Extract 27 July 1948
REPORT ON A MISSION TO EAST ASIA
May 27-July 6, 1948 Leader of Mission-W. Macmahon Ball Rep. of Department of External Affairs-D.W. McNicol Rep. of Commonwealth Office of Education-V.G. Harris
PART I. GENERAL
A. Summary of Conclusions 1. The mission left Sydney by R.A.A.F. special aircraft on May 27th. It returned to Canberra on July 6th. Apart from calls at Dili and Hong Kong, it visited 11 cities:
Sourabaya Batavia Djocjakarta Kuala Lumpur Singapore Rangoon Bangkok Saigon Shanghai Nanking Manila The countries visited contained a total population of about 650 million.
2. Since the time was so short, Part 1 of this report is mainly a narrative of events and a list of impressions. A longer stay and more careful study would probably lead me to amend and correct some of these impressions. I would, however, venture the following generalisations:
(i) A deep-rooted and passionate nationalism was the main political driving force in every country visited The most striking expression of this nationalism was negative. It was a movement of resistance against (a) 'political domination' and (b) economic 'exploitation' by foreigners. The political revolt was aimed mainly against the colonial powers of Europe. The economic revolt was aimed against European powers, resident Chinese and in Burma also against resident Indians. There are perhaps 10 million Chinese in the Netherlands East Indies, Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Siam, French Indo China and the Philippines. They are mainly engaged in trade and finance. They are generally disliked and feared.
(ii) Control of the nations of South East Asia by European powers is drawing to a close It is still true that France and Holland may, by intensifying their present military efforts, achieve short term successes in limited areas. Although the United Kingdom is giving France and Holland moral and diplomatic support in their efforts to retain control of their territories, she has, in fact, done much to weaken their prospects by her own voluntary withdrawal from India and Burma. The contraction of Britain's imperial responsibilities has given immense stimulation to nationalist movements everywhere in South-East Asia.
(iii) The countries we visited were without exception hesitant and mistrustful about the United States of America There seemed to be several reasons for this anxiety. There was the fear of being used as pawns in a world-wide conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, the fear that the 19th Century type of European imperialism might be replaced by 'dollar imperialism'. Among some radical groups there was the fear that the acceptance of American aid might make it more difficult to carry out radical economic programmes. It should be remembered that while nationalism is the dominant political force in most if not all of these countries it is associated with domestic movements for agrarian reform.
(iv) In some of these places, notably in Burma, Malaya and French Indo-China, radical forces embarrass and even threaten to overthrow the established authorities These radical movements seem to be essentially indigenous, but there is a good deal of evidence that small groups with orthodox Communist convictions do all in their power to foment and direct radical movements wherever possible. There was no evidence in any country of direct intervention by the Soviet Union.
(v) In these countries where new nationalist governments have established themselves de facto or de jure, there is a marked lack of administrative experience and managerial skill There is also a need for outside help to provide capital equipment. The most intelligent national leaders frankly recognise both needs. Some leaders seem heavily burdened with the weight of their new freedom.
(vi) The whole area is in a state of flux and ferment which invites foreign intervention I suggest that it is in Australia's interest to do everything in our power to bring strength and stability to the new national governments in order to prevent them from falling within the orbit either of the United States or the Soviet Union, (vii) I believe that Australia has unique opportunities here While she may be unable to contribute much to power politics she can, if she has the will, provide indispensable aid and intellectual leadership. These countries do not fear her because of her great power as they fear the United States. They do not resent her as they resent European nations for their past or present imperialist ambitions. The countries we visited feel that they can get from Australia the things they most need without risking their political or economic independence.
(viii) Technical and intellectual aid is singularly important in these countries since so many of the new governments are controlled by students These are young men with enough intelligence to understand what they lack in training and experience. To win the friendship and goodwill of the students and technicians is to win the good will of people with great political influence.
(ix) Whether our Mission will produce good or harm will depend on how it is followed up It is essential that the relief goods should be promptly distributed and that the scholarships should be allocated in time to enable students to start work here at the beginning of 1949.
Moreover, the specific offers made by the mission must be viewed as a modest beginning of a growing and continuing interest in the peoples of East Asia. Goodwill towards these people must become a national habit, built on respect for the racial sensibilities and national aims of our neighbours.