Why the Chinese are coming
Why the Chinese are coming
Trek Back From Burma
- Wilfred G. Burchett
The book, a hard-cover origin, had lost
a few pages up front and down at the back, so you won't be able to
learn from me when the book was published. But the British had just
been pushed out of Burma when it was written.
Burchett, an Australian journalist, came out of China early in 1942, after the War had been joined by the Americans following Japanese attack of Pearl harbor. He traveled back and forth in Burma before making his trek to India, so he had a lot to tell us about the war in Burma, the Shans and the Chinese.
On the War, he said, "The Japs beat us in Burma because man for man they were better fighters than we were. I don't mean braver fighters, but better" (better adapted for jungle fighting, better food arrangements, and better communications etc).
One other reason, he wrote, was that "the Japanese having nothing to give were prepared to promise everything" including Independence. The Allies, on the other hand, having everything were slow to give something to inspire the people of Southeast Asia to defend their own homelands. The exception was the Americans who "did announce independence for the Philippines and as a result got a fuller measure of cooperation from the Filipinos..."
Instead, the Burmese people were branded by many as a nation of traitors. "The Burmans trust us more then they do the Japs," he quoted David Maurice, an old Burma hand,. "They'd rather believe us if we offered them something, than believe the Japs' promises. But we are so hard-necked and all of. We refuse to see what's under our noses. Because, it would mean 'loss of face' to back down one inch, and give the Burmans and promise of independence now or in the futher we'd sooner lose the whole bloody caboose and we will do. We appeal to them with abstract cries for 'discipline, 'patriotism' and promise them 'victory, freedom, democracy,' while the Japs offer them, 'finish of British rule,' 'Burman land to be owned by Burmans,' 'end of foreign exploitation.' Concrete things that they all understand and want. Of course, they're phoney promises, but they go down when there's nothing else being offered them".
On the Shans, he wrote "looking at the Shans , I find it easy to believe that people acquire the characteristics of their environment. The Shans rank with the Tahitians as the handsomest people I've seen. The women particularly carry themselves with the same grace and dignity that is so remarkable with the Tahitians. Their skins are light and smooth, their figures straight and well developed, very regular, well moulded features and a wonderfully clear skin. The Shans are an easy-going people, independent, proud and conscious of their long continuous history as a racial entity. Their bamboo huts have a high platform at the rear of the house, shaded by a half-dome shaped, overhanging cave. I liked to stroll along through Shan villages in the evening to watch mother and father, probably grandma and grandpa as well, and all the little Shans gathered together on the platform, eating their platters of rice and fish, with smoke from their cooking fire lazily merging with the blue haze in the background." He also said, "The Shan women are most attractive and clean-looking people, fairly tall and straight with round faces and creamy complexions."
On the Chinese, he wrote in detail how the Chinese forces, blocked in the east by Japanese navy were relying heavily on supplies coming through Burma under "Lease-lend" aid package.
"China naturally regarded Burma as more important to her at that time than to anybody else. It was her only contact with the outside world. Lease-Lend goods had just started to arrive in quantity - to the tune of about seventeen thousand tons a month. Work on the Yunnan-Burma railway was going on well. If China was to carry on, and if the United Nations were to make use of Chinese bases, the attack Japan proper, the Burma Road had to be kept open. Therefore, Chiang was anxious to send everything possible to help hold Burma", he wrote.
The Allies, in the person of British General Wavell, "was chary in accepting the Gissimo's (Chiang Kai-shek's) offer". "(N)aturally we didn't want Burma over-run with Chinese. ... Old Wavell, you know is damned shrewd. What's the good having Japs out, if you've got Chinese in. When we've won the war, sure to get the Japs out, but don't want to have to start fighting all over again to get the Chinese out."
The resulting relationship was such some "white" officers could even sense and sympathise with the Chinese frustration. According to Burchett, one of them even suggested during a dinner party in Lashio, "Why don't you Chinese take over Burma? You need a backdoor to the sea, and couldn't make a worse mess of the country than it's in now."
Maybe Chinese experience during World War II explains a lot why they are so keen on pushing south to the Indian Ocean nowadays.
The book was published by Kitabistan, Allahabad - Editor.