to the Asian Relations Conference, the Australians became increas­ ingly concerned about being excluded from Asian regional developments. After Britain’s announcem ent on the transfer of power in India, the Australian Foreign Minister, Dr Herbert V. Evatt, decided to go on the diplom atic offensive. On 26 February 1947, he told the Australian House of Representatives: Just so far as the peoples of South-East Asia cease to be dependent upon the decisions of European Governments, so far do A ustralia’s interests in the councils of South-East Asia increase. . . . The time has now arrived when there should be

100 Britain and Regional Cooperation

formed in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific an appro­ priate regional instrumentality, concerning itself with the interest of all the peoples of this area. It should include the representatives of the peoples and Governments directly inter­ ested in the problems of the South-East Asia area. . . . The proposed regional instrum entality will at least facilitate the free and rapid interchange of basic information concerning the problems of administration, education, health, agriculture, commerce and cultural relations.11 A week later, on 5 March, Evatt further announced that Australia intended to invite some thirteen countries, including India, Burma, Thailand, Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Britain, the United States, France and the Netherlands, to an interna­ tional conference to discuss defence, trade and cultural relations in the Indian Ocean and in the South-West Pacific.12 T he British were not amused. Evatt’s conference proposal interfered with their own plans and constituted a veiled threat to Britain’s lead on South-East Asian regional developments. Initially, British officials in London and Singapore were aware only of Evatt’s first speech on India and a ‘regional instrum entality’ in South-East Asia, not of his proposal for a regional conference: according to one official at the Colonial Office, conditions in South-East Asia were unsuitable for a regional commission similar to those in the Caribbean or the South-West Pacific. In South-East Asia there were the Dutch, whose empire was ceasing to exist, the French, whose empire was already m uch reduced, ‘and ourselves, whose Asiatic interests are undergoing an extraordinarily rapid change and whose position is bound to be affected by events in the French and Dutch territories’. He suspected that Evatt’s proposal would allow countries like India and the Philippines ‘to stimulate in our colonies that brand of nationalism which we do not want to go out of our way to encourage’. Furthermore, there already existed Killearn’s organisation which extended British influence through economic encouragement and guidance.13 Lord Killearn, who had been invited to discuss regional cooperation with the Australians and who was planning a visit to the country, regarded Evatt’s initiative as encouraging. But he doubted whether its contents and tim ing were suitable. Unlike the Colonial Office, the Special Commissioner did not seem to

Regional competition: India and Australia


fear the inclusion but rather the exclusion of Asian nationalists from a regional organisation. He told the Foreign Office: We must in my view be very careful to avoid giving the impression that our policy is that of South-East Asia for the Europeans or, indeed for the white race. Yet if we were to proceed with proposals for a Regional Association before political agreement has been reached in the Netherlands East Indies and French Indo-China two of the principal territories in South-East Asia would be represented by European adm i­ nistrations whereas they ought to be represented by adm inist­ rations of Europeans and Asiatics in partnership. Added to this was the question of whether Burma, Ceylon, India and China would have to be included, ‘and what about US and Soviet participation?’. Furthermore, the Indian government was sponsoring conferences on economic, social and other problems in Asia, while both India and China were playing for leadership throughout the Far East. In view of these unresolved issues, Killearn recommended to wait until the situation in Indonesia and Indochina had become clearer. On the other hand, it m ight become impossible to postpone some form of regional associa­ tion m uch longer, and something on the lines of Evatt’s pro­ posals presented fewer disadvantages than others.14 When news of Evatt’s South-East Asian conference plans subsequently reached London, the British sensed a challenge to their position in South-East Asia. As Sir David M onteath of the India Office argued in a letter to the Foreign Office, Australian policy should be developed in concert with Britain, especially since the future of India was uncertain. It was British policy to steer India and Burma into a relationship in which they would cooperate with Britain and Australia, either w ithin the Com­ m onwealth or as an ally. The precise form ulation of a scheme for regional association would be prem ature before India’s consti­ tutional problem was resolved and her position in relation to the Commonwealth was established. Furthermore, for Australia to try and impose a regional organisation with herself in the lead would be as little acceptable to the Asian countries concerned as similar attempts by the European powers.15 Four days before his departure for Australia and New Zealand, Killearn was instructed by the Foreign Office to find out exactly what kind of instrum entality Evatt had in m ind and to explain


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the work of the Special Commission to the Australians. He should also stress that Britain and Australia had to avoid giving the impression that they were developing a white m an’s policy for South-East Asia. Any attem pt to present the Asian countries with a cut-and-dried policy of United Kingdom or Australian manufacture would ‘frustrate our m ain object of securing the wholehearted and friendly cooperation of India and Burma, whether they rem ain in the Commonwealth or n ot’.16 Killearn met Evatt in Canberra on 17 April, where he explai­ ned the Special Com m ission’s functions and the regional work of the m onthly food liaison meetings. When Killearn later on enquired what precisely Evatt had in m ind with his proposed regional instrum entality, he got ‘very little new from him, maybe owing to his having gathered from my remarks at lunch that the Special Commission was in practice covering the ground which he had in mind, to some considerable extent’. According to Killearn, Evatt appreciated his w arning to proceed with caution and to avoid any impression of wanting to create a ‘white m an’s’ organisation. Evatt also agreed that the tim ing of new initiatives would have to await the clarification of the situation in Indo­ china. At the same time, Killearn stressed that everyone in Singapore wanted to see Australia more closely associated with British activities, and that there were great commercial and trade opportunities for Australia in South-East Asia.17 Killearn’s talks in Canberra gave the Foreign Office the impression that Evatt had not been fully informed of the extent of regional collaboration already achieved by the Special Com­ m ission.18 As Allen minuted: Dr Evatt seems to have discovered that most of the ‘instrum entality’ after which he hankers (under Australian leadership) already exists under the aegis of the Special Commissioner and UK leadership. He may not greatly care for this but on the other hand it may be difficult for him not to accept this situation with a good grace. Allen also pointed out that New Zealand opposed Australian designs to play a greater role in Asia.19 New Zealand’s Secretary for External Affairs, McIntosh, had informed Britain of recent talks with Evatt and J.W. Burton, the head of Australia’s External Affairs Department. According to the New Zealander, Evatt hoped that countries like India, Burma, Malaya and

Regional competition: India and Australia


Indonesia, which were steadily moving towards self-government and independence, could be induced to turn to Australia for guidance, help and leadership which they would prefer not to seek from the West. He saw this as the basis of Evatt’s policy of ‘currying favour with Nationalists in these countries’. At the same time, the Australians seemed to have given little thought to what m ight be on the agenda of their proposed South-East Asian regional conference. McIntosh had replied that his country feared that supporting the ‘resurgent Nationalist Eastern peoples would result in New Zealand (and Australia) becoming tiny white islands in a large coloured sea’. New Zealand opposed watertight regional arrangements and preferred wider organisations such as the United Nations.20 Killearn’s talks in Australia and the report by McIntosh gave London the impression that the Australian proposals were only half-baked. Evatt had been unaware of the Special Commission’s regional work, despite the fact that the Australian Commissioner in Singapore had been working closely with Killearn ever since the latter’s arrival in South-East Asia. When Killearn stopped over in Canberra on 13 June during his return trip from New Zealand, Evatt no longer mentioned his regional plans.21 He was increasingly preoccupied with a forthcoming Commonwealth Conference in Canberra, scheduled for 26 August. The meeting had been arranged to prepare a common Commonwealth line on the question of a Japanese peace treaty, another area of AngloAustralian disagreement.22 Since Evatt was to chair the meeting, it seems that his desire for an international conference in Australia which would deal with Asian issues was at least partly fulfilled, and that he therefore dropped his plans for a South-East Asian conference. D uring the Canberra Conference, the issue of regional cooperation was not discussed. Despite the failure of his South-East Asian initiative, Evatt had made it clear that Canberra was demanding a greater say in the affairs of South and South-East Asia. Britain was watching this increasingly independent line in Australia’s foreign policy with some concern. According to a Foreign Office m inute of the end of May 1947: [Evatt’s] present policy is to keep in with the present natio­ nalist movements . . . with the idea that Australia m ight be able to take over leadership from the present European

104 Britain and Regional Cooperation

occupying powers. He would in fact like to be in on the ground floor. New Zealand on the other hand would prefer to stick to the United Nations and British Commonwealth.23 However, as Dening pointed out: We must not lose sight of the consideration that Australia may not always be Dr Evatt. While Dr Evatt dominates Australia’s foreign policy, I think it can be said that the broad aim is to put Australia in the foreground of the picture wherever it can be managed, I don’t think he really judges any prior grouping by what area it covers, but by how far Australia can predominate in it. 24 4-


In the following m onths and years, Canberra continued to seek greater influence in South-East Asia. Like Nehru, the Australians used the Dutch police action in July 1947 to woo the Asian nationalist movements. Canberra sharply condemned the Dutch offensive and jointly with India took the Indonesian problem to the Security Council. The Indonesian Republic subsequently nom inated Australia as its member of the U N ’s Good Offices Committee - the Netherlands nom inated Belgium and both sides picked the United States as third member. However, there were limits to Australian ambitions in Asia. Many Asians resented Australia’s traditional ‘White Australia’ policy, which severely restricted Asian im m igration into the country. In June 1948, for example, an Australian goodwill mission to South-East Asia nearly ended in failure because of the recent expulsion from Australia of a group of Malayan seamen.25 Despite this, the Australians, like the Indians, would refuse to give up their regional ambitions.

Chapter 8

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE

While in 1947, neither India nor Australia managed to overtake B ritain’s lead in organising regional cooperation in South-East Asia, a serious challenge to the Special Commission emerged through the body of the recently created United Nations Orga­ nisation. After little advance warning, the U N ’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) decided on 19 March 1947 to establish the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), covering South, East and South-East Asia. ECAFE constituted the most serious threat so far to B ritain’s regional plans, as it was intent on taking over the coordinating functions previously performed by the Special Commission in Singapore. Plans for ECAFE dated back to a joint proposal by Britain, the United States and Poland in 1946 to establish an Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) in order to meet the challenge of wartime devastation. (The Polish socialist and peasant parties were keen on m aintaining economic ties with the West.) The ECE was intended to bring together existing European economic bodies, such as the Emergency Economic Committee for Europe, the European Coal Organisation and the European Central Inland Organisation. It would also continue the work of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), which the United States had stopped funding because it was seen as propping up anti-American governments in Eastern Europe.1 When the question of an ECE was considered by the Second Committee of the U N ’s General Assembly at the end of 1946, the Asian members of the UN, particularly China and India, made it clear that they would only support the proposed Economic Commission for Europe if a similar organisation was established


Britain and Regional Cooperation

in Asia. They were supported by the Latin American countries. T hough most European countries doubted whether there was a need for an economic commission in Asia, they bowed to Asian demands in order not to forestall the creation of the ECE. On 11 December 1946 the U N ’s General Assembly recommended unanim ously that: In order to give effective aid to countries devastated by war, the Economic and Social Council at its next session give prom pt and favourable consideration to the establishment of an Economic Commission for Europe, and an Economic Com­ mission for Asia and the Far East.2 The two commissions were now referred to the U N ’s Economic and Social Council, which would have the final say on their establishment. T hough the British delegation to the UN regarded ECAFE as unnecessary,3 both India and China lobbied hard in the relevant ECOSOC working group for the commis­ sion’s immediate establishment. Since they were supported by the Netherlands, the Philippines and the Soviet U nion4, the Foreign Office instructed its representative at ECOSOC, J.P. Stent, not to oppose the Chinese proposal but to ensure that ECOSOC would have a free hand in determ ining the new commission’s compo­ sition and organisation.5 However, London had failed to take the views of its officials in Singapore into account. Two m onths after the General Assembly’s recommendation on ECE and ECAFE, the Foreign Office still had not told Killearn about the current negotiations at the UN. When on 21 February 1947 London enquired whether Singapore knew of any useful jobs for ECAFE, Killearn was dumbfounded. It was the first thing he and MacDonald had heard about the proposed organisation. He told London that if possible the comm ission’s establishment should be prevented. The Special Commission’s Liaison Officers’ Meetings were themselves trying to extend their scope and could be geared over a m uch wider economic field. The IEFC had already accepted the Singapore meetings as its m ain instrum ent in South-East Asia, and had p ut this on a constitutional basis by establishing a subcommittee on rice in Singapore. Killearn therefore wondered whether ECOSOC, like the IEFC, could be persuaded to operate through his Liaison Officers’ Meetings rather than through ECAFE. The ECAFE project revealed once again the

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


consistent determ ination of India and China (either separately or together) generally to oust us from leadership in this area. Both politically and strategically that seems to me highly undesirable. It also presumably means bringing Russia into the affairs of South-East Asia.7 Killearn’s telegram was communicated to the British delega­ tion at the United Nations. From New York, J.P. Stent com plai­ ned that Killearn had not been kept fully informed of the fact that the General Assembly’s resolution made ECAFE’s establishment almost inevitable. British opposition to the plan would have had awkward political consequences and would at best have received the support of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It was currently proposed that ECAFE should act as a coordinating body on all economic subjects and would normally take over all the unofficial conferences which Lord Killearn had been holding on matters other than food. Once it was fully established, it m ight also take over his food-coordinating functions.8 Stent’s comments did not go down well in London, as they implied the abolition of the Special Commission. The Foreign Office there­ fore responded that it had ‘serious doubts as to the useful and practical work ECAFE could do’ and that it had ‘no desire to see it set u p ’. Stent should therefore ensure that ECOSOC would only despatch a field mission, which would report back later on. Failing this, he should make sure that the commission’s main functions were confined to fact-finding.9 By the time that the Foreign Office’s objections reached New York, the ECAFE W orking G roup had already decided in favour of the immediate establishment of ECAFE. Stent, who had officially supported the decision, refused to take the blame, com plaining to London that his conflicting instructions could have been avoided had the South-East Asian authorities been informed earlier on. Killearn’s opposition to ECAFE had so clearly been based on m isapprehensions that it had not occurred to the British delegation that his views could be endorsed by the British government. The first suggestion that London shared Killearn’s views had reached Stent too late for him to act accordingly: If, as a result of this sequence of events, I am found to have committed HM G to a course of action which they do not wholly approve, I hope at least that I may be personally


Britain and Regional Cooperation

acquitted of exceeding instructions which I did not receive in time to make use of them .10 T hough the Foreign Office subsequently admitted that some of its instructions to Stent had not been sufficiently explicit,11 it was too late to prevent the new organisation. On 19 March 1947, ECOSOC unanim ously approved the establishment of ECAFE, following an earlier decision in favour of ECE.12 According to Lalita Prasad Singh, a leading historian on ECAFE, the decision was a ‘concrete recognition by the world organisation of the political renaissance of Asia’.13 It certainly was a diplomatic victory for India and China, who had lobbied hard to push the commission through. It was, however, less certain whether the organisation would ever achieve anything in practice. Its official instructions were vaguely worded as helping to facilitate ‘con­ certed action for the economic reconstruction of Asia and the Far East’, while strengthening the economic relations between the countries of the area and the rest of the world. ECAFE would also sponsor economic and technological studies relevant to Asia and the Far East, as well as the collection of economic, technological and statistical inform ation.14 ECAFE’s terms of reference covered vast parts of the Asian continent. By definition, Asia and the Far East included in the first instance British North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, the Malayan Union and Singapore, H ong Kong, Burma and Ceylon, the Indochinese Federation, the Netherlands East Indies (Indo­ nesia), India, China, the Philippines and Thailand. Only four of these countries and territories were also full members of the commission; namely India, China, the Philippines and Thailand. T o this were added the region’s three colonial powers, Britain, France and the Netherlands; as well as the United States, Australia and the Soviet Union. ECAFE’s organisational structure crystallised in the following years. Its m ain policy­ m aking body was the commission, with its committees, sub­ committees and specialised conferences. The commission included representatives from each member-state who met twice, and later on once, every year. Decisions were made by simple majority vote. ECAFE also had a perm anent secretariat, which served as both research institute and service agency for the commission and its subsidiary bodies. ECAFE’s chief diplom at was the comm ission’s Executive Secretary and head of the

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


secretariat.15 (By 1981 ECAFE’s name had been changed to Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), including thirty-five countries as members.) From the outset, ECAFE was hampered by its lack of clearly defined tasks and powers. Rather than tackling the problems of postwar relief, ECAFE was limited to giving advice on long-term economic developments, and to the prom otion of research and the collection of data. It lacked the funds to finance large-scale development programmes, and hopes by countries like China that the commission could serve as a clearing house for interna­ tional aid were soon dashed by the United States.16 While ECAFE’s economic impact was thus limited, it did, however, assume some importance as an international political forum. India soon used ECAFE as a platform for the propagation of Asian independence, for example by lobbying for the inclusion of the Indonesian Republic as an associate member of ECAFE. In later years, ECAFE sessions were increasingly affected by Cold War rhetoric between the Soviet Union and the Western powers. Following ECAFE’s creation in 1947, London soon changed its negative line in favour of giving pragm atic support to the new commission.17 Its change of heart was inspired by Killearn, who m aintained his reservations but argued that now that the decision to set up ECAFE had been taken there was no going back on it: How we can best turn ECAFE to advantage will no doubt emerge more clearly as time goes on. But I should certainly favour His Majesty’s Government taking a leading part in it. I should also welcome from the outset close and friendly contact between this mission and ECAFE.18 However, he regarded it as vital that a reference to the Special Commission be included in ECAFE’s terms of reference, in order to safeguard Killearn’s organisation against interference by the new commission.19 In other words: ECAFE would have to be prevented from affecting B ritain’s regional plans in general, and the Special Commission in particular. A special interdepartm ental W orking Party on ECAFE, set up in W hitehall, agreed that Britain should attempt to ‘guide the commission along practical lines’, but that the British delegation to the first ECAFE session in Shanghai should consult London


Britain and Regional Cooperation

before agreeing to any expansion of the commission’s activities.20 The British delegation to ECAFE was also told that the commis­ sion should be confined to practical tasks which would not interfere with B ritain’s own reconstruction efforts in Asia.21 However, a British proposal at ECAFE’s first session in July 1947, aimed at establishing a formal relationship between ECAFE and the Special Commission, was turned down not only by the Asian countries and the Soviet Union but also by the United States.22 D uring a follow-up meeting in New York, the British refrained from launching a further initiative, to avoid another defeat on the issue.23 The hostility against the Special Commission came as a surprise to London. It showed that while the Special Commis­ sion was popular at the regional level, it was regarded with the greatest suspicion at the United Nations. Should it ever have come to a diplom atic showdown between B ritain’s and the U N ’s regional organisations in Asia, the Foreign Office must have been aware that the latter would undoubtedly have m aintained the upper hand. T hough ECAFE still lacked clear tasks and functions, its UN background gave it legitimacy as a truly intergovernmental organisation. The Special Commission m ight have performed some useful coordinating work in the field of food distribution, but it was funded and run by London and was therefore unable to shake off the stigma of British imperialism. T he muddle at the Foreign Office prior to ECAFE’s creation was thus beginning to show its negative effects on British policies. Had Killearn been consulted immediately after the General Assembly’s resolution in December 1946, and had the Special Commission’s requirements subsequently been taken into account, Stent could have been instructed to make the inclusion of Killearn’s organisation in ECAFE’s terms of refer­ ence conditional for B ritain’s consent to the new commission. In this way, competition between the two organisations could have been avoided, and the Special Commission m ight have received the U N ’s sanctioning at a time when Killearn’s regional work was still crucial for avoiding famine in South-East Asia. How­ ever, the Foreign Office had missed its opportunity. Lord Killearn initially failed to appreciate the force of the storm clouds that were amassing against his organisation at the United Nations. In March, he was still confident about the prospects for the Special Commission, writing in his diary:

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


It appears that they are all in favour of keeping it [the Special Commission] on. . . . Malcolm said that when he was home he had been asked at the Colonial Office what his views were as regards the continuation of this commission and he had emphatically recorded his view that it would be entirely against the public interest to withdraw it for another four or five years. He believed that the Colonial Office had duly registered what he had said.24 However, Killearn was unaware that in London, too, his organisation and his own position were now being called into question. Since the summer of 1946 there had been constant complaints in the British press and by Conservative MPs about the Special Com m ission’s rising running costs. At the end of July 1946, Killearn had a staff of approximately 200, and his organisa­ tio n ’s total annual cost was estimated at£150,000.25 Eight months later the Special Commission had turned into an even larger bureaucratic machine with a staff of 500 people in March 1947, including a host of specialists and administrators.26 London later admitted that the organisation’s total cost from February 1946 to 30 June 1947 amounted to £424,30027 - more than twice the sum that had originally been estimated. T he Treasury watched the Special Commission’s inflation with growing anxiety. Britain was facing an increasing pay­ ments deficit in 1947.28 In January, £40 m illion had already been slashed off Britain’s projected defence budget to achieve some immediate savings - a reduction of 5 per cent of overall defence spending. However, the Treasury was looking for cuts all round, and the Foreign Office was asked to reduce its expendi­ ture in Singapore. Killearn had estimated that in the 1947/48 financial year his organisation would have to spend £121,000 in wages and allowances alone. The Treasury wanted this to be reduced to £70,000.29 In March, the Foreign Office sent Richard Allen to Singapore to investigate possible areas for cut-backs. After his return, Allen reported that he strongly believed in the continuation of the Special Comm ission’s regional work. It was the focal point for the radiation of British influence in South-East Asia and m ight even be the starting point of a regional commission. It had also dealt successfully with the food crisis, but now that things were settling down, Killearn’s staff of mainly ex-Army personnel was


Britain and Regional Cooperation

too big. He in fact saw a lot of duplication between the Special Commission and the Governor-Generars office; there was presently the tendency for the Special Commissioner to insist that, whenever a new officer was appointed to the GovernorGeneral’s staff, he must have someone separate for the same purpose. The best idea would be to merge the two organisations. MacDonald had secretly agreed to take over Killearn’s functions while continuing his coordinating work in the colonial field. His distinguished political record meant that he would be welcome to foreign authorities, and forthcoming constitutional reforms in Malaya would in any case dim inish the Governor-General’s responsibilities and enable him to take over additional duties.30 Dening was initially against a merger of the two organisa­ tions,31 but the Treasury convinced an interdepartmental meet­ ing at the end of April 1947 that it was the only way to significantly reduce Britain’s expenditure in Singapore. All the participants agreed that the amalgam ation would not mean abandoning the policy of coordinating political, economic and cultural affairs throughout South-East Asia. The new merged post would be offered to Malcolm MacDonald, who would have a small ‘colonial’ as well as a ‘foreign’ staff. At the instigation of Dening, the merger would not materialise until March 1948.32 From the Treasury’s point of view, the decision made financial sense. It would avoid the existing duplication, and it gave London the opportunity to send inspectors to Singapore who would examine further fields for spending cuts. The Colonial Office was also pleased, as it spotted an opportunity to increase its influence on the conduct of foreign policy in the region. A merger would also counter criticism of insufficient coordination between Britain’s colonial administrations in South-East Asia. MacDonald was a popular choice for the combined post as he was regarded as more than a ‘purely Foreign Office nom inee’.33 Killearn, however, who was told about the decision in the following m onth,34 was incensed by the plan. He told London that it was imperative that the Special Commission remained an ‘FO organisation, under an FO m an’. In the eyes of neighbour­ ing countries, the Special Commission’s position derived from the fact that it represented the Foreign Office, and that it was not an instrum ent of colonial policy. MacDonald also doubted whether the time was right for the junction of his and Killearn’s offices, though he gratefully accepted the offer to take over the

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


new post.36 Killearn’s former deputy, Michael Wright, who had recently been transferred back to London, also worried that the Foreign Office would lose some of its influence on the affairs of 37 South-East Asia. Allen replied that the department had: no intention of losing [its] grip in that part of the world and that, as long as Mr MacDonald was out there, there seemed no real reason for our doing so since he was by no means a Colonial Official, but a distinguished politician who could view things from the angle of both departments.38 Unlike Killearn, the Foreign Office believed that the combined post would improve the coordination of British policies in South-East Asia. As Allen pointed out, the merger, in a way, achieved what had originally been planned in 1945/46: the appointm ent of one top official dealing with foreign and col­ onial policy in South-East Asia.39 W ith hindsight, there is no doubt that the Foreign Office underestimated the damage that the am algam ation of the two Singapore posts would do to Britain’s regional policies in SouthEast Asia. As Killearn had pointed out, one of the main reasons why the Special Commission had gained credit as an organisa­ tion providing for international cooperation was the fact that it was working independently from the Colonial Office. The problem with the am algam ation was that it linked the interna­ tional section of the Special Commission too closely to Britain’s colonial authorities in South-East Asia. A merger between Killearn’s and M acDonald’s offices was thus bound to reduce the Special Comm ission’s reputation as a quasi-international organ­ isation in South-East Asia. Consequently, its chances of develop­ ing into a larger regional organisation acceptable to the new Asian states were greatly diminished. As Killearn pointed out in a lengthy telegram in September: When Special Commission was first established there was a general assum ption in neighbouring foreign areas that it was a thinly disguised agent of British National policy. This suspicion has been dissipated as a result of over a year’s working. . . . But when this organisation is amalgamated into a system with what cannot avoid being regarded as British colonial complex not only will suspicion be revived but it will probably be intensified and thus underm ine much of our work


Britain and Regional Cooperation

in establishing system of wholehearted regional consultation w ithout national bias.40 In fact, when news of the planned am algam ation emerged, it immediately affected the Special Commission’s reputation. In September 1947, London confidentially informed Australia, New Zealand and South Africa of the planned merger in Singapore.41 The Australians responded that they were concerned lest there was a dim inution of the Special Commissioner’s work and of the ‘cooperation and goodwill’ built up over the past eighteen months. Canberra wondered whether the Special Commission could continue as a joint British-Australian responsibility; the Australian Minister in China, Professor Copland, m ight be a suitable candidate for the Special Commissioner’s post.42 The Australian response greatly annoyed London, which sent a polite refusal.43 However, the episode showed that the planned am algam ation was bound to weaken Britain’s chances of orga­ nising regional cooperation, and that London’s regional com­ petitors were only too eager to step in. In fact, the prem ature leakage of the planned merger to the press, also in September 1947, was to turn Killearn into a ‘lame duck’. It further raised the question whether London should continue to press for a formal relationship between ECAFE and the Special Comm ission’s international section. The alternative would be to use ECAFE, not the Special Commission, as the focus for Britain’s regional policy, abandoning the plans of February 1947 to turn the Special Commission into a proper regional commission. In view of the U N ’s hostility to the Special Commission, expressed at the first ECAFE session in Shanghai, Stent argued that Britain should give up the Special Commis­ sion’s international functions at the time of the merger. The functions of the merged post would presumably be confined to coordinating the requirements of British territories and of the territories directly concerning them. Other functions, such as the collection of economic statistics and the holding of conferences on economic and related matters, should presumably be taken over by ECAFE.44 J.P. Clow, B ritain’s representative during the Shanghai session, disagreed. His views were known to be ‘diame­ trically opposed’ to those of Stent. Clow had little confidence in the new UN commission, which he thought was set up merely for reasons of prestige, and would inevitably be a useless body.45

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


The future of the Special Commission’s regional work was discussed by the ECAFE W orking Party in October 1947. Stent pointed out that the Asian delegates in Shanghai had not raised a single voice in defence of Killearn’s organisation, regarding it as purely temporary, and assuming that its functions would be taken over by ECAFE. He therefore wondered how Britain could continue to support indefinitely ‘a regional commission w ithin a regional comm ission’ where the larger was a United Nations body and the smaller was not. The representative from the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Department, Kenneth Christophas, disagreed. The Special Commission’s international func­ tions should continue under the new post, at least until ECAFE had emerged from the embryo stage. The W orking Party agreed with Christophas and decided that individual members of ECAFE should be asked to support the Special Commission’s continuing existence until ECAFE was a going concern.46 T he decision meant that London was not yet prepared to abandon its regional organisation in Singapore, together with the high political hopes that had once been attached to it. The Foreign Office subsequently asked countries like Thailand, France and the Netherlands to oppose as premature any resolu­ tions tabled at the next ECAFE meeting in December which demanded an immediate transfer of responsibilities from the Special Commission to ECAFE.47 Furthermore, London asked ECAFE’s secretariat to make a statement at the commission’s next session on relations with the Special Commission.48 The secretariat agreed, and ECAFE’s Executive Secretary, Dr P.S. Lokanathan, subsequently visited Singapore for talks with the Special Commissioner. Lord Killearn, increasingly disillusioned about the prospects for his organisation, told Lokanathan that the Special Com m ission’s functions would eventually have to be taken over by the UN,49 though ECAFE still had to show that it could function efficiently. In return, Lokanathan agreed to recommend establishing a formal relationship between the two organisations. Britain’s diplom atic efforts bore fruit during ECAFE’s second session in Baguio (Philippines) in November/December 1947, when the commission accepted Lokanathan’s recommendation to establish a ‘satisfactory working relationship’ with the Special Commission. The two organisations would exchange liaison officers and would inform one another of any economic confer­


Britain and Regional Cooperation

ences they m ight hold. Eventually, it was perhaps desirable that some of the Special Comm ission’s functions should be assumed by ECAFE, though this depended on ECAFE’s ability to provide the necessary organisation. To begin with, a survey of the Special Com m ission’s work was required before possibly transferring some of its functions to ECAFE.50 L okanathan’s proposal was opposed only by the delegates from the Philippines and the Soviet Union, who argued that the Special Commission was not intergovernmental. The British delegate, Christofas, countered that fifteen countries participated in the Liaison Officers’ Meet­ ings, and that no voting had ever been necessary.51 As Stent subsequently reported to the Foreign Office, Britain had achieved her objective of obtaining ‘formal recognition for the organisation of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia as an international economic body’, laying the foundation for a ‘rational scheme of cooperation between Killearn’s organisation and ECAFE’.52 However, at the same time Britain had accepted the fact that unless ECAFE turned out to be a complete failure, the U N ’s commission would be gradually allowed to absorb the Special Com m ission’s regional functions. It is ironic that at the very m oment that the Special Commission was recognised by the United Nations, its prospects of becoming a proper regional commission had all but vanished. Whether or not the Foreign Office realised it at the time, it had just abandoned the regional strategy laid down in February 1947. In Singapore, Killearn was instructed to m aintain his rice, coal and edible oils activities for the time being, to continue with the Liaison Officers’ Meetings, and to retain the Special Commis­ sion’s advisory services to British and non-British territories. He should only drop his m onthly economic bulletins and leave statistics entirely to ECAFE, in order to prevent the feeling that Britain was unw illing to surrender anything at all.53 However, the Special Commissioner was becoming increasingly bitter about the bleak prospects of his organisation, and about his forced retirement. He refused the governorship of Eastern Bengal as compensation for the Singapore post and criticised the For­ eign Office whenever high-ranking British officials or politicians were visiting Singapore.54 Because of his alleged ‘propaganda’ against the proposed combined post, London decided to recall Killearn in March rather than letting him stay on until after MacDonald had taken over in May.55 The decision further

Regional competition: the United Nations and ECAFE


poisoned relations relations between London and Killearn, who complained to the head of the Foreign Office, Orme Sargent: After sweating blood for you for 44 years it would have been m uch pleasanter to quit your Service with less feeling of having been scurvily treated. I know full well just how the Department (and possibly you yourself) feel towards me: I believe that to be largely based on perversion of the facts. But in any case it couldn’t leave me colder than it does. But it is sad - very sad - to leave a Service one has worked for nearly half a century, feeling as I now do about your office.56 Six weeks after Killearn’s departure, the Special Commission was merged with the Malayan Governor-General’s office. On 1 May 1948 Malcolm MacDonald was officially appointed Com­ missioner-General of the United Kingdom in South-East Asia. He was given two deputies, one for his colonial and one for his foreign affairs staff. Linked to the foreign affairs side of the Commissioner-General’s office was the former economic section of the Special Commission, now restyled ‘The Economic Depart­ m ent of the Commissioner-General’s O rganisation’.58 In June 1948, Lokanathan presented the third ECAFE session with a survey of the Special Commission which had been drafted w ith considerable ‘help’ from the British. The survey honoured the regional work of the Special Commission (now called the Economic Department of the Commissioner-General’s Organisa­ tion), the organisation’s food and coal activities, its collection of statistics, its holding of specialised conferences and the staff of experts who were advising the Liaison Officers’ Meetings. The survey recommended m aintaining the existing working relation­ ship between the two organisations; there would continue to be an exchange of liaison officers and an exchange of the ‘fullest documentation on their respective activities’.59 The majority of ECAFE members endorsed the survey. Only the Soviet Union opposed the paper, describing the Special Commission as a purely British organisation that was dom inating shipping in the region. The fact that the Special Commission had previously been merged with the Governor-General’s office proved to be no problem after a British observer from the Commission-General explained that the change of title had not affected the commis­ sion’s functions.60 London thus succeeded in establishing a working relationship


Britain and Regional Cooperation

between ECAFE and its regional organisation in Singapore at a time when the fortunes of the former Special Commission were at an all-time low. T hough the Commissioner-General’s organisa­ tion continued the coordinating work of the Special Commis­ sion, M acDonald’s regional coordinating activities never featured as prom inently in the Foreign Office’s South-East Asian plans as they had under Killearn. Two months after assuming office, MacDonald became preoccupied with the Malayan emerg­ ency. He also temporarily took over as Malayan High Commis­ sioner, after the death of Edward Gent in an aircrash over London on 2 July 1948. Furthermore, the Liaison Officers’ Meetings were slowly running out of things to do because of the im proving rice situation. In the following year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation dissolved the international rice alloca­ tion system. T hough the Commissioner-General’s economic department continued, the last Liaison Officers’ Meeting was held in November 1949.61 Britain’s hope of turning its organisa­ tion in Singapore into a proper regional organisation had failed. At the same time, ECAFE never qualified as a viable alternative to the Special Commission. Its geographic scope was too big to organise effective regional cooperation. More importantly, it included the Soviet Union and served Asian politicians like Nehru as a platform for anti-colonial rhetoric. When, as a result of the Cold War, the Foreign Office subsequently decided to revive its policy of regional cooperation, a completely new approach had to be found.

Chapter 9

Western Union and South-East Asia

British regional policies in South-East Asia were in considerable disarray at the beginning of 1948. Lord Killearn was about to leave his post, and ECAFE was intent on assuming the Special Com m ission’s coordinating functions. Furthermore, Australia and India had tried to gain the initiative on regional cooperation while the Asian Relations Conference had fuelled demands by smaller Asian countries for exclusively Asian cooperation. Last but not least, the continuing conflicts in Indochina and Indo­ nesia made the creation of a joint Asian-European scheme impossible for the time being. Even a British regional initiative that excluded France and the Netherlands would have been doomed to failure because of the anti-colonial atmosphere prevailing in Asia. W hile the prospects for regional cooperation between Britain and the new Asian states were thus low, there was m ounting pressure from the Foreign Office’s Western Department to increase cooperation with the other colonial powers in SouthEast Asia. As a first step, it demanded revising the ban on British arms deliveries to the Dutch forces in Indonesia. The Western Department based its arguments on two new developments. Firstly, the Netherlands and the Indonesian Republic had signed the so-called Renville Agreement on 17 January 1948, which provided a truce between the two parties.1Though the agreement constituted a hum iliating defeat for the Republic2 - failing to solve the issue of sovereignty and recognising considerable territorial gains made by the Dutch - it satisfied the Foreign Office’s Dutch experts. They were convinced that the accord would take the Indonesian issue away from the world’s attention. In addition to the Renville Agreement, developments towards

120 Britain and Regional Cooperation

greater Western European unity instigated a reappraisal of British regional policies in South-East Asia. After secret fivepower negotiations, Bevin on 22 January 1948 announced plans by Britain, France and the Benelux countries to forge a military alliance in Western Europe. Two months later, on 17 March, the five powers signed the Brussels Pact, prom ising m utual defence against an aggressor. No particular adversary was mentioned; however, it was clear that the ‘Western U nion’, as it became known, was aimed against the Soviet U nion.3 In addition to its military provisions, the Brussels Pact contained clauses on economic, social and military collaboration, in line with Bevin’s ideas on general Western European cooperation.4 Inevitably, moves towards greater Western European unity raised the ques­ tion of whether, or to what degree, cooperation between the Western European powers would extend to colonial territories. The Foreign Office’s Western Department believed that the forthcoming Western European alliance required a re-orientation in South-East Asia. A few days before Bevin’s Western Union speech, it described the Renville Agreement as a good opportunity to lift the arms ban in Indonesia: From the point of view of our plans in Western Europe it is im portant that this obstacle [the embargo] to closer relations with H olland should be removed as soon as possible. . . . [We are] fully aware of the reasons which made the imposition of the ban inevitable in the first place, [but] its continuance when we are discussing a treaty of alliance with the Dutch will be to say the least anom alous.5 At the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Department, J.E.D. Street saw some merit in the Western Departm ent’s arguments, pointing out that the ban had been introduced to satisfy public opinion in Britain and to avoid incidents in Singapore and in other British Far Eastern territories. By now, British public opinion was concerned with ‘matters of far greater moment than Indonesia’.6 However, Gordon Whitteridge wanted to m aintain the ban until a political agreement and not just a ceasefire was reached.7 The head of the South-East Asia Department, Paul Grey, agreed that it would be unwise to re-open the question of the ban, as the omens for a final settlement in Indonesia were still not good. Com m enting on a Royal Navy enquiry whether British

Western Union and South-East Asia


ships should be allowed to visit selected ports in the Netherlands East Indies, Grey argued: From the point of view of satisfying feeling in India and am ong the native population in Malaya as well as in SouthEast Asia generally, we do not want at this stage to suggest that we have gone over into the Dutch camp. The Dutch militarists, am ong whom I should include the Navy, do not want encouraging if a political settlement is to be reached.8 From Batavia, the British consul-general, F.M. Shepherd, supported Grey; the Royal Navy should refrain from visits which would be interpreted as gestures of sympathy towards the Dutch as distinct from the Republic - at least so long as the embargo was in force.9 Five days after the Western Departm ent’s initiative, Bevin announced his plans for a five-power alliance in Western Europe that was based on the precedent of the Dunkirk (defence) Treaty between Britain and France. He indicated that the treaty was also of economic relevance to some of the European colonies, whose prim ary resources, raw materials and foodstuffs could be turned to the ‘common advantage of the peoples of these territories, of Europe and of the world as a whole’. Bevin stressed that: Europe has extended its influence throughout the world, and we have to look further afield. In the first place we turn our eyes to Africa, where great responsibilities are shared by us with South Africa, France, Belgium and Portugal, and equally to all overseas territories, especially of South-East Asia, with which the Dutch are closely concerned. The organisation of Western Europe must be economically supported. T hat involves the closest possible collaboration with the Com­ monwealth and with overseas territories, not only British but French, Dutch, Belgian and Portuguese.10 It has recently been argued that Bevin was pursuing the idea of ‘Euro-Africa’ between 1947 and 1948. African colonial resources were meant to enable Britain to regain the economic lead in Europe, a position that was being threatened by the United States and her Marshall Plan. There w ould also be cooperation between the European colonial powers in Africa, in the first place between Britain and France, in order to turn the continent into a vital element in the eventual creation of a T hird World grouping


Britain and Regional Cooperation

under British leadership.11 Whatever Bevin’s plans for Africa may have been, it is unclear whether he wanted to include South-East Asia in his plans for colonial cooperation. At the time, many Asian observers believed this was the case, alleging a colonial conspiracy in South-East Asia. ‘Is the Western Union also a league of colonial powers to perpetuate colonialism?’ a prom i­ nent Malayan paper was asking at the end of January. The paper suspected that Bevin’s reference to collaboration with overseas territories m eant that the colonies were to become economic appendages of European power politics.12 Bevin’s speech linking European cooperation to the use or exploitation of colonial resources was highly unwelcome to the Foreign Office’s South-East Asian experts. Apart from the fact that the Foreign Secretary’s remarks increased Asian suspicion of British imperial designs, the South-East Asia Department was concerned lest plans for Western Union encouraged the Dutch to demand an end to the arms embargo. As Paul Grey stressed at the beginning of February, it was undoubtedly an ‘anomaly’ that while Britain was proposing to negotiate an alliance with the Netherlands in Europe, every Dutch request for supplies to the East Indies had to be checked to see whether it was covered by the ban. Nor did the ban prevent the Dutch from carrying out their police action, and it was unlikely to prevent them from taking sim ilar action in the future. On the other hand, the Indonesian republicans would ‘undoubtedly feel that the lifting of the ban was a further nail in the coffin of their aspirations’. Britain did not ‘wish to alienate nationalist sentiment in Asia, which it is our own policy to try to meet half way’. Public opinion in Britain and Australia, too, was critical of the Dutch. Grey therefore recommended m aintaining the ban at least until the Security C ouncil’s Good Offices Committee had reviewed the 13 situation. Dening and Sargent agreed. Dening’s ‘own instinct’ was to do nothing for the present, particularly as the Australian attitude to Indonesia had to be considered.14 In March, the Treasury proposed lifting the embargo. There was progress in the U N ’s mediating efforts in Indonesia: though the Dutch representative had failed to defend his government adequately against the charge of continuing to treat republican interests unfairly, the Security Council had approved the report of the Good Offices Committee; furthermore, the signing of the Brussels Treaty was imminent. At the Foreign Office, Grey

Western Union and South-East Asia


personally wanted to see the embargo m aintained.15 However, if it was decided to lift the ban then now was the moment to do so. As he explained to Bevin, the Dutch were trying to interpret Britain’s Western U nion policy as an indication that London was changing its line on Indonesia. In South-East Asia, particu­ larly am ong the Indonesians, there was a corresponding fear that Britain had abandoned her ‘sympathies for the coloured people’ and that she wanted to use the colonial territories to bolster the European economy. While lifting the ban would certainly be convenient, the Foreign Office would ‘have to think seriously of the political consequences on opinion in the Security Council as well as in Malaya, India and South-East Asia generally’.16 Dening supported Grey’s line, arguing that ‘we have never at any time taken sides in the Indonesian dispute, nor do we propose to do so now ’.17 Shepherd similarly advised from Batavia that a lifting of the ban would be seen in Indonesia as a ‘political endorsement of Dutch conduct of negotiations with the Repub­ lic’. It would also imply that Britain would not object to the resum ption of m ilitary action in the case of a breakdown of political negotiations. Politically, it would am ount to taking definite sides at the m oment when political discussions were about to begin, and it would strengthen the hands of the Dutch m ilitary commanders and thus tend to prejudice a reasonable and fair settlement.18 Killearn added from Singapore that if Britain offered m ilitary supplies to the Dutch, w ouldn’t she also ‘be bound to offer them to the Indonesians and would not [the] Dutch take a poor view of that?’19 Tw o days before the signing of the Brussels Treaty in March 1948, the Dutch ambassador in London, Baron Bentinck, told Dening that Western Union ought to make Britain and the Netherlands see eye to eye in South-East Asia, and that the British embargo should be lifted. Bentinck also mentioned the issue of regional security in South-East Asia. Dening replied that Britain was not yet in a position to consider regional security, particu­ larly where non-British territories were concerned; one of the reasons was that he did not know what the Americans had in mind. Dening subsequently explained in a Foreign Office minute: I feel that we must resist the suggestion that, because of Western Union, the policy of the United Kingdom is bound to


Britain and Regional Cooperation

coincide with that of the Dutch or the French in South-East Asia. T h at is not to say that we may not some day hope to secure regional collaboration in that area too, but we have enough troubles of our own at present w ithout becoming involved in those of the NEI or French Indo-China.20 However, the Foreign Office had underestimated the strength of Dutch feelings on the embargo. The Netherlands increasingly resented the fact that, despite the new five-power alliance in Europe, the British arms embargo remained in force. On 1 April, the Dutch ambassador in London told I. Kirkpatrick of the Foreign Office that a member of the Dutch Upper House had argued with some force that it was quite wrong that an arms embargo should continue to exist between the two parties. Bentinck, under instruction from his government, therefore asked Britain to consider lifting the embargo as soon as pos­ sible.21 Once again, London found itself in the dilemma of having to choose between its interests in Asian and in those European cooperation. Grey explained the problem to Killearn’s new deputy in Singapore, P.S. Scrivener: Indonesia, he argued, had become a test case. Not that India or Burma was really passio­ nately devoted to Indonesian independence; that devotion was very theoretical. However, they were watching Britain closely ‘to see how far we would carry our profession of interest in the Indonesian people and [they] were alert for any signs that we would be w illing to sacrifice what we professed to believe in ’. The difficulty remained that: We have to associate more closely with the European powers than ever before. We have, at the same time, to undertake a complete reconstruction of our relations with the East. And we have to do the latter in the face of a growing nationalism and a struggle for dominance by forces which would seek to divorce 22 the East from the West altogether. Despite this, Grey eventually advised that there should be a limited relaxation of the arms ban in private on material urgently needed by the Dutch. The British ambassador in the Netherlands had just confirmed how strongly most political parties in H olland felt about the embargo.23 Dening still objected to the lifting of the ban as premature, but agreed that Britain

Western Union and South-East Asia


should offer relaxing the ban on non-lethal equipm ent.24 Sargent went even further and suggested publicly withdrawing the embargo: A great deal of water has flown under the bridges since it [the embargo] was imposed and I cannot believe that its cancel­ lation would arouse m uch criticism here. As for criticism in South-East Asia, we m ight meet this by getting the Dutch Government in return for the cancellation to state equally publicly that any war material which they buy from the United Kingdom is for the defence of M etropolitan Holland and nothing else.25 Surprisingly, Bevin refused to abandon the embargo, despite the fact that it had been his speech on Western Union which had set the ball rolling in the first place. He seemed to be primarily concerned about criticism in the House of Commons, arguing that: Sargent oversimplifies the matter. Delightful in a country where there is no political opinion and no watchful eye on Ministers and their policy. The sympathy of a large number of the House is with the Indonesians and therefore of the cabinet too. I cannot meet the request.26 The Dutch Foreign Minister told Bevin during a subsequent meeting in Paris that the Brussels Treaty made the Indonesian embargo an anomaly. Bevin replied that lifting the ban m ight lead to reactions in Australia and India which could be very unfortunate from the point of view of the Dutch government. Britain already had considerable difficulties with India on the Kashmir question and the raising of the embargo was, in any case, not really needed by the Dutch for practical purposes; it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie.27 However, the Dutch were insistent and the Dutch ambassador asked Bevin a few days later whether he would agree to a statement by the Dutch government on the line that it had reason to believe that Britain would take into favourable consideration Dutch representations regarding equipm ent for Dutch troops in the Netherlands East Indies. Bevin refused, but hinted that Britain m ight consider helping out with the supply of uniforms and transport equip­ ment - as long as the Singapore stockpiles allowed this.28 The Hague took Bevin’s remarks as an indication that he was

126 Britain and Regional Cooperation

softening his line on the embargo. The Netherlands Foreign Minister subsequently told the Dutch parliam ent that talks with Britain on the arms ban had been resumed, and that he expected them to be favourable. Since the announcem ent attracted no 29 attention in Britain, London decided not to comment on it. In June, the Dutch ambassador changed tactics, telling Grey that the Netherlands was reluctant to agree to any further assurances that equipm ent ordered from Britain would not go to their South-East Asian territories. Grey replied that a lifting of the embargo was out of the question, but suggested that Britain m ight be more forthcoming on ‘non-lethal’ equipm ent, i.e. equipm ent other than weapons, am m unition or armoured fight­ ing vehicles of any kind.30 By June 1948, Britain was thus indicating a relaxation of the Indonesian arms embargo. However, London was resisting sug­ gestions that Western U nion should lead to increasing coope­ ration with either the Dutch or the French in South-East Asia. At the beginning of April, the French consul-general in Singapore, Guibaut, had told Scrivener that the five Western Union coun­ tries should work out a common colonial policy at government level. Scrivener had agreed, and he subsequently told London that five-power cooperation provided by the Brussels Treaty should be reproduced overseas, ‘including the area containing Indochina, Indonesia, Malaya and the other British territories in South-East Asia’. Much had already been achieved in the techni­ cal sphere, but there was a lack of political cooperation, in particular in resisting communism. Scrivener was hoping for a broad policy statement which would ‘show our adversaries that our solidarity extends beyond the confines of Europe’, though he realised that the attitude of the local populations m ight be difficult.31 The Foreign Office disliked the idea of a policy statement by the colonial powers. As Christophas pointed out, Britain had previously avoided close cooperation with the Dutch and French in Indochina, instead m aintaining collaboration through the less m etropolitan medium of the Special Commission. So long as the Foreign Office side of the merged Commissioner-General’s office remained in existence, there was no need to change this habit. The fact was that Britain had consistently pursued a more liberal policy in South-East Asia

Western Union and South-East Asia


than either of the other two M etropolitan powers concerned. There is great danger that, if our alliance with the other Western Powers in Europe were to be correspondingly reflected in our behaviour in the East, we should lose the sympathy of the Asiatic peoples by whom ‘Colonialism ’ and ‘Im perialism ’ are considered a far greater menace than ‘Comm unism ,.32 Dening, too, recommended that the Western U nion should ‘hasten slowly’ in South-East Asia and persist in collaborating in technical matters until the participants had become so accus­ tomed to cooperating that higher flights could then be essayed.33 D uring a meeting in London on 26 April between representa­ tives from the French embassy and members of the Foreign Office, as well as MacDonald, who was in London for consul­ tations, LeRoy followed up G uibaut’s proposal. The French diplom at was keen on governmental discussions on South-East Asia, as Paris sometimes took little account of what was going on under the Special Commissioner’s aegis. MacDonald replied that he welcomed local collaboration but that Western U nion had made the peoples of South-East Asia very suspicious of the motives of the Western colonial powers. It was therefore desirable not to give colour to these suspicions by embarking on formal intergovernmental consultations. The French embassy staff, according to a Foreign Office minute, took the points but did not seem entirely satisfied.34 In June 1948 Michael W right summed up Britain’s continuing regional strategy in a Foreign Office minute. The Special Com­ m ission’s aim had been to promote regional cooperation by starting with economic and social subjects, then working upwards to political matters as circumstances permitted. At the same time, it was felt that political collaboration ought not to be confined to the three colonial powers ‘but should be on the basis of Europeans and Asiatics working together’. However, so long as the questions of Indochina and the Netherlands East Indies remained unsettled it was difficult to initiate political coope­ ration except on a predom inantly European basis. Western U nion complicated the matter and made it ‘still more difficult to get away from the pattern of purely European collaboration in the area, which it is desirable to avoid’. W right objected to the proposed policy statement by the m etropolitan powers. For the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

time being, Britain had to be content with the policy of prom ot­ ing cooperation on technical matters. At the same time, Singapore should be encouraged to take any opportunity for further cooperation on the technical level, and to ‘keep on the look out for possible openings however modest for political collaboration also’. W right concluded: ‘If only the Dutch would make further progress in Indonesia, the whole problem would become easier. The longer matters drift the greater becomes the risk that comm unistic tendencies, as in Burma, will become accentuated.’35 The Western Union episode demonstrated that, despite the decline of Britain’s regional organisation in Singapore and the prevailing anti-colonial climate in Asia, London remained committed to the idea of regional cooperation prim arily with the new Asian states. Nor had it given up hope that its regional activities in Singapore m ight be the starting point for wider regional cooperation. London therefore resisted any notion that Western U nion cooperation extended to South-East Asia, and it thwarted French attempts at open colonial cooperation in SouthEast Asia. As Grey argued in July: Western Union was taken by many Dutchmen as an indication that we would be w illing to revise our Indonesian policy. . . . Unfortunately, and for the same reason, Western Union was greeted with the greatest suspicion in Asia, and attempts were immediately made by the Russians, as well as by extreme local nationalists, to persuade the Asiatic peoples that we had reversed our policy of increased freedom for Asiatic peoples. . . . We cannot afford to give further material to our critics in that area by agreeing to any form of Anglo-Dutch collaboration in South-East Asia so long as the Indonesian problem remains in its present state. Finally, any collabor­ ation in South-East Asia must be between all the countries which have interests in the area - i.e. it must include the countries in the area as well as the colonial powers con, 36 cerned. However, rapid new developments in South-East Asia soon led to a change of Britain’s regional strategy. On 18 June 1948, one day after W right’s comments, the British colonial authorities in Malaya declared a state of emergency in the colony. The announcem ent was made in reaction to an increasing number of

Western Union and South-East Asia


attacks by com m unist guerrillas on British-owned rubber plan­ tations and m ining enterprises, as well as on police outposts. The emergency coincided with heightening tensions in Europe, where the Soviet U nion started to blockade the Western sectors of Berlin on 24 June. The British soon suspected Moscow of being behind the Malayan insurrection. From the British point of view, the beginning of the Malayan Emergency marked the extension of the Cold War to South-East Asia. As will be shown next, regional cooperation would soon become a key British policy in trying to contain the spread of communism in Asia.37

Part III


Chapter 10

Cold War and Commonwealth

Like the British withdrawal from India the previous year, the onset of the Malayan Emergency in June 1948 was a watershed in the postwar history of Asia. It marked the extension of the Cold War from Europe and the Middle East to the Far East. From the British point of view, communism, not nationalism, now constituted the overriding problem of the day. The Malayan Emergency followed the outbreak of communist guerrilla warfare in Burma in March 1948, which seriously destabilised the country throughout the year.1 In Indonesia too, com m unist forces were to make a bid for power, though their attempts to gain control of the Indonesian Republic in September 1948 were quashed by troops loyal to the moderate nationalist government of Mohammed H atta.2 Towards the end of 1948, a num ber of decisive victories by the Chinese comm u­ nists against the nationalist Kuom intang government in China further added to L ondon’s worries. The Chinese communist leader, Mao Tse-tung, had publicly aligned himself with Moscow, and the British feared that China, once it had fallen under comm unist control, would encourage other communist movements in South and South-East Asia to intensify their struggle against the colonial powers and the pro-Western governments in the region. T he British had been concerned about Soviet intentions in South-East Asia for some time. In 1947, the head of Britain’s Security Intelligence, Far East, had warned of growing comm u­ nist strength in South-East Asia, arguing that most of the local com m unist parties, though temporarily out of touch or disorga­ nised, were bound to be directly or indirectly controlled by the Soviet U nion.3 One year later, the communist campaign in

134 Britain and Regional Cooperation

Malaya increased British suspicion of Soviet designs in the region. As Paul Grey told Bevin in the middle of July 1948: There is no direct evidence of co-ordination by Russia of com m unist activities throughout South-East Asia, though it is strongly suspected. When the Cominform was set up last September, there must have existed in Moscow some plan for Asia as well as Europe. The Cominform manifesto declares quite clearly that it is the task of communism to combat imperialism not only in Europe but also in South-East Asia. Grey added that the Calcutta Youth Conference in February 1948 had ‘provided a means of co-ordinating communist activities in all the South-East Asia countries, and probably of relaying the latest ideas from Moscow’.4 Historians have been arguing since the 1950s whether the comm unist insurrections in South-East Asia were orchestrated by the Soviet Union. One line of argum ent suggests that Moscow used both the Calcutta Youth Conference, which was attended by comm unist delegations from South-East Asia, as well as the immediately following Congress of the Indian Communist Party to instruct the attending comm unist delegates to initiate armed uprisings in their respective countries. The Soviet U nion’s intention is described as w anting to destabilise the Western European economies by depriving them of vital raw materials from South-East Asia.5 However, while there is little doubt that the meeting encouraged the subsequent outbreak of communist insurrections, R uth T. McVey’s convincing study of the Calcutta Conference has called into question whether it was Moscow that gave the orders for armed revolt.6 The current historical consensus is that there is no concrete evidence that Moscow used the conference to order the South-East Asian uprisings, but that the meeting did serve as a forum for the advocacy of the Soviet U nion’s two-camp thesis propagated by Zhdanov during the founding meeting of the Cominform in 1947, and that it quick­ ened the pace of comm unist revolutionary movements in Asia.7 New evidence may come to light if and when the relevant Soviet documents are released. However, what matters in the context of our story is that at the time London came to the conclusion that Moscow was behind the com m unist uprisings in South-East Asia. The insurrections were seen as part of a Moscow-inspired campaign to assume

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control of the region. As a result, South-East Asia soon took on global importance in the conflict between the Soviet U nion and the West, and the development of an anti-com munist strategy in the region became of param ount importance to London. In September 1948, Grey stressed that direct evidence of the Russian connection was still remarkably small, but ‘circum­ stantial evidence strongly suggests Russian inspiration and guidance in the recent series of comm unist outbreaks in SouthEast Asia, of which the latest example is the sudden Communist revolt in the Republican-held territory in Java’.8 The same opinion was expressed in a Foreign Office memorandum prior to a Commonwealth Prime M inisters’ conference in mid-October: In general, the pattern seems to be one of attem pting to overthrow established government and to create economic chaos. T hough there is no concrete evidence of direction from Moscow, nevertheless the pattern suggests that communists in South-East Asia are following the Moscow line.9 One m onth later, the Foreign Office had largely made up its m ind as to who was behind the South-East Asian insurrections. London told the Commissioner-General’s office in Singapore that the com m unist developments in South-East Asia were of concern not only because they presented an immediate problem in the defence of B ritain’s vital interests, but also because they ‘fit into the general strategy of the Kremlin in the cold war against us’. The paper suspected that after a tightening of Moscow’s control during the Calcutta Conference the Kremlin’s ‘grand strategists’ decided that the world’s international situation required a more active campaign of open violence and disruption in most of South-East Asia. Hence, ‘the result of the Calcutta Conference was that violence directly organised by the Com m u­ nists broke out throughout South-East Asia’.10 P.S. Scrivener, at the Commissioner-General’s office, was not convinced. At the end of November he sent a letter to the American consulate-general in Singapore, stressing that the ‘evidence for the integration of terrorist activities in Malaya with a Com m unist schedule of uprisings elsewhere in South-East Asia rests only to a small extent on documents discovered here’.11 Despite this lack of concrete evidence, any rem aining doubts about Moscow’s central role had been removed by December: the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Chiefs of Staff argued


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that after the inauguration of the Cominform there had been a reorientation of comm unist policy in India, Burma and Malaya, and that ideological guidance had been reinforced by personal contacts established during the Calcutta Conference, to which a large Russian delegation was sent. As a result, the communist parties from the three countries had all decided to embark on a course of m ilitant opposition, encouraged also by the increas­ ingly influential Chinese Com m unist Party. The strategic plan, the JIC concluded, was initially to forge a m ilitant communist front in the Far East, aim ing to aggravate the conflict between imperialism and the oppressed colonial people, as a step towards total com m unist control. The revolts in Burma, Malaya and Indonesia all fitted into this pattern.12 London was determined to fend off the perceived Moscowinspired comm unist onslaught on South-East Asia. In Malaya, the comm unist insurgents would have to be defeated by military means.13 At the same time, the British realised that they needed to coordinate their own anti-com m unist campaigns with those of the neighbouring territories - in particular at the intelligence and police levels. Furthermore, some kind of diplomatic initiative m ight be required to strengthen the political resolve of the South and South-East Asian countries against the communist threat. Soon, the issue of regional cooperation was back on the political agenda. However, the old question remained of who to cooperate with first, and whether France and the Netherlands could be included w ithout upsetting India. The issue first came up in July 1948, prior to a Brussels Treaty meeting in The Hague. The Foreign Office warned Bevin before his departure to the Netherlands that he m ight be questioned about the spread of communism in South-East Asia. The department advised him not to make any public announcem ents on a common anti-com munist policy by the colonial powers, as there was the danger that this m ight mistakenly be construed as anti-nationalist rather than anti­ communist. However, exchanges of inform ation about commu­ nist activities in the respective colonies would be advantageous so long as they were given no publicity.14 During the meeting in The Hague, the Dutch Prime Minister, Louis Beel, subsequently used the opportunity to propose a joint study of the role of overseas territories in the development of the ideas embodied in the Brussels Treaty. His proposal in fact implied the extension of

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Western U nion cooperation to South-East Asia. Bevin was reluctant to discuss the Dutch proposal, but failed to thwart it altogether; the issue was consequently referred to the council’s next meeting in October.15 By the autum n, London would thus have to make up its m ind whether it wanted to increase its cooperation with the other colonial powers in reaction to the com m unist insurrections. British Foreign Office officials in Singapore, unaware of the Dutch governm ent’s initiative, saw some merit in increasing cooperation with the French and the Dutch, particularly at the intelligence level. As MacDonald told London at the end of July 1948, fresh signs of comm unist activities gave the issue of cooperation in South-East Asia greater importance and urgency. There were strong movements towards the extreme left in Burma, further com m unist progress in China and a communist-inspired outbreak of terrorism in Malaya. In Thailand, a Soviet League had been established. MacDonald believed that these events m ight reduce to some extent the prejudices of the local peoples against Western cooperation, and a framework of such collabor­ ation should therefore be studied if not erected. He saw three possible forms of cooperation: 1) a more generous exchange of security intelligence; 2) the association, in some form, of the local Dutch and French representatives with the activities of the British Defence Co-ordination Committee; and 3) confidential discussions between the three governments to ascertain what measures of agreement already existed between them, whether it could be increased and whether it could be reduced to a formula calculated to discourage the Russians w ithout provoking the Asians. MacDonald added that a discreet ‘education cam paign’ could be launched in the South-East Asian territories which would argue that if these countries wished to stand on their own feet they had to be safe from aggression in the process, and that protection could only be supplied by the great democratic powers and their associates. It would perhaps be possible to use some kind of ballon d’essai to estimate the real depth of Asian opinion regarding Western collaboration in South-East Asia.16 At the Foreign Office, Dening was not particularly pleased that the issue of colonial cooperation had come up again. In an

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extensive draft reply to MacDonald, he argued that the Russians were out to rouse Asian opinion against the West, and that one therefore had to be careful not to offer them a weapon by entering into open colonial collaboration in South-East Asia. London did not wish to alienate the ‘Asiatic races of South-East Asia by an overt association in this area with France and the Netherlands so close as to appear exclusive’. Politically, strategically and eco­ nomically, the aim had to be to get all the peoples of the area to work together, and not just the Western powers. This was impossible unless and until the issues of Indonesia and Indo­ china had been resolved, as Britain would otherwise be unable to carry Pakistan, India, Ceylon and Burma with her: Practically speaking therefore, we see insuperable objections for the present to associating the Western Union in any way publicly with South-East Asia, although we . . . see advantage in the exchange of inform ation with the French and the Dutch, on a secret basis, about communist activities and methods of combating them, always provided that this is w ithout risk to the security of our own inform ation.17 Christofas agreed with Dening’s line, m inuting that: We have consistently opposed any integration with the French and the Dutch in the Far East on the Colonial level and insisted that instead all our collaboration should be through the medium of what was the Special Commission and is now the Foreign Office side of the Commission-General. . . . Developments in the third session of ECAFE, where an overwhelming majority displayed pro-Indonesian and antiDutch sympathies, should serve as a warning to us of the dangers of appearing anti-nationalist in the eyes of the Asian peoples.18 D ening’s draft letter was subsequently circulated to other departments in W hitehall. The Commonwealth Relations Office (formerly the Dominions Office) agreed with Dening: Australia’s and New Zealand’s reactions to signs that Britain was underwrit­ ing measures taken by the French in Indochina and the Dutch in Indonesia could well be unfavourable; the same could be said of India, Pakistan and Ceylon.19 However, other departments tended to favour MacDonald’s ideas. The Defence Ministry, for

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example, ‘attached rather more weight than [Dening] to the arguments in favour of three-power cooperation in the Far East in the struggle against Com m unism ’. It realised there had to be a cautious approach to the problem, but hoped that in view of the possible strategic advantages the risks would be acceptable.20 The Colonial Office was divided over the issue. Its Eastern Department regarded D ening’s draft reply as too negative, argu­ ing that the com m unist emergency required closer collaboration with the Dutch and the French. H olding rigidly aloof from the Dutch would merely isolate Britain from her friends in the area while not necessarily increasing her ‘popularity with the races of South-East Asia’.21 Galsworthy of the Colonial Office’s Interna­ tional Relations Department, on the other hand, had misgivings about open cooperation with the French and the Dutch at the present time,22 though he agreed that it was undesirable to urge MacDonald to go more slowly than he thought safe. After ‘exhaustive discussions’ between Galsworthy and the Eastern Department, J.M. M artin sent a letter to the Foreign Office hoping to turn the ‘red light which Mr Dening was proposing to flash to Mr MacDonald not into green, but into Amber’.23 The department wanted to avoid going any more slowly than MacDonald and other local officials thought to be safe: just as there was technical as well as some political cooperation with the French on colonial matters in Africa, a num ber of conferences with France and the Netherlands could be arranged on technical subjects in South-East Asia. These conferences would not be exclusive: other states would attend, and representatives from the local populations could be invited.24 However, the Foreign Office used the opportunity of a forthcom ing Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference, scheduled for mid-October, to thwart proposals for open colonial cooperation in South-East Asia. During an interdepartmental meeting on 29 September, which discussed the forthcoming conference, Dening recalled that the Special Commissioner’s organisation had empirically built up regional collaboration on economic matters, and that its monthly Liaison Officers’ Meet­ ings were regularly attended by representatives from fifteen countries. The economic emergency which had brought these meetings into being was now rapidly passing, but it seemed a pity to let them die, particularly because ECAFE was unlikely ever to prove effective since the Soviet Union was one of its


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members and would seek to make mischief in it. Dening suggested that, similar to the existing cooperation through the Liaison Officers’ Meetings, anti-com munist collaboration should be built up empirically by liaison between the criminal investigation departments, as well as the police and security services of all the countries of the area, colonial and Asian alike. T he representative of the Commonwealth Relations Office, MacLennan, supported the idea, but Martin from the Colonial Office doubted whether security cooperation with the Asian powers could be as close as with the Dutch. In Africa, there were two degrees of cooperation with Britain: France and Belgium formed an inner circle, while the other powers concerned (Liberia, Ethiopia and South Africa) constituted an outer circle. The meeting subsequently agreed that, while security coope­ ration in South-East Asia would best be achieved through direct contacts between the agencies concerned (there was already some cooperation between the police in Malaya and India), the Com­ missioner-General could coordinate two degrees of collabor­ ation. Britain, France and the Netherlands, on the inside, would cooperate prim arily at the security level, while there would be a second circle of Commonwealth countries working together at the political level. Since cooperation between the colonial pow­ ers would be kept secret, it would not offend Asian opinion.25 However, a few days before the beginning of the Com­ monwealth Prime M inisters’ Conference, Ernest Bevin came up with a m uch grander idea. According to a departmental m inute by Dening, the Foreign Secretary was thinking of ‘a kind of OEEC for Asia’.26 Bevin’s idea hit a raw nerve at the Foreign Office. The Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was an intergovernmental organisation with a compar­ atively high degree of autonom y in decision-making. If an Asian equivalent was established on similar lines, Britain would be unable to influence the organisation in the way that it had directed the Special Commission. Not surprisingly, Dening warned not to broach the idea with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers w ithout very careful study in advance. He saw ‘real danger that if such an organisation were set up, either India or Australia would try to assume the leadership, and in either case the results m ight not be very happy for the United Kingdom’.27 A.L. Scott added that China would also try to assume the leadership w ithin such a scheme. In his opinion, the special

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interests of Asian countries already received adequate attention through ECAFE.28 Apart from the political pitfalls of an Asian OEEC, the Foreign Office believed that Bevin’s proposal had dangerous economic implications. In Europe, the OEEC had been created as a result of Marshall aid provided by the United States. An Asian OEEC would require similar aid packages - aid that Britain was unw illing and unable to provide because of her precarious financial situation. The Asian countries had in fact requested some form of M arshall aid for Asia during the last two sessions of 29 ECAFE. As one of the Foreign Office’s economic experts warned: Anything like an Asiatic OEEC would at the present time be most undesirable. O ur role in ECAFE, and that of the other Commonwealth members, permits us to exercise fully the lim ited degree of influence on the economic development of the area which can be experienced w ithout involving us in 30 commitments which we cannot afford. The only alternative source of aid or loans would have been the United States. Yet there were no signs that W ashington was prepared to provide financial support for the development of South and South-East Asia. Even if the Americans had been interested in financing an Asian OEEC, the British were reluctant to encourage American involvement in an area of prim arily British responsibility and economic influence. Malaya, Australia and New Zealand as well as the ‘new dom inions’ - India, Pakistan and Ceylon - were all part of the so-called ‘sterling area’, which helped to strengthen the pound as well as Britain’s trade balance. T he sterling area dated back to 1939 and provided for the pooling and rationing of the Com m onwealth’s hard-currency reserves during the war (with Canada, a dollar-area country, as the main exception). Under its provisions, Britain bought all the hardcurrency reserves from the sterling area countries and credited them with sterling balances in return. This allowed Britain to make vital dollar purchases of war materials and consumer goods from the United States. The sterling area also enabled Britain to purchase goods from the Commonwealth countries and to credit them with sterling rather than pay them with exports. Before the war, Britain had had sterling liabilities worth 600 m illion pounds. After the war, Britain’s liabilities had


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increased to 3.7 billion pounds, of which almost 2.5 billion pounds were owed to sterling-area countries. After the balance of payments crisis in 1947, Britain had temporarily blocked some of the sterling balances, as countries like India and Pakistan were drawing too freely on them to finance their trade deficits. Malaya played a particular role w ithin the sterling area, as she was one of the most im portant dollar earners w ithin the Com­ m onw ealth’s trading bloc, exporting considerable amounts of tin and natural rubber to the United States. Yet the provisions of the sterling area prevented Malaya from spending the dollars she had earned. Instead, she had to use the dollars’ sterling equivalent, calculated at a fixed exchange rate, to buy goods from Britain or from other parts of the sterling area. As many goods could not be provided by British industry, Malaya was running up a massive sterling surplus; Malayan sterling balances were worth 85 m illion pounds at the end of 1947.31 As one historian has argued, the deal provided by the sterling area was rough on the dollarearning countries, including Malaya and the Gold Coast, because the others, such as Britain and India, were only too ready to spend the surplus.32 It certainly suited Britain, as she was able to use the dollar-earning exports from colonies like Malaya to finance the purchase of vital imports from the United States. Britain could also delay the repayment of her war debts, and in the case of Australia and New Zealand even convinced creditors to waive some of L ondon’s sterling debts. Apart from providing Britain with hard currency, the sterling area also served as an external trade barrier that protected the 33 Commonwealth countries against excessive dollar imports m uch to the dismay of the United States. In 1945, as one of the conditions for the American loan, Britain had to agree that she would start repaying her sterling debts from 1951 onwards, and that sterling would be made convertible. However, when in 1947 the Americans attempted to break up the sterling area through the convertibility of sterling, the pound entered into free fall and convertibility had to be aborted. It was therefore not surprising that the Foreign Office’s economic experts poured cold water on Bevin’s idea of an Asian OEEC, fearing that his plans would involuntarily underm ine the sterling area and jeopardise the triangular trade pattern between Malaya, Britain and the United States. According to J.F. T urner of the Foreign Office’s Econ­ omic Relations Department:

Cold War and Commonwealth


If the implications of the present proposal are that Asia should receive assistance, either in the form in which Marshall aid is being given to Europe, or in the form of a comprehensive government loan from sources outside Asia, the consequences must be economically undesirable. The UK is not in a position to provide such aid itself, from its own resources, & aid from any other source must necessarily mean the establish­ m ent of an economic bloc in Asia, cutting right across the operation of the Sterling Area including the principal dollar 8c other foreign currency contributors to the Sterling Area pool.34 The Foreign Office soon decided to play down Bevin’s ideas. Christophas of the South-East Asia Department wondered whether the Foreign Secretary was really just thinking of a medium for regional collaboration that would go beyond the economic field. This had been suggested in Dening’s brief for the forthcom ing meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The brief envisaged setting up a forum that was similar to the Commissioner-General’s Liaison Officers’ Meetings, but that was empowered to deal not with economic or technical matters but with measures to combat communism. If the Commonwealth agreed, such cooperation could be built up around MacDonald’s existing organisation. It would ‘give new stim ulus’ at a time when the organisation’s economic raison d’etre was rapidly ceasing to exist, and it would ‘encourage the countries of SE Asia to continue to look to the United Kingdom for spiritual leader, . ,3 5 ship . Bevin, however, had given up on the former Special Commis­ sion’s prospects for expanding its regional role. Yet he was determined to launch a regional initiative at the forthcoming Commonwealth conference. After a top-level meeting with offi­ cials from the Foreign and Colonial offices, he agreed to drop his idea of an Asian OEEC. Instead, Bevin would propose that government ministers from Britain, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand should meet at regular intervals to discuss matters of m utual interest, including South-East Asia.36 Bevin was further briefed that he should suggest at the beginning of the Commonwealth conference that South-East Asia’s pro­ blems were of sufficient importance to demand some form of regional collaboration, and that members of the Commonwealth should meet at six-monthly intervals for discussions on the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

region.37 Dening subsequently explained to his department that ‘the idea as now developing is political rather than economic, with the basic fear of communism and of Russia as the driving r ,38 force . The Foreign Secretary’s brief for the London meeting con­ stituted the first interdepartm ental agreement on regional coope­ ration since the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting in A pril/M ay 1946. It also marked the beginning of a new phase in L ondon’s regional policy. Instead of concentrating on the former Special Commission as the nucleus of a wider regional system in South-East Asia, London finally decided that a Commonwealth approach offered the best chance of regaining the initiative on regional cooperation. Britain was the dom inant power inside the Commonwealth and London was optimistic that it could play a leading role at the suggested regional conferences. It also hoped that it could use the comm unist bogey to mould the Asian countries into a regional grouping under British leadership. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in October 1948 provided London with an opportunity to implement its revised regional policy. T hroughout the meeting, the British stressed the comm unist menace in both Europe and Asia. During one of the initial sessions of the conference, on 12 October, Bevin suggested that the Commonwealth countries interested in SouthEast Asia should hold regular consultations to put the political and economic life of the region, which was threatened by communism, on a firm footing. He had not worked out detailed proposals and was not suggesting any elaborate machinery, but he hoped that an understanding particularly with the new dom inions could be worked out. Bevin’s proposals met with a favourable response. Evatt endorsed the idea of Commonwealth consultation on South-East Asia, and Nehru stated that India was vitally interested in South-East Asia and that regional understanding between India, Britain, Australia and New Zealand was desirable.39 A few days later, Attlee repeated Bevin’s proposals for regional discussions, suggesting that economic developments in SouthEast Asia m ight be discussed by representatives from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ceylon.40 On the following day, Nehru replied that regional arrangements were desirable but must not conflict with the United Nations. He had hitherto resisted proposals from other Asian countries for the

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form ation of an Asian Union, but there would be increasing pressure as the ‘regional idea’ was growing inside Europe. The Pakistani Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, was more forthcom­ ing, stating that the Commonwealth should give a lead to the countries struggling against communism by drawing up a plan for strengthening the countries of the Commonwealth, the Middle East and South-East Asia by methods similar to those which were being applied in Western Europe. Bevin replied that regional associations could form a basis for confidence in the UN. He did not have precise plans in South-East Asia, but was convinced of the necessity for consultation and association. He agreed with Nehru that it was wise to associate Burma with such consultation, but believed it to be difficult to save the country from communism, as Britain had already attempted everything short of m ilitary intervention.41 London was generally pleased with the conference’s dis­ cussions on communism. As Machtig of the Commonwealth Relations Office pointed out, the conference’s outstanding feature was the large measure of support given to the policy of offering firm resistance to ‘Soviet totalitarian pressure’, be it in the form of external aggression or communist infiltration.42 The Foreign Office was particularly pleased that advice by Nehru on combating communism provided ‘valuable confirmation of our own thinking on this matter, coming as it does from a man with such experience of leftist thinking in Asia’.43 However, the conference did not fulfil all of the Foreign Office’s expectations for South-East Asia. As Dening pointed out, the initial response to Bevin’s proposal for periodic meetings of Commonwealth countries interested in South-East Asia had been favourable. Yet this idea was subsequently overtaken by a proposal for general Commonwealth meetings on foreign affairs:44 during one of the later conference sessions the suggestion was made that in the future the Commonwealth Prime Ministers should meet as often as practicable, and that in the intervals there would be regular m inisterial meetings on foreign affairs. The first such meeting was contemplated for May 1949 in Ceylon. It was therefore unclear whether whether the Prime Ministers still favoured a special conference on South-East Asia. Despite the confusion over the focus of the proposed follow-up meetings, the Foreign Office further embraced the the idea of using the Commonwealth as a basis for regional cooperation in


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South-East Asia. As Grey minuted, the Foreign Office had always favoured regional political collaboration in South-East Asia as an ‘object towards which we should work’; indeed ‘the idea in establishing the organisation in Singapore was that economic collaboration should eventually produce political collaboration’. A Commonwealth conference therefore m ight well lead to such a development.45 Dening, too, was hopeful, arguing that Nehru seemed w illing to agree at least to a certain am ount of collabor­ ation - provided that it was covert. As a first step, closer contacts w ith the police and security services should be established. Dening supported the proposed follow-up to the Com­ m onwealth Prime M inisters’ Conference, ‘and if a [separate] regional conference was arranged the matter should be carried further, possibly bringing in other non-British territories as well’.46 At the same time, London decided that the new Com­ m onwealth approach to South-East Asia was incompatible with the kind of colonial cooperation proposed by other Western U nion powers. As Dening told a meeting of W hitehall represen­ tatives on 20 October, the Asian populations would be strongly prejudiced against political cooperation with the Brussels Treaty powers in the Far East. MacDonald, still in London after attending the Prime Ministers’ Meeting, now supported D ening’s line. The meeting therefore agreed that Bevin should explain to Western Union members that Britain opposed open political cooperation in South-East Asia, but that she was prepared to collaborate covertly.47 A meeting of the Brussels Treaty con­ sultative council in Paris at the end of October provided the opportunity for Britain to clarify her line. Before leaving for France, Bevin was briefed by his department that he should oppose any special A nglo-Dutch-French consultations on South-East Asia. The only exception was collaboration ‘behind the scenes’. There was ‘already effective cooperation in Singapore with the Dutch and French as regards the activities of Commu­ nists, arms smuggling, contraband and so on’.48 During the Paris meeting on 25 October, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Dirk Stikker, raised his country’s proposal from July 1948 to study Western Union cooperation in colonial territories. He stressed that not only the Netherlands but also France and Britain were in trouble in South-East Asia. However, Bevin was unforthcom ing, explaining that the recent Commonwealth

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Prime M inisters’ Conference had shown that Australia and India were unfavourable to the situation in South-East Asia. Official discussions of the problem w ithin the framework of the Brussels Treaty would encourage nationalist feelings in South-East Asia and give the communists a good propaganda weapon. Any consultations should therefore be held through the ‘normal diplom atic channels’.49 It soon became evident that other West­ ern U nion powers were equally disinclined to become entangled in the Netherlands’ problem in Indonesia. The Belgian Foreign Minister, Henri Spaak, stressed that it was inconsistent for the Dutch to argue in the Security Council that Indonesia was an internal Dutch affair, and no threat to peace, while taking the view in the consultative council that the matter was of interna­ tional concern and a threat to peace. The French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, added that discussions on Indonesia, perhaps on the grounds that the Netherlands’ financial stability was threatened, would be stretching the Brussels Treaty to mean rather more than it actually said. The meeting therefore decided that any discussions on Indonesia should be mentioned in the official com m unique only after other international issues such as Palestine, Spain and the Italian colonies.50 As Christofas com­ mented a few days later at the Foreign Office, the meeting had satisfactorily disposed of Dutch attempts to extend the scope of the Brussels Treaty to overseas territories.51 Bevin also refused to make any further concessions on the Indonesian arms embargo. On 19 July 1948, Bevin had told the Dutch Prime Minister that the arms ban could not be lifted before the introduction of constitutional reforms in Indonesia; however, this did not preclude ‘special arrangements being made for the supply from Singapore or elsewhere of a few spare parts or uniforms required by the Dutch in Indonesia’. 2 In August, London had confirmed to The Hague that subject to availability Britain ‘would in future supply orders for what we consider to be non-lethal equipm ent (including spares) w ithout requiring any guarantee that it would not be forwarded to the Netherlands East 53 Indies’. However, this was as far as Bevin was prepared to go. In October, the Dutch proposed that the British would no longer ask for specific undertakings but would assume that the Neth­ erlands would not order any lethal material for Indonesia. Bevin objected - against the advice of the Foreign Office.54 The Foreign Secretary saw the proposal as a subterfuge that could not be


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defended in the House of Commons:55 it would mean the end of the embargo.56 Bevin explained to his officials that there was the possibility of a second police action in Indonesia, in which case he would be questioned closely about the embargo. The matter should be left as it was, though Grey was instructed to help the Dutch as m uch as he could administratively.57 The decision of the Brussels Treaty’s consultative council against special Western Union talks on Indonesia, as well as the m aintenance of the arms embargo, cleared the way for a British initiative towards Commonwealth cooperation on South-East Asia. As Grey wrote to B ritain’s diplom atic representatives in South-East Asia in November, the Foreign Office intended, when the time seemed ripe, to propose a special regional conference in Singapore on the problems of South-East Asia. The department intended to keep the initiative in South-East Asia which we took when we established the Special Commissioner’s Organisation. But secondly we should like at some stage to bring in nonCommonwealth countries. It was always intended that the economic collaboration initiated at Singapore should develop into a wider political collaboration.58 At the end of November 1948, MacDonald invited British officials in South-East Asia to talks in Singapore. The meeting concluded that although much was to be said for the calling of an early regional conference on the lines suggested by the Foreign Office, it would be better to delay the proposal. As MacDonald pointed out to London, the proposal to hold a larger Commonwealth conference in Ceylon in April or May 1949 was holding the field, and Commonwealth countries would probably be upset by an earlier regional Commonwealth conference in Singapore which m ight cover much of the same ground. It was also thought that countries like T hailand and Burma would be reluctant to attend such a conference. They probably wanted to avoid ‘ganging up against the Russians and Com m unists’ while ‘lining up with “Im perialists” ’, though any American participation would make it easier for non-Commonwealth countries to attend. Furth­ ermore, the Indonesian problem remained a stum bling block. According to MacDonald: The Indonesian situation is so vital to developments in South-

Cold War and Commonwealth


East Asia generally that a conference w ithout representatives of Indonesia would be like a performance of ‘H am let’ in the absence of one of the im portant characters, if not the Prince of Denmark himself. . . . An attem pt to hold such a [conference] prior to settling of Indonesian question will result in great controversy between us, the Dutch, the Indians and Indo­ nesians. The reactions of such a controversy in South-East Asia would be very bad.59 Despite the Dutch-Indonesian irritant, M acDonald’s meeting confirmed the new British line on South-East Asia. This was that a series of Commonwealth conferences, and not the former Special Commission, would be used to encourage regional cooperation in the area. The driving force would be the m utual fear of comm unism in Asia. Britain, still the dom inant power in the Commonwealth, would be in the best position to organise regional action, at the same time preventing countries like India from becoming the cham pion of exclusively Asian alignments. However, a num ber of problems remained. Britain simply could not escape the fact that so long as France and the Netherlands failed to find a settlement with their respective nationalist movements, the two powers were unlikely to be accepted as regional partners by the other Asian states. Yet Indonesia and Indochina were an essential geographical and political part of South-East Asia, and regional cooperation, whether on the security, economic or political levels, would eventually have to include the two territories. Indeed, confining cooperation to the Commonwealth meant that mainly countries from the South-East Asian periphery would be included. A further question was whether Burma and T hailand could be convinced to participate in future Commonwealth conferences. Burma feared both British and Indian dom ination, while T hailand was reluctant to commit herself to any grouping w ithout securing considerable gains in return, such as large-scale financial or m ilitary aid. Finally, Britain had to make up her m ind about the kind of regional cooperation she wanted. Would collaboration be con­ fined to the police and intelligence levels, would defence be included, and what exactly did political cooperation entail? Economically, the problem was that the South and South-East Asian countries were bound to demand loans or financial aid


Britain and Regional Cooperation

from Britain to raise their populations’ standard of living. W ithout such aid, an agreement on regional cooperation under British leadership was highly unlikely. Would it perhaps be necessary to bring in the Americans, and what consequences would this have for B ritain’s economic interests in the region? Furthermore, would W ashington be at all interested in support­ ing British policies in South-East Asia? Britain’s new regional plans were thus full of questions and uncertainties. However, dramatic new developments in China soon induced London to make up its m ind about its future course of action.

Chapter 11

Enter the dragon: South-East Asia and the Chinese civil war

The Commonwealth Prime M inisters’ Conference in London had concentrated prim arily on the internal threat posed by the com m unist movements in South and South-East Asia. Little attention was given to the developments in China and to their possible significance for the country’s neighbouring regions. Yet only two m onths later, the Chinese civil war was catapulted to the top of W hitehall’s political agenda. After sudden military successes by the Chinese communists, London feared that Mao T se-tung’s forces would soon gain the upper hand in the country. Not only would this have serious implications for B ritain’s trade with China and for the position of H ong Kong. The British were equally concerned about the effects that a com m unist take-over in China would have on South-East Asia. T he conflict between the Chinese communists under Mao Tsetung and the nationalist Kuom intang forces under General Chiang Kai-shek dated back to the late 1920s. T hough immediately before and during the Second World the two sides concentrated on fighting the Japanese invaders, the civil war flared up again in the spring of 1946 - following the breakdown of com m unist-nationalist peace talks, and after failed American attempts to arrange a truce between the warring factions. During the Second World War, the Kuom intang had been America’s m ain ally in China, and therefore the recipient of massive US aid. However, the Americans had become increasingly disillusioned with C hiang’s corrupt Kuom intang regime, and after 1947 W ashington decided to ‘let the dust settle’ and see what emerged from the civil war. Britain, who was hoping to resume her strong prewar trade position in China, was equally disillusioned about the prospects of the Chiang Kai-shek government.1 But neither


Britain and Regional Cooperation

London nor W ashington anticipated the rapid military successes achieved by the communists towards the end of 1948. Countering the nationalists’ attem pt to reconquer Manchuria, the comm u­ nists launched an all-out offensive in September 1948. By 1 November the Kuom intang army in M anchuria, suffering from corruption and extremely low morale, had finally collapsed. In December, the communists turned towards Peking, forcing the city to surrender by the end of January 1949.2 After the fall of M anchuria, London began to take the comm u­ nist successes in China extremely seriously. Mao was publicly aligning himself with the Soviet Union, who was believed to be behind the South-East Asian uprisings. As a result, the British no longer watched the Chinese developments in isolation but as an integral part of the Cold War in Asia. On 9 December 1948, a lengthy cabinet paper drafted by the Foreign Office alerted the British government to the new situation.3According to the paper, it now looked certain that at least the north of China would perm anently fall into comm unist hands, as Chiang Kai-shek had virtually lost control of the area north of the Yangtze river. In the long run, it was highly possible that the communists would take over the whole of China. Apart from considering the negative implications of the comm unist advance for British and American trade interests in China, the cabinet paper examined the likely effects on adjacent territories. So long as the communists controlled only the north of China, the effects on Malaya and Singapore would be limited. However, should the whole of China fall to the communists, Malaya would be in grave danger. ‘M ilitant com m unism ’ would be very close to Malaya’s frontier only T hailand and French Indochina would remain as buffers. Inside Malaya, the morale of the Malayan communists would improve and there m ight be increased communist infiltration from China. The problem was that even relatively small successes by the Malayan communists would have considerable repercussions am ong the traditionally passive Chinese com m un­ ity. Other parts of South-East Asia would also be adversely affec­ ted. Any com m unist successes in the north of China, the paper argued, would stimulate comm unist movements throughout the entire region, and if all of China was overrun, contacts between Chinese communists and the communists in Indochina and T hailand would be greatly facilitated. Furthermore, Burma was

Enter the dragon


likely to be infiltrated because of her partly undefined border w ith China and because of the Burmese government’s lack of effective control over the country. There was also the danger that comm unism would ‘seep over’ into India and to the eastern part of Pakistan. Things would be particularly difficult in Indochina where ‘the failure of the French Government . . . to seek a solution has resulted in an alliance between the Nationalist and Com m unist elements’. Any comm unist Chinese reinforcements for the Viet M inh m ight make the French position in the north of the country untenable and would increase the threat to other parts of South-East Asia. Furthermore, if the Dutch failed to reach a political settlement in Indonesia, and again resorted to m ilitary action, the country’s nationalists m ight decide to forge an alliance with the communists, creating long-term disorder that would have serious consequences for the whole of SouthEast Asia. T hailand as well had a strong communist element which m ight get out of hand as a result of the developments in China. In southern T hailand in particular there was the danger that local communists would combine with the Malayan com­ munists. T he paper expected that the comm unist dom ination of China would also have indirect but ‘none the less formidable’ conse­ quences for India and Pakistan. The strengthening of commu­ nism in Burma, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, following a commu­ nist take-over in China, would threaten to encircle India and Pakistan strategically and politically. At the same time, India’s attitude of neutrality between the communist states and the Western powers would probably be strengthened. The situation on the subcontinent was further complicated by the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. So long as this dispute existed, there was the danger that Pakistan, who was potentially anti-com munist, m ight seek Russian support against India. The developments in China would also have a serious economic knock-on effect in neighbouring regions. Burma, T hailand and Indochina were the m ain rice producers of the entire area. Com m unist disturbances in these three countries would lead to a significant decrease in the production of rice, with immediate repercussions for Britain’s colonial territories and in the Asian Commonwealth countries: A decrease in rice consum ption will provide fertile ground for

154 Britain and Regional Cooperation

Com m unist agitation. This - together with general dis­ turbances in other South-East Asia industries - would cause further disruption of the economy of the area with consequent adverse effects on the production of such vital commodities as rubber, tin, edible oils, &c., which are of such importance to world economic recovery. H aving painted the gloomiest of pictures, the cabinet paper made recommendations for possible British counter-action. In China, Britain should m aintain de facto relations with the communists to safeguard existing trading interests and to keep a ‘foot in the door’.4 In South-East Asia, the problem was that the Americans were apparently not prepared to accept any political responsibility, nor would they take any action to m aintain the position of friendly powers there. The powers geographically situated in the region therefore had to take their own measures to ‘meet the Com m unist menace’. Britain would have to make strenuous efforts to clear up the situation in Malaya, while in the region as a whole the measures of the different governments had to be coordinated. There were, however, a number of problems. It would, for example, be difficult to associate Burma with French Indochina. Moreover, the Commonwealth countries prim arily concerned, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan, who all had a vital interest in the peace and prosperity of South-East Asia, would probably be unw illing to join in any activities to support the French and Dutch governments in this area. Britain would therefore have to act as coordinator, though it would be necessary to consider the political consequences very carefully at each stage. The paper concluded that Britain should inform all the interested powers about the problems likely to arise as a result of the com m unist successes in China, and consult them on the best m ethod of dealing with the situation. This included the United States who should be kept informed and whose support should be sought. The paper also suggested stepping up intelli­ gence and police cooperation, so far as political considerations permitted, and conducting a study of the economic consequences of com m unist dom ination of China for the whole area. In addition, the Chiefs of Staff were being asked to consider the possibility of coordinating military measures against any stra­ tegic threat in the area between Afghanistan and the Pacific region.5

Enter the dragon


The cabinet endorsed the paper’s recommendations on 13 December 1948,6 thus com m itting the government to attempts to coordinate international action against the further spread of comm unism in South-East Asia. However, what exactly such action entailed still had to be worked out. MacDonald, probably still unaware of the exact contents of the cabinet paper, told London on 10 December what he thought ought to be done. He argued that the com m unist advance in China constituted a most formidable threat to all the countries further south; the further north the communists could be stopped, the better. T hough South-East Asia would only be a m inor theatre of operations should a ‘hot war’ ever break out: We m ust accept that South-East Asia is now a major theatre in the ‘cold w ar’, and will continue so throughout this period. T he com m unist friends of Russia, with such help as Russia deems it advisable to give, will push as far as they can by propaganda, agitation and subversive activities. Britain could only counter this through a diplom atic and political offensive and had to do everything that lay in her and American power to strengthen the forces opposed to the commu­ nists inside the Asian populations. In Malaya, for example, the establishment of a Central Inform ation Bureau was required, while in Indonesia the Foreign Office’s energetic policy of influencing both the Dutch and the Indonesians towards a compromise settlement had to be maintained. T hailand also required action. The country was now ‘dangerously exposed to the Com m unist threat from outside and inside’. As a sign of goodwill Britain should waive 1 m illion pounds’ worth of war reparations claims, and supply some military equipm ent for use against bandits in southern Thailand. Furthermore, the Amer­ icans would have to be convinced to do whatever they could in terms of economic and m ilitary aid. In addition, both Britain and the United States had to examine the position with a view to form ulating a joint programme for adequate economic and m ilitary support. There should also be talks in Singapore between the British and T hai m ilitary authorities - if the Americans were ready to join in these talks, all the better. W ashington would, in any case, have to be taken into Britain’s confidence. MacDonald then turned to Indochina, which from the military

156 Britain and Regional Cooperation

point of view was ‘of course of great importance to our position in South-East Asia’. Unfortunately there seemed ‘little chance of a complete political agreement between the French and even moderate elements in Indochina’. Despite this, MacDonald recommended discreetly adopting the course of cooperation with France, by discussing strategic questions with the local French military chief, and by arranging secret joint planning dis­ cussions. At the same time, diplom atic action in Paris should encourage the French to reach an agreement with the anti­ communists in their colony, although he was not optimistic that such an initiative would be successful. Finally, there was the problem of Burma whose government was weak and where the situation was confused. MacDonald found it difficult to know what more could be done before he had visited the country, believing, however, that India m ight be able to help by showing m ilitary strength, or perhaps by giving some form of support to the Burmese government.7 MacDonald attached unprecedented importance to AngloAmerican cooperation on South-East Asia, in particular so far as T hailand was concerned. As MacDonald explained in a followup telegram, the T hai Prince Chum bot had recently told him that the Thais were in some ways cowardly and never put up a firm resistance to an enemy unless they felt sure it would be effective. This, the Prince asserted, was the reason why the Thais had not resisted Japan: they wished to resist but knew that their foreign friends would give them no support. The same would happen with the communists unless the Bangkok government saw practical evidence that Britain was granting help.8 The British ambassador in Thailand, Thom pson, strongly endorsed MacDonald’s proposals, arguing from Bangkok that: T he frontiers of Malaya are on the Mekong and . . . if we desire to establish a bastion against communism in this area, we must be ready to give very substantial help to Siam. We must, moreover, work in conjunction with the United States. American assistance to T hailand was meagre, and encroached upon or competed with British interests. There was in fact considerable Anglo-American rivalry in the country which der­ ived prim arily from American disappointm ent over Britain’s commercial come-back. This rivalry had to go if Thailand was to be strengthened. Thom pson stressed that Anglo-American help

Enter the dragon


would have to be generous and would have to include paying for the equipm ent and training of the T hai Army and Air Force. In T hai eyes the threat was prim arily Chinese rather than commu­ nist. In 1941, Britain had offered T hailand no help apart from Churchill urging Prime Minister Pibul to uphold the cause of democracy. Having had as little hope of successfully resisting Japan as Denmark had of standing against Hitler, Pibul had followed a policy which enabled the country outwardly to m aintain its independence and spared its people much suffering, gam bling in the process on an eventual Allied victory. Now a new danger threatened and T hailand could scarcely be blamed if, in the absence of any resolute Anglo-American action, she sought to conjure it by again employing methods which in both the recent and the distant past had proved successful.9 The Foreign Office had its doubts about MacDonald’s idea of involving the Americans in m ilitary talks with the Thais; A.M. Palliser arguing that ‘our enemies m ight make fruitful pro­ paganda out of an “Anglo-American colonial policy” towards Siam ’. The Americans should, however, be taken into Britain’s confidence.10 In a further comment, this time on T hom pson’s telegram, Palliser admitted that the Thais were using AngloAmerican rivalry to play one country off against the other and that it would obviously be preferable to persuade the Americans to take an interest in this part of the world. He was, however, not convinced of the need for aid to Thailand. The country had enough foreign exchange to meet her rehabilitation and defence requirements and he foresaw the danger that Western pounds and dollars would go the the way of US aid to China.11 At the same time, Palliser welcomed MacDonald’s proposal for secret staff talks with France on Indochina. However, he refused to contemplate Indian intervention in Burma, which would actually constitute an invasion of the country. While the Burmese government would gladly accept arms and money, it did not want advice about how to use them. Direct Indian military intervention in Burma would be just as unpopular as direct British intervention. Nehru m ight, however, have more influence with the present Burmese government than any European could hope to exert, and he m ight be ready to use it if it looked as 12 though Burmese rice exports were stopping. As the debate on the T hai question demonstrated, the details of London’s anti-com m unist policies were still unclear. Should


Britain and Regional Cooperation

there be m ilitary intervention by either Britain or India in troublespots like Burma?; was financial aid required to keep the Thais in the pro-Western camp?; and where and how would the Americans come in? Despite this lack of coherence, London decided to set the ball rolling. It opted for three separate diplom atic initiatives towards anti-com munist collaboration in South-East Asia. The first concerned the Commonwealth. At the end of December, short versions of the cabinet paper on China were sent to all Commonwealth countries and to Thailand. This was in line with the policy of pursuing Commonwealth coope­ ration as the basis for a wider regional scheme in South-East Asia. B ritain’s second initiative was aimed at convincing the United States with her overwhelming financial power to support British policies in South-East Asia; despite earlier fears that American involvement m ight cut across the sterling area. Shocked by the developments in China, London believed that only the Amer­ icans could stem the perceived communist tide in Asia. Just as W ashington had come to the rescue in Western Europe by providing Marshall aid, it now had to make a commitment to South-East Asia. The problem was, however, that the United States had shown little inclination to become involved in what it regarded as the problems of the colonial powers in South-East Asia. As Thom pson told London on 18 December, the American ambassador in Bangkok, Stanton, supported his views on AngloAmerican consultation and agreement, but Stanton also feared that little could be expected from the United States. W ashington felt it had so m uch on its hands in Europe that there was little it could do in South-East Asia.13 Despite such discouraging reports, London decided to go ahead with the diplom atic offensive suggested in the cabinet paper. As Grey explained in a Foreign Office memorandum, Britain had hitherto b sen dealing rather piecemeal with furnish­ ing support against communism in countries like Afghanistan, Burma and Thailand. W hat was needed was a ‘full-scale review w ith the United States of the possibilities of action in South-East Asia, m ilitarily, political and economic’.14 On 20 December the Foreign Office instructed its embassy in W ashington to approach the Americans on the issue of communism in Asia as a whole. A summary of the cabinet paper on China was given to the State Department on 5 January as a basis for bilateral discussions.15

Enter the dragon


The Foreign Office’s third initiative aimed at stepping up collaboration with France. As MacDonald had pointed out to London, Indochina was in the front line in the fight against communism, and it was expected that the activities of the com m unist Viet M inh would increase once Mao’s troops had reached C hina’s border with Vietnam. But before Britain could openly cooperate with the French in Indochina, London believed that Paris had to be seen to be m aking concessions to the non­ com m unist nationalists in the Vietnam, in particular to the former Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai. The French had in fact been involved in constitutional talks with Bao Dai since the end of 1947. London now hoped that a ‘Bao Dai solution’ to France’s political image problem in Asia would make French participa­ tion in South-East Asian regional cooperation acceptable to India. In November 1948 Dening had visited Paris, where he had stressed the need for a French understanding with the non­ com m unist Vietnamese nationalists. The French had agreed that they would have to make concessions to Vietnamese nationalist feelings.16 This further encouraged London to pursue a more active policy on Indochina. On 21 December, Dening returned to Paris for further talks on South-East Asia. His comments now centred on the com m unist threat to the region, and on the need 17 for intelligence cooperation as well as high-level talks. A few days later, London sent Paris a summary of its cabinet paper on C hina.18 In the following months, there occurred a series of AngloFrench consultations on South-East Asia. During these meetings, London pursued three objectives. First, it tried to encourage Paris to come to an agreement with Bao Dai that was based on real concessions to the Vietnamese nationalists. The aim of this was to remove Indian objections to France’s participation in regional talks on communism in South-East Asia.19 A second British objective was to improve cooperation on the police, intelligence and propaganda levels. Bevin was particularly enthusiastic about this, and he suggested to the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, in January 1949 that the British, French and Dutch should pool their inform ation work; possibly in Singapore where Britain already had a powerful broadcasting station.20 Most of the Foreign Office and Colonial Office files dealing with intelligence and security cooperation in South-East Asia are still classified. However, it seems that in this field


Britain and Regional Cooperation

considerable progress was subsequently made between the local 21 French and British authorities. The Foreign Office’s third objective was to leave Paris in no doubt that Anglo-French cooperation would not take precedence over collaboration between Britain and the independent Asian countries - despite Bevin’s enthusiasm about the pooling of Western intelligence in the region. In February, a French reply to the British paper on China welcomed Anglo-French cooperation in the region but suggested that the United States and the independent Asian countries would merely be associated with 22 efforts by London and Paris. In addition, the French consul in Singapore, Guibaut, suggested to MacDonald that a ‘colonial charter’ be drawn up between Britain, France and the Neth­ erlands with a set of economic and political principles. Possibly, some Asian countries could be associated.23 In response, Dening made it clear to MacDonald that a colonial charter was a non­ starter. Only after settlements had been found in Indonesia and Indochina was there a possibility of associating the Dutch and French not only with Britain but with Asian countries as well.24 While the prospects for France’s inclusion in a regional scheme sponsored by Britain were thus temporarily improving, the opposite was the case with the Netherlands, due to the completely different circumstances in Indonesia. Unlike the Viet M inh in Indochina, the Indonesian nationalist movement was relatively free of comm unist influence. In October 1948, the Republican government under Mohammed Hatta had managed to crush an insurgency by the Indonesian Communist Party. The event proved to both Britain and the United States that the Indonesian Republic was not a communist spearhead, as the Dutch were suggesting, but should indeed be regarded as a bulwark against comm unism .25 From the British point of view, the danger was that open support for the Dutch position in Indonesia m ight drive the nationalists into the camp of the communists. A further reason for L ondon’s reluctance to include the Dutch in its regional plans was that international opinion remained far more concerned about the situation in Indonesia than about that in Indochina. The moment of truth came on 19 December 1948 when the Dutch launched a second ‘police action’ aimed at liquidating the Indonesian Republic. W ithin two weeks, most of the Indonesian leaders, including H atta and Sukarno, were arrested, and most of

Enter the dragon


the republican cities in Java and Sumatra were occupied by Dutch troops.26 The move instantly resulted in a worldwide outcry against the Netherlands. While the Security Council called for a cease-fire and the release of the republican leaders, India was am ong the most outspoken critics of the Dutch. Flights by the Dutch airline KLM over Indian territory were suspended and the departure of the first Indian ambassador to The Hague was postponed ‘indefinitely’. There were demonstrations at the docks in Bombay, where a Dutch ship was being unloaded, and in front of the city’s Dutch consulate. The Indian national Congress assured the Indonesian Republic of its complete sympathy.27 In Britain too, public opinion was critical of the Dutch intervention. T hough London refused to back a Soviet demand 28 for a Dutch troop withdrawal, it nevertheless put diplomatic pressure on The Hague to stop the fighting. Bevin also gave instructions to discontinue the recent relaxation in the arms embargo.29 On 29 December, Bevin told the Dutch ambassador in London that the Netherlands had not paid sufficient attention to recent international developments. The whole situation had changed with the granting of independence to India, Pakistan and Ceylon. There had also been enormous advances in Malaya; the Dutch should have kept in step with this general progress. Bevin suggested the Dutch called a conference of all the parties in Indonesia, including the republicans. They should offer to set up an interim government and set a firm date for the transfer of power. India and Pakistan m ight then adopt a constructive attitude. Nehru and Liaqat Ali Khan were ‘both well aware of the dangers of Slav expansion in South-East Asia, especially since Russian territory was near their frontiers’. If the Dutch handled this problem right, they could make friends in Asia, instead of antagonists. He added that it was B ritain’s policy to make friends in South-East Asia for many years to come, and to m aintain our trade and our economic position there. It m ight be possible to hold at no distant date a South-East Asia conference, including India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand and the Western European powers concerned. But the Dutch must show, in any declarations they make, that they appreciate nationalist sentiment in South-East Asia and intend to follow a forward looking policy. If they did this, we


Britain and Regional Cooperation

would use what influence we could with Asiatic countries to help them.30 However, news subsequently reached London that Nehru was planning a conference of mainly Asian countries in order to condemn the Dutch action in Indonesia. The proposed confer­ ence set the alarm bells ringing in London. The Foreign Office immediately cancelled all telegrams, addressed to other Com­ m onwealth governments, which contained reports of Bevin’s conversation with the Dutch ambassador, fearing that countries like Australia would ‘conclude that we had been outwitted by the 31 Indians’. The prospect of an anti-Dutch conference sponsored by India made the Netherlands’ participation in the joint AsianEuropean scheme, proposed by Bevin, virtually unthinkable. Until the transfer of power in Indonesia one year later on, the Netherlands in fact ceased to feature in L ondon’s regional strategy. T o sum up, London was by the end of 1948 considering three levels of cooperation on South-East Asia. First, Britain remained committed to the plan of using the Commonwealth as the basis for regional cooperation. One of the immediate issues that the Commonwealth, and particularly India, would have to address was the deteriorating situation in Burma. Second, Britain was hoping to secure the material and political support of the United States in order to stabilise the countries of South-East Asia. Initially, cooperation would centre on T hailand where the Americans had established an economic foothold after the war. Joint Anglo-American action would prevent the T hai govern­ ment from siding with the Chinese and enable it to suppress possible communist-resistance movements. Finally, Britain decided to embark on separate talks with France. The aim was to increase security and intelligence cooperation in South-East Asia in order to strengthen the anti-com munist campaigns in both Indochina and Malaya. London also hoped to induce the French into granting concessions to the non-com m unist nationalists in Indochina. This would provide a nationalist alternative to the Viet M inh, and it m ight turn France into an acceptable partner in a European-Asian scheme of cooperation in South-East Asia. The Netherlands, on the other hand, had missed her chance. After the second police action, the British privately recommended that the Dutch should withdraw from Indonesia.

Enter the dragon


As Dening reflected four m onths later, the cabinet paper was originally designed to give the impetus which would induce the South-East Asian territories, the United States and the Com­ monwealth to consider concerted action to resist Russian 32 expansion and com m unist tactics in South-East Asia. However, while the short-term goal nay have been the creation of an anti­ com m unist bloc in South-East Asia, London’s diplom atic efforts also fitted in with the Foreign Office’s long-term policy of setting up a regional system that would guarantee Britain lasting political, economic and m ilitary influence in South-East Asia. Six m onths before the cabinet paper, the prospects for British-led regional cooperation had been extremely dim given the rise of ECAFE, the concurrent decline of the Special Commission, and regional com petition from India and Australia. At the end of 1948, none of these problems had disappeared. However, the Cold War now dom inated British thinking on South-East Asia. Against the odds, London was determined to press ahead with its revised regional plans. Regional cooperation was turning into one of B ritain’s m ain strategies for countering communism in South-East Asia.

Chapter 12

Regional cooperation and regional containment

After years of interdepartm ental planning and debating, W hitehall had firmly lifted the issue of regional cooperation to the governmental level. O ut went the idea of using the Special Commission as the basis for a British-sponsored regional com­ mission; rather than organising regional cooperation from the grassroots upwards, London now opted for international talks at the government level. The precarious situation in South-East Asia urgently required concerted action by the West and by the pro-Western governments in the region. The aim was to stem the perceived com m unist tide through an anti-com munist front: regional cooperation as a means of regional containment. However, the problems that London would have to overcome were considerable. After despatching shortened versions of the cabinet’s paper on China to the United States, France, T hailand and the Commonwealth countries, London was hoping for quick and forthcoming responses from all quarters to its pro­ posals for greater anti-com m unist collaboration. Yet only France and to a lesser degree T hailand were receptive. The Americans indicated that they were financially overstretched because of their commitments to European recovery. They had also burnt their fingers in China, where billions of dollars had been wasted on supporting the Kuomintang. W ashington was reluctant to make the same mistake again by supporting the European colonial regimes in South-East Asia. The Asian Commonwealth countries were equally hesitant. T hough they were interested in obtaining Western aid, they wanted to avoid being associated with any proWestern or anti-com m unist bloc in Asia. However, more than any other single factor, the Indonesian crisis continued to interfere with the British initiative. The

Regional cooperation and regional containment


second Dutch police action in December 1948 provided Nehru with an ideal opportunity to wrest the regional initiative away from London. If anti-com munism was the driving force behind B ritain’s revived regional policies, then the theme of anti­ colonialism continued to serve the Indians as a means of rallying the fledgling Asian states behind them. Between 20 and 23 January 1949, Nehru invited representatives from fifteen Asian countries to a conference in Delhi to discuss ways and means of helping the Indonesian nationalists. Of the Western countries only Australia was fully represented.1The conference was highly critical of Western policies in Asia, and Nehru called not only for Indonesian independence but for the elim ination of all forms of colonialism. In one of the final conference resolutions, the delegates in Delhi demanded the complete transfer of power from the Netherlands to the Indonesian Republic by 1 January 1950. This greatly added to the m ounting international pressure on the Netherlands, exerted also by the United States, Britain and the United Nations. The Dutch eventually gave in and in April 1949 began negotiations with the Indonesian Republic. After a round­ table conference at The Hague in August, the Dutch transferred their sovereignty to the republican government on 29 December 1949.2 Apart from calling for Indonesian independence, Nehru used his conference to launch a new initiative for exclusively Asian cooperation. At India’s instigation, the meeting recommended that: ‘Participating Governments should consult am ong them­ selves in order to explore ways and means of establishing suitable machinery, having regard to the areas concerned, of prom oting consultation and cooperation w ithin the framework of the United N ations.’3Immediately after the conference, the Indians organised a ‘private’ meeting to discuss detailed steps towards the third resolution’s implem entation. The meeting was attended by repre­ sentatives from most of the countries who had participated in the conference - with the exception of Burma, the Philippines and Australia. According to the Australian H igh Commissioner in India, Gollan, the meeting was specially postponed until the Australians had departed.4 During this informal meeting, it was proposed at India’s instigation that all the countries concerned should collect and exchange inform ation of m utual importance, and that they should collaborate on matters of common policy, for example in


Britain and Regional Cooperation

the UN, and take steps to improve cultural relations. Once official replies to these proposals had been received, there should be a meeting in Delhi to confirm plans for a proposed interna­ tional organisation that would be linked to periodical ambassadorial meetings in Delhi. If certain countries were not prepared to take part in the organisation, the rem aining coun­ tries should not be prevented from carrying out these proposals. The Indians subsequently communicated a copy of the meeting’s minutes to the Australians, indicating that there m ight be two (regional) groups, one Middle Eastern and one South-East Asian. G ollan passed on his inform ation to London, telling the British that it was his impression that India intended to be the leader of both these groupings.5 From the outset, London had disliked N ehru’s conference plans which excluded Britain and which interfered with its own regional plans. However, the British had soon realised that there was little they could do about the Delhi Conference. Bevin consequently wished Nehru success during his meeting,6 and London encouraged Australia to take a moderating stance. The conference’s outcome further depressed British officials. Com­ m enting on the informal Indian-sponsored get-together at the end of the meeting, the British H igh Commissioner in India, Archibald Nye, argued that ‘whether we like it or not, this organisation would get going and would remain in being’. But all was not lost, and Nye advised his Australian colleague that the membership of Australia and New Zealand (in an Asian organisation) would have a stabilising effect.7 The Com­ m onwealth Relations Office agreed that there m ight be an advantage if Australia and New Zealand were associated with any organisation that m ight develop out of the Delhi Conference’s resolution.8 From Singapore, MacDonald agreed that the movement to­ wards Asian cooperation had probably come to stay, and he recommended m aintaining an understanding and reasonably sympathetic attitude towards gatherings of Asian governments. P utting too m uch of a brake on the movement m ight render its mood hostile towards Britain rather than stop it, whereas by giving it sympathetic support Britain would help to lead it along paths of moderation and cooperation with the West. Australian and New Zealand participation would be of advantage, and it was desirable that Britain would also join. This could be done

Regional cooperation and regional containment


through Malaya and British Borneo, who would be represented by MacDonald as well as local Malayan and Chinese leaders.9 The Foreign Office was less sympathetic to N ehru’s plans, which clearly conflicted with its own ambitions. When, by the begin­ ning of March, India, Pakistan and Ceylon had all indicated general agreement with the British analysis of the situation in South-East Asia, but had refrained from suggesting closer Com­ monwealth collaboration, the Foreign Office blamed Nehru. It suspected that the cautious replies were partly a result of the Delhi Conference’s anti-colonial undertone.10 However, there were also signs that the Asian countries were beginning to regard the Soviet U nion as a potential threat. Moscow had in fact condemned the Delhi Conference. London hoped that the Soviet move would now backfire, and it stressed that the ‘Recent outspoken criticism of New Delhi conference may result in hardening of attitude against Soviet and open more eyes to the indivisibility of Com m unist menace and the urgency of resisting its encroachments.’11 Despite this glimmer of hope, the Foreign Office was becom­ ing increasingly depressed about the lack of international action against comm unism in Asia. In January, the Chinese comm u­ nists had occupied Tientsin and Peking, and had cleared the way to the Yangtse river which divides the northern and southern halves of China. The leader of the Kuom intang forces, Chiang Kai-shek, had (temporarily) declared his retirement, and in February the nationalist headquarters had been moved from N anking to Canton in the south of the country. At the beginning of March, the Chiefs of Staff told the cabinet that the spread of comm unism in southern China would lead to further unrest in South-East Asia. Furthermore: Should the Russians establish bases in Southern China, the threat to South-East Asia and to our sea communications m ight become serious. If Communism successfully spreads into the Indian sub-continent, our whole position in SouthEast Asia would become untenable. . . . U ntil all countries interested in the area have agreed on a policy for the Far East, the only military consultative and inform ation organisation which is likely to be effective is the exchange of intelligence inform ation on Com m unist activities and the exchange of police information.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Bevin presented the Chiefs of Staff paper to the cabinet. He told his m inisterial colleagues that Britain should continue her international initiative that had begun in December. London, together with the other powers that had been approached, should also examine any possible economic measures in defence of British interests mentioned in the cabinet paper on China. Authority should also be given to establish international liaison between police and intelligence organisations in the area.12 The cabinet fully supported Bevin’s line.13 After the set-back to the British plans following the Delhi Conference, some of the ‘men on the spot’ gave Britain’s regional initiative a new impetus. Coinciding with the Chiefs of Staff paper, the British, American, Australian and Indian ambassadors in China were holding informal talks on the implications of the comm unist victories. The four diplomats subsequently sent a joint mem orandum to their respective governments, known as the Nanking Proposals, which suggested an internationally coordinated aid plan for South-East Asia. The paper, which expressed the ambassadors’ private views, was to have a consider­ able impact in both London and W ashington. It argued that the comm unist victories in China had created a ‘revolutionary situation’ in South-East Asia, including the subcontinent. Inde­ pendence had failed to transform oriental societies based on starvation economies into modern communities organised on principles of social justice and economic freedom. Unless this situation was brought under control the communists with their easy and immensely appealing solution of ‘Land to the T iller’ and ‘Power to the W orker’ would step in and take charge. T he four ambassadors believed that there was only one solu­ tion: a confederation of South-East Asia that would provide for a planned and integrated economy, and that would turn the small units in this region into a viable state with a progressive economic and social policy. However, countries like Indochina and Burma, who were struggling for or had recently acquired independence, would be unlikely to consider anything which m ight lim it their independence. The immediate solution was therefore to establish a ‘perm anent consultative council of the states of this area’. As a first step, Indonesia and Indochina would have to acquire political freedom, while a new constitutional set­ up in Malaya would have to enable the country to participate as well. The council would then work out common policies in the

Regional cooperation and regional containment


region and provide for an ‘integrated economy’ capable of resisting the pressure of comm unist doctrines. To formulate the ‘principles on which the New Society in South-east Asia should be fashioned’, an economic survey could be conducted by a small committee of four or five high-level political and economic thinkers from Britain, the United States, Australia and India. T he paper further stressed that the program m e’s success depended on Western aid. A second advisory committee should therefore be established consisting of representatives from Britain, the United States, Australia and India, as well as France and the Netherlands, whose continuing economic interests in South-East Asia were believed to be considerable. The advisory committee would be responsible for determining the amounts and the procurement of Western assistance.14 In an accompany­ ing letter to the Foreign Office the British ambassador in China, Stevenson, explained that the proposed second advisory com­ mittee m ight be criticised as an ‘Imperialist Syndicate’; the committee’s m ain advisory functions m ight therefore be given to the United States, so long as the Europeans m ight provide expert assistance.15 This indicated that Stevenson regarded W ashington as the principal source of assistance to South-East Asia. The N anking Proposals showed distinct similarities to the Marshall aid program me in Europe. As in Europe, American funds would be used to develop the economies and social infrastructures of South-East Asia in order to provide prosperity and democracy, and to keep the region firmly w ithin the proWestern camp. However, while in Europe aid was distributed through the OEEC, the Nanking Proposals envisaged a twocouncil system that would give the United States and the European powers a decisive say in the economic development of Asia; at the same time safeguarding Western economic interests and investments. It is of course doubtful whether the proposals could ever have been implemented, not least because countries like Burma and Indonesia would have objected to Western economic supervision. However, the paper had made two im portant points. First, it argued that a successful anti-com mu­ nist policy had to be based on regional cooperation, including the new Asian states and the Western powers. Second, any attem pt to stop the comm unist advance in Asia required Western aid, the bulk of which could only be provided by the United States. The Foreign Office, which only recently had rejected


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Bevin’s suggestions for an Asian OEEC, now agreed that Amer­ ican aid was required to stabilise the situation in South-East Asia. Confirm ing the recent shift in British thinking, Dening told the Commonwealth Relations Offices that if the Asian countries showed a disposition to create a united front against Russian expansion, ‘we should hope that the Americans would be disposed to offer material help when and where it is required’.16 In Singapore, MacDonald was thinking along similar lines to his colleagues in China. At the end of March he was urging London to intensify its efforts in South-East Asia, as the political situation was deteriorating. Iii addition to the communist victor­ ies in China, the Burmese government was now unable to restore law and order in its own country. Furthermore, there was the possibility of collaboration between the free Thais and the communists in T hailand, as well as a dangerous deterioration of the situation in Indonesia. MacDonald believed that these developments should no longer be dealt with in isolation: We should regard South-East Asia as a whole, and devise a coherent policy for dealing with it over the whole region. There is evidence that our Communist enemies view the region as one whole and more or less plan their campaign on a theatre-wide basis. We shall not defeat them unless we do likewise, and do it in conjunction with all the friendly governments both w ithin and [outside] the region who are concerned. MacDonald saw the comm unist campaign in South-East Asia as part of a global comm unist offensive. For the time being, European cooperative action and American and Canadian help, culm inating in the Atlantic Pact, appeared to have held comm u­ nism along the Iron Curtain, but it was probably because of frustration in the West that the planners of international com­ m unist strategy had given more attention to the East where economic and social conditions in some Asian countries pro­ vided the communists with a good field for propaganda and other activities. Unless counter-action was firm, areas like Burma and Indonesia m ight be lost as a prelude to losing a large part of the rest. Such counter-action had to be collective: The analogy of what has been done in Western Europe is quite

Regional cooperation and regional containment


a good one. We need Asian equivalents of the Marshall Plan and the Atlantic Pact. We appreciate that in many respects they would have to be very different from the arrangements in Europe, but in general they should offer the Asian Govern­ ments and peoples economic, political, and, if necessary, m ilitary aid in their resistance to Communism. T o devise such a plan, all the governments concerned in the region should be invited to cooperate, including Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The latter was particularly im portant as no adequate military and economic plan was possible w ithout large measures of American help. However, since it would be difficult for the moment to contemplate constructive discussions which included both India and the Netherlands, and since the United States was not ready to participate, a conference of Britain, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand should be held as soon as possible to discuss, am ong other things, the situation in South-East Asia. It now seemed that the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Minis­ ters’ Conference m ight not discuss South-East Asia at all, and MacDonald warned that if a Commonwealth conference in the near future did not examine the South-East Asian situation, the 17 effect throughout the region would be serious. Similar to the N anking proposals, M acDonald’s letter indicated how recent Western policies in Europe were influenc­ ing British thinking on South-East Asia. As in Europe, the countries directly concerned with South-East Asia would have to get together and demonstrate their willingness to cooperate against com m unist pressure. Initially, this would be on a Com­ m onwealth basis. The United States would then have to come in to provide financial aid in order to stabilise the region economi­ cally and militarily. However, the m ain problem both with M acDonald’s ideas and with the Nanking Proposals was that W ashington had given no indication that it was prepared to help out financially. Prior to the British initiative of December1948, the United States had been extremely reluctant to assume a more prom inent role in the area - with the exception of the P hilippi­ nes. T hough the United States became involved in the Indo­ nesian dispute through her membership in the U N ’s Good Office Committee, she generally accepted Britain as the politically dom inant power in South-East Asia. At the same time, Wash­


Britain and Regional Cooperation

ington refused to make any significant financial contributions to the rehabilitation of the European colonies in the region. In the spring of 1948, Dening had been sent on a tour of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States to orga­ nise five-power talks on the Far East. Dening failed in his aim, partly because of Am erican-Australian antagonism over the 18 future of Japan. However, another reason was that 1948 was a presidential election year in the United States, and thus full of political uncertainties. As the American Under-Secretary of State, Robert Lovett, pointed out to Dening at the time, there were fears in W ashington that an expected economic recession would increase the pressure to cut American commitments abroad; there was the further worry that a newly elected administration m ight revert to isolationism. If, under these circumstances, Congress received an inkling that the State Department was about to hold five-power talks on the Far East, there would immediately be an adverse reaction. When Dening referred to the lack of an American-aid plan in Asia, the State Departm ent’s director of Far Eastern affairs, W alton Butterworth, stressed that W ashington had no intention of sponsoring a Far Eastern Marshall Plan.19 The ‘Dening M ission’ made it clear that for the time being no American support would be forthcoming for South-East Asia The United States was traditionally anti-colonial in her outlook, and any notion that the W ashington administration intended to prop up the European colonial regimes in South-East Asia could have damaged T ru m an ’s electoral prospects. Apart from that, there was a general feeling that Congress had reached its limits by providing Marshall aid to Western Europe. An aid programme for South-East Asia would have had little chances of success. At the end of 1948, the apparent failure of American policies in China added to W ashington’s reluctance to become involved in South-East Asia. Despite the fact that the United States had, since 1945, contributed more than 2 billion dollars of aid to nationalist China,20 the collapse of the Kuom intang regime was now only a matter of time. W ashington feared that American dollars for other parts of Asia m ight equally go down the drain. T o London, the only sign that the Americans m ight be contem plating a more active involvement in South-East Asia was the fourth point in Harry T ru m an ’s inaugural address as re­ elected President on 20 January 1949, in which he stressed the United States’ intention to foster capital investment in and

Regional cooperation and regional containment


technical assistance to the underdeveloped world.21 However, if the British were hoping that ‘Point Four’ was a prelude to an American-aid programme in Asia they would soon be disillusio­ ned. When the State Department received a shortened version of the cabinet paper on China it was reported to be ‘keen to discuss the whole problem ’ with the British.22At the same time, it refused to make any prem ature commitments, and was highly concerned about the publicity that the British were giving to their consul­ tations with W ashington. When Reuters reported in January 1949 that British and American officials were discussing a plan to contain communism in South-East Asia, the T hai ambassador in W ashington assured the American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, that Bangkok, too, was w illing to cooperate. There were, however, limits to what T hailand could do on her own, and the diplom at wondered whether the Americans could help recover T hai gold that was retained in Tokyo. As Butterworth subsequently explained to H.A. Graves of the British embassy in W ashington, W ashington welcomed every move to get other countries interested in the problem; however, he wondered whether it was opportune to let them know at this early stage that Britain and the United States were devising a plan to contain communism. If countries like T hailand got the impression that they could hold out their hands, it would be difficult to persuade his superiors to go along without tremendous caution. Dening, alarmed by the American rebuke, assured Graves that London was careful not to commit the United States, particularly as it did not know what American policy was. Equally: The habit of oriental countries of asking what we or the United States will do for them w ithout m aking any serious effort to do anything for themselves is by now so familiar . . . there is no reason why either we or the United States should respond to Siamese blackmail, or indeed blackmail from anyone else. The first task, Dening added, was for the Asian countries to take the comm unist menace seriously. However, it would be fatal to let the Asians believe that they could sit still and leave it to Britain and the United States to defend them. Britain’s own resources were in any event too limited to make this a practical proposition, and he imagined that the United States would be


Britain and Regional Cooperation

equally reluctant to make any considerable commitments over so vast an area. Both Britain and America were firmly wedded to the principle of self-help. His own personal view was ‘that it is diplomacy rather than dollars which will be required for some >24 time to come . After further talks with the State Department Graves reported to the Foreign Office that the Americans appeared reluctant to embark on any sort of economic assistance plan for Thailand. He therefore suggested that B ritain’s aim should be to get the American government ‘to help us press the orientals to build up their own front against com m unism ’. If this had the ‘convenient sequel that America should become economically involved in South-East Asia so much the better, but we should encourage the United States authorities to act politically first’.25 On 23 February, Graves again met with State Department officials, including Butterworth and the chief of the Division of South-East Asian Affairs, Charles Reed. Graves repeated some of the points made by Dening, particularly that the Foreign Office did not envisage an anti-com munist movement in terms of US dollars; it was only hoping for American cooperation in terms of moral support for the British thesis that the Asian countries must set their houses in order and evolve a policy of their own in the struggle against communism. Anglo-American cooperation was merely to fill the gaps while the greatest emphasis was to be put on self-help.26 Graves subsequ< ntly enquired what American policy was. Butterworth replied that American policy was well defined. In Korea, the United States intended to put Rhee’s government on a solid basis, and she would extend the occupa­ tion in Japan so that the country would not fall prey to communism. In China, the US would test any successor adm i­ nistration to see if it gave signs of good faith. In the Philippines, the United States was already available for defensive purposes, while she stood by the UN resolution on Indonesia. Graves then mentioned that Butterworth had not touched on the continental territories which were in the line of the communist march, and he asked whether there was not ‘some urgency about measures which would take into im portant consideration the danger to South-East Asia’. Butterworth’s response was ‘lukewarm’, and Graves had the impression that the United States was prepared neither to accept any responsibility for South-East Asia nor to act to m aintain the position of friendly powers in the area.

Regional cooperation and regional containment


However, after Butterworth had left the meeting, Reed stayed on and suggested to Graves that Britain and the United States should jointly tackle the problem of Indochina. This was the ‘area where the flow could, and ought to be stemmed’. He thought perhaps something could be done together with the French in Paris. United States policy ‘ought to consider remedial measures at any rate in IndoChina, if not in other parts of SouthEast Asia’. The initiative was shortlived; Butterworth soon got wind of Reed’s suggestion and told Graves to forget that any such proposal had been hinted at. Reed’s statement did not represent State Department views and would not be included in the 27 eventual reply to the British paper. Graves subsequently told London that talks with Butterworth were going slowly, and he doubted that any written analysis given to Britain would contain suggestions for a grand plan.28 Despite the obvious rift between Reed and Butterworth, the British failed to detect a gradual shift inside the State Department on the issue of South-East Asia. Slowly recovering from the shock they had received in China, some American officials were becom­ ing concerned about the prospects for similar communist advances in South-East Asia. As some American historians have recently mentioned, W ashington was in 1949 becoming increas­ ingly aware of South-East Asia’s economic importance both for the United States and for the recovery of Europe. Malaya for example, as has already been pointed out, exported considerable am ounts of natural rubber and tin to the United States. These exports provided Britain with scarce dollars that were needed to finance the recovery of her domestic economy; an economy that in 1949 continued to stagnate despite the provision of Marshall aid to Europe. Apart from this, South-East Asia was a source of raw materials for Japan and a potential outlet for Japanese manufactured goods - at a time when the United States was moving towards the re-establishment of Japanese commercial and industrial power.29 Some American officials were therefore beginning to regard the stability of South-East Asia as closely linked to the success of American policies in both Asia and Europe. In January 1949, Charlton Ogburn Jr of the State Depart­ m ent’s South-East Asian Division was one of the first American officials to argue in favour of a more active policy in South-East Asia. He was inspired by the Delhi Conference, which the

176 Britain and Regional Cooperation

majority of his department feared m ight encourage the formation of an anti-Western bloc in Asia. Ogburn, in contrast, suggested supporting Asian unity as a means of stopping the spread of comm unism in South and South-East Asia. He reflected that America’s postwar prestige as a cham pion of independence in Asia had declined nearly to the vanishing point. In China, American policy had failed, after supporting an unpopular, dictatorial and corrupt regime. W ashington had also refused to oppose France’s war against the Vietnamese and had provided financial backing for the Netherlands’ campaign in Indonesia. As a result, India now regarded the United States as the heir of British imperialism. Yet South-East Asia was in great peril due to the com m unist success in China. If the communists managed to assume control of the nationalist movements in Indonesia, they m ight soon achieve the conquest of the whole of East Asia, leaving Australia in a most precarious situation. Ogburn there­ fore proposed to the State Department that W ashington should encourage the formation of a southern or non-communist Asian bloc. It was immaterial that such a bloc would initially be antiWestern. Once the French and Dutch had lost control of Vietnam and Indonesia, the source of friction between Asia and the West would disappear and the anti-Western bloc could develop into a common Asian front against communist aggression.30 O gburn’s paper, strongly anti-Dutch and anti-French in its outlook, opened the State Departm ent’s eyes to the possibility of using regional cooperation in Asia as a means of containing communism. One m onth later, the American ambassador in China, Leighton Stuart, provided W ashington with an analysis that came close to British ideas for regional cooperation. He argued that communism in Asia could not be stopped by military force or economic aid alone. If ‘Soviet expansion-throughCom m unism ’ was to be contained, then convincingly dramatised ideas were required. Unlike Ogburn, Stuart was thinking of a united A sian-European scheme in South-East Asia. He proposed that Britain, France and the Netherlands, together with the United States, should join a federation that would help to restore the complete independence of the peoples of East and South-East Asia. It would further help to protect Asia from more subtle forms of imperialism through highly organised minorities who were linked to international communism. India, the Philippines and other countries in the area m ight be included. So far as

Regional cooperation and regional containment


Indonesia and Indochina were concerned, the Netherlands and France m ight be convinced that the two colonies should be ‘liberated graciously rather than grudgingly and as a total loss’. Britain, too, m ight make an unequivocal statement about ‘how long it intended to m aintain its protectorates in H ong Kong and Malaya’.31 Stuart gave a copy of his memorandum to his British colleague, Stevenson.32 A few weeks later, the two ambassadors, together with their Australian and Indian colleagues, drafted the N anking Proposals, which came close to proposing some kind of anti-com m unist Marshall Plan for South and South-East Asia. Proposals by officials like Ogburn and Stuart had a consider­ able impact in W ashington. Together with the British paper on China and the N anking Proposals, they inspired the State Departm ent’s high-ranking Policy Planning Staff to draft a paper which attempted to redefine American policies in Asia including W ashington’s stance on regional cooperation. The American paper, titled PPS 51, stated that it was America’s objective to contain and reduce ‘Kremlin influence’ in SouthEast Asia through m ultilateral cooperation prim arily with the British Commonwealth countries and the Philippines. After Anglo-American talks with France and the Netherlands, there should be prom pt discussions with Britain, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Australia on a cooperative approach to SouthEast Asia. T o minimise the suggestion of American imperialist intervention, India, the Philippines and other Asian states should take the public lead. America’s role should be to offer discreet support and guidance. Furthermore, the United States should seek vigorously to develop the economic interdependence of Japan and the raw-material-supplying region of South-East Asia, and of India and Western Europe as a supplier of finished goods. To achieve this, every effort should be made to initiate and expand programmes of technical assistance through bilateral arrangements and international agencies. Last but not least, ‘efforts should also be made to supplem ent conservatively private investment, with Governmental assistance’.33 Though the PPS paper did not express official American policy, it was later on adopted by the National Security Council and circulated as NSC 51 in July 1949. Despite its shifting line, W ashington refused to indicate to London that it was reviewing its South-East Asian policies. As a


Britain and Regional Cooperation

result, the British m aintained their diplom atic offensive. In the middle of March 1949, the Chiefs of Staff’s analysis of the com m unist threat to South-East Asia and the cabinet’s recom­ m endation for joint economic measures and greater intelligence cooperation were communicated to W ashington.34 The Foreign Office was also planning for Bevin to discuss South-East Asia during a forthcoming visit to Washington. A brief was therefore prepared which outlined the departm ent’s current regional policy, and which was intended to be left with the Americans. The brief argued that while Russia’s threat to South-East Asia was unlikely to be a military one, the conditions in the region were favourable for the spread of communism. Furthermore: If the general impression prevails in South-East Asia that the Western Powers are both unw illing and unable to assist in resisting Russian pressure the psychological effect may be that local resistance is weakened, with the result that the process of underm ining the systems of Government in that region will succeed to the extent that eventually the whole of South-East Asia will fall a victim to the Communist advance and thus come under Russian dom ination w ithout any military effort on the part of Russia. The brief continued that the will of the South-East Asian territories to resist communism had to be stiffened: no vast resources were required; initially it was a question of political and economic efforts rather than of large-scale outright aid. The alternative was the abandonm ent of the whole position. If the Asian governments made an effort to stabilise the position, the Western powers m ight make limited contributions through technical assistance and advice, and by the provision of capital goods and arms. T o avoid suggestions that Britain or the United States was seeking to dominate the situation, London should prom pt the fully sovereign governments of South-East Asia to take the initiative. At the same time, self-interest should provide the inspiration for the new unity needed to resist Russian expansion. If a common front could be built up from Afgha­ nistan to Indochina inclusive, it should be possible to contain the Russian advance southwards. A stable South-East Asia m ight also eventually influence the situation in China and make it possible to redress the situation there. The paper concluded:

Regional cooperation and regional containment


While the strategic necessities of Europe and the Middle East are greater and should have priority, the requirements of South-East Asia, though in a different category, are of vital importance. We should therefore, parallel with our efforts in Europe and the Middle East, do our utmost to encourage a spirit of cooperation and self-reliance in South-East Asia with a view to the creation of a common front against Russian expansion in that area.35 Dening explained to the Colonial and Commonwealth Rela­ tions offices that it would take months, if not years for the policy to crystallise in the m anner suggested in the brief. If, however, Asian countries showed a disposition to create a united front against Russian expansion, ‘we should hope that the Americans would be disposed to offer material help when and where it is required’.36 Dening advised Bevin that he could hand a copy of the brief to Acheson. There had been little progress in the recent discussions with the Americans. His strong impression was that the Americans had not yet developed any policy in this part of the world, and that they were reluctant to become involved in any commitments. Bevin’s talks were intended to be an initial step to enlist American support in principle for the policy the Foreign Office hoped to pursue. It would, however, be premature to ask for material support, since the Americans would want to be firmly convinced that the principle of self-help was firmly established before they considered an outlay of dollars.37 D uring Bevin’s visit to W ashington, issues like the Atlantic Pact and the future of Germany took precedence over Far Eastern topics.38 However, Bevin briefly raised the issue of South-East Asia during a meeting with Acheson on 2 April, arguing that Russia had an ‘opening’ in the region since 60 per cent of the population were Muslims. Britain could exercise influence through Pakistan but was hoping for American help. So far as Indonesia, Burma and Malaya were concerned, Bevin was look­ ing for a ‘sort of South-East Asia conference arrangement’ in which the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand could cooperate for economic and political purposes - as distinct from a military understanding or pact for this area which should not be considered at the moment. The only American comment on this came from a State Department expert on German and Austrian affairs, who interposed that the United States m ight like


Britain and Regional Cooperation

to set up a kind of Caribbean Commission for South-East Asia. At the end of the meeting, Bevin left his brief on South-East Asia 39 with the State Department. Apart from this, the Americans gave few indications that they m ight be considering a more forthcoming attitude towards cooperation with the British in South-East Asia, though gener­ ally agreeing that a spirit of cooperation should be encouraged. Graves feared that it would be difficult to bring the Americans in on South-East Asia: ‘They have burnt their fingers so badly in China that they are at present in a very cautious mood.’40 Even more disappointing than Bevin’s talks with Acheson was the American response to the British paper on China of December 1948. The American reply, arriving in London at the end of March 1949, described the British m emorandum as a thoughtful, detailed and well-reasoned analysis. However, it m aintained that the British could have laid greater emphasis on the growing strength of nationalism and its long-term incom patibility with communism. Furthermore, ‘a word of caution is desirable regard­ ing dependence upon American material aid in approaching the problems of South Asia’. Since 1937, the United States had given vast am ounts of American financial, economic and military aid to China. The failure of America’s policy in this country was enough evidence that external aid could neither induce nor replace effective measures of self-help.41 The British were extremely disappointed by the American reply. As Graves pointed out to the Foreign Office, the weakness of the American paper was that it contained several isolated comments which had not been developed into any general conclusion.42 R.A. Hibbert of the Foreign Office’s South-East Asia Department was even more disconcerted. The United States seemed to be petrified by the failure of her policy in China and it was quite clear from the m emorandum that no American aid would be forthcoming for South-East Asia.43 Despite this, the Foreign Office w ouldn’t give up hope. As R.H. Scott commented at the end of April 1949, the American response contained no new statement of policy, but confirmed what London already knew: The im portant thing about the M emorandum - mixture of defeatism and pious advice that it is - is that the State Department has been induced to consider these problems and to formulate a statement of policy which we can use as a basis

Regional cooperation and regional containment


of argument. I am all for steadily pegging away at the Americans, on the principle of the steady drip wearing away 44 the stone. In addition to the disappointing American response, Britain’s hopes for the success of her anti-com m unist initiative in SouthEast Asia were further dampened by discouraging news from France and Indochina. For some time, the French had been negotiating w ith the former Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai, in the hope of establishing him as a pro-French alternative to the Viet Minh. On 8 March 1949, the French President, Vincent Auriol, had come to an agreement with Bao Dai, comm itting France to eventual Vietnamese independence, though w ithout any time­ table for the transfer of power. In the meantime, Bao Dai would become head of state in Vietnam, which included the provinces of Cochin-China, Annam and Tonkin. However, the French retained responsibility for foreign affairs and defence, as well as keeping a num ber of political privileges. Furthermore, Vietnam together w ith Laos and Cambodia would form part of the French Union, which embraced other parts of France’s colonial empire and which was under the direct control of France.45 T he Elysee or Bao Dai agreement, as it soon became known, in fact provided for little more than the establishment of a French puppet regime in Vietnam to placate international opinion. From the outset, the British therefore doubted whether the deal would convince India that the French were really interested in changing their colonial policies in Indochina. Yet without Indian consent, France could not become part of a regional grouping in South-East Asia. As a Foreign Office memorandum pointed out on 24 March, neither India nor Australia would regard the Bao Dai agreement as giving true independence to Indochina so long as it secured so many privileges for France. The problem was, however, that the French ‘would not take kindly to any pressure or suggestion from us to make a more liberal offer of independence to Viet N am ’. Britain could only hope that if the new agreement failed the French would see for themselves the urgent necessity for the future of the whole of South-East Asia of granting something more than just the token independence which they appeared to have bestowed under the new agreement.46 D uring the following months, the British in fact refused to endorse the Bao Dai agreement.47 London feared


Britain and Regional Cooperation

offending the Asian Commonwealth countries and jeopardising the chances of its regional initiative. The Indian attitude rem ai­ ned crucial. T hough Nehru had no wish to see communism established in Indochina, he still argued consistently that the French would have to grant full independence to Vietnam and that they had to come to terms with Ho Chi M inh as the real leader of Indochinese nationalism .48 The upshot of the international controversy over France’s agreement with Bao Dai was that Britain remained unable to include France in her regional plans. Some British officials quietly hoped that France, together with the Netherlands, would soon disappear from the region.49 For the time being, however, there was little more the British could do both about the situation in Indochina and about the Americans. As a result, the emphasis of Britain’s regional diplomacy shifted back to the Com­ m onwealth countries.

Chapter 13

The final stages of regional planning

After the disappointing news em anating from Paris and Wash­ ington in the early spring of 1949, fresh reports from Delhi encouraged the British to step up their South-East Asian initiative. According to the British H igh Commissioner in Delhi at the end of March, N ehru’s proposals for an Asian regional organisation had not been accepted by the smaller states of South and South-East Asia.1 Many of the countries whose delegates at Delhi had originally welcomed N ehru’s initiative had apparently been intim idated by the Soviet U nion’s condemnation of the Delhi Conference. Even more significant was the fact that most Asian states generally mistrusted Indian intentions. Since inde­ pendence, Indian prestige had suffered greatly as a result of her m ilitary intervention in Kashmir, and the continuing conflict with Pakistan over the disputed border province. As Dening explained to the Foreign Office’s new Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir W illiam Strang, Nehru wanted to ‘take the lead in building up a “united Asia front” on lines which may not be entirely dissimilar from our own views on the subject’. However, Dening added, the response had not been very eager. The Indian Prime Minister had cast his net too wide, and India was not much loved in Asia. Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma all feared India, and T hailand as well was afraid of being overlaid. Nor did India have the necessary know-how, judgem ent and tact to lead a united Asian front.2 Instead, Dening believed that ‘We are the obvious people to take the initiative in this matter, and if we play the hand skilfully, there is no reason why we should not succeed where India is likely to fail.’3 Apart from the failure of N ehru’s initiative at Delhi, unex­ pected Australian and Filipino proposals on South-East Asia

184 Britain and Regional Cooperation

induced the British to step up their regional diplomacy. Since February 1949, there had been growing press speculation in Australia and the Philippines about the prospects of a Pacific defence pact. Such rum ours were inspired by the current negotia­ tions between the United States, Canada, Britain, France and the Benelux countries on a m utual defence treaty covering Western Europe and the N orth Atlantic area. On 4 April 1949, a total of twelve Western countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty, which established the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Both Australia and the Philippines now suggested that a sim ilar defence arrangement was needed in the South-East A sian/Pacific area to protect the region against a possible com m unist onslaught from China and the Soviet Union. The Australian Minister for Defence, Dedman, was reported to have stated on 14 March, four days before plans for NATO were officially unveiled, that ‘discussions were taking place for the conclusion of a Pacific Regional Defence Pact embracing nonBritish as well as British countries’.4 Six days later, the President of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino, followed up the Australian statement by proposing a Pacific pact somewhere along the lines of the planned N orth Atlantic agreement.5 Q uirino continued to pursue his idea throughout the rest of the year.6 London was in two minds about the issue of South-East Asian defence. On the one hand, British military planners had for years been advocating greater international defence cooperation in the area. Since the 1946 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting, Britain had also been urging Australia to station troops in the region. In August 1948, Canberra had told London that it was not prepared to send troops to Malaya.7 However, in the follow­ ing m onths the Australians suggested that they would assume responsibility for defence planning in the area including Indo­ nesia, Malaya and Borneo. Despite Foreign Office fears that Britain’s influence in South-East Asia would be ‘finally ext­ inguished’ if it became known that she would surrender her position to Australia in a future war,8 London agreed in November 1948 that Australia should ‘assume the initiative in peacetime’ for defence planning in the area.9 The decision paved the way for the secret ANZAM defence agreement, negotiated between Britain, Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of 1949, which coordinated trilateral defence planning in the Aus­ tralian, New Zealand and Malayan area. In September 1949,

The final stages of regional planning


New Zealand stationed a num ber of military aircraft in Singapore, and in June 1950, Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) planes were moved to Malaya.11 However, after the signing of the ANZAM agreement London regarded a wider Pacific defence pact as premature. Firstly, India was known to oppose power blocs, and was unlikely to join in an anti-com m unist defence grouping only shortly after the failure of her own regional initiative. Excessive speculation about a Pacific pact m ight have frightened Nehru off London’s more limited plans for economic or political cooperation in South and SouthEast Asia. Secondly, there was the danger of alienating the Americans if they came to believe that Britain wanted to involved them in a regional defence organisation. Immediately after Q uirino’s proposal in March 1949, Acheson made it clear that the United States was not ready to consider a Pacific pact. As American diplom ats in London explained to the Foreign Office, a Pacific defence pact would open the United States to the accusation that she was underw riting British, French and Dutch colonial policies in the region: this was something the American people were certainly opposed to. Dening got the point, assuring the Americans that the whole thing was a ‘pipe dream’ of Australian politicians and newspaper men; he added, however, that some other type of pact was possible, for example to combat comm unism in the Far East.12 The Foreign Office soon realised that it needed to intensify its diplom atic efforts if it wanted to steer the current m ultitude of regional developments and proposals along pro-British lines. It was spurred on by MacDonald, who kept warning London that the situation in the Far East would further deteriorate unless something was done to check the process.13 Furthermore, as Dening pointed out in W hitehall, there were two, in a sense contradictory, trends which needed correcting: one was the feeling that Europe and America were preoccupied with their own selfish interests to the detriment of South-East Asia; the other was that the Atlantic Pact would somehow involve SouthEast Asia in a war of European creation.14 At the end of April 1949, another meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London promised the Foreign Office a muchneeded opportunity to intensify its regional efforts. The confer­ ence had been arranged at short notice because of India’s intention, announced in December 1948, to become a republic,

186 Britain and Regional Cooperation

albeit w ithin the Com m onwealth.15 Unlike the originally planned meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in Ceylon, which had to be postponed to a later date, the London Conference would not officially deal with the troubles in SouthEast Asia. Despite this, Dening suggested the need ‘to have something on paper’ lest the South-East Asian issue came up during the m eeting.16 As he explained in a letter to the other departments, only Britain had the experience and ability to knit the South-East Asian region together. However, for this to be successful Nehru had to be convinced that the colonial powers in the region should not entirely abandon their position, and that the West had a material contribution to make to the welfare of South-East Asia. Even if India’s aim was the ‘overlordship of Asia’, the Indian leaders m ight accept that they needed the West. Economic cooperation m ight initially be more fruitful than political cooperation.17 Dening stressed in a brief for the Foreign Secretary that Britain’s attempts to build up a united front against communism had not brought any marked response. At the same time, Nehru had hoped that his regional conference m ight develop into a regional organisation. T hough he had cast his net too wide, there remained the danger that an Asian regional organisation would develop anti-European tendencies. There was the disquieting feature that Nehru had the tendency to harp on the theme of colonialism and racial discrim ination, both of which were harm ful to cooperation with the West. The situation m ight get out of hand if it was allowed to drift until a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in Ceylon in 1950, and Den­ ing suggested an approach be made during the next Com­ m onwealth conference.18 Annexed to Dening’s brief was a memorandum titled ‘South Asia’ that was apparently intended to convince the Com­ m onwealth delegations at the London meeting of the wisdom of Britain’s regional policy. The paper was approved by the Foreign Office’s Permanent Under-Secretary’s Committee, a high-level planning committee recently established by Attlee that was similar to George F. Kennan’s Policy Planning Staff in Wash­ ington. The paper warned that the Russians were aim ing at world hegemony. Militarily, the greatest threat was towards Europe and the Middle East, but politically, the threat was worldwide. In South Asia, communism m ight undermine and

The final stages of regional planning


liquidate governments and thereby bring the area into the Soviet orbit. Thus, the need of South Asia was not so much to build up m ilitary strength against the threat of armed Russian aggression, but to establish conditions of stability which would defeat the Stalinist techniques. A great deal could be done in the economic field: In economic development there is a need for co-operation between South Asian territories and other Commonwealth countries. . . . The United States and other countries can also eventually make their contribution. . . . Economic co-ope­ ration may in fact prove to be the first step towards political co-operation, so that in the process of time a degree of unity will be achieved in South Asia which will render it immune from Russian attempts to underm ine the position and to dom inate the area.19 T he British thus offered unspecified economic benefits if the Asian Commonwealth countries agreed to fall in line with Britain’s regional anti-com m unist policies. T hough initially such benefits would be derived from m utual aid, the paper hinted that in the long run American aid m ight be forthcoming as well. Bevin approved the paper and asked Attlee to take the intiative during the Prime M inisters’ Conference. If he approached the problem from the economic angle, it m ight lead to some kind of regional conference, perhaps including countries from outside the Commonwealth as well. Economic cooperation m ight later 20 on result in ‘some kind of security arrangem ent’. It appears that the paper was subsequently given to the attending delegations. Coinciding with the Prime Ministers’ Conference, both the Colonial and the Commonwealth Relations offices commented. While they agreed with Dening that Britain had to give evidence of a more active interest in South-East Asia,21 they also warned of the financial implications of the current proposals. Garner of the Commonwealth Relations Office warned that in the absence of a Marshall Plan or of any indications of an American contribu­ tion, economic cooperation was likely to be mainly a British contribution, in the form of either finance or consumer goods. Many items were scarce at the time and British resources were strained; indeed, for ‘dollar earning purposes’ Britain was currently trying to divert some of her exports away from India

188 Britain and Regional Cooperation

and Pakistan to Canada and the United States. A working party of the Official Far Eastern Committee should therefore assess what contributions Britain could actually make. A conference of only Commonwealth countries could then be held in Colombo, Ceylon, to prove that Britain had a contribution to make in overcoming the problems of the area.22 The Colonial Office, however, warned that the Foreign Office’s plans m ight jeopardise the development of British colonies elsewhere, in particular in Malaya. As J. J. Paskin pointed out, the achievement of social progress based on economic development in the undeveloped countries of South-East Asia was a slow and laborious process, and it was illusory to expect too much in a short time in the way of creating an atmosphere unfavourable to the growth of communism. Even if there was the prospect of something like Marshall aid for the countries of South-East Asia, large quantities of the required material and technical staff would probably have to be diverted from other colonial development schemes. There was the danger that the butter would be too thinly spread. Paskin felt that the best contribution towards checking comm unism in South-East Asia was to set Malaya once again firmly on the road to social and economic progress, creating a ‘bastion of contentm ent’ in South-East Asia which would also influence other countries. The Colonial Office was currently negotiating with the Treasury substantial grants to Malaya, and it would be nothing ‘short of calamity’ to jeopardise this pro­ gramme by diverting scarce material and personnel to the development of foreign countries in the area.23 In the event, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, gathering in London between 24 and 27 April 1949, was prim ar­ ily preoccupied with the question of India’s position in the Commonwealth. The participating Prime Ministers unani­ mously recommended to the King that an Indian republic should rem ain in the Commonwealth, which would accept him as its head.24 However, although the conference gave Attlee no oppor­ tunity to raise the issue of South-East Asian regional coope­ ration, Nehru indicated in the course of the conference that until the Dutch and French faced the facts and granted independence to their respective South-East Asian colonies, nothing much could be done in Asia about wider cooperation with the colonial 25 powers. His remarks strengthened L ondon’s conviction that any regional initiative had to exclude the other colonial powers

The final stages of regional planning


so long as they refused to make genuine concessions to the respective nationalist movements. There was only one South-East Asian issue on which the conference produced some concrete results: Burma. Since gaining independence at the beginning of 1948, the country’s internal situation had declined considerably as a result of the continuing fighting between government troops and the country’s minority Karen community. In December and January 1949, Burma had secretly asked Britain for financial and military aid for its cam paign against the Karens. London had used the opportunity to bring in the Commonwealth, encouraging Nehru to organise a Commonwealth meeting in Delhi on the issue of Burma. However, the attending British, Indian, Pakistani and Ceylonese delegates had failed to agree on financial aid for Burma. Instead, they proposed Commonwealth mediation in the Karen dispute, an offer refused by the Burmese Prime Minister, T hakin Nu, at the beginning of March 1949.26 During the Commonwealth Prime M inisters’ Conference in April, Britain, India, Pakistan and Ceylon now decided that they would try to meet Burmese requests for arms and military equipm ent. It was furthermore proposed to establish an informal committee consisting of the four countries’ ambassadors in Rangoon to consider financial 27 assistance to the country. T hough the Burmese initially dragged their feet about the proposed committee, a Com­ m onwealth loan of 350 m illion rupees was negotiated by the end 28 of December 1949. From the British point of view, the fourpower initiative was im portant prim arily because of its ‘educa­ tional’ effect on the participating countries, as it constituted the first example of Commonwealth cooperation on South-East Asia. It seemed to matter very little to London that the Karens, who had supported the British forces during the war against the Japanese, were losing out. In the meantime, further comm unist advances in China made the issue of anti-com m unist collaboration in Asia increasingly urgent. On 23 April 1949, comm unist forces captured Nanking, the former headquarters of the Kuom intang government. The way was now open to Shanghai, where many of the city’s Western residents were preparing themselves for evacuation. The comm unist advance on the city meant that before long Mao’s troops would reach the border with Indochina and Burma. There was also the danger that Britain would be drawn into the

190 Britain and Regional Cooperation

fighting after com m unist forces had shelled the British frigate HMS Amethyst which had become trapped in the Yangtse river. B ritain’s men on the spot were highly alarmed by the situation in China. At the beginning of May, the Far Eastern Defence Coordination Committee in Singapore, consisting of MacDonald and the British Commanders-in-Chief in South-East Asia, told London that diplomatic, economic and military action was required to form a ‘containing ring’ against further communist penetration. The ring should be formed as a result of ‘coordi­ nated action’ between Britain, India, Burma, Thailand, Indo­ china and Indonesia.29The Foreign Office passed on the w arning to Bevin. It suggested a meeting of British officials in South-East Asia to discuss the situation. The meeting could be attended by Commonwealth observers and should be followed by a confer­ ence of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in Ceylon.30 Soon after, MacDonald visited London and on 24 May attended an interdepartm ental meeting between representatives from the Foreign, Colonial and Commonwealth Relations offices, as well as the British H igh Commissioner in India, Archibald Nye. D uring the meeting, MacDonald described the current situation in dramatic terms, outlining the core of what later on became known as the ‘dom ino theory’: the communists had just conquered the whole of China and could probably seize large parts of Indochina w ithin the next six months; Thailand would then be unable to resist, while the possibilities of commu­ nist dom ination of Burma were well known. If these three countries were to fall, Malaya as well as India would be exposed to a direct comm unist threat. MacDonald strongly argued in favour of regional counter-measures: If, however, we could devise a political, economic and defence policy which could convince the peoples of South-East Asia of our and their ability to resist Communism, we would be able to hold a line north of Pakistan, Burma, Indo China, H ong Kong and the Philippines. Dening, too, believed that urgent measures were required. He stressed that ‘the object of regional cooperation would be the building of a common front against Russia’, though this did not necessarily mean the formation of a regional defence pact. One of the problems remained the Americans, who were still holding aloof from South-East Asian problems. It seemed, however, that

The final stages of regional planning


they would be content to let Britain go ahead with her plans for regional cooperation, waiting to see whether the policy was working before offering assistance. In Western Europe, Dening added, international cooperation would never have been achieved w ithout B ritain’s initiative. The same could probably be said of South-East Asia where there would be no cooperation unless Britain discreetly took the lead. India was another problem, the meeting was told, because of her opposition to colonialism and her aim of becoming a third force in Asia. Nye believed it would be difficult to ask Nehru to join a regional conference whose chief purpose was the effective building of an anti-com m unist front. However, ‘regional collab­ oration could be made attractive to India by using the economic bait’. MacDonald agreed that India could not be expected to participate in a conference with the French and the Dutch, but asked why Britain should not hold a conference limited to Commonwealth powers at which India played a leading part. India’s cooperation in giving aid to Burma was a good omen, and while cooperation was developed w ithin the Commonwealth in South-East Asia, the Dutch and the French m ight disappear from the scene as colonial powers and so facilitate a wider conference. Dening then proposed to hold a Commonwealth conference in Colombo which, for climatic reasons, would have to be held in January or February 1950. Britain could offer technical help and capital, and if some concrete plan could be p u t forward after the conference it m ight be possible to interest the Americans as well. However, Paskin of the Colonial Office warned of the ‘insatiable appetites’ of India and the colonial empire; there was only a ‘limited am ount of assistance available from United Kingdom sources’ and the Colonial Office would find it difficult to agree that colonial development should suffer because of assistance given elsewhere, ‘particularly to India’. Dening blocked Paskin’s objections by stating that economic studies and country surveys were now in progress which should not be prejudiced. Eventually, the meeting decided that ‘Efforts should be made to hold a Commonwealth Conference in Ceylon in January or February of 1950. A paper should be prepared for Ministers outlining the position as seen by officials and recommending a policy.’31 T he interdepartm ental meeting on 24 May 1949 gave the Foreign Office a green light for its regional policies, which


Britain and Regional Cooperation

aimed at creating an anti-com m unist front in South and SouthEast Asia to safeguard B ritain’s interests in the region. But prior to launching a new regional initiative at the next Com­ m onwealth conference, considerable work needed to be done. As a first step, the Foreign Office commissioned two comprehensive economic studies of the region. The first study was written by a so-called interdepartm ental W orking Party on Food Supplies and Com m unism and concentrated on the effects that comm u­ nism would have on the supply of rice to the countries of South and South-East Asia. It pointed out that the extension of com m unist control throughout China ‘will bring organised Com m unism to the northern borders of the countries of SouthEast Asia, three of which, French Indo-China, Siam and Burma, constitute the major rice exporting region of the world’. This would have serious consequences. The three countries’ rice production was already much lower than before the war. The situation was worst in Indochina, who was currently producing 160,000 tons of rice compared to 1.3 m illion tons before the war. Thailand, with a production of 800,000 tons, had now reached about 60 per cent of its prewar exports of rice, but its trade was controlled by Chinese merchants and would be jeopardised if the communists tried to influence the country’s Chinese minority. Burma, the paper further argued, was threatened not so much by com m unist dom ination, but by a complete breakdown of law and order leading to a cessation of exports. The paper concluded that a cessation of rice exports from T hailand and Burma would be extremely serious for Malaya, N orth Borneo, H ong Kong, Ceylon and India. In Malaya, a shortage of rice would ‘predispose the urban populations to active participation in disorder’, while in Ceylon and India any failure of supplies would result in disturbances and provide ‘fruitful soil for Com m unist agitation’. The problem was that the local populations would be reluctant to accept wheat as a substitute for rice. Furthermore, any wheat supplies to the area, which would come from countries inside the sterling area, would reduce the am ount of ‘sterling wheat’ available to Britain. As a result, Britain would have to im port wheat from countries outside the Commonwealth, and the total effect would be a ‘substantial drain direct and indirect on the dollar resources of the sterling area’.32 The study thus shared the Foreign Office’s concern that further comm unist troubles in the rice-producing

The final stages of regional planning


countries would affect the subcontinent and Malaya through the back door. The paper in fact provided the economic rationale for M acDonald’s argum ent that the countries of South-East Asia were in danger of falling into the Soviet orbit once the Chinese communists had reached the Indochinese border. In a second economic study, a working party of the Official Far Eastern Committee went on to examine possible economic counter-measures against comm unist disturbances. The aim was to find ways of encouraging conditions which would ‘prevent Com m unism from finding a fertile soil’ in South, South-East and East Asia, as the whole region was now in the ‘front line in the fight against Communism where fighting is actually taking place’.33 As an early draft of the second study explained, the area under consideration (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Nepal, Tibet, China, H ong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indochina, Burma, Thailand, Malaya, British N orth Borneo, Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesia) was of great importance. It had more than half of the world’s population and played a significant role in B ritain’s external trade. For example, Britain was vitally dependent on Malayan dollar earnings, worth 60 m illion pounds in 1948. At the same time, the area was economically behind. It was ‘rice eating’, and there was m alnu­ trition and illiteracy as well as a widespread lack of responsibility on the part of the privileged for the underprivileged, creating conditions favourable for the spread of communism among the latter. The single most significant factor was the food situation: if the control of rice supplies fell to the communists ‘the disruptive political and economic consequences in Asia are likely to be serious’. T he paper suggested that the urgent short-term problem was to assist Burma, T hailand and Indochina to increase their exports, and to stimulate the production of rice, wheat and grain in deficit areas. In the next five years, the aim should be to develop the economic potential of the area, recognising the need for improved comm unications and encouraging industries. Above all, agricultural production had to be increased. Any Western assistance should be directed towards im proving the production of valuable prim ary products for the West. In the long term, the problem was to raise the general standard of living through a greater degree of industrialisation. The only problem was that Britain could not be expected to provide large-scale capital


Britain and Regional Cooperation

investment to assist the area, though it was essential to offer training to the people from the countries concerned, as they m ight otherwise use similar facilities in the Soviet orbit.34 When the Official Far Eastern Committee discussed the study, it recognised the further problem that the Americans had given no indication that they were prepared to provide financial or material assistance. Therefore, the International Bank for Recon­ struction and Development had to be regarded as one of the main instrum ents of assistance.35 T he economic studies enabled the Foreign Office to draft two comprehensive policy papers on South-East Asia. They were subsequently adopted by the departm ent’s Permanent Under­ secretary’s Committee (PUSC) and submitted to the cabinet. At the end of July, the department completed a first paper, PUSC (32), titled ‘The United Kingdom in South-East Asia and the Far East’ which set out the goals of British policies in the eastern half of Asia. It argued that unless Britain used her particular position in Asia to bring about closer cooperation between East and West, there was a ‘very real danger that the whole of Asia will become the servant of the Kremlin’. Economically, Britain depended on the area for imports of rubber, tea and jute, while the sterling area’s dollar pool derived substantial earnings from Malaya. However, the area was affected by considerable political difficulties. The paper stressed that nationalism was ‘ram pant to­ day from Afghanistan to the China Sea’ while the Soviet Union was seeking to dom inate the whole Eurasian continent. The political im m aturity of the Asian countries and their economic distress made them particularly susceptible to communist tactics. The paper went on to state that it was ‘fair to say that from the Persian Gulf to the China Sea there is no single Power capable of dom inating the region’. Despite this, Britain could use her influence to weld the area into some degree of regional coope­ ration to resist Russian expansionism. Politically, Britain’s chief advantage was that she had been the most successful of the Western powers in coming to terms with the new nationalist spirit in Asia. Britain also enjoyed the moral prestige of a victory in the Second World War, moderated, however, by the memory of earlier defeats at the hand of the Japanese. She also had consider­ able economic influence in the area, and the value of her trade with South-East Asia and the Far East was second only to that of the United States. However, the area’s full economic develop­

The final stages of regional planning


ment could only be brought about with American assistance, and W ashington had to be encouraged to supplem ent Britain’s efforts. Militarily, as well, there were limits to what Britain could achieve on her own. She could not afford military commitments of a size enabling her to offer effective resistance against a fullscale attack. Her peacetime commitments should rather be for the purpose of m aintaining internal security in Britain’s own territories. In the long run, it would be for the ‘Asian countries themselves to preserve their national integrity’. Despite this, there was no other power capable of undertaking the formidable task of trying to link South-East Asia with the West and to create some kind of regional association which would be capable of effective resistance against communism and Russian expansion: T he aim of the United Kingdom should be to build up some sort of regional association in South-East Asia in partnership with the association of the Atlantic Powers. Not only are we in the best position to interest the United States in active participation in m aintaining the stability of the area, but our relation with the Commonwealth provides a means of influencing and co-ordinating the policies not only of the Asiatic Dominions, but of Australia and New Zealand, whose strategic interest in the area is, in fact, equal to our own. The immediate object of a wider association of the West, including the Pacific members of the Commonwealth and the SouthEast Asian countries, would be to preserve the spread of comm unism and to resist Russian expansion: its long-term object would be to create a system of friendly partnership between East and West and to improve economic and social conditions in South-East Asia and the Far East.36 PUSC (32) thus proposed a two-pronged approach to SouthEast Asia. Britain should endeavour to create a common proWestern front to contain the further spread of communism. This would be in line with Britain’s long-term aim of establishing a regional system which provided for the area’s economic develop­ m ent and allowed a m axim um of British political and economic influence. However, a second paper, PUSC (53) dated 20 August 1949 and titled ‘Regional Co-operation in South-East Asia and the Far East’, outlined the problems of implem enting the pro­ posed regional policy. Addressing Asia’s apparent disunity, the paper stressed that the relationship between the Asian countries


Britain and Regional Cooperation

and the West was bedevilled by the struggle between emerging nationalism and the European colonial powers, in particular France and the Netherlands, who were discrediting Britain in the eyes of Asian nationalists. Further discord was provided by continuing inter-Asian conflicts such as the Afghan-Pakistani and Kashmir disputes, as well as the chaotic state of Burma. India, the paper continued, was the ‘key to the whole problem of South-East Asian regional cooperation’. Little could be achieved w ithout her, yet she was presently in no mood to co­ operate with the establishment of an anti-com munist front in South-East Asia and the Far East. India and most other SouthEast Asian countries failed to realise that the Soviet threat was worldwide, and they mistrusted the West and desired to remain clear of entanglements with the great power blocs. However, while India believed in her destiny as the leader of the Asian peoples, the other Asian countries appeared to ‘fear and mistrust dom ination by one of their own num ber as m uch as they disliked European dom ination’. T o counteract Asian suspicions of British intentions, London had to convince the nations of SouthEast Asia that they would be unable to m aintain a position between the power blocs and that a joint front against commu­ nism was in their interest. Furthermore, India needed to be convinced that ‘unless she is prepared to play a more positive role, there may be no Asia left for her to lead’. To achieve this, concrete help of a technical, financial and economic nature would be of great importance. In addition, there were encourag­ ing signs that ‘Com m unist expansion, just as it served to bring about greater cohesion of the West, is bringing the leaders of the countries of Asia to a more realistic frame of m ind with regard to regional cooperation in the face of common danger’. Furth­ ermore: Having agreed that it is for Great Britain to play a major (if unobtrusive) part in organising South-East Asia for regional political, economic and m ilitary co-operation, there is much to be said for using a Commonwealth rather than a purely United Kingdom approach to achieve our aims. Not only will India be less suspicious that she is being used as a pawn in a European-M oscow chess match, but her aspirations to be a leading member of the team can largely be satisified w ithout a) causing undue offence to Pakistan and Ceylon (since the

The final stages of regional planning


United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand will all be playing, too), b) Frightening other countries in the area that Asian regional collaboration is not another name for Greater India or M ahabharat. The suggestion to hold a Commonwealth conference in Ceylon in 1950 remained in abeyance. Further communist successes and disturbances in Asia would help to bring India to the conference table. Furthermore, Burma, where the political situation was ‘thoroughly unstable’, was a ‘useful field for the exercise of a policy of Commonwealth cooperation, and success here would create an encouraging precedent for a joint approach to other South-East Asian problem s’. The paper then turned towards individual countries. It stated that Thailand, unlike her neighbours, was peaceful and prosper­ ous. However, unless the Thais were ‘satisfied that they will receive material support they may in the end follow the line of least resistance, as they did with Japan in 1941, and come to terms with Com m unist China, thus contributing to their own downfall’. So far as Indochina was concerned, it was ‘unfortu­ nate’ that the country would be more directly threatened than any other South-East Asian territory. For the time being, the presence of French troops and the retention of French bases ‘should act as a reasonably effective counter to infiltration or direct aggression from China, although here, again, charges of imperialism may be the price to be paid for greater security’. Malaya, the paper continued, was of ‘utmost importance strategically and economi­ cally to the United Kingdom and is the major dollar earner of the sterling area’. An assurance that Britain was not prepared to abandon the area and was taking active steps to safeguard it from external aggression m ight do m uch to encourage the local Chinese to believe that reinsurance with a communist China was not an absolute necessity. So far as the Philippines was con­ cerned, the paper doubted whether the country could bring ‘positive strength’ to any Asian Union. However, she could ‘nevertheless serve as a link in a system embracing South-East Asia and the Far East and Pacific areas’. Sum m ing up the situation, the paper stressed that South-East Asia would not allow the same degree of political cooperation as in Europe. Nor was the United States prepared to play the same part or produce the same material incentives to greater unity. For

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the time being, the colonial powers remained suspect and there were many local jealousies and rivalries. Any thought of a SouthEast Asian pact could therefore be ruled out for the time being. Furthermore, before establishing a regional defence system, Britain would have to attem pt to obtain a ‘nucleus of strategic cooperation’ with the Asian Commonwealth countries, Australia and New Zealand. This cooperation would have to be entirely in the field of planning and exchange of views, since Britain was unable to increase the present flow of arms. The paper con­ cluded: Political differences between the countries of South-East Asia and the Far East and their unwillingness and inability to collaborate m ilitarily leave economic collaboration as the only form of greater unity which the countries of the area are likely to accept at present. . . . Regional collaboration in the econ­ omic field, if achieved, may well lead not only to a better understanding between the countries of Asia themselves, but also between East and West. It is therefore at present the only possible line to pursue in the direction of our long-term objective of political and military, as well as economic, co-operation throughout the region in partnership with the West.’57 The two PUSC papers offered the most detailed and precise definition of British regional plans in South-East Asia since the Colonial Office’s paper on ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’ in 1944. The papers’ authors suggested establishing, under British leadership, a regional organisation which provided for cooperation prim arily in the economic field, and which would help develop the South and South-East Asian economies. The Commonwealth would provide the initial platform from which a regional initiative would be launched. The underlying aim of regional cooperation was the containm ent of communism in Asia: economic cooperation, together with Western aid, would help to stabilise the countries most threatened by the communist successes in China, namely Burma and Thailand. Sooner or later, Indochina m ight also be included, though it was not clear whether this would be under French or nationalist rule. The countries on the subcontinent, too, would benefit. Apart from safeguarding their food supplies from the rice-producing coun­ tries in the north of South-East Asia, Britain’s regional plan

The final stages of regional planning


would prevent the growth of communism by slowly raising their populations’ standards of living. Aid and economic cooperation would also place them firmly in the Western camp and prevent them from siding w ith the Soviet Union or communist China. In the long run, collaboration could be extended to the political and m ilitary spheres. If the proposed regional scheme was successful, the authors of the two PUSC papers believed that Britain would benefit con­ siderably. T hough she could not hope to dominate the region, regional cooperation would nevertheless provide her with a m axim um degree of political and economic influence in the area. It would further help to safeguard the position of the dollarearning colony of Malaya, and m ight one day provide for a regional defence system to protect the colony against a potential attack from the outside. At the same time, regional cooperation would help to develop the region’s economies in concert with the West, providing Britain with new markets and securing the flow of raw materials to Europe. Last but not least, a regional system would guarantee Britain’s long-term survival as a Far Eastern power. T hough never directly expressed, the papers’ authors seemed to be thinking ahead to the time after Malaya’s eventual independence. However, the difficulties that had to be overcome in organising regional cooperation were manifold. There was the problem of associating India with L ondon’s plans, and of convincing her that she would not be entering into an anti-com munist bloc in Asia. A further problem was that the whole area was dominated by national rivalries. The Commonwealth approach to regional cooperation undoubtedly promised to be the best way to over­ come these difficulties. However, the papers failed to provide a satisfactory solution to the recurring problem of aligning France and Indochina with the new Asian states. A more immediate problem was Britain’s lack of financial resources. The papers’ authors knew that only the Americans could give large-scale aid. It was even stated that no system of regional collaboration could hope to exist in the long run w ithout American participation. All efforts therefore had to concentrate on drawing the United States into B ritain’s plans.

Chapter 14

To Colombo and beyond

The two PUSC papers had left the Foreign Office with the major problem of trying to secure American financial support for its grand regional strategy in South-East Asia. Before subm itting the papers to the cabinet, the department therefore decided to increase its lobbying efforts towards the United States. First, the British had to convince W ashington that they would not involve the Americans in a potentially hazardous defence arrangement in South-East Asia. Yet, renewed speculation about a Pacific pact continued to fuel American suspicions of British intentions. On 15 May 1949, the Australian Prime Minister, Chifley, had stated that planning between Australia, New Zealand and Britain for the Pacific area was proceeding parallel with corresponding planning for the Atlantic area. The statement, which probably referred to the ANZAM treaty, drew fresh attention to Australia’s earlier proposals for a Pacific pact. Both W ashington and London immediately dampened Canberra’s hopes for a Pacific defence treaty. On 18 May, Acheson publicly reiterated American opposition to a Pacific pact: While it is true that there are serious dangers to world peace existing in the situation in Asia, it is also true, as Prime Minister Nehru of India stated to the press the other day, that a Pacific defence pact could not take shape until present internal conflicts in Asia were resolved. . . . N ehru’s view appears to be an objective appraisal of the actual, practical possibilities at the present time.1 Anglo-American discouragement induced the Australian Defence Minister to tell the Australian House of Representatives that it was impossible to get other nations on the Pacific littoral

To Colombo and beyond


to join in a Pacific pact. The best that could be done for the present was to integrate Australian defence plans with those of Britain and New Zealand.2 However, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, was more persistent than his Australian counterpart. He told Attlee on 19 May of his increasing concern over the com m unist successes in creating or exploiting chaos and strife in the South-East Asian area. He further suggested that some form of Pacific pact was needed, and that Bevin m ight pay a visit to the Pacific to discuss the whole issue.3 Bevin expressed sympathy with Fraser’s anxiety, but told the Foreign Office that likely American reactions made it necessary to proceed with caution. He particularly did not want to complicate matters before the Atlantic Pact had been ratified.4 Fraser was therefore sent a polite refusal: Bevin was unable to leave Europe for the time being, and he was reluctant to take the initiative on a Pacific pact in view of Acheson’s recent statement. However, Britain was anxious to press on with her joint defence arrangement with Australia and New Zealand.5 In the following months, London continued to quell specula­ tion about defence cooperation in the Pacific, advising its diplom atic representatives abroad to discourage any talk of a Pacific pact.6 When, in July, a British military planning mission was sent to Australia and New Zealand to discuss common defence planning, London refused to let the delegation discuss the question of a Pacific pact, as had been demanded by the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff.7 The British wanted to avoid anything that would scare W ashington or Delhi off their South-East Asian plans. Any Pacific or South-East Asian pact would have to follow regional cooperation in the economic and political sphere. Despite L ondon’s refusal to contemplate any regional defence arrangements, there were few signs that the Americans were warm ing to Britain’s overtures on South-East Asia. In July 1949, George F. Kennan, head of W ashington’s Policy Planning Staff, visited London. He explained that the United States was con­ ducting a full survey of the situation in the Far East. At the same time Kennan repeated W ashington’s refusal to join any kind of defence arrangement in South-East Asia. He also made it clear that the m ain task of resisting communism in South-East Asia had to fall to the Commonwealth. Kennan’s visit offered London little hope that American attitudes towards South-East Asia were changing, and a Foreign Office memorandum lamented:


Britain and Regional Cooperation

The general impression left by Mr Kennan’s comments on South-East Asia was that the Americans expected the United Kingdom to take the lead in this region. They will welcome frank discussions with us, but will not readily be persuaded to enter into any commitments. They will certainly not enter into m ilitary commitments, and we shall probably have difficulty in persuading them to give economic help. Mr Kennan said the military threat to South-East Asia from Russia was negligible, and South-East Asian countries must learn in the event of war they must be capable of defending themselves.8 However, British officials’ hopes were raised again in August 1949, after W ashington’s publication of a White Paper on China which aimed to explain the failure of American postwar policies in China. In Singapore, MacDonald was encouraged by the cover note to the White Paper, written by Acheson, which ‘contains a statement of policy about South-East Asia which seems to mark, or at least to foreshadow a considerable change in the American attitude to this part of the world’.9 Dening, however, doubted whether there had been a change of attitude.10 In September, Anglo-American talks in W ashington on the situation in the Far East gave the British an opportunity to put further pressure on the Americans. Dening, accompanying Bevin in Washington, was hoping to sell to the Americans the idea of an economic approach to South-East Asia - based on the two PUSC papers.11 On 12 September, according to an account by the State Depart­ ment, Dening told the Americans that the British wanted to discuss ways and means of defending South-East Asia, i.e. the area stretching from Afghanistan to Indochina and including the Philippines, against communism. In his opinion, it was necess­ ary to develop the economies of the countries of the area to a degree of strength equal if not superior to Communist pressure. Mr Dening said that his Government believed if such a program was successful even in preserving the present standard of living in Southeast Asia that area could be successfully orientated toward the West. Dening added that the cost could not be met completely from local resources, but that Western economic aid would hopefully

To Colombo and beyond


build up the habit of cooperation with the West. Butterworth, speaking for the State Department, generally agreed that there should be greater political and economic cooperation; however, he also stressed that it would be difficult to extend financial and economic assistance until the area’s political difficulties were approaching a solution. When the discussion turned to ECAFE, Butterworth stressed the United States had been obliged to discourage the members of ECAFE in their efforts to lay the foundations of the Marshall Plan for Asia, not only because a Marshall Plan for Asia was in itself impractical but because we felt that the Asiatics should make increased efforts to solve their own economic problems . . . public financing of practical projects should be done through the Export-Im port Bank and the World Bank.12 Dening subsequently informed Bevin that the Americans were unduly cautious about an economic approach to a regional understanding, and that Butterworth seemed to put too much faith in the ability of India and the Philippines to bring about regional cooperation. Bevin should therefore repeat in his talks with Acheson that an economic approach was the best means of bringing about political cohesion. If the Asian countries developed the habit of cooperating with each other and with the West in the economic field, it would be easier to secure their political and strategic cooperation, something both Britain and the United States desired.13 On the following day, Acheson stressed that it would be im portant to encourage the Asian countries to take the lead in the area and that it would be helpful if the Philippines and India could get together. Bevin, however, urged caution in encouraging India to take a lead, since the smaller countries feared Indian dom ination.14 In a first assessment of the Anglo-American consultations, Dening felt that the talks had gone much better than expected, particularly on China and Japan. However, he did not get far with the State Department on the question of economic aid for South-East Asia. The State Department felt that Congress had just reached the limits in voting fresh funds for aid anywhere, and it therefore did not want to encourage British hopes that dollars m ight be forthcoming to South-East Asia other than through banks or private investment:


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Politically, the Americans seem to think that the Asiatics should get together on their own initiative. I tried to point out that if they are left to their own devices little cohesion is likely to result in view of existing disputes and suspicions. If we did not make m uch progress on the regional approach, we at any rate discovered a comm unity of thought on the individual problems such as Indonesia, Indo-China, Kashmir etc. I am afraid I detected a distinct tendency to use the Philippines as a stalking horse in South-East Asia, while choosing to ignore the fact that this horse is not only weak-kneed but internally unsound.15 However, during subsequent Anglo-American talks with the French Foreign Secretary, Robert Schuman, Acheson gave a first hint that aid m ight be forthcoming to a South-East Asian country. In view of Mao Tse-tung’s drive towards the south of China, Acheson urged the French to swiftly ratify the Bao Dai agreement, as it would be easier for the American adm inistration to give assistance to the local nationalist governments than to the colonial adm inistrations in South-East Asia. If the nationalists agreed to give guarantees for private investments in their coun­ try, it would become m uch easier for W ashington to take a more positive line.16 Bevin, who quickly grasped the importance that the Americans were attaching to the situation in Indochina, agreed that Paris should ratify the Bao Dai agreement, ignoring the fact that the French-Vietnamese accord had previously been spurned by the British. Acheson’s remarks helped to raise the Foreign Office’s spirits. In a final evaluation of the W ashington talks, Dening wrote to MacDonald that the Americans were now showing a much keener interest in South-East Asia than during Bevin’s last visit in March, and that they greatly desired to see the economic surveys now being prepared by Britain. They seemed to realise that South-East Asia could not be left to its own devices and that US aid was necessary. However, the State Department did not believe it possible to persuade Congress to vote further sums for South-East Asia at a time when W ashington had difficulties in pushing through Marshall, as well as military, aid for Europe. Any financial aid for South-East Asia would have to be found from sources already available to the administration. Seventy-five m illion dollars originally intended for nationalist China should

To Colombo and beyond


now be placed at T ru m an ’s disposal for use anywhere in the Far East. Further aid would have to be found either by the Interna­ tional Bank or by the Im port and Export Bank, which only financed commercial propositions. On the whole, the Wash­ ington talks had gone some way in convincing the adm inist­ ration of the need for aid, and time was required for the adm inistration to convince Congress of the necessity of further appropriations.17 The W ashington talks encouraged Bevin and Attlee to press ahead with their plans for regional cooperation. The question of South-East Asia became even more urgent after Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. On 17 October, Bevin and Attlee agreed that there should soon be a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation in the Far East.18 On 27 October, the combined PUSC papers on South-East Asia were submitted to the cabinet. As one m inister (presumably Bevin) pointed out, ‘it should not be impracticable to m aintain the political influence of the United Kingdom in South-East Asia while arranging for the United States to provide m uch of the capital investment that was required’. The Americans’ unfortunate experience in China had made them more receptive to suggestions for collaboration with Britain on Asian affairs, ‘on the basis that the United Kingdom provided experience and the United States provided finance’. The cabinet seemed to be impressed and approved the combined paper.19 On 3 November, Attlee asked the Prime Minister of Ceylon, Don Stephen Senanayake, to organise a Commonwealth meeting on foreign affairs in Colombo at the beginning of 1950. Coinciding w ith this, Dening was sent to Singapore to explain the cabinet’s policy to British officials in South-East Asia, who were holding a meeting at Bukit Serene, MacDonald’s official residence. The meeting generally supported the policy that Britain should encourage the ultim ate creation of a regional pact or association for economic, political and if necessary military cooperation, in order to prevent the spread of communism in South and South-East Asia. It also agreed that the initial approach should be to encourage economic cooperation. The meeting also welcomed L ondon’s plan to hold a Commonwealth conference in Ceylon which would discuss South-East Asia. In addition, however, immediate anti-com munist action was required in Burma, Indochina and Thailand, for example by


Britain and Regional Cooperation

giving the latter sufficient material support and encouragement. 20 A few weeks later, further evidence emerged that W ashington was changing its line on South-East Asia. In return for letting the Americans see the second of the PUSC papers on South-East Asia, the British were handed a copy of NSC 51. The paper had first been circulated in W ashington as PPS 51 eight months before, and it suggested both m ultilateral cooperation and Amer­ ican aid to South-East Asia (see Chapter 10). As R.F. HoyerMillar of the British embassy in W ashington told the Foreign Office, PPS 51 had now been initialled by the President, thus becoming official policy. He added that both papers underlined the necessity for the United States and Britain jointly to encour­ age the South-East Asian countries to reduce the effects of comm unism in the region. He consequently saw grounds for optim ism , though he disliked the American paper’s reference to South-East Asia as a market and supplier of raw materials for Japan; Britain would have to be ‘vigilant over the extent to which the Americans seek to expose South-East Asia to Japanese penetration’.21 However, the Foreign Office was on the whole satisfied with PPS 51. T hough the Americans tended to use the Philippines as a ‘stalking-horse’ in South-East Asia, 22 the main point was that ‘American thinking, by and large, is on the same lines as our ow n’.23 Encouraged by PPS 51, a British brief on South-East Asia stressed that Britain and the United States were now pursuing the same two policies: to combat communism and to improve the standard of living of economically backward peoples. Though Britain would be able to provide technical help, for example in the agricultural sector, it was clear that she could not make any financial contributions in addition to the assistance given to her colonial dependencies, and to the release of some of the sterling balances held by the countries in the area. If substantial aid was going to be provided, it would have to come from the United States. The prim ary recipient of American aid would have to be India, who was most im portant because of her size, low standards of living and strategic position.24 However, a recent visit by Nehru to the United States had produced only disappointing financial and economic results. The British cabinet therefore recommended that every effort should be made to ‘convince the United States Government of the major importance of providing ^

To Colombo and beyond


financial and economic aid for South-East Asia as the most effective bulwark against the further advance of com m unism ’. It was added that for political reasons American aid should not be provided directly by the US government but through the m achi­ nery of the International Bank.25 The last recommendation undoubtedly im plied the point made in the cabinet a few weeks earlier: though the United States was asked to provide the capital for the economic development of South and South-East Asia, Britain did not intend to give up her political leadership in the region. In a subsequent brief for the British delegation at the Colombo Conference, written shortly after the final collapse of the Kuom intang government in m ainland China in December 1949, London spelled out, once again, the immediate aim of its regional policy: to prevent the further spread of communism in South-East Asia. Com m unist action was expected initially to be directed against Indochina, then against Thailand and Burma. This would lead to a serious threat to India, East Pakistan and Malaya, not least because of the drying up of T hai and Burmese rice supplies. In countering the comm unist threat, it was prem a­ ture to think about regional cooperation on the political and defence levels - the situation in the different Asian countries was too different for that. Instead, the Commonwealth should be used to promote economic cooperation, for example in the area of food production. But any such efforts had to be supplemented by the resources of the United States, whose cooperation was indispensable. In addition, the Commonwealth should be encouraged to formulate a common policy to deal with the situations in the non-Com monwealth countries most threatened by communism, i.e. Burma, T hailand and Indochina.26 The Colombo Conference opened on 9 January 1950. The meeting was the first Commonwealth conference that was held in Asia, and international interest in the event was considerable. The British, who attached great importance to the meeting, sent a delegation of more than thirty officials to Ceylon, including MacDonald from Singapore. Bevin arrived on 8 January, despite serious heart problems, after a strenuous journey from London. The conference promised to breathe new life into the Com­ m onwealth after N ehru’s recent threat to leave the organisation unless India was allowed to obtained republican status. How­ ever, the British were equally keen to use the conference in order


Britain and Regional Cooperation

to inspire a joint Commonwealth initiative towards South-East Asia, and to convince the Americans that they should contribute to the development of South and South-East Asia. Great efforts were therefore made to keep W ashington’s interest going. The Foreign Office even provided the State Department with highly confidential daily reports on the conference discussions. In addition, American journalists were given the daily background briefings otherwise only afforded to the British press.27 The attending Commonwealth Foreign Ministers covered a wide range of topics during their five-day deliberations, includ­ ing the situations in Europe and China, as well as the question of the Japanese peace treaty. However, from the British point of view the question of communism in South-East Asia was undoubtedly the most im portant issue. As Bevin told his Com­ m onwealth colleagues during the conference’s second session on 9 January, after the West’s successful resistance to communism in Europe the Soviet Union had now turned her attention to the East. He believed that the best response was for the countries with interests in the East to keep in close contact and to help each other in ‘resisting any attem pt to hinder peaceful development on democratic lines’. He also held out the prospect of Western financial aid w ithout political domination. A start had been made by Britain, and there was the encouraging promise of US aid under T ru m an ’s ‘Point Four’. However, Bevin did not want to go as far as establishing a Pacific pact on the lines of the Atlantic Pact. In an obvious reference to India, he added that a Pacific pact would not be appropriate for some of the area’s newly emerging countries. Nehru, who was leading the Indian delegation, agreed that a Pacific pact was undesirable as it would only increase the menace of aggression w ithout increasing the capacity to resist it. The new Australian Foreign Minister, Percy Spender, added that the problem was essentially one of raising economic standards in the region, and that some kind of plan was required to assist the countries of the area. He also seemed to favour a regional defence arrangement, though he conceded that in view of what Nehru had said and in the absence of an assurance of American participation ‘he did not at this stage favour a military or defence pact, certainly not at this stage’.28 The first day of the conference showed that the British were playing their cards very carefully, testing the political ground for their regional policies. Instead of launching their own formal

To Colombo and beyond


initiative for regional cooperation, they left it to others to table proposals which in fact closely resembled those developed in London during the previous months. On the second day of the conference, the Ceylonese Finance Minister, Jayawardene, pro­ posed the establishment of a ten-year plan for the development of the agricultural and industrial economies of South-East Asia, which would also guarantee commodity prices. The plan would be implem ented by a committee of officials who would study the problems of the countries involved before recommending what help the Commonwealth countries could give in carrying out the programme. He based his proposals on recommendations for the development of the underdeveloped countries of the Com­ monwealth made by a Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ meet­ ing in London in July 1949.29 Later, a proposal for a South-East Asian OEEC had been added to this. In addition to the Ceylonese proposal, the Australian delegation submitted a paper on economic policy in South and South-East Asia. Similar to the recent planning papers in W hitehall, the Australian draft emphasised the comm unist threat to South-East Asia and the need to improve economic conditions so that the ideological attractions of comm unism would lose their force. Like the British, the Australians were thinking of m utual technical help w ithin the Commonwealth, and of encouraging outside coun­ tries, like the United States, to provide financial assistance.31 There is little doubt that the British had encouraged Ceylon to p ut forward her proposals. They had also been closely involved in drafting the Australian memorandum. The new Liberal Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, had only been in power for a few weeks. His government was both fiercely anti­ com m unist and deeply committed to the Commonwealth,32 and therefore far more receptive to L ondon’s plans than the old Labour government under Chifley and Evatt. According to Bevin’s subsequent cabinet report on the conference, two senior British officials, Sir Percivale Liesching and Sir Roger Makins, had in fact asked Spender whether Australia could take the initiative in tabling proposals on South-East Asia. Spender ‘readily agreed’ and submitted a draft to the British delegation. T hough the British made certain ‘observations’ on the paper, they did not attem pt to table a joint proposal. The reason seems to have been that London wanted to avoid m aking any financial commitments to the development of South-East Asia. According


Britain and Regional Cooperation

to Bevin’s subsequent report, it would have been difficult for Britain to take the lead ‘in view of the strict lim itations on any additional contribution which the United Kingdom could make in present circumstances’.33 After the two papers were submitted to the attending delega­ tions, it was decided to merge them into a joint Australian-New Zealand-Ceylonese proposal. Again, British officials seem to have been involved. The joint m emorandum stated that the conference delegations should recommend to their respective governments that they should consult with each other on ways of m aking credit available for ‘essential productive purposes’ in South and South-East Asia, for example through the Interna­ tional Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They should also encourage governments outside the Commonwealth to adopt sim ilar policies - a strong indication that the Com­ m onwealth initiative would be open to other Asian countries. In addition, there should be bilateral arrangements for the pro­ vision of aid. Furthermore, a consultative committee for South and South-East Asia should be established which would examine methods of coordinating development activities in the area. This committee would also consider an economic development plan for the underdeveloped countries in the area. The plan would be implem ented by a proposed new organisation. The first meeting of the consultative committee should be held in Australia.34 The conference unanim ously accepted the memorandum with only a few m inor amendments. As Spender pointed out to the conference, Asia’s prim ary need was to improve her production of food. T o achieve this, every effort should be made to encourage American participation in attempts to develop South-East Asia. Indeed, not m uch could be accomplished w ithout considerable assistance from the United States. Yet American aid would not be forthcoming unless South-East Asia demonstrated her w illing­ ness to help herself. Bevin agreed but hinted that Britain would not be able to make any m ajor contributions; since the end of the war she had already contributed 750 m illion pounds to the area, and she had to take the needs of the Middle East and Africa into consideration.35 The final com m unique told the international press corps that was covering the Colombo Conference relatively little about the new initiative. It m entioned that the meeting had made recommendations for the furtherance of the economic develop­

To Colombo and beyond


m ent of South and South-East Asia, including the establishment of a consultative committee representing Commonwealth governments which would first meet in Australia.36 T hough many observers were disappointed by the vagueness of the final statement, the British delegation had every reason to be pleased w ith the conference’s results. After more than five years of planning on the issue of regional cooperation, they had at last secured the agreement of three Asian Commonwealth countries, as well as of Australia and New Zealand, to participate in a regional development plan for South and South-East Asia. Crucially, India’s opposition to any regional arrangements that included the Western powers had been overcome. At the same time, London had avoided any major financial commitments to Asian development schemes. Furthermore, the meeting had met one of the preconditions for American aid to South-East Asia, as the attending countries had all agreed to try and help one another through m utual aid and development schemes. The British, as well as the other delegations in Colombo, now hoped that W ashington would provide considerable financial assistance to the region. In retrospect, the Foreign Office’s considerable efforts in the postwar years to organise some form of regional cooperation in South-East Asia were a clear indication of the region’s growing importance to Britain. Economically, the region had become increasingly valuable as a producer of food and raw materials for the ruined economies of Western Europe, as the supplier of dollarearning rubber to the United States, and as the rice bowl of Asia. Politically, the region’s status was greatly enhanced when after Indian independence the centre of British influence in eastern Asia had shifted from Delhi to Singapore. B ritain’s colonial foothold in Malaya now ensured her survival as a major Far Eastern power. In 1948, the region gained further geopolitical importance. London was convinced that Moscow was sponsoring the com­ m unist insurrections in the area. The Second World War had highlighted South-East Asia’s strategic importance for the defence of Australia and India. The British would not allow the region to be taken over by hostile forces for a second time. T o counter the comm unist threat to South-East Asia, the British in 1949 adopted the policy of regional cooperation as one of their m ain strategies of containment. London’s regional plans outlined at the Colombo Conference had distinct similarities


Britain and Regional Cooperation

with those harboured by the Foreign Office in the immediate postwar period. As in 1945, one of the key aims was to establish a regional system that would provide a maximum of British influence in the area. In both cases, regional cooperation would progress at the political and defence levels. However, in most other ways Britain’s regional plans had undergone considerable changes. While in 1946 the rice crisis and the threat of famine enabled the British to take the lead, the motor behind Britain’s regional policies in 1949 was the threat of communism. More strikingly, the underlying concepts of regional cooperation had changed radically. The 1945 plans were largely based on coope­ ration with other colonial powers in the region. By 1949, Britain was hoping to cooperate prim arily with the newly independent Asian countries in the region, sidelining France and the depart­ ing Dutch, whose hard-line colonial policies had discredited them in the eyes of the Asian nationalists. Another difference was the enlarged geographic scope of the regional scheme envisaged at the end of 1949. It was no longer confined to Malaya, T hailand, Indochina, Indonesia and per­ haps Burma, but included also Afghanistan, the whole of the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines. This enlargement was due to two key factors. First, India was no longer under British rule and had become a fiercely independent player on the world stage. D uring the Asian Relations Conference in 1947 and the Delhi Conference in 1949 she had furthermore displayed her aim of becoming the moral and political leader of both South and South-East Asia. The British were now coming to terms with Indian aspirations and concluded that no regional plan would be successful unless Delhi was involved. At the same time, London hoped to use a successful regional scheme in South and SouthEast Asia to exert a m axim um degree of influence on India, and to steer the country along pro-British lines. The second reason for the geographic extension of Britain’s regional plans was the fact that the Foreign Office had decided to use the Com­ m onwealth as the basis for its regional diplomacy. Since South Asia included all of the Com m onwealth’s independent Asian countries, the region necessarily had to be involved. In addition, the Philippines were added to the definition of the region in order to win over the Americans. Indeed, by 1949 Britain was attaching overriding importance to the inclusion of the United States in her regional plans.

To Colombo and beyond


Unlike in 1945, when many British officials feared that the United States would merely stir up trouble in the war-torn territories of South-East Asia, the British were now trying to draw W ashington into a firm commitment towards the region. They knew that American financial support was vital for the success of their South-East Asian plans. W ith the help of Marshall aid, Britain and the United States had managed to forge an anti-Soviet alliance in Western Europe. London now needed W ashington’s financial support to create an anti-com munist bloc in South and South-East Asia. T hroughout 1949, British ministers and diplom ats therefore bombarded the Americans w ith memoranda and statements about the communist threat to South-East Asia. British diplomacy in 1949 thereby played an im portant part in drawing the United States into the affairs of South-East Asia, and ultimately into the conflict in Indochina. T he Colombo Conference in January 1950 marked the high point of Britain’s regional diplomacy in South and South-East Asia. Against the odds, the British had laid the groundwork for a scheme for international cooperation towards the economic development of the region. In the following months, London pressed on with the Com m onwealth’s regional initiative, which soon became known as the Colombo Plan. In May 1950, the p lan ’s new Consultative Committee met for the first time in Sydney. It decided to draw up six-year development plans for each of the participating Asian countries, and agreed to establish a technical cooperation scheme for the region. In October 1950, the Colombo P lan’s second meeting in London drew up a report titled The Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic Develop­ m ent in South and South-East Asia which detailed individual development programmes worth more than 1.8 billion pounds. The required external finance for the programmes amounted to about 1.1 billion pounds. The development plans included projects in the sectors of irrigation, power generation, comm u­ nication, housing, health and education, as well as road and railway construction.37 However, for the Colombo Plan to be successful, the British needed to secure American support, as only the United States could afford to provide the considerable sums that were required. First signs that W ashington was coming round to Britain’s analysis of the situation in South-East Asia had emerged in the form of PPS 51, the American policy paper that bore close


Britain and Regional Cooperation

resemblance to earlier British drafts on South-East Asia. By the end of 1949, W ashington was indicating that it was thinking of providing financial aid to the region. On 30 December 1949, shortly after the final collapse of the Kuom intang government on the Chinese m ainland, T rum an endorsed a National Security Council paper, NSC 48/2, which recommended that W ashington should be prepared to provide political, economic and military assistance to supplem ent the efforts of other governments in resisting comm unism in Asia. As a matter of urgency, 75 m illion dollars were program med for the area.38 Three months later, an official American fact-finding mission to South-East Asia under the publisher R. Allen Griffin recommended giving aid to the French in Indochina. On 8 May 1950, six weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War, Acheson announced that the United States would send economic and military aid to the French in Indochina. Indochina and Indonesia were assigned a first grant of 13 m illion dollars.39 The United States had finally become involved in Vietnam. However, while the British welcomed the American commit­ m ent to Indochina, they were increasingly concerned about the lack of American interest in the Commonwealth initiative at Colombo. D uring the first half of 1950, British diplomats kept trying to convince their American counterparts that in addition to any short-term measures in combating communism, a long­ term reconstruction programme was required to stabilise the situation in the region. The Americans were not entirely con­ vinced, especially when the British admitted that W ashington would be presented with a staggering bill as a result of the Com m onwealth’s development plan.40 However, after the out­ break of the Korean War in June 1950, W ashington was begin­ ning to approach the British-sponsored Commonwealth initiative with a more open mind. During the Colombo Plan meeting in London in October 1950, Colombo Plan members decided that external aid should be granted on a bilateral basis rather than being channelled through a central allocating agency such as the OEEC.41 This met one of the conditions for American involvement in the plan and W ashington subsequently gave the Commonwealth initiative its support and blessing.42 During the third meeting of the Colombo Plan in February 1951, the United States attended as a full member. T he establishment of the Colombo Plan was undoubtedly a

To Colombo and beyond


considerable diplom atic achievement by the British. In addition to India, Ceylon, Pakistan and B ritain’s Malayan territories, countries like Indochina, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan joined the organisation in the follow­ ing years. Of the Western countries involved, the United States became by far the most im portant donor. Between 1950 and 1961, the United States provided a total of 8.3 billion dollars in bilateral loans, grants and technical assistance. Britain’s con­ tribution to the plan was m uch smaller, totalling about 250 m illion pounds between 1951 and 1961. In addition, Britain used the Colombo Plan to release some of the sterling balances held by India, Pakistan and Ceylon, worth another 250 m illion pounds, until 1958.43 Despite this, the British soon had to realise that their initial hopes and expectations connected to their policy of regional cooperation had been pegged too high. In fact, the Colombo Plan never fully lived up to its expectations for the economic development of Asia. T hough the United States provided far more financial assistance than the cash-strapped British, the p la n ’s impact on Asia could hardly be compared with the far more significant effects of Marshall aid to Europe. According to Lalita Prasad Singh, the Colombo P lan ’s total value of external capital assistance to South and South-East Asia amounted to almost 10 billion dollars between 1951 and 1961. This only made up one quarter of all the development programmes funded by the regional governments themselves. Most of the assistance con­ sisted of loans rather than grants. Furthermore, the total expendi­ ture on technical aid provided under the Colombo Plan between 1950 and 1965 amounted to just over 220 m illion pounds. Of this, 176 m illion pounds were provided by the United States. The prim e recipients were Indonesia, Vietnam, India and T hailand.44 As an inform ation pam phlet by the Colombo Plan Bureau explained in 1962, the p lan ’s assistance only supplemented the national effort, and was generally of a m arginal character.45 Apart from having only a limited impact on the economic development of South and South-East Asia, the high political hopes connected to the Colombo Plan were never fulfilled either, as it failed to develop into the kind of anti-com munist bloc envisaged by the Foreign Office in 1949. The main problem remained India, who refused to be drawn into an anti-com munist alignm ent, and who instead tried to act as mediator in the


Britain and Regional Cooperation

conflicts in Korea and in Indochina. The British equally failed to use the new regional organisation as a means of prom oting British political influence in the region. After 1950, Britain’s dom inant position in South-East Asia was increasingly taken over by the United States. In 1951, the creation of the ANZUS defence treaty, which excluded Britain but included Australia and New Zealand in an American-sponsored defence system in the Pacific, was an embarrassing indicator of Britain’s declining status as a Far Eastern power. Bevin’s hope that W ashington would provide the finance and London the political leadership in South-East Asia had obviously been wishful thinking. W ith hindsight, L ondon’s regional policy between 1945 and 1950 can be described as an inspired attempt at m anaging B ritain’s decline as a great power in Asia. Having briefly harboured plans for the expansion of Britain’s regional hegemony in 1945, the Foreign Office subsequently aimed to replace Britain’s dw indling colonial power base in South and South-East Asia with a less formal system of British influence in the region. Diplomacy was to substitute colonial and military might. The Colombo Conference and the subsequent establish­ ment of the Colombo Plan were the high point of London’s regional plans, a last attem pt to regain the political initiative in South-East Asia. But they failed to stem the tide that was running against all the European colonial powers in Asia. After a last m oment of diplom atic glory during the Geneva Conference on Indochina in 1954, the British were slowly abandoning their position in the region. In 1957, London granted independence to Malaya, followed by Singapore in 1961. In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, the British decided to withdraw all troops from South-East Asia by 1971.


1 WARTIME PLANNING AND DIPLOMACY 1 A. Gorst, ‘Facing Facts? The Labour Government and Defence Policy 1945-1950’, in N. Tiratsoo ed., T h e A ttlee Years, London, 1991, pp. 192-93. 2 D. Childs, B ritain sin ce 1945, 2nd edn, London, 1986, pp.23-24. 3 R. Jeffrey, ‘India: Independence and the Rich Peasant’, in R. Jeffrey ed., A sia - the W in n in g o f In depen den ce, London, 1987 (paperback), pp.94-6. 4 K.O. Morgan, L a b o u r in P o w er, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback), p.219. 5 D.K. Fieldhouse, ‘T he Labour Governments and the Empire-Com­ m on wealth, 1945-51’, in R. Ovendale ed., T h e F oreign P olicy o f the B ritish L a b o u r G o vern m en ts, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984, p.86. 6 See J. Kent, ‘Bevin’s Imperialism and the Idea of Euro-Africa, 1945— 49’, in M. Dockrill and J.W. Young eds, B ritish F oreign P o licy, 194556, London, 1989. 7 FO 371, 54017, F 1933, memo for the Foreign Secretary, 31 January 1946. 8 CAB 134/287, FE (O) (49) 43, 20 July 1949, preliminary report of the Econom ic Survey Working Party. 9 L.A. Mills, S ou th ea st A sia, M inneapolis, 1964, pp.229-230. 10 CAB 134/287, FE (O) (49) 43, 20 July 1949, preliminary report of the Econom ic Survey W orking Party. 1 1 N . Mansergh ed., D o cu m en ts an d Speeches on B ritish C o m ­ m o n w ea lth A ffairs, 1931-1952, Vol.2, London, 1953, pp.760-5: extracts from a government White Paper, May 1945. 12 See Mills, S o u th ea st A sia , p.254. 13 A.J. Stockwell, B ritish P o licy an d M alay P o litics d u rin g the M alayan U n ion E x p erim en t, 1945-1948, Kuala Lumpur, 1979, p.24. Although theoretically responsible to the War Office, the Malayan Planning U nit was staffed by colonial personnel and was supervised by the C olonial Office’s Eastern Department headed by Sir Edward Gent. 14 A.J. Stockwell, ‘C olonial Planning during World War II: The Case



16 17



20 21 22 23 24 25 26


28 29

Britain and Regional Cooperation

of Malaya’, in Jou rn al o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w ea lth H isto ry, Vol.2, No.3, May 1974, pp.333-4. Stockwell, B ritish P o licy an d M alay P o litics, p.30; also CAB 65/42, WM (44) 70th conclusion, minute 3, 31 May 1944. Apparently, the War Office feared that early publicity w ould prejudice the renegotia­ tion of the Anglo-M alay treaties. The Malaysian Planning U nit was subsequently transferred to Ceylon as a military unit w ithin the headquarters of SEAC, w hile Sir Harold MacMichael of the Colonial Office prepared to negotiate new treaties with the Malay rulers after the eventual reoccupation of Malaya. C. Thorne, A llies o f a K in d - the U n ited States, B ritain an d the W ar again st Japan , 1941-1945, Oxford, 1978 (paperback), pp.613-14. See P. Dennis, T ro u b led D ays o f Peace - M o u n tb a tten and S ou th East A sia C o m m a n d , 1945-46, Manchester, 1987, pp.79-80. The civil affairs agreement was extended to the w hole of Indonesia after the extension of SEAC’s boundaries in September 1945. J.J. Sbrega, ‘“First Catch your Hare”: Anglo-American Perspectives on Indochina during the Second World War’, in Journal o f S ou th east A sian S tu dies, Vol. 14, N o .l, March 1983, p.72. During the final months of his life, Roosevelt was beginning to accept the reim posi­ tion of French rule in Indochina; see W. LaFeber, ‘Roosevelt, Churchill, and Indochina: 1942-45’, in T h e A m erican H istorical R eview , V ol.80, No.5, December 1975. See C. Thorne, ‘Indochina and Anglo-American Relations, 19421945’, in P acific H isto rica l R e v ie w , No.45, 1976, p.84, quoting Sir Alexander Cadogan, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office in November 1944. FO 371, 46545, FE (45) 29, ‘Policy towards Siam ’, 14 July 1945. Thorne, A llies o f a K in d , p.61. See W.R. Louis, Im p e ria lism at Bay, 1941-1945. T h e U n ited States and the D isso lu tio n o f the B ritish E m p ire , Oxford, 1977, p.231. ibid., p.256. Hansard, P arliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons, Vol.391, 13 July 1943, col. 142. See H. Corkran, P attern s o f In tern a tio n a l C o o p era tio n in the C arib­ bean, 1942-1969, Dallas, 1970, pp.8ff. CO 968/158/5, annexed paper titled ‘An Account of International Co-operation in C olonial Areas’, 1944. The paper stressed that independent South American countries which could be considered part of the Caribbean region m ight become involved in the Carib­ bean C om m ission’s work. Mansergh, D o cu m en ts an d Speeches, pp. 1157-64, agreement between H is Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia and H is Majesty’s Government in New Zealand, signed at Canberra, 21 January 1944; also CAB 66/46, WP (44) 70, memo by the D om inions Secretary, 2 February 1944. CAB 66/49, WP (44) 211, memo by the Colonial Office, 18 April 1944. CAB 66/59, WP (44) 738, ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’, 16 December 1944.



30 CO 968/158/5, extract from enclosures attached to letter from Poynton, W ashington, to Gent, 22 September 1944. 31 FO 371, 41727 A, F 2196, memo by Hudson, Foreign Office Research Dept (FORD), 5 May 1944. 32 CO 968/159/6, m inute by Caine, 26 May 1944. 33 CAB 66/49, WP (44) 211, memo by the Colonial Office, 18 April 1944. 34 FO 371, 41727 A, F 2196, memo by Hudson, FORD, 5 May 1944. 35 See CO 968/158/6, m inute by J.J. Paskin, 13 May 1944. 36 CO 968/159/7, memo on ‘Post-war Security in the Indian Ocean’ by Maurice Gwyer, n.d., enclosed in a letter from Amery to Stanley, 8 November 1944. 37 CO 968/159/7, m inutes by Sabben Clare, 28 November 1944; Rolleston, 1 December 1944; and Robinson, 4 December 1944. 38 CO 968/159/7, Stanley to Amery, 11 December 1944. 39 CO 968/159/6, extract, titled ‘Far East’, from a CO paper, n.d. 40 CO 968/159/6, m inute by Caine, 26 May 1944. 41 CAB 66/59, WP (44) 738, ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’, 16 December 1944. 42 CO 968/159/6, draft titled ‘R egional Organisation Proposals for Far Eastern C olonies’. 43 CAB 66/63, WP (45) 200, annexed memo by Stanley, 19 March 1945. 44 Louis, Im p e ria lism at Bay, p.459. The formula stated that territorial trusteeship would apply to the mandates of the League of Nations, to territories detached from the enemy as a result of this war and to any other territories that m ight voluntarily be placed under trusteeship. 45 CAB 66/63, WP (45) 200, annexed memo by Stanley, 19 March 1945. 46 CAB 87/69, APW (45), 8th meeting of the Armistice and Post-War Committee, 26 March 1945. 47 R. Buckley, O ccu p a tio n D ip lo m a c y - B ritain , the U n ited States and Japan , 1945-1952, Cambridge, 1982, p.8. Buckley points out that by the time of VJ Day British policy towards Japan had not been clearly defined either; ibid., p.22. 48 FO 371, 46328, F 3943, memo by Sterndale Bennett, 8 June 1945. 49 FO 371, 46328, F 3943. T he results of the meeting are summarised in a m inute by Sterndale Bennett, dated 3 July 1945. 50 FO 371, 46424, F 9753, Bevin to Lord Pethick-Lawrence, 14 November 1945. 51 FO 371, 46424, F 9753, Bevin to D ening (SEAC), tel. 1196, 8 December 1945. Further material in FO 371, 54012, F 248ff. 52 FO 371, 46328, F 3944, memo by Dening, 26 June 1945, and his attached terms of reference. See also FO 371, 46434, F 8195, memo by Sterndale Bennett, 9 October 1945. 53 FO 371, 46328, F 3944, memo by Dening, 26 June 1945. 54 FO 371, 46328, F 3944, departmental memos by Sterndale Bennett from July 1945. 55 FO 371, 46328, F 3944, Sargent to Machtig, DO, 2 August 1945. 56 See FO 371, 46328, F 5357, for the reply of the India and Burma offices; ibid., F 5602 for the Air Ministry’s reply; and ibid., F 5684, for that of the D om inions Office.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

57 FO 371, 46328, F 5598, Bovenschen to Sargent, 21 August 1945. 58 CO 273/677/50908, m inute by Bourdillon, 27 June 1945, summaris­ ing a m eeting held between 24 and 26 June. 59 CO 273/677/50908, minute by Bourdillon, 27 June 1945. 60 CO 273/677/50908, minute by Gent, 7 August 1945. 61 CO 273/677/50908, minutes by Gater, 8 and 11 August 1945. 62 FO 371, 46328, F 5239, Gater to Sargent, 13 August 1945.

2 T H E DILEMMA OF PEACE IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA 1 C. Thorne, A llies o f a K in d - T h e U n ited States, B ritain and the W ar again st Japan , 1941-1945, Oxford, 1978 (paperback), p.523; also R. Butler and M.E. Pelly eds, D o cu m en ts on B ritish P olicy Overseas, Series I, Vol.I, 1945: T h e C onference at P o tsd a m J u ly -A u g u st 1945, London, 1984: document 183, meeting of Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee, 18 July 1945, CCS 195th m eeting (CAB 99/39): and document 193, m eeting of Combined Chiefs of Staff, 19 July 1945, CCS 196th m eeting (CAB 99/39). 2 For a discussion of the boundaries decision see R.J. McMahon, C o lo n ia lism a n d C old W ar - the U n ited States and the Struggle fo r In don esia n In depen den ce, 1945-49, Ithaca and London, 1981, pp. 76-

83. 3 S.W. Kirby, T h e W ar aga in st Japan , Vol.V, T h e Surrender o f Japan, London, 1969, p.226. 4 P. Dennis, T ro u b led D ays o f Peace - M o u n tb a tten and South-E ast A sia C o m m a n d , 1945-46, Manchester, 1987, p. 11. 5 T h e W orld at War, Channel Four, penultimate programme in the British television series. 6 Vice-Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, P ost-Surrender Tasks: R e p o rt to the C o m b in ed C hiefs o f Staff by the S u prem e A llied C om m an d er, S ou th -E ast A sia, 1943-1945, London, 1969, p.282; and J. Ehrman, G ran d S trategy, V ol.6, London, 1956, p.255. 7 Kirby, T h e W ar aga in st Japan , p.65. 8 J.H. Esterline and M.H. Esterline, H o w the D o m in o es Fell Sou th east A sia in P erspective, Lanham, 1986, p.219. 9 J. Pluvier, Sou th -E ast A sia fro m C olon ialism to In depen den ce,

Kuala Lumpur, 1974, p.391. For Mountbatten’s role in Burma see N. Tarling, ‘Lord Mountbatten and the Return of Civil Government to Burma’, in Jou rn al o f Im p eria l and C o m m o n w ea lth Studies, V ol.11, No.2, January 1983, pp. 197-226. 10 ibid., pp.230-4. 11 ibid., pp.365-6 and 369-71. Recent literature on Britain and Indo­ nesia: P. Dennis, T ro u b led D ays o f Peace; McMahon, C olon ialism an d C old War.

12 FO 371, 46353, F 9497, D ening to Sterndale Bennett, 5 October 1945. 13 P.M. Dunn, T h e F irst V ietn am War, London, 1985. For a more critical appreciation of Britain’s postwar involvement in Indochina in the recent literature see Dennis, T ro u b led D ays of Peace. A good



selection of documents on British policies in postwar Indochina can be found in PREM 8/63. 14 Mountbatten Papers, Southam pton University, MB 1/ C l 50, Killearn to Bevin, 27 April 1946. 15 On the Combined Food Board see S.M. Rosen, T h e C o m b in ed B oards o f the Secon d W orld War, New York, 1951, pp. 191-256. 16 Account based on Kirby, T h e W ar again st Japan , pp.238-41; and Mountbatten Papers, MB 1/ C l 50, Killearn to Bevin, 27 April 1946. 17 Butler and Pelly, D o cu m en ts on B ritish P o licy Overseas, Series I, Vol.I, 1945, p. 1256: document 599, letter from Dening to Sterndale Bennett, 2 August 1945, No. 1691 (F 5022/47/23); also CO 273/677/ 50908/1, Sterndale Bennett to Anderson, 12 September 1945, enclos­ in g letter from D ening to the FO, 2 August 1945. 18 ibid. 19 FO 371, 46434, F 7496, D ening (SEAC) to Sterndale Bennett, 18 September 1945. 20 FO 371, 54020, F 5385, Jacob (WO) to D ixon (FO), 13 September 1945, com m enting on a memo from a top SEAC official which is m issing in the FO files. 21 FO 371, 54020, F 5385, memo by Sterndale Bennett, 19 September 1945. 22 FO 371, 46434, F 8195, memo by Sterndale Bennett, 9 October 1945. 23 FO 371, 46329, F 8951, meeting of ministers, 18 October 1945. 24 CO 273/677/50908/1, memo dated 14 November 1945. 25 CO 273/677/50908/1, Davies to McGregor, 11 December 1945. 26 See CO 273/677/50908/1, minute by Mayle, 22 October 1945; and Davies to McGregor, 11 December 1945. 27 CO 273/677/50908/1, McGregor to Brooke, cabinet Office, 30 November 1945. T he only ‘econom ic’ department opposed to the principle of regional cooperation was the Ministry of Supply. 28 FO 371, 46329, F 9498, memo by Sterndale Bennett, 2 November 1945. 29 CAB 78/39, G E N .lO l/lst meeting, 19 November 1945. 30 ibid. 31 FO 371, 46424, F 12106, D ening to Bevin, 30 November 1945. 32 See CO 273/677/50908/1, m inute by Davies, 18 December 1945. 33 FO 371, 46303, F 12337, G EN.101/2nd meeting, informal meeting at the cabinet Office, 18 December 1945. 34 CO 273/677/50908/1, m inute by Robinson, 21 December 1945. 35 CO 273/677/50908/1, Gater to Armstrong, 21 December 1945. 36 T he C olonial Secretary had first told Parliament about his plans for a Malayan U nion on 10 October 1945, om itting, however, the planned appointm ent of a Malayan Governor-General. See Hansard, P arliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons, Vol.414, col.255, 10 October 1945. 37 FO 371, 54017, F 333, D ening to FO, tel.43, 5 January 1946. 38 FO 371, 54017, F 822, D ening to FO, tel.106, 15 January 1946. 39 FO 371, 54017, F 334, minute by Sterndale Bennett, 27 January 1946. See also ibid., F 333, m inute by W ilson-Young, 12 January 1946. 40 FO 371, 53974, F 348, m inute by W ilson-Young, 8 January 1946.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

41 42 43 44 45

CO 273/677/50908/1, Cadogan to Gater, 10 January 1946. FO 371, 53974, F 1069, Gater to Cadogan, 17 January 1946. FO 371, 53974, F 1069, m inute by Sterndale Bennett, 27 January 1946. FO 371, 54017, F 1933, memo dated 31 January 1946. See Mountbatten Papers, M B1/C30/18, Mountbatten to Bevin, n.d.; ibid., M B1/C30/21, Mountbatten to Bevin, SC H 6/96/B, 6 February 1946; also FO 800/461, file page 108, draft tel. from Bevin to Clark Kerr, 28 January 1946. The D ening incident is also discussed in Dennis, T ro u b led D ays o f Peace, pp. 184-7. 46 See FO 371, 54017, F 2336, copy of a letter from the FO to the Secretary of the COS, 6 February 1946.

3 ‘FAMINE AVERTED’: T H E SPECIAL COMMISSION IN SINGAPORE 1 CAB 128/5, CM (16) 5th meeting, 15 January 1946. 2 CAB 129/5, CP (46) 28, memo by the Minister of Food, 29 January 1946. 3 S.M. Rosen, T h e C o m b in ed B oards o f the Second W orld War, New York 1951, p.253. 4 See J. Pluvier, S ou th -E ast A sia fro m C olon ialism to In depen den ce, Kuala Lumpur, 1974, p.407. 5 CAB 128/5, CM (46) 10th meeting, 31 January 1946; and FO 371, 54017, F 2933, FO to Bangkok, tel.115, 21 February 1946. In December, Britain eventually gave up its last demands for free or cheap rice deliveries and agreed to pay the world market price in full. 6 FO 371, 54017, F 2036, FO to Cairo, tel.180, 2 February 1946; FO 800/ 461, FO to Cairo, tel. 181, 3 February 1946, file page 122. 7 FO 371, 54017, F 2037, Cairo to FO, tel.171, 4 February 1946. 8 F0 371, 54017, F 2478, conclusions of a m eeting at the FO, 12 February 1946; and CAB 134/677, SEAF (46) 1st m eeting, 18 February 1946. Executive action w ithin the committee fell to the Ministry of Food, the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Supply. 9 FO 371, 54018, F 3117, FO to SEAC, tel.377, 1 March 1946. 10 FO 371, 54018, F 3117, FO to SEAC, tel.378, 1 March 1946. 11 CAB 134/678, SEAF (46) 34, 13 March 1946. 12 See PREM 8/189, Bevin to Prime Minister, PM /45/47, 13 December 1945, for the difficulties of finding a suitable candidate. 13 See Peter Lowe, B ritain in the Far East: A Survey fro m 1819 to the P resent, New York, 1981, pp. 132-4. 14 W.R. Louis, T h e B ritish E m p ire in the M iddle East, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback), p. 49. 15 ibid., pp.48-50, 226-64. 16 S u nday T im es, 24 February 1946. 17 N e w s C hron icle, 19 February 1946 18 See Rosen, T h e C o m b in ed B oards, p.256 19 CAB 21/1956 (also F 5076/286/61), Killearn to Bevin, received 6 April 1948, ‘Work of the Special Commission in South-East Asia’.



20 CAB 134/418, IOC (FE) (47) 1, 9 January 1948, report of the UK delegate on ECAFE, 2nd session, Baguio, November-December 1948. 21 CAB 21/1956 (also F 5076/286/61), Killearn to Bevin, received 6 April 1948, ‘Work of the Special Comm ission in South-East Asia’. 22 FO 371, 54017, F 2037, Cairo to Foreign Secretary, tel. 171, 4 February 1945. Killearn also asked for equal pay to his job in Cairo - a demand w hich nearly caused a rift with Bevin; see FO 800/461, draft telegram from Bevin to Killearn, February 1946, not sent, file page 146. 23 Off-the-record interview by the author with a former Foreign Office member of the Rice Committee in London. 24 FO 371, 68911, UE 2923, ‘Survey of the Economic Organisation of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia’. 25 CAB 21/1956 (also F 5076/286/61), Killearn to Bevin, received 6 April 1948, ‘Work of the Special Comm ission in South-East Asia’. 26 A.S.B. Olver, ‘The Special Comm ission in South-East Asia’, in P acific A ffairs, Vol.21, No.3, September 1948, p.290, quoting an article in Sin C hew J ih P ao, 23 August 1946. Malayan comment on the series of special regional conferences convened by Killearn was more positive. 27 CAB 21/1956 (also F 5076/286/61), Killearn to Bevin, received 6 April 1948, ‘Work of the Special Commission in South-East Asia’. The outline of the Special Com m ission’s econom ic work is also based on Killearn’s reports in CAB 21/1956, Killearn to Bevin, 28 August 1946, F 12907/3/61; and ibid., Killearn to Bevin, 15 October 1946, F 15749/ 3/61. 28 Killearn Diaries, St Antony’s College, Oxford, 1946, V ol.l, 30 April 1946. 29 ibid., 1946, Vol.2, 19 June 1946. 30 ibid., 1946, V ol.l, 5 June 1946. 31 ibid., 1946, Vol.2, 18 July 1946. 32 CO 537/1437, Killearn to FO, tel. 12 Saving, 17 June 1946. A first draft was sent to the Foreign Office at the end of April; see FO 371, 54020, F 6352, Killearn to FO, tel.315, 25 April 1946. 33 Killearn Diaries, 1947, 1 January 1947. 34 FO 371, 53995, F 7340, Killearn to FO, tel.285, 21 April 1946. The m eeting included Mountbatten, the British consul-general in Bangkok, Thom pson, and the governors of the British territories in Malaya.

4 REGIONAL COOPERATION AND REGIONAL DEFENCE 1 A. Bullock, E rnest B evin - F oreign Secretary 1945-51, Oxford, 1985, (paperback), pp. 135-6. 2 ibid., pp.235-8. 3 See J. Lewis, C h a n g in g D irectio n - B ritish M ilitary P la n n in g fo r P o stw a r S trategic D efence, 1942-1947, London, 1988.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

4 CAB 81/46, PH P (45) 29 (0) (Final), ‘The Security of the British Empire’, 29 June 1945. 5 CAB 79/36, COS (45) 175th meeting, 12 July 1945. 6 CAB 134/280, FE (O) (45) 52, paper titled ‘British Foreign Policy in the Far East’, dated 31 December 1945. The paper was prepared by the Civil P lanning U nit (CPU), a new sub-committee of the Official Far Eastern Committee. The JPS’s contribution was added in February. T he meetings and memoranda of the CPU, which stopped its work in February 1946, can be found in CAB 130/4 and 5. 7 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 1, ‘Strategic Position of the Comm onwealth’, 20 April 1946. 8 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 1st meeting, 23 April 1946. 9 According to Bevin’s Private Secretary between 1947 and 1949, Frank Roberts, Bevin believed that British industrial workers had to understand that markets could only be found if the standard of life of the peasant masses in the (third) world was improved. See F.K. Roberts, ‘Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary’, in R. Ovendale ed., T h e F oreign P o licy o f B ritish L a b o u r G overn m en ts, 1945-51, Leicester, 1984, p.28. 10 See CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 2nd meeting, 23 April 1946, item 1 only: strategic position of the British Commonwealth, not recorded. T hough no direct evidence for a link between South-East Asian defence and econom ic cooperation during the conference could be found at the PRO, a meeting of British ministers and officials prior to the m eeting emphasised that defence discussions would include the question of strategic responsibilities. It was also stressed that Bevin’s statement at the beginning of the conference w ould have special relation to the Pacific and South-East Asia; see PREM 8/179, DPM (46) 1st meeting, 3 April 1946, cabinet committee on prepara­ tions for the m eeting of dom inion Prime Ministers. 11 R.H. Fifield, T h e D ip lo m a c y o f S ou th east Asia: 1945-1958, New York, 1968, p.242. 12 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 1st meeting, 23 April 1946. 13 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 4th meeting, 25 April 1946. 14 Chifley referred to Australia’s differing view of the Soviet threat during the 10th m eeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers on 2 May; see CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 10th meeting, 2 May 1946.The same view seems to have been expressed on the day of Bevin’s initial speech. 15 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 4th meeting, 25 April 1946. 16 ibid. 17 CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 17, ‘Economic and Welfare Cooperation in South Seas and South-East Asia Areas’, memo by the Australian Prime Minister, 27 April 1947. 18 DO 35/1620, Poynton to Sterndale Bennett, 26 April 1946. 19 DO 3 5 / 1620, Allen to Poynton, 29 April 1946. 20 CO 537/1437, memo dated 29 April 1946. 21 FO 371, 54068, F 6596, m inute by Allen, 4 May 1946, and memo by the FO’s South-East Asia Department, 2 May 1946. Further brief


22 23


25 26


accounts of the m eeting in CO 537/1437, minute by Poynton, 3 May 1946; and DO 35/1620, m inute by Price, 6 May 1946. The meeting was attended by Poynton and Robinson (CO), Allen (FO), Price and Davies (DO), Morley (BO) and E.A. Armstrong (Cabinet Office). CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 11th meeting, 3 May 1946. CAB 133/86, PMM (46) 5th meeting, 26 April 1946. The American government was subsequently sent an appropriate message but declined to participate in regional defence arrangements in the South-West Pacific. N. Mansergh ed., D o cu m en ts an d Speeches on B ritish C o m ­ m o n w ea lth A ffairs, 1931-1952, Vol.2, London, 1953, pp. 1050-2: agreement establishing the South Pacific Commission, 6 February 1947. It came into force one year later on 29 July 1948. (For an outline of the work of the South Pacific Comm ission see R.C. Lawson, In tern atio n a l R e g io n a l O rga n isa tio n s, New York, 1962, pp.251-5.) DO 35/1621, Singapore to FO, tel.783, 2 June 1946. T he agreement was subsequently extended to the defence of Malaya, and in the spring of 1955 Australia and New Zealand stationed military units in Malaya. See A. Watt, T h e E vo lu tio n of A ustralian F oreign P o licy, 1938-1965, Cambridge, 1967, pp. 163-6.

5 INDIA, VIETNAM AND TH E LIM ITS OF COLONIAL COOPERATION 1 N. Owen, “ ‘Responsibility without Power” - the Attlee Govern­ ments and the End of British Rule in India’, in N. Tiratsoo ed., T h e A ttlee Years, London, 1991, p. 173, quoting a letter from Wavell to Pethick-Lawrence in November 1945. 2 R. Jeffrey, ‘India: Independence and the Rich Peasant’, in R. Jeffrey ed., A sia - the W in n in g o f In depen den ce, London, 1987 (paperback), pp.99-101; and K.O. Morgan, L a b o u r in P ow er, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback), p p .219-24. 3 For Attlee’s role in Burma see K. Harris, A ttlee, London, 1984 (paperback), pp.355-62. 4 J. Pluvier, S ou th -E ast A sia fro m C olon ialism to In depen den ce, Kuala Lumpur, 1974, pp.389-92. 5 ibid., pp.394-6. 6 ibid. 7 FO 371, 53995, F 7340, memo by Stent, 24 April 1946. It is unlikely that his paper influenced the interdepartmental talks on regional cooperation held at the FO on 2 May, since Allen only found time to com m ent on it on 8 May. 8 FO 371, 53995, F 7340, minute by Allen, 8 May 1946. 9 CO 537/1478, m inutes by Bourdillon, Sidebotham, Mayle and Lloyd from 17 June, 18 June, 2 July and 17 July 1946. 10 CO 537/1478, Donaldson (IO) to Allen (FO), 22 August 1946. 11 D. Marr, ‘Vietnam: Harnessing the w hirlw ind’, in Jeffrey, A sia, p.204.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

12 Pluvier, Sou th -E ast A sia, p.415. 13 See A.D. Griffiths, ‘Britain, the United States and French Indochina 1946-1954’, unpublished thesis, University of Manchester, March 1984, p.77. 14 Hansard, P arliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons, Vol.433, 19 February 1947. 15 FO 371, 63542, F 1423, m inute by Whitteridge, 6 February 1947. 16 FO 371, 63549, F 2616, memo titled ‘British Policy in South-East Asia’, 24 January 1947. 17 CAB 21/1956, F 12907, report by Killearn to Bevin, 24 August 1946. 18 Killearn Diaries, St A ntony’s College, Oxford, 1946, Vol.2, 15 August 1946. 19 ibid., 1946, Vol.2, 2 September 1946. 20 FO 371, 53912, F 13076, Singapore to FO, tel.2026,8 September 1946. 21 ibid. 22 ibid. 23 CAB 21/1956, F 15749, Killearn to Bevin, 15 October 1946. 24 FO 371, 54046, F 16726, D ening to F.W.H. Smith (BO), 18 November 1946. 25 Marr, ‘Vietnam ’, p.204; and Pluvier, S outh -E ast A sia, p.440. 26 FO 371, 54046, F 16726, D ening to F.W.H. Smith (BO), 18 November 1946. 27 See J.W. Young, B ritain , France an d the U n ity o f E urope, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984, p.41. 28 See Morgan, L a b o u r in P ow er, p.268. 29 J. Kent, ‘Bevin’s Imperialism and the Idea of Euro-Africa, 1945-49’, in M. Dockrill and J.W. Young eds, B ritish F oreign P olicy, 1945-56, London, 1989, p.49. 30 FO 371, 54046, F 16726, minute by S.H. Hebblethwaite, com m enting on D ening’s letter, 19 November 1946. 31 FO 371, 53969, F 17983, F.W.H. Smith to Dening, 12 December 1946. 32 Marr, ‘Vietnam’, p.204. For an analysis of the events leading to the outbreak of war see S. Tonneson, ‘The Longest Wars: Indochina 1945-75’, in J ou rn al o f Peace R esearch, Vol.22, N o .l, 1985, pp. 12-17; and S. Tonneson, 1946: D eclen ch em en t de la G uerre dT n doch in e, Paris, 1987. For a commented selection of French governmental documents relevant to the outbreak of war in Indochina see P. Devillers, P aris - S aigon - H a n o i, Paris, 1988. 33 C.H. Heimsath and S. Mansingh, A D ip lo m a tic H isto ry o f M odern In dia, Calcutta, 1971, p.253. 34 ibid., pp.322-3. 35 T .T . T hien, In d ia an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963, pp. 122-3. These events were reported in the British press, see for example T h e T im es, 24 January 1947, reporting that a dem on­ stration by com m unists and admirers of Subhas Chandra Bose (the Indian wartime collaborator with the Japanese) in front of the French consulate in Bombay had caused two deaths and fourteen people being injured. 36 FO 371, 63518, F 560, Lloyd to Dening, 11 January 1947.

Notes 227 37 FO 371, 63518, F 757, F.W .H.Smith to Dening, received 20 January 1947. 38 FO 371, 63542, F 1035, tel.202, Killearn to FO, 26 January 1947. In an apparent effort to put pressure on London, Paris hinted to the American press that both France and Britain were contem plating an econom ic regional organisation also including the Dutch; see N ew Y ork T im es, 20 February 1947. 39 FO 371, 63542, F 1201, Paris to FO, tel.96 A, 29 January 1947. 40 FO 371, 63542, F 1035, m inute by Whitteridge, 30 January 1947. 41 FO 371, 63542, F 1035, m inute by Moynehan, 31 January 1947. 42 FO 371, 63542, F 1201, m inute by Dening, 1 February 1947. 43 FO 371, 63542, F 1423, tel.112, Cooper (Paris) to FO, 3 February 1947. 44 FO 371, 63542, F 1423, minute by Whitteridge, 6 February 1947. 45 FO 371, 63542, F 1035, draft minute to the Prime Minister, February 1947, enclosed in a note from D ening to Bevin, 10 February 1947. 46 FO 371, 63542, F 10184, m inute by Allen. 47 For W hitehall’s debate on this issue see R.J. Moore, Escape fro m E m p ire - the A ttlee G o ve rn m e n t an d the In dian P roblem , Oxford, 1983, pp.220-34. 48 FO 371, 63542, F 1201, FO to Singapore, tel.375, 14 February 1947. 49 Hansard, P arliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons, Vol.435, 24 March 1947. 50 Griffiths, thesis, p .75, quoting FO 371, 63457, F 13675, minute by Street, 13 October 1947.

6 SINGAPORE AND T H E RADIATION OF BRITISH INFLU ENCE’ 1 FO 371, 63549, F 2616, ‘Stock-Taking Memorandum - Far East’, com piled by Dening, 22 February 1947. It appears, however, that the paper preceded the second paper (below) and was written in January. 2 FO 371, 63549, F 2616, ‘British Policy in South-East Asia’, 24 January 1947. 3 ibid. 4 ibid. 5 ibid. 6 ibid. 7 FO 371, 63547, F 1969, memo titled ‘South-East Asia’ by Dening, 7 February 1947. 8 ibid. 9 ibid. 10 ibid. 11 FO 371, 63547, F 1969, ‘Record of a Meeting Summoned by the Secretary of State to Discuss South-East Asia’, 8 February 1947. 12 FO 371, 63518, F 560, D ening to Killearn, 20 February 1947. 13 FO 371, 63518, F 560, minute by Whitteridge, 19 February 1947. See also ibid., m inute by Lambert, 17 February 1947. 14 FO 371, 63518, F 7103, Wright to Dening, 14 May 1947.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

15 FO 371, 63518, F 8650, D ening to Killearn, 11 July 1947. 16 FO 371, 63518, F 8650, D ening to Seel, 11 July 1947. 17 J. Young, B ritain , France and the U n ity o f E urope, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984, p.50. For the previous negotiations see ibid., pp.4351. 18 ibid., p .70. 19 J. Kent, ‘Bevin’s Imperialism and the Idea of Euro-Africa, 1945-49’, in M. Dockrill and J.W. Y oung eds, B ritish F oreign P olicy, 1945-56, London, 1989, p.59. 20 FO 371, 63518, F 16507, minute by Dening, 10 December 1947; and ibid., m inute by Harvey, 10 December 1947, for a previous enquiry by Sir S. Caine from the CO. 21 R.J, McMahon, C o lo n ia lism an d C old W ar - the U n ited States and the S tru ggle fo r In d o n esia n In depen den ce, 1945-49, Ithaca and London, 1981, pp. 130, 135. 22 Account based on McMahon, C olo n ia lism an d C old War, pp. 137-68. 23 FO 371, 63631, F 9184, m inute by Mayall, 16 June 1947. Further Dutch arms requests were under consideration; see FO 371, 63631, F 10291, memo dated 16 June 1947, ‘Recent Dutch Requests for Military Supplies’. 24 CAB 128/9, CM (47) 48th, 20 May 1947. 25 FO 371, 63631, F 9184, minute by Allen, 16 June 1947. 26 Reference to this in FO 371, 63631, F 10372, FO to The Hague, tel.699, 29 July 1947. 27 CAB 128/10, CM (47) 54th, 17 June 1947. 28 FO 371, 63631, F 9052, Singapore to FO, tel. 1499, 4 July 1947. 29 FO 371, 63631, F 9052, minute by Street, 7 July 1947. 30 FO 371, 63631, F 9052, minute by Whitteridge, 8 July 1947. 31 FO 371, 63631, F 9052, FO to Singapore, tel.1709, 18 July 1947. 32 T .T . Thien, In d ia an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963, p. 103. 33 McMahon, C o lo n ia lism and C old War, pp. 172, 180. 34 A.M. Taylor, In d o n esia n In depen den ce and the U n ited N a tio n s, London, 1960, p .48. 35 See McMahon, C olo n ia lism and C old War, p. 179. 36 FO 371, 63631, F 10291, memo by Sargent, 21 July 1947. 37 FO 371, 63631, F 10290, DO (47), 17th meeting, 23 July 1947. 38 FO 371, 63632, F 10372, staff conference, 28 July 1947. 39 Hansard, P aliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons,Vol.441, 30 July 1947.

7 REGIONAL CO M PETITIO N : INDIA AND AUSTRALIA 1 For a discussion of early Indian influence in South-East Asia see D.G.E. Hall, A H isto ry o f S ou th -E ast A sia, 4th edn, Basingstoke, 1981 (paperback), pp. 12-24. 2 T .T . Thien, In d ia a n d Sou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963, pp.71-3.



3 Extracts from a broadcast speech by Nehru from New Delhi, 7 September 1946, in A. Appadorai ed., Select D o cu m en ts on In dia's F oreign P o licy a n d R ela tio n s, 1947-1972, Vol.I, Delhi, 1982, pp.2-5. 4 See T. Remme, ‘Britain, the 1947 Asian Relations Conference, and Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia’, in T. Gorst, L. Johnman and W.S. Lucas eds, P o stw a r B ritain , 1945-64, T h em es and P erspec­ tives, London, 1989, pp. 109-34. 5 See C.H. Heimsath and S. Mansingh, A D ip lo m a tic H isto ry o f M odern In dia, Calcutta, 1971, p. 104. 6 FO 371, 54729, W 11239, Monteath to Sargent, 30 September 1946; and ibid., W 12230, m inute by Warner, 9 December 1946. 7 Straits T im es, 19 April 1947. 8 B an gkok P o st, 1 July 1947; also FO 371, 63557, F 9373, Thom pson (Bangkok) to FO, 2 July 1947. 9 V iet N a m N e w s Service, 29 September 1949. For British concerns that the league was infiltrated by communists see FO 371, 69686, F 1216, Thom pson, Bangkok, to SEA Department, no.2/2G /48, 12 January 1948, enclosing a memo by John Coast from 12 January 1948. 10 On the term ‘T he Near N orth’ see R. Varma, A u stralia an d S ou th east A sia - the C rystallisation o f a R e la tio n sh ip , New Delhi, 1974, p. 12. 11 FO 371, 63552, F 3458, extract from statement by Dr Evatt, 26 February 1947. 12 FO 371, 63552, F 4334, Monteath to Sargent, 26 March 1947. 13 CO 537, 2093, m inute by Watt, 18 March 1947. Watt was still unaware of Killearn’s comments below. 14 FO 371, 63552, F 3281, tel.563, Killearn to FO, 10 March 1947. 15 FO 371, 63552, F 4334, Monteath to Sargent, 26 March 1947. 16 FO 371, 63552, F 3269, tel.858, FO to Singapore, 8 April 1947. 17 FO 371, 63543, F 5642, UK H igh Commission in Australia to DO, tel.280, 21 April 1947, follow ing for FO from Killearn. 18 FO 371, 63543, F 5642, minute by Christofas, 28 April 1947. 19 FO 371, 63543, F 5642, minute by Allen, 24 April 1947. 20 FO 371, 65583, W 2919, note by the British H igh Commissioner in W ellington of a conversation with McIntosh, 29 March 1947. 21 FO 371, 63544, F 8250, UKHC Australia to DO, tel.417, 17 June 1947. 22 On the Canberra Conference and Anglo-Australian differences over Japan see R. Buckley, O c cu p a tio n D ip lo m a cy - B ritain , the U n ited States an d Japan 1945-1952, Cambridge, 1982, pp. 142-57. 23 FO 371, 63552, F 5961, m inutes dated 30 May 1947. 24 FO 371, 63552, F 5961, minute by Dening, 30 May 1947. 25 Varma, A u stralia a n d S o u th ea st A sia, p.232.

8 REGIONAL CO M PETITIO N : T H E UNITED NATIONS AND ECAFE 1 L.P. Singh, T h e P o litic s o f E co n o m ic C o o p era tio n in A sia, Col­ umbia, Missouri, 1966, p. 18-22. 2 ibid.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

3 CAB 134/417, FE (47) 5 (Revise), 14 May 1947, brief for the UK delegation to the first meeting of ECAFE, summarising continuing British reservations. 4 ibid. 5 FO 371, 62256, UE 960, m inute dated 20 February 1947. 6 FO 371, 62256, UE 960, FO to Singapore, tel.437, 21 February 1947. 7 FO 371, 62257, UE 1265, Singapore to FO, tel.495, 28 February 1947. Killearn’s line was supported by the Governor of Burma; see FO 371, 62257, UE 1265, FO to New York, tel.813, 12 March 1947, repeating tel. 113 from Governor of Burma, n.d. 8 FO 371, 62257, UE 1491, New York to FO, tel.732, 6 March 1947. 9 FO 371, 62257, UE 1265, FO to New York, repeated to Singapore, tel.729, 6 March 1947. 10 FO 371, 62472, UE 1966, Stent to Stevens, 13 March 1947. Stent’s criticism that the FO had failed to consult British posts in South-East Asia in time was shared by Killearn: FO 371, 62473, UE 2515, Singapore to FO, tel.833, 8 April 1947. 11 FO 371, 62472, UE 1966, Stevens to Stent, 17 March 1947. 12 FO 371, 62472, UE 1862, New York to FO, tel.904, 19 March 1947. 13 Singh, P o litic s o f E co n o m ic C o o p era tio n , p.26. 14 ibid., pp.242-3. 15 ibid., pp.65-83. 16 ibid., pp.56-7. 17 See FO 371, 62473, UE 2508, FO to Nanking, tel.385, 4 April 1947. 18 FO 371, 62473, UE 2576, Singapore to FO, tel.833, 8 April 1947. 19 FO 371, 62472, UE 2057, FO to New York, 26 March 1947. 20 CAB 134/417 - IOC (FE) (47) 4, minutes of the First Working Party, Far Eastern Economic Commission, 15 April 1947. Other topics discussed at the m eeting were issues like the permanent site for the new com m ission or the com position of Britain’s delegation attend­ ing ECAFE’s first session in Shanghai in June. An examination of these topics lies outside the scope of this chapter. 21 CAB 134/417 - IOC (FE) (47) 5 (Revise), 14 May 1947, brief for UK delegation to the first meeting of ECAFE. 22 See FO 371,62476, UE 9447, Singapore to FO, tel. 1981,8 October 1947. 23 For a detailed British account of the m eeting see CAB 134/417, IOC (FE) (47) (10), ECAFE, meeting of the Committee of the W hole in New York, July 1947, report of the UK delegate, 24 July 1947. 24 Killearn Diaries, St A ntony’s College, Oxford, 1947, 12 March 1947. 25 See A.S.B. Olver, ‘The Special Commission in South-East Asia’, in P acific A ffairs, V ol.21, No.3, September 1948, p.290; also: D aily T elegraph , 30 July 1946. 26 See FO 371, 63543, F 7570, minutes by Dening, 10 April 1947, and by Allen, 14 April 1947. 27 Straits T im es, 8 November 1947. 28 See R.N. Gardner, S terlin g -D o lla r D ip lo m a cy in C urrent P erspec­ tive, New and expanded edn, New York, 1980, p.309. 29 See FO 371, 63543, F 7570, minutes by Dening, 10 April 1947, and by Allen, 14 April 1947.

Notes 231 30 FO 371, 63543, F 7571, ‘Future of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia’, report by Allen, 15 March 1947. 31 FO 371, 63543, F 7570, m inute by Dening, 10 April 1947. 32 FO 371, 63543, F 7625, note of a m eeting held at the Treasury on 24 April 1947. So far as the new post’s terms of reference were concerned, the Foreign Office and C olonial Office w ould find an agreement, w hile any successors to MacDonald w ould be chosen by the two respective Secretaries of State. 33 CO 537/2203, m inute by H .T.Bourdillon, 7 May 1947. 34 FO 371, 63544, F 7679, Bevin to Killearn, 6 June 1947. 35 Malcolm MacDonald Papers, Durham University, file 17/2/34, Killearn to Bevin, 4 July 1947. 36 FO 371, 63544, F 7867, tel. 178, Governor-General, Malaya, to S. of S., Colonies, 9 June 1947. 37 FO 371, 63544, F 9770, minute by Allen, 17 July 1947. 38 ibid. 39 ibid. 40 FO 371, 63545, F 12345, Singapore to FO, tel. 1832, 5 September 1947. 41 See CO 537/2205, CRO to UK H igh Commissioner, Australia, 26 September 1947. The original telegrams were sent out on 10 September 1947; see CO 537/2205, minute by Bourdillon, 30 September 1947. 42 CO 537/2205, UKHC Australia to CRO, 22 September 1947. 43 CO 537/2205, m inute by Bourdillon, 30 September 1947. 44 CAB 134/417, IOC (FE) (47) 15, 30 September 1947, basis of a brief for the UK delegate at ECAFE. 45 FO 371, 62475, UE 7613, m inute by I.F.S. Vincent, 18 August 1947. 46 CAB 134/417, IOC (FE) (47) 16, 5th meeting of the Working Party, 3 October 1947. 47 See for example: FO 371, 62476, UE 9882, The Hague to FO, tel.543, 16 October 1947; FO 371, 62476, UE 9447, Thom pson (Bangkok) to Luang Prabang, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, 14 October 1947; FO 371, 62476, UE 9900, Millar (British embassy - Paris) to Pridham (FO), 14 October 1947. 48 FO 371, 62476, UE 9398, Troutbeck to Keen, 16 October 1947. 49 FO 371, 62669, UE 10943, Singapore to FO, tel.2155, 11 November 1947. 50 FO 371, 62478, UE 11822, ‘Relations between ECAFE and the Special C omm issioner’s Office’, 2 December 1947, Colonial Office document quoting Dr Lokanathan’s note. 51 CAB 134/418, IOC (FE) (47) 1, 9 January 1948, ECAFE, 2nd session, Baguio, November-December 1947, report of the UK Delegate. 52 ibid. 53 FO 371, 69664, F 2340, FO to Singapore, tel.252, 12 February 1948. Killearn had previously asked for instructions; see FO 371, 69664, F 2340, Singapore to FO, tel. 195, 7 February 1948. 54 See Malcolm MacDonald Papers, Durham University, file 17/2/49, Bevin to Killearn, 9 August 1947; and file 17/2/47, Killearn to MacDonald, 21 August 1947.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

55 ibid., file 17/2/99, MacDonald to Killearn, 29 January 1948. 56 FO 371, 69687, F 3347, Killearn to Sargent, 8 February 1948. 57 Malcolm MacDonald Papers, Durham University, file 17/4/7, Listowel to MacDonald, 19 April 1948. 58 ibid., file 17/4/14, Listowel to MacDonald, 27 April 1948. 59 FO 371, 68911, UE 3329, ‘Survey of the Economic Organisation of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia’; also British Library of Political and Econom ic Science, Depository, Egham, U N document E /C N .l 1/88, 7 May 1948, survey of the Economic Organisation of the Special Commissioner in South-East Asia. 60 British Library of Political and Economic Science, Depository, UN document E /C N .l 1/SR.37, ECAFE, 3rd session Octacamund, India, 5 June 1948. 61 Malcolm MacDonald Papers, Durham University, file 22/8/55-60, 10 November 1949.

9 W ESTERN UNION AND SOUTH-EAST ASIA 1 See A.M. Taylor, In d o n esia n In d ep en d en ce an d the U n ited N a tio n s, London, 1960, p p.66-97. 2 R. J. McMahon, C o lo n ia lism an d C old W ar - the U n ited States an d the S tru ggle fo r In d o n esia n In depen den ce, Ithaca and London, 1981, p.206. 3 See K.O. Morgan, L a b o u r in P ow er, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback), p.274. 4 J.W. Young, B ritain , France an d the U n ity o f E u rope 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984, p .84. 5 FO 371, 69796, F 1183, Foreign Office minute, 17 January 1948. 6 FO 371, 69796, F 1183, minute by Street, 19 January 1948. 7 FO 371, 69796, F 1183, minute by Whitteridge, 19 January 1948. 8 FO 371, 69796, F 1183, m inute by Grey, 24 January 1948.1 w ould like to thank Sir Paul Grey for discussing with me his time at South-East Asia Department. Author’s interview with Sir Paul Grey on 27 September 1989. 9 FO 371, 69796, F 1384, Batavia to FO, 27 January 1948. 10 N . Mansergh ed., D o cu m en ts an d Speeches on B ritish C o m ­ m o n w ea lth A ffairs, 1931-1952, Vol.2, London, 1953, pp. 1121-4: extract from a speech by Bevin in the House of Commons on 22 January 1948. 11 J. Kent, ‘Bevin’s Imperialism and the Idea of Euro-Africa, 1945-49’, in M. Dockrill and J.W .Young eds, B ritish F oreign P o licy, 1945-56, London, 1989, p.62. 12 FO 371, 69682, F 1930, cutting from M o rn in g T ribu n e, dated 28 January 1948. 13 FO 371, 69796, F 2156, memo by Grey, 2 February 1948. 14 FO 371, 69796, F 2156, minute by Dening, 4 February 1948; and FO 371, 69796, F 2156, m inutes by Kirkpatrick and Sargent, 4 February 1948.

Notes 233 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

28 29 30


32 33 34 35 36 37

FO 371, 69796, F 2156, m inute by Grey, 9 March 1948. FO 371, 69760, F 4576, m inute by Grey, 10 March 1948. FO 371, 69760, F 4576, m inute by Dening, 10 March 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4024, Batavia to FO, tel.212, 12 March 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, Singapore to FO, tel.352, 15 March 1948. FO 371, 69688, F 4249, m inute by Dening, 15 March 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, memo by Kirkpatrick, 1 April 1948. FO 371, 69682, F 5258, Grey to Scrivener, either 6 or 13 April 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, m inute by Grey, 13 April 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, m inute by Dening, 13 April 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, m inute by Sargent, 14 April 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 4052, m inute by Bevin, n.d. FO 371, 69796, F 5788, minute by Roberts, 19 April 1948, on conversation between Bevin and the Netherlands Minister for For­ eign Affairs between 16 and 17 April 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 5804, conversation between the Secretary of State and the Netherlands ambassador, 20 April 1948. FO 371, 69797, F 7130, m inute by Whitteridge, 3 May 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 8122, Grey to Gage, British embassy, The Hague, 11 June 1948. W hitehall had already launched an investigation into possible supplies for the Netherlands East Indies; see FO 371, 69797, F 7130, m inute by Whitteridge, 3 May 1948. FO 371, 69689, F 5922, Scrivener to Dening, 14 April 1948. According to Scrivener, Guibaut was a ‘very good friend of ours who actually understands our colonial policy, who genuinely deplores what he regards as the remoteness and particularism of the French authorities in Indo-China, and w ho indeed asssures me that had he not worked very hard indeed, the Quai d’Orsay itself w ould have but the vaguest knowlege of what we have been trying to do out here’. FO 371, 69689, F 5922, m inute by Christophas, 27 April 1948. FO 371, 69689, F 5922, minute Whitteridge, 13 May 1948. ibid. FO 371, 69689, F 5922, minute by Wright, 17 June 1948. FO 371, 69770, F 10533, memo for the Foreign Secretary by Grey, 15 July 1948. On the Malayan Emergency see A. Short, T h e C o m m u n ist Insurrec­ tion in M alaya, 1948-1960, London, 1975; E. O ’Ballance, M alaya: T h e C o m m u n ist In su rg en t War, 1948-60, London, 1966; and A.J. Stockwell, ‘Counterinsurgency and C olonial Defence’, in T. Gorst, L. Johnm an and W.S. Lucas eds, P o stw a r B ritain , 1945-64, T h em es and P erspectives, London, 1989, pp. 135-54.

10 COLD WAR AND COM MONW EALTH 1 H. Tinker, T h e U n io n o f B urm a, 4th edn, London, 1967, pp.34-7. 2 R.J. McMahon, C o lo n ia lism an d C old W ar - the U n ited States and the S tru ggle fo r In d o n esia n In depen den ce, 1945-49, Ithaca and London, 1981, pp.242-3.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

3 CAB 21/1956, Killearn to Bevin, 24 July 1947, paper titled ‘SouthEast Asia: G rowing Comm unist Strength’. 4 FO 371, 69694, F 10350, memo by Grey dated 16 July 1948. 5 See J.H. Brimmel, C o m m u n ism in S ou th -E ast A sia, London, 1959, p.263; also F.N. Trager, M a rx ism in S ou th east A sia, Stanford, 1959, p.268. 6 R.T. McVey, ‘The Calcutta Conference and the Southeast Asian U prisings’, Cornell University paper, Ithaca, 1958. 7 C.B. McLane, S o viet S trategies in S ou th east A sia - an E x p lo ra tio n o f Eastern P o licy u n d er L e n in an d Stalin, Princeton, 1966, p.360; Y. Toru, ‘Who Set the Stage for the Cold War in Southeast Asia?’, in Y. Nagai and A. Iriye eds, T h e O rig in s o f the C old W ar in A sia, New York, 1977, pp.333-6, and T. Yoshihiko, ‘The Cominform and Southeast Asia’, ibid., pp.370-1. 8 FO 371, 69695, F 13733, memo by Grey dated 29 September 1948. 9 FO 371, 69695, F 14002, memo from 11 October 1948. 10 FO 371, 69695, F 14002, memo titled ‘Communist Strategy in SE Asia’, dated 10 or 11 November 1948. 11 FO 371, 69695, F 17015, Scrivener to John H. Ham lin, American Consulate-General, Singapore, 24 November 1948. Scrivener enclosed a sequence of events that paid considerable attention to the congrees of the Indian Communist Party in Calcutta immediately after the youth conference. 12 India Office Library and Records, L /W S/1/1198, JIC (48) 113 (Final), paper titled ‘Comm unist Influence in the Far East’, 17 December 1948. 13 See A. Short, T h e C o m m u n ist In su rrection in M alaya, 1948-1960, London, 1975, pp. 113-48. 14 FO 371, 69694, F 10350, memo by Grey dated 16 July 1948. 15 FO 371, 69702, F 136935, draft letter D ening to MacDonald, begin­ n ing of August 1948. 16 FO 371, 69702, F 13635, MacDonald to Dening, 26 July 1948. 17 FO 371, 69702, F 13635, draft letter from D ening to MacDonald, beginning of August 1948. In his letter, D ening referred to a separate (but untraceable) telegram apparently dealing with intelligence cooperation. According to a minute by Christofas of 6 August attached to D ening’s letter, Mr Kellar of MI5 was now in Singapore on a visit to discuss the issue. It seems that intelligence cooperation between the three colonial powers was subsequently stepped up. However, the relevant Foreign Office and Colonial Office documents are still classified. 18 FO 371, 69702, F 13635, minute by Christofas, 6 August 1948. Other FO officials proposed minor amendments to D ening’s original draft which are included in the version summarised above. 19 FO 371, 69702, F 13636, Archer to Dening, 26 August 1948. 20 FO 371,69702, Price, Secretary of the COS, to Dening, 14 August 1948. 21 CO 537/3550, minute by W illiams, 17 August 1948. 22 CO 537/3550, m inute by Galsworthy, 2 September 1948. 23 CO 537/3550, minute by W illiams, 3 September 1948.



24 FO 371, 69702, F 13636, Martin to Dening, 6 September 1948. 25 FO 371, 69702, F 13637, draft of a first version, meeting at the FO, 29 September 1948, attended by FO, CO and CRO representatives. 26 FO 371, 69683, F 14589, m inute by Dening, 8 October 1948. 27 ibid. 28 FO 371, 69683, F 14589, m inute by Scott, 8 October 1948. 29 FO 371, 69683, F 14589, m inute by Christophas, 9 October 1948. 30 FO 371, 69683, F 14589, m inute of 8 October 1948. 31 T his account of the sterling area is based on D.K. Fieldhouse, ‘The Labour Governments and the Empire-Common wealth, 1945-51’, in R. Ovendale ed., T h e F oreign P o licy o f the B ritish L a b o u r G o vern ­ m en ts, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984, pp.95-6; and on CAB 129/48, C (51) 57, 20 December 1951. 32 P.S. Gupta, ‘Imperialism and the Labour Government’, in J. Winter ed., T h e W o rk in g Class in M odern B ritish H isto ry , Cambridge, 1983,


33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57

S. Strange, Sterlin g an d B ritish P olicy, London, 1971, p.62. FO 371, 69683, F 14589, minute by Turner, probably 8 October 1948. FO 371, 69683, F 14589, m inute by Christophas, 9 October 1948. FO 371, 69683,F 14930, memo by Dening, 12 October 1948. FO 371, 69683,F 14930, memo by Dening, titled ‘South-East Asia Comm onwealth Co-operation’, 11 October 1948. FO 371, 69683, F 14930, memo by Dening, 12 October 1948. CAB 133/88, PMM (48) 3rd meeting, 12 October 1948. CAB 133/88, PMM (48) 7th meeting, 18 October 1948. CAB 133/88, PMM (48) 10th meeting, 19 October 1948. FO 371, 70196, W 6400, memo by Machtig, 5 November 1948. FO 371, 70196, W 6208, m inute by J.H. Watson, 19 October 1948. FO 371, 69684, F 15363, letter from Grey to British diplomatic representatives in SEA (signed by Lloyd), n.d. probably beginning of November 1948. O 371, 69684, F 16408, memo by Grey for Bevin, 20 October 1948. FO 371, 70196,W 6208, minute by Dening, 2 November 1948. FO 371, 69702,F 14679, m eeting at the FO, 20 October 1948. FO 371, 69684, F 16408, memo by Grey for Bevin, 20 November 1948. FO 371, 69702, F 15179, record of a Consultative Council m eeting at the Quai d’Orsay, 25 October 1948. ibid. FO 371, 69702, F 15179, m inute by Christofas, 1 November 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 10694, memo by Grey titled ‘Indonesia Arms Embargo’, 30 July 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 11859, Lloyd to Gage, The Hague, summarising a letter to Dutch ambassador, 31 August 1948. FO 371, 69796, F 15534, m inutes by Grey, 19 October 1948; Dening, 23 October 1948; and Sargent, 26 October 1948. FO 371, 69796,F 15534, m inute by Roberts, 2 November 1948. FO 371, 69796,F 15534, minute by Bevin, n.d. FO 371, 69796, F 15009, Grey to Sir P hilip Nichols, The Hague, 6 November 1948. According to the British ambassador in The Hague,


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Dutch feeling against the embargo remained ‘widespread and bitter’. ‘The fact that political circles do not say much about it, except the Right W ing opposition who find periodical opportunities to make remarks in the States General, does not mean that they do not resent it very m uch’; see FO 371, 69796, F 16427, Sir P. Nichols, The Hague, to Grey, 18 November 1948. 58 FO 371, 69684, F 15363, Grey to British diplomatic representatives in SEA (signed by Lloyd), n.d. probably beginning of November 1948. 59 FO 371, 69684, F 16872, MacDonald to FO, tel. 1204, 27 November 1948.

11 EN TER T H E DRAGON: SOUTH-EAST ASIA AND TH E CHINESE CIVIL WAR 1 See P. Lowe, T h e O rig in s o f the K orean War, London, 1986, pp.98104. 2 On the Chinese civil war see S. Pepper, C ivil W ar in C hina, Berkeley 1978. 3 CAB 129/31, CP (48) 299, annex titled ‘China’, 9 December 1948. 4 ibid. Britain recognised com m unist China in January 1950. On Anglo-American differences in 1949 over recognition see Lowe, O rigin s, pp. 104-13 5 CAB 129/31, CP (48) 299, annex titled ‘China’, 9 December 1948. 6 CAB 128/13, CM (48) 80th meeting, 13 December 1948. 7 FO 371,69684, F 17499, MacDonald to FO, tel. 1252,10 December 1948. 8 FO 371, 69684, F 17532, MacDonald to FO, tel. 1253, 11 December 1948. 9 FO 371, 69684, F 17833, Bangkok to FO, tel.836, 14 December 1948. 10 FO 371, 69684, F 17499, minute by Palliser, 15 December 1948. 11 FO 371, 69684, F 17833, minute by Palliser, 17 December 1948. 12 FO 371, 69684, F 17499, minute by Palliser, 15 December 1948. 13 FO 371, 69684, F 17971, Bangkok to FO, tel.845, 18 December 1948. 14 FO 371, 69684, F 17833, memo by Grey, 22 December 1948. 15 F oreign R ela tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S ), 1949, Vol.9, p.2, Franks to Lovett, 893.00/1-549. 16 See FO 371, 75961, F 3519, memo titled ‘Indo-China, March 1949. 17 For two accounts of D ening’s talks see FO 371, 76002, F 623, memo on D ening’s visit to Paris, and ibid., translation of a French memo titled ‘Franco-British Conversation on the Situation in South-East Asia Held on 21st December 1948 in the Quai d’Orsay’. 18 FO 371, 75735, F 4244, a id e-m em o ire dated 29 December 1949. 19 See FO 800/465, meetings between Bevin and Schuman at the FO, 14 January 1949, file pages 156-9. 20 ibid. 21 Reference to im proving intelligence cooperation in FO 371, 76002, F 4401, meeting at the FO on 14 March 1949 between Dening and Baron Bayens.



22 See FO 371, 75740, F 2277, translation of an aid e-m em o ire by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 February 1949. 23 FO 371, 76031, F 3010, MacDonald to Dening, 3 February 1949. 24 FO 371, 76031, D ening to MacDonald, 24 February 1949. 25 On the impact of the event on American thinking see R. J. McMahon, C olon ialism an d C old W ar - the U n ited States and the S tru ggle fo r In do n esia n In d ep en d en ce, 1945-49, Ithaca and London, 1981, p.244. 26 J. Pluvier, S ou th -E ast A sia fro m C olo n ia lism to In depen den ce,

Kuala Lumpur, 1974, pp.485-6. 27 T .T . Thien, In d ia an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963, p.99. 28 A.M. Taylor, In d o n esia n In d ep en d en ce an d the U n ited N a tio n s, London, 1960, p. 173, note 13. 29 FO 371, 69797, F 11859, minutes by R.C. Mackworth-Young, 29 December 1948, and Grey, 31 December 1948. 30 FO 371, 69788, F 18538, FO to The Hague, tel.6, 1 January 1949. 31 FO 371, 69788, F 18538, Foreign Office minute, January 1949. 32 FO 371, 76031, F 5016, D ening to MacDonald, 13 April 1949.

12 REGIONAL COOPERATION AND REGIONAL CONTAINM ENT 1 The conference was attended by delegates from Afghanistan, Aus­ tralia, Burma, Ceylon, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi-Arabia, Syria and Yemen. Thailand and New Zealand sent observers. 2 T .T . T hien, In d ia an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963, p p.99-102. 3 FO 371, 76031, F 2879, CRO to UK H igh Commissioner in India, tel.600, 21 February 1949. 4 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, UKHC in India to CRO, tel.220, 5 February 1949. 5 ibid. 6 A. Bullock, E rnest B evin - F oreign Secretary 1945-51, Oxford, 1985 (paperback), p .631. 7 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, UKHC in India to CRO, tel.220, 5 February 1949. 8 FO 371, 76031, F 2879, CRO to UKHC, India, tel.600, 21 February 1949. 9 O 371, 76031, F 5016, MacDonald, Singapore, to Dening, 15 March 1949. 10 FO 371, 75744, F 3729, CRO to UKHCs in India, Pakistan and Ceylon, tel.Y 69, 2 March 1949. 11 ibid. 12 CAB 129/32, CP (49) 39, memo by Foreign Secretary, 4 March 1949. 13 CAB 128/5, CM (49) 18th meeting, 8 March 1949. 14 FO 371, 75745, F 3790, memo enclosed in letter from Stevenson, Nanking, to Bevin, 4 March 1949.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

15 FO 371, 75745, F 3790, Stevenson, Nanking, to Bevin, 4 March 1949. 16 FO 371, 76023, F 4486, D ening to Syers, 18 March 1949. 17 FO 371, 76033, F 4545/ MacDonald, Singapore, to Bevin, 23 March 1949. 18 On the Japanese question during the D ening mission see R. Buckley, O ccu p a tio n D ip lo m a cy - B ritain , the U n ited States and Japan 19451952, Cambridge, 1982, p. 164.

19 FO 371, 69926, F 7716, W ashington to FO, tel.2541, 29 May 1948; and F oreign R ela tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S ), 1948, Vol.6, memo of conversation by Lovett, 27 May 1948, 740.0011 PW (peace)/5-274. 20 R. Edmonds, S e ttin g the M o u ld - the U n ited States an d B ritain, 1945-1950, Oxford, 1986, p. 143. 21 For an analysis of American intentions behind ‘Point Four’ see A.J. Rotter, T h e P ath to V ietn am - O rig in s o f the A m erican C o m m itm e n t to S ou th east A sia, Ithaca, 1987, pp. 18-19. 22 FO 371, 76003, F 1308, FO to Bangkok, tel.28, 14 January 1949. 23 FO 371, 76003, F 2415, Graves, Washington, to Scarlett, 7 February 1949. 24 FO 371, 76003, F 2415, D ening to Graves, W ashington, 14 February 1949. 25 FO 371, 76003, F 3215, Graves, Washington, to Dening, 21 February 1949. 26 F oreign R e la tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S), 1949, Vol.7, p. 1118, memo of conversation by Reed, W ashington 23 February 1949, 890.00B/2-2349. 27 FO 371, 75743, F 3288, Graves to Scarlett, 25 February 1949. 28 FO 371 76003, F 3271, minute by Graves, 23 February 1949. 29 A.J. Rotter, ‘T he Triangular Route to Vietnam: The United States, Great Britain, and Southeast Asia, 1945-1950’, in In tern ation al H isto ry R e v ie w , Vol.6, No.3, August 1984, pp.404-5; and G.R. Hess, T h e U n ited S ta tes’ E m ergence as a S ou th east A sian P ow er, 19401950, New York, 1987, p.334. For Rotter’s theory that the United

30 31 32 33 34 35

36 37

States became involved in South-East Asia in order to safeguard the econom ic recovery of Western Europe and Japan see also his detailed book, T h e P a th to V ietnam . National Archives, W ashington, PSA, Box 5, file; SEA US policy in 1949, memo by Ogburn, 17 January 1949. F R U S , 1949, Vol.7, pp. 1117-18, Stuart to Secretary of State, Nanking, 15 February 1949, 890.00B/2-1549: telegram. FO 371, 76050, F 5095, memo by Stuart, n.d. F R U S, 1949, Vol.7, pp. 1128-32, Policy Planning Staff paper on United States policy towards South-East Asia, PPS 51, 29 March 1949 FO 371, 76023,F 3507, Scarlett to Franks, 23 March 1949 FO 371, 76023,F 4487, brief dated 23 March 1949; Also F R U S, 1949, Vol.7, pp. 1135-7, 890.00/4-2249, memo left by Bevin, dated 2 April 1949. FO 371, 76023,F 4486, D ening to Syers, 18 March 1949. FO 371, 76023,F 4487, minute by D ening to Secretary of State, 23 March 1949.



38 FO 371, 76023, F 5743, Graves to Dening, 16 April 1949. 39 F R U S, 1949, Vol.7, p p .l 138-41, memo of conversation, by Mr Jacob D. Beam, Acting Special Assistant in the Office of German and Austrian Affairs, subject: talk with Mr Bevin about the Middle East and South-East Asia, on 2 April 1949, 890.00/4-449; and ibid., p p .l 135-7, memo left by Bevin, dated 2 April 1949, 890.00/4-249. 40 FO 371, 76023, F 5743, Graves to Dening, 16 April 1949. 41 FO 371, 75747, F 4595, memo enclosed in a letter from the State Department, 15 March 1949. 42 FO 371, 75747, F 4595, Graves, W ashington, to Bevin, 22 March 1949. 43 FO 371, 75747, F 4595, minute by Hibbert, 27 March 1949. 44 FO 371, 75747, F 4595, minute by R.H.Scott, 29 April 1949. 45 G.R. Hess, T h e U n ite d S ta tes’ E m ergence, p.314. 46 FO 371, 75961, F 3620, memo titled Trench Indo-China’, 24 March 1949. 47 Hess, T h e U n ite d S tates’ E m ergence, p.324. 48 C.M. Turnbull, ‘Britain and Vietnam, 1948-1955’, in W ar & Society, Vol.6, No.2, September 1988, p. 110, referring to Nehru’s line on Indochina in June 1949. 49 FO 371, 76034, F 8338, m inutes of a meeting at the Foreign Office on 24 May 1949. Bevin, D ening and MacDonald discussed the whole issue in London on 19 May. N o account of the m eeting between Bevin and MacDonald was found apart from a minute by Dening, 19 May 1949, in FO 371, 76009, F 7516.

13 T H E FINAL STAGES OF REGIONAL PLANNING 1 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, UK H igh Commissioner in India to CRO, tel.X 580, 24 March 1949; and ibid., UKHC in New Zealand to CRO, tel. 129, 28 March 1949. 2 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, D ening to Strang, 29 March 1949; also ibid., m inute by Dening, 4 April 1949. 3 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, D ening to Strang, 29 March 1949; also ibid., m inute by Dening, 4 April 1949. 4 FO 371, 76375, W 4092, Foreign Office intel.249, 9 June 1949, ‘A Pacific Pact’. 5 F oreign R ela tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S), 1949, Vol.7, pp. 11235, charge in the Philippines (Locket) to the Secretary of State, No.319, Manila, 21 March 1949, 890.20/3-2149; and ibid., p. 1125, Lockett to S.of S., confidential, Manila, 22 March 1949, 840.20/3-2249. 6 See C.M. Dobbs, ‘T he Pact That Never Was: The Pacific Pact of 1949’, in Jou rn al o f N o rth ea st A sian S tu dies, Vol.3, No.4, Winter 1984, pp.29-42. 7 CAB 131/6, DO (48) 70, 7 October 1948, ‘Malaya: Possibility of Australian Assistance’, annex II, tel.629 from UKHC in Australia, 28 September 1948. 8 DEFE 4/17, COS (48) 150th meeting, 22 October 1948. 9 CAB 131/5, DO (48) 22nd meeting, 24 November 1948, and CAB 131/


Britain and Regional Cooperation

6, DO (48) 79, ‘Australian Defence Co-operation’, report by the COS, 18 November 1948. 10 See A. Watt, T h e E v o lu tio n o f A u stralian F oreign P o licy, 1938-1965, Cambridge, 1967, pp. 164-5. Unfortunately, the relevant documents in the British archives are still classified. One reason for the secrecy surrounding the planning agreement at the time seems to have been L ondon’s anxiety that it m ight be interpreted as a weakening of Britain’s position in South-East Asia. I I P . Darby, B ritish D efence P o licy East o f Suez, 1947-1968, London, 1973, p.29. 12 F oreign R ela tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S), 1949, Vol.7, pp. 11334, the ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State, No.540, London, 29 March 1949, 890.20/3-2949. 13 FO 371, 76031, F 5864, MacDonald, Singapore, to Strang, 3 April 1949. 14 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, D ening to Syers, 4 April 1949. 15 See A.I. Singh, ‘Keeping India in the Commonwealth: British Political and Military Aims, 1947-49’, in Journal o f C on tem porary H isto ry, Vol.20, No.3, July 1985, pp.469-81. 16 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, D ening to Strang, 29 March 1949; also ibid., m inute by D ening 4 April 1949. 17 FO 371, 76031, F 2191, D ening to Syers, 4 April 1949. 18 FO 371, 76031, F 8035, memo by Dening, 14 April 1949. 19 FO 371, 76031, F 5863, FO memo titled ‘South Asia’, 14 April 1949. 20 FO 371, 76031, F 5863, minute for the Prime Minister, 21 April 1949, signed by Bevin. 21 FO 371, 76032, F 8039, Garner to Dening, 22 April 1949. 22 FO 371, 76032, F 8039, Garner to D ening 25 April 1949. 23 FO 371, 76031, F 8037, Paskin to Dening, 22 April 1949. 24 See Singh, ‘Keeping India in the Comm onwealth’, p.478. Singh argues that Britain decided to keep India in the Commonwealth because it expected the prestige of a united Commonwealth to outw eigh the disadvantages of the Indian Republic in the group. She also hoped the Commonwealth w ould be able to influence in its favour Indian foreign and defence policies. 25 FO 371, 76031, F 5863, minute by Lloyd, 9 May 1949. 26 See FO 371, 75669, F 2998, memo by Dening, 23 February 1949; and FO 371, 75688, F 3971, summary of m ission to Pakistan and India by A.G. Bottomley in February and March 1949. 27 FO 371, 75697, F 6105, FO to Rangoon, tel.397, 28 April 1949. 28 J.F. Cady, A H isto ry o f M odern B urm a, Ithaca, 1958, p.598. 29 FO 371, 76034, F 6670, G H Q Far East Land Forces to Ministry of Defence, SEACOS 900, 5 May 1949. 30 FO 371, 76031, F 8036, draft brief for the Foreign Secretary for use in discussion with Mr MacDonald, checked by Dening and Scott on 16 May 1949. 31 FO 371, 76034, F 8338, m inutes of a meeting at the Foreign Office on 24 May 1949. Bevin, D ening and MacDonald discussed the whole issue in London on 19 May. N o account of the m eeting between



33 34 35 36 37


Bevin and MacDonald was found apart from a minute by Dening, 19 May 1949, in FO 371, 76009, F 7516. CAB 134/287, FE (O) (49) 23, report of the Working Party on Food Supplies and Comm unism , ‘Food Supplies and Communism in the Far East’, Gen.271/14. CAB 134/ 286, FE (O) (49) 5th meeting, 12 May 1949. CAB 134/287, FE (O) (49) 43, 20 July 1949, preliminary report of the Econom ic Survey W orking Party. CAB 134/286, FE (O) (49) 9th meeting, 27 July 1949. FO 371, 76030, F 17397, PUSC (32), ‘T he United Kingdom in SouthEast Asia and the Far East’, Foreign Office, 28 July 1949. FO 371, 76030, F 17397, PUSC (53), Foreign Office, 20 August 1949.

14 T O COLOM BO AND BEYOND 1 FO 371, 76375, W 4092, Foreign Office intel.249, 9 June 1949, ‘A Pacific Pact’. 2 ibid. 3 FO 371, 76375, W 3159, UK H igh Commissioner to CRO, tel.205, 19 May 1949. 4 FO 371, 76375, W 3160, Bevin (Council of Foreign Ministers, Paris) to FO, tel.36, 24 May 1949. 5 FO 371, 76375, W 3161, Attlee to Fraser, CRO, tel.274, 27 May 1949. 6 FO 371, 76375, W 4092, Foreign Office intel.249, 9 June 1949, ‘A Pacific Pact’. 7 FO 371, 76375, W 4092, memo by Furlonge, 15 July 1949. London even tried to keep the planners’ visit secret, apparently trying to avoid any ‘deleterious affects’ on the situation in Malaya which m ight arise out of suggestions that the Australians were taking over Britain’s responsibility for defence planning in the area. 8 FO 371, 76383, W 4528, memo recording talks with Kennan in July 1949. 9 FO 371, 76024, F 13085, MacDonald to Dening, 23 August 1949. 10 FO 371, 76024, F 13085, FO to Singapore, tel.1043, 29 August 1949. 11 FO 371, 76032, F 14256, D ening to MacDonald, 1 October 1949. 12 All quotes taken from F oreign R ela tio n s of the U n ited States (F R U S), 1949, Vol.7, pp. 1197-1204, memo of conversation at the State Department by Butterworth, 12 September 1949, 890.20/9-1249. Account also based on FO 371, 76032, F 14256, record of conversation between D ening and Butterworth, 12 September 1949, pp. 14-18. 13 FO 371, 76024, F 15775, minute by Dening , 12 September 1949. 14 FO 371, 76032, F 14114, record of a meeting at the State Department, 13 September 1949. 15 FO 371, 76024, F 14149, D ening to Strang, 15 September 1949. 16 FO 371, 76024, F 14438, record of a m eeting at the State Department on 17 September 1949. 17 FO 371, 76032, F 14256, D ening to MacDonald, 1 October 1949.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

18 DO 35 / 2773, memo titled ‘Commonwealth Meeting on Foreign Affairs - January 1950’. 19 CAB 128/16, CM (49) 62nd, 27 October 1949. 20 FO 371, 75705, F 17415, MacDonald to FO, tel.928, 6 November 1949. 21 FO 371, 76025, F 17668, 16 November 1949. 22 FO 371, 76025, F 17668, minute by Lloyd, 24 November 1949. 23 FO 371, 76025, F 17668, minute by R.H. Scott, 24 November 1949. 24 AB 134/223, EPC(49)152, 1 December 1949. 25 CAB 134/220, EPC(49) 51st meeting, 13 December 1949. 26 CAB 134/669, SAC (49) 15 (Revise), 28 January 1949, South-East Asia, general: brief for the United Kingdom delegation to the Colom bo Conference, January 1950. 27 CAB 129/38, CP (50) 18, 22 February 1950, ‘The Colombo Confer­ ence’. 28 CAB 133/78, FFM (50) 2nd meeting, 9 January 1950. 29 CAB 133/78, FFM (50) 4th meeting, 10 January 1950. 30 CAB 129/38, CP (50) 18, 22 February 1950. 31 CAB 133/78, FFM (50) 4, 11 January 1950. 32 A. Watt, T h e E vo lu tio n o f A u stralian F oreign P olicy 1938-1965, Cambridge, 1967, pp. 106-9. 33 CAB 129/38, CP (50) 18, 22 February 1950. 34 CAB 133/78, FMM (50) 6, 12 January 1950. 35 CAB 133/78, FFM (50) 8th meeting, 12 January 1950. 36 CAB 133/78, FFM (50) 11th meeting, 14 January 1950, Annex A. 37 Colom bo Plan Consultative Committee, T h e C o lo m b o Plan: F ourth M eetin g at K arachi; R e p o rt o f the C on su lta tive C o m m itte e on eco n o m ic D e v e lo p m e n t in S o u th an d Sou th -E ast A sia, Colombo,

1952, p. 10. 38 R. Ovendale, ‘Britain, the United States, and the Cold War in SouthEast Asia, 1949-1950’, in In tern a tio n a l Affairs, Vol.58, No.3, Summer 1982, p.460. 39 A. Short, T h e O rig in s o f the V ietn am War, London 1989, pp. 79-81. 40 F oreign R e la tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S), 1950, Vol. VI, p.51, record of conversation between Jessup and British Foreign Office representatives, 11 March 1950. 41 CAB 129/48, C. (51) 51, cabinet memo on the Colombo Plan, 20 December 1951. 42 F oreign R e la tio n s o f the U n ited States (F R U S), 1950, Vol. VI, pp. 1601, Secretary of State to the embassy in London, 22 November 1950. 43 Colom bo Plan Bureau, T h e C o lo m b o Plan - Basic In fo rm a tio n , Colombo, 1962, pp.31-2. 44 L.P. Singh, T h e P o litic s o f E co n o m ic co o p era tio n in A sia, Col­ umbia, Missouri 1966, pp.l70ff. 45 Colom bo Plan Bureau, T h e C o lo m b o Plan , p.4.


P R IM A R Y M A T E R IA L U npublished Official documents (a) Documents held at the Public Record Office, Kew, London,: FO 371, 800: Foreign Office Documents. CO 273, 537, 968: C olonial Office Documents. CAB 21, 65, 66, 78, 79, 81, 87, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134: cabinet meetings, memoranda, committees and m iscellaneous papers. DO 35: D om inions Office Documents. DEFE 4, 5: Chiefs of Staff Documents. WO 203: War Office Documents. PREM 8: Prime Minister’s Documents. (b) Documents held at the India Office Library and Records, London: IO 142: India Office Papers. L /P+S/12: India Office Papers. (c) Documents held at the N ational Archives, Washington: Selected State Department Papers. (d) Documents held at the British Library of Political and Economic Science, Depository, Egham: Selected United Nations Documents.

Private Papers (a) Killearn Diaries, Private Papers Collection, Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford. (b) Malcolm MacDonald Papers, Durham University. (c) Mountbatten Papers, Southampton University.


Britain and Regional Cooperation

Published Official documents Appadorai, A., ed., Select D o cu m en ts on In d ia ’s F oreign P olicy and R elation s, 1947-1972, Vol. I, Delhi, 1982. Butler, Rohan, and Pelly, M.E., eds, D o cu m en ts on B ritish P olicy O verseas, Series I, Vol. I, 1945: T h e C onference at P o tsd a m J u ly A u g u st 1945, London, 1984. Colom bo Consultative Committee, T h e C o lo m b o Plan, London, 1950. Colom bo Plan Bureau, T h e C o lo m b o Plan - B asic In form a tio n , Col­ ombo, 1962. Colom bo Plan Consultative Committee, T h e C o lo m b o Plan: F ourth M eetin g at K arachi, R e p o rt o f the C o n su lta tive C o m m ittee on E con ­ o m ic D evelo p m en t in S o u th an d S ou th -E ast A sia, Colombo, 1952.

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), US State Department, W ashington, 1967-80. Hansard, P arliam en tary D ebates, House of Commons, London, 1943-9. Mansergh, N., ed., D o cu m e n ts an d Speeches on B ritish C o m m o n w ea lth A ffairs, 1931-1952, Vol. 2, London, 1953. Mansergh, N., In d ia - the T ransfer o f P ow er, 1942-47, London, 1970— 83. Porter, A.N., and Stockwell, A.J., eds, B ritish Im peria l P olicy and D eco lo n isa tio n , 1938-64, Vols. 1 and 2, London, 1987 and 1989. Tinker, H., B u rm a - the S tru ggle fo r In depen den ce, London, 1983-4.

Diaries, memoirs Cooper, D., O ld M en F orget, London, 1954. Ziegler, P., ed., P ersonal D iary o f A d m ira l the L o rd L o u is M o u n tb a tten , 1943-1946, London, 1988.

LATER WORKS Articles and chapters Aldrich, R., ‘Imperial Rivalry: British and American Intelligence in Asia, 1942-46’, in In telligen ce an d N a tio n a l Security, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 1988. Brands, H.W., ‘India and Pakistan in American Strategic Planning, 1947-54: T he Comm onwealth as Collaborator’, in Journal o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w e a lth H isto ry, Vol. 15, No. 1, October 1986. Darwin, J., ‘British D ecolonisation since 1945: A Pattern or a Puzzle?’, in Jou rnal o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w ea lth H isto ry, Vol. 12, No. 2, January 1984. Dobbs, C. M., ‘The Pact That Never Was: T he Pacific Pact of 1949’, in Journal o f N o rth ea st A sian S tu dies, Vol. 3, No. 4, Winter 1984.



Edwards, P.G., ‘On Assessing H.V. Evatt’, in H isto rica l S tu d ies (Aus­ tralia), Vol. 21, No. 83, October 1981. Fieldhouse, D.K., ‘The Labour Governments and the Empire-Commonwealth, 1945-51’, in R. Ovendale ed., T h e F oreign P olicy o f the B ritish L a b o u r G o vern m en ts, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984. Gorst, A., ‘Facing Facts? T he Labour Government and Defence Policy 1945-1950’, in N. Tiratsoo ed., T h e A ttlee Years, London, 1991. Griffiths, A.D., ‘Britain, the U n ited States an d French In d o ch in a 19461954’, unpublished thesis, University of Manchester, March 1984. Gupta, P.S., ‘Imperialism and the Labour Government’, in J. Winter ed., T h e W o rk in g Class in M odern B ritish H isto ry, Cambridge 1983. Hinds, A. E., ‘Sterling and Imperial Policy, 1945-1951’, in Journal o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w e a lth H isto ry , Vol. 15, No. 2, January 1987. H olland, R.F., ‘T he Imperial Factor in British Strategies from Attlee to M acm illan’, in Jou rn al o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w ea lth H isto ry, Vol. 12, No. 2, January 1984. Jeffrey, R., ‘India: Independence and the Rich Peasant’, in R. Jeffrey ed., A sia - the W in n in g o f In d ep en d en ce, London, 1987 (paperback). Kent, J., ‘Anglo-French C olonial Co-operation, 1939-49’, in Journal o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w e a lth H isto ry, Vol. 17, No. 1, October 1988. Kent, J., ‘Bevin’s Imperialism and the Idea of Euro-Africa, 1945-49’, in M. Dockrill and J.W. Young eds, B ritish F oreign P o licy, 1945-56, London, 1989. LaFeber, W., ‘Roosevelt, Churchill, and Indochina: 1942-45’, in T h e A m erican H isto rica l R e v iew , Vol. 80, No. 5, December 1975. McVey, R. T., ‘The Calcutta Conference and the Southeast Asian U prisings’, Cornell University paper, Ithaca 1958. Marr, D., ‘Vietnam: Harnessing the W hirlwind’, in R. Jeffrey ed., A sia the W in n in g o f In d ep en d en ce, London, 1987 (paperback). Marsot, A.-G., ‘T he Crucial Year: Indochina 1946’, in Journal of C o n tem p o ra ry H isto ry , Vol. 19, No. 2, 1984. Moore, R.J., ‘Mountbatten, India and the Comm onwealth’, in Journal o f C o m m o n w ea lth an d C o m p a ra tive P o litics, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 1981. Nish, I., ed., ‘The East Asian Crisis, 1945-1951, the Problem of China, Korea and Japan’, papers by R. Dingman, C. Hosoya and I. Nish, London School of Economics, 1982. N ish, I. ed., ‘1945 in South-East Asia’, parts 1 and 2, papers by L. Allen, J.A. Stowe, T. Smitabhindu, M. Shiraishi and I. Nish, London School of Economics, 1985. Olver, A.S.B., ‘The Special Comm ission in South-East Asia’, in P acific A ffairs, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 1948. R. Ovendale, ‘Britain, the U nited States, and the Cold War in South-East Asia, 1949-1950’, in In tern a tio n a l A ffairs, Vol. 58, No. 3, Summer 1982. Owen, N., ‘“Responsibility without Power” - the Attlee Governments and the end of British Rule in India’, in N. Tiratsoo ed., T h e A ttlee Years, London, 1991.


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Remme, T., ‘Britain, the 1947 Asian Relations Conference, and Regional Cooperation in South-East Asia’, in T. Gorst, L. Johnman and W.S. Lucas eds, P o stw a r B ritain , 1945-64, T h em es an d P erspec­ tives, London, 1989. Roberts, F.K., ‘Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary’, in R. Ovendale ed., T h e F oreign P o licy o f B ritish L a b o u r G o vern m en ts, 1945-51, Leices­ ter, 1984. Rotter, A.J., ‘T he Triangular Route to Vietnam: The United States, Great Britain, and Southeast Asia, 1945-1950’, in In tern ation al H isto ry R e vie w , Vol. 6, No. 3, August 1984. Sardesai, D.R., ‘Indian and Southeast Asia’, in B.R. Nanda ed., In dian F oreign P o licy - the N eh ru Years, Delhi, 1976. Sbrega, J.S. ‘“First Catch your Hare”: Anglo-American Perspectives on Indochina during the Second World War’, in Journal o f S ou th east A sian Stu dies, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 1983. Schaaf, C.H., ‘T he United Nations Econom ic Commission for Asia and the Far East’, in In tern a tio n a l O rg a n isa tio n , Vol. 7, No. 4, November 1953. Singh, A.I., ‘Keeping India in the Commonwealth: British Political and Military Aims, 1947-49’, in Jou rn al o f C o n tem p o ra ry H isto ry, Vol. 20, No. 3, July 1985. Singh, A.I., ‘Post-Imperial British Attitudes to India - the Military Aspect, 1947-51’, in R o u n d T able, No. 296, October 1985. Stockwell, A.J., ‘C olonial P lanning during World War II: The Case of Malaya’, in Jou rn al o f Im p eria l a n d C o m m o n w ea lth H isto ry, Vol. 2, No. 3, May 1974. Stockwell, A.J., ‘Insurgency and Decolonisation during the Malayan Emergency’, in Jou rn al o f C o m m o n w ea lth an d C o m p a ra tive P o litics, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 1987. Stockwell, A.J., ‘Counterinsurgency and Colonial Defence’, in T. Gorst, L. Johnm an and W.S. Lucas eds, P o stw a r B ritain , 1945-64, T h em es and P erspectives, London, 1989. Tarling, N., ‘Lord Mountbatten and the Return of Civil Government to Burma’, in Jou rn al o f Im p eria l an d C o m m o n w ea lth S tu dies, Vol. 11, No. 2, January 1983 . Tarling, N., ‘The United Kingdom and the Origins of the Colombo P lan’, in Jou rn al o f C o m m o n w ea lth an d C o m p a ra tive P o litics, Vol. 24, No. 1, March 1986. Tarling, N., “ ‘Some Rather Nebulous Capacity”: Lord Killearn’s Appointm ent in Southeast Asia’, in M odern A sian Studies, Vol. 20, Part 3, July 1986. Thom pson, V., ‘R egional Unity in Southern Asia’, in P acific Affairs, Vol. 21, No. 2, June 1948. Thorne, C., ‘Indochina and Anglo-American Relations, 1942-1945’, in P acific H isto rica l R e v iew , No. 45, 1976. T om linson, B.R., ‘Indo-British Relations in the Post-Colonial Era: The Sterling Balances Negotiations, 1947-49’, in Journal o f Im p eria l and C o m m o n w ea lth H isto ry, Vol. 13, No. 3, May 1985.



Tonnesson, S., ‘T he Longest Wars: Indochina 1945-75’, in Journal o f Peace R esearch, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1985. Torn, Y., ‘Who Set the Stage for the Cold War in Southeast Asia?’, in Y. Nagai and A. Iriye, T h e O rig in s o f the C old W ar in A sia, New York 1977. Turnbull, C.M., ‘Britain and Vietnam, 1948-1955’, in W ar & Society, Vol. 6, No. 2, September 1988. Watt, D.C., ‘Britain and the Cold War in the Far East, 1945-58’, in Y. Nagai and A. Iriye eds, T h e O rig in s o f the C old W ar in A sia, New York, 1977. Wood, R.J., ‘Econom ic Co-operation in Asia’, in A u stralian Q uarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2, June 1959. Yoshihiko, T., ‘T he Cominform and Southeast Asia’, in Y. Nagai and A. Iriye eds, T h e O rig in s o f the C old W ar in A sia, New York, 1977.

Books Ball, W.M., N a tio n a lism an d C o m m u n ism in E ast A sia, Melbourne, 1956. Brimmel, J.H ., C o m m u n ism in S ou th -E ast A sia, London, 1959. Buckley, R., O ccu p a tio n D ip lo m a cy - B ritain , the U n ited States and Japan , 1945-1952, Cambridge, 1982. Bullock, A., E rnest B evin - F oreign Secretary 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback). Butwell, R., S ou th ea st A sia T o d a y - an d T o m o rro w , New York, 1964. Butwell, R. and Vandenbosch, A., S ou th east A sia a m o n g the W orld P ow ers, Lexington, Kentucky, 1957. Cady, J.F., A H isto ry o f M odern B urm a, Ithaca, 1958 . Childs, D., B ritain sin ce 1945, 2nd edn, London, 1986. Colbert, E., S ou th ea st A sia in In tern a tio n a l P o litics 1941-1956, Ithaca, 1977. Corkran, H., P a ttern s o f In tern atio n a l C o o p era tio n in the C aribbean, 1942-1969, Dallas, 1970. Darby, P., B ritish D efence P o licy E ast o f Suez, 1947-1968, London, 1973. Darwin, J., B rita in an d D eco lo n isa tio n , Basingstoke, 1988 (paperback). Dennis, P., T ro u b led D ays o f Peace - M o u n tb a tten an d Sou th -E ast A sia C o m m a n d , 1945-46, Manchester, 1987. Devillers, P., P aris - S aigon - H a n o i, Paris, 1988. Dunn, P.M., T h e F irst V ietn am War, London, 1985. Edmonds, R., S e ttin g the M o u ld - the U n ited States and B ritain , 19451950, Oxford, 1986. Ehrman, J., G ran d S trategy, Vol. 6, London, 1956. Esterline, J.M.,and Esterline, M.H., H o w the D o m in o e s Fell - S ou th east A sia in P ersp ective, Lanham, 1986. Fifield, R.H ., T h e D ip lo m a cy o f S o u th east A sia: 1945-1958, New York, 1968. Frankel, J., B ritish F oreign P olicy, 1945-1973, L o n d o n , 1975.


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Gardner, R.N., S terlin g -D o lla r D ip lo m a cy in C urrent P erspective, new and expanded edn, New York, 1980. Hall, D.G.E., A H isto ry o f S ou th -E ast A sia, 4th edn, Basingstoke, 1981 (paperback). Harris, K., A ttlee, London, 1984 (paperback). Heimsath, C.H., and Mansingh, S., A D ip lo m a tic H isto ry o f M odern In dia, Calcutta, 1971. Hess, G.R., T h e U n ited S ta tes’ E m ergence as a S ou th east A sian P ow er, 1940-1950, New York, 1987. Kirby, S.W., T h e W ar ag a in st Japan , Vol. V, T h e Surrender o f Japan, London, 1969. Lawson, R.C., In tern a tio n a l R eg io n a l O rgan isation s, New York, 1962. Levi, W., Free In d ia in A sia, Minneapolis, 1952. Lewis, J., C h a n g in g D irectio n - B ritish M ilitary P la n n in g fo r P o stw a r S trategic D efence, 1942-1947, London, 1988. Louis, W.R., Im p eria lism at Bay, 1941-1945. T h e U n ited States and the D isso lu tio n o f th e B ritish E m p ire, Oxford, 1977. Louis, W.R., T h e B ritish E m p ire in the M id d le East, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback). Lowe, P., B ritain in the Far East: A Survey fro m 1819 to the Present, New York, 1981. Lowe, P., T h e O rig in s o f the K orean War, London, 1986. McLane, C.B., S o viet Strategies in S ou th east A sia - an E x p lo ra tio n o f E astern P o licy u n d er L e n in a n d Stalin, Princeton, 1966 . Maclear, M., T h e T en T h o u sa n d D ay War, V ietnam : 1945-1975, New York, 1981. McMahon, R.J., C o lo n ia lism an d C old W ar - the U n ited States an d the S tru ggle fo r In d o n esia n In depen den ce, 1945-49, Ithaca and London, 1981. Mansergh, N., S urvey o f B ritish C o m m o n w ea lth Affairs, 1939-1952, London, 1958 . Mills, L. A., S ou th ea st A sia, Minneapolis, 1964. Moore, R.J., E scape fro m E m p ire - the A ttlee G o vern m en t an d the In dian P ro b lem , Oxford, 1983. Morgan, K.O., L a b o u r in P o w er, 1945-1951, Oxford, 1985 (paperback). Mountbatten, Vice-Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, P ostSurrender T asks: R e p o rt to the C o m b in ed C hiefs o f Staff by the S u prem e A llied C o m m a n d er, S ou th -E ast A sia, 1943-1945, London,

1969. O ’Ballance, E., M alaya: T h e C o m m u n ist In su rgen t War, 1948-60, London, 1966 . O ’N eill, R., A u stralia in the K orean War, 1950-53, Vol. 1, Strategy and D ip lo m a cy, Canberra, 1981. Ovendale, R., T h e E n g lish -S p ea k in g A lliance, London, 1985. Pandey, B.N., S o u th an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1945-1979, London, 1980. Pepper, S., C ivil W ar in C h in a, Berkeley, 1978. Pluvier, J., Sou th -E ast A sia fro m C olo n ia lism to In depen den ce, Kuala Lumpur, 1974. Pritt, D.N., T h e L a b o u r G o vern m en t, 1945-51, London, 1963.



Rose, S., B ritain a n d S ou th -E ast A sia, London, 1962. Rosen, S.M., T h e C o m b in e d B oards o f the S econ d W orld War, New York, 1951. R othwell, V., B ritain an d the C old War, 1941-1947, London, 1982. Rotter, A.J., T h e P a th to V ietn am - O rig in s o f the A m erican C o m m it­ m en t to S ou th ea st A sia, Ithaca, 1987. Sardesai, D.R., In d ia n F oreign P o licy in C am bodia, L a o s an d V ietnam 1947-1964, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968. Scholl-Latour, P., D er T o d im R eisfeld - D reifiig Jahre K rieg in In doch in a, Stuttgart, 1979 (paperback). Schonberger, T., D er b ritisch e R iick zu g as S in g a p u r, 1945-1976, Zurich, 1981. Short, A., T h e C o m m u n ist In su rrection in M alaya, 1948-1960, London, 1975. Short, A., T h e O rig in s o f the V ietn am War, London, 1989. Silcock, T .H ., T h e C o m m o n w e a lth E co n o m y in S ou th east A sia, Durham, 1959. Singh, L.P., T h e P o litics o f E co n o m ic C o o pera tio n in A sia, Columbia, Missouri, 1966. Stockwell, A.J., B ritish P o licy a n d M alay P o litics d u rin g the M alayan U n ion E x p erim en t, 1945-1948, Kuala Lumpur, 1979. Strange, S., S terlin g an d B ritish P o licy, London, 1971. Strang, W., H o m e a n d A broad, London, 1956. Taylor, A.M., In d o n esia n In d ep en d en ce an d the U n ited N a tio n s, London, 1960. T hien, T .T ., In d ia an d S ou th -E ast A sia, 1947-1960, Geneva, 1963. Thorne, C., A llies o f a K in d - the U n ited States, B ritain and the W ar again st Japan , Oxford, 1978 (paperback). Tinker, H., T h e U n io n o f B urm a, 4th edn, London, 1967. Tonnesson, S., 1946: D eclen ch em en t de la G uerre dT n d o ch in e, Paris, 1987. Trager, F.N., M a rxism in S o u th ea st A sia, Stanford, 1959 . Varma, R., A u stralia an d S ou th east A sia - the C rystallisation o f a R e la tio n sh ip , New Delhi, 1974. Watt, A., T h e E vo lu tio n o f A u stralian F oreign P o licy, 1938-1965, Cambridge, 1967. W ightman, D., T o w a rd E co n o m ic C o o p era tio n in A sia - the U n ited N a tio n s E co n o m ic C o m m issio n fo r A sia an d the Far East, New Haven, 1963. Wyatt, D.K., T h a ila n d - a S h o rt H isto ry , New Haven, 1982 (paperback). Young, J.W., B ritain , France an d the U n ity o f E u rope, 1945-1951, Leicester, 1984. Ziegler, P., M o u n tb a tte n - the O fficial B io g ra p h y, London, 1986 (paperback).


Acheson, Dean, US Secretary of State 173, 179, 180, 185, 200, 203; on China 202; and Indochina 204 Afghanistan 5, 158, 193, 196, 212 Africa 11; colonial cooperation in 88, 89-90, 121-2, 140 aid plans see econom ic development; Marshall aid A li Khan, Liaqat, Pakistani Prime Minister 145, 161 Allen, Richard, Foreign Office 60, 61, 70-1, 91; and future of Special Comm ission 111—12, 113 Allied Land Forces in South-East Asia (ALFSEA) 77 Amery, Leo, India Office 19 anti-colonialism 94-5, 119, 165, 167; Asian Relations Conference and 98-9 Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) 29-30, 68-9 ANZAM Treaty (1948) 63, 184-5,

200 ANZUS Treaty (1951) 216 arms supplies: to Dutch in Indonesia 77, 91-4, 119, 120-6, 161; to France in Indochina 72, 76-7, 78, 79-81 Asian cooperation: against com m unism 178-9; India’s plans for 4, 165, 166, 183; see also colonial cooperation

Asian Relations Conference (1947) 4, 97-8, 99, 119, 212 Atlantic Charter (1941) 15 Atlantic Pact 170-1 Attlee, Clement, Prime Minister 9, 10, 11, 45, 49; and Burma 68; and Commonwealth 59, 144; and Indian independence 67, 80; on war in Indonesia 91 A ung San, Burmese leader 29-30, 68-9, 98, 99 Auriol, Vincent, French Prime Minister 181 Australia: at Delhi conference (1949) 165, 166; economic proposals for SE Asia 209; interests in SE Asia 20, 52, 58, 195, 198; regional ambitions 4, 63, 99-104; and SE Asia regional defence 53, 56-7, 58-60, 62-3, 183-4, 200-1; and South Seas regional com m ission 17, 59, 99; and Special Commission 114; support for Indonesia 104; ‘White Australia’ policy 104 Bao Dai Agreement, between France and Vietnam 159, 181-2, 204 Beel, Louis, Dutch Prime Minister 136-7 Belgium, on Indonesia 147

Index Bennett, J.C. Sterndale see Sterndale Bennett, J.C. Bentinck, Baron, Dutch Ambassador in London 123, 124, 125, 126 Berlin, Soviet blockade of 129 Bevin, Ernest, Foreign Secretary: African colonial cooperation 121-2; Anglo-French relations 75; and Cold War 54-5; at Colom bo conference 1, 207, 208; Comm onwealth Meeting (1946) 54, 57-60; Comm onwealth Meeting (1948) 143-5; and Dutch in Indonesia 93-4, 125-6, 147-8, 161; and Dutch proposals to combat com m unism 136-7; and European military alliance 120, 121; plans for Asian OEEC 140-3; and regional defence cooperation 53, 58, 60, 201; regional econom ic plans 58-60; and rice crisis 45-6, 47; role in policy on SE Asia 4-5, 23; and SEAC 35; supports expansion of cultural influence 87; visit to W ashington (1949) 178-80 Bridges, Sir Edward, Treasury minister 38 ‘British policy in South-East A sia’ (FO paper 1947) 83-6, 88 Brunei 193 Brussels Treaty (1948) 120, 122, 123, 125; and political cooperation in SE Asia 146, 147, 148 Buckley, Roger 22 Burma 13, 29, 69, 82, 193; and Comm onwealth cooperation 189, 197; com m unist threat to 152-3, 156; com m unist warfare in 1, 133, 136, 145; deteriorating situation in 156, 162, 170, 189; on French in Indochina 76, 156; Indian influence in 96, 157, 191; and Indonesia 124; nationalism in 13, 29-30, 68-9; rice production


1, 44, 47, 192; suspicion of regional cooperation 148, 149 Burma Office 75, 76 Burma White Paper (1945) 13, 29, 68 Burmah O il Company 13 Burton, J.W., Australian External Affairs 102 Butterworth, Walton, US State Department 172, 173, 174-5, 203 Cadogan, Alexander, Foreign Office 41 Calcutta Youth Conference 134, 135, 136 Cambodia see Indochina Canberra Agreement (1944) 59, 99 Caribbean Commission 17, 37, 62 Ceylon 23, 192, 196, 209; see also Colombo Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese nationalist leader 52, 151, 167 Chiefs of Staff: on Chinese com m unist threat 167-8, 178-9; defence plans 55-7, 59, 60 Chifley, J.B., Australian Prime Minister 59-60, 200 China 47, 193; Communist Party 136; com m unist victories in 1, 133, 137, 151-2, 167, 189-90; and ECAFE 105-6, 108, 109; interests in SE Asia 19, 52, 107, 140; opposes Indian ambitions 98; People’s Republic declared (1949) 205; role in regional cooperation plans 20, 41, 51-2; UK trade with 11, 151; US aid to 151, 164, 172; US policy towards 82, 174, 176, 202 Chinese: immigrant populations in SE Asia 14, 19, 52, 69; troops in Vietnam 71 Christophas, Kenneth, Foreign Office 115, 116; opposes colonial collaboration 126-7, 138, 143 Chumbot, Prince, of Thailand 156



Churchill, Winston, Prime Minister 15-16, 21 Clarac, M., French official in Vietnam 73 Clow, J.P. 114 coal trade 32-3, 49 Cochin-China 71, 72 Cold War 54-5, 129; and SE Asia defence policy 4, 55-7, 152, 170-1 Colom bo conference see Comm onwealth Conference (Colombo 1950) Colom bo Plan (1950-61): culm ination of FO policy 4, 215; econom ic aid 2, 213-15; lim itations of 215-16 colonial cooperation: AngloFrench 75, 77-8, 81, 88-90, 162; Bevin’s plans for 121-2; British resistance to 119, 121, 122, 123— 4, 126-8, 160, 188-9; to combat com m unism 136-40, 146-7; covert 140, 146; opposed by Comm onwealth 146, 154; would alienate Asian opinion 35, 77-8, 81, 94, 122-3, 138, 139; see also Asian cooperation C olonial Office: on Anglo-French cooperation in SE Asia 76, 88; on D ening’s econom ic cooperation proposals 187, 188; and MPU 13-14; opposition to Special Comm ission 36-7, 38, 39-40, 41-3; and proposed regional com m issions 18-21, 39-40, 60-2; proposes Governor-General for Malaya 14, 25-6; relations with Foreign Office 4, 26, 43; Special Comm ission merged with Governor-General’s office 112; views on regional cooperation 2, 42-3, 139; see also Foreign Office colonies see Indochina; Indonesia, an d individual countries Comm issioner-General’s Office

117-18; see also Special Commission (Singapore) Commonwealth: as basis for regional cooperation 143-9, 162, 196-7, 211; collaboration against com m unism 154, 158, 167; cooperation on Burma 189; defence plans 56-7; and sterling area 141-2 Commonwealth Conference (Canberra 1947) 103 Commonwealth Conference (Colombo 1950) 1-2, 148, 191, 197, 205, 207-11; diplomatic success of 213-14; see also Colombo Plan (1950-61) Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ m eeting (1949) 209 Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ m eeting (1950) 205 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference: (1946) 5, 53, 54, 56-63; (1948), and communist threat 143, 144-5; (1949) 185-7, 188-9 Commonwealth Relations Office 138-9, 187-8 communism: Commonwealth discussions on (1948) 144-5; as threat 4, 128, 178, 186-7, 196-7; threat to food supplies 1, 1923; uprisings in SE Asia 1, 129, 133-6, 207; in Viet Minh nationalism 74, 76, 93; see also China; Cold War; Soviet U nion Cooper, Sir Alfred Duff 77-8 Copland, Professor, Australian Minister in China 114 cultural influences in SE Asia 85, 87, 96 D ’Argenlieu, Admiral Thierry, H igh Commissioner in Indochina 72, 73, 74 Dedman, J.J., Australia Defence Minister 184 defence: excluded from proposed regional commissions 18, 62;

Index proposed Anglo-Indian defence council 19; of SE Asia 3, 53, 60, 195, 196-7, 198; see also Chiefs of Staff; regional defence D elhi Conference (1949) 165-7, 168, 175-6, 183, 212 Dening, Esler, Foreign Office: adviser to Mountbatten 23-4, 42; architect of regional policy 4, 23-5; on Australian regional plans 104; on Bevin’s plan for Asian OEEC 140; on British influence in SE Asia 86-7; on civilian successor to SEAC 33-5, 38-9, 43; and Dutch arms embargo 122-5; econom ic cooperation against com m unism 186-7, 205; influence on Special C om m ission’s role 40-1; need for Asian resistance to Soviet U nion 179; need for US econom ic aid 170, 202-4; on N ehru’s am bitions 183; regional cooperation 137-8, 146; regional cooperation against com m unism 163, 173— 4, 190-1, 202; on regional cooperation with French 74-5, 89, 90, 159; on supply of arms to French 79-80 ‘D ening M ission’ (1948) 172 D om inions Office 25; see also Comm onwealth Relations Office ‘dom ino theory’, propounded by MacDonald 190 Dorman-Smith, Reginald, Governor of Burma 68-9 Dunkirk Treaty (1947) 89, 121 Dutch East Indies see Indonesia; Netherlands East Asia, defined 5 ECAFE see Econom ic Comm ission for Asia and the Far East Econom ic Comm ission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE):


origins 105-8; terms of reference 108-10, 114-18, 119, 203; ineffectiveness 109, 139-40 Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) 105-6 econom ic cooperation: Asian OEEC proposed 140-3, 169-70; proposed by Dening 186-7; proposed in PUSC papers 196-9 econom ic development 32-3; as bulwark against communism 168-9, 199, 206-7; Colombo Plan 215-16; N anking Proposals 168-9, 177 econom ic functions: of regional com m ission 36-8; of Special Commission 39, 41, 42-3, 58 Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) see ECAFE Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 105, 106, 107 econom ic studies (Foreign Office), of effect of com m unist control 192-3 Eden, Anthony, Foreign Secretary 15, 22 Egypt, Killearn’s work in 47 Europe: Anglo-French relations in 75, 77-9, 89; collaboration against com m unism 170, 171; see also Western U nion an d individual countries Evatt, Dr H.V., Australian Foreign Minister 58-9, 62, 99-101, 102-4, 144 famine, threatened in SE Asia 1, 9, 32, 44-5 Far East 5-6, 22 Far Eastern Defence Coordination Committee, Singapore 190 food production, Special Com m ission’s responsibility for 49-50 Foreign Office: and Australian regional proposals 101-2,



103-4; and Bevin’s plan for Asian OEEC 140-3, 169-70; brief for Bevin’s visit to W ashington (1949) 178-9; and Comm onwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (1949) 185-6; econom ic studies of SE Asia 192-4; on India 70, 98; long-term policy of regional cooperation 2-4, 43, 211-13; and nationalism in SE Asia 63; Permanent Under-Secretary’s committee (PUSC) papers 186— 7, 194-9, 205; plans for nonBritish SE Asia 14-15, 83; and proposals for ECAFE 106-7; proposes regional conference 148-9; reaction to Delhi conference 167; regional cooperation to contain com m unism 4, 136-40; regional policies (1945) 2-3, 21-5; (1949) 191-2; (reassessment 1947) 82-8; relations with C olonial Office 4, 26, 43; and Special Com m ission 4, 39-40, 110-11, 113; supports D ening’s proposals for SEAC 34-5; supports m inisterial post in SE Asia 36, 37; views on colonial cooperation 75, 81, 88-9, 119-20, 126; see also Colonial Office; Special Comm ission France: and Bao Dai Agreement 159, 181-2; and British plans for regional cooperation 73-4, 81, 88-90, 159-60, 162; colonial policy condemned 75, 76, 77, 78-9; colonial rule in Indochina 14, 31-2, 71-3, 75-6; membership of ECAFE 108; Pan South-East Asian U nion plan 98-9; and proposed SE Asia com m issions 20, 61; suspicion of regional proposals 40, 41; suspicion of Special Comm ission 73; Western U nion and colonial

cooperation 127-8 Fraser, Peter, New Zealand Prime Minister 201 French Indochina see Indochina Galsworthy, A.N., Colonial Office 139 Gandhi, Mahatma 11 Gater, Sir George, Colonial Office 25-6; opposition to Special Commission 38, 39, 41-2 Gent, Sir Edward 25-6; Governor of Malayan U nion 70, 118 Germany 9, 129 Gollan, H.R., Australian H igh Commissioner in India 165, 166 Government of Burma Act (1935) 13 Gracey, Major General Douglas D., in Vietnam 31-2, 72-3 Graves, H.A., British Embassy in USA 173, 174-5, 180 Great Britain: anti-communist initiatives 136, 158-9; on com m unist threat in SE Asia 1, 152-5; defence expenditure 10, 111; and Delhi conference (1949) 166-7; development of policy in SE Asia 13-15, 20, 120, 212-16; dollar earnings 12, 141-3; econom ic cooperation proposals 187-8; economic weakness 10, 111, 141-2; influence in SE Asia 82-6, 88, 171-2, 191, 194; international commitments (1945) 9-11; leadership in South-East Asia 149-50, 171, 191, 194-9, 202; liberation of Vietnam 31-2, 71, 72-3; policy on SE Asian nationalism 29-31, 86, 88, 89, 91; pragmatic support for ECAFE 109-10; prewar trade with China 11, 151; provision of aid 193-4; relations with France in Europe 75, 77-9, 89; relations with France over

Index Indochina 72-5, 76-81, 88-90, 181-2; relations with India 77, 80; relations with Netherlands over Indonesia 41, 47, 90-4, 161; suspects Soviet control of com m unism in SE Asia 133-6; and US policy on colonialism 15-16; and US policy in SE Asia 177, 179-82; withdrawal from SE Asia 216; see also C olonial Office; Foreign Office Grey, Paul, Foreign Office: on Dutch arms embargo 120-1, 122-3, 124, 126, 128; on regional cooperation 146, 148; on Soviet influence in SE Asian com m unism 134-5 Griffin, R. Allen, US m ission 214 Guibaut, M., French consulgeneral Singapore 126, 127 Gwyer, Sir Maurice 19 H aiphong, bombardment of 75 H all, George, C olonial Secretary 26, 61-2 Hatta, Mohammmed, Indonesian leader 133, 160 Hibbert, R.A., Foreign Office 180 HMS A m e th y st 190 H o Chi Minh, Viet M inh leader 31, 71-2, 76, 182 Hone, General Ralph, Malayan P lanning U nit 13, 40 H ong Kong 11, 19, 20, 177, 192, 193 Hoyer-Millar, R.F., British Embassy in USA 206 IEFC see International Emergency Food Council India: anti-colonialism of 98-9, 165, 191; and Asian Relations conference (1947) 4, 97-8, 99, 119, 212; aspirations as regional leader 97-8, 186, 191, 212-13; and Australian regional proposals 100, 101; com m unism in 136; condem nation of Dutch in Indonesia 93, 98, 124, 161-2;


condemns French war in Indochina 76, 182; and ECAFE 105-6, 108, 109; economy 142, 206; importance in regional plans 19-20, 70-1, 199, 211; independence movement 11, 67-8; influence in Burma 157, 191; interests in SE Asia 52, 96-7; nationalism and regional alignm ents 4, 67-8, 70-1; neutrality against communism 185, 191, 196-7, 199, 216; and regional collaboration 191, 196-7, 203, 211; rice consum ption 1, 44, 47, 192; threat of Chinese communism to 153, 190; wants to become republic 185-6, 207; see also Nehru, Jawaharlal India Office 71 Indian Communist Party 134 Indian Congress Party 11, 67-8 Indochina 193; British liberation of 31-2, 72; British policy towards (1947) 83-4; com m unist threat in 152, 153, 159, 197; French colonial policy in 71-3, 75-6, 156, 181; French war against Viet Minh 1, 4, 76-81, 84; importance in regional cooperation 101, 102, 149, 198, 199; Japanese occupation 14-15; nationalism in 14, 31, 71; rice production 1, 44-5, 47, 73, 192; US policy on 175, 204, 214; see also France Indonesia 5, 27, 193; Australian influence in 104; British influence in 84-5, 91; com m unism in 133, 153; of critical importance in regional cooperation 51, 148-9, 164-5; independence 165; Linggadjati Agreement 90-1; nationalism in 14, 30-1, 93; and Renville Agreement (1948) 119; Republic declared 30; rice shortage in 44-5, 47; war with Dutch 90-4, 146-9, 160-1;



Western U nion attitude to 146-7; see also Netherlands intelligence cooperation 154, 159-60, 168 ‘International Aspects of C olonial Policy’ (CO paper 1944) 18-19, 20-1, 39-40 International Bank for Reconstruction and Developm ent 194, 205, 207, 210 International Emergency Food Council (IEFC) 48-9, 73, 87, 106 International Regulations Agreement on T in and Rubber

20 Iran, Soviet relations with 55 Japan: Foreign Office Civilian Planning U nit on 22-3; need for rice 44, 193; occupation of SE Asia 12, 14-15, 29, 32, 44; surrender of 3, 9, 10, 26, 27-9, 30; US policy towards 174, 206 Java 30, 90-1, 135, 161 Jayawardene, J.R., Ceylon Finance Minister 209 Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of Chiefs of Staff 135-6 Joint P lanning Staff (JPS) 56 Karen minority, in Burma 189 Kashmir, Indian-Pakistani conflict over 153, 183, 196 Kennan, George F., US Policy P lanning Staff 186, 201-2 Killearn, Lord: advocates regional cooperation 50-3; on Australian regional proposals 100-3; disillusionm ent of 115, 116-17; on Dutch war in Indonesia 92, 123; head of Special Comm ission 3, 4-5, 45, 47; press criticism of 47, 50, 111; proposals for ECAFE 106—7, 109-14; relations with French in Indochina 73-4, 77, 89; use of Liaison Officers’ Meetings 48-9

Kirkpatrick, I., Foreign Office 124 Korea 174, 214 Kuomintang nationalists, in China 151, 152, 207 Labour Party 9, 47; and Indian independence 11, 67-8 Laos see Indochina Latin America, and ECAFE 106 League of Nations 20 LeRoy, M., French Embassy official 74-5, 127 Liaison Officers’ Meetings (Singapore) 48-9, 116, 117, 118; anti-com m unist collaboration 139-40, 143; success of 52-3, 74, 106 Libya 54 Liesching, Sir Percivale 209 Linggadjati Agreement (1946) 90-1 Lokanathan, Dr P.S., ECAFE Secretary 115-16, 117 London Coal Committee 49 Louis, W illiam Roger: Im p eria lism at Bay 2; on Killearn 47 Lovett, Robert, US Secretary of State 172 MacArthur, General Douglas 30 MacDonald, Malcolm: AngloAmerican cooperation against com m unism 155-6, 170-1; at Colombo conference 207; on colonial cooperation in SE Asia 76, 127; CommissionerGeneral in SE Asia 117, 118; Commonwealth cooperation in SE Asia 148-9; ‘dom ino theory’ propounded by 190; and fate of Special Commission 106, 112-13; Governor-General of Singapore and Malaya 46, 70; on movement towards Asian cooperation 166; regional cooperation against com m unism 137-8, 139, 185; support for Killearn 52

Index McGregor, K. Ministry of Production 36-7 McIntosh, New Zealand External Affairs 102-3 MacLennan, I., Commonwealth Relations Office 140 MacMichael, Sir Harold 40, 46 McNeil, Hector, Foreign Office 81 McVey, Ruth T. 134 Makins, Sir Roger 209 Malaya: anti-British opposition 69-70; appointm ent of Governor-General for 25-6, 36, 38, 46; Australian troops in 184-5; British policy towards 85, 188, 197; com m unist threat to 152, 153, 155, 192, 193; Emergency 1, 4, 128-9, 133, 136; importance of 11, 12, 142-3, 193, 197; independence 199, 216; Indian interests in 96; plans for Malayan U nion 13-14, 69-70; press criticism of Special Comm ission 50; rice shortage 45, 47, 192; rubber trade with USA 1, 12, 142, 175 Malayan Planning U nit (MPU) 13-14 Manchuria, fall of 152 mandated territories (British) 18, 21 Mao Tse-tung 133, 151, 152, 205 Marshall Aid 204, 213; and Asian OEEC 141, 169, 172; for SE Asia 1-2, 141, 143, 157, 204 Martin, J.M., C olonial Office 139, 140 Massey, Claude, Australian trade commissioner 52, 62 Menzies, Robert, Australian Prime Minister 209 Middle East, Soviet ambitions in 54-5, 186-7 Minister of State, proposed for SE Asia 22, 24, 34 Ministry of Production 36-7, 43 Ministry of Supply 38, 42 Molotov, V.M., Soviet Foreign


Minister 54 Monteath, Sir David, India Office

101 Mountbatten, Lord Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma: advocates regional cooperation 50-1; and Burmese nationalism 29-30; Commander of SEAC 2, 13, 23, 24, 27-9; opposed to proposed Minister Resident 35, 40; supports Killearn’s report 52, 53; Viceroy of India 68 Moutet, Marios, French Overseas Minister 72 Moynehan, Foreign Office 78-9 Muslim League (India) 11, 68 N anking Proposals, aid plans 168-9, 177 Nathan, Lord 45, 49 ‘National Independence’ (US paper 1943) 16 nationalism: and anti­ colonialism 94-5, 165, 196; Australian policy towards 100, 103, 104; British policy towards 29-31, 63, 85, 86, 88, 89, 91; fostered by Japanese occupation 14, 29, 30; in South and SE Asia 3-4, 10, 30-2, 57, 67, 194; US policy on independence movements 15-16 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) (1949) 184 Nehru, Jawaharlal 11, 68; ambitions for India in SE Asia 96, 97-8, 165-6, 183; Asian conference in Delhi (1949) 162, 165-7, 168; at Colombo conference 208; Commonwealth regional collaboration 144-5; influence in Burma 157; opposition to colonial cooperation 188; proposes Asian regional organisation 166, 183; relations with France 76; and Russian expansion in SE Asia 161 Nepal 5, 153, 193



Netherlands: British arms embargo against 122-6, 128, 147-8; colonial rule in Indonesia 14, 30-1, 161-2, 165; membership of ECAFE 106, 108; Renville Agreement (1948) 119; role in regional cooperation plans 20, 51, 52, 61-2, 160, 162; and spread of com m unism in SE Asia 136; war with Indonesian Republic 91-4, 146-9, 160-1 New Zealand: and Delhi conference (1949) 166; interests in SE Asia 52, 195, 197, 198; opposition to Australian regional plans 102-3; and SE Asia regional defence 53, 56-7, 58-9, 184-5, 201; and South Seas regional com m ission 17 North Borneo 5, 20, 192, 193 NSC 48/2 (National Security Council paper) 214 NSC 51 (National Security Council paper) see PPS 51 N utrition Conference (1946) 49-50 Nye, Archibald, British H igh Commissioner in India 166, 190, 191 Ogburn, Charlton (Jr), US State Department 175-7 Onn bin Ja’afar, Dato 69 Organisation for European Econom ic Cooperation (OEEC) 140, 141 Pacific Pact on defence, proposed 184-5, 198, 200-1, 208 Pakistan 11, 68, 153, 193, 196 Palestine 10, 11 Palliser, A.M., Foreign Office 157 Paskin, J.J., C olonial Office 188, 191 Pethick-Lawrence, Lord, Secretary of State for India 67 P hilippines 5, 193, 197, 203, 212, 213; and ECAFE 108, 116; proposes SE Asia defence treaty

183-4; as ‘stalking horse’ 203, 204, 206; US policy in 171, 174 Pibul, Luang, Prime Minister of Thailand 15, 157 Poland, and proposed ECE 105 Portugal, colonial power 20 Post-Hostilities Planning Staff (PHP) 55-6 Potsdam Conference (1945) 27 Poynton, Hilton, Colonial Office 18 PPS 51 (US Policy Planning Staff paper) 177, 206, 214 Pridi Phanomyong, Prime Minister of Thailand 51 PUSC (Permanent Under­ secretary’s planning committee): D ening’s paper 186-7; policy paper (32) 194-5, 198-9; policy paper (53) 195-9, 206 PY TH O N repatriation scheme 29 Quirino, Elpidio, President of Philippines 184 Ranee, Brigadier Hubert, Governor of Burma 68, 69 Reed, Charles, US State Department 174-5 ‘Regional Co-operation in SouthEast Asia and the Far East’, (PUSC 1949) 195-9 regional commissions, proposed 16-17, 18, 39-40, 62 regional conference, proposed by FO (1948) 148-9 regional cooperation: against com m unism 136-40, 154-5, 162-3, 164, 169-70; (PUSC proposals) 196, 197, 198-9; differing views on 42-3, 119, 149-50; Killearn’s ideas for 50-3; Leighton Stuart’s plan for 176-7; need to involve US 158, 162, 194-5, 199, 207, 213-14; origins of policy 2-4; role of European powers in 4, 88-90, 98-9; see also Asian

Index cooperation; colonial cooperation; Commonwealth cooperation; regional defence regional defence: ‘containing ring’ 190-1; PH P proposals for 55-6; proposals (1949) 184-5,

200-1 R enville Agreement (1948) 119, 120 rice 20; com m unist threat to production 1, 153-4, 192-3; shortage of 3, 32, 44-5, 47-8, 50, 118; see also Special Comm ission Robinson, Kenneth, C olonial Office 18, 39-40 Roosevelt, Franklin D., US President 14-15, 27 Royal Navy 120-1 rubber trade 12, 20; exports to USA 1, 12, 142 SACSEA (Supreme Allied Commander SE Asia) see Mountbatten, Earl Saigon, re-occupation of 31-2 Sainteny, M. Jean 71-2 Sarawak 85, 193 Sargent, Sir Orme, Foreign Office 25, 79, 93-4, 125 Schuman, Robert, French Foreign Minister 147, 159, 204 Scott, A.L. 140-1 Scott, R.H ., Foreign Office 180-1 Scrivener, P.S., Killearn’s deputy 124, 135 SEAC see South-East Asia Command ‘Security of the British Empire’ PH P paper (1945) 55-6 self-help in SE Asia, US insistence on 2, 174, 179, 202, 203-4, 210 Senanayake, Don Stephen, Prime Minister of Ceylon 205 Shanghai, ECAFE m eeting in 114-15 Shepherd, F.M., consul-general Indonesia 121


shipping, in SE Asia 32-3, 48-9 Siam see Thailand Singapore 14, 92, 216; as centre for regional organisation 3, 4, 11,86, 118, 211; fall of (1942) 12, 13 Singh, Lalita Prasad 108, 215 Smith, F.W.H., Burma Office 75 South Africa 57 South Asia, defined 5 South Korea 193 South Pacific Commission (1947) 62; proposed 17, 59-60, 61—2 South-East Asia: British influence in 82-6, 88, 171-2, 191, 194; defined 5-6, 212; economy 12-13, 32-3, 48, 211; European colonies 5, 14, 15-16, 122; independent states in 18-19; international interference in 19, 40, 41; parochialism in 24, 39; political differences within 195-6, 198, 199; strategic importance of 52-3, 83, 96-7, 195, 212; view of communist threat 167, 173-4 South-East Asia Command (SEAC) 3, 24, 25, 27-9; as basis for regional organisation 2, 33-8; D ening’s proposals for 24-6, 33-6, 38-9; and econom ic crisis in SE Asia 32-3; and liberation of SE Asia 13, 29-32 South-East Asia Fisheries Conference (1947) 50 South-East Asia League (1947) 99 South-East Asia Social Welfare Conference (1947) 50 South-East Asia Statistical Conference (1948) 50 South-West Pacific Area Command (SWPA) 27 South-West Pacific regional com m ission proposed 62 Soviet Union: ambitions in Europe 54, 129, 186-7; in Middle East 54-5, 186-7; condemns Delhi conference 167, 183; interests in SE Asia



19, 52, 56, 107, 152-3, 178-9; member of ECAFE 108, 110, 116, 118; perceived as threat 54-7, 59, 133-6, 167, 196-7 Spaak, Henri, Belgian Foreign Minister 147 Special Com m ission (Singapore) 37-8, 49, 111, 112-14; as basis for regional cooperation 39, 58, 85-7, 88, 113, 126, 127-8, 164; econom ic functions 3, 39, 41, 42-3, 139; position challenged 102-3, 105, 106-7; relationship to ECAFE 109, 110, 113-16, 117-18; and rice crisis 45-6, 48-50; see also Liaison Officers’ Meetings Special Commissioner see Killearn, Lord Spender, Percy, Australian Foreign Minister 208, 209, 210 Stanley, Oliver, Colonial Secretary 16-18, 19-20, 21 Stanton, E.F., US ambassador in Bangkok 158 Stent, J.P., Foreign Office 70, 81; on ECAFE 106, 107-8, 110, 114 sterling area 141-3, 192 sterling convertibility (1947) 10, 142 Sterndale Bennett, J.C., Foreign Office 22-3, 24, 34-6, 37-8, 42 Stettinius, Edward, US Secretary of State 21 Stevenson, Ralph, Sir, UK ambas­ sador to China 168, 169, 177 Stikker, Dirk, Dutch Foreign Minister 146 ‘Stock-Taking Memorandum Far East’ (FO paper 1947) 82-3, 86, 87-8 Strang, Sir W illiam , Foreign Office 183 ‘Strategic Position of the Com m onwealth’ 56 Street, J.E.D., Foreign Office 81, 92, 120 Stuart, Leighton, US ambassador in China 176-7

Sukarno, Achmad, Indonesian leader 30, 160 Sumatra 90-1, 161 Thailand 2, 27, 46, 108; British interests in 15, 83, 85; com ­ m unist threat to 17, 152, 155, 156-7, 170; demand for aid 149, 156-7, 164, 173, 174; and regional cooperation plans 20, 51, 148, 149, 197; rice production 1, 15, 32, 44-5, 47, 192; US relations with 15, 156-7 Thom pson, Geoffrey Harrington, Sir, UK ambassador in Bangkok 156-7, 158 Tibet 5, 153, 193 trade 11, 12-13, 19, 177, 211; coal 32-3, 49; rubber 1, 12, 20, 142, 175; sterling area 141-2, 192; tin 19, 20 transport: problems of 32; shipping 32-3, 48-9 Truman, Harry S., US President 10, 172-3, 214 trusteeship, international 16, 17, 18, 21 Turkey 54-5 Turner, J.F. 142-3 U Nu, Burmese premier 69 United Kingdom see Great Britain ‘United Kingdom in South-East Asia and the Far East’, (PUSC 1949) 194-5 United Malay National Organisation (UM NO) 69 United Nations 4, 18; ECOSOC 105; Good Offices Committee 104, 122, 171; hostility to Special Commission 110-11, 114; and Indonesia 93, 122, 161; and mandated territories 21; Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) 105; and world food shortage 44, 118; see also Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE)

Index U nited States of America: aid to China 151, 164, 172, 180; change of attitude to SE Asia 175-7, 206, 214-15; econom ic aid to SE Asia 2, 141-2, 169-70, 204-5, 214-16; on French colonial policy in Indochina 15-16, 176, 204, 214; and future of European colonies 10, 15-17; influence in Far East 27, 82; interests in SE Asia 41, 43, 52, 148, 150, 175; membership of Colom bo Plan 215; and N anking Proposals 168, 169; need to involve US in SE Asia 158, 162, 194-5, 199, 207, 21314; policy on China 82, 174, 176, 202; Policy Planning Staff 177, 186; and proposal for ECE 105; relations with Thailand 15, 156-7; reluctance to support SE Asia 154, 155-8, 164, 171-5, 180, 190-1, 197; role in regional defence proposals 567, 185, 200-2; and self-help in SE Asia 2, 174, 179, 202, 203-4,


210; and war in Indonesia 93, 176 Viet Minh nationalist movement 1, 4, 31-2, 71-2, 74-6, 159 Vietnam: Bao Dai Agreement 159, 181-2, 204; declaration of Republic (DRV) 31, 71-2; see also Indochina ‘Voice of Britain’ broadcasting station 87 War Office, and D ening’s plans 25 Wavell, Field Marshal Lord, Viceroy of India 67 Western U nion 137, 138; and pressure for colonial cooperation 120-8, 146-7; see also Brussels Pact wheat, shortage (1946) 44 Whitteridge, Gordon, Foreign Office 120; on Indochina 78, 79, 89, 92 Wright, Michael, Killearn’s deputy 73-4, 89, 127-8 Yalta Conference (1945) 2, 21


Volume 3




First published in 1988 by Frank Cass and Company Limited This edition first published in 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 1988 Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-138-89258-3 (Set) eISBN: 978-1-315-69792-5 (Set) ISBN: 978-1-138-90132-2 (Volume 3) eISBN: 978-1-315-69783-3 (Volume 3) Publisher’s Note The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of this reprint but points out that some imperfections in the original copies may be apparent. Disclaimer The publisher has made every effort to trace copyright holders and would welcome correspondence from those they have been unable to trace.


Edited by



First published 1988 in Great Britain by FRANK CASS AND COMPANY LIMITED Gainsborough House, 11 Gainsborough Road, London E l l IRS, England and in the United States of America by FRANK CASS AND COMPANY LIMITED c/o Biblio Distribution Centre 81 Adams Drive, P.O. Box 327, Totowa, NJ 07511 Copyright €> 1988 Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication data Communism and reform in East Asia. 1. East & South-east Asia. Communist countries. Social reform I. Goodman, David S.G., 1948II. The Journal of communist studies 303.4*84 ISBN 0-7146-3340-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Communism and reform in East Asia. This group of studies first appeared in a special issue of the Journal of communist studies, vol. 3. Contents: Communism in East Asia / David S.G. Goodman — The reform process in the People’s Republic of China / Tony Saich — Reform, local political institutions and the village economy in China / Elisabeth J. Croll — [etc.] 1. Communism—East Asia. 2. East Asia—Politics and government 3. East Asia—Social conditions. I. Good­ man, David S. G. HX410.5A6C65 1988 335.43*095 88-5032 ISBN 0-7146-3340-2 This group of studies first appeared in a Special Issue on Communism and Reform in East Asia of The Journal of Communist Studies Vol. 3, No. 4 published by Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, with­ out the prior permission of Frank Cass and Company Limited.

Printed and bound by Adlard and Son Limited, Dorking, Surrey, and Letchworth, Hertfordshire

Contents Editorial Preface Abbreviations Communism in East Asia: The Production Imperative, Legitimacy and Reform The Reform Process in the People’s Republic of China Reform, Local Political Institutions and the Village Economy in China China: The New Inheritance Law and the Peasant Household North Korea: The End of the Beginning Ideology and the Legitimation Crisis in North Korea Vietnam: The Slow Road to Reform The Mongolian People’s Republic in the 1980s: Continuity and Change The Soviet Union and the Pacific Century China and the Asia-Pacific Region

vii viii David S.G. Goodman


Tony Saich


Elisabeth J. Croll


Delia Davin Aidan Foster-Carter

52 64

James Cotton Michael Williams

86 102

Judith Nordby Gerald Segal Michael B. Yahuda

113 132 148

Editorial Preface In May 1987 the Journal of Communist Studies held its annual conference at the East Asia Centre, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Appro­ priately the theme for the papers presented at that conference was ‘Communism in East Asia’, and this volume has resulted from that conference. Despite the fact that six of the world’s communist party states are concentrated in East Asia - China, North Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Kampuchea, and Laos - and that a seventh (the Soviet Union) is at least in some respects an East Asian power, those with an interest in communist studies still tend to regard it as a region on the periphery. One reason for that perspective may be the relative lack of literature on the subject. This volume cannot solve that problem but it can at least hope to take a step in the right direction. Many people were involved in the organization of the conference that led to this volume, as well as in the production of the book itself. The invaluable assistance of the staff of the East Asia Centre with the former, and of Professor Ronald Hill with the latter ought particularly to be acknowledged. In addition the East Asia Centre and the editorial board of The Journal of Communist Studies would like to thank The Nuffield Foundation for its generous support. D a vid S.G . G oodm an

East Asia Centre, University of Newcastle upon Tyne


Association of South East Asian Nations Communist Party of China Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea Committee for Mutual Economic Assistance [Comintern] Communist Party of the Soviet Union General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Mongolian People’s Republic Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party Newly Industrialized Country Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference People’s Republic of China People’s Republic of Kampuchea

Communism in East Asia: The Production Imperative, Legitimacy and Reform David S.G. Goodman

Western perceptions of communism in East Asia have changed dramatically during the last decade. Where once it was seen as a threat now the emphasis is on communism in reform. Moreover, because these communist party states are located at what is widely regarded as the centre of the ‘Pacific Century’, they have become economically as well as politically attractive within a relatively short period of time. The lure of China alone as an open market is a very seductive prospect for Western economies and businessmen. Equally, for the global strategists in the West, the possibility of isolating China and most of East Asia from Soviet influence appears attractive. The perceived Soviet need for a counter­ balance is undoubtedly one reason Gorbachev has sought to emphasize the USSR’s role in East Asia since his speech at Vladivostok in July 1986.1 There certainly does appear to be a reform process under way in the communist party states of East Asia. It can be said to have started in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the third plenum of the eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in December 1978. The CCP had tried for two years after the death of Mao Zedong to maintain the policies and structures of earlier years - a kind of ‘Maoism without Mao’. However, by mid-1978 it became clear that a more radical break with the past was necessary if economic modernization - one of the CCP’s orginal long-term goals in 1949 - were to be attained. Incremental­ ly, new policies have been introduced which, for example, have decentralized the administration of the economy, reformed the price structure in favour of the market, de-collectivized agriculture, ended the state administration’s monopoly in the economy, and severely restricted its role in new developments. In short, there has been a radical reform of the command economy. At the same time there have been political reforms explicitly intended to support the drive to modernization, the most important of which have been the establishment of a functioning legal system, the overhaul of local government, and the acceptance of a greater degree of pluralism within the political process. An essential part of the reform process has been a change in China’s attitude to the outside world. Whereas once Mao proclaimed ‘self-reliance’, now China turned to the industrialized world for new technology and expertise. In return, Western investment and



involvement in the Chinese economy have been encouraged. Moreover, China’s foreign policy has been adapted to support the reform era. The goals are now the creation of a peaceful and stable international environ­ ment, and China’s integration into the international economic and political order, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.2 Although reform has advanced furthest in the PRC, during the 1980s the other communist party states of East Asia have (to varying degrees) also begun to experiment. Even North Korea - the most orthodox of all, in terms of its adherence to a popular image of Stalinism - has started a programme of joint-venture economic enterprises with foreign investors. There is even some basis to the obvious argument that the reforms of the Gorbachev era to some extent follow China’s experience. Glasnost’ may have stolen the headlines in the USSR, but it is identical with Deng Xiaoping’s call for ‘socialist democracy’, and both are required in order to achieve economic modernization.3 There can be little doubt that economic factors have been a major stimulus to change throughout the communist party states of East Asia. In the 1970s the experience of the East Asian NICs (Newly Industrializing Countries) - South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore - acted as a positive example, and at the least demonstrated that the countries of the region could benefit from Japan’s technology. At the same time, the economies of the East Asian communist party states were faced by severe problems. For example, Vietnam was faced by the legacy of civil war and the intervention of the USA. In North Korea, the initial economic successes had run out of steam, and indeed inspiration. In China, by the late 1970s living standards - however they are measured - had clearly fallen compared to the mid-1950s. The cause of reform thus appears to be the production imperative: a recognition that continued economic modernization requires capitalist techniques, structures and technology, and also political liberalization. The communist party’s monopolization of power would appear to be efficient only in reaching fairly limited though none the less important goals: the achievement of government, national unity, and in most cases (Vietnam apart) economic recovery after war. However, its particular manifestation in the command economy seems to require modification by the market. From this production imperative there would appear to flow a whole series of reforms that have possible implications for the relationship between the West and communist party states, both organizationally and ideologically. The reforms, especially as presented in the Chinese pattern, entail more than ‘peacefiil co-existence’ between the communist party states of East Asia and the industrialized, capitalist nations. They entail the integration of the communist party states into the world economy. The reforms not only present potential markets to the West, they present potential allies as well. Arguments about the ‘failure of socialism’ and the ‘triumph of capitalism’ are well-rehearsed elsewhere, not least by those in the com­ munist party states of East Asia who are opposed to reform.4 However, it



is far from clear that the causes of reform are the same throughout the communist party states of East Asia, or that there is a single reform process under way, and in particular that the production imperative is as significant as is often suggested. These issues are important for under­ standing not only the development of individual countries, but also the dynamics of international relations, both within East Asia and on the wider stage. The extent of reform and the consequences are the concerns of the contributions to this volume. They demonstrate that, although the production imperative can be a stimulus to reform, it is neither a necessary nor even a sufficient condition. In individual countries the communist party’s search for legitimacy or its relationship with the USSR may equally be the spur to reform. Moreover, the production imperative may be a consequence of the communist party’s desire to reform rather than a cause. Overemphasis on the production imperative can impose a superficial pattern of uniform economic and political reform on the communist party states of East Asia. However, the causes of reform are neither so simple nor just economic. Reform may result from a number of factors - the production imperative, a change of leadership, a search for legitimacy, or a changing relationship with the USSR - which are not mutually exclusive and which can all exist, if to differing degrees, in each country. The Causes of Reform

As already indicated, the prospects of economic modernization are none the less an important reason for reform. The communist parties of East Asia had all come to power as nationalists committed to economic modernization. In some cases, for example North Korea and the PRC, up to a point the economic strategies they had initially adopted were suc­ cessful. However, by the late 1970s it was clear that such economic strategies, which owed much to the Soviet model - even where individuals such as Mao Zedong might seek to argue otherwise about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution5 - were not as successful as those being implemented elsewhere in East Asia. The problems faced by the communist party states of East Asia were on the whole not new, but rather the familiar systemic faults of the Soviet model already experienced in Eastern Europe and the USSR. These included an overemphasis on heavy industry, overcentralized and inef­ ficient planning, an inflexible price structure, and low productivity. Repeated attempts to adjust the command structure were frequently counter-productive. An example from the PRC is particularly instructive. In China after the mid-1950s most of the state administration’s responsibility for manage­ ment of the economy was decentralized to provincial level with the intention of increasing flexibility. (Although a level of non-central government, China’s provinces are far from small, each with an average



population of 40 million.) However, the consequence was that central government’s share of total budgetary revenue became less than that of the combined provincial authorities. Moreover, this was barely enough to cover central government expenditure let alone provide assistance to the poorer regions of the country through redistribution. Various adjust­ ments were introduced to these financial arrangements between centre and province before more far-reaching reforms were introduced. The last of these, which survived from 1974 to 1978, resulted in a process whereby in effect each province was encouraged to minimize revenue and maximize expenditure, and where overspending was rewarded.6 Although the production imperative may seem to present a good cause for reform, it is by no means self-evident. If it were, the question of the nature of reform communism in East Asia might very well not arise. The goal of economic modernization might not be regarded as so important an issue as to ignore any other priorities. For example, it is now widely accepted that during the last decade of Mao’s life (1966-76, the era of the Cultural Revolution in the PRC) the CCP emphasized redistribution and equality alongside economic modernization, even though the result was equal poverty.7 Again, however strong the production imperative might appear, a united leadership is unlikely to change the direction of policy. Such would clearly appear to be the case in North Korea. The evidence of near-constant personnel changes in the leadership of the Korean Workers’ Party should not mask the sociological phenomenon of a wellentrenched ruling class whose position would be threatened by a programme of reform. Such examples highlight the political conditions for reform. They also seem to emphasize the importance of changes in the leadership of the communist party (or equivalent) as a cause of reform. For example, in the PRC the reform era started in 1978 after the most comprehensive series of leadership changes since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution a decade earlier. Within 18 months of Mao’s death in September 1976, the leadership was once again dominated by those who had been in office on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, most of whom had had been removed in the interim. In both Vietnam and Mongolia, a slow road to reform has started with the removal of long-term leaders. The importance of leadership changes, in turn, indicates a further and perhaps more fundamental cause of reform. In a sense, leadership changes are a condition for reform; a more definite cause is the associated search for legitimacy. Almost by definition, politics in the communist party states of East Asia are not institutionalized. Indeed, as the Chinese case exemplifies fully, that is one goal of reform. There is a desire to institutionalize politics so that there is a predictable legal and political basis for economic activity. However, because politics have not been institutionalized it is difficult for a new leadership group to inherit automatically its predecessors’ mantle of authority. There is, in short, if not a succession crisis, then certainly a succession dilemma. This dilemma is illustrated sharply in the case of the PRC. The



third plenum of the eleventh Central Committee of the CCP marked not only the start of the reform era in the PRC, but also Deng Xiaoping’s ascendancy. However, Deng’s power and authority is inherently personal. He has not formally held the senior position in the CCP, although he has been a member of the Political Bureau’s five-man standing committee. Since 1977 he has been neither chairman of the CCP (a post later abolished), nor general secretary of the CCP, nor premier of die State Council. At die same time as he has criticized Mao Zedong and others for their personalization of power, emphasized the need for collective leadership, and led the drive to institutionalize politics, he has attained much by virtue of his own charismatic authority. In its search for legitimacy, it is then hardly surprising that a new leadership will turn to the production imperative, particularly in times of economic recession or falling living standards. Relatively quick economic success, such as has been achieved since 1978 in the PRC, can effectively buy legitimacy for the new leadership, its structures and policies. If in the process economic modernization can create a majority social constitu­ ency in support of the reforms, then a community of interests ensures the future of the new status quo. This requirement of legitimacy is one that East Asian communist party reformers have not been slow to appreciate. For example, Chen Yun - one of the key architects of the CCP’s reform programme - speaking shortly after the third plenum of December 1978, emphasized that it was not enough to have the right policies: they had to be explained to the population in the right way. There was, he argued, a crisis of faith in the Chinese population’s attitude to the CCP. They no longer believed it could or would deliver on its policies. If they were to be mobilized behind the goal of economic modernization, they had to be shown that the reforms would work, and would work quickly.8 The production imperative, changes in leadership and the search for legitimacy are all internal causes of reform. There is, however, at least one direct external cause. (It could be argued that the example of the East Asian NICs was an indirect external cause of reform to all the East Asian communist party states; or that similarly by example the PRC has been an indirect external cause of reform in the USSR and the Soviet-influenced states of the region.) The adoption of a reform programme in the USSR however limited by comparison with that of the PRC - has already started to have an impact on those communist party states in East Asia heavily dependent on the USSR. The consequences of the reform process in the USSR for Mongolia and Vietnam are still in their early stages. However, the available evidence would seem to suggest the USSR may no longer be prepared to support those two countries’ economies to the extent it has done in the past. Moreover, with its eyes fixed firmly on East Asian economic development, the USSR is now advocating greater regional co­ operation and less international tension. Since the summer of 1986, it has publicly encouraged both Mongolia and Vietnam to reduce the potential for problems with the PRC.



The Consequences of Reform Given that the reform process is barely under way throughout the communist party states of East Asia it is perhaps too early to speculate on the consequences of reform. Nevertheless, there are three areas where it already seems useful to consider the limitations of the reform process. The first is the importance of the production imperative; the second, the extent to which East Asian reform communism will lead to greater regional co­ operation; and the third, the consequences of reform for ruling East Asian communist parties. As has already been indicated, the production imperative is by no means the sole explanation of the reform process in the East Asian communist party states. It may be that in time it does come to dominate the development of those countries, but it has not been the catalyst for change. To the extent that the production imperative is taken as a characterization of East Asian reform communism, it is somewhat misleading since there is not one reform process but many. Of course, as has already been indicated, there are commonalities between the different reform processes in individual countries. However, there are also important differences. The USSR’s relationship with both Mongolia and Vietnam is radically different from that with the PRC. Even were it thought desirable, it thus seems unlikely that Mongolia and Vietnam would be able to introduce, for example, the kind of price reforms currently being developed in the PRC, if only because of the complications this might cause within the CMEA. North Korea’s development cannot be seen outside the context of the whole Korean peninsula, if only because that is the perspective adopted by its leaders. Technology transfers from South Korea may be interpreted in the PRC as ‘learning from the West’: in North Korea they would be an admission of failure, and even defeat. Many of Vietnam’s problems stem from the aftermath of the war in South-East Asia. Reform of chaos may result in an order not unlike that which is now about to be reformed away elsewhere in East Asia. From an international perspective, the communist party states of East Asia could previously have been characterized not only by their diversity, but also by conflict amongst themselves. Even though the production imperative does not yet dominate the reform process, its international dimensions are significant. Reform seems to require a stable international environment. This requires not only that each East Asian communist party state should have peaceful relations with its non-communist trading partners, but also that tensions should be lessened amongst the East Asian communist party states. The equations of international relations are obviously complex, but a reputation for political instability or unreliability does not encourage foreign investment. Somewhat ironically, it appears that the East Asian communist party states have better prospects for regional co-operation with other non­ communist states than with one another. Partly, of course, this results



from the historical fear of China’s dominance of the region. However, that cannot be the whole story, not least since the other East Asian states have had the same historical relationship with China, and continue to have an ambivalent attitude towards China’s participation in Asia-Pacific affairs. On the whole, better relations amongst the communist party states of East Asia are likely to be an integral part of reform. Quite apart from the need to maintain a stable international environment, they represent significant markets to each other. However, the ramifications of the ambiguous SinoSoviet relationship, Mongolia’s attitude to China, and Vietnam’s position in South-East Asia, are unlikely to result in co-operation. The most likely result is that a grudging tolerance will emerge, coupled with a wary rhetoric expressed at international conferences and institutions. The production imperative indicates certain consequences for internal affairs, and these may be less restricted than proponents of that view might hold. Indeed, the political consequence of the production imperative is liberalization, not simply in a relative sense, but towards some kind of model of liberal democracy. The production imperative requires talented individuals willing and able to harness their skills and technical knowledge to the service of the nation. There must be an intellectual atmosphere in which the individual is encouraged to use his or her intitiative, and is rewarded. Interest articulation must be possible, not only to maintain the unity of civil society, but also to sustain reform. It is at this point that the political consequences of the production imperative come into conflict with the role of the communist party. It is clear that a substantial portion of the reform process must involve reform, not only of the political system generally, but also of the communist party. This is precisely what Gorbachev has indicated by glasnost’ and Deng Xiaoping by ‘socialist democracy’. However, there is considerable room for manoeuvre between the communist party’s absolute monopoly of political control and its surrender of ultimate control. Reform has a long way to go before it reaches the (as yet) unlikely latter situation. The current problem for each communist party is discovering its own middle ground, where it encourages initiative and limited pluralism but still maintains control. This aspect of the reform process has advanced furthest in the PRC, or at least the question has been debated there longest. Since 1978 there has been a frequently revived debate about the reform of the political system. At times quite astonishing proposals (given China’s political culture both before and after 1949) - such as a directly elected national parliament; or that public policy is best made by interest group interaction - have received official sanction.9 However, the crucial limits of debate were set in early 1979. Reform is desirable but it must accept the leadership of the CCP, the supremacy of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, the socialist road, and the dictatorship of the proletariat.



David S.G. Goodman is Director of the East Asia Centre, and Reader in Chinese Politics, at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. 1. ‘The Development of the Soviet Far East and Asia-Pacific Affairs’, Soviet television, 28 July 1986, translated in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB), 30 July 1986. 2. For a broad survey of these reforms see David S.G. Goodman, M. Lockett and Gerald Segal, The China Challenge (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986). 3. David S.G. Goodman, ‘The Chinese Political Order after Mao: “Socialist Democracy” and the Exercise of State Power’, Political Studies, Vol.33, No.2 (1985), p.218. 4. See, for example, the speech by Peng Zheng, a member of the CCP’s Political Bureau and chairman of the National People’s Congress, in November 1986, discussing the ‘Resolution of the CCP on the Guiding Principles for Building a Socialist Spiritual Civilization’, translated in BBC SWB, 2 Dec. 1986. 5. E. Friedman, ‘Maoism, Titoism, Stalinism: Some Origins and Consequences of the Maoist Theory of the Socialist Transition’, in Mark Selden and Victor D. Lippit (eds.), The Transition to Socialism in China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1982). 6. Wang Zuyao and Fan Yong, ‘An Enquiry into Reform of the Financial System and the Strengthening of Central Government’s Financial Resources’, in Caizbeng (‘Finance’), 1986, No.12. 7. N. Eberstadt, ‘Has China Failed?’, The New York Review of Books, Vol.26, No.5 (5 April 1979), p.33. 8. Chen Yun, ‘Speech at Central Theoretical Work Conference*, Inside China Mainland, April 1980, p .ll. 9. For example, Liao Gailong, ‘The Road to Build Socialism in an All-Round Way*, Social Sciences in Yunnan No.2 (March 1982), p.l; also Li Fan, ‘The Question of Interests in the Chinese Policy-Making Process’, The Bulletin of Political Science, Nov. 1985, translated in The China Quarterly, No.109 (1987), p.64.

The Reform Process in the People’s Republic of China Tony Saich

The question of reform has dominated China’s political agenda throughout the 1980s. Differences about the scale, extent and nature of the reforms have been major topics of discussion. These discussions have produced a wide array of policies that have left no institution, organization or sector of the economy untouched. The reforms would not have been possible without major leadership changes, and they draw inspiration not only from previous reform attempts in state-socialist regimes but also from other Asian countries. The reform programme has as its core a significant liberalization of previous regime practice. In the economic sector, policy has revolved around the promotion of market mechanisms to deal with the inefficiencies of allocation and distribution that occur with the central state planning system. While considerable success has been achieved in the agricultural sphere, progress has been far less dramatic in the industrial sector. This shift to a more market-oriented economy was not readily served by a rigid, over-centralized political system dominated by the party, and hence calls have been made for reform of the political system. This reform will be the hardest of all to achieve because of the vested interests it encroaches upon.

In recent years, the terms ‘reform’ and ‘openness’ have become popular words in the political vocabularies of ruling communist parties. China, Vietnam and the Soviet Union have all begun to look at the legacy of economic and political structures derived from an over-reliance on the central planning apparatus and the highly centralized power structures and political organizations that accompany it. The latest round of reforms began in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), although they owed much not only to previous reform attempts in China during the early 1960s, but also to the abortive Soviet reforms of that decade and the initially more successful reforms of Hungary and Yugoslavia. However, the Chinese reforms have not consisted of a mere aping of previous reform attempts. In addition to the flexible policies adopted to attract foreign capital, new ground has been broken in the rural sector in particular. Nor has China been afraid of casting its net beyond the communist world for ideas that can help its economic modernization. Interest in the Japanese model is keen, and, although less openly expressed, study has been made of South Korea and Taiwan to try to gain clues about modernization within an Asian context. The question of reform has dominated China’s political agenda during the 1980s. Differences over the scale, extent and nature of the reforms



have been major topics of discussion. These discussions have produced a wide array of policies that have left no institution, organization or sector of the economy untouched. The reforms have moved beyond trying to deal with what the current leaders denounce as the ‘leftist’ excesses derived from China’s experimentation during the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the Cultural Revolution decade (1966-76) to attempting to come to grips with the fundamental flaws in the over-centralized system that China opted for in the 1950s. Here the intention is to outline the background to the reforms, some of their key aspects, and the problems that have arisen with their implementation. The Background to the Reform Programme

A number of writers have suggested that when the imperatives of economic modernization come to the fore, the need for reform in statesocialist societies becomes difficult to resist. The need for change thus summoned up is often aided by the passing of the revolutionary genera­ tion and its replacement by a generation that has grown up under the new state and is more concerned with purely technical prescriptions. This is when, to use John Kautsky’s terms, leadership passes from the ‘revolu­ tionary modernizers’ to the ‘managerial modernizers’.1While one can see Gorbachev as a representative of a new generation, albeit one not solely technocratic in its approach to problem-formulation and solving, this is definitely not the case in China. Deng Xiaoping and the other leaders who have sponsored the reform programme are all members of the pre­ liberation communist elite and were actively involved in running the system from its earliest years. Although a new generation may be in power at the non-central levels, the centre remains firmly in the hands of the old guard. Without their initiative the reforms could not have been contemplated. Gordon White has provided a more recent analysis of the process of systematic change in state-socialist societies within the context of modernization. After consolidating power and building up the economic base, these societies are said to reach the point where ‘bureaucratic voluntarism’ becomes ‘increasingly irrational economically and increas­ ingly unacceptable politically’.2 To meet these problems, it is necessary to introduce a greater use of the market mechanism and give a larger role to democracy, albeit primarily for economically functional reasons. If a decision is taken in favour of reform, it is necessary to give more autonomy, and possibly more power, to those with professional and technical skills and try to restrict the power of the old administrative elite. In turn, this allows for the emergence of a new elite that bases its power not on its position within the politico-administrative hierarchy but on its possession of the scarce skills necessary for the modernization pro­ gramme. This can lead to conflict between the two elites and attempts by administrative cadres to frustrate the reform programme. However, while socio-economic advance may well build up pressure for



change, it is not always the case that changes in the political superstructure do take place or that having occurred they will not be reversed.3 What is crucial for realizing change is the political will of the party and the drive for change among significant sections of the population. Over time all organizations develop a resistance to change. In ruling communist parties, where membership is tied to prestige, power and privileged access to goods and services, resistance to change will be strong. There must be a political will for change that is greater than the will to preserve the status quo. In the ideal situation, this ‘will’ should come from the party leader­ ship, or a part of it, and be supported by significant sections of the party rank and file and members of society. Change can occur without mass support, but the example of Poland in the early 1980s suggests that mass support for change in the absence of support within the top party leader­ ship will not result in success. Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s has demonstrated that it is possible to have both the political will of significant parts of the party leadership and mass support for change without being successful. In this particular case, Soviet perception of interest proved decisive and it moved to thwart reform. Independence from the Soviet Union has meant that the PRC has a greater degree of manoeuvre in comparison with those state-socialist societies that come within the Soviet sphere of influence. This indepen­ dence provides an important background factor explaining the speed and extent of change that has taken place in China, not only in the 1980s but also from the late 1950s onwards. While the Soviet Union is now trying to push its East European allies in the direction of reforms incorporating a greater use of the market and greater democracy, in the late 1960s and the 1970s it sought to limit the degree to which meaningful change occurred. By the late 1970s, the PRC appeared to fulfil the necessary criteria for reform attempts to be made. There was a leadership group under Deng Xiaoping committed to a wide-ranging reform programme that involved a significant liberalization of previous regime practices. There was a population of which large sections were dissatisfied with the arbitrary nature of rule that existed and were tired of ritualized political behaviour and the postponement of increased consumption. Both the leadership and the society at large had their perception shaped by the events of the decade 1966-76 during which time they had seen an increasingly arbitrary, autocratic political system develop out of the democratic and participatory promises of the Cultural Revolution. Furthermore, the reform programme has economic modernization as its clearly stated objective. The stress on economic development had specific causes deriving from China’s immediate past. Three reasons are highlighted here.4 First, living standards for much of the population in the late 1970s had barely risen from levels that pertained in the late 1950s. The government’s obsession with accumulation at the expense of consumption meant that rationing, queuing, and hours spent on laborious household chores were the daily fare for most. The lack of consumer goods was offset by the fact that few had sufficient disposable income in any case. In fact, the average wage for



employees in the state sector in 1977 was 5.5 per cent lower than it had been in 1957; for industrial workers it was 8.4 per cent lower.5 Part of the decline in the average figure is explained by the addition of many young workers in the lowest wage scales. However, it seems no exaggeration to conclude that China’s population had probably had enough of tightening their belts today in return for the promise of a bright tomorrow. Secondly, the failure of the initial post-Mao strategy significantly to improve economic performance caused the leadership to focus more sharply on the need for fundamental economic reform. The ascription of blame for economic failure to the ‘Gang of Four’, with the associated policy of returning to a ‘golden age’ before they existed, was seen as taking China into a dead end. Increasingly, it was recognized that the main problems were deep-seated structural ones. Also, the ambitious pursuit of ‘Maoism without Mao’ had led to serious short-term problems such as a towering budget deficit, increasing inflation and inflationary pressures. The politically inspired measure of offering the urban labour force increased wages and bonuses to win their confidence and allegiance was exhausted. Future increases in earnings would come only after real increases in productivity. While the economy might not have been in crisis, it was in bad shape. However, there was a political crisis in terms of a loss of faith by many in the party’s capacity to rule. The party was faced with the problem of legitimacy. The continual twists and turns of policy since the mid-1950s left the party’s claim to be the sole body in society capable of mapping out the correct road to socialism looking a little thin. The notion of the infallibility of the party was strained to breaking-point. This meant that the ‘fine traditions’ and the name of the party could no longer be invoked to ensure allegiance to a particular set of policy preferences. This was compounded by the fact that people had the feeling that they might be expected to give total allegiance to a different set of policy preferences. The criticism of Mao Zedong and the dismantling of the personality cult meant that his name could no longer be invoked effectively to underpin legitimacy. As a result, the party chose the option of promising a bright economic future for all within a relatively short period of time. In December 1978, the third plenum of the eleventh Central Committee made the decision to focus on economic modernization, subordinating all other work to the meeting of this objective. By 1979, Deng Xiaoping and his supporters had tied their legitimacy to rule more closely to their ability to deliver the economic goods than had any other leadership group since 1949. In turn, this meant that more freedom had to be given to those groups that could devise and implement the plans to bring this delivery about. The Nature of the Reforms

The reform programme has at its core the liberalization of previous practices in both the economic and the political realm. While most of the



stress and the major changes have been in the economic sphere, reform of the political structure has been much talked about and some limited reforms have been introduced. The experiences of the Cultural Revolu­ tion, during which virtually all China’s current top leaders suffered, has convinced many of the need for a more predictable system regulated by law, and one that allows for more feedback of information from society. The terms ‘socialist democracy’ and ‘socialist legality’ are used to cover these reforms, ‘socialist’ in this context meaning reform under party guidance. A predictable legal system understood by and applicable to all is seen as conducive to stability and thus to development Similarly, a relaxation of control is seen as providing a lively atmosphere that will produce ideas useful for the modernization process. The adoption of a new development strategy at the third plenum (December 1978) made the need for reform of political structures all the more apparent. The shift to a more marketoriented, decentralized economy reliant on officials who could give expert technical advice was not readily served by a rigid, over-centralized political system dominated by the party and staffed by personnel who felt at home hiding behind administrative rules and regulations. The link between political and economic reform has been consistently acknow­ ledged. As Deng Xiaoping said in September 1986: The major problem is that the political structure does not meet the requirements of the reform of the economic structure. Therefore, without reforming the political structure, it will be impossible to safeguard the fruits of the economic reform or to guarantee its continued advance.6 Implicit in the quotation is the subordination of political reform to economic needs. Indeed the main reason why discussion of reform of the political system received much attention in 1986 was the fear that the economic reforms were in danger of reaching an impasse. Such a way of thinking, while opening up the potential for reform, immediately sets limits on the nature of that reform: the only political reforms necessary are those that will oil the wheels of economic modernization. Some Chinese writers, recognizing the possible limitations that this can set, point to the increasing diversification of economic life and the resultant social differentiation as creating a genuine need for political reform to deal with the growing plurality in Chinese society. It is not, they claim, mere ‘subjective’ whim that has led to the calls for overhauling China’s outdated political structure.7 In the economic sector, policy has revolved around the promotion of market mechanisms to deal with the inefficiencies of allocation and distribution that occur with the central state planning system. Awareness of the ‘new technological revolution’ has increased the Chinese leaders’ desire to make their system more flexible and thus more amenable to change. To take advantage of the market opportunities, more power of decision-making is to be given to the localities, and in particular to the



units of production themselves. Production units now have more autonomy to decide what they produce, how much they produce and how they sell it. At the core of this system lie the ubiquitous contracts that are expected to govern economic activity. Correspondingly, material incentives are seen as the major mechanism for causing people to work harder, and the socialist principle of ‘to each according to his work’ is to be firmly applied. Egalitarianism is attacked as a dangerous notion that retards economic growth. These reforms of the domestic economy have been accompanied by an unprecedented opening to the outside world in search for export markets and the necessary foreign investments, technology and higher quality consumer goods.8 Agricultural Reform

The economic reforms began, and have proceeded furthest, in the agricultural sector. Indeed, while the industrial reforms present nothing that has not already been tried in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the agricultural reforms represent a radical new departure, throwing up the question of whether there is still a socialist agricultural system in China. The initial policy was to encourage growth in agricultural production by substantial increases in procurement prices and by modernizing agri­ culture through brigade and team financing.9 At the same time, policy was relaxed to let different regions make use of the ‘law of comparative advantage’. Also, private plots of land and sideline production were stressed as playing an important role in agricultural growth. To allow the peasants to sell their products - for example, their above-quota grain private markets were again tolerated. This policy was firmly based on the collective and represented nothing radically new.10 In December 1978, it was decided that the procurement price of quota grain would be increased by an average of 20 per cent, above-quota grain by 50 per cent, and cotton by 30 per cent. However, the result of this policy was to increase massively state expenditures on agriculture. Nor did the policy of agricultural modernization bear fmit. A new strategy had to be found that would raise agricultural incomes, permitting modernization but without significantly increasing state investment. The most important reform was the introduction of the production responsibility system. Although this was introduced in December 1978, it did not entail any significant undermining of the collective. However, by 1980 the more radical forms of contracting various activities to the household were becoming commonplace despite official denials. The household was clearly becoming the key economic unit in the countryside. The new system was codified in two documents: Document 1, 1983, and Document 1, 1984.11 The 1983 document officially endorsed the ‘responsibility system for agriculture’ (nongye shengchan zerenzhi) and its most common form for crop-growing, the household contracting system (baogan daohu). This makes the peasant household the nucleus of



agricultural production, working on a clearly stipulated piece of land for a specific period of time. It includes all raw materials and means of produc­ tion except land-use rights and access rights to irrigation facilities; the latter rights are made available by the collective.12 The 1984 document confirmed the situation in the countryside and added a number of new points such as extending the cropping contracts to over 15 years,13 encouraging the concentration of land with the most productive house­ holds, encouraging capital flow across regions for investment, and reducing the funds that the collective can demand from the peasantry.14 The leadership had chosen to sanction the abandonment of the collec­ tive as the key economic unit in the countryside. It is worth pointing out that the new incentive and the original contracting system were not incompatible with a collectivized agricultural sector. However, it seems that in many communes in China the collective as a political entity had become despised and distrusted. When given the opportunity, peasants rapidly removed themselves and concentrated production on their own households. The leadership, seeking to boost production quickly, was only too happy to install the household as the basic economic unit so long as its goals were achieved.15 It should also be pointed out that, despite the many problems with collective agriculture, its success in establishing an infrastructure and a drainage system provided the opportunity for this alternative policy of de-collectivization to flourish. It seems highly un­ likely that it would have been a viable option in the 1950s without massive state investment - something that was just as impossible then as now. In January 1985, in a further radical measure the state announced its intention to abolish its monopoly over purchasing and marketing of major faim products.16 Instead of the state assigning fixed quotas of farm products to be purchased from farmers, a system of contract purchasing was introduced. All products not purchased in this way could be disposed of on the market. Clearly, the aim of this reform was to improve the distribution of commodities and further reward efficient producers. It was hoped that this would encourage wealthier peasants to re-invest capital and labour in the land. As the Alew China News Agency noted in November 1984, ‘the funds for quadrupling the value of agricultural production must come mainly from the accumulations of agriculture itself’.17 The new strategy for agriculture has produced quite a remarkable improvement in agricultural performance and rural living standards. Thus, grain production has increased from 305 million tons in 1978 to 391 million metric tons in 1986. Annual per capita net income has increased from around 135 yuan in 1978 to 424 yuan in 1986. However, a number of writers have questioned whether such improvements are a one-time shot in the arm or are truly capable of producing sustained economic growth. Despite this progress, new problems have arisen in the countryside as a result of the new strategy. In particular, concern has been expressed about whether the infrastructure can be maintained now that the collectives have lost their political and economic strength. Will wealthy peasants



re-invest enough of their profits to maintain the road and water systems? Similarly, there apppears to have been a marked decline in the provision of rural welfare services. Will decent schooling and medical care be available only to those who can pay for it? Will the majority of the peasantry be left with inferior welfare facilities or will they be dependent on hand-outs from the new wealthy elite to build their schools and clinics? Here, two problems will be dealt with: grain production, and the emer­ gence of a new rural elite. One particular headache for reformers in the last year or two has been caused by the fall in grain production in 1985 to 379 million metric tons from the record harvest o f407 million metric tons in 1984. Objectively this was not a major problem, as sufficient stocks were available to cover any possible shortfall and the harvest was still above those of the pre-reform period. But grain shortages in the past and the Maoist emphasis on grain production have caused some in the leadership to speak out critically on the question. Apart from bad weather, the decline was caused by farmers turning to more lucrative cash-crop production or small-scale industry. Also, between 1983 and 1985, average prices paid for chemical fertilizers rose by 43 per cent and those for pesticides by 83 per cent, which had the effect of reducing the net income gained from one hectare of grain by 30-40 per cent.18This forced the reformers to make concessions to their critics. The price of fertilizers was dropped and priorities for loans were given to farmers growing more grain. Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang was even forced to amend his report on the seventh five-year plan to take into account worries of National People’s Congress deputies, particularly those from leading grain-producing provinces.19 As a result, the sown grain area was enlarged by two per cent and grain production rose to 391 million metric tons in 1986. More importantly, the new policies that give free rein to enterprise represent a clear abandonment of attempts to promote egalitarian policies in the countryside. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will lead to the emergence of a new wealthy stratum in the countryside. For a while, the Chinese media extolled the virtue of the 10,000-yuan households as pioneers of the new China. This was toned down because of the envy and unrealistic expectations that it was creating among other sections of the population. Families with large cash surpluses now have a number of mechanisms for extending their power throughout rural society. The authorities have promoted the concentration of land in the hands of the most skilled (or wealthiest) farmers via a process of sub-contracting or transfer of land-use rights. In theory, there is still no private land ownership in China: land is owned by the collective.20 The Land Administration Law, adopted in January 1987 makes the distinction between land ownership (the col­ lective) and land-use rights (the household).21 However, at the grass-roots level such distinctions begin to look very fine, especially when contracts run for over 15 years and when land is becoming concentrated in fewer hands. In addition, in order to strengthen their economic power further,



wealthy peasants may use their surplus capital to invest in setting up service companies or local enterprises. The question remains whether this new stratum can turn its economic power into political power, and this depends on its relationship with local party and government organizations. Party policy has swung from promoting such farmers as models and actively courting them, to pushing notions of restraint, plain living and hard work. If this newly emerging elite is co-opted into the party or can form an alliance with local party officials, the basis will be formed for a powerful new force in the country­ side that will make subsequent policy change very difficult. In the initial phase of reform, local party and state cadres were one of the main obstacles to reform as they saw their power being broken up by the dismemberment of the collective. However, where they chose to participate in the reforms they have been one of the major beneficiaries. A number of the new entrepreneurs in the countryside are now old commune officials who have privatized their former public contacts and set up lucrative marketing, transport and other service facilities. Current rural policy is clearly creating a much greater differentiation within the peasantry and to date we know too little to say whether existing political institutions in the countryside can cope with this. The fact that most political activity has taken place through informal channels would indicate that the party has not yet been capable of creating formal institutions for the political participation of the peasantry. It seems potentially dangerous for the regime if the overwhelming majority of society have to rely on political activities that are not sanctioned or exert their influence through withdrawal and non-co-operation. As noted, the increasing complexity of economic life at the basic levels in the rural areas gives rise to a variety of interests, som e conflicting, that will have to be brokered and accommodated within the political system. Whether village committees22 and township governments will be up to this task remains to be seen. If they are not, it will lead in formal terms to the political marginalization of the peasantry.23 Industrial Reforms In contrast with the rural reforms, industrial reform has been a stop-go affair with consequently a far more limited impact. The success of the rural reforms has provided ammunition for those who wished to introduce much more wide-ranging reforms into the urban sector. In fact, as the American political scientist Bernstein has indicated, the centralized industrial system has not been able to meet properly the needs of ‘increasingly commercialized decentralized agriculture’. The need for reform, and the reform experiments to date, were recognized in the Central Committee ‘Decision on Reform of the Economic Structure’ of October 1984.25 This Decision chronicles the problems of the industrial economy, noting that ‘defects in the urban economic sector ... seriously hinder the development of the forces of



production’. The measures proposed offered a more thoroughgoing reform than the piecemeal experimentation that had previously taken place. The key to the industrial reform programme is to make enterprises more economically responsible. Most important has been the introduc­ tion of enterprise profit retention. In 1983, a system of tax for profit was introduced and this was adopted in the 1984 Decision as a policy for all enterprises. This new system replaced the old system of requisition of profits or covering losses and the initial reform experiments of profit contracting. It is expected that the tax system will stabilize state revenues and ‘restore greater objectivity in determining enterprise incentives and fairness to the financial system’.26 To ensure that enterprises can take proper advantage of the limited market opportunities, managers of factories and other enterprises are to be given greater power of decision-making with respect to production plans and marketing, sources of supply, distribution of profits within the enterprise, and the hiring and firing of workers. While this provides the carrot, it was recognized by some that there should be a stick with which to beat inefficient enterprises. Thus, a draft bankruptcy law was made, and in August and September 1986 great publicity was given to an enterprise in Shenyang that won the fame of being the first enterprise to be declared bankrupt since the founding of the PRC. However, this measure provoked a strong reaction from opponents of reform and reformers alike. Decision on the law was shelved and in December 1986 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress reached a compromise by adopting a ‘trial law’ to come into effect three months after the general enterprise law had been adopted.27 As with the peasantry, the main incentive to make workers work harder and raise labour productivity is a material one. Wage rises, bonuses and piece-rate systems have all been used to try to increase worker productivity, although to date the results have not been remarkable. Here, also, along with the carrot comes a stick: the ‘iron rice bowl’, the name given to the system under which it was impossible to fire workers, is to be abolished. Lifelong tenure is to be replaced by a system of fixed-term labour contracts. In October 1986, a new labour contract law and supplementary regulations were introduced to cover the recruitment and dismissal of undisciplined employees. This new system is intended to reward those who work well, provide the basis for dismissal of bad workers, and, at the same time, cut down the costs of social security and welfare.28 Again, problems and resistance have developed during the process of reform. The major problem with the increased use of market levers in China’s economy is that the market, such as it exists, is an imperfect one and is quite capable of distorting policy intentions. The irrational price structure was recognized in the 1984 Decision as ‘the key to reform of the entire economic structure’. But recognizing the problem and dealing with it are two quite separate matters. The decision suggests an extremely



cautious approach to the problem, and progress to date has been slow. While China’s leaders recognize the necessity for price reform, they fear the potential unrest caused by such an overhaul. It is too early to state how successful the urban industrial reforms will be, but the experience of other state-socialist societies is not, on the whole, encouraging. In fact, the whole programme for industrial economic reform was given a low priority during 1986-87. While a reversal of direction is unlikely, a stop-go process is a more probable outcome, with spurts of activity being followed by temporary halts as results are assessed and ways are sought to deal with problems that arise. In broad outline, the measures resemble those of the Liberman reforms introduced in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. The worst scenario would be that the reform programme became bogged down, losing impetus through bureaucratic inertia and resistance from lower-level cadres. Zhao Ziyang, in his Government Work Report of March 1987, complained that the decentralization of more decision-making powers to enterprises had ‘been held up at the intermediate levels in some localities and departments’.29It will take a major change in thinking and practice for state organs to adjust to their more withdrawn role and for enterprise managers to exert fully their new entrepreneurial functions. Cadres will not easily be persuaded to relinquish their power over economic affairs,30 and at present China simply does not possess enough people trained to exploit properly the market opportunities that do exist. According to the 1984 Decision, a new generation of cadres and competent managerial personnel is to be trained, and a reshuffling of leadership in enterprises, especially key enterprises, was to be completed by the end of 1985. This does not seem to have occurred. A more successful scenario would see China’s industrial economy evolve in the direction of Hungary’s more market-oriented economy. Political Reform31 Exactly what China’s leaders mean by reform of the political system is unclear and has become a major source of division within the leadership. As early as August 1980, Deng Xiaoping highlighted problems that were hampering China’s development, such as bureaucratism, excessive concentration of power, patriarchal behaviour, lifelong tenure and abuse of privilege. These problems, Deng hinted, all derived from China’s organizational system. Deng also alluded to the need fully to develop democracy. According to Deng, it was important to make sure that the people genuinely had the power of supervision over the state in a variety of effective ways. In particular, they were ‘to supervise political power at the basic levels, as well as in all enterprises and undertakings’. Although this speech was not published at the time, it set the tone for subsequent discussions about reform. Its appeals to democracy were picked up and developed by reformers such as Liao Gailong,33 while the more conservative party apparat concentrated on tinkering to eradicate



the more obvious abuses of the system, particularly the increasing level of official corruption. During the early 1980s, a number of initiatives were undertaken to reform the political system, including the adoption of new party and state constitutions, measures to trim the bureaucracy, attempts to improve the quality of the cadre force, and steps to promote effective citizen participa­ tion.34 Although restructuring of the party and state continued throughout the decade, a major overhaul was resisted. In particular, the question of the party’s dominant role was not tackled, and many party cadres balked at the idea of any curtailment in their power. In fact, a number of measures already adopted tended in the opposite direction, particularly with respect to the degree of democracy and participation permissible. Promotion of adherence to the ‘Four Principles’ clearly indicated that there were limits to the reforms and suggested a range of obligations for those engaged in discussions about democracy. These principles had been put forward by Deng Xiaoping in March 1979 at a Central Theoretical Work Conference.35 The party also began to reassert its role as the guardian of the ideology. As its confidence was restored by its economic successes, it began once again to feel that it was sufficiently qualified to tell people what was in their best interests. Thus, by the middle of 1981, China’s leaders decided that conscious guidance in ideological and spiritual terms was needed. It was discovered that socialism had a moral-spiritual goal as well as a material one, and that these goals could be defined by the party alone. At the twelfth party congress (1982), the then General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, reversed the listing of the tasks of modernization, democratization and building of a high level of spiritual civilization: Hu placed the building of spiritual civilization before democratization, thus making it a prerequisite for democratization.36 Similarly, in the summer of 1986, when discussions on political reform filled the pages of China’s official media, often drawing inspiration from Deng’s 1980 speech, it was made clear that it would be limited and implemented gradually. This stress on caution stems from the leadership’s fear of spontaneous activity that may take place beyond party control, and from a lack of consensus within the top leadership about the precise nature of the reform. In public pronouncements, for example, both Deng Xiaoping and Secretariat member Wang Zhaoguo have been careful to stress that ‘some reform of the political system is necessary to complement the current economic reforms’.37 Political reform became a divisive issue. A Hong Kong newspaper report referred to a meeting held at Beidaihe in the summer of 1986 at which some leaders expressed the view that, on the whole, the current political system was basically suited to the needs of economic develop­ ment and that reform could lead to the negation of the ‘Four Principles’. Disagreement on the issue led to the postponement of any decision until the next party congress, to be held in the autumn of 1987.38In fact, the sixth plenum of the twelfth party congress (September 1986), instead of



discussing political reform, passed a resolution on the need to improve work in the ideological and cultural spheres. These are issues more closely associated with those who wish to limit the extent of political reform. The opponents of too radical reforms began to link far-reaching reforms with ‘bourgeois pollution’. In November 1986, Politburo member Peng Zhen warned against those who yearned for bourgeois democracy ‘as if the moonlight of capitalist society were brighter than our sun’. To reinforce the view that the party would remain firmly in command, Deng Xiaoping’s comments of March 1979 on the need to uphold the ‘Four Principles’ received wide publicity once again. Comments of Deng Xiaoping made in September 1986 show how little progress had been made on substantial issues and indicated what would be discussed at the thirteenth party congress. He stated: I think the aim of the reform of the political structure is to motivate the masses, raise efficiency and overcome bureaucracy. The sub­ stance of reform should primarily be separating the party from government administration, finding a solution to how the party should exercise leadership, and how to improve leadership. This is the key to the question.39 Without doubt, the most important aspect of political reform concerns the correct role for the party, and its relationship to other organizations. Any fundamental reform would lead to a decrease in the power of the party. However, such a reform will be much harder to realize than the proposed economic reforms because of the vested interests that will have to be eliminated. While party hegemony is an enduring fact of life, significant changes have taken place, albeit ones that do not challenge party hegemony. Having launched a development strategy that will create - and already has created - greater social differentiation and more interests to be brokered, Deng and his supporters have accepted that new institutions must be devised to mediate between the party and the officially sanctioned sectors of society. According to Jowitt, communist parties when faced with this situation must make an ‘attempt to expand membership in the regime in a way that allows politically co-opted social elites or activists to maintain their social-occupational identity, and the Party apparatus to maintain its institutionalized charismatic status’.40 The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the party professes to be the only organization in society capable of defining the correct strategy for the attainment of communism. The current leadership has chosen a strategy that relies heavily on the advice of those with scarce professional skills skills that are conspicuously absent within the party itself. Thus, the party is frequently in the position of having to make decisions, and supervise situations, about which it has little expert knowledge. This lies behind the party’s desire both to recruit more intellectuals and to extricate itself from the day-to-day decision-making process. The party thus wishes to loosen its grip somewhat over state and society.



As a part of the reform programme, power is to be redistributed, both horizontally to state organs at the same level, and vertically to party and state organs lower down the administrative system. To date, the party has so dominated the legislature, executive and judiciary as to make their independence a fiction. To add to the problem, the party has no effective regulatory mechanism. As a result, when the interests of the state or the individual are infringed, the legal system cannot automatically intervene, as it is controlled by the party. To improve this situation it is suggested that a clear separation of powers should be established with clear guidelines laid down for each organization. However, as long as ‘rule by man’, in this case ‘party man’, rather than ‘rule by law’ is the dominant ethos, the creation of new rules and regulations will not fundamentally resolve the problem. At the basic levels, attempts have been made to loosen the party’s grip in an attempt to improve economic efficiency. Thus, in the rural areas, the communes, where the will of the local party committee too often reigned supreme, have been broken up and power redistributed. In the urban sector, more power is to be given to the enterprise manager at the expense of the party committee. In experiments begun in 1986, the phrase used to describe them was the ‘managerial responsibility system’ rather than the previous description of ‘managerial responsibility system under the leadership of the party committee’. This is an attempt to make a clear demarcation between party and administration, and it emphasizes the need of the manager to act on certain matters without always first asking for the approval of the party committee. Not surprisingly, these reform attempts have met stubborn resistance. Thus, when discussions on the new enterprise law were held at the Standing Committee meeting that preceded the sixth session of the National People’s Congress (March 1987), it was made clear that this form of management was a key point of disagreement. Opponents of change argued that it would undermine the role of the party in die enterprise. As a result of disagreements, the Standing Committee did not put forward the draft of the law to the National People’s Congress session. Local officials have sought to resist implementation. Conflicts have emerged between those party officials who owe their position to their personal connections and to their political and administrative skills in working the old system, and those who derive their power from their detailed technical knowledge. While those with technical skills push for greater autonomy, many old party officials have fought to exert greater control over the enterprise’s work in order to maintain their pre-eminent position. As a last resort a party secretary can always invoke the ultimate authority of the party to ensure getting his or her own way. Similarly, it seems that local party officials have blocked the policy of recruiting more intellectuals into the party. They fear that ‘if intellectuals are promoted to leading posts and then join the party, they will have all the best jobs’.41 This causes some to think in the following terms:



While you have an education, I have the party membership in my hands. While you have the knowledge, I have qualifications and record of service. No matter how capable you may be, as long as you are not admitted into the party, you will remain under my leader­ ship.42 Conclusion The reform programme started in December 1978 was introduced to boost standards of living as quickly as possible and cure the problems that were seen as deriving from the ‘leftist’ course pursued in the previous 20 years. It was soon realized that this was only part of the problem and that deep-seated structural problems existed that had to be dealt with. The return of Deng Xiaoping to power enabled the wide-ranging programme to be launched. He was able to blame the problems on his predecessors and offer China a new start. However, the reform programme had no conscious blueprint but was marked by incrementalism. Problems arose and solutions were found; new problems arose and the process began again. As the reform programme continued, it became clear, however, that the policies were intended not as emergency measures but as part of a new long-term development strategy. Successful experiments in one area became reform blueprints for the whole nation. Most of the reforms began in trial areas and then were extended on the basis of their success to other areas. Indeed, the major reason for Zhao Ziyang’s appointment as Premier was his success in handling economic reform in the province of Sichuan. In this respect one bad trait of the bureaucracy was retained from the past. China has operated for thousands of years as a unitary state and has been unable to allow different regions to develop their own policy variants, or at least not to any meaningful degree. In the initial phase of agricultural reform, it seemed as though the leadership in Beijing would allow the different regions to find their own organizational forms. However, once the contract system was decided on, it was forced on most areas irrespective of their local conditions. One exception to this habit of ‘cutting with one knife’, as the Chinese refer to it, has been the creation of Special Economic Zones. The zones have separate regulations to encourage the investment of foreign capital and to attract foreign technology. To varying degrees, these special measures have since been applied to 14 coastal cities, mainly the old foreign concessions in China. This is an explicit recognition that the coastal strip will be allowed to follow a more flexible, ‘open’, tradeoriented policy than the inland provinces. In fact, the liberalization of the economy in these areas seems to have been a source of conflict between the coast, which stands to benefit greatly, and the inland provinces, which fear being left further behind in the race for modernization.43



Interestingly, Shenzhen in particular has provided a testing-ground for enterprise and labour legislation that has later been introduced through­ out the rest of the industrial sector.44 The reform programme has now progressed for a sufficient period of time for its contours to become clear and for problems to arise. Not everyone has been favoured by the reforms in equal measure. Whether or not the programme will continue will depend on the strength of the opposition. Apart from the opposition of groups already mentioned, it seems that at the centre there are two main focuses of opposition that pose a threat to any further extension of the reform programme. They may not want to turn back the clock to the Maoist years, but they are worried about the future direction reform may take. For them reform seems to have gone far enough, and they are not willing to see a further erosion of the pillars of the political and economic apparatus. First, there is a group of people who are worried on economic grounds: this group would include veteran leader Chen Yun. Chen, and others, are worried about the destabilizing effect of pushing the reforms too far, too fast. They have criticized the over-reliance on the market and were worried about the ‘over-heating’ of the economy caused by the rapid growth of the rural industrial sector. While Chen is not opposed to an increased role for the market - indeed he has been one of its main proponents - he did see the too-rapid introduction of market forces as causing the economic problems of early 1985. Chen has consistently argued for the importance and primacy of central planning within the economic system. Furthermore, this group fears that current policies will deepen regional inequalities between China’s poor hinterland and its more advanced coastal regions. Finally, they are concerned about the mushrooming of corruption that has sprung up as a result of the more liberal policies and increased contacts with the West. This group can count on the support of what Shirk has termed the ‘communist coalition’: those groups favoured by the old system - the heavy industrial sector, inland provinces, the central planning agencies and the industrial ministries.45 The second group contains people such as Peng Zhen, who have a more orthodox view of the party-state apparat, and Hu Qiaomu and Deng Liqun, who are worried about the consequences of liberalization for the social fabric of China. In their view, the more relaxed economic policies and increasing contacts with the West have led to a rise in corruption and the appearance of decadent bourgeois thought and practices. However, Peng’s experiences in the Cultural Revolution have convinced him of the need for a strong legal basis for the reforms to govern both economic activity and civil society. Peng Zhen has been able to use the National People’s Congress as a forum for airing criticisms of the reform programme. The removal of Hu Yaobang as General Secretary of the party and the launching of attacks on bourgeois liberalization in the early months of 1987 represented a considerable success for the opposition. However, their inability to push the campaign any further attests to their ultimate



weakness, as it did with the campaign against Spiritual Pollution launched at the end of 1983. They have managed to silence more radical ideas about political reform, certainly those ideas that challenge Party hegemony, but they do not seem to have made any significant inroads into the economic reform programme. At the present time, it is difficult to see where sufficient support can come from to turn back the reform programme. Despite recognized problems, it does seem to be popular. Given China’s recent past, it would be extremely dangerous for the party to risk once again alienating its population, and particularly its intellectuals. Also, Deng Xiaoping, although no liberal, when confronted with the choice has always chosen to maintain the reform momentum. This has been a crucial factor. While a total reversal seems unlikely, the opposition may be able to gather enough strength to frustrate the reform programme. If that happens it will be up to Mikhail Gorbachev to take the lead in developing the politics of reform within a state-socialist setting. NOTES Tony Saich is an Associate Professor at the Sinologisch Instituut, Leiden University. He has written numerous articles and books concerning political developments in China, including China: Politics and Government (1981) and China*s Science Policy in the 1980s (1987). At present he is editing for publication the Sneevliet (Maring) Archives for his period in China. 1. See the relevant sections in John H. Kautsky, The Political Consequences of Modernization (New York: Wiley, 1971). 2. According to White, the phase of ‘bureaucratic voluntarism’ occurs after the revolu­ tion has taken place and when it is becoming ‘institutionalized’; an increasingly complex bureaucracy develops that attempts to stimulate and oversee rapid economic development: see G. White, ‘Revolutionary Socialist Development in the Third World: An Overview*, in G. White, R. Murray and C. White (eds.), Revolutionary Socialist Development in the Third World (Brighton: Wheatsheaf Books, 1983), p.32. 3. On this point see, for example, Stephen White, Political Culture and Soviet Politics (London: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 169—77 and ‘Communist Systems and the “Iron-Law of Pluralism”*, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 8 (1977), pp. 101-17. 4. This draws on information contained in Ch.6 of Tony Saich, China's Science Policy in the 1980s (forthcoming). 5. M. Korzec and T. Saich, The Chinese Economy: New Light on Old Questions, Working Paper No.28 (Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1983), p. 16. 6. Deng Xiaoping, ‘Not Reforming the Political Structure Will Hamper the Development of Productive Forces’, 3 Sept. 1986 quoted in Beijing Review (BR), No.20 (18 May 1987), p.15. 7. See, for example, Wang Huming, ‘Heading for an Efficient and Democratic Political Structure’, Shijie Jingji Daobao, 21 July 1986, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (,SWB) FE/8832. 8. It lies beyond the scope of this article to discuss the reforms of China’s foreign trade structure and the new policies to attract foreign capital. However, it should be pointed out that its increasing involvement in the world economy makes the current leadership more dependent on factors beyond their control than at any other time since the founding of the PRC. For example, its importation of sensitive foreign technology depends on the attitude of foreign governments, particularly the USA, with respect to granting it favoured-nation status. Its export of textiles depends on quotas set by other nations where its influence is weak at best.



9. For an excellent account of the earliest phase of the agricultural reforms see A. Watson, ‘Agriculture Looks for “Shoes that Fit”: The Production Responsibility System and Its Implications’, in N. Maxwell and B. McFarlane (eds.), China’s Changed Road to Development (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1984), pp.83-108. 10. It was essentially based on the ‘Three Freedoms and One Guarantee’ policy of the early 1960s that had been introduced to revive Chinese agriculture after the disaster of the Great Leap Forward. 11. Excerpts from Document No.l, 1983, ‘Some Questions Concerning Rural Economic Policy’, can be found in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), 13 April 1983, K—1. A Translation of Document N o.l, 1984, ‘Circular of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on Rural Work During 1984’, can be found in China Quarterly, No.101 (1985), pp.132-44. 12. See F. Christiansen, ‘Private Land in China? Some Aspects of the Development of Socialist Land Ownership in Post-Mao China’, The Journal of Communist Studies, Vol.3, N o.l (1987), p.58. See also F.W. Crook, ‘The Baogan Daohu Incentive System: Translation and Analysis of a Model Contract’, China Quarterly, No.102 (1985), pp .291-303. 13. This was done to give the peasants more incentive to invest in the land. The short-time contracts, previously three years, coupled with the peasants* fear that policy might change, caused them to maximize output from the land without due regard for its long­ term potential. 14. See K. Lieberthal, ‘The Political Implications of Document N o.l, 1984’, China Quarterly, No.101 (1985), p.109. 15. Jon Unger, when interviewing 28 people from different villages, found that 26 of the 28 villages had received commands from county officials to divide all their land among the peasant households; out of these 26, 24 were instructed to adopt the same system: see J. Unger, ‘The Decollectivization of the Chinese Countryside: A Survey of Twenty-eight Villages’, Pacific Affairs, Vol.58, No.4 (1985-86), pp.585-606. 16. See ‘Ten Policies for Enlivening the Rural Economy’ (Document N o.l, 1985), Renmin Ribao, 2 Jan. 1985. 17. Quoted in J. Fewsmith, ‘Rural Reform in China: Stage Two*, Problems of Communism, July-Aug. 1985, p.52. 18. Nongye Jingji Wenti, No. 11 (1986), quoted in E.B. Vermeer, ‘Agriculture in China’s Economy: A Statistical Picture*, China Information, Vol.2, No.l. 19. ‘NPC Gives Go-Ahead to 5-Year Plan’, BR, No.16 (21 April 1986), p.5. In discussing Zhao’s work report for the 1987 session of the NPC, it was reported that delegates criticized the government for not taking prompt and effective measures to solve problems in agricultural production, particularly grain production: ‘National People’s Congress: A Democratic Session’, BR, No.16 (20 April 1987), p.5. 20. Or by the state on the state farms. 21. For an interesting account of this Law and its implications see F. Christiansen, ‘An Analysis of Recent Developments in China’s Land Legislation: Some New Trends in Chinese Land Ownership and Land Use*, China Information, Vol.l, No.3, pp.20-31. 22. In 1982, village committees were set up to replace the brigades as the intermediate village-level political unit. The fifth session of the sixth National People’s Congress (March-April 1987), after considerable discussion, passed draft regulations on villagers’ committees and authorized their trial implementation. However, before the trial law was promulgated, it was stressed that further investigation and revision were necessary. The committees are self-governing organizations and are not subordinate to the local government. Notably, the text of the draft law was not released. 23. See Tony Saich, ‘Modernization and Participation in the People’s Republic of China*, in J.Y.S. Cheng (ed.), China in the 1980s (forthcoming). 24. T.P. Bernstein, ‘China in 1984: The Year of Hong Kong*, Asian Survey, Vol. XXV, No.l (1985), p.38. 25. A translation of this document can be found in BR, No.44 (29 Oct. 1984), pp.i-xvi. 26. E.J. Perry and C. Wong, ‘Introduction: The Political Economy of Reform in Post-Mao China: Causes, Content, and Consequences’, in E.J. Perry and C. Wong (eds.), The


27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

42. 43. 44. 45.


Political Economy of Reform in Post-Mao China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 12-13. See T. Vosbein, ‘Bankruptcy-The Limit of Economic Reform in China?’, China Information, Vol.l, No.3, pp. 1-8. E.B. Vermeer, ‘China’s Labour Policies and the New Labour Contract Law’, China Information, V ol.l, No.3, p.9. Zhao Ziyang, ‘Report on the Work of the Government’, BR%No. 16 (20 April 1987), p.XI. See below. This section draws heavily on information contained in Tony Saich, ‘Reform of China’s Political System*, in R. Benewick and P. Wingrove (eds.), Reforming the Revolution: China in the 1980s (forthcoming). Deng Xiaoping, ‘Reform of the Leadership System of Our Party and State’, speech of 18 Aug. 1980, officially published in Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan (Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe, 1983), p.282. Liao Gailong, ‘Historical Experience and Our Path of Development’, Zhonggong Yanjiu, VoLXV, No.9 (1981). For initial reforms of the state sector see David S.G. Goodman, ‘State Reforms in the People’s Republic of China since 1976: A Historical Perspective’, in Neil Harding (ed.), The State in Socialist Society (London: Macmillan, 1984), pp.277-98; for the party see Tony Saich, ‘Party-building since Mao: A Question of Style?’, in Maxwell and McFarlane, op. cit.; on cadre policy see Tony Saich, ‘Cadres: From Bureaucrats to Managerial Modernizers?’, in B. Arendrup et al. (eds.), China in the 1980s - and Beyond (London: Curzon Press, 1986). For an early discussion of the significance of these principles see the editorial, ‘Firmly Grasp the Four Basic Principles in Order to Realize the Four Modernizations’, Hongqi, No.5 (1979), pp.11-15. Tony Saich, ‘Party Consolidation and Spiritual Pollution in the People’s Republic of China’, Communist Affairs: Documents and Analysis, Vol.3, No.3 (1984), p.286. Deng Xiaoping, Xinhua Report, 3 Sept. 1986, in SWB, FE/8355 and Wang Zhaoguo, Xinhua Report, 16 July 1986, SWB, FE/8315; emphasis added. Cheng Hsiang, ‘News From Beidaihe’, Wenhui Bao, 8 Aug. 1986, in SWB, FE/8335. Deng Xiaoping, ‘A Blueprint is Needed for Reform of the Political Structure’ quoted in BR, No.20 (18 May 1987), p.16. Kenneth Jowitt, ‘Inclusion and Mobilization in European Leninist Regimes’, World Politics, Vol.XXVIII, No.l (1975), p.72. Sun Jian and Zhu Weiqun, ‘What is the Current Situation in Implementing Policies on Intellectuals? An Investigation of Jiangsu Province Shows that “Leftist” Influences Stubbornly Persist and the Problem is Far from a Solution*, Renmin Ribao, 8 July 1985, p.2. Cao Zhi, ‘Assess from the High Plain of Strategy the Question of Recruiting Party Members from Among Outstanding Intellectuals’, Hongqi, No.23 (1984), p. 18. See S. Shirk, ‘The Politics of Industrial Reform’, in Perry and Wong, op. cit., pp.210-16. This was the case, for example, with the contract labour system that was started in the Special Economic Zones in 1980. See Shirk, op. cit.

Reform, Local Political Institutions and the Village Economy in China Elisabeth J. Croll

Recent reforms in China have far-reaching implications for the form and content of village political and economic institutions and their relations with peasant households, family and kin groups. This article examines the recent separation of economic and political authority at the local level and the substitution of new township and village institutions for the commune, production brigade and production teams. With the development of the commodity economy and new economic associations, the government predicts a diminution in the production responsibility and autonomy of the newly emergent peasant household. However, a preliminary examination of the politics of the local economy suggest that peasant households may have developed alternative strategies based on new family forms and networks that potentially challenge village-wide political and economic structures.

In the past few years, one of the most important developments in many East European and Asian planned economies has been the introduction of new and radical rural economic reforms. These have separated political and economic authority, redefined responsibility for agricultural produc­ tion and altered both the balance of production for the plan and the market and the balance of resource allocation between public and private forms. These reforms have far-reaching consequences for local political, social and economic institutions. In China it has been apparent since 1980 that such reforms have transformed not only the rural collective economy, but also the village social and political institutions that had encapsulated peasant households, families and kin groups since the late 1950s. Yet, although there has been much attention drawn by analysts of China to the economic repercussions of these recent reforms, less attention has been devoted to the far-reaching social and political implications that the reforms have for the form and content of village political and economic institutions and their relations with peasant households, family and kin groups. One of the most important components of the recent reforms in rural China has been the separation at the local level of political and economic authority and the emergence of new political and economic institutions. Indeed, after the establishment of the production responsibility system, the local separation of political administration from economic manage­ ment has been designated as the second most important of the economic



reforms in rural areas. In the past five years, and since the introduction of the new constitution in late 1982, the government has reformed local political structures by substituting new township and village institu­ tions for the commune, production brigade and production team, and redefining the scope of their authority and controls. The government has also established new forms of economic organization based on local corporations, co-operatives and economic associations, to expand pro­ duction, develop the commodity economy and service economic enter­ prises managed by peasant households either individually or jointly. As a result of these reforms, the government expects that within the village a new division of labour will emerge in which local political institutions remain in control of the local economy and are responsible for guiding, planning and managing its development, but where they no longer directly participate in production. Rather this is to be the responsibility of the individual household and co-operative or economic associations, which combine to make up a new two-tier system of local economic management. The individual peasant household will be responsible for the development of its own economy and the management of its own productive operations. The co-operative or economic associa­ tion will manage production services and enterprises that are beyond the capacity of the individual peasant household. However, the government also expects that with increasing productivity in agriculture, diversifica­ tion and specialization and the development of the commodity economy, co-operative forms of unified management will come to predominate over the individual household’s management of the local economy. A preliminary examination of new social, political and economic institu­ tions in the villages suggests that such a hypothesis does not take sufficient account of the degree to which the peasant household has acquired a new measure of independence and control over inputs, resources and output; nor does it take into account the emergence of new family forms and strategies in the countryside whose networks may increasingly challenge the authority and controls of the new local economic and political structures.1 New Political Structures

The reforms that separated political and economic authority and established new local political structures began in 1982 in accordance with the Draft Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. From the turn of the decade there had been some discussion about the form this re­ structuring should take and some experiments had been conducted in Sichuan province; but within a very brief period, in 1984, it was reported that the new political structures had been introduced throughout China (with the exception of Tibet). The new political structures below county level include the township, the administrative village and village groups, and each coincides with previous administrative divisions of and within the commune2 (see Figure 1).



Chinese Terms Xian

English Terms County (County Government)

Past Equivalent County


Township (Township Government)


Xingzhengcun I

Administrative Village (Village committee)

Production brigade

Cunmin Xiaozu

Village Group (Village leader)

Production team

The establishment of new township governments is the key to local restructuring and they have been set up to assume the government and administrative functions formerly vested in the commune. Thus town­ ship governments replaced the people’s commune governments which, originally introduced into China in 1958, combined economic and politi­ cal authority over the means of production and were responsible for the production, management and operation of economic enterprises and of individual peasant households. Within the commune, the production brigade and production team, based on the whole or part of the rural village depending on its size, comprised the basic units of production with responsibility for accounting, planning and distribution. Between the state and the commune and within the commune, there was a single organizational structure, and China’s countryside was characterized by a clearly defined, hierarchical, single line of command combining political and economic authority. The collective structure, with its three tiers of commune, production brigade and production team, had almost entirely encapsulated the peasant household and the village economy, and the co-ordination of political and economic authority had meant that the peasant household had very little independence within or outside these structures. Although historical forms of association and co-operation based on small kin relations and neighbourhood groups might have remained the focus of informal exchanges largely confined to ritual occasions, most of the traditional forms of family and kin-based co-operation had been formalized, enlarged and magnified by the process of collectivization to include all households within the productive unit.3 For instance, the process of collectivization had demanded that peasant households place a high value on the mobilization of collective resources and co-operate on unprecedented levels and in larger collective-wide activities. The incorporation of peasant households into these large village production units with exclusive control of resources and the means of production meant that, although their very solidarity might derive from and draw on kinship and neighbourhood ties, there was little institutional competition to the collective from the family, kin and village. In production, the



peasant household had little or no access to alternative resources and inputs apart from those generated and distributed by the collective. However, it was the all-inclusive range of functions of the commune and its direct responsibility for production that were criticized by the reformers as an inefficient and institutional obstacle to rural economic development, and especially to the development of a commodity economy. The new township government, unlike the communes, is responsible only for the administration of political and social affairs, and for administering overall government and county plans for the local economy. Under the direction of the township head and two executive heads, it has offices to manage markets, disaster-relief, public security, welfare, health, culture and education. Although the township govern­ ment is charged with using economic, legal and other necessary administrative methods to guide and plan the economic development of the whole township, it is not charged with the administration of individual enterprises or organizing production by individual farmers. Indeed it is expressly prohibited from itself undertaking economic activities and from interfering in the specific production and management activities of individual and larger units of production. The township constitutes the lowest level of the formal local government administration hierarchy, and its officials, appointed and paid by the state, usually number some ten to 20 cadres. They are responsible for administering the affairs of the township and its constituent administrative villages. An administrative village, like its forerunner, the production brigade, is an administrative subdivision covering a geographical area made up of one large or several small and natural villages, usually comprising a total of 200-400 households. Each administrative village is governed by a villagers’ committee, whose members are recommended or elected by the villagers and approved by the township office. It is not a formal part of the government administration, since the members of the village committee are not employees of the state, but are rather part-time local leaders. The constitution stipulates that the villagers’ committees are ‘mass organizations of self-management’4which manage the public offices and social services of the village and help the local government in administration, production and construction. The village committee is usually made up of five persons, including the head or director of the village committee, two executive deputy directors, an accountant and a woman in charge of women’s affairs. Unlike the township and county, there is usually no division of personnel into branches. Instead, each person has multiple tasks and duties that might include the implementa­ tion of county or township policy, advising farmers on the development of their economic activities, taking charge of village construction work such as irrigation, forestry and roads, mediating in disputes, and overseeing the welfare of the poorest peasant households. Most of the members of the village committee expect to work one month a year on village affairs and they are usually paid 10-20 yuan a month to compensate for their loss of



production time. This sum is paid from village committee funds which are managed by the village accountant and derive from either direct annual levies on member households, calculated according to household size, or proceeds from a portion of die village’s cultivated land set aside and cultivated on a sharecropping basis for this purpose. The village committee is responsible for co-ordinating the activities of its constituent village groups. Each administrative village is divided into village groups with an average of 30-50 households and 100-150 persons in each. As for the former production team, whether the village group coincides with a natural village will very much depend on settlement patterns and the size of individual villages. Each village group has a village leader, who is elected or recommended by its constituent households, and it has access to the services of an accountant who may be responsible for the funds of one or several village groups. These two functionaries also receive a monthly sum, often six to nine yuan, contributed by the farmers to compensate for the loss of production time. The main functions of village group leaders are to acquaint villagers with government policy, to mediate in disputes, to be acquainted with the conditions of each member household in order to help them solve problems and advise them in the development of their incomes, and to disseminate information and technologies. The leader also arranges for each household to contribute labour for construction of village or township projects such as planting trees or developing roads, irrigation works or other community needs. In rural China in the past five years these political reforms have been introduced and implemented so that the new local political structures continue to constitute a single line of political authority reaching from the county through to the township village and peasant household. Although these bodies have been redefined in name and function to exclude direct responsibilities for and participation in production, they are expected to control the development of the local economy. A recent report in People’s Daily on political power at the grass-roots level outlined tire limits to the economic responsiblities of the local political organizations: To guide and manage the economic work of the township is an important power bestowed on the township government by the law. The township government should use the economic, legal and necessary administrative methods to manage the economy of the whole township and serve the development of commodity produc­ tion, but should not interfere in, undertake or even replace the specific production and management activities of economic organizations.5 In addition to and alongside this political restructuring and the establish­ ment of new local political institutions, the government also advocates the establishment of new forms of economic organizations based on a two-tier system of management combining households with companies, associa­ tions or co-operatives.



New Economic Structures When the first steps were taken to separate local political and economic authority, the reform was expressed largely in terms of simply ‘stripping’ the communes of their governmental and political functions and leaving them as economic entities responsible for organizing production of local enterprises, collectively owned and managed. Gradually, however, the economic role of the commune has declined as collectively managed enterprises were frequently contracted out to individuals or small groups of households and made responsible for their own profits and losses. The commune, instead of assuming new economic responsibilities in the wake of de-collectivization, has gradually diminished in importance so that the very use of the term has passed from the local rural vocabulary. Instead, government policy has increasingly directed attention towards a new twotiered system of economic management that combines individual management by the peasant household with co-operative and unified management of the larger services beyond the capacity of the individual household provided by local economic associations, corporations, companies and co-operatives. One of the most important dimensions of the recent rural reforms has been the new interest in and focus on the peasant household as an economic unit in the countryside. Although it has to be remembered that it was a more important unit of production than was generally surmised within the collective, it has now virtually replaced the collective as the dominant unit of production in rural China with primary responsibility for consumption and the welfare of its members. This substitution came about largely as a result of the new rural production responsibility system in which land was contracted out to the peasant household for use for a period of some 15-50 years.6 In practice, the peasant household has gained de facto control over the land, since it is encouraged either to invest in, accumulate, or sub-contract out its lands. The reallocation of responsibility for production also demanded that peasant households took charge of all field management from sowing to harvesting, and bore the expenses of production, including the hire and exchange of labour, animal labour and small machines, and the cost of the disposal of its agricultural products. Initially households had contracted to grow specified crops, and after allowing for taxes and the sale of mandatory quotas to the state had retained control over only the surplus. However, in 1985 the state abolished the mandatory purchase of quotas for crops, and peasant households may now either take out contracts with the state or produce almost exclusively for the market7 The rural economic reforms not only allocate new responsibilities to peasant households in crop cultivation, but they also encourage peasant households to diversify their economic activities to include both agricultural and non-agricultural occupations as part of new diversifica­ tion programmes aimed at developing animal husbandry, cash cropping, industries and commercial activities within the rural economy. To



encourage the peasant household to expand its income-generating activities, the government has increased producer prices, provided local incentives and re-established rural fairs and markets where goods, foods, local handicrafts and manufactured goods may be exchanged between producer and consumer at prices set according to local supply and demand.9 In a new and increasingly important development, peasant households are also encouraged to diversify their economic activities so that they increasingly move outside agriculture and specialize in some form of commodity production.10 A household is normally said to be specialized if the main labour force works or manages some form of specialized commodity production, with the income from commodity production accounting for some 50 per cent or more of the household’s total income. In other localities it is simply the number of rabbits, poultry or other products that determines its classification. The introduction of this new category of households, ‘specialized households’, marks the beginning of a new type of household economy or one that is ‘small and specialized’ as opposed to ‘one that is small and complete’.11It is estimated that approximately one-fifth of peasant households now specialize in the production of a single product or service,12 and since this proportion, already higher in coastal areas and the plains, is expected to rise with the development of commodity production, the characteristics of this type of peasant household are important in setting a trend for the future. The individual peasant household also remains the chief unit of consumption and welfare in the countryside responsible for meeting the basic needs of all its members, but it is now no longer aided and subsidized by collective structures and services to the same extent as formerly. As before, reorganized rural economy continues to demand that the peasant household should provide housing, non-staple foods, clothes and other basic necessities for all its members, but it is also responsible for procuring its own staple food supply now that the distribution of grain by the production team to its member households no longer takes place. Additionally, the peasant household is expected to take greater responsiblity for the economic support and welfare of its dependants, including its young, unemployed, elderly and disabled or otherwise handicapped members who are not able-bodied enough to be in full-time employment. Previously the production team absorbed all village residents into its labour force in some capacity or another, so they all earned work points whose value was calculated simply by dividing the income of the production teams by the total number of work points. Now, those without labour power must be either incorporated into the incomegenerating activities of the peasant household or supported by the peasant household out of its own income. In sum, as a result of the rural reforms, the peasant household is a more independent and complex economic unit managing a whole new range of economic activities and requiring an array of new resources to maintain it as the dominant unit of production, processing and welfare. The main aim of the second tier of economic management, comprising



economic companies, associations and co-operatives, is to support and service the peasant households’ new economic needs and demands which have expanded on an unprecedented scale as a result of the introduction of the production responsibility system and the development of specialized commodity prodution. Previously, the procurement of raw materials, the purchase of the means of production, the introduction of new agricultural techniques and the acquisition of new technologies, transport facilities and markets were all the responsibility of the collective production unit, and few demands were made on the initiative and management qualities of the individual peasant household or its special skills and resources. The development of the individual household as a production unit, and the expansion of its commodity production, now requires the house­ hold to have access to new skills, resources and facilities quite outside its previous experience, and frequently beyond the capacity of the indivi­ dual household to provide. In recognition of this new situation in the villages, the government has increasingly encouraged the pooling of existing resources by households, combining to organize new economic associations and co-operatives. These are intended to service the peasant households, and especially those specializing in commodity production, thereby facilitating production, and more particularly easing circulation, distribution, transport, storage and marketing - all areas where the infrastructure in rural China is weak. At first, many of the new economic structures, including corporations and companies, were established by communes or production brigades before the latter’s demise, in order to take care of the capital resources previously accumulated and operated by the collective. Many local resources - irrigation canals, plant protection units, agricultural machinery, seedlings and storage and transport facilities - were trans­ ferred to company ownership, and maintained and operated by a staff for whose services and inputs peasant households paid a fee. From various provinces it was reported that communes and production brigades had established service companies to deal with irrigation, agricultural machinery or artificial insemination, or supply and marketing companies to make various inputs - such as fertilizer and seed - available to peasant households.13 At first, communes and production brigades administered these companies and received a portion of the profits; gradually, however, such companies have managed their own operations inde­ pendently. Staff and local peasant households have taken shares in these coiporations or companies and shared in the profits. In addition to these independently operated companies and corpora­ tions, the government has encouraged peasant households to set up their own economic associations and societies to serve their own production needs.14Economic associations might be formed in several different ways. For instance, peasant households may combine to purchase an animal, a piece of machinery or other capital equipment which they then jointly own and operate. Alternatively, a group of households may employ personnel to perform certain specialist services on their behalf. For instance, reports



on the establishment of economic associations often quote a sequence of events in which individual households experience many difficulties in developing a specialist activity. They might spend much time and energy on searching for raw materials, acquiring new skills or obtaining market information in selling their products. Sooner or later a number of these households come together to appoint and send buyers and sellers to search for raw materials and markets, and import technicians to help them improve their knowledge and skills.15 In a third pattern of development, households may combine to invest in a small industry or a service centre, in which they either merely own shares or which they jointly operate by pooling their labour and resources. One of the main characteristics of these co-operatives and associations is that they are to be based on the principles of ‘spontaneous association and voluntary participation’.16 In pushing for new forms of co-operation and unified management of certain production services in the village, the government has taken great pains to persuade peasants that the new economic forms of co-operation are very different from those operating within the former three-tiered commune system. For example, an editorial in the People’s Daily in 1985 emphasized that these new economic organizations and co-operative systems were entirely different from former collectives in four main ways: First, it is not a highly centralized organization that integrates government administration and the management of the organiza­ tions into one, but a pure economic organization; secondly, the establishment of these organizations does not mean an amalgama­ tion of private property but, under the prerequisite of affirming household management, these organizations promote co-operation with regard to certain economic items, certain kinds of production, or certain technical links in accordance with the desires of the masses; thirdly, peasant households may voluntarily join or withdraw from these organizations, and the higher authorities never issue any orders to the lower levels for the establishment of these organizations; and fourthly, these organizations are established in accordance with local conditions and the demands of local peasant households. The practice of ‘demanding uniformity in everything’ or ‘trying to find a single solution for diverse problems’ is avoided.17 By the end of 1985 it was estimated that there were 480,000 new economic associations, mainly engaged in industry, transportation and construc­ tion, and commerce, catering and other service trades, which together employed a total of 4.2 per million employees and netted 13,300 million yuan.1®Increasingly the government has forecast that these new forms of economic co-operation will emerge spontaneously as the dominant economic organization in the countryside, in a three-stage cycle of development that began with the introduction of the responsibility system and the contracting-out of land, the diversification of the economy and the development of specialized commodity production. The concentration of land-use and the development of specialized households marks the



development of the second stage, in which some peasant households remain in agriculture while others develop specialized non-agricultural occupations. With the development of production and a commodity economy, a third stage would be marked by new levels of co-operation between households based on a mutual need for production services and on increasing specialization and the division of labour.19 Current campaigns aimed at perfecting the co-operative system also forecast a decline in household management and an increase in unified management by co-operative and economic associations, which will become the major new economic organizations in China’s countryside. The government thus expects that there will be a fundamental shift from individual household management of production and the economy to a co-operative or unified management, as productivity develops and the transition to a commodity economy proceeds.20 However, reports on the development of the new economic associations suggest that the establish­ ment of co-operative organizations based on the villages or a larger unit requires a degree of political and economic authority and control at local level and a related diminution of the economic independence of the peasant household. A preliminary examination of the politics of the local economy suggests that peasant households may be reluctant to give up the new independence and controls that they have acquired as a result of the new economic reforms, and that they may develop alternative strategies based on new family forms that potentially challenge village-wide political and economic structures. Peasant Household Strategies

The degree to which a peasant household has been able to take advantage of the new economic policies to expand or diversify its income-generating activities or specialize in any one activity is very much dependent on the household’s acquiring new and sufficient material and labour resources. In the search for new capital resources, the basis of any household strategy to expand and develop its economy is the generation of income to invest singly or jointly in fixed assets, tools for production and processing, as well as modes of transport. In the absence of inherited capital and accumulated individual material resources, the major means by which a peasant household in present-day China can generate capital is through develop­ ing its allocated land resources, or accumulating savings from the sideline incomes and wages of its members. Although the primary material resource of most peasant households is still the land, the ability of cultivated land to support the household and generate a surplus for investment is very much dependent on the amount of land available for cultivation in a region, the quality of the land and increases in producer prices. Generally it seems that households for which land generates the major portion of their income have not increased their earnings as much as those that have diversified or specialized in addition to (or instead of) cultivating their land. For instance, one recent survey has revealed that



the richer, specialized and well-off households with surplus cash received an average of only 20-33.5 per cent of their incomes from farming, while poor peasant households depended on field cultivation for 66.5 per cent of theirs.21 Whereas before 1978 income from land cultivation was the major source of collective (and therefore household) income, now a much more likely source of savings are the wages or income from household members ’ various agricultural and non-agricultural sideline activities. Now much expanded, these activities furnished a larger cash income that could be accumulated and invested in production activities. In rural China, one of the most obvious achievements of the reforms has been to raise peasant household incomes. This rise is due to three factors: the allocation of land and the responsibility for production to individual households, with remuneration calculated according to output; the diversification of the rural economy; and the new pricing policies for agricultural products. There have recently been several surveys of peasant cash incomes. Although little is known of their sampling techniques (and consequently the definition and categorization of income cannot be taken too precisely), these suggest that peasant household cash incomes, after allowing for price increases, may have risen by as much as 100 per cent since 1978. After meeting basic needs, much of the surplus has been allocated to building new housing and the purchase of consumer durables; nevertheless, it is also estimated that peasant households may now set aside upwards of a quarter of this income for the purchase of capital goods and fixed production assets.23 Indeed, major changes in the rural market have been created by the increased individual demand for items such as farm implements and machinery, irrigation pumps, fodder-crushing plants and equipment for raising livestock, plus machinery to facilitate food-processing, handicrafts and small and medium-sized industries. At the end of 1984, it was estimated that on average each household possessed fixed assets for production worth 579.45 yuan at cost value, which represented an increase of 24 per cent over 1983.24 According to the same survey, the average cost value of machinery for agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishing accrued by peasant households rose by 59 per cent over 1983; that of industrial and sideline machinery owned by each household rose by 43 per cent; and that of transport rose by 52 per cent. This all suggests that the production scale of peasant households has expanded markedly as they seek to extend and mechanize their operational capacity. One of the very important variables determining the degree to which a household may generate an income sufficient for its daily needs and a surplus for investment is the number and proportion of adult labourers in the household. In the first instance, the expansion, diversification and specialization of the peasant household economy relies on the accumulation and distribu­ tion of its labour resources. The correlation between the economic livelihood and welfare of the peasant household and its labour resources is not new, for even within the collective, the deployment of waged and unwaged family labour was the chief means by which a household fulfilled



its obligation to the collective production unit, cultivated its vegetables on the private plot, raised domestic livestock, and undertook limited produc­ tion of sidelines or handicrafts and domestic services for family members.25 This meant that access to and control over family labour resources was the major source of its economic support and welfare, and of income dif­ ferentiation within the collective. However, the demands on family labour have been greatly exacerbated by the new rural economic reforms, which now encourage the peasant household to expand and invest without limits in new and diverse income-generating activities. Compared with the past, when government regulation was the chief obstacle to economic expansion, it is now the limited labour power to which a household has access that is likely to be the major constraint. To meet the new and rapidly increasing demands on its labour resources, the peasant household has a number of short- and long-term strategies at its disposal. One of the means by which the peasant household might immediately augment its labour resources is to hire labour. In a radical departure from past policy, and in recognition of the potential demand for family labour, the government has relaxed the rule prohibiting the hiring of labour. Initially, and in some regions, there still seems to be a degree of uncertainty surrounding the details of the new policy and the number of labourers that any one household is permitted to employ. There also seems to be a wide variation in the extent to which the practice has been encouraged.26 In some villages there is very little evidence of the hiring of labour, while in others, such as in the Pearl River delta, it has not been unknown for field cultivation in its entirety to be undertaken by labour hired specifically for this purpose sometimes from outside the village. On the whole, though, the hiring of labour on any scale - which in the first instance also requires the generation of sufficient cash resources to pay wages - is still unusual: for the majority of peasant households, therefore, it is the intensification of existing family labour resources and the reproduction and recruitment of family labour that underlie household strategies. One of the only immediate means by which a peasant household might expand its activities and generate capital rapidly is to intensify or maximize the labour of existing household members, and the decline of the collective organization of family labour enabled the peasant house­ hold to do just that. The demise of the collective has altered the way in which peasants structure their working day, and in interviews they repeatedly (and quite spontaneously) contrasted past and present work­ ing methods.27 In the past, production team leaders, who had responsi­ bility for the production timetable, had allocated production tasks each morning, and the work points the peasant earned were directly related to (and were dependent on) their full-time daily presence in the fields. Now, however, agricultural workers control their own production timetables and work in the fields only when the production process necessitates it. At other times they turn their attention to alternative economic activities. Although they were quick to perceive the benefits of this flexibility, many also recognize that they now work harder than ever before. Women in



particular have noted that, although they have always had to work hard, the recent reforms have made their daily routines even more demanding.28 Children, too, have been pressed into some form of income-generating activities, as is confirmed by the decline in middle and even primary school attendance (especially among girls) in the past few years. Within the peasant household there has also been some reallocation of labour, and several common patterns have emerged that both maximize and diversify labour resources. In poor and inland regions, where there are few alternative forms of employment outside farming and where a peasant household continues to combine field cultivation with sidelines, payment by output and the contraction of the demands of field cultivation have combined with the expansion of alternative economic activities to bring about a new division of labour. Instead of both men and women of the household earning work points in the fields, the men continue to undertake field cultivation while the women have expanded previous economic activities or developed new ones. In some respects this is a reversion to a more traditional division of labour, since it has long been a characteristic of the fanm economy that the scale of sideline farm occupa­ tions - cultivating vegetables, tending livestock and producing handicrafts - was determined almost exclusively by the availability of female labour. After a period of contraction it has become common for women, once they were no longer needed in the fields, to develop and expand the scope of their income-generating activities, so that they frequently furnish a substantial portion of the household’s total annual cash income.30 It is also not uncommon for one of these activities to be developed to a point where it becomes a large-scale and full-time specialized occupation. Frequently what was originally a sideline or subsidiary product has been developed to become the dominant income-generating activity of the specialized households that are increasingly common in the richer regions of rural China.31 A quite different strategy for intensifying the labour resources of the peasant household has emerged where some of the adult members of the household are employed in non-agricultural occupations. Before the reforms, in regions where there were a number of employment op­ portunities outside agriculture, it was not uncommon for the men of the village to move into rural industries, capital construction projects, mining, fishing and forestry.32 In such regions it was often the women who were the mainstay of the agricultural labour force of the collective. As a result of the reforms, it is reported that many households in the country­ side have become ‘half-side families’ in which husbands work in occupa­ tions outside the farm and commute from the village on either a daily, weekly or monthly basis, leaving the women and children to undertake all the farm activities.33 The men return to help at the busy agricultural seasons, but these peasant households are for all practical purposes headed and operated by females. Again there has been an intensification of labour, although most women also willingly admit that they now earn higher incomes than the men of the household and have a greater measure



of control over the domestic economy. It remains to be seen whether these female-operated farm households will receive their fair share of inputs and avoid the discrimination so common in peasant farming systems elsewhere. However, in all these strategies there are limits beyond which the intensification of existing labour resources cannot be pushed, and peasant households have also sought to expand household size through the reproduction and recruitment of family labour. The reproduction of family labour is a time-honoured means of augmenting the labour force of any household, even if it4s not immediate in its effects. That peasants have customarily perceived there to be a direct correlation between family size and income is reflected in a number of common folk-sayings linking more children with ‘greater blessings’. It was not lost on peasant households that many of the newly rich house­ holds that emerged in the first years following the rural reforms were recognizably larger than those of their neighbours. These impressions were confirmed by a number of surveys reported in the mass media, which also showed a direct correlation between household size and income.34 However, any attempt to maximize labour resources by this means not only has to be part of a long-term strategy, but in China brings the peasant household into direct opposition with current family planning campaigns that centre on the one-child policy. In more recent years this policy has been relaxed to permit two children in a wider range of circumstances related to family structure and level of economic develop­ ment.35 One of the reasons for this relaxation was the number of diffi­ culties and problems associated with its implementation in the face of considerable opposition in the rural areas deriving from the demand for labour, especially sons’ labour.36 Nevertheless, stringent family planning controls are likely to remain in operation in the countryside, and any expansion of household size on this basis is likely to be severely curtailed for the foreseeable future. A household is therefore likely to adopt alternative and short-term strategies to augment its labour force. One of the more obvious of these is to arrange for the marriage of sons and delay the establishment of separate nuclear households. An important interest for a peasant household in the marriage negotia­ tions of its sons is the recruitment of a daughter-in-law whose labour is very welcome.37 Parents very often express their support for early marriage in terms of their desire ‘to drink a cup of tea provided by a daughter-in-law’. This is particularly so in circumstances where a household’s labour has recently been depleted through the death of an adult labourer or the loss of a daughter to another household in marriage. Through early marriage, peasant households aim to ensure a plentiful and steady supply of labour by timing their sons’ marriages and the birth of grandchildren so that potential labourers might be recruited into the labour force about the same time as the older generation or grandparents retire.38 In recent years the premium placed on family labour has been one of the major reasons why parents have continued to control marriage negotiations despite legislation to the contrary, and why the costs of



marriage are rising in rural areas. In many regions of China, marriage has become a very expensive transaction between two households in which the ‘wife-givers’ have to be compensated for the loss of a daughter’s labour by the ‘wife-takers’. Although the cost of daughters-in-law frequently requires either the accumulation of family savings to meet the cost of the son’s marriage or the marriage-out of a daughter in exchange for a daughter-in-law, it is a means by which a household can increase its labour by delaying family division after marriage so that the household expands to accommodate more than one nuclear unit. Analysts usually distinguish three different types of households ranging in complexity: the nuclear unit made up of parents and children; the stem or three-generational household of parents, one married son, his wife and children and any unmarried sons of daughters; and the larger, complex or joint family household in which more than one married son resides with the parents. According to the stage of their developmental cycle smaller households frequently expand in size and complexity, while larger and more complex households often divide to form a number of smaller nuclear or stem units. Traditionally it has been a mark of mobility for peasant households to expand their size and elaborate the family structure once there was sufficient wealth to support a larger and more complex household.39 The Chinese sociologist, C.K. Yang, likened the Chinese household to a balloon which was ever ready to inflate should the expansion of its economy allow this.40 In the 1950s, a number of novel demographic and economic factors occasioned the expansion of the traditionally small nuclear peasant household41 into a joint household, albeit often for a brief period, which, however short, offered a new and unique opportunity for the peasant household, even within the collective, to make use of its expanded labour resources to diversify the economy and accumulate resources.42 From past experience, then, it might be expected that the recent income-generating opportunities would encourage a peasant household to delay household division indefinitely, or at least for a longer period, now that one of traditional constraints on the expansion of a household - the size of the family estate - has been removed. More than in any other period this century, the majority of China’s peasant households have extended their estate to include lands (de facto ownership), residences, enterprises, tools of production, livestock and household effects that would provide a basis for supporting larger numbers than hitherto. Thus, both the expansion of the family estate and the exacerbated demands on labour could ostensibly lead to the elabora­ tion of greater numbers of peasant households into complex and joint forms. However, and perhaps surprisingly given the rise in numbers of joint family households since the 1950s, there is little evidence that any such expansion has taken place. If anything, there seems to have been a reverse trend with evidence of declining household size in China’s villages. A number of recent surveys of household size have shown there to be a marked rise in the number of smaller, nuclear households of one and two generations, and a corresponding drop in the number of large,



multi-generational stem and joint households.43 Several factors may have encouraged this simplification of household structure, including the new degree of material wealth, and particularly of house-building. There has also been new evidence of increased opposition expressed both by members of the younger generation, who in a time-honoured manner object to the authority of the older generation, and by members of the older generation, and particularly grandmothers, who object to the burden of domestic labour required of a large household.44 However, it is difficult to measure the strength and scale of this new opposition and its effect on household division. Instead, it seems likely that one of the main factors contributing to the decrease in household size is the emergence of a new family form that both acquires the resources and yet escapes the disadvantages of the joint family household. The Aggregate Family

Instead of delaying division in order to maximize family labour resources, it may be that households now divide sooner rather than later; however, partition is not as complete as it was in the past when the peasant household was fully incorporated into the collective structures and economy. In other words, at the same time as a large and complex household divides into smaller units - and in many regions the enormous amount of new housing may have encouraged division - its members may continue to hold some property in common and share in economic ventures that include some form of joint investment and exchanges of labour. In addition, close-kin related households that divided in the past may now combine to invest in and develop on a joint basis common income-generating and other activities. The new and emerging family form is thus made up of a number of peasant households related by close kinship ties that have developed new or more intensified forms of associa­ tion and co-operation based on economic, social and political links and exchanges. The new family form is here termed an ‘aggregate’ family. The adjective ‘aggregate’ has been selected because, although families are fragmented into separate households, it is the linkages or the relationships between them of co-operation and assocation which are of major importance to the analyst rather than concern with their internal divi­ sions, boundaries and fragmentation. In taking the single household as the unit of investigation, analysts frequently tend to isolate and conceptualize the household itself, and so minimize the links and exchanges between households and their importance for the household itself. In much of rural China in the future, it may well be that the important unit of analysis is not so much the individual household and its structure, function and boundaries as the aggregate family and the important kinship, neighbourhood and economic, social and political links and relations that underlie its formation and maintenance. The basis for co-operation and association between households within the aggregate family are, first of all, kinship and proximity of residence, and



secondly, the mobilization of resources to meet the new economic, social and political demands on the household that guarantee mutual obliga­ tions or claims for assistance. The aggregate family is first distinguished by its close patrilateral kinship ties, usually made up of brothers, fathers’ brothers and fathers’ brothers’ sons: that is, of those males descended from a common male antecedent and extending to some three generations. The co-operative kinship unit corresponding to this group is frequently identified by villagers and referred to as ‘own family’ (jiating or zijia) or ‘close kin’ (jinqin). Field investigation in one village in Guangdong province sug­ gested that villagers identified their ‘close kin’ (jinqin) as comprising brothers who had established separate households, fathers’ brothers and fathers’ brothers’ sons; moreover, a line was drawn between them and fathers’ fathers’ brothers and their sons, who were either designated as distant kin or not cited at all. The village itself was characterized by geographically concentrated clusters of agnatic kin, consisting of groups of either brothers or fathers’ brothers.45 In a village in Jiangsu province, residents placed much emphasis on the ‘family’ (zijia) as the co-operative kinship unit.46 It corresponded to a patrilineage, consisting of a group of men descended through males from a single male ancestor, plus their wives and unmarried sisters and daughters, and dispersed among several diffferent households; usually, however, there was a degree of residential proximity among close kin-related households. It is interesting to note that these clusters frequently correspond spatially to the primary units of kinship co-operation identified in field studies by anthropologists in villages before 1949. This is despite the fact that subsequently (until 1978) the economic and political significance of the relations within such units had been reduced, as the individual household was incorporated into larger economic and political structures: these units had remained the main focus of various ritual forms of co-operation, however. Since 1978, by contrast, relations between post-division and close kin-related households have been reinvested with a new economic and political significance. Although the new demand on the material and labour resources of the household may be beyond its capacity, a careful accumulation and distribution of resources may fall within the capacity of the aggregate family. The economic process by which an aggregate family may be formed and then maintained can take one of several forms. An aggregate family may simply continue to operate a number of joint ventures that were developed by the father and his sons prior to the division of the household, and that continue to be jointly operated after the brothers have dispersed into separate households. The operation of these joint ventures may continue to necessitate common investment, management and exchanges of labour between fathers and sons and their household members. Alternatively, one household may initiate an economic activity that becomes so profitable that kin-related neighbouring households are encouraged either to contribute their resources to enlarging the venture,



or to set up their own parallel ventures; these also will perhaps involve a certain degree of co-operation at various points in the production, processing and marketing processes.47 A household might, for example, have cultivated mushrooms, raised rabbits or established small industries or services, and then have proceeded either to help close kin establish similar activities, or to incorporate them into the same venture. So far, individual households running successful and lucrative ventures have shown some degree of interest in aiding their kin-related and neighbouring households. There is some evidence to suggest that the richer and particularly specialized households, which have acquired outstanding wealth in the few short years since the economic reforms, have felt their position to be somewhat threatened by a change in government policy or the attitudes and actions of their fellow villagers.48 Rather than draw exaggerated attention to themselves as individuals richer than their neighbours, they would sooner forestall criticism and envy by sharing or pooling resources to develop the local economy. It may be that in the future the constituent households of an aggregate family may evolve a division of labour, whereby one household undertakes to cultivate the lands, another household promotes some kind of commodity production or service, and yet another provides transport, technical or commercial marketing expertise. In this way, the member households would be to a large degree interdependent and self-sustaining. However, if the aggregate family is more self-sufficient, it is also less likely to be spatially defined or its activities localized or bounded by the village. Family Networks

One of the most interesting repercussions of the recent rural reforms is the fragmentation of the village, with the result that its corporate interests, its politics and its productive capacity are now less important to the peasant household. The reduction in the political and economic role of the production team and higher collective has meant that the aggregate family has become less dependent on village facilities and the village govern­ ment. The fact that the aggregate family no longer finds it necessary or so advantageous to focus on inter-household relationships within the village, which in turn no longer possesses the means to meet its major needs, has turned the attention of the aggregate family beyond the village. So kinship ties outside the immediate village - especially those with relatives in small towns and urban centres - have become increasingly important over the past five years. It is interesting to note the growing tendency for peasants to invest in towns and urban centres. Some surveys within villages suggest that the highest earners in the villages are usually cadres, ex-cadres, demobilized soldiers, returned students or educated youth: precisely those individuals who were in a position outside the village to cultivate relations and alliances that give them access to raw materials, markets and market information.49 Thus many close-kin households located within cities, towns and distant villages have been to a



greater or lesser extent incorporated into the aggregate family economy to aid in the production and marketing processes, thus activating kinship ties outside the village and across urban and rural divides. However, because of the restrictions on migration in the past, many aggregate families have no existing extensive ties beyond the village, and they have commonly set out to establish them. There are several means by which aggregate families without extensive and useful kinship ties have established such relations outside the village. The first of these is the time-honoured device of negotiating the marriage of daughters so as to establish advantageous affinal alliances. The control of marriage by the older generation means that marriage negotiations can be employed to serve a similar economic and political purpose as pre­ existing agnatic kin ties, and there is some evidence that such puiposive alliances have increased in frequency over the past five years.50 Secondly, aggregate families may establish a new household to set up one of its members in a local small town or urban centre, thereby gaining access to a new set of resources and market outlets.51 So long as the aggregate family can provide grain for the subsistence of this town or urban house­ hold, there are now few strictures against the movement or permanent migration of family members to small towns and urban centres. They may find employment there in any of the expanding number of new collectively-operated or state enterprises, or they may establish their own individually-operated enterprises processing or marketing goods produced by the aggregate family in the village. On a more humorous note, it is likely that no urban kin with a ground floor flat out of whose windows produce or articles can be sold will be left unclaimed! It has already proved interesting to follow the movement of the labour force to the small towns and cities. In a survey of young tailors in Chengdu, it was discovered that the majority had come from rural villages of varying distance from the city. Each had been established, set up with tools of the trade and provided with grain by their families residing back in the village.52 Some of their families had even bought a house for them in Chengdu, where it was intended that other family members might also reside. Similarly, informal surveys of market stall personnel in the cities indicate that produce and articles of rural origin are often sold in markets by a representative of a group of closely kin-related households.53 Analysing the chain of migration will prove interesting over the next few years, and it is likely that sometime in the future the study of intra-familial urban and rural relations will come to resemble the dispersed family characteristic of Republican China and Taiwan, as depicted by Lin Yueh Hwa in The Golden Wing for the Republican era54 and Myron Cohen in House United and House Divided for Taiwan.55 The elaboration of these family networks alters both the power relations in the village and the cohesion of the village itself.



Family and Village

There is increasing evidence to suggest that peasant households them­ selves have perceived that the balance of power in both production and reproduction has been altered in their favour, and has increased their own bargaining power vis-a-vis local political and economic structures. There is also increasing evidence that these structures themselves have been affected by the fragmentation of the village in the economically developed regions of China as a result of the recent promotion of commodity production. For instance, there are several reports that peasants have disregarded reprimands for, say, damaging village property by local political leaders,56 or resisted their authority to implement unpopular policies such as family planning, because now ‘they cultivate the land and eat their own grain’.57 In some regions cadres, in the interests of maintaining their own authority, may either counter the reforms and impose fines and constraints on the independent development of house­ hold economies58 or take advantage of new positions as village brokers in procuring raw materials and markets. In response, households may mobilize the support of fellow members of the aggregate family in order to resist undue administrative pressures, fines or taxes that may be unlaw­ fully exacted from the richer households. Perhaps more than any other factor, it is their control over the land and its products that has provided peasant households with a new sense of independence, and this affects their relations with local cadres and the new political and economic structures. Even in poor regions, cadres report that they have had to take account of the new independence of the family, and redefine the ways in which they exercise their authority;59 in richer regions that very authority is threatened. One of the reasons peasant households may have acquired new opportunities to exercise their bargaining power in richer regions is that they are now required to operate in a local political arena characterized by new divisions and a greater competition for village and outside resources. One of the characteristics of rural villages in the past few years has been the exacerbation of existing income differentials and competi­ tion between neighbouring peasant households, accompanied by the fragmentation of the village. Although the range of per capita peasant household incomes has risen since 1978, there are still wide variations both in absolute levels of income and in the percentage rise since 1978. In 1982, the government itself had foreseen that in the next few years 30-40 per cent of peasant households would become rich, 40-50 per cent would achieve considerable improvements, and 15-20 per cent of peasant households with little or no planning or business acumen would still encounter difficulties in meeting basic needs.60 In a similar vein the government has forecast that within any one community, it is likely that on average richer households will earn two to three times the income of poorer households; most of the income surveys within villages or counties suggest that there may have been a quantitative increase in the range of



income within regions.61 Qualitatively, too, there is evidence of a new degree of polarization within the village, suggesting that inter-household relations within the rural community may have deteriorated. There are a number of media reports that note that one of the main problems facing the rich households, and particularly specialized households in villages, has been threats to and attacks on their crops, property and person. In response, kin-related and neighbouring households have shared facilities and combined to protect their crops as they ripen in the fields. In the bid to acquire new resources, there is also increasing competition between households within the villages for their share of resources such as land and other productive tools and assets. As a result of divisions in collective assets and inputs, and the acquisition of individual respon­ sibility for production and remuneration accorded to output, there is a new measure of competition within the village for a share of resources. One or two studies of the allocation and distribution process suggest that former and present cadres are in a position to influence this process63 and thus favour their immediate kin with better quality lands and a larger share of fertilizer, seeds, capital and other inputs.64 Within the village the aggregate family, rather than the individual households, may provide a more effective power base in the competition for such resources, many of which are still scarce. In the past few years there have also been numerous reports of the use of wider kinship and clan ties in the settling of disputes over resources.65The new local political and economic structures, many of which constitute new forms of self-management in the economy, political affairs and social services of the village, may provide yet another opportunity for aggregate families to expand their influence and further their own interests within the village and beyond. This applies especially to those that are large and affluent and have extensive ties outside the village. There is thus a complex social, economic and political process under way in Chinese villages: the increasing incorporation of the peasant household into aggregate families and their expanding involvement in the broader economy is leading to a weakening of local economic and political structures, accompanied by the fragmentation of village cohesion and solidarity. This, indeed, may come to be designated as one of the most significant changes to have been occurring in the People’s Republic of China in recent years.

NOTES Dr Elisabeth Croll is a Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has undertaken regular investigation of village and family in the People's Republic of China, and her many books include Feminism and Socialism in China, The Politics of Marriage in Contemporary China, and Women and Rural Development in China. 1. This article rests on a documentary study of the appropriate resources and incorporates



observations and interview materials from several recent visits to China. 2. This section on political structures is based on extensive interviews in villages in Henan province, Feb. 1987; also, ‘More Township Governments and Villagers* Committees Established’, Beijing Review, 12 March 1984; ‘People’s Communes No Longer Govern*, ibid., 7 Jan. 1985. 3. For elaboration of this thesis, see Elisabeth Croll, The Politics of Marriage in Contemporary China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). 4. ‘More Township Governments ...’. 5. ‘Reform of the Rural Grassroots Political Power Structure’, Renmin Ribao (‘People’s Daily’), 14 Nov. 1986. 6. For articles on the rural responsibility system, see ‘Quota Fixing at Household Level’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB), 28 Dec. 1979; ‘Discussion on the Systems of Responsibility for Output Quotas by Production Team in Rural People’s Communes’, Jingji Yanjiu (‘Economic Research’), 20 Oct 1980; ‘Fixing Output Quotas for Individual Households’, ibid., 20 Jan. 1981; ‘Communist Party Central Committee Discusses Agriculture’, NCNA (New China News Agency), 19 May 1981; ‘Prospects for Development of Double-Contract System*, Renmin Ribao, 9 March 1982. 7. Xinhua News, 5 Aug. 1984; ‘Jilin Implements Contract Purchasing of Grain’, BBC SWB, 21 March 1985; ‘Heilongjiang Decision on Replacing Unified Purchases of Grain with Contracts’, ibid., 28 March 1985; Jingji Yanjiu, 20 Aug. 1984; Zhao Ziyang, ‘Reorganizing Agriculture and Loosening Price Control’, Xinhua, 30 Jan. 1985. 8. For discussion of domestic sidelines, see Elisabeth Croll, ‘The Promotion of Domestic Sideline Production in Rural China, 1978’ in Jack Gray and Gordon White (eds.), China's New Development Strategy (London: Academic Press, 1982), pp. 235-54; ‘Defence of Domestic Sideline Production*, BBC SWB, 27 April 1978; ‘The Encouragement of Domestic Sideline Production’, Jingji Yanjiu, 20 Aug. 1979. 9. NCNA, 14 June 1980; ibid., 16 Aug. 1980; ibid., 30 Aug. 1980. 10. Zhao Ziyang, op. cit.; Renmin Ribao, 1 Aug. 1983. 11. ‘Developing Specialized Households is a Major Policy’, Renmin Ribao, 23 Jan. 1984. 12. In a few regions the majority of peasant households are classified as specialized. For example, in one group of villages in Shanxi province only one-thirdof peasant households remained in diversified farming activities by 1983. Theothertwo-thirds were equally divided between those specializing in industrial and sideline production, or providing services such as transport, commerce and water conservation, and those in commodity grain production. The latter third cultivated about 58 per cent of the responsibility lands allocated, and they supplied grain to most of the households specializing in services and in non-grain commodity production: see ‘Anhui Regula­ tions in Specialized Households’, BBC SWB, 28 April 1984; Nongye Jishu Jingji (Economics of Agricultural Production Technology), N o .ll, Nov. 1983; and ‘Expan­ sion of Rural Production*, BBC SWB, 1 Feb. 1984. 13. ‘More Township Governments and Villagers* Committees Established’, Beijing Review, 13 March 1984; A.R. Khan, ‘The Responsibility System and Institutional Change*, in K. Griffin (ed.), Institutional Reform and Economic Development in the Chinese Countryside (London: Macmillan, 1984), pp. 76-131; ‘Rural Specialized Households in Heilongjiang*, BBC SWB, 21 Jan. 1984; Hongqi (Red Flag), 28 March 1984. 14. See ‘Peasants’ Economic Co-Ordination Societies’, Renmin Ribao, 11 July 1985; Dai Yannian, ‘Beefing up Rural Co-operative System*, Beijing Review, 23 June 1986. 15. Ibid. 16. Renmin Ribao, 11 July 1985. 17. Ibid. 18. Dai Yannian, op. cit. 19. NCNA, 9 March 1982. 20. Dai Yannian, op. cit. 21. Results of 1983 Survey of the Rural Economy, Renmin Ribao, 1 April 1983. 22. Lee Travers, ‘Post-1978 Economic Policy and Peasant Income in China’, China


23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39.



42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47.

COMMUNISM AND REFORM IN EAST ASIA Quarterly, Vol. 98 (1984), pp. 241-60; see ‘Sample Survey of Peasant Household Income and Expenditures’, Beijing Review, 24 Oct. 1983; ‘Report on 1983 Economy’, BBC SWB, 1 May 1984; ibid., 29 April 1985. Tongji (Statistics), 17 June 1984, pp. 12-13. Ibid. For discussion of this aspect see Elisabeth Croll, The Politics of Marriage in Contemporary China; Elisabeth Croll, ‘Production versus Reproduction: A Threat to China’s Development Strategy’, World Development, Vol. 11, No.6, (1983). Interviews in China, 1983-87. Ibid. For example, Liu Fanrong, ‘A Hill Family Goes All Out’, Women of China, July 1983, p.2. ‘The Women’s Movement in China’, China Reconstructs, 1 March 1979; Women in China, 1 May 1985; Cheng Nai-xin, ‘Universal Nine-Year Education’, ibid., 1 Jan. 1986. Liu Fanrong, op. cit.; Xiao Ming, ‘What the Responsibility System Brings’, Women of China, 1 Nov. 1983. Li Zhenying, ‘On a Chicken Farm’, Women of China, 1 July 1983, p.2. For a discussion of this pattern see Elisabeth Croll, Womenin Rural Development: The People's Republic of China (Geneva: International Labour Office, 1979). Xiao Ming, op. cit. ‘Analysis of Reproduction of Rural Population’, Jingji Yanjiu, 20 June 1982. Elisabeth Croll, ‘China Steps up One-Child Campaign*, People (London: Inter­ national Planned Parenthood Federation, Jan. 1984); Elisabeth Croll, ‘China Refines One-Child Family Policy’, ibid., May 1985. Jingji Yanjiu, 20 June 1982. See Croll, The Politics of Marriage. W. Parish, ‘Socialism and the Chinese Peasant Family’, Journal of AsianStudies, VoLXXIV, No. 3 (1985), pp.613-30. Members of peasant households seldom distinguish between fellow residents of the same household and their close kin who do not reside with the same household; they frequently refer to both as members of the ‘same’ family (jia or jiating). For analytical purposes this article follows the usual practice and uses the term ‘household’ to refer to members who are co-resident and ‘family* for close, genetically-related members of different households. C.K. Yang, Communist Society: The Family and the Village (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1959); I.B. Taeuber, ‘The Families of Chinese Farmers’, in M. Freedman (ed.), Family and Kinship in Chinese Society (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1970), pp.63-86; Croll, The Politics of Marriage. For discussion of household division prior to 1949, see M. Cohen, House United, House Divided: The Chinese Family in Taiwan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), p.59; Fei Hsiaotung, ‘Peasantry and Gentry’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. LII (1946), pp. 1-17; M. Freedman, ‘The Chinese Domestic Family: Models’, Vie Congres international des sciences anthropologiques et ethnologiques, Vol.2, Part I (Paris, 1963), pp.97-100; Croll, The Politics of Marriage. Croll, The Politics of Marriage. ‘Chinese Families Getting Smaller*, BBC SWB, 6 April 1984; ‘Nuclear Families Dominate Countryside’, Shehui, quoted in Beijing Review, 1 Jan. 1985. Academy of Social Sciences, Attitudes of Young People in China to Family Formation (Paris: UNESCO, 1984); Wu Ming, ‘Some Older Women in China’s Countryside’, Women in China, May 1982. Elisabeth Croll, ‘Chiang Village: A Household Survey’, China Quarterly, Dec. 1977, pp .786-814. N. Gonzalez, ‘Household and Family in Kaixiangong: A Re-Examination*, China Quarterly, March 1983, pp.76-89. ‘Shanxi Calls for Support for Specialised Households’, BBC SWB, 15 Feb. 1984; Renmin Ribao, 23 Jan. 1984; ‘CCP Document No.l in the Countryside’, BBC SWB, 16



May 1984. 48. ‘Questions and Answers on Rural Work’, Shaanxi Ribao (Shaanxi Daily), 11 Feb. 1984. 49. ‘Assisting the Rural Poor’, Beijing Review, 19 Sept. 1983. 50. ‘Marriage Law and Socialist Morality*, BBC SWB, 4 Feb. 1982; ibid., 14 Dec.1984; ‘Arranged Marriages’, Xinhua, 8 March 1985. 51. Interviews in China, 1984. 52. Ibid. 53. Ibid. 54. Lin Yueh Hwa, The Golden Wing (London: Routledge, 1948). 55. Cohen, op. cit. 56. John Gittings, ‘From Blossoms to Bricks’, China Now, Summer 1984, pp.3-6. 57. ‘Rural Population Policy’, BBC SWB, 18 Feb. 1982; ‘Population and Educationin Family Planning Work’, Renmin Ribao, editorial, 29 Sept. 1981; BBC SWB, 24 July 1984. 58. ‘Relieving the Peasants* Burden’, Liaowang (Outlook), 19 Aug. 1985. 59. Interviews in Henan Counties and administrative villages, Feb. 1987. 60. NCNA, 9 March 1982. 61. ‘Responsibility System Revives Jiangsu Countryside’, Beijing Review, 28 Nov. 1983; interviews in Henan province, Feb. 1987. 62. ‘Protection of Specialized Households’, BBC SWB, 28 Feb. 1984. 63. ‘“Clan” System and Nepotism in Cadre Appointments’, Renmin Ribao, 18 March 1986; ibid., 18 April 1986. 64. A. Chan, R. Madsden, and J. Unger, Chen Village: The Recent History of a Peasant Community in Mao's China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984). 65. ‘Ending Clan Fights’, Nanfang Ribao (Southern Daily), 5 Nov. 1981; ‘Clan Strife’, BBC SWB, 5 Nov. 1981; ibid., 19 Nov. 1981; ibid., 23 March 1982; ibid., 5 April 1982; ibid., 2 July 1986.

China: The New Inheritance Law and the Peasant Household Delia Davin

The new Chinese inheritance law gives men and women equal inheritance rights. This article argues, however, that the stability of the peasant household economy would be threatened by any interference with the custom of patrilineal in­ heritance, and that it is therefore unlikely that this clause will be implemented in the countryside.

In the past decade there has been a concerted effort in China to construct the institutional framework now seen as appropriate to a modem state. Prominent among the reforms have been the codification of law, the extension of formal legal institutions, the political rehabilitation of the legal profession after its downgrading in the period of the Cultural Revolution, and attempts to heighten the general awareness of the law. Legal reformers frequently assert that the development of the rule of law, and of legal processes whose outcomes are predictable and fair, is necessary to the future economic development of the country. Not surprisingly, commercial law has received special attention in recent years, as has its implementation. There are other areas where law seems to play a different role and where adherence to the letter of the law is probably not expected, at least for the time being. Those who frame the law are aware that for many in China, and especially for the four-fifths of the population that is still rural, custom is likely to influence behaviour at least as strongly as law. This is particularly true in such areas as family relations, marriage, divorce and inheritance. Inheritance is a vital part in the Chinese family system, for property usually passes between close kin, reinforcing kinship bonds and shaping the relationships between the individuals involved. It is hardly surprising that the state’s attempts to intervene in this process are sometimes ineffective; they are none the less highly significant. China as a socialist state is committed to upholding certain ideals, amongst which is the equality of men and women. However, as the subordination of women is an essential characteristic of the rural family system, attempts to uphold women’s rights have often proved to be socially and economically disruptive. By enshrining equal rights for women in its constitution, and by including them in the legal code, China is able to retain its socialist credentials while officials can frankly admit the obvious truth that, for the



moment at least, women are far from achieving equality. Thus certain laws have a special role; instead of regulating the way people actually live, they represent the way the legislators think in a better world they would live, and, for the moment, they provide a sort of code of ‘good practice’. The Growing Significance of Property and Inheritance in Contemporary China

Since 1978, with the waning of the collective system in China, the rural household has once more become a major unit of production and ownership. Individuals and family groups are able to accumulate private property on a scale quite impossible in the earlier decades of the People’s Republic. In part this is simply the result of greater prosperity. Where 20 years ago, ordinary people reckoned wealth in terms of quilts, bicycles, watches, vacuum flasks and fountain pens, many now aspire to own such consumer items as transistor radios, televisions, rice-cookers and even refrigerators and washing machines. Much new private housing has been built in the countryside, and even in the city the previously stagnant stock of private housing is now growing. All this is of course a natural accompaniment of economic growth: as people’s incomes rise, they are able to own more. However, the increase in private property has an even more significant side. The new economic reforms allow and indeed necessitate the private ownership of quite significant means of production. In both city and countryside there is now private ownership of small plant and machinery, vehicles for haulage, and at a more mundane level, sewing machines, knitting machines and equipment for other crafts and trades. In agriculture privately-owned property includes tractors and other agricultural machinery, and tools, draught animals and other stock. A contract or contracts may also be important among family or individual assets. Both agricultural and non-agricultural production is now commonly carried out under contract. The party to this contract is most often the head of household acting on behalf of his household, but may also be either an individual or a group of individuals. Contracts are not themselves defined as property, and they are not supposed to be bought or sold, although a market in them certainly exists. They are of great importance to the rural family economy as they give use-rights to the land in an arrangement not unlike a lease, and, in the case of nonagricultural production, give the small entrepreneur a guaranteed outlet for his goods. Household contracts are expected to be taken over by the next genera­ tion when the household head dies. The law also allows contracts made with individuals to be passed on, but this is conditional, and is not referred to as inheritance. The present leadership in China sees property rights guaranteed by the state as essential to its current strategy for economic growth. It is anxious to condemn the attacks on property that took place during the Cultural



Revolution, and to dissociate itself from any notion that property is theft, or even bourgeois. In keeping with the regime’s proclaimed interest in a codified legal system, this preoccupation is increasingly reflected in law. The 1982 constitution stipulated: ‘The law protects the right of citizens to own lawfully-earned income, savings, houses and other lawful property’ and ‘the state protects by law the right of citizens to inherit private property’.2 A new Inheritance law, the first such law of the People’s Republic, came into force in October 1985.3 As inheritance customs and regulations affect and are affected by kinship structures, the household economy and the relative treatment of men and women within the society, the Inheritance law has extensive implications for the way Chinese society functions. The focus in this article is on inheritance law in relationship to the peasant household. It is claimed that the new law will support both the stability of the household economy and women’s inheritance rights, yet in rural society there is a clear contradiction between the two. A woman’s inheritance rights, if implemented, would produce the transfer of her share of property from the family of her birth to her husband’s family, with effects that could be highly disruptive to the economic activities of the former. The demise of the collective system in agriculture and the devolution of responsibility for production to the peasant household have strengthened the state’s vested interest in the stability of the peasant household economy, so this is potentially a serious problem. The law is also of topical interest because it attempts to deal with the problem of the care and support of the elderly. China’s draconian family planning policies will soon produce an ageing population, and the subject of providing for the old has been widely discussed. A wish to protect the state from having to assume this huge financial burden is reflected in the inheritance law’s provision for rewards to family members or non-related ‘elective heirs’ who undertake the support of an old person. The 1985 Law in Summary The new law defines heritable property as including the citizen’s income, houses, savings, articles for daily use, trees, livestock, and poultry, means of production as permitted by law and rights in copyrights and patents. As to contracts, it stipulates that an heir may continue working under the same contract ‘where the law permits’. Presumably it is envisaged that individual contracts may themselves contain clauses allowing or disallow­ ing this possiblity of passing them on. The law recognizes two classes of natural heirs: first-class heirs, who are spouses, sons and daughters, and parents; and second-class heirs, who are brothers and sisters, paternal grandparents and maternal grandparents. Second-class heirs inherit only when there are no first-class heirs. The law prohibits discrimination between the sexes in the right to inherit. Although generally speaking heirs in the same class inherit equally, an



heir who has supported the deceased person may be specially favoured, while the heir who has failed to support the deceased may be disadvantaged or disqualified: an heir who has difficulty in earning a living must be taken care of. Someone who would not normally be an heir, but who has supported the deceased or been supported by them, must get an appropriate amount. The law grants considerable testamentary powers to the citizen, who may use a will to discriminate between heirs-at-law or to benefit a legatee who would have had no inheritance rights had the citizen died intestate. Citizens may sign an agreement under which they leave property to an individual or a collective unit in exchange for support and assistance. Family property and conjugal property both receive special considera­ tion. Widows and widowers retain their rights over inherited property even in the event of remarriage. The division of the heritable estate must be favourable to the needs of production. Both the heir and the legatee may waive their rights if they so wish. Some of these points will be discussed in greater detail later. This summary is intended only to show that the inheritance law, like other laws of the People’s Republic of China, lays down general principles, but in many areas leaves matters extraordinarily vague. It is obvious that at times even some of the principles of this law are likely to conflict and that disputes could arise for which the law gives no guidance. Those who have to implement the law in China can in fact refer not only to the law itself, but to explanatory commentaries - a genre that plays an interesting role in the Chinese legal system, as in other communist systems. Commentaries are of course written by people with a certain amount of authority, but they go in and out of print and have a briefer life than the law itself. Divorce is a good example: there were marked differences in the ease of obtaining a divorce between 1950 and 1980, yet during all this time it was governed by the 1950 marriage law. Changes in policy on divorce and in the interpreta­ tion of the law could be made known to legal workers, officials and the population at large by commentaries or question-and-answer materials.4

Property and Inheritance in Traditional China

An important prerequisite to understanding many of the formulations of the new law and some of the problems likely to be encountered in implementing it in rural China is a knowledge of pre-1949 laws and customs in relation to property and inheritance. It is not easy to give a brief account of these. Law, which probably mainly reflected and influenced the practice of the well-off, did not always coincide with custom, by which the mass of the people lived. In custom, of course, one finds significant regional variations and variation across time. None the less certain broad generalizations are possible and may be useful. Both custom and law recognized ownership by the lineage, by the family and by the individual. In rural society, the most important form of



property was family property (jiating gongtong caichan or jiachan). All members of a family that shared a common budget had a right to use family property and to live on the income generated from it. However, the right to a share of the property was limited to the male members of the family.5 This became apparent at the time of family division, an event that occurred usually once in a generation on the marriage of a young man or the death of an older man with adult sons. A large household would split into two or more units, each consisting of a couple and their young children if they had them. Elderly parents would reside with one of their sons and his wife. Thus household division usually produced one threegeneration household and one or more two-generation ones, each with its own property and its own budget. At the time of a household division, the adult males of the old household - that is, the brothers and their father if still living - each received a share of the family property. The housing, land, domestic and agricultural equipment and so on thus distributed provided the essentials of life to the newly formed households. A widowed mother of the older generation would normally be provided for by a co­ resident son who might receive extra property in recognition of his responsibility. If she set up an independent household, she would receive a share of the property, but it would of course revert to her sons at her death. A widowed daughter-in-law might successfully claim a share of the property in her capacity as representative of her late husband, but this was normally permitted only if she was not expected (or required) to remarry, and she would in effect be holding the property in trust for her sons. Daughters had no right in normal circumstances to a share of family property. Only in the case of girls for whom an uxorilocal marriage had been arranged would inheritance pass through them to their sons, who became, under this arrangement, the continuation of their maternal grandfather’s line. As long as a family group shared a common budget, the earnings of each of the male members of the household were supposed to go into that budget Even when a member of the household lived apart and had a separate income, until division took place he was supposed, in theory at least, to plough it back in. Any attempt at private accumulation could cause great resentment, although the system did begin to break down in some areas well before 1949, under the effects of migration and urbaniza­ tion.6 In rural society sources of legitimate private property were few. One was the wife’s dowry which was not supposed to be pooled but was reserved for the use of the couple. In cases of extreme need, however, the rule was doubtless ignored; after all, even the person of the wife herself could be pawned or sold by her husband - a transaction forbidden by law but not particularly rare in practice. Shuzo Shiga asserts that women were allowed to keep any income that they themselves were able to earn, since they were held to have fulfilled their duty to the household through household work.7 He therefore regards their incomes as a source of private property. This does not tally either with other accounts of rural



life, or with the obligation felt by women who become workers away from the home in various Chinese societies to remit a considerable part of their earnings to their families.8 It is certainly clear that women’s rights to property in traditional China were insignificant and that this arose from their peculiar relationship to the patrilineal family. Unlike their brothers and husbands, they moved between families and could not therefore be used for the transmission of family property from one generation to another within the same family. In theory, family property was controlled by the family head, usually the father, on behalf of the other members. He had to agree to the division of the property that took place when the decision was made to split a common budget household into two or more household units, an event, as we have seen, usually precipitated by the marriage of a brother, the death of a father or friction within the household. Again, in theory, the father could not bar any son from his share of the property, nor was he supposed to distribute the property inequitably among his sons. In practice, a strong father might break such rules, and even in theory his other powers were considerable. He could choose to consult his sons on the sale or purchase of land, but was not bound to do so; he could refuse a division requested by his sons; and he took the ultimate decision on large purchases and items of expenditure like bride-price and dowry. It is hardly surprising, when this degree of control over the family property was exercised by the father, that it was often referred to as the ‘father’s property’. The confusion was exacerbated by the fact that household division frequently took place on the death of the father when the process might easily be misunderstood as the inheritance by the sons of their father’s property.9 Forms of Property and the 1985 Law If we switch back from the complexities of pre-modem law and practice to what we might expect to be the more clear-cut situation today, the new law can be seen to have some odd omissions and areas of vagueness that will make its application in rural China far from straightforward. The new law deals basically in terms of individual property rights and gives scant attention to the traditional property system. Conjugal property is dealt with in Article 26, which provides that half the property jointly owned by a married couple shall be reserved to the surviving spouse, while half is treated as the heritable estate of the deceased to be divided among the heirs. The same article contains the only reference in the new law to the existence of family property (jiating gongyou caichan): ‘If the estate is part of family property, the property of other family members shall be taken out first when the estate is to be divided. ’ Curiously, no definition of family property is provided by the law, nor is any guidance given as to which family members have rights in it or how it is to be divided. Given the persistence and indeed the recent strengthening of the peasant family as a property-owning group, these omissions seem bound to make the settle­ ment of inheritance disputes in the countryside more difficult.



Communist Policy and Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights Women’s property rights have been an area of concern for the communist party since the days of the first Chinese soviets. All communist land laws from the 1920s to 1950 stipulated that women were entitled to their share of land, and most communist marriage laws since the first in 1931 have included clauses dealing with women’s property rights.10 Inheritance has not often been a subject for legislation in communist history, although in the 1940s the liberated areas of both Shaan-Gan-Ning and Jin-Cha-Ji (controlled by the CCP throughout the anti-Japanese war and the Civil War) produced regulations guaranteeing women’s inheritance rights.11 There was no inheritance law in the People’s Republic prior to 1985, but printed legal commentaries on inheritance and the courts themselves upheld the principle that there should be no discrimination between the sexes in matters of inheritance.12Both the 1950 and the 1980 marriage laws laid down that husband and wife had equal rights in the possession and management of property, and the right to inherit from each other. They also stipulated that children and parents had the right to inherit from each other.1’ In practice, rural women continued to have a raw deal in regard to both property and inheritance rights. Campaigns in the early 1950s to enforce women’s rights to land, and to allow wives who wished to divorce their husbands and take their share of land with them, resulted in violence on an enormous scale and the murder of tens of thousands of women.14 Once land and the major means of production were collectivized, rather less was at stake, but peasant women still came off badly in the event of divorce or remarriage after widowhood. Although in the course of their married lives they quite clearly contributed to the accumulation of such family property as new housing, consumer durables and savings, they forfeited all right to it when they left the household and were allowed to take with them only personal possessions such as clothing and jewellery.15 Daughters fared no better with their natal family estate, despite the equal rights with their brothers that the law accorded them. As virilocal marriage remained the norm, to concede rights in family property to an unmarried woman would have meant allowing her to take it with her when she left to become a member of another family in another village. Her parents and her brothers would obviously oppose any such arrangements and even local cadres were unlikely to uphold the woman’s rights if she went so far as to appeal to them, since such a transfer would represent a loss of resources to their work-team or brigade. In most cases women themselves probably felt they had no claim.16 Surveys of court records do reveal cases in which daughters successfully asserted their rights. A study of 135 inheritance cases adjudicated by courts in north China in the 1950s showed that the children of the deceased were by far the most numerous of the litigants, and that 62.5 per cent of them were daughters. The report insists: ‘The court always protected the rights of inheritance of the children; even if the daughters were married



they were classified as first-order heirs’.17 Revealingly, however, most of these daughters were said to be contesting their inheritance not with their brothers but with male cousins, the nephews of the deceased who under the law did not enjoy the status of even second-order heirs. Unfortunately the report is very much a summary and omits the detailed information that would have made it really useful. However, from what it does provide we can infer two characteristics of a daughter’s ability to inherit. First, the fact that there were fewer disputes between brothers and sisters probably means that daughters were unlikely even to attempt to assert their rights of inheritance when they had brothers. And second, a daughter’s right to inherit was still so little accepted that nephews found it worthwhile to attempt to assert their claims to an uncle’s estate over those of a deceased man’s daughter. Other reports of legal judgements make it clear that the fulfilment of legal responsibilities towards deceased parents normally had a bearing on decisions taken in court on inheritance. Thus, a daughter who had contri­ buted to the support of her aged parents had, if she contested it, a good chance of receiving at least a share of the inheritance. In the far more common case where their support had been left to her brothers, it would be more difficult to assert her rights. In most cases she would waive them. The 1985 Law and Inheritance by Females

The new inheritance law appears at first sight to make a fresh assault on the practice of patrilineal inheritance. It explicitly asserts the equal rights of daughters and sons rather than using the collective ‘children’.18 Com­ mentaries on the law call attention to this assertion and spell out that daughters remain first-class heirs even when they have married out and gone to live elsewhere.19Widowed daughters-in-law and widower sons-inlaw are given the right to inherit from their parents-in-law provided they have supported them, and widows and widowers are first-order heirs of their deceased spouses. Moreover, Article 30 gives them control over their property when they remarry after their spouse’s death - a clause specifically intended to protect the widow who remarries. It requires little thought, however, to realize that in the majority of cases thorough implementation of a daughter’s inheritance rights could disrupt the new household-based economy, just as in the past it would have disrupted peasant land-tenure arrangements. In practical terms, in a case where a man left a widow, two sons, and two daughters already married away, and the property he formerly controlled was treated as family property, one quarter of it would be considered his heritable estate of which two-fifths, that is one-tenth of the total family property, would go to his married daughters. In other possible scenarios, for example when daughters were treated as having a direct claim on the family estate, or where there was no surviving widow or where the property was treated as conjugally rather than family-owned, the daughters would stand to inherit more.



It is obvious that the brothers are likely to oppose any of these scenarios if they can see a way of doing so. The loss of even a tenth share of a family property consisting of housing, machinery, stock and working capital will be deleterious to family enterprises. In many cases the property will be difficult to divide and of little use to a woman in another village. Even commutation to cash could put the household in debt for years or endanger the running of its economy. Another solution, sometimes employed when it proved impossible to divide a family business between brothers, would be to persuade absent daughters ^to leave their part of the inheritance in the family property and treat it as shares on which interest is paid.20 In the majority of cases, however, it seems reasonable to assume that daughters will continue to be deprived of their inheritance. The new law contains several points that have been used against their inheritance rights in the past and could be similarly used again. First, under Article 13, the rights of heirs are affected by the role they have played towards the deceased. Thus an heir who has provided for his aged parent or has lived with him or her may get extra when the estate is divided. An heir who could have provided for the deceased but has failed to do so gets less, or none at all. As we have seen, in earlier court cases, those women who had provided for their parents had the best chance of asserting their inheritance rights. In the majority of cases, however, once daughters have moved out of their natal families, parents expect to live with and rely on their sons, who can then use this stipulation in the law to challenge their sisters’ rights. After consultation, the heirs may agree to divide an estate unequally between themselves (Article 13), while under Article 25, heirs may waive their rights to an inheritance. The evidence we have is that prior to the introduction of the new law, sisters did normally waive their rights in favour of their brothers. These articles will further encourage such action by giving it a recognized basis in law. Article 29 requires that ‘division of heritable estate shall be favourable to production and the needs of daily life and shall not harm the usefulness of the estate’. This again is a stipulation that could be used against the inheritance rights of women resident in other villages. Finally, the new law gives strong support to the right of the citizen to dispose of his or her property by means of a will. A testator may bequeath property to persons other than the legal heirs, the main limitation being that a sufficient share of the heritable estate must be reserved for heirs who cannot work or have no source of income. This clause would seem to allow a parent the testatory power to disinherit daughters in favour of sons. China has a weak tradition of testatory inheritance, and it seems unlikely that millions of peasants are going to start writing wills, but the strategy may well be used to preserve the integrity of small family businesses in circles where the idea of written legal documents has taken hold.



Care-Legacy Agreements Article 31 provides another way for the property-owner to choose who is to inherit. It allows the citizen to sign a binding agreement with an individual who agrees to support and assist the citizen during his or her lifetime and to bury him or her after death in exchange for a bequest. This is an interesting development. Inheritance in China has customarily taken place between close kin. The care-legacy agreement encourages in certain circumstances the selection of non-kin as an heir, possibly even at the expense of close kin who might otherwise have inherited but who are unable or unwilling to assist an old person. However, the measure is not such a shaip break with custom as it might as first appear. People without any children, or without satisfactory ones, in traditional China sometimes adopted children, or even adults, to support them in old age. Article 31 also allows for similar agreements to be made between the citizen and a collective unit whereby the citizen wills property to the unit in exchange for support, assistance and burial. This represents a clarification of the former system under which the destitute received the ‘five guarantees’: food, shelter, fuel, clothing and burial from the collective. After death the disposal of the property of such people was often disputed between the collective and close relatives.21 Care-legacy agreements thus legitimize the creation of a surrogate filial relationship in which obligations and rewards are defined by contract. They allow old people without support to purchase it, and as far as the state is concerned they provide a private self-financing solution for the care of isolated old people who own enough property to tempt a ‘carer’ or supporter. This last condition does not necessarily confine the agreements to the well-off: many otherwise poor old people in the Chinese country­ side actually own their own housing. The growth in the numbers of elderly people, and the ramifications of the single-child family, have produced a heightened concern for the elderly in China.22 The usefulness of care-legacy agreements to the state and to old people in difficulties is quite apparent. Its effects on women as daughters will not be beneficial. It is old people without sons who are most likely to resort to such agreements. Such old people will not necessarily be childless, but both a lack of control over income and the weight of social custom make it difficult for married daughters to divert resources from their in-laws’ households in order to give financial support to their own parents, while distance may preclude regular practical help. In such cases daughters will inevitably be disinherited in the interests of the contractual ‘carer’. If the new law does not succeed in guaranteeing women inheritance rights in their natal families, is it likely to strengthen their rights to property and inheritance in their husbands’ families? In the collective economy of the Chinese peasant family, these rights are truly tested only when a woman is widowed or at the time of divorce. As we have seen, the inheritance law defines half of the conjugal property as belonging to the



widow. She is a joint heir of the other half, together with her children and her husband’s parents. A widowed daughter-in-law becomes a first-order heir to her parents-in-law if she has fulfilled her duty of caring for them. Although this insistence on the woman’s rights in her own person is alien to Chinese custom, the practice implied by the law is not necessarily so; in the past, if she had inherited, it would probably have been as the representative of her dead husband, or of her young sons. The point is that in such situations when a woman gains some property she does not take it away from the family. It is remarriage and divorce that are likely to produce the real conflict over the property rights of the wife or daughter-in-law, because both of these events should, if the law is complied with, result in her taking away property regarded as belonging to the family. If any attempt is made to implement the law on women’s rights, it is reasonable to expect it to be in such cases. A majority of families have daughters and the right of the daughter to patrimony is potentially a highly disruptive issue, simply because of the numbers it would involve. Far fewer peasant families are directly affected by widows who remarry or women who wish to divorce. It is not yet clear, however, that any such effort will be made. The inheritance law was drawn up primarily in order to promote a clear and stable system of property and inheritance which it was felt would encourage hard work, high levels of economic activity and the accumulation of wealth. It is probable that a large number of those responsible for implementing it would see women’s rights as a disruptive threat to all this. As households become wealthier and are permitted to own as private property assets that would formerly not have been privately owned, the injustice of women’s lack of rights of ownership or inheritance over the property they have helped to build up is becoming more blatant. In the household-based economy they have a use-right to the means of produc­ tion that is dependent on their relationship to men, and this ceases if they leave the household. Strong or fortunate women, especially those who play a leading role in the economy of specialized households, may be able to use the law to assert their rights. The majority, however, are forced into a position of dependence by the whole structure of the peasant household. That structure has been strengthened by the economic reforms and it is not likely that legislation alone will help them. NOTES Delia Davin is a lecturer in social and economic history at the University of York. Among her publications are Womanwork: Women and the Party in Revolutionary China (1976), and various articles on Chinese society. She is the editor and translator, with W.J.F. Jenner, of Chinese Lives, a volume of 60 life histories collected by the Chinese writers Zhang Xinxin and Sang Ye (forthcoming). 1. Ramon H. Myers, ‘Price Reforms and Property Rights in Communist China since 1978*, Issues and Studies, Vol.21, No.10 (1985), p.20.



2. Constitution of the People's Republic of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1983), Art. 13. 3. Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Jichengfa (‘Inheritance Law of the People’s Republic of China*), adopted at the third session of the Sixth National People’s Congress, April 1985, in Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyao falu xuanbian (‘Selected Major Laws of the PRC’) (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1986). 4. See Elisabeth Croll, The Politics of Marriage in Contemporary China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), and Delia Davin, Womanwork: Women and the Party in Revolutionary China (London: Oxford University Press, 1976), Ch.3. 5. Shuzo Shiga, ‘Family Property and the Law of Inheritance in Traditional China’, in David C. Buxbaum (ed.), Chinese Family Law and Social Change (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1978). 6. Olga Lang, Chinese Family and Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949), p.234; Martin Yang, A Chinese Village: Taitou, Shantung Province (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), p.234. 7. Shuzo Shiga, p. 112; see also Yang, p.76. 8. Lang, p.49. 9. Maurice Freedman, Chinese Lineage and Society (London: Athlone Press, 1966), pp.53-5; Shuzo Shiga, pp. 127-50. 10. M.J. Meijer, Marriage Law and Policy in the Chinese People’s Republic (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1971). 11. ‘Nuzi caichan jichen quan tiaoli’ (‘Regulations on Women’s Property and Rights of Inheritance’), in Shaan-Gan-Ning bianqu zhengce tiaoli huiji (‘Collection of Political Measures and Regulations of the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region’) (no publisher, 1949); Administrative Council of the Jin-Cha-Ji Border Area, Xianxingfa huiji (‘Collection of Laws in Force’) (no publisher, 1945). 12. For example, Shi Huaipi, Luelun woguo jicheng zhidu de jiben wenti (‘Brief Discussion of Basic Problems in our System of Inheritance’) (Beijing: Falu chubanshe, 1958), p.18. 13. Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1950), Arts. 10, 12 and 14; Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1982), Arts. 13 and 18. 14. Davin, p.87. 15. William L. Parish and Martin King Whyte, Village and Family in Contemporary China (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1978), p. 195. 16. See, for example, ‘Planning her Family’, an oral history collected from a Sichuan peasant woman in Zhang Xinxin; also Sang Ye, Chinese Lives (Beijing Ren), English edition edited by Delia Davin and W.J.F. Jenner (London: Macmillan; New York: Pantheon, forthcoming). 17. Quoted by and discussed in Meijer, pp.324—31. 18. Inheritance law, Art. 9. 19. Tang Dehua and Peng Shixiang, Jichengfa jianghua (‘Talks on the Inheritance Law’) (Beijing: Beijing Publishing House, 1985), p.42. 20. For a discussion of these possibilities dating from the 1950s, see Meijer, p.338. 21. Meijer, p.261. 22. See Deborah Davis-Friedmann, Long Lives: Chinese Elderly and the Communist Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).

North Korea: The End of the Beginning Aidan Foster-Carter

In surveying the condition of North Korea in the late 1980s, 40 years after the state’s foundation, it is argued that, despite its initial dynamism and considerable social change, Kim D Sung’s regime is now seriously stagnating. The economy suffers from deficiencies in planning, organization, technology, consumer goods and foreign trade. In international relations, friends have been handled more skilfully than enemies, and North Korea has clearly now lost in the competition with the South. The polity and society, in a sense a reductio ad absurdum of tendencies visible in other communist countries (but mostly in the past), are stifled by extreme formalism and the cult of the personality. While this has produced a certain kind of stability in Kim’s lifetime, it has also prevented muchneeded reform, and will pose huge problems for his successor - who may not be Kim Jong II.

In the late 1980s, North Korea1 is an anomaly whether compared with other communist states, or in its regional context, or indeed by global standards. For one thing, Kim II Sung is the world’s longest serving political leader, having been in effective power since 1945. North Korea is thus the only established communist regime other than Cuba still ruled by its original founding leader. Moreover, after Mongolia it is the second oldest communist regime in Asia. As a communist-party state North Korea is characterized by its personality cult, the predominance of the state over civil society, and the relative absence of economic reform. Notoriously, and by its own account,2 Kim II Sung’s regime has carried forward to a unique degree the totalitarian impulse implicit in Marxism-Leninism, to the point where the North Korean state has practically swallowed up civil society. Closely related to this is a personality cult of gargantuan proportions, embracing not only Kim II Sung but also his father, mother, first wife and (since 1980) his son and heir Kim Jong II. If all goes according to plan, North Korea will thus become the first communist state (although not the only modem Asian republic) to experience a dynastic transfer of power. North Korea, in contrast to other communist-party states, almost wholly lacks a commitment to economic reform. At a time when not only China but Gorbachev’s USSR and most recently Vietnam are engaged in far-reaching economic overhaul, things in Pyongyang by contrast appear static indeed. Toes have been put gingerly (and quietly) into the water, but North Korea has not plunged in, nor is it likely to do so under the present regime. This is not to say that it does not need to. On the contrary, despite



Pyongyang’s incessant Panglossian paeans about living in a paradise on earth, it is clear that the regime’s initial economic dynamism has long since exhausted itself. This makes North Korea in turn a regional anomaly. It is perhaps unfortunate, for Kim II Sung, that his stagnating kingdom sits in the midst of the most dynamic part of the global economy. By other Third World standards, North Korea’s performance remains moderately respectable. Yet to be in north-east Asia, on the eve of the 1990s, and unable to produce a silicon chip4 is problematic indeed. In particular - and quite crucially, in terms of Pyongyang’s own priorities - this indicates that by the fifth decade of Korea’s division the North has definitively and unequivocally lost its competitive battle with the South. A further anomaly might perhaps seem more positive. Both in its regional context and within the communist world, North Korea is very much its own master. It has remained firmly neutral in the Sino-Soviet dispute, a unique accomplishment among Asian communist-party states. It has never joined CMEA, and no foreign troops have been stationed on North Korean soil since 1958. Among communist countries only Albania has shown similar independence - but only in recent years, and rather negatively, in contrast to Pyongyang’s formally good relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Regionally, meanwhile, North Korea’s relatively autonomous (some might call it maverick) status constitutes an important asymmetry, in comparison to South Korea’s close relations with the United States. Is there a pattern to these anomalies? It is important to specify their parameters accurately. Hereditary succession in a republic has non­ communist precedents, some of them close at hand - in India, in Taiwan, perhaps soon in Singapore. As this example suggests, comparative analysis may help avoid the trap of too readily conceding North Korea’s ‘uniqueness’. While nowhere else in the world today is quite like Pyongyang, neither is it a complete ‘one-off’. In this sense, North Korea today represents a reductio ad absurdum of tendencies that are neither peculiar to it, nor perhaps all wholly negative in themselves. Both in its origins and in its accomplishments, Kim II Sung’s regime is comparable to other communist-party states, especially those of Eastern Europe. Like them, it obtained state power through the presence of the Soviet army (even though this crucial fact has been downplayed subsequently).5 Like them, too, its historical role has essentially been to carry out forced-march industrialization and primitive accumulation, in a context where these processes were previously but little advanced. Even the extent of totalitarianism and the cult of the personality have their precedents - in Stalin and Stalinism, which is surely Kim II Sung’s abiding role model. What is distinctive about North Korea is, first, that it adopted Stalin’s system while avoiding (or indeed escaping) Stalin’s embrace. Considering that in 1945 the young Kim II Sung’s almost sole claim to fame was that he was the Russians’ man, his subsequent independence of action - first clearly manifest in June 1950 - is the more



remarkable. (A limited parallel, but only as regards foreign policy, would be Romania’s Ceausescu.) Most striking of all, however, is the fact that in the late 1980s North Korea is still ploughing a furrow now abandoned by almost all other regimes that were once somewhat comparable to it. (Again, only Albania and Romania spring to mind.) In the 1950s, Kim II Sung’s regime did not seem especially different - economically, politically, ideologically - from many others in the communist ‘bloc’. Thirty years later, by contrast, Pyongyang is very much the odd one out, and not only because it is still playing an old song, while everyone else in the band has changed the tune. Other communist-party states have changed, but North Korea has not stood still either; but while they have got better, it has got worse. Kim II Sung, having divested himself equally of Soviet control and domestic critics, has in the past 20 years cemented a system that patently finds it impossible to institute the changes it knows it requires increasingly desperately. In this sense, Kim II Sung has literally lived too long, and his once dynamic regime is now a dead weight. Further advance, economic or political, is mostly unlikely in his lifetime. Once he is gone, almost anything might happen - despite his strenuous efforts to tie up the succession in advance. The Korean Background While this is no place for a detailed history of Korea,6 some aspects of the Korean background are essential for understanding North Korea today. The sense of being a small country, chronically prey to the designs of powerful neighbours, is one of them. Korea is not only relatively small (more so in area than population), but is also a very old and unusually homogeneous nation; there are virtually no ethnic minorities. Some form of Korean identity goes back at least 2,000 years, and most of the peninsula was unified by a d 668. Formally a tributary of China, Korea came under Chinese cultural influence, especially neo-Confucianism in the last dynasty, the Yi or Choson (1392-1910). Yet Korea always retained a distinct cultural identity, often symbolized by its language and alphabet. The latter was devised in the 1440s, and is now used on its own by North Korea, while the South employs Chinese characters as well. By the late nineteenth century, Korea was firmly in decline.7 Like Japan, its rulers attempted a policy of seclusion (earning the soubriquet of ‘hermit kingdom’). Unlike Japan, however, Korea did not use its isolation to buy time and modernize itself. As a result, by the turn of the century it was clear that whoever established control of north-east Asia would dominate Korea. Having defeated China in 1894-95 and Russia in 1904, Japan gained de facto power in Korea in 1905, formally annexing it in 1910. The four decades of Japanese rule, up to 1945, form a crucial basis for understanding both North and South Korea.8 Psychologically, it was experienced as a massive humiliation: Japan was a neighbour, an old



enemy, seen as an inferior who had acquired (Chinese) civilization via Korea. There were also more material effects. Japan’s colonial rule was ‘late’ and systematic, and Koreans experienced the typical impact of the spread of capitalist relations of production in a highly concentrated form. Most peasants were reduced to tenancy, often in dire poverty. Many lost their lands, and were proletarianized into the mines and industries that the Japanese developed, especially in northern Korea, which was rich in minerals. There was little effective resistance to the Japanese. Factional conflict was the hallmark of Korean nationalism, both between and within Left and Right.9 In the Comintern, Korea was a byword for factionalism, and several attempts to organize a communist party were rapidly infiltrated and broken up by the Japanese authorities. Outside Korea, activities included the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai (whose most prominent member was Syngman Rhee); and small skirmishes with the Japanese in Manchuria, in which the young Kim II Sung played a minor part. When the liberation came, in 1945, it was not accomplished by Koreans, and it had a wholly unforeseen twist. Japan having collapsed more rapidly than expected after the two atomic bombs, the USSR and USA agreed a ‘temporary’ division of Korea at the 38th parallel. Interpretation of the 1945-50 period, when both the present Korean states were founded, remains controversial.10It has too often been marred by the implicit use of one of two opposing teleologies, according to which the ‘free world’ and ‘democracy’ are pitted against ‘national liberation’ and ‘socialist revolu­ tion’. The processes that led up to the formal declaration of the ‘Republic of Korea’ and the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ in 1948 are none the less essentially similar. Both were ‘projects’, which had to be accomplished, not to say enforced. It is far from certain that most Koreans wanted either of them, or indeed the country’s partition. It is easy to overstate the extent of manipulation by either the USA or the USSR. Neither had a clearly articulated policy, although the Soviet Union proved more adept in practice. Moreover, the rhetoric of ‘satellite’ and ‘puppet’ should not blind us to the capacity for autonomous action exercised from the first by both Kim II Sung and Syngman Rhee. Both proved consider­ able thorns in the flesh of their respective sponsors. In Kim II Sung’s case, that autonomy was clearly exercised in June 1950. The Korean war was a massive gamble, and a disastrous failure. By the time it ended, three years later, North Korea had become the only communist-party state ever to be physically occupied by the USA and its allies.11 It had been saved from obliteration only by the intervention of a foreign power: China. That Kim II Sung’s leadership survived such a monstrous debacle is remarkable in itself. He seems to have accomplished this by pinning the blame on others, especially the Southern communist Pak Hon-Yong, who was subse­ quently executed. The scale of wartime destruction, both human and physical, was immense almost beyond calculation. Indeed, to anyone contemplating the smoking ruins of the Korean peninsula three and a half decades ago, it



must have seemed implausible in the extreme that any part of Korea would accomplish anything in the foreseeable future. As it turned out, though, not one but two ‘miracles’ of economic growth have occurred in Korea during the past third of a century. The South Korean case is the better known, and ultimately the more impressive (although it was later off the mark), but it is not our concern here.12 The Economy: From Dynamism to Stagnation The current stagnation and indeed crisis of the North Korean economy should not blind us to its earlier dynamism and accomplishments. During the first two decades after 1945, North Korea was transformed from an overwhelmingly agrarian to a mainly industrial economy. According to Joseph Chung’s authoritative work, national income rose by 30.1 per cent per annum during 1954-56, 20.9 per cent in 1957-60 and 7.5 per cent in 1961-70 (the first three post-Korean War planning periods). The gross value of industrial output for the same three periods increased by 41.8, 36.6 and 12.8 per cent, respectively, and went on to average 16.3 per cent for the next decade through 1980.13 (All these, it should be remembered, are annual growth rates.) Evidently, some preconditions worked in the regime’s favour. North Korea was lucky in its mineral endowments, despite lacking oil, gas, or coking coal. Like most small ex-colonial Third World states today, without such mineral wealth it could scarcely even have contemplated a strategy of Soviet-style industrialization. Equally, the legacy of Japanese development of those resources, in mining and industry, was not as wholly negative as Koreans are wont to claim.14 Thirdly, massive aid from the USSR, China and others after 1953 provided a critical early base for accumulation. On the other hand, after 1945 North Korea had to mount a three-pronged drive to reduce sheer economic backwardness, the distor­ tions of a colonial economy, and the impact of losing that half of the country which was the rice bowl as well as the centre for light industry. After 1953, it had to start all over again. Furthermore, it seems clear that the USSR itself had different, less ambitious economic plans for the Pyongyang regime. Kim II Sung’s insistence on doing what the Russians had themselves done, rather than what they now said, became a source of scarcely concealed dispute.15 Primitive accumulation and industrialization were no less harsh in North Korea than anywhere else. Consumption was certainly sacrificed to investment, agriculture to industry, light industry to heavy. None the less, Kim II Sung’s strategy was successful. No other course could have laid a basis for future development, nor preserved the country’s independence.16 On the other hand, this strategy cannot be prolonged indefinitely.17 The regime’s stubborn persistence in the same methods and priorities for a further two decades has been less successful, and it has failed to undertake meaningful economic reform. As a result, North Korea in the late 1980s is still running a seriously overheated 1960s economy, using the 1950s’



methods of strict central planning coupled with yelling at people when things fail to go according to plan. It will be convenient to examine Pyongyang’s current economic malaise under five headings. Planning Pyongyang’s planners have rarely been precise in hitting their targets. While the five-year plan (1957-61) was fulfilled one year early, the ensuing first seven-year plan (1961-70) was extended by three years ostensibly because of unforeseen defence burdens. The next, the six-year plan (1971-76), was followed by a ‘year of adjustment’ in 1977, while the second seven-year plan (1977-84) was succeeded by two years (1985-86) for which no plan was announced at all. Only from 1987 has a third fiveyear plan (1987-93) been announced. Amidst this distinctly chequered record, two further trends are apparent. First, over the past 20 years Pyongyang has published fewer and fewer actual figures of economic accomplishments. Those for the 1977-84 plan period are particularly thin, inconsistent and unconvincing.18 Second, even the targets for growth rates have tended quietly to decline and recede over time. This is particularly true of the much-touted ‘ten long-range economic goals for the 1980s’, which have now been relaunch­ ed as targets for the current plan (ending in 1993).19 Such problems could have been foreseen: indeed, they were foreseen. Twenty years ago, some North Korean economists were arguing that the pace of economic growth must decline over time, and that ‘the more the economy develops and its scale grows, the less becomes the possibility of increasing production’.20 Such problems - for example, over the transition from ‘extensive’ to ‘intensive’ growth - were already current in other communist countries, and have become more familiar subsequently with the work of Komai and others.21 In North Korea, however, they received short shrift: The ‘theory’ that large-scale economy cannot develop rapidly is but a sophistry brought forward by some people to justify the fact that their technical progress is slow and their economy stagnant because they, talking about ‘liberalization’ and ‘democratic development’, did not educate their working people and, as a result, the latter are ideologically so soft as to fiddle about and loaf on the job.22 Since being in public dispute with the ‘Great Leader’ is unlikely to be conducive to good health and long life, it seems safe to assume that the ‘debate’ ended there. After 20 years, it can be little consolation that Kim II Sung was wrong, and his opponents right: the lot of a planner, or any kind of economist, in North Korea cannot be easy. What is striking about the quotation just cited is not only its note of menace, but the sheer unbridled voluntarism. Kim is perfectly explicit about this: ‘In socialist society, the people’s high revolutionary zeal is the decisive factor which causes the productive forces to multiply.,23 In consequence, the Pyongyang press in



the late 1980s is still, as it has been for 40 years, urging its readers to scale this or that height of production, complete their targets early (usually in honour of Somebody’s birthday), and so on.24 How rational economic planning can take place in such circumstances can only be wondered at. In this as in other spheres, the doctrine of leader infallibility is a serious handicap. Economic Organization Closely related to planning is the whole question of economic organiza­ tion. It goes without saying, perhaps, that the kinds of dilution of central control pioneered in Budapest and Beijing have not found favour in Pyongyang. Yet changes there have been. For one thing, the whole structure of economic ministries has recently been reorganized - not once but twice in little over a year. First, in November 1985, 13 formerly separate ministries were streamlined into six major new ‘commissions’. Then, in December 1986, the number of ministries was increased again, while the number of commissions was reduced.25 It remains to be seen whether such ‘shuffling of the chairs’ will have the desired effect. More significantly, it is not widely known that there has been some measure of economic reform in North Korea. Pyongyang sources, typically, have said nothing overtly about this, but China has briefly reported it, and there has been unofficial Soviet confirmation. According to Xinhua, Korean ‘factory directors and enteiprise managers will be able to make more independent decisions about labour, equipment, materials and funds’. Also, ‘they will be permitted to allot up to 50 per cent of their excess profits for the expansion of production, welfare benefits or bonuses’. Within enterprises, the new measures include ‘a responsibility system at the team or group level’, under which ‘groups of four to six workers plan their own schedules and set their bonus rates’. Above the enterprise level, control of budgeting is to be transferred to ‘an inde­ pendent or semi-independent accounting system for integrated enter­ prises and government organizations’. Finally, ‘the state will also allow and encourage individuals to undertake small private handicraft produc­ tion such as knitting’ 26 Intriguing yet fragmentary as this report is, in the absence of confirma­ tion from Pyongyang we have no way of knowing how widely such changes are being implemented. Two caveats seem in order, however. First, unofficial Soviet reports are slightly different in emphasis, suggesting that Pyongyang’s model is the East German Kombinat, whereby enterprises organically linked engage in horizontal co-operation at management level within a basically still centralized economic framework. That certainly sounds more likely to appeal to North Korea than any more radical perestroika, or re-structuring. It is also consistent with such little light as Pyongyang occasionally sheds on what it calls ‘complexes’, for example the Kyongsong Ceramics Complex.27 Second, it is hard to imagine that any radical reform could coexist easily with the endless exhortations that still pour forth unabated in the



Pyongyang mass media, telling everyone (economic functionaries, workers, peasants) to do as they are told, often in so many words; not to think for themselves or question orders from the centre, but uncondi­ tionally to obey party policy.28 Even though juche is translated as ‘having the attitude of a master’, economic risk-taking in North Korea must still continue to carry politcial risks as well. Technology The particular bottlenecks of the North Korean economy are clear enough from constant repetition. In sum, there is not enough of anything: not enough raw materials, especiallly coal and iron; not enough electricity; and not enough transport, to ensure that inputs arrive on time and delivery dates for output are met. A particular constraint, it is increasingly clear, is technology. From the early 1970s this was perceived as a problem, and it inspired North Korea’s well-known large-scale purchases of Western technology at that time. But these backfired in two ways, only one of which has attracted much publicity. Notoriously, North Korea failed to pay for almost everything (as it has earlier failed to pay the Soviet Union, something that one suspects eager Western lenders were not aware of).29 As a result of its default, Pyongyang acquired the world’s worst credit rating, and effectively cut itself off from further technological transfers from hardcurrency countries. The debt and default are notorious. Much less noticed, and no less interesting, is North Korea’s chronic difficulty in absorbing such new technology as it does manage to acquire. Here evidence is of necessity fragmentary or anecdotal. But, to take a key example, North Korea seems unable to produce a silicon chip, despite strenuous efforts to that end, including a United Nations aid project. Part of the reason, it appears, is simple inability to ensure quality control.30 Somewhat speculatively, one might suggest that while ‘guerrilla’ methods may work for ‘old’ indus­ trialization - mining, iron and steel, basic construction - they will not do for the ‘new’ industries of computers and high technology. Korean scientists and engineers, although numerous, almost certainly lack the width and depth of education, the material resources and the peace of mind to be able to ‘deliver’ in this crucial area. Significantly, recent pronouncements have indicated that looking after scientists properly is a problem area.31 Meanwhile, North Korea in practice continues to get the bulk of its technology from an old and trusted source: despite the rhetoric of juche, the USSR has all along provided most of North Korea’s technology, most the training to use it, and most of the money to pay for it. Soviet sources in recent years have been as forthcoming about die extent of this fraternal aid as Pyongyang has kept silent on it.32 Indispensable as such assistance is, it has clear limitations. At least part of the reason for the accelerating gap between the North and the South Korean economies is simply the difference between Soviet and Japanese technology.



Consumer Goods The continued priority given by Pyongyang to heavy industry has a predictable corollary: consumer goods, in both quantity and quality, are a problem. They are even an admitted problem. With a critical note rare indeed in a pro-Pyongyang source, the president of Pyongyang’s Light Industry University was quoted in 1986 as saying that ‘frankly speaking, our light industry is backward’.33 More commonly, the North Korean media alternate between fatuous claims that all problems have been solved in ‘the people’s paradise’, and frantic exhortations to all and sundry to solve ‘completely’ the problems of food, clothing and the like.34 The reality, so far as one can discern, is that to an unknown but probably unique degree consumer goods are allocated by rationing rather than being sold as commodities. Life in North Korea is, to put it mildly, frugal for most people.35 Interestingly, light industry is one area of the North Korean economy over which there seems to have recently been what almost looks like a debate. In December 1984, an article in the party theoretical journal Kulloja called for a change in the pattern of consumer goods production. Perhaps unexpectedly, light industry to date in North Korea has been relatively decentralized, especially since 1973, with each province supposed to organize its own. Li Tong Ho, the author of the article, accepted that this was satisfactory for foodstuffs but not for major light industrial goods. Their production should be centralized, in order to reap economies of scale, raise skill levels and improve quality while avoiding wasteful duplication.36 While undoubtedly a reform, this would of course increase rather than reduce centralization. Nor is there any role foreseen for markets. Rather, ‘economic guidance functionaries should ... meticulously plan ... to implement party policy on the basis of the principle of absoluteness and unconditionality’37- an all-too-familiar note in the North Korean media. But in any case it looks as if Li’s call has gone unheeded, since the main emphasis recently has been given to a very different line of attack: to encourage ‘sideline teams’, whereby people (mainly women) are urged to produce baskets (and whatever else they can) in their spare time.3 Whether they get paid for this is unclear. What is clear is that this is yet another instance of voluntarist rhetoric and pressure being substituted for a real, organizational solution. Ominously, too, Rodong Sinmun weighed in with the rider that an individual’s commodity production record ‘may be regarded as a scale to measure [his] degree of loyalty to the party’.39 In North Korea, voluntarism has teeth. Foreign Trade In at least one sphere, the North Korean economy has undergone a U-turn in recent years. It used to be Pyongyang’s boast that its economy was free from any fluctuation caused by world economic trends. That note is now heard rarely, if at all. More common are explicit calls to promote produc­ tion for exports. Some new North Korean factories are specifically



designated as centres of export production, while others, for example in textiles and household goods, declare their willingness to produce goods to buyers’ specifications.40 Unfortunately for Pyongyang, however, the outside world is not interested. This can be seen by the lack of results from Pyongyang’s most tangible volte-face to date: its joint venture law of 1984. Modelled on that of China, its only definite customers so far have come from the much putupon ranks of Chongryon, the Pyongyang-oriented assocation of Koreans in Japan 41At a time of global recession and rising protectionism it really is late in the day to try to break into world markets, especially for a small country with few friends, little clout, a reputation for unpredictability and the world’s worst credit rating. Not for the first time, juche here comes across above all as selfimportance, an inflated ego, excessive self-regard, and a consequent misunderstanding and mismanagement of North Korea’s rather lowly and shabby true place in the global scheme of things. In practice, for trade as for technology (and for aid which links the two), the USSR and its allies will continue for the foreseeable future to loom largest. For a rational North Korea, this would be a second-best. Eastern Europe is far away, and there is - politics aside - little basis or need for trade. One of these days history and geography will overcome politics and ideology, and there will be a big economic breakthrough with Japan. The rumours, and the shopping lists, have been about for two or three years.42 As with so much else about North Korea, however, there is little sign of tangible progress as yet. The Polity As may be imagined, hard evidence concerning politics in North Korea is even more elusive than information on its economy. This information vacuum might be regarded as a challenge to deploy a combination of sensitive comparative analysis and disciplined a priori reasoning. Know­ ing what problems other communist societies have, we can form a plausible picture of Pyongyang’s behind-the-scenes politics also.43 The formal political structures of the North Korean regime are comparable to those of other communist party states and need not be described here.44 There is the customary parallel structure of party and state - except that North Korea since 1972 has had a unique state body, the Central People’s Committee, as the top policy-making body standing above the State Administration Council (cabinet). Within the party, in 1983 membership of the Supreme Presidium of the KWP Politburo was reduced from five to three: Kim II Sung; his son and heir Kim Jong II, who first formally surfaced in 1980 but who still holds no state position; and O Jin U, the elderly minister for the armed forces. North Korea has characteristically taken to extreme tendencies already present in other communist regimes. What might be called the ‘formalization’ of politics is one of these. No other country has dared, as



North Korea has since 1962, to claim what is statistically impossible: that 100 per cent of the electorate vote in general elections, and all vote yes. The 655 deputies thus elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) meet only twice a year, for a few days. In the newly and expensively rebuilt Mansudae assembly hall, they all sit in plush armchairs, facing the same way, gazing down a gentle slope towards a gleaming white alabaster statue of the Great Leader. Little is required of them, except occasional use of their Siemens microphones to say ‘Yes’. Clearly, this is a theatre, and MPs are not actors but audience. The second tendency taken to an extreme is, of course, the cult of personality. Pursuit of power by a single leader is far from unique in the communist world. Kim II Sung in 1945 was by no means an obvious choice of leader, nor did he go unchallenged. It took him a little more than a decade to liquidate other communist factions, both domestic and those with links to the USSR and China. The last major challenge to his rule seems to have come in 1956.45 The past 30 years have seen the construction of an edifice of totalitarian control without parallel elsewhere. How exactly this was accomplished, and how exactly it operates in practice, is not wholly clear. The proportion of party membership is uniquely high - some three million members, or about 15 per cent of the entire population - while women’s, youth and other organizations ensure that no one is excluded from the embrace. The formal face of the North Korean system is thus what it proudly proclaims as Yuilsasang, monolithic ideology, or even ‘ideological monochromaticity’46 - stressing unity and loyalty, ceaselessly and in the most extravagant terms. Nevertheless, the fact that the North Korean polity is officially presented as a kind of blend between a stage spectacular and an act of worship, in permanent session, evidently does not exhaust the task of political analysis. After all, Pyongyang is not exempt from the need to make decisions - strategic and day-to-day, at national and local levels. Moreover, as the state of the economy suggests, some of those choices are difficult and urgent. Quite clearly fierce debates must rage among the North Korean political elite. At least three massively contentious areas - economic policy, international alignments, and the succession - cannot possibly command unanimity of view, even if, as regards the last of these, a kind of unanimity has been imposed for the time being. On economic issues, at least, faint echoes of debate surface from time to time in articles in Rodong Sinmun that, while never explicitly contradicting one another, at least point in somewhat contrary directions. For example, one editorial says Pyongyang must increase exports as a top priority: another warns of the ideological inroads of capitalism. One article trumpets juche\ another preaches the virtues of greater integration into the ‘socialist international division of labour’. One report warns economic cadres to obey orders from the centre unquestioningly; another tells them to consult their workforce before doing anything.47 International relations are discussed later. Here, the most palpable evidence of disarray in Pyongyang is the on-off state of talks - or talks about talks - between North and South Korea. Initiated in late



1984, these were broken off in early 1986; at the time of writing, there are some indications that they may be resumed. South Korean sources, ironically, take Pyongyang’s claims of ‘monolithism’ too much at face value, and tend to assume that such twists and turns are the devious slitherings of an untrustworthy serpent. Far more plausible, however, is the simple conclusion that they cannot make up their minds in Pyongyang whether to talk to Seoul or not. Attitudes to South Korea constitute one touchstone of a divide between verkramptes and verligtes, diehards and reformers in Pyongyang. Attitudes to economic reform provide another. But economic reform comes in different forms: in Chinese or East German style, and nowadays even a la Russe. So this links to a third divide: partisans of China and Moscow respectively, both in turn opposed by the laager-mentality juche diehards. This still leaves two crucial linked issues. Who is associated with each of these positions? And what about the succession? On the former, there is almost no solid information. The verligtes are likely to include Kang Song San and Kim Yong Nam, appointed as prime minister and foreign minister respectively in the wake of the Rangoon bombing of October 1983 - a serious debacle for the verkramptes. The newly appointed prime minister, Li Gun Mo, is also a probable verligte. Conversely, older and enduring figures in the leadership - Li Jong Ok, Rim Chun Chu, Ho Dam, and O Jin U - might plausibly be cast as verkramptes. Yet all this is very speculative. Moreover, it is noteworthy that recent changes look more like reshuffles than purges. Figures like Kang Song San and Kim Hwan have been moved back and forth between party and government responsibilities, but it seems impossible to detect a clear pattern of vertical ascent and descent. In particular, despite the bizarre rumours of Kim II Sung’s assassination in November 1986, organizational changes a month later do not show the fall from grace of any significant figures. Last, but certainly not least, there is the topmost leadership. Almost nothing that matters is known about Kim Jong II, in particular on the crucial questions of whether he has either a power base or any ideas of his own. On the latter, while Seoul sources (especially at the time of the Rangoon bombing) regarded him as a hard-liner, it seems no less plausible that he is a would-be modernizer. As to the former, one theory has it that Kim Jong II made his power base in the ‘Three Revolution Teams’, a movement somewhat akin to China’s Red Guards, which from 1973 onwards has acted as a ginger group in economic enterprises and elsewhere.48 It is also widely stated that Kim Jong II is now in day-to-day charge of internal affairs, although he still has no formal state, as distinct from party, post. In the end, Kim II Sung will die and then we shall see. As regards that future, it is hard to disagree with James Cotton’s view that the ‘Dear Leader’ is most unlikely to long survive his father’s demise.49 Meanwhile, one might suggest that Pyongyang is afflicted by a strange kind of political paralysis - as indicated, for example, by the two years without a plan.



Perhaps Kim II Sung has semi-abdicated, leaving Kim Jong II partly but by no means wholly in control, thus creating a situation in which neither those two nor anyone else has the capacity to grasp nettles and take firm decisions. Paradoxical as it might seem, Pyongyang’s tight ship looks increasingly rudderless: it drifts, or zigzags, or seems marooned, as if no hand were on the tiller. That, perhaps, is the ultimate irony of North Korean politics. For reasons that are understandable in view of past Korean political history, Kim II Sung has worked on the principle that unity is strength. Yet he has taken this to such extremes as to pose a grave threat to North Korea’s ultimate stability after his death. His personalized absolutism has ultimately suffocated politics, leading a once dynamic system to flounder and stagnate. That which appears as strength will turn out to be extremely brittle, and the facade of monolithic unity will rapidly crumble. The Society Although much has been implicit in the last two sections, it is worth posing explicitly the question of what North Korean society is really like. Clearly it has undergone enormous change since 1945. The dispossession of landlords and (the few) capitalists, the destruction and chaos of war, and the subsequent industrialization and urbanization, add up to a 40-year social transformation no less profound than the preceding 40 years of Japanese colonialism. The result is a society of puzzling contrasts. Much, at the level of reality and ideology alike, is unmistakably modem. As in other communist-party states, the Promethean themes of science and progress, ‘man’ transforming nature, are constantly played. The classic Stalinist imagery of industrialization abounds. The higher education system is strongly technological and vocational in orientation. Most North Koreans live in cities, and work in factories or offices. Another modem theme much trumpeted is welfare. Education is free and compulsory, for 11 years. Health care is also claimed to be comprehensive, although there are likely to exist distributional inequality and qualitative inadequacies. Even such symptoms of modernity (and specifically Western modernity at that) as ties for men and high-heeled shoes for women have been officially recommended in recent years. Yet this modem society is also strikingly traditional. Foreign visitors have remarked on a curiously old-fashioned atmosphere and mores. The anarchy of capitalist modernity is conspicuously absent. This is a Third World country apparently without shanty towns or an informal sector. Pyongyang has very little traffic, and even bicycles are banned as dis­ orderly. Casual street life appears not to exist. Above all, there is no getting away from the neo-traditionalism of authority relations - again, both as they are and as they are portrayed. Although juche is translated as ‘having the attitude of a master’, the reality is that North Koreans must have the attitude of having a master. Kim H Sung’s omnipotence is their impotence. Again and again they are reminded that they are nothing



without him. Mundane and miserly state rationing over and above the norm - a coat here, a couple of ballpoint refills there - is represented in the terminology of feudalism, as generous gifts from a benevolent monarch to his unworthy subjects. In no other communist-party state has the basis of legitimation, in Weberian terms, become so overtly patrimonial, and indeed patriarchal. But if Kim 11 Sung’s societal project was in itself bizarre, what is still more remarkable is that he appears to have pulled it off. Uniquely in the communist world, there is no trace of dissidence, or of East Europeanstyle irony and political humour. Nowadays even Albania has its graffiti: not so Pyongyang. All the North Koreans one meets really seem to believe in their system. Unsurprisingly, comparisons with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four have been freely made51 - although Huxley’s Brave New World might be more apt, for a populace seemingly not so much cowed as brainwashed. Caution is in order here, however. Undoubtedly the North Korean regime has gone to unique lengths to quarantine its citizens against influences from and information about the outside world, and then to use its monopoly of the means of socialization (starting in the creche) to push one line and one line only. Should even that fail, there is undoubtedly an intricate and massive network of surveillance, plus a Gulag for those who dare to deviate. Even so, there is one source of anomaly whose emergence and perception cannot be prevented, namely, the yawning chasm between the Panglossian picture of a ‘people’s paradise’ as painted by the Pyongyang media, and ordinary people’s everyday experience of how they live.52 Seen in this light, the shrill and frenzied exhortations that are Pyongyang’s staple media fare take on a different meaning. Despite the absence of overt dissidence, and although people do do as they are told, there is little sign that ordinary North Koreans freely put much effort or commitment into their work. Why should they, when conditions are so spartan and rewards so meagre? Conversely, there is evidence that the visible privileges of the party elite are well known and resented.53 Hence, while the media are frenzied, the people are not. It seems likely that when the post-Kim era finally dawns, we shall leam that many people in North Korea maintained a formal commitment to the regime and did as they were told while privately reserving judgement. Another case in point here is religion. As well as Buddhism, Christianity was strong in Pyongyang before 1945. Although no public places of worship are open in North Korea today, evidence from other communist countries makes it reasonable to suppose that religious belief has only gone underground, rather than having been eliminated. In this as in other respects, it is doubtful whether North Korea is all that it appears and proclaims itself to be. International Relations

If economic stagnation provides an internal source of problems and hence



pressure for change on the North Korean system, the shifting pattern of international alliances in recent years has led to equivalent pressures from the country’s external environment. The cold war ‘blocs’ that produced the division of Korea are not as they were, and Pyongyang in consequence faces new challenges. As with the economy, however, there is little sign of any unanimity on how to respond to these changes. In the first place, there is no denying Kim II Sung’s nationalism. Despite his initial ‘Russian’ origins and non-existent internal power base, he early freed himself from Soviet control. Firmly neutral in the Sino-Soviet dispute, never having joined Comecon, and allowing no foreign troops or bases on its soil, North Korea must be a deep disappointment to the USSR, especially since the latter has always been Pyongyang’s major source of financial and technological aid. It is important to re-state these themes, at a time when some analysts have made too much of North Korea’s ‘tilt’ towards the Soivet Union in recent years. It is true that both Pyongyang and Moscow have sought, and to some degree established, more effective co-operation in both economic and military terms. It is equally clear that, on the North Korean side, this move not only reflects those economic and military needs in themselves, but also indicates severe displeasure with China for its rapidly expanding and increasingly insouciant unofficial links with South Korea, as for example in trade and sports exchanges. This process has its limits, however. North Korea may grant overflying rights for Soviet planes to spy on China, and engage in joint naval exercises with the USSR, but Kim II Sung could never give the Russians the warmwater bases which they would dearly like. (Whether his successors might do so is another matter entirely.) On broader foreign policy issues, too, North Korea hews to its own line. It recognizes Afghanistan - but also Democratic Kampuchea, and Prince Sihanouk turned up as usual in 1987 at his old friend Kim II Sung’s birthday celebrations. In sum, Kim II Sung has proved adept at avoiding too close an embrace from either of his major allies. By contrast, North Korea’s relations with its ‘enemies’ have been a more or less unmitigated disaster. Admittedly US and Japanese recognition of Seoul as the seat of the only legitimate government of Korea places inherent limitations on what can be accomplished. Yet there is no intrinsic reason why North Korea and Japan should not be enjoying the kind of thriving unofficial economic and other links that now obtain between South Korea and China. Pyongyang desperately needs such relations, to modernize its economy. They will come in the 1990s but they could have come one or even two decades sooner, were it not for North Korea’s excessive and unrealistic prickliness on various political issues. Above all, they have been stymied by the crass decision not to repay to Japan debts incurred in the early 1970s. With the USA, North Korea has spoiled its chances by a mixture of extravagantly venomous rhetoric on the one hand, coupled with some clumsy and transparent manoeuvres in recent years to try to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul. While it is true that the USA (and Japan)



might nevertheless have attempted earlier to play the kind of peace­ making role on the peninsula that China has commendably attempted in the 1980s, it must be said that North Korea has offered very little incentive to do so. Recent US gestures55 have in fact been favourably received in Pyongyang; it remains to be seen if there is a substantive response. Finally, there is the other half of Korea, ever the real focal point of Pyongyang’s foreign policy. This too is a major failure for Kim II Sung, who must be haunted by the very different outcome in that other oncedivided East Asian country, Vietnam. Despite partition, the Vietnamese communists never lost their purchase on events in the South. They eventually had their victory, pyrrhic though it turns out to have been. Vietnam really did defeat the USA. North Korea ludicrously claims to have done so, when in fact it was not only all but annihilated (but for Chinese intervention, after 1951 there would have been no North Korea) but also lost all chance of influencing events in the South. In post-war economic competition, North Korea’s initial lead was lost by around 1970, and the South’s far greater dynamism means that the gap grows ever wider. As against this, Pyongyang has scored success of a kind in the Non-Aligned Movement, by keeping Seoul out. Yet the hollow formalism of this ‘success’ is as little beside South Korea’s substantial bilateral economic relations in the Third World, even with such allies of Pyongyang as Libya. Above all, although there is a depressing history of intransigence and posturing on both sides, the major responsibility in the late 1980s for the state of relations (or lack of them) between North and South Korea must rest with Pyongyang. The North’s proclaimed insistence on settling the big issues first - in the form of a ‘Confederal Democratic Republic of Koryo’ - is patently unrealistic, unless preceded by the kinds of small-scale contacts and confidence-building measures that the South would like to start with. (Ironically, 30 years ago this was Pyongyang’s policy, and it was Seoul that refused all contact.) Eventually, there will be a ‘Germanization’ of the Korean peninsula: mutual recognition {de facto or de jure), ‘cross-recognition’ of both Koreas by the other side’s major allies, economic exchange, some degree of family visits and communication, and a general reduction of tension. It is not yet quite impossible that this will happen in Kim II Sung’s lifetime. The dialogue begun in 1984-85, and broken off in early 1986 by Pyongyang, may recommence in 1987. There remains even just a chance of North Korea accepting a deal on the 1988 Olympics, which would finally create an irreversible momentum towards better relations with the South. As with economic reform, however, the fear must be that in the final analysis the present North Korean leadership lacks the imagination or courage to abandon familiar postures, even when these have patently failed. Future Prospects and Evaluation

The late 1980s provide an appropriate moment for an evaluation of North



Korea, for these are certainly the twilight years of Kim H Sung, and of Kimilsungism. Both man and system alike are showing intimations of mortality. Kim II Sung will die in the 1990s, if not before, and his system with him. Constructing future scenarios for North Korea is an even more speculative exercise than interpreting the present. Once again, none the less, a mix of comparative analysis and logical deduction may help. Other communist countries have managed a relatively painless transition after the death of a dominant initial leader, as for example Vietnam, Yugoslavia or Albania. In North Korea, paradoxically, the survival of Kimilsungism as a system or framework might have been more likely, had it not been for Kim Jong II. The converse may also be true: that if Kim Jong II is to have any chance of retaining power at all, it might only be if he abandons Kimilsungism - not overtly, but by ‘modernizing’ it out of all recognition, rather like China today vis-a-vis the legacy of Mao. In general, as argued above, the personalism of Kim ft Sung’s rule and his failure to establish rational-legal forms of legitimation will be profoundly destabilizing for North Korea once he has gone (even as they have ensured a kind of stability while he lives). In the absence of any ground rules, vicious infighting and power struggles may be expected. Dynastic successions historically have always provided ample scope for discontent and intrigue, in Korea not least. To predict a precise outcome is impossible. Given the great weight of the army in North Korea, some kind of miliary coup is quite conceivable. Its political character could be diverse: pro-Soviet, pro-Chinese, or neo-juche nationalist. Alternatively, if economic logic alone ruled, one might foresee a North Korean equivalent of Deng Xiaoping, or even Gorbachev. This might be some technocrat, at present known or unknown. It might just conceivably be Kim Jong II, at least as a figurehead. Yet even if the ‘dear leader’ wished to be a modernizer, it must be doubted whether he has the charisma, ability or political skills to overcome the acute contradictions of such a role once his father is dead. Whoever or whatever constitutes the successor regime in Pyongyang, both internal and external pressures upon it will be acute. Issues that are at present being hedged or fudged, in economic reform and international relations, will have to be resolved one way or another. A more fulsome acceptance of the Soviet embrace is one option, involving CMEA membership, Soviet bases and a degree of glasnost'. This would alarm China and displease Japan. The USA, however, might privately reckon there were stabilizing gains of a kind: better a predictable satellite than a dangerous maverick. Should the next North Korean leadership wish to avoid the ‘satellite’ option, there remains the strategy of continued neutrality, imitation of China in economic reform and an opening up to South Korea. Any and aft such steps will require political risks, yet they may also reap dividends, as does any regime after a dictatorship which at least eases up a little and lets it subjects breathe. However, for the North Korean state to follow the



Chinese example, by opening up to the outside world and allowing various spheres of civil society to operate more autonomously, will be a radical Utum indeed. Yet, in some form or other, it has to happen, for there is no future in the present North Korean road. Quite apart from the obvious ethical and political critiques of Kim II Sung’s extraordinary dystopia, the most pertinent criticisms are finally sociological. The type of society that Kim II Sung has striven to create is not only unpleasant, but also ultimately impossible to sustain. The claim of infallibility for leader and party is not only a lie; it also deprives the leadership of any feedback mechanism for correcting error - thereby guaranteeing that mistakes will be made. A proclamation that the people’s zeal is the decisive factor in raising the forces of production leads to a ludicrous voluntarism which ensures that rational mechanisms for resource allocation will wither and the economy will suffer. Above all, a model of society based on Durkheim’s mechanical solidarity - with all hearts beating and minds thinking as one, individua­ tion minimized, and difference penalized as deviance - cannot ultimately run a modem society, whose prerequisite is the institutionalization and celebration of difference. Granted, die growth of a complex division of labour poses new and difficult challenges for a modem society, there are risks of anomie, and an organic solidarity rooted in difference and interdependence cannot easily be created. But nor can the challenge be evaded. In this sense, Kimilsungism can be understood as an attempt to accomplish modernization whilst eschewing modernity. It is striking how much Kim II Sung’s vision of the good society resembles the ‘traditional’ side of most of the classical sociological dichotomies: not only Duikheim’s mechanical solidarity, but also Toennies’s gemeinschaft, and even Spencer’s ‘military society’. Perhaps something of this contradiction is inherent in all socialism, whose efforts to construct a vision of a future different from the chaos of capitalism all too often hark back to the ‘order’ (good or bad, real or imagined) of some kind of past. Yet even if the dilemma is universal, North Korea (as usual) stands out for having taken things to an extreme. Others may lament the world they have lost, but few have attempted so resolutely to push the clock both forward and back simultaneously. The explanation for this behaviour lies in Korea’s particular modem history, or at least Kim II Sung’s reading of it. As seen from Pyongyang today, the taewongun and others in the nineteenth century who pursued the ‘hermit kingdom’ approach were correct: they were right to keep the world out, but wrong (and fatally so) in failing to modernize the country behind the walls they had erected.56 Hence Kim II Sung, a century later (and after decades in which Korea went to hell and back, by any standards) has tried to accomplish what the taewongun could not. It helped, no doubt, that the model of Stalinist autarkic industrialization chimed in so readily with this fierce pre-existing Korean nationalism. Both worked in the same direction, yet this has also had its price. The quest for juche in self-defence against imperialism, independence from the world market, quarantine against contamination



by ‘pagan’ Western cultural influences, and autonomy even from one’s friends and allies, has ‘succeeded’ to such a degree that North Korea has all but abandoned any kind of universal norms or canons of judgement (including, for all practical purposes, Marxism-Leninism). In a very real and literal sense, Pyongyang is a monumental ego-trip. Nationalism has become chauvinism, ‘socialism’ has been turned into neo-patrimonialism. As anyone knows who has ever tried, one cannot tell the North Koreans anything. They know it all already, because they have it all already, thanks to the Great Leader and the juche idea. This is a very sick body politic indeed, and getting sicker - a kind of political autism, a peasant mentality profoundly ignorant and contemptuous of the world beyond the parish pump.57 North Korea can ill afford such attitudes. Once, perhaps, stubbornness was a virtue - in surviving the ddbacle of war, and in reconstructing. But now the whole of the rest of the world (including even Albania) is marching to a different beat. Or rather not marching, but breaking up into increasingly diverse, pluralistic, and creative forms of activity. Only in North Korea are they still, literally, marching. Yet, for all the square-bashing, they are marking time, notwithstanding the increasingly frenzied yells from assorted sergeantsmajor.

NOTES Aidan Foster-Carter is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Leeds. He is the author of The Sociology of Development (1985), and has contributed various articles on theories of development. He visited North Korea in 1986. 1. The official name of the country, since 1948, is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 2. For instance, in May 1974 Kim II Sung could in all seriousness criticize party officials in Pyongyang for not knowing exactly who had seen which revolutionary operas and films: At the moment the Pyongyang city party committee does not even know how may citizens have seen the revolutionary operas and how many have not seen them. This shows that it is not supervising and guiding the political and cultural life of the citizens as it should ... [I]t must know which of them has seen what films, which of them has seen what operas, and who has not seen what... [Y]ou must not leave the showing of these pieces to chance. See Kim II Sung, Works, Vol. 29 (Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House (FLPH), 1987), pp. 177-8. 3. ‘Our socialist system thus emerged [sic] under the great leader is the most excellent one .... It is based on the entire people’s political and ideological unity emanating from the great Juche idea ... and its vitality is invulnerable’: The People’s Paradise (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1978), pp.8-9. 4. See my article ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, Far Eastern Economic Review (PEER), 14 Aug. 1986, pp.100-101. 5. North Korean sources have tended to say little or nothing about the Soviet role, unless as a minor sidekick to Kim II Sung and the ‘Korean People’s Revolutionary Army’ (KPRA). For a typical example, see History Research Institute, DPRK Academy of


6. 7.









16. 17. 18.


Social Sciences, The Outline of Korean History (Pyongyang: 1977), p. 154. With North Korea’s more pro-Soviet tilt in the past two or three years, however, a slightly less grudging approach has begun to surface. On Korean history, see Takashi Hatada, A History of Korea (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1969); and Lee Ki-Baek, A New History of Korea (Seoul: Ilchokak, 1984). On the late nineteenth century, see Key-Hiuk Kim, The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980); and Martina Deuchler, Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1977). On the colonial period, see Andrew J. Grajdanzev, Modern Korea (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1944); and Andrew C. Nahm (ed.), Korea Under Japanese Colonial Rule (Kalamazoo, MI: Center for Korean Studies, Western Michigan University, 1973). On nationalism, see Chong-sik Lee, The Politics of Korean Nationalism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1965). On early Korean comunism, see Dae-sook Suh, The Korean Communist Movement, 1918-48 (Princeton, NJ: University Press, 1967); and Robert Scalapino and Chong-sik Lee, Communism in Korea, Vol.l (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972). The outstanding source on the 1940s is now Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Vol.l (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981). See also Soon Sung Cho, Korea in World Politics, 1940-50 (Berkeley, CA: Univeristy of California Press, 1967). This point is made by Jon Halliday, in his very valuable ‘The North Korean Model: Gaps and Questions’, World Development, Vol.9, Nos. 9-10 (1981), p.893 and p.903, n.27, p.903. See also his ‘North Korean Enigma’, New Left Review, No. 127 (May-June 1981). On the Korean war itself there is a large and still growing literature. A most useful recent introduction is Peter Lowe, The Origins of the Korean War (London: Longman, 1986). For a comprehensive summary of South Korean development, see Edwin S. Mason et a i, The Economic and Social Modernization of the Republic of Korea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), and its several companion volumes. Somewhat different emphases may be found in Kyong-Dong Kim (ed.) Dependency Issues in Korean Development (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 1987), Part II. Joseph S. Chung, The North Korean Economy: Structure and Development (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1974) is the standard work, but stops at 1970. The figures cited are from his more recent chapter ‘Economic Planning in North Korea’, in Robert A. Scalapino and Jun-yop Kim (eds.), North Korea Today: Strategic Issues (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1983), p.172. A point emphasized by Jon Halliday in his ‘The Economics of North and South Korea’, Ch.3 of John Sullivan and Roberta Foss (eds.) Two Koreans — One Future? (Philadelphia, PA: University Press of America, for American Friends Service Committee, 1987), pp. 19-20. Soviet-North Korean policy disputes are discussed in Gordon White, ‘North Korean Juche: The Political Economy of Self-Reliance’, Ch. 12 of Manfred Bienefeld and Martin Godfrey (eds.), The Struggle for Development: National Struggles in an International Context (Chichester: Wiley, 1982) p.331ff. See also Ellen Brun and Jacques Hersh, Socialist Korea: A Case Study in the Strategy of Economic Develoment (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976). This case is argued, with unusual cogency for a Pyongyang source, in Economic Research Institutue, Academy of Social Sciences of the DPRK, The Building of an Independent National Economy in Korea (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1977). A point made more generally by Gordon White, in his ‘Developmental States and Socialist Industrialization in the Third World’, Journal of Development Studies, Vol.21, No.l (1984) (Special Issue). See the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quarterly Economic Review of China [and\ North Korea (EIUIQER), 1985, No.2, pp.30-33; title changed in 1986 to Country Report, China [and] North Korea (EIU/CR).



19. EIUICR, No.2, pp.37-44. 20. Kim II Sung, ‘On Some Theoretical Problems of the Socialist Economy’ [1969]; Ch. IX of Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim II Sung (New York: International Publishers, 1971), p. 160. 21. J. Komai, The Economics of Shortage (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1980). 22. Kim II Sung, ‘On Some Theoretical Problems’, p. 165. 23. Ibid., p.161. 24. Thus in 1987 workers were urged to emulate those who pledged to complete first quarter assignments by 16 Febrarary and half yearly tasks by 15 April, the birthdays of Kim Jong II and Kim II Sung respectively: see North Korea News (Seoul), No.357, 26 Jan. 1987, pp. 1-2, quoting a KCBS broadcast of 16 Jan. 25. Vantage Point (Seoul), Vol.VIII, No.12 (Dec. 1985), pp.13-14, and Vol.X, No.l (Jan. 1987), pp. 15-21. 26. See EIUIQER, 1985, No.3, pp.33-4; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB) FE/7953, B/2 (17 May 1985), citing Xinhua for 14 May. 27. On all this, see my ‘Crisis Mismanagement* and ‘Combining to Boost Exports’, FEER, 14 Aug, 1986, pp. 100-101, and ‘Place Order [sic] for Ceramics with our Complex’, Foreign Trade of the D.P.RX., 1986: 1, pp.8-9. 28. ‘Our people’s trust in our party is an absolute and unconditional belief by which they consider our party the greatest guide in the world for their destinies and by which they follow our party as the most generous and benevolent mother’s bosom! ... It is through our people’s endless loyalty that they firmly belive their party’s policy to be absolutely right at any time, in any place, and do not hesitate even to jump into water or fire if it is the party’s call!*: from ‘A Mother Party’, Rodong Sinmun, 14 Feb. 1987, as broadcast on Pyongyang home service and quoted in BBC SWB FE/8497, B/2, 20 Feb. 1987. It might be added that, while reading stuff like this is bizarre enough, hearing it on the air is something else again: typically with one or more speakers, their voices at once declamatory yet quaking with emotion, and often against a musical background that contrives to sound both martial and marshmallow. 29. On debts to the USSR, see George Ginsburgs, ‘Soviet Development Grants and Aid to North Korea, 1945-1980*, Asia Pacific Community (Tokyo), No. 18 (Fall 1982), pp.42-63. 30. For more detail see, see my ‘Smoke and Mirrors*. The UNDP-aided integrated circuittesting pilot project finally came on stream, years late, in April 1987. 31. EIUIQER, 1986, N o.l, p.41. 32. Soviet broadcasts (many in Korean) giving chapter and verse on aid are legion: see, for example, EIUICR, 1986 No.4, pp.32-4. For an overview, see M. Ye. Trigubenko (ed.), Koreiskaya Narodno-Demokraticheskaya Respublika (Moscow: Nauka, 1985), Part III, Ch.2, pp.170-91. 33. People's Korea (Tokyo), 2 Aug. 1986. 34. Thus the April 1987 ordinance of the Supreme People’s Assembly had a section titled ‘On Solving Problems of Food, Clothing, and Housing for People More Satisfactorily*: see EIUICR, 1987, No.2, p.41. 35. As confirmed by a recent defection of a family of ‘boat people*: see EIUICR, 1987, N o.l, pp.31-3. 36. See EIUIQER, 1985, N o.l, p.41. 37. Ibid. 38. EIUICR, 1986, No.3, pp.34-5. 39. Rodong Sinmun, 2 Aug. 1986. 40. See note 27 above, or any recent issue of the official magazine Foreign Trade of the D.P.R.K.. 41. See the article ‘Pyongyang Increasingly Dependent on Chongryon for Capital*, Vantage Point (Seoul), Vol.X, No.2 (Feb. 1987), pp.21-4. 42. Thus pro-Pyongyang sources in Japan publicized a very extensive North Korean list of would-be joint ventures in late 1985: see EIUIQER, 1985, No.4, pp.42-3. 43. I have attempted this in ‘Reading the Entrails of the Pyongyang Goat’, FEER, 28 Aug. 1985, pp.28-30.



44. Useful sources are Tai Sung An, North Korea: A Political Handbook (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1983); and Frederica M. Bunge (ed.), North Korea: A Country Study (Washington, DC: US Government Printing House, 1981), Ch.4; ‘Government and Politics* (by Rinn-Sup Shinn). 45. See Scalapino and Lee, op. cit., Vol.l, pp.510ff. 46. I have been unable to trace this phrase, which is certainly genuine. Possibly it sounds better in Korean. 47. See ‘Reading the Entrails ... ’. 48. This is Rinn-Sup Shinn’s view: op. cit. (note 44 above), pp. 185-6 (see also pp. 133-4). 49. See his contribution to this volume, ‘Ideology and the Legitimation Crisis in North Korea*. 50. A useful overview is Donald M. Seekins, ‘The Society and Its Environment*, Ch.2 of Bunge, op. cit 51. See, for example a South Korean propaganda work, George Orwell's 1984: North Korea (Seoul: Tower Press, 1984). 52. I explore these themes further in a hitherto unpublished paper, ‘North Korea, the Emperor’s Clothes’. 53. Kim Man-chul, the leader of the family of ‘boat people* who defected in January 1987, left behind a letter to Kim II Sung which made this point: ‘People here lead miserable lives ... while ranking Communist party officials are living in luxury’, Vantage Point, Vol.X, No.3 (March 1987), p.17. 54. ‘Samdech, whenever April comes round you come to see us and congratulate us upon our birthday without forgetting i t .... The Korean people will always stand firm by the Cambodian people who are fighting for freedom and independence*: Kim II Sung at a banquet for Sihanouk in Pyongyang on 11 April 1987: BBC SWB FE/8543/A3/1, 15 April 1987. 55. For more details, see EIUICR, 1987, No.2, pp.35-6. 56. The North Korean view of Korea’s history is summarized in a (typically) collectiveanonymous work: History Research Institute, DPRK Academy of Social Sciences, The Outline of Korean History (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1977): see my quasi-review, ‘A Historical Outline of Korean Chauvinism*, FEER, 2 Oct. 1986, pp.96-8. 57. I pursue this theme further in ‘Patriarch and Deity for North Korea’s Peasants’, FEER, 5 June 1986.

Ideology and the Legitimation Crisis in North Korea James Cotton

The origins of Kim II Sung’s contribution to Marxism lie in his struggle to legitimize his leadership position and justify the nationalist practice of his North Korean regime. His son now seeks to buttress his own rise to power by posing as the first exegete of philosophical depths in his father’s ideology unrecognized by former commentators. Juche is the ideology of the present age and an improve­ ment on Marxism not least because it addresses itself to the problem of political succession. Behind this theoretical manoeuvre, which bears some resemblances to the strategy of the ‘Gang of Four’ in China, lies the first improbable attempt in a communist state to create in the political institutions of North Korea as much as in the ideology a hereditary personality cult.

It is now the proud claim of spokesmen for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) that the ideology there affirmed as the guide to all action and policy is unique, owing nothing to external influences and precedents. In bookshops the Marxist classics are not normally to be found, the stock dominated by the works of Kim II Sung (now in their collected form amounting to some 35 volumes; more are in press) and of his son and designated successor Kim Jong II. Kim makes few references to Soviet or Chinese example, although on those limited number of occasions judged appropriate, the assistance given by Korea’s two socialist neighbours during the 1945 liberation and the Korean war receives acknowledgement. China and the Soviet Union have indeed been the major source of armaments, aid and loans given to the regime since its inception, but ideological solidarity cannot be the principal reason for their support. Rivalry and the geo-strategic postion of the peninsula account for their continued sponsorship of the Kim dynasty. The Chinese do not take Kim’s ideological claims seriously, and recently Soviet spokesmen have taken some pains to make public the extent to which key North Korean construction and modernization projects have been made possible as a result of their aid, despite the offence this causes in Pyongyang, where all progress is attributed to self-reliance. In this article, the claims made by the North Koreans concerning the originality, scope and character of their ideology will be subjected to critical scrutiny. It will be argued that the principal function of the ideology is to legitimize the complete dominance of the two Kims, changes to it in recent times serving to justify the planned succession of Kim Jong II



and the rise of a new party elite of his generation. Particular attention will be paid to the writings of the younger Kim since he is now regarded as an original authority in ideological matters, having newly defined the philosophical basis and alleged uniqueness of his father’s thought. Origins and Functions of the Juche Idea The origins of Kim II Sung’s political ideas may be traced to the circum­ stances of his early life and education, and to the exigencies of the guerrilla struggle against the Japanese.1Kim spent much of his childhood (from age seven to eleven, and from thirteen) in Manchuria where he received something of a Chinese education. His position in those formative years must have presented great difficulties. Although his family had emigrated to China at least partly for patriotic reasons, the growing influence of Japan in that region made the Chinese population doubly suspicious of the Korean community. The early death of Kim’s father placed a heavy burden on the 14-year-old shoulders of this fourth-generation eldest son. The precise details of Kim’s revolutionary activities are disputed, North Korean sources claiming that he founded the Down-with-Imperialism Union at the precocious age of 14, but it is clear that from an early age he was fiercely nationalistic. During his years with the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement Kim was under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Apart from the influence of his evidently patriotic father, such political education as he received was derived from his contact with the CCP, and from his experience as a guerrilla fighter. This must have generated ambivalent feelings, since, although Kim clearly imbibed much of the CCP outlook, the Koreans in the movement were not fully trusted and were the subject on occasion of expulsions. When Kim with a small group of followers sought refuge in the Soviet Union in 1941 he was a seasoned leader with, it may be assumed, a fixed outlook. Whilst presiding over the creation of the North Korean regime he was under the tutelage of Soviet advisers, but the failure of his erstwhile patrons to give him further support, after the failure of his invasion of the south, undoubtedly rankled. Chinese remained his only foreign language, and there is much in his early pronouncements and programme that shows an awareness of developments in China. Kim’s major claim to originality is founded upon his use of the term juche. For the last two decades this concept (having the literal meaning of self-reliance or independence) has been identified as the core notion in his ideology. The term itself was undoubtedly chosen for a variety of reasons. It is general enough to admit of a number of connotations, permitting the leadership to describe most practical policies as consistent with the regime’s ideological tenets. It is also a term with strong nationalist overtones that simultaneously serves a multiplicity of purposes. The notion that Koreans could build through their own efforts a technologically and socially advanced society undoubtedly appeals to the aloofness, pride, and dislike of outsiders to be found in the political culture. In



particular it can be interpreted as a manifestation of defiance and selfassertion following the humiliations of the Japanese colonial period, and the devastation inflicted by superior American arms during the Korean war. And it has obviated die need for North Korea to take sides in the dispute between its two socialist patrons, justifying also subsequent North Korean criticisms of both neighbours for actions that were interpreted as unwarranted intrusions in domestic affairs. With the passing of the years, and the growth of the Kim II Sung personality cult, the concept has broadened, and an earlier date has been ascribed to the time at which it came to assume pre-eminence in the leader’s thought. The first important reference to juche in Kim II Sung’s writings occurs in a speech of 1955 made immediately after the purge and execution of Pak Hon-yong, the most notable of the ‘domestic’ faction of the party. Kim uses the occasion to condemn various opponents within the Korean Workers’ Party, asserting that a correct basis for the Korean revolution may be developed only by adopting a strictly national stand: What is Juche in our Party’s ideological work? What are we doing? We are not engaged in any other country’s revolution, but solely in the Korean revolution. Devotion to the Korean revolution is Juche in the ideological work of our Party. Therefore, all ideological work must be subordinated to the interests of the Korean revolution. When we study the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the history of the Chinese revolution, or the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism, it is entirely for the purpose of correctly carrying out our own revolution.2 This passage is strongly reminiscent of Mao Zedong at the time, during the late 1930s, when he was simultaneously establishing his claim to pre­ eminence in the Chinese Communist Party and undertaking what he then described as ‘the Sinification of Marxism’.3In the same speech, Kim spoke also of the need for the whole population to learn from the work-style of the guerrillas. He also complained that until recently former members of his guerrilla band had not been sufficiently honoured in revolutionary Korea. Kim’s position in the party in 1955 may be compared with Mao’s in his early days in Yanan. Both were shrugging off the leadership of Moscow and embarking on the making of a revolution conforming to their own idiosyncratic view and programme. Indeed, the theory was clearly intended to provide a justification for the monopolizing of power in the hands of the Kim faction. The experience of those Korean communists who had served in the Soviet or Chinese revolutions was thereby condemned as inappropriate for the circumstances of Korea, and those who had been active in the communist underground (as opposed to the Manchurian guerrillas) were also condemned for the factional way in which they mechanically applied foreign formulas to the particular problems of the peninsula. The double irony of this position lies in the fact that during his guerrilla days Kim was under the command of the Chinese



Communist Party, whose regional committee, in the north-east unlike in Yanan, was closedly supervised by the Comintern.4 It should be pointed out, lest too great an importance should be given to the role of ideology, that even while he lacked the theory, Kim II Sung was able to purge many of the domestic faction in the party in 1953 as scapegoats for the failure of the war strategy. This reading of what was portended in the discovery of juche, as well as the fate of Pak Hon-yong, undoubtedly gave an impetus to the members of other party factions to attempt to dislodge Kim II Sung from the leader­ ship. Emboldened by the criticism of Stalin voiced within the Soviet Communist Party, and encouraged by a speech at the third Korean Workers’ Party congress in April 1956 from Leonid Brezhnev, in which he censured the Korean party for over-ambitious economic plans and for the absence of collective leadership, members of the Yanan and Soviet factions attempted at an emergency plenum of the Central Committee to dislodge Kim while he was absent in the Soviet Union.5 This strategy failed, but after direct intervention by Peng Dehuai (who had commanded the Chinese People’s Volunteers in the Korean war) and Anastas Mikoyan, Kim was persuaded for a time to reinstate his critics. This intervention, and the fact that Moscow was apprised of the attempted coup, subsequently increased Kim’s resolve to rely upon his own chosen followers. As a consequence by 1958 Kim had purged his critics, and in agricultural and industrial policy North Korea began to follow something of the new Chinese model of socialist development. In a lecture delivered in 1965 which expands on the importance of juche as the only guide to policy for the regime, Kim makes it clear that in 1955 occurred die turning-point at which ‘our Party set forth the definite policy of establishing Juche’.6 From being an idea discovered at a particular phase of the Korean revolution, juche has been transfoimed into the theoretical core of Kim’s ideology. In recent times the concept has been detected in Kim’s writings of the 1930s (some of them made public only in 1978), and Kim Jong II has now pronounced that it was an independent discovery first expounded (by the 18-year-old Kim II Sung) at a meeting of the communist youth groups in Manchuria in 1930.7 One consequence of this view, of course, is that it has the youthful Kim II Sung Koreanizing Marxism some seven or eight years before Mao came to Sinify it. As the history of the concept has been rewritten, so the potential for its application has been expanded. Now the programme of the Korean Workers’ Party consists in nothing less than ‘modelling the whole society on the Juche idea’,8 and ayuc/ie-oriented policy can be found in every field from agriculture to linguistics. It is, moreover, preached as a panacea for the problems of the Third World whenever Kim II Sung pronounces on this question. Kim Jong IPs Ideological Contribution

So far, the ideological phenomenon described, though unfortunate, is



also unremarkable. Korean pride and the exigencies of party strife have induced the communist leader of a small and somewhat beleaguered country to claim excessive originality and consistency for an ideology largely drawn from the usual Marxist-Leninist stereotypes. With that leader’s death or decline, history would be reinterpreted to adjust those claims where necessary. But the hereditary succession in North Korea, which has been in hand since 1974, has contributed a new element to this development. Having made no material contribution to the Korean revolution, Kim Jong II evidently seeks to legitimize his position through his contribution to the regime’s ideology. This contribution, however, must be one that underscores his father’s originality, since he owes his candidature solely to his father’s support. He has solved this problem by adopting the pose of his father’s exegete, claiming to find in the elder Kim’s writings subtle and profound truths never before properly under­ stood. Although the content of their ideas differs, something of this strategy was employed a decade ago in China by the ‘Gang of Four’. It is then not altogether surprising to discover that Kim Jong II exhibits a similar obsession with ideological and cultural matters, particularly the cinema and the performing arts. Thus the earliest work of this ideological prodigy now available is a talk he gave (at the age of 29) to film workers in 1970, and visitors to the Korean Film Studio outside Pyongyang are informed with some fervour that he has paid no fewer than 37 visits to give ‘on the spot guidance’. It is necessary to discuss the more important of Kim Jong fl’s ideological writings in order to make clear the scale of the claims made for both members of the dynasty. Expressed succinctly, the elder Kim has made contributions to ideology so profound as to have solved the problems of a new age (these contributions deserving the appellation ‘Kimilsungism’), and the younger Kim has proved his genius by being the first to point out these truths. His treatise On the Juche Idea is the most comprehensive of Kim Jong D’s writings. As all events of any significance in North Korea are linked to the leader’s birthday it is perhaps unsurprising to leam that this work first appeared at a symposium on juche held to mark Kim II Sung’s 70 years. By such actions do North Koreans affirm their loyalty to the regime, and loyalty is now the pre-eminent virtue for the population. But the symbolic importance of this event should not be underestimated. The manipula­ tion of symbols and icons is of great importance to the political system. All over North Korea, by the roadside and in all public buildings, may be found countless murals and tableaux depicting the leader and his followers. He is always at least a head taller than those around him, and the scenes depict at once a nation of plenty and content, and one where the only personality and source of all wisdom is the leader. These have been joined recently by a picture painted in ethereal hues of the two Kims standing before the volcanic lake at the summit of Paektu San. This place has been chosen because it is both the holiest of mountains in Korean mythology, as well as the alleged site of Kim’s revolutionary base in the



1930s and the birthplace of Kim Jong II. By making his ideological treatise available and thus stating his claim to be a major authority in this field at the leader’s seventieth birthday, Kim Jong II simultaneously affirmed his own loyalty and made the observance of the ideological tenets expressed therein an act of loyalty for others. According to Kim Jong II, juche affirms that ‘man is the master of everything and decides everything’. This sentiment has been expressed many times before, and no arguments old or new are adduced in support of it. But behind this somewhat vacuous observation the younger Kim detects a new and original philosophical conception of man. Alone of the animate creatures, man possesses chajusong (independence); that is, he is a being with ‘creativity and consciousness’ and is desirous of making and shaping the social and natural world. Students of the early Marx would be excused for finding some parallels in Marx’s conception of man as homo faber, but this anticipation receives no mention. History is a struggle for the realization of chajusong, and the masses are the motive force in this struggle. But though the masses make history, they cannot do so correctly without proper leadership: Only when they receive correct guidance from the party and the leader, would the working class and the masses of other people be able to vigorously develop the deep-going and complicated revolu­ tionary struggle to transform nature and society, achieve national and class liberation, build a socialist, communist society success­ fully, and run it properly.9 Whereas it is commonly observed that Lenin’s contribution to Marxism was to render the party leaders indispensable for the success of the revolution, and in practice most Marxist regimes are dominated by a single personality, nowhere before has the need for the dominance of a particular leader been stated in such forthright terms. The juche ideology is original in this respect, if in no other. As Kim Jong II points out with disarming frankness in another work, ‘the revolutionary theory of the working class’ had ‘never systematized as an independent theory’ before what he describes as the ‘correct leadership method’.10 A national stance consistent with chajusong is, it is claimed, one that is ‘independent’. In specific terms (and here Kim Jong II repeats points made many times in his father’s speeches) this implies national inde­ pendence and sovereignty, self-sufficiency in economics and technology, and self-reliance in defence. The most important manifestation of chajusong lies, however, in ideology. What is called for is ‘national dignity and revolutionary pride’ founded on a sound knowledge of the country: Koreans must know well Korean history, geography, economics, culture, and the custom of the Korean nation, and in particular our Party’s policy, its revolutionary history and revolutionary tradi­ tions. Only then will they be able to establish Juche and become true Korean patriots, the Korean communists.11



These sentiments are, of course, fully consistent with those expressed by the elder Kim in 1955. But they are also a signal for the younger generation of communists to take only Korean materials as their texts for study - in a narrowly nationalist fashion - and to pay attention to the Korean experience alone. That such an attitude is likely to engender an ignorance of and disdain for other nations and their contributions to Korean (or even world) history is to be expected. Thus, this author, on a conducted tour of Pyongyang’s Central History Museum in March 1986, was confidently informed that China had never conquered any part of Korea and that the artefacts on display from the first century AD were all from Koguryo tombs near the city, rather than of Han colonists. Even though the title page of each of Kim Jong ITs writings is emblazoned with Marx’s original slogan, ‘Workers of all countries, unite’, we are some way removed from the assertion also found in the Communist Manifesto that ‘the working men have no country’. And this nationalist stance also affords a stick with which to beat the South Korean regime, which is alleged to be dominated by ‘flunkeyism’ (sadaejuui: dependence upon the great), a particularly heinous sin in Pyongyang’s lexicon. So far, although there is a wide divergence between North Korean ideology and practice, there is little that is new in Kim Jong Il’s argument. In both respects there has been much borrowing from China and the Soviet Union, and even now Soviet aid is crucial for North Korean technological and military modernization. But considering the ideology in its own terms, it is a cruel contradiction that a system which proclaims the complete mastery by man of his fate is also one in which no individual other than the leader can express a personal point of view or make an original contribution. This has been expressed in a recent ideological production from Pyongyang which, with unintended irony, employs two of the metaphors of Hobbes’s Leviathan: The leader of the working class imbues the popular masses with the revolutionary thoughts, unites them into a political force and sets forth the scientific strategies and tactics. He is the brain setting up ideologies and theories, the centre of unity and cohesion.... He also stands for the working people’s will, demand and interest and carries in himself their fate .... In truth, the relation of the youth with the leader and the Party can be likened to that between the living matters and the sun. The sun, with its rays and heat, gives life and light to all the creatures on the earth. The benevolent sun that gives political integrity to the youth and leads them to the bright future is the leader and the party of the working class.12 Hobbes, of course, begins from premisses diametrically opposed to those of Marx. Man in the mass is no more than a collection of proud, selfish and mistrustful beings who can be given form and unity only if they surrender their natural right to a sovereign who henceforth has carte blanche to determine their terms of association. For Marx, however, the common experience and consciousness of the working class gives them a mission for



the attainment of which particuluar leaders and ideologists are incidental. But this last quotation captures the reality of everyday life in North Korea today. While loudspeaker vans tour the suburbs exhorting the citizens of Pyongyang to save electric power, and unlit and overloaded trolley buses carry workers home slowly through the dimly lit streets, the many monuments and statues dedicated to the leader are brightly illuminated as if to give visible expression to the regime’s priorities. There are, however, noteworthy if not exactly original aspects to this treatise. Although lip service is paid to the ‘mass line’, it is clear that Kim Jong Il’s Marxism-Leninism is singularly ‘voluntarist’ in its expression. In this view ‘the remoulding of ideology’ by direction from above is the most important task, whose execution guarantees success in all other activities. This explains the younger Kim’s early and continuing interest in cultural activities. It is also undoubtedly a reflection of his own life experience. Even while still an undergraduate student (at the aptly named Kim II Sung University) he effected a complete revision of the curriculum, and later while superintending cultural affairs and then occupying a position in the party secretariat (ultimately as his father’s assistant) he would have become accustomed to imposing his will on subordinates with ease. It would be difficult for a person of sensitivity and intelligence, let alone a mediocrity, not to become preoccupied with the most efficient direction of other people whose opinions by definition were unimportant Juche as the Ideology of the New Age

It is in connection with the relationship between these views and existing Marxist theories and writings that Kim Jong II indulges in claims so fantastic that they would be dismissed as hyperbole in any other political system. Having conceded that Marxism-Leninism solved for the first time certain philosophical and historical problems of crucial importance for the advance of mankind, he then dismisses the ideology in its classical form as a thing of the past. History has entered a new era, where the masses are now not the object of history but its subject. A new era requires a new ideology based on a new elucidation of man as the master of the social and natural world. As Kim Jong II expresses it in a talk recently published, but originally given in 1976 while his succession was still a matter for discus­ sion only within the elite of the Korean Workers’ Party: ‘The revolutionary theory of Kimilsungism is a revolutionary theory which provided solu­ tions to problems arising in the revolutionary practice in a new age different from the era that gave rise to Marxism-Leninism.’13 Now this observation on the status of man under socialism is as novel as The German Ideology of Marx and Engels (of 1845-46) and is offered as though Soviet and Chinese ideologists had never tackled this question. Of course, it is one that raises profound difficulties for Marxism, as can be seen from the vexedSdiscussion of humanism and alienation in China in 1983. If the socialist era is genuinely different from what has gone before then the satisfying of human needs and demands must be the principal



objective of the state. Indeed, it would not be inconsistent to affirm that any deficiency in the satisfying of those needs and demands, if man in the socialist state is really now (from the philosophical point of view) the ‘subject’ and determines all, would be quite illegitimate. North Korean commentators often refer to the country as a paradise where the people want for nothing, but they also concede that many tasks remain unful­ filled in the matter of the people’s livelihood, and crime and selfishness are still to be found. These concessions show that the North Korean state is in actuality much like most other states, in so far as decisions must be made concerning the allocation of relatively scarce resources, and laws must be promulgated and enforced. This in turn implies that some needs and demands are met at the expense of the others, and yet others are judged illegitimate. But, as we have seen, what the ideology gives with one hand it takes with the other, since, in the manner of Rousseau, North Korean man is a ‘subject’ only to the extent that his will and that of the leader coincide. This new outlook, and the example of the Korean revolution which exemplifies it, is relevant not merely to the Korean peninsula but to the world. In a passage reminiscent of Chinese statements during the later phases of ‘the Great Leap Forward’ when the ‘communist wind’ prevailed, Kim Jong II makes the following claim: The Juche idea has led the revolution and construction straight along the new road which had never been trodden by others before. The Korean revolution has paved an absolutely correct path for national liberation in a colony and opened a short cut to socialism. It has created a best socialist new life which the world’s people call a ‘model of socialism’, and is successfully pioneering the untrodden path to socialism and communism. Because the Juche idea illuminates the way, we have been able to advance along the shortest route and thus achieve in a brief period of time a great victory in the struggle for independence, sovereignty and socialism, a success which is amazing to the world.14 In other words, the experience of the Soviet and Chinese revolution counts for nothing, and no model but that of Korea deserves to be emulated by the nations of the Third World. Nothing less than naked expediency could induce the Soviet Union or China to co-operate with a regime with such ideological pretensions. The North Koreans claim that the relationship of their country with China is ‘unlike any that exists between any other two countries on this earth’.15 Now it is true that Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang accorded the younger Kim a rapturous welcome during his ‘unofficial’ visit to China in 1983, as the subsequently released film of the visit showed, but the explanation for the nature of this relationship is not to be sought in ideological solidarity. When Kim Jong II finally makes an official trip to the Soviet Union, rumours of the invitation for which have circulated for the last two years, it will be revealing to see what if anything is said in Moscow of his ideological contributions to Marxism-Leninism.



Preparing the Way for the New Generation

The emergence of Kim Jong II as his father’s successor has been under way since an unpublicized plenum of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party in 1974. The techniques adopted to quell opposition within the regime and to render this strategy acceptable to the population are well documented.16 Kim Jong II was not initially mentioned by name, but a mysterious ‘Party Centre’ (hitherto a shorthand designation for the Central Committee) began to give advice and guidance. The Kim family cult, already firmly entrenched in the official political culture, took on an additional aspect with the publicizing of the revolutionary activities of Kim Jong Suk, Kim II Sung’s first wife and the mother of Kim Jong II. From that time the need to ensure the successful continuation of the revolutionary programme ‘generation after generation’ became a major theme in North Korean ideological writings. When the sixth congress of the Korean Workers’ Party was held in October 1980, Kim Jong II, although not previously in the Central Committee, joined the Political Bureau (and its Standing Committee, then consisting of five members) and a rationale was presented for the political succession. As the revolution would take more than one genera­ tion to complete, the leadership would have to be handed on to one from the new generation, personally instructed and moulded by the leader and completely loyal to his precepts.17 Who better suited for this role could there be than the leader’s son? With his usual modesty Kim II Sung was able to say in his address to the congress that the question of succession which is ‘the fundamental question decisive to the destiny of the Party and the revolution has been solved splendidly in our country’.18 Needing no further cue, contributors to the proceedings of the congress lauded this organizational innovation as a discovery of epoch-making proportions, as though no theorist, east or west, had ever characterized traditional East Asia as (in Max Weber’s terms) a ‘patrimonial’ bureaucratic hierocracy: Whether the wise leadership of a leader is available is a basic question determining the ultimate destiny of a revolution. Never­ theless, ... no one had ever dared to put forward the question of inheritance of the leadership - the life-and-death question in the achievement of the socialist and communist cause. The experience of history shows that when the inheritance of the revolution is not guaranteed, the Party may degenerate, and the revolutionary cause pioneered by the leader may face a serious ordeal. This important question of the role of the leader and the inheritance of the leader­ ship in carrying out the cause of the working class, was brilliantly solved for the first time in history only by the great leader Comrade Kim Il-sung, who fully understood the long-standing yearning of the people to be led by an outstanding leader - in unprecedented^ difficult circumstances - and who led our revolution along the single road to victory regardless of difficulties. The great leader Comrade



Kim Il-sung, basing himself on a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the experience and lessons of the international communist movement, put forward a unique theory and method for the inheritance of the revolution, which would provide a dependable guarantee for our people to ensure wise leadership from generation to generation.19 Here at least is the admission that the study of precedents other than those to be found exclusively in Korea is necessary for the discovery of this correct principle. Once the solution to the succession question was made a matter of public knowledge, the regime began to create a cult around the achieve­ ments and lineage of the younger Kim in much the same way (though with much less to work on) as had been done for his father.20 A multi-volume biography and numerous shorter pieces appeared on the subject of the ‘dear comrade leader’, and within four years of the party congress no fewer than three books (one running to two volumes) had been published on the life and exploits of Kim Jong II’s mother. Of even greater significance was the appearance of ideological material critical of the shortcomings of older cadres and laudatory of the role of youth. This argument can be traced back to the emergence of the ‘three revolution work teams’ of young cadres and intellectuals who, between 1973 and 1975, were sent to units and collectives across the country to provide ‘guidance’ in the ideological, technical, and cultural revolutions. Success in the ‘three revolutions’ was deemed necessary lest the revolu­ tion lose impetus, but with hindsight it can now be seen that this was a stratagem to undermine possible opposition to the political succession. Thus it has recently been asserted, in a manner reminiscent of Marx ’s view of the historical mission of the proletariat, that the youth in North Korea are the ‘vanguard’ force in the construction of the new society. Whereas age brings ‘passivity and conservatism’, youth is the time when people have ideals and energy, though of course young people need the discipline of correct leadership. There is a clear parallel here with some of the criticisms offered of the Chinese Communist Party by the ‘Gang of Four’ whose spokesman Zhang Chunqiao claimed in 1975 that there were party members who had been left behind by the revolution and who were so blinded by their power and privileges that they could not see the necessity of carrying the revolution further.22 But Kim Jong II, although he shares with the ‘Gang of Four’ a fascination with the connection between culture and ideology, does not draw such radical conclusions on the defects to be found (and eliminated) in Korean communism. He does, however, detect a certain lack of interest in maintaining an atmosphere of struggle and vigilance: ‘The working class ... should be made to have a correct viewpoint on war. Trade union organizations must ensure that the industrial workers and other members repudiate war-phobia and war-weariness, eliminate pacifism, and live and work militantly, always alert.’23 And he is scathing on the presence of



‘senility’ in the leadership of some organizations. There is hope however for sufferers of this malady. Since its basis is as much ideological as physiological, individuals who live in ‘fidelity to the Party and the leader ... will not become senile in thinking even though in an advanced age’.24 Bourgeois ideas, revisionism, and ‘flunkeyism’ must be resolutely opposed, but a failure to conform to the requirements of socialist society may be attributed to a lack of the proper consciousness. This in turn may be traced to the tenacity of ‘outdated ideological remnants’, the cure for which is yet more ideological remoulding. Unlike the ‘Gang of Four’ Kim Jong II finds no fundamental defects in the structure of party or state. This is to be expected given the identity of their architect, and the fact that he has so far enjoyed a clear run to the succession. Political Culture and Political Structure in the Change of Generations

Although the idea of a hereditary leadership may be attributable ultimately to Kim II Sung’s evident craving for adulation, and perhaps to his desire for immortality, these speculations must remain mere hypotheses in the absence of firm information concerning his personality.26 It may be contended with greater confidence that such plausibility as the notion possesses for the North Korean population derives from remnants of the traditional political culture. In Confucian societies the household of the ruler was the focal point of the state, a fact that led Max Weber to interpret the ruler’s governmental authority as an extension of his family authority. Thus the sound moral example of the ruler was taken to be the most efficacious means for achieving the good order of the society. As is often pointed out, the quasi-familial role of lesser bureaucratic functionaries was reflected in the popular description of them as ‘father and mother officials’. Although in contemporary North Korea the customary loyalties to the family have been very much weakened, Kim II Sung has deliberately constructed a myth of the leadership of the revolution by his forebears to reinforce the present dominance of his family and relatives by marriage.27 And as ‘sun of the nation’ and ‘father of the people’ he has manipulated family symbolism to create an atmosphere of unthinking loyalty to the present members of this revolutionary family. This strategy has been facilitated by the strict political division of labour in Confucian societies where the business of government is only a matter for the officials, and where within the governing class a rigid hierarchy prevails. Without employing the past as a complete explanation of the present it should also be noted that from the fifteenth century Korean Confucianism was dominated by a factional spirit so pervasive that the struggle for office led to the monopolization of bureaucratic preferment by one faction to the total exclusion of others. The current ideological obsession with ensuring that the revolutionary inheritance is passed on ‘from generation to generation’ has roots in the political culture, but it also possesses an institutional aspect, which has been documented by Dae-Sook Suh. The Korean Workers’ Party is



unusual in the very high turnover of its elite. Considering membership of the Central Committee, each party congress produces a Central Committee in which a majority of the members have never served before. Thus, of the sixth Central Committee of 1980 only 67 of the 145 full members were not newly elected, and of the fifth (1970) only 31 of the 117 were not newcomers. Even more significant is the fact that of those Central Comittee members who have served on more than one occasion, only a handful (39 of 317) have served more than twice. Of the existing leadership only Kim II Sung has been a member of all six Central Committees, and no other individual has been a member of any five.28 Even since 1980 a number of young cadres never seen before have taken up senior posts. By comparison, whereas the twelfth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party elected in 1982 saw the rise (or reappearance after an interval) of an unusually large number of cadres, of the 210 full members 112 had served in that capacity before.29 In the eleventh, tenth, and eighth Central Committees the number of new members drops to one-third, and only in the ninth, convened as a result of the Cultural Revolution, does the membership turnover match what is the normal pattern in the Korean Workers’ Party.30 Although the party conference of September 1985 resulted in significant personnel changes, the new ‘younger’ leaders were individuals predominantly in their fifties or sixties, while a number of veteran cadres remained in the Political Bureau.31 The most revealing comparison of all is to consider the composition of the very upper reaches of the party elites. In China the five members of the Standing Committe of the Political Bureau elected in 1987 (Zhao Ziyang, Li Peng, Qiao Shi, Hu Qili and Yao Yilin) do not comprise a single faction. Indeed, there has been public disagreement at the highest levels in the regime in the past two years concerning the speed of economic policy reform. In the equivalent three-member body in Korea the Kim family are now in a majority, the third member being an old guerrilla comrade of Kim II Sung’s, O Jin U, now apparently in eclipse. This turnover of leadership in North Korea must be supposed to be a device by which Kim II Sung ensures that no faction stays in the elite long enough to constitute itself as an opposition. Kim’s experience in the party, when he found himself at various times opposed by a domestic (southern) faction, a faction of Koreans originally from the Soviet Union, a group who had been in Yanan before returning to Korea, and even some of his old guerrilla comrades, has undoubtedly taught him the efficacy of this tactic.32 Indeed, when his younger brother, Kim Yong Ju, rose in the party elite in the 1960s (becoming number six in the hierarchy at the party congress in 1970 before disappearing due to ‘illness’) many observers linked his appearance with the emergence of new personnel supposed to have been Kim Yong Ju’s supporters. Events in the past ten years may be interpreted as a repetition of the same phenomenon, this time introducing to the upper echelons of the party a cadre of members loyal to Kim Jong II. Although personal data concerning the North Korean political elite are notoriously hard to uncover, there is some evidence that at the top a



change of generations is taking place in the literal sense. According to Dae-Sook Suh, a significant group amongst the present leadership includ­ ing Kang Son San (KWP Political Bureau member and former premier), O Kuk-yol (Chief of General Staff), Son Song-pil and Yo Yon-gu (ViceChairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly), are all children (or the spouses of children) of members of Kim II Sung’s Kapsan guerrilla faction.33 It is not surprising, then, that so much emphasis is placed on the need to hand on correct leadership ‘generation after generation’. Kim II Sung’s ingenious and original solution to the succession problem in the party is evidently being applied on a scale more extensive than is commonly recognized even in North Korea. Conclusions In recent years Kim Jong II has been described as personally involved in many new construction projects in North Korea. In the capital he has taken a particular interest in the erection of monuments, as the grotesque ‘Tower of the Juche idea’, allegedly symbolic of his loyalty to the leader, bears mute testimony. He has also played an important role in the reconstruction of whole sections of the city, the new shops and 30-storey apartment blocks of the renamed Changwang Street being apparently a model for even more grandiose architectural schemes. As he is reported to have remarked, when attending the opening of a building on the street: ‘It is my ideal to enable all people to live in houses like this’.34From the point of view of aesthetics, some might find these uniform prefabricated structures with their stark coloured panels monotonous if not ugly. The inhabitants, however, are likely to view them from a different perspec­ tive, even if only because they derive advantage from those regulations that provide for only buildings over ten storeys to be equipped with lifts. For the perceptive observer, however, Changwang Street is more remarkable as the exhibition of a political rather than an architectural model. From the junction with Haebangsan Street north right across the capital almost to the Potong Gate the way is closed to ordinary traffic. Armed sentries scrutinize those who approach, and at night a boom is placed across the street to exclude any unwanted vehicle. The new Mercedes limousines at the gates, and the air-conditioning units at windows of these buildings show that no ordinary inhabitants are housed therein. In this quarter of the city live members of that generation who are the chief beneficiaries of the North Korean revolution. It is to justify their position and power that the juche ideology now serves.

NOTES James Cotton is Deputy Director of the East Asia Centre, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He is at present Visiting Fellow at the National University of Singapore, Department of Political Science. This article is based on research supported by the University of



Newcastle upon Tyne and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council UK (ref. no. E 00 23 2203). The author is indebted to David Goodman for his comments on an earlier draft. 1. On Kim’s early life, see Sung Chul Yang, Korea and Two Regimes. Kim II Sung and Park Chung Hee (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1981), pp.27-46 and 75-96. On the early history of the communist movement in Manchuria, see: Dae-Sook Suh, The Korean Communist Movement, 1918-1948 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967); R.A. Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee, Communism in Korea, Part 1: The Movement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972). 2. Kim II Sung, ‘On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work’, in On Juche in Our Revolution, Vol.I (Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House (FLPH), 1980), p. 150. 3. Stuart Schram (ed.), The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, revised ed. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p.172. 4. Chong-Sik Lee, Revolutionary Struggle in Manchuria. Chinese Communism and Soviet Interest, 1922-1945 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983), pp.l58ff. 5. Chong-Sik Lee, The Korean Workers’ Party: A Short History (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1978), pp.92-100; Joungwon A. Kim, Divided Korea: The Politics of Development, 1945-1972 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 188-201. 6. Kim II Sung, ‘On Socialist Construction in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the South Korean Revolution’, in On Juche in Our Revolution, Vol.I, p.470. 7. Kim Jong II, On the Juche Idea (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1982), pp.7-8. 8. Kim II Sung, Tasks of the People’s Government in Modelling the Whole Society on the Juche Idea (Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1982). 9. Kim Jong II, On the Juche Idea, p. 18. 10. Kim Jong II, On Correctly Understanding the Originality of Kimilsungism (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1984), p.5.

11. Kim Jong II, On the Juche Idea, p.38. 12. Position and Role of the Youth in the Development of Social History (Pyongyang: Kumsong Youth Publishing House, 1984), pp.34—5. 13. Kim Jong II, On Correctly Understanding the Originality of Kimilsungism, p.3. 14. Kim Jong II, On the Juche Idea, p.79. 15. Young C. Kim (ed.), ‘Interview with Yong-nam Kim, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’, Journal of Northeastasian Studies, Vol.4 (1985), p.67. 16. M.E. Clippinger, ‘Kim Chong-il in the North Korean Mass Media: A Study of SemiEsoteric Communication’, Asian Survey, Vol.21 (1981), pp.289-309; Chong-Sik Lee, ‘Evolution of the Korean Workers* Party and the Rise of Kim Chong-il’, Asian Survey, Vol.22 (1982), pp.434-48; Dae-Sook Suh, ‘Kim Il-sung: His Personality and Policies’, in R.A. Scalapino and Jun-yop Kim (eds.), North Korea Today: Strategic and Domestic Issues (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1983), pp.43-64. 17. Young C. Kim, ‘North Korea in 1980: The Son also Rises’, Asian Survey, Vol.21 (1981), pp.112-13. 18. Kim II Sung, ‘Report to the Sixth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea’, in On Juche in Our Revolution, Vol.III, p.449. Recently, this statement has been amplified in a lecture to party workers: Kim II Sung, Historical Experience of Building the Workers’ Party of Korea (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1986), pp.103-4. 19. Hwang Chang-yop, ‘On Inheriting the Leadership* (Pyongyang home service, 12 Oct. 1980), BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, FE/6554/C1/2. 20. B.C. Koh, ‘The Cult of Personality and the Succession Issue*, in C.I. Eugene Kim and B.C. Koh (eds.), Journey to North Korea: Personal Perceptions (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1983), pp.25-41. 21. Position and Role of the Youth in the Development of Social History, p.3. 22. Chang Chun-chiao, On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie



(Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975), pp.18-19. 23. Kim Jong II, On Further Improving the Work of the Trade Unions (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1986), p.6. 24. Kim Jong II, On Further Improving the Work of the Trade Unions, p.21. 25. Kim Jong II, On Increasing Obedience to Socialist Laws (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1986), p.5. 26. The best assessment of the fragmentary information concerning Kim’s personality is to be found in Sung Chul Yang, Korea and Two Regimes, pp.27-46, 75-96, 161-220. 27. On the manipulation of elements of the traditional political culture, see Thomas Hosuck Kang, ‘Changes in the North Korean Personality from Confucian to Communist’ in Jae Kyu Park and Jung Gun Kim (eds.), The Politics of North Korea (Seoul: Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Kyungman University, 1979), pp.61-110. The same volume documents the occupation of positions in the leadership by members of Kim’s family: Jae Kyu Park, ‘Power Structures in North Korea*, p. 137. The strongly ‘patrimonial* character of the North Korean political system may be taken as a partial validation of the recent application of the Weberian thesis to Korea by Norman Jacobs: see his The Korean Road to Modernization and Development (Urbana and Chicago, II: University of Illinois Press, 1985). 28. Dae-Sook Suh, Korean Communism 1945-1980. A Reference Guide to the Political System (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1981), pp.347-9. 29. W. Bartke and P. Schier, China*s New Party Leadership. Biographies and Analysis of the Twelfth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (London: Macmillan, 1985), pp.60-61. 30. D.S.G. Goodman, ‘Changes in Leadership Personnel after September 1976*, in J. Domes (ed.), Chinese Politics After Mao (Cardiff: University College Cardiff Press, 1979), pp.37-69. 31. D.S.G. Goodman, ‘The National CCP Conference of September 1985 and China’s Leadership Changes’, China Quarterly, No.105 (March 1986), pp.122-30. 32. Dae-Sook Suh, ‘Communist Party Leadership’, in Dae-Sook Suh and Chae-Jin Lee (eds.), Political Leadership in Korea (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1976), pp.159-91; Chong-Sik Lee, The Korean Workers’ Party: A Short History, pp.86ff. 33. Dae-Sook Suh, ‘Changes in North Korean Politics and the Unification Policy*, Korea and World Affairs, Vol.9 (1985), pp.704-5. 34. Choe In Su, Kim Jong II, the People’s Leader (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1985), Vol.2, p.330. The best account of living conditions in Pyongyang is by Adrian Buzo, ‘North Korea Yesterday and Today*, Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society (Korea Branch), Vol.56 (1981), pp. 1-25.

Vietnam: The Slow Road to Reform Michael Williams

Vietnam, the third largest communist state, faces a growing internal crisis because of the country’s virtually complete international isolation, its involvement in Kampuchea, and its ageing party leadership. Within the communist bloc only the Soviet Union offers Vietnam significant assistance. This economic dependence is set to grow in the coming years. At Vietnam’s sixth party congress, in December 1986, the three senior communist leaders all resigned, raising expectations of thoroughgoing change. Subsequent developments indicate, however, that the necessity of retaining a balance between reformists and traditionalists within the leadership has meant that meaningful reform of the country’s economy still remains for the future. The substantial delay in matching changes in government with those in the party leadership indicates that the reformists are still lacking a full mandate for tackling the country’s problems.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the third largest communist country after the USSR and China and has been ruled by the Vietnamese Communist Party since 1975. The party assumed power after an extra­ ordinary straggle not only against the former colonial power, France, but also later against the United States. Twelve years after the conclusion of that conflict, Vietnam’s communist government finds itself in the midst of a profound internal crisis prompted by the country’s dire economic situation, its virtually complete international isolation, the continuing war in Kampuchea and the inability of the communist party to free itself from a now rapidly ailing and ageing group of leaders who have effectively dominated it since 1945. The Impact of Revolution and War

The Vietnamese Communist Party presents a paradox among ruling communist parties in the sense that, although it has been a ruling party for more than three decades, at least in North Vietnam since 1954, no other party has had such an extraordinarily prolonged experience of revolution and war. This has involved it successively in conflicts with Japan, France and the United States, and after reunification in the first inter-communist wars with Democratic Kampuchea and China. This legacy has bequeathed the country with the world’s third largest standing army, and an economy that is hopelessly dependent on the Soviet Union, and condemns its people to one of the lowest living standards in Asia, and certainly in East Asia. This continuing experience of war and revolution - with an estimated



140,000 troops in Kampuchea, 40,000 in Laos and tens of thousands along the border with China - has postponed Vietnam’s transition to meaningful economic reconstruction. The absorption of South Vietnam’s basically capitalist society in 1975 placed enormous strains on the already inadequate administrative capacity of the government of North Vietnam. This was especially so given the huge toll the war had taken of revolutionary cadres in the south and the speed with which reunification took place - just over 12 months. Full reunification was proclaimed with the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on 2 July 1976. The period 1976-80 (the second fiveyear plan) was marked by the euphoria following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Unrealistic plans were adopted, geared towards collectivization of agriculture in the south and rapid development of heavy industry. The government premised these plans on a combination of strict social discipline and large foreign aid inflows, including war reparations from the United States. However, the failure to attract western aid on any significant scale, the withdrawal of Chinese aid in 1978 (in circumstances closely resembling the withdrawal of Soviet aid from China in 1960), the subsequent invasion of Kampuchea followed by the Chinese incursion into Vietnam and the massive exodus of much of the country’s intelligentsia and middle class in the late 1970s laid these plans to waste. Since 1980, the party has veered between tentative steps toward reform, as in 1980-82 (and more recently), and returning to the themes of socialist control and centralization. In 1983, for example, there was a reining-in of the burgeoning free market and a sharp reduction in the de facto independence of enterprises. Although half-hearted attempts were made at economic reform in 1985, and there were other attempts to reduce the level of economic subsidies and to give enterprises a greater degree of individual responsibility, these succeeded only in worsening the country’s economic problems. As a result of price, wage and currency reforms, inflation has been in three figures for most of the last two years. The country also achieved a record budget deficit in 1986, with food produc­ tion lagging seven to eight per cent below target, exports as much as 30 per cent behind, and industrial production 40 per cent below target. Foreign currency reserves are estimated to have reached the point where they are no more than adequate to cover two weeks’ worth of imports. These economic problems have in turn given rise to widespread black marketeering and corruption within the country, so much so that in a significant theoretical article last May, Le Due Tho spoke of corruption ‘tainting every level of the party’.1The country’s economic situation is all the more pressing when it is remembered that since the mid-1970s neighbouring countries such as the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei - and also China have witnessed rapid economic growth.



The Problem of Isolation

Much of Vietnam’s present economic predicament is of course the result of its almost total international isolation. This is particularly galling for a communist party that has historically always laid great stress on inter­ nationalism, both within the communist movement and in the wider sense in the international community. Throughout the Vietnam War, for example, the Vietnamese Communist Party avoided taking sides in the Sino-Soviet split - one of the few communist countries not to do so - and received aid from both Moscow and Beijing. In a wider sense, Vietnam received much moral and diplomatic support from the Third World and even from some western countries, such as Sweden. There is little doubt too that after the Paris Peace Agreement of 1973, and despite the rapid collapse of the Saigon regime two years later, the Vietnamese leadership genuinely hoped for and expected not only diplomatic relations with the United States but also war reparations. The nearest the United States came to according diplomatic recognition to Vietnam was in 1977, when President Carter sent a mission to Hanoi. This foundered, however, over Vietnamese insistence on war reparations. Despite this disappointment, Vietnam had widespread international support when it entered the United Nations in 1975, and the Non-Aligned Movement at its Colombo conference of 1976. But the tide turned rapidly against Vietnam in the late 1970s as a result of its treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in 1978, its membership of Comecon dating from the same year, and, of course, its 1978-79 invasion of Kampuchea. Because of these moves, no western aid of any significance has reached Vietnam since 1979, with the exception of the Swedish aid programme now running at US $45-50 million a year. Even social democratic governments such as France and Australia in the early 1980s, when they considered the idea of giving aid, found themselves under pressure from the United States, China and ASEAN not to do so. This isolation from the West has meant that since 1979 Vietnam has also received no financial assistance from the multilateral agencies su