THE most important item of news this week concerns the Far East. Will war break out over Formosa ?
President Eisenhower's clear statement should leave no one in any doubt about the fact that America intends to defend Free China. This means that Formosa itself will be protected by the overwhelming American sea and air fnrces.
There are three main reasons why America is right to face this cleillenge with admirable promptitude and clarity.
In the first place. the best chance of avoiding war when acute tension arises is to make one's intentions clear beyond any possibility of misunderstanding.
Secondly. Formosa constitutes a vital link in the defence of freedom in the Far East and SouthEast Asia. We should, for example. remember that Australia has 'long been highly nervous about the whole military situation there, and if we can thank (Thou En-lai for one thing. it is for a challenge which has forced a clear decision ef policy from the leader of the world's free Powers.
Thirdly. Formosa is both a rymbol and a reality. Opinions may differ about the precise sature of Chiang Kai-shek's -egime. bui there is no doubt that today it represents civilisation, culture and freedom in comparison with the imnosition of materialist. Moscow-made tyranny on the Thinese mainland with its denial If the Four Freedoms.
If Formosa is not perfect by our tiandards --standards which we :annot woodenly impose on totally lifferent civilisations—it is still a symbol. We believe also that freelom, especially freedom as exoressed in liberty of worship and the realiittion of the primacy of spiritual values, is also a reality in Formosa.
With a good conscience. we can lupport the American decision and what it may lead to.
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A PROBLEM today is the real feeling of the Soviet in regard :o its Chinese Communist partner. There are plenty of signs that Moscow is worried by Communist Thina's bellicosity and by the ;igns of independence which this eellicosity betokens.
Meanwhile there are indications ef internal trouble in Moscow. It 3 also clear that the desperate efforts which have been made to erevent the final ratifications of 'he Paris Agreements and to affect Jecisiyely public opinion in Federal Sermany are meeting with, at 'est, but partial success.
The fact is that the present itrength of the Free World badly glows up the essential weakness of ioviet diplomacy.
Ever since the war. Moscow has aken for granted two laws in Norld diplomacy: one law for her;elf and another for the rest of the &odd.
Moscow has the right to rearm, o organise military blocs. to pronote whatever defences and illiances it judges to be necessary n ' self-defence '. At the slightest ign of the Free World adopting imilar measures, floods of propa
ganda about aggression and imperialism are let loose.
So long as we were playing for vital time, some notice had to be taken of this diplomatic method. Today, there is no longer any need to take it seriously.
The position of Formosa, for example, is amply justified by the standards of the Soviet itself. since Formosa stands symbol of our cause, the cause of freedom. and stands as a vital bastion in the defence of that cause.
The same is true in Europe. The Atlantic Treaty and Western defensive union do no more than counterbalance at last the Communist defensive system—with. of course. the vital difference that these are free alliances. supported by free Parliaments, whereas the Soviet bloc is no more than the imposition of the heads of the Communist Party on millions of men terrorised in one way or another to agree.
Many of the latter in Asia may have been induced by propaganda and sub-standard economic conditions to assent with apparent willingness. But no one supposes that • their dislike of the West Causes them to love the ways of Moscow.
There is a third way which Moscow utterly refuses because it means independence and freedom and which the West is too slow and too unimaginative to encourage and aid with sufficient speed.
IT is high time the real position were better understood in Europe and also in certain sections of this country.
The argument still put forward that we ought. for example. to delay the ratifications of the Paris agreements so as to meet Moscow's offers and see whether there is anything in them is hopelessly outof-date.
If this view is prompted by a certain sympathy for Communism. then those who advocate it should give rather more study to Moscow's own diplomatic methods.
Of course, we should examine every Moscow offer. Of course, we should aim at constructive con• versations with the Communist leaders—even though we cannot be too certain at any given time with whom we shall in the end have to converse.
But everything that has happened proves beyond a shadow of doubt that such conversations will only be fruitful in so far as they rest on established defensive strength on the carrying into effect of Western defensive union and the rearming of Germany: on an unmistakable firmness in defending what we hold and what we admire in the Far East.
This diplomatic method was never our choice. At the end of the war. we did all we could to scrap it and substitute an intelligent system based on good-will and a real desire for world peace. Communism would have none of it. Communism imposed the system of diplomacy on the basis of military strength. .
We have learnt the lesson, and the Socialist critics have no right to blame the Western leaders. The blame lies solidly with the Communists whom they still wish to appease by persuading the Free World to commit suicide.