Ambassador Sye's defense of China's withdrawal from the Geneva Opium Conference, recalls the fact that the world's drug trade still persists. Every nation has had its share of censure for the failure of that convention,--and the League more than its share. But who was really at fault is still hotly disputed, and Dr. Sye's remarks are a valuable contribution to that debate.
China suffers from the opium trade more than all other nations together, and she had everything to gain from the success of the conference. Her withdrawal was made only after desperate protest and when there was no prospect of establishing any understanding that would not legalize the drug trade for some years to come. European nations, she discovered, found the business too profitable to be abandoned. They pleaded the impossibility of preventing the trade, but, when faced with Japan's successful prohibition in Formosa, were forced to admit two significant facts: the traffic yields large tariff revenues in the colonies; and it stimulates the necessary immigration of cheap Chinese labor.
This apparent dominance of economic motives even over the most pressing of humanitarian needs is not a matter for excessive cynicism. But the human race still depends, as it always has, on cooperation for preservation; and unless public opinion finds solutions for such problems, this civilization must go the way of its predecessors. It is only to be hoped that this conference--a seeming failure--may prove to have been the lens that will focus the energy of the world's conscience on a problem of disgracefully prolonged existence.