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162 Report by Ball

Extract 27 July 1948


May 27-July 6, 1948
Leader of Mission-W. Macmahon Ball
Rep. of Department of External Affairs-D.W. McNicol
Rep. of Commonwealth Office of Education-V.G. Harris


A. Summary of Conclusions
1. The mission left Sydney by R.A.A.F. special aircraft on May
27th. It returned to Canberra on July 6th. Apart from calls at
Dili and Hong Kong, it visited 11 cities:

Kuala Lumpur
The countries visited contained a total population of about 650

2. Since the time was so short, Part 1 of this report is mainly a
narrative of events and a list of impressions. A longer stay and
more careful study would probably lead me to amend and correct
some of these impressions. I would, however, venture the following

(i) A deep-rooted and passionate nationalism was the main
political driving force in every country visited
The most striking expression of this nationalism was negative. It
was a movement of resistance against (a) 'political domination'
and (b) economic 'exploitation' by foreigners. The political
revolt was aimed mainly against the colonial powers of Europe. The
economic revolt was aimed against European powers, resident
Chinese and in Burma also against resident Indians. There are
perhaps 10 million Chinese in the Netherlands East Indies,
Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Siam, French Indo China and the
Philippines. They are mainly engaged in trade and finance. They
are generally disliked and feared.

(ii) Control of the nations of South East Asia by European powers
is drawing to a close
It is still true that France and Holland may, by intensifying
their present military efforts, achieve short term successes in
limited areas. Although the United Kingdom is giving France and
Holland moral and diplomatic support in their efforts to retain
control of their territories, she has, in fact, done much to
weaken their prospects by her own voluntary withdrawal from India
and Burma. The contraction of Britain's imperial responsibilities
has given immense stimulation to nationalist movements everywhere
in South-East Asia.

(iii) The countries we visited were without exception hesitant and
mistrustful about the United States of America
There seemed to be several reasons for this anxiety. There was the
fear of being used as pawns in a world-wide conflict between the
United States and the Soviet Union, the fear that the 19th Century
type of European imperialism might be replaced by 'dollar
imperialism'. Among some radical groups there was the fear that
the acceptance of American aid might make it more difficult to
carry out radical economic programmes. It should be remembered
that while nationalism is the dominant political force in most if
not all of these countries it is associated with domestic
movements for agrarian reform.

(iv) In some of these places, notably in Burma, Malaya and French
Indo-China, radical forces embarrass and even threaten to
overthrow the established authorities
These radical movements seem to be essentially indigenous, but
there is a good deal of evidence that small groups with orthodox
Communist convictions do all in their power to foment and direct
radical movements wherever possible. There was no evidence in any
country of direct intervention by the Soviet Union.

(v) In these countries where new nationalist governments have
established themselves de facto or de jure, there is a marked lack
of administrative experience and managerial skill
There is also a need for outside help to provide capital
equipment. The most intelligent national leaders frankly recognise
both needs. Some leaders seem heavily burdened with the weight of
their new freedom.

(vi) The whole area is in a state of flux and ferment which
invites foreign intervention
I suggest that it is in Australia's interest to do everything in
our power to bring strength and stability to the new national
governments in order to prevent them from falling within the orbit
either of the United States or the Soviet Union,
(vii) I believe that Australia has unique opportunities here
While she may be unable to contribute much to power politics she
can, if she has the will, provide indispensable aid and
intellectual leadership. These countries do not fear her because
of her great power as they fear the United States. They do not
resent her as they resent European nations for their past or
present imperialist ambitions. The countries we visited feel that
they can get from Australia the things they most need without
risking their political or economic independence.

(viii) Technical and intellectual aid is singularly important in
these countries since so many of the new governments are
controlled by students
These are young men with enough intelligence to understand what
they lack in training and experience. To win the friendship and
goodwill of the students and technicians is to win the good will
of people with great political influence.

(ix) Whether our Mission will produce good or harm will depend on
how it is followed up
It is essential that the relief goods should be promptly
distributed and that the scholarships should be allocated in time
to enable students to start work here at the beginning of 1949.

Moreover, the specific offers made by the mission must be viewed
as a modest beginning of a growing and continuing interest in the
peoples of East Asia. Goodwill towards these people must become a
national habit, built on respect for the racial sensibilities and
national aims of our neighbours. [1]

1 Button told Ball that the report explained clearly Australia's
position in south-east Asia and that Chifley had bee. Particularly
interested in the conclusions which confirmed observations be had
made when passing through the area.

[AA:A1838/278, 381/1/3/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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