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The Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) was an international NGO established in 1925 to provide a forum for discussion of problems and relations between nations of the Pacific Rim. The International Secretariat, the center of most IPR activity over the years, consisted of professional staff members who recommended policy to the Pacific Council and administered the international program. The various national councils were responsible for national, regional and local programming. Most participants were elite members of the business and academic communities in their respective countries. Funding came largely from businesses and philanthropies, especially the Rockefeller Foundation. IPR international headquarters were in Honolulu until the early 1930s when they were moved to New York and the American Council emerged as the dominant national council.

IPR was founded in the spirit of Wilsonianism, an awareness of the United States' new role as a world power after World War I, and a belief that liberal democracy should be promoted throughout the world. To promote greater knowledge of issues, the IPR supported conferences, research projects and publications, and after 1932 published a quarterly journal Pacific Affairs. After World War II, Cold War charges that the IPR was infiltrated with Communists led to Congressional hearings and loss of tax exempt status. Many IPR members had liberal left orientations typical of internationalists of the 1930s, some ten IPR associates were shown to have been Communists, others were sympathetic to the Soviet Union, and the anti-imperialist tone of the leadership aroused resentment from some of the colonial powers, but the more dramatic charges, such as that the IPR was responsible for the fall of China, have not been generally accepted.

Founding and Early Years, 1925-1939

The IPR was the result of two sets of organizers, one in New York, another in Hawai'i. The New York based effort was organized by Edward C. Carter, Carter, after graduating from Harvard in 1906, joined the Student Volunteer Movement with the YMCA in India, then worked with the Y in France during World War I. After the war he joined The Inquiry, a liberal Protestant commission with a genteelly militant flavor which organized conferences and publications on labor, race relations, business ethics, and international peace. Among Carter's constituents were John D. Rockefeller, III, Abby Aldridge Rockefeller, and Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, President of Stanford University. Wilbur argued that a new organization devoted to Pacific affairs would fill a gap not addressed by East Coast foreign policy groups. Meanwhile, in Hawai’i, another group was organizing under the leadership of local business interests.

Not everyone approved. Time magazine called Carter, Wilbur, and The Inquiry a “strange and motley crew,” a “little band of élite and erudite adventurers.” Some in the American State Department and Navy opposed discussion of Pacific affairs, fearing that it might interfere with strategic planning at a time when Chinese and Japanese nationalism were on the rise. Carter countered with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation. Using networks of the International YMCA, independent National Councils were organized in other countries, with an International Secretariat in Honolulu.

The first conference was held in Honolulu in the summer of 1925, followed by another in Honolulu (1927), then conferences in Kyoto (1929), Hangzhou and Shanghai (1931), Banff, Canada (1933), Yosemite, USA (1936), and Virginia Beach, USA (1939). Each conference published its background papers and roundtable discussions in a volume in the series Problems of the Pacific.

Edward Carter took responsibility for the American Council. When he became Secretary General in 1933 he lobbied successfully to have the International Headquarters move to New York. Since 1928 his chief assistant had been Frederick V. Field, who worked with him until 1940. (Field was later attacked for his Communist allegiances (see below), but scholars accept his claim that he combined them with a belief in knowledge for its own sake. ) The American Council moved energetically on several fronts. One of Carter's concerns was that public opinion needed to be informed and school curriculum deepened. Another area was to commission or subsidize scholarship on all aspects of Asia. Over the next decades, the IPR imprint appeared on hundreds of books, including most of the important scholarship on China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Notable was the Chinese Dynastic History Project, headed by the German refugee scholar Karl Wittfogel, which set out to translate and annotate the official histories compiled by each Chinese dynasty for its predecessor. In 1932, the IPR determined to expand its Bulletin into a full fledged journal, Pacific Affairs. At the recommendation of long time treaty port journalist H.G.E. Woodhead, Carter recruited Owen Lattimore, a multi-sided scholar of Central Asia who, however did not have a PhD.

The IPR aimed to include all of the countries of the Pacific, including colonies, such as the Philippines and Korea (the Dutch government forbade participation from the Dutch East Indies), and the Soviet Union, which, like the United States, was not a member of the League of Nations. As friction between Japan and China became more intense, it was less possible for the IPR to avoid getting entangled. In 1931, the Japanese invasion forced the conference to move from Hangzhou to Shanghai. In 1932, the Japanese delegation withdrew and succeeding conferences were held without Japanese representation. Since the USSR was a long time rival of Japan and a revolutionary Marxist power, Soviet participation raised many questions and problems. Marxist analysis, such as that brought by Wittfogel, added powerful tools for understanding Chinese history, but Stalin’s interest was scarcely limited to discussions and theories. Carter's sympathy for the Soviet Union led him to defend Stalin's purges and trials, although IPR publications contained both favorable and critical treatments of Soviet policies.

The IPR sponsored other important scholarly excursions into Asian history and society. R.H. Tawney’s long memo for the 1931 Conference was published as his Land and Labor in China (1931). The Dutch scholar J.H. Furnival’s development of the sociology of Max Weber changed the understanding of Dutch East Indies society. The Marxist analysis of geography in Chi Chao-ting’s work changed the understanding of how history worked for everyone, Marxist or not. Most important was the collaboration between Lattimore and Wittfogel which used an eclectic array of approaches including Arnold Toynbee, Ellsworth Huntington, and Karl Marx to develop a social history of China.

The War Years

During the war the IPR organized two conferences, one at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, in December 1942 and the second in Hot Springs, Virginia in January 1945. One scholar noted that the non-official nature of these meetings meant that officials and influential leaders could join in the fray in an ostensibly private capacity, which “gave the I.P.R. a status well beyond its actual size.” Colonial issues and post-war planning were the major areas of controversy. Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India, for instance, asserted that the conflict in Asia was a race war, and other members of the conference from Asia warned that too harsh a treatment of Japan would lead to anti-Western feeling throughout the Far East. At the roundtables there was criticism and doubt that British would follow the Atlantic Charter, while British resented the American uninformed and high flown ideals. American leaders, especially those in the International Secretariat, were suspicious and critical, noting that the delegation from India was more British than the British. Americans repeatedly insisted that they were not fighting in order to reconstitute the British Empire, British replied that they would “not be hustled out of evolution into revolution” and that the US might “do well to look into her own Negro problem.” On the positive side, the conferences helped to focus on the political and social developments within Japan after the war, especially the question of whether to abolish the imperial throne. Edward Carter summarized Anglo-American differences and fears: “continuing imperialism as a threat to world peace," on the one hand, and of "anti-colonialism as a recipe for chaos” on the other, and of "imperial tariff protections as a barrier to world trade and of American economic might as a potential bludgeon.” In all likelihood, Carter was forced out of the Secretary General position in late1945 by the European council leaders because of his increasingly out-spoken anti-colonialism.

At home, the American Secretariat came under criticism.

Attack Over Communist Influences and Demise

Over the next years, as the Communist Revolution came to power in China, the IPR was charged with Communist sympathies and even for the loss of China. Despite the heated rhetoric, however, the only charges actually brought were several perjury indictments against Lattimore, and even these were subsequently dropped. The attacks on the Institute began with a wartime study by dissident IPR member Alfred Kohlberg, an American businessman who had owned a textile firm in prewar China. After finding what he believed were Communist sympathies in IPR, in particular Frederick Field, Kohlberg first wrote to other members of the Board, published an 80-page report, then launched a publicity campaign against the Institute.

Among IPR staffers identified later as Communists or collaborators with Soviet intelligence agents were Kathleen Barnes, Hilda Austern, Elsie Fairfax-Cholmely, Chi Chao-ting, Guenter Stein, Harriet Levine, Talitha Gerlach, Chen Han-seng (a member of the Sorge spy ring), Michael Greenberg (named as a source in 1945 by defecting Soviet courier Elizabeth Bentley), and T.A. Bisson (Venona's "Arthur"), as well as Kate Mitchell and Andrew Roth, both of whom were arrested in the 1945 Amerasia case.

IPR was closely allied with Amerasia. The two organizations shared the same building, and many members of the Editorial Board of Amerasia were officers or employees of IPR. An FBI review of Amerasia and IPR publications found that approximately 115 people contributed articles to both.

In the early fifties, the IPR came under a lengthy investigation by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. Critics charged that IPR scholars had been naïve in their statements regarding Communism and Stalinist Russia.

Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin repeatedly criticized IPR and its former chairman Philip Jessup. McCarthy observed that Frederick V. Field, T.A. Bisson, and Owen Lattimore were active in IPR and claimed that they had worked to turn American China policy in favor of the Communist Party of China.

In 1952, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), chaired by Senator Pat McCarran, spent over a year reviewing some 20,000 documents from the files of IPR and questioning IPR personnel. The committee found it suspicious that Marxists had published articles in the IPR journal and that Communists had attended an IPR conference in 1942. In its final report the SISS stated:

Elizabeth Bentley testified that NKVD spy chief Jacob Golos warned her to stay away from the IPR because it was "as red as a rose, and you shouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.". Likewise, Louis Budenz, former editor of the Daily Worker, testified that Alexander Trachtenberg of the Communist Party-affiliated International Publishers told him that party leaders thought the IPR was "too much a concentration point for Communist; the control could be maintained without such a galaxy of Communists in it."

The accusations of a subversive conspiracy were never substantiated. Owen Lattimore was charged with perjury in testimony before the SISS in 1952. After many of the counts were rejected by a Federal judge and one of the witnesses confessed to perjury, the case was dropped in 1955.

The IPR lost its tax-exempt status as an educational body in 1955, when the Internal Revenue Service alleged that the Institute had engaged in the dissemination of controversial and partisan propaganda, and had attempted to influence the policies or opinions of the government. Under the leadership of William L. Holland, the IPR pursued legal actions to regain tax-exempt status lasted until 1959. The final court judgment rejected all allegations by the Internal Revenue Service.Despite the outcome, the IPR's finances were exhausted by the protracted litigation, and the institute dissolved in 1960. Publication of the journal Pacific Affairs was transferred to University of British Columbiamarker, in Vancouver, Canada.

Sources and notes

  1. Paul F. Hooper, ed., Remembering the Institute of Pacific Relations: The Memoirs of William L. Holland (Tokyo: Ryukei Shyosha, 1995), pp. 77-120;
  2. Hooper, Elusive Destiny
  3. Thomas, The Institute of Pacific Relations, p. check ref
  4. Pt II, "The Pacific Community," Akami, Internationalizing the Pacific.
  5. Pt II, "The Pacific Community," Akami, Internationalizing the Pacific; Field, From Right to Left p. 125.
  6. William T. Rowe, "Owen, Lattimore, Asia, and Comparative History," Journal of Asian Studies 66.3 (2007): 759-786.
  7. Christopher G. Thorne, Allies of a Kind: The United States, Britain and the War against Japan, 1941-1945 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, 1978): 212-214; 540- 541; Holland Memoirs, p. 369.
  8. Maochen Yu, " Chen Hansheng's Memoirs and Chinese Communist Espionage," Cold War International History Project Bulletin, 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996), p. 274
  9. Robert L. Benson, The Venona Story. National Security Agency, Central Security Service
  10. Institute of Pacific Relations, report of the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, 1952, p. 97, pp. 147-59
  11. Office memorandum: Rosen to Ladd, Re European Recovery Program, November 22, 1949, p. 3 ( FBI file: Institute of Pacific Relations, Section 47, PDF p. 44)
  12. FBI Report: Institute of Pacific Relations, January 18, 1951 ( FBI file: Institute of Pacific Relations, Section 47), PDF p. 9
  13. Senate Internal Security Committee, Hearings on the Institute of Pacific Relations, p. 437
  14. Institute of Pacific Relations, report of the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, 1952, p. 97


  • Tomoko Akami, Internationalizing the Pacific: The United States, Japan, and the Institute of Pacific Relations in War and Peace, 1919-45 (London; New York: Routledge, 2002).
  • Paul Hooper, Elusive Destiny: The Internationalist Movement in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1980)
  • John Thomas, Institute of Pacific Relations (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974) is limited to the IPR experience under McCarthyism.
  • Paul Hooper, “The Institute of Pacific Relations and the Origins of Asian and Pacific Studies,” Pacific Affairs 41 (Spring 1988): 67-92
  • Paul Hooper, ed., Rediscovering the IPR: Proceedings of the First International Research Conference on the Institute of Pacific Relations (Honolulu: Department of American Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, 1994).
  • Paul F. Hooper, ed., Remembering the Institute of Pacific Relations: The Memoirs of William L. Holland (Tokyo: Ryukei Shyosha, 1995).
  • Paul F. Hooper, “The McCarthy Era and the Financial Crisis of the Institute of Pacific Relations,” Towards the Construction of a New Discipline: International Conference Proceedings on the Re evaluation of the Institute of Pacific Relations (Tokyo: Ronsosha, 2005), pp. 146-51.
  • William Holland, “Source Materials on the Institute of Pacific Relations,” Pacific Affairs 58.1 (Spring 1985): 91-97.
  • John B. Condliffe, “Reminiscences of the Institute of Pacific Relations,” (Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, 1981)
  • Frederick V. Field, From Right to Left: An Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill, 1983)
  • Michio Yamaoka, ed., The Institute of Pacific Relations: Pioneer International Non-Governmental Organization in the Asia-Pacific Region (Tokyo: Waseda University, Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, 1999).
  • Hearings before the Senate subcommittee investigating the Institute of Pacific Relations
  • National Archives and Records Administration, Senate Internal Security Subcommittee

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