The furious debate as to how much further we should go in fighting China is rather skimpy in its analysis of the situation inside China. The leaders of American public life seem pretty vague about the actual state of things among the Chinese people.
It is safe to say that none of them, any more than the rest of us, have swung a hoe in a paddy field or experienced the hatred of landlords ("feudalism") and foreign invaders ("imperialism") which has been the lot of so many of the Chinese people. Although we are much handicapped by the Communist news barrier and propagandas blackout, there are at least a few major points which can be kept in mind.
In the first place, China, even more than Korea, provides a type of military terrain with which we have not had much experience. I refer not to the fact that the country is big nor to the fact that it is heavily populated, but to the remarkable density of the agrarian population in the countryside on the flood plains of the great rivers where the bulk of the Chinese populace live.
As the Japanese found to their cost over a decade, a densely populated countryside has some of the characteristics of a country-wide city in that the rural population are numerous and ubiquitous, and every peasant is a potential participant in military operations as an auxiliary for espionage, communication, transportation or other services.
The Japanese found that sending a military column through the densely populated Chinese countryside was a different proposition from sending one against an enemy in an unpopulated terrain. The chief result of this feature of the Chinese countryside is the tendency for invading spearheads to bog down, lose their communications and fight a war of rapier against haystack.
What is Worth Bombing?
Another military feature in China is the comparative lack of installations which are worth bombing. South and Central China where most of the people live is served by a network of waterways which make railroads largely unnecessary. The significant thing about the Canton-Hankow line is not that a single track connects these tow major centers but that a single track is all they need between them in "normal" times.
Bombing canals is hard work compared to bombing railroad tracks since the bomb craters are just as likely to improve and deepen, as to injure, a river or canal system.
Similarly, the industrial production of China is incredibly small compared to the size of the country; and the age-old self-sufficiency of the farm economy is still great enough to make out experience in Germany and Japan no guide for China. The war-time bombing of Germany and Japan is said by many specialists to have been a much over-rated operation in respect to its military effect. The physical set-up in China would inevitably make bombing much less effective than in those cases.
On to Greater Effort
The danger is therefore that the bombing campaign proposed by General MacArthur, instead of being a knockout blow, would be a campaign of harassment and pin pricks which would spur the Chinese people on to an ever greater military effort against us without destroying their military potential as we might hope.
After all there is a great deal of land in China, much of it marked by towns and villages, but there are few major concentrations of industrial capacity. Outside of Manchuria, automotive engines are probably not yet produced anywhere in this whole great country, nor are we likely to find any petroleum cracking plants, much less roller bearing factories like those of Schweinfurt or centers of aircraft production.
The probable military ineffectiveness of our bombing campaign makes it something to think twice about, since we can of course be sure of its psychological effectiveness, both in mobilizing the Chinese populace against us and also probably in losing us allies or admirers elsewhere in Asia.
General Overall Fallacy
This concept of somehow solving our problem in Korea by fighting elsewhere strikes me as part of a general overall fallacy--namely, the tendency to expect that we can get desirable results in Asia by the application of greater force. There is no question about the need of punishing aggression by force and being constantly prepared to use force against Russian and other Communist expansion as a general proposition.
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