Lessons from the Washington Naval Treaty: Uncovering the True Nature of the People’s Republic of China


Senior Research Fellow/Associate Professor, Reitaku University Jason M. Morgan

 In 1922, the United States, Japan, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom signed the Washington Naval Treaty, which attempted to stave off a post-World War I arms race by imposing limits on the construction of “capital ships” and other vessels of war. However, the treaty was flawed on at least three counts. First, it paid little attention to aircraft carriers, which were swiftly becoming more important than capital ships (i.e., battleships), especially as tensions mounted between Japan and the United States for control of the vast Pacific Ocean (where aircraft carriers were to be much more important than battleships). Second, the treaty was grounded, many claim, in a racist disregard for Japan as a counterpart. American President Woodrow Wilson had defeated Japanʼs attempt to include language condemning racial discrimination in the Paris treaty following World War I, for example, and racist sentiments in the United States led to sharp restrictions on immigration from Japan and other Asian countries. That Japan was allotted a lower allowed tonnage than the US or Great Britain was seen, in Japan especially, as a racially-charged affront. Third, the Washington Naval Treaty failed to take into account the changing nature of international relations, as states came increasingly to rely on espionage, code-breaking, and disinformation in lieu of, or as complement to, conventional armed conflict. The Washington Naval Treaty, in other words, provided a false sense of security by addressing only areas of contention rapidly entering obsolescence, while failing to address more important underlying, even hidden, problems which would soon affect geopolitics on a massive scale.


 A similar situation prevails today. The Peopleʼs Republic of China is signatory to a myriad of international treaties, agreements, and conventions, and many outside of China have naively believed that these impose meaningful restrictions on “Chinaʼs rise”. They do not. Instead, these agreements, etc., help to normalize the virulently racist nature of the Peopleʼs Republic of China, which is rooted in Han racial supremacy. Chinaʼs being a signatory to any treaty must be considered conditional in light of that countryʼs racial-supremacy philosophy, which, in the event of a crisis, will override international commitments in favor of Han power. (Cf., e.g., Chinaʼs claims over Taiwan and Hong Kong, claims which are ultimately grounded in racism.)