The countries of this region were mostly colonies of Western powers at the time of the depression. They produced raw produce such as sugar, rubber and hemp, and also rice. Import-substituting industries were practically denied to these countries. Agrarian relations and revenue systems differed a great deal, so the impact of the depression made itself felt in very different ways. But as a general rule we may state that wherever the colonial rulers collected poll taxes in addition to the land revenue, the conflict potential was particularly high, the more so as the colonial governments could not afford to be lenient in collecting such taxes, as they were hard pressed to balance their budgets. Only in the Philippines, where the American colonial rulers were lax in their tax collection, were there hardly any conflicts. But in Burma and Vietnam, where the British and the French collected poll taxes without pity, they faced bloody riots. These will be described in subsequent sections of this chapter. Initially we shall turn to the contrasting patterns of reactions to the depression by the two major sugar producing countries: Java and the Philippines.
Under the influence of Dutch colonial rule, Java had emerged as one of the biggest sugar exporters in the world. From 1928 to 1930 annual sugar exports had amounted to 3 million tonnes: India imported a great deal of that sugar, but as we have seen before, this import was rapidly reduced by a prohibitive tariff. In the years from 1933 to 1936 Javanese sugar exports declined from 1.4 million