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1913, the white peril

“To think otherwise would be to take a despairing view of the future of the race”

A 107 year-old take on China and the West.

Found this aged newspaper article while sorting what’s to be moved. No date on the article, but the Sidney L. Gulick mentioned lived from 1860–1945, and Wikipedia says he returned to the US in 1913.

The article was glued to the back-side of a book title page: The Higher Buddhism, which looks to be from 1893.

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The White Peril

The white peril is the yellow peril in reverse, as the West is reminded by Professor Sidney L. Gulick of Donisha University at Kioto, Japan, who has arrived in this country for a visit after a residence of twenty-six years in the Island Empire as a missionary and educator.

Professor Gulick says that to millions of the native peoples of the East the white man has proved a terrible scourge. “He has ruthlessly destroyed not only tribes and peoples but entire civilizations.” Foreordained, from his own point of view, to rule the world, he has brought consternation and disaster to the East.

Of course this is only a part of the story. Professor Gulick would admit the great good that has accompanied whatever ill resulted from the Caucasian irruption into Asia and the islands of the sea. His own work in Japan is an instance of the beneficient fruits of our invasion of the other side of the world. He merely means to emphasize a phase of that invasion which we are prone to overlook.

It was to escape the white peril, he says, that Japan shut itself away from the west for two hundred and fifty years. Finally, unable to maintain its exclusiveness, it determined to copy the Occidental methods against which it had proved powerless. The war with Russia was eloquent proof of its success in adapting itself to new conditions. Now China is girding itself for a similar readjustment. One month after the treaty of Portsmouth had been signed [September 5, 1905], the Chinese system of classical education was abolished. “The Manchu rulers have gone, a new national consciousness has arisen with mighty ambitions and plans. China is awakening to international life.” Reorganization is the keynote of the day in this powerful empire of the future. Politics, commerce, industry and society are undergoing a vast change. Thus a new yellow peril is created, in the opinion of sensitive Westerners, as a direct response to what is regarded in the East as the white peril.

Probably East and West alike lay unnecessary stress on these “perils.” The world is becoming standarized. The modern tendency is for every nation to approximate every other in manners and customs. Closer contact of the peoples of the two hemispheres will leave its mark upon both. This means that each will acquire something of good, something of evil, from the other. But it is not too much to hope that out of the contact and the interchange will come more of good than of ill. To think otherwise would be to take a despairing view of the future of the race.

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