The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 1 (May 1, 1931)
A Westerner and an Easterner on Russia—Soviet as Economic Challenger—Markets War in Asia—Falling Silver.
Can't Be Talked Out.
“We have not yet realised,” said Mr. G. B. Shaw early in May, “that the Russian revolution has come to stay, and consequently we have lost a magnificent commercial chance of getting a great trade. The building up of Russia is taking place without our capital and machinery.” G.B.S. thus taunts commercial Britain with losing a commercial opportunity. He implies that British political distrust of the Soviet's political methods has not prevented the politicalcommercial development of Soviet Russia. This national unit, embracing huge parts of Europe and Asia, gathers strength in spite of foreign spotlights on its weak points. The inference is that there are various strong points, not spotlighted. Russia will not be talked out.
From London to Nanking.
It is a long way from London to Nanking, and from G. B. Shaw to the leader of Republican China. But about the time when Shaw was declaring that political boycott of the Soviet had won nothing, and that commercial boycott of defaulting Russia had lost much, no less a person than Chiang Kai-shek came into the argument with an affirmation of the Soviet's economic success. Addressing the first National People's Convention of China, he emphasised the progress of the Soviet's “five years plan.” Industrialisation, he said, was proceeding in the heart of Asia, close to the borders of China's own Turkestan and Mongolia. In short, the picture is presented of a Soviet Power astride the Europe-Asia land mass, and acclaimed equally by a London seer and a Chinese overseer.
Repudiation Not Recanted.
On top of the messages of Shaw and Chiang Kai-Shek comes that of the English section of the Anglo-Russian Debts Committee. London cabled on 7th May that British members of the committee had decided to report that progress is impossible because of the refusal of Soviet representatives to give definite answers. It is feared that the Soviet Government will side-track the whole obligation of Russia for bonds and for nationalised property, if the industrial rebuilding of Russia can be accomplished while ignoring such obligations. And if Shaw's calculation is correct, there is good ground for such fear. Though Lenin is dead and Trotsky set aside, Stalin and his associates are bold enough to challenge “capitalistic countries” on page 11 their own battle-ground of economic production, without so far any recantation of repudiation.
China Market Entered.
The economic challenge issued by Russia is still so new, in point of time, that its progress is not yet based on statistical facts. The favourable predictions of Western observers like the Canadian Customs Minister, Mr. Stevens, who declared that the Russian “five years plan” was succeeding “all along the line,” are not a sufficient substitute for proved performance. There is no denying, however, the blow that Russia has given (with or without forced labour) to the timber and the wheat markets. Shanghai cabled on 8th May a serious invasion of Middle China by Russian timber, oil, and also piece goods. How seriously Britain views the struggle for Eastern markets, including the Chinese and Indian, is shown by Mr. Snowden's repeated contention that a revival in the purchasing power of the multi-millions of India and China could do far more to relieve British unemployment than could possibly be done by sparsely populated Australia.
Silver Fall Makes Poor Poorer.
If Eastern markets are to become a battle-ground between a repudiationist Russia and a Britain saddled for half a century with American debt, special attention must be paid to the pronouncement (8th May) of the British Trade Mission to the Far East, that trade in those countries is based on low price rather than on quality. This must be so while the purchasing power of Eastern populations continues low. Apparently Mr. Snowden has no plan to raise it, and the persistent depreciation of silver has carried both China and India in the opposite direction. At the important International Chamber of Commerce sessions in Washington, the most pressing demand of the Chinese delegation was “an immediate international conference to stabilise the price of silver.” And the silver fall in India causes Senator Borah (chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee) to demand from Britain a reversion of the gold standard in India.
And the Boycott.
American silver exporters are, of course, concerned about India, but they are also concerned about themselves. Silver, which used to be quoted round about half-a-crown an ounce, has touched one shilling. Yet its production is not checked by price-fall in the ordinary way because silver is usually a by-product of the producing of base metals. As the value of silver money in China and India falls, their people have to pay more for imports (including British cottons, etc.), but are in a better position to export. Not only must British manufacturers face that difficulty in the Eastern market generally. They must also meet in India the boycott. The exclusion of foreign cloth from India, says Mr. Gandhi, is “an economic necessity,” and “Manchester must find new markets.” Mr. Gandhi is a political force. Thus once again politics and economics intertwine.
The Modern Complex.
An outstanding lesson of the Twentieth Century is the linking up not only of politics and economics, but of all countries in a single political-commercial net. Touch one string of that net and every other string is pulled. The above-quoted British Trade Mission to the Far East reports that British products in that region are dearer than German and Japanese and less attractive than American. Japan, it is added, will increasingly export cheap woollen manufactures. If so, Japan must become in greater degree a buyer of wool from wool-producing countries like Australia and New Zealand, and may become an angler after trade reciprocity treaties with them. On behalf of Britain, Mr. Snowden prefers a larger Indian consuming market to Customs-concessions with Australia. It is within the bounds of possibility that Japan, as a manufacturing country, will try to collar both. page 12 So Australia and New Zealand are in the net of world-commerce as much as any other country.
Empire Air Routes.
A break-down of the British aeroplane initiating the British-Australian air-mail was repaired by Kingsford Smith, who flew north from Australia into Dutch territory to supply the missing link. This mail route seems to be now open for good airmen with good luck. In Africa Glen Kidston did some fast flying as an argument for speeding up the British-African air-mail, but after a remarkably rapid flight from England to the Cape he crashed fatally, with a companion, in Natal. Schneider Cup winner Waghorn jumped from a falling aeroplane in England, and his parachute (owing, it is said, to low altitude) did not save him from injuries resulting in death. His place will be quickly filled in the British Schneider Cup team. The Victorian-New South Wales air mail aeroplane Southern Cloud vanished without trace. British airship effort (gas) pauses after a colourless report by the R101 inquiry.
Canada via Greenland.
A new note in air navigation is the investigation of the Greenland route between Britain and Canada. Its promoters claim that nowhere is there a cross-sea flight of more than 300 miles (which distance is substantially shorter than any of the sea links in Chichester's three-hops trans-Tasman plan, via Norfolk and Lord Howe), but the sea itself is hardly more inhospitable than the icecap of the Greenland plateau. This fact has been advertised by the dramatic loss and rescue of Augustine Courtauld, but the investigating party to which he belongs may yet open up a Canada-Britain air route via the frozen North. It was via icy Labrador that Norse sea-kings are said to have reached America years before the Spaniards.
Twelve Things to Remember.
The value of time; the success of perseverance; the pleasure of working; the dignity of simplicity; the worth of character; the power of kindness; the influence of example; the obligation of duty; the wisdom of economy; the virtue of patience; the joy of originating.— Marshall Field.