Two Veterans of the Old World
GUARDIANSHIP OVER ASIATIC PEOPLE HAS ENDED
By SIR SHANMUKHAM CHETTY, Director of Indian Government Purchasing Mission
Delivered at India-China Friendship Day Celebration given by the East and West Association at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, March 14, Broadcast over NBC and WMCA
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 388-390.
THIS is a memorable day in the annals of China and India—the two veterans of the Old World renewing their bond of friendship on the kindly, hospitable and free soil of the leader of the New World. Through the ages, from the dawn of civilization, China and India have lived like good neighbors, each enriching the life of the other by mutual contributions in religion, philosophy and all the great arts of peace and civilized life. Four centuries before the beginning of the Christian Era, we sent out to China our Missionaries with the gospel of peace and universal love taught by the enlightened One—the great Buddha. With their wonderful vision, the people of China absorbed in their life the message of Truth till at last they became the chosen disciples of the Great Master. The religion of Buddha thus became the first link in the golden fetter that bound our two people together.
The giving was not all on one side. We received in return the splendid heritage of China's arts and culture which enriched our own life and civilization. The living contact of our two peoples was renewed and strengthened from time to time by the great and distinguished men whom China sent to our country. As if to keep alive the tradition of personal contact established by Fa Hien and Hieun-Tsang, and a host of distinguished pilgrims and scholars, Generalissimo Chiang-Kai-shek came to us only the other day to renew and reinforce the bond of union between the two nations. While the ancient Chinese scholars came to discuss with us the philosophy of peace and civilization, the modern Generalissimo came to tell us that we should act if we are to preserve that peace and civilization which are
in peril of being destroyed today. I have no doubt in my mind that the historic visit of this great leader of Asia, which sent a thrill of ecstasy in every Indian heart, will rouse my people to action.
It is said that the underlying cause of the periodic cataclysm in Central Europe is race conflict. The history of India and China is the most powerful answer to the assumption that conflict is inherent in racial differences. Admittedly the Chinese and the Indians belong to different racial stocks and yet their common outlook on the fundamentals of life and the bonds of cultural contact have enabled these two great peoples not merely to live as good neighbors, but to feel a sense of close kinship.
Every time I read a book of Pearl Buck or Lin Yu Tang, I am impressed by the remarkable similarity in the outlook, the expressions and the everyday thoughts and life of the Chinese and Indian peasants. The bonds of family life; the veneration for the ancestors; the respect shown to elders; the attitude towards marriage; the desire for children; the inordinate urge to perpetuate the family name through male issue; the calm, leisurely and serene conduct in daily life; the sense of humor;—in all these and kindred matters that really count in life, the Chinese and the Indian are moulded in the same pattern.
This underlying unity was brought home to me by the experience of one of my friends. This friend comes from a family of cultivators, and has had no university education. Though not a very ardent lover of books, he used to borrow a novel from my library occasionally. I once lent him my copy of Pearl Buck's "Good Earth". To mysurprise he finished reading that book in what in his case was a very short time and began to talk enthusiastically about the story. "Why," he said, "that novel depicts the life of my village. I can enumerate among my own relatives the exact counterparts of the characters in that book." This reaction of my unsophisticated friend is a real testimony to the eternal bonds that bind the Chinese and Indian souls.
I have found in my own experience that the more I read about the life and history of the Chinese people, the more deeply I understand the life of my own country. Among all the modern books in English written about China, I found that Lin Yu Tang's marvelous account in his "My Country and My People" gives to the reader a remarkable insight into the soul of China. In reading that wonderful book, I began to see in a new light the history and habits of the people of India. Scholars like Dr. Hu Shih and Lin Yu Tang contribute more to international understanding than mere politicians and statesmen. Speaking about the cultural influence of scholars, I am reminded of a recent incident. I was discussing with an American lady the problem of Sino-American relations and I remarked that Americans have understood China better through chop suey and Lin Yu Tang than through their governments and politicians. This lady friend observed, "Oh, yes, I agree with you. I have eaten chop suey, but I have not eaten Lin Yu Tang. What exactly it is?" I told the lady that Lin Yu Tang is indeed very sweet and is more genuinely Chinese than chop suey.
The wonderful resistance that China has offered to the brutal aggression of the Japanese during the last four years has not merely evoked the admiration of the world, but has furnished an inspiration and a moral. The fiery patriotism of the Chinese peasant which has given him the strength and courage to defend his native soil has been a great inspiration to the people of the Orient. In this struggle, China has also demonstrated that mere mechanical equipment cannot conquer the undaunted spirit of a resolute nation. The conflict in the Pacific has revealed the might of soul force. While great bastions protected by all the weapons of modern warfare have crumbled within a surprisingly short time before the onslaught of a merciless and brutal aggressor, the ill-equipped soldier of China, devoid of mechanized weapons of warfare, has steadfastly kept the enemy at bay for four long years. This is a splendid illustration of the limitations of arms and weapons against the will and determination of a patriotic people. Even where the enemy has apparently triumphed, the Chinese have their own inscrutable, silent methods of taking revenge against the enemies.
I can tell you a very interesting story to illustrate how China takes its silent revenge over its enemies. In a Military "Mess" at Singapore, a Chinese boy of uncouth appearance, with a bald shining head, was allotted the task of serving coffee to the British soldiers at the end of their dinner. When the boy entered the dining room with the tray of coffee, the mischievous soldiers used to throw at his head tiny balls made out of the bread crumbs. This went on day after day. The boy did not apparently show any resentment at this unprovoked and ungentlemanly act of the soldiers. His face was calm and inscrutable while the bread missiles showered on his shining head. Seeing that the boy did not show any resentment at their conduct, the soldiers repented and at last one day when the boy entered as usual with the coffee tray, the Captain announced "Well boy, hereafter we will not throw these bread balls at you." The boy still with an inscrutable face coolly replied, "Thank you Misters. From tomorrow I no make your coffee with gutter water." That is the silent way in which China takes revenge on its enemies.
I said that China's wonderful resistance has been an inspiration. In a special degree it has been an inspiration to the people of India. It has filled my countrymen with a new hope for their future.
In spite of the clouds that hang over the political horizon of India, I feel optimistic about the future of my country. If I look to the future of my country with hope and confidence, it is not because I overestimate the value of pledges given by governments and statesmen. The hesitancy of the British to part with power and the lamentable disunity that prevails amongst certain leaders of Indian public opinion have created an unduly pessimistic atmosphere over Indian politics.
I feel, however, that the tremendous forces of world history are too powerful to stem the political tide in India. In the mighty torrent of world events, the hesitancy of the British and the disunity of the Indian will both be dissolved and washed away and soon India is bound to emerge as a great and free country. There has been a great deal of acrimonious talk about independence and Dominion Status. In the light of what is taking place in the world today, such a discussion seems to be academic and almost futile.
I have myself stated publicly, on many occasions, that I shall be satisfied with Dominion Status for my country. When I speak of Dominion Status, I am not thinking of any legal or constitutional limitations to the freedom of India. As an Indian, I refuse to prescribe any limits to the liberty and freedom of my country. If I talk of Dominion Status, it is because I value the membership in a great commonwealth of nations and because I am satisfied that the measure of freedom and liberty enjoyed by the people of Canada, for instance, is comprehensive enough for the people of my country.
While I have no doubt in my mind that China will drive away the last Japanese soldier from every part of Chinese soil, and that India will be politically a free country, I often ask myself the question, "what is the place of China and India in that new world which we all envisage?" The problem has been stated admirably in a leading article in the "Manchester Guardian." This liberal paper observes: "All liberal minded men have seen that the privileged position held by Europeans in Asia in the nineteenth century is morally indefensible, and in the last twenty years progress has been made in removing such privileges, renouncing power and summoning Eastern people to tasks and responsibilities that were formerly kept for European hands. This is true if we look at China, India and the Dutch East Indies. Doubtless, after the war this process will go very much further and by much swifter steps.
That observation sums up the problem in an admirable manner. The European races, and in this I include the Americans, must realize without any equivocation or mental reservation, that the days of their guardianship over the Asiatic people has most decidedly come to an end. In dealing with the Asiatic countries, they can no more indulge in talking about concessions and progress by steps. Whatever might be the drawbacks and the limitations of the Oriental people, they must be allowed to manage their own affairs. There can be no enduring world peace except on these terms.
Curiously enough, Japan has assumed the role of the liberator of Asia. Japan has begun to preach the doctrine of "Asia for the Asiatics." Japan wants to be the leader in the so-called revolt of Asia. Japan is inviting the people of the Orient to join in the crusade against the white man's domination of Asia. This siren song of Japan has fallen on deaf ears. China has rightly rejected the offer with the contempt that it deserves. India refuses to shake the hand of friendship that Japan extends across the seas because it is abloodstained hand, stained with the blood of our Chinese brother.
Neither India or China have any illusions about the fate of the Oriental people under Japan's new order. In the history of the Japanese aggression in China during the last ten years we see the mysterious inscrutable ways of Providence. If only Japan had a clean record, the history of Asia and the world might have taken a different turn. The present war instead of being a war of right against might, of civilization against barbarism, might have turned out to be a war of races. Such a turn would have been disastrous to the peace of the world. Fortunately for us, Providence has willed it otherwise, and today China and India detest Japanese Imperialism and the Japanese conception of the new order in Asia.
Notwithstanding this unambiguous situation in the Orient, Europe and America should not, however, be content with this state of affairs. The loyalty of China and India to the common cause of the United Nations must be based not merely on their attitude towards Japan, but on their faith in the sincerity of America and England in translating into practice the principles enumerated in the Atlantic Charter and the utterances of American and British Statesmen. It is only by convincing the Oriental people that liberty and equality are the birthright of all the nations of the world, irrespective of color, that you can generate in the masses of India and China that moral force and fervor which are as much needed as machines and munitions for winning this war. Unfortunately, the public utterances of certain statesmen
in high places often create a doubt in the mind of the Orientals on this score. Sometimes we are told that this war is a war for preserving Christian civilization. Those who have a wider vision have realized that this war is for the preservation of all decent civilization—Christian, Hindu, Islam, Buddhist and all the great religions that have contributed to the civilization of the human race.
Sometimes we are told in poetic language about the future destiny of the English Speaking nations at the end of this war. Those that indulge in such poetic images forget the simple fact that the Non-English speaking nations of the world who are shedding their blood in the common cause far outnumber the English speaking nations. It is unfortunate that such disquieting sentiments should be expressed by men in high places. Let us remember that the action and utterances of statesmen are as important factors in moulding the destiny of the world as the strategy of military Commanders. To the great soldiers and Admirals who direct the forces of all the United Nations under their command there is no distinction based on the color or creed of the soldier. Let the statesmen get some of this wider and nobler vision. I have unbounded faith that we shall come out victorious from this terrible conflict. I see the vision of a grand victory parade across the world and in that crowd I see men of all races and color who believe in democracy and decency,—white, black, brown and yellow-walking hand in hand in liberty, equality, majesty and peace.