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Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR)

Historical Note

The Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) began as a group of men and women working to improve relations among the nations of the Pacific Rim. Its first formal session took place in Honolulu in June and July 1925, but preliminary discussion and planning occurred earlier. The original plan involved a conference of YMCA members from throughout the Pacific but by 1924 had been expanded to one involving leaders from all the Pacific Rim nations, regardless of race, religion or politics, in which participants could discuss political, economic, social and cultural issues of concern within the region. During the initial conference, participants concluded that the gathering had been successful enough to warrant the establishment of a permanent organization.1

By the end of the 1925 conference, a number of individuals and organizations from throughout the region had pledged, or had already paid, contributions to support the Institute. Approximately $78,000 had been collected in Japan, China, Korea, Philippines, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well as in the United States and Hawai‘i.2 Delegates had chosen a temporary committee to select members of a governing body to be called the Pacific Council, had established a permanent secretariat located in Honolulu, had initiated the creation of national councils in the participating countries, and had called for conferences to be held every two years.3

Between its first conference in 1925 and the fifth in 1933, the IPR held conferences every two years during which representatives from the different national councils presented research papers and conducted related round-table discussions on a wide variety of Pacific problems. This “conference diplomacy,” to use the group’s term, was the region’s first major example of non-governmental organizational activity. IPR thus attracted considerable governmental and media attention. Conferences took place in Honolulu, 1925 and 1927; Kyoto, 1929; Shanghai (with a special session in Hangchow), 1931; and Banff, 1933. Coinciding with increasing tensions between China and Japan and between Japan and the United States, the next conferences in Yosemite (1936) and Virginia Beach (1939) occurred at three-year intervals. Wartime conferences were held at Mt. Tremblant, Québec (1942) and in Hot Springs, Virginia (1945). Postwar conferences commenced with a meeting at Stratford-on-Avon in 1948, and gatherings at Lucknow (1950), Kyoto (1954) and Lahore (1958) followed.

In the 1950s McCarthyism cast suspicions of anti-Americanism upon international organizations generally, and the IPR became one of the major targets. Previously, in the late 1940s, prominent people in the United States including some members of IPR had become disenchanted with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government in China because of that government’s corruption and inability to solve many pressing problems in China. IPR never engaged in formal or systematic criticism of the Chiang regime. After the fall of Nationalist China and the government’s fleeing to the island of Taiwan in 1949, the McCarthy movement took the lead in blaming American "pro-communists" in the government, universities, and international organizations for the fall of China to the communists. For example, Senator Pat McCarran, in the course of a 1952 Senate investigation of IPR activities, stated that IPR was responsible for the success of the Chinese communists. None of these charges were substantiated, but the consequences resulting from the charges by the McCarran committee were devasting. Funding sources dried up, membership declined, tax exemption issues arose, and the IPR was forced into dissolution in 1961.

Evidence in Hawai‘i of the effects of the McCarran committee charges appears in letters from local business leaders E.G. Solomon, president of American Factors, and James D. Dole, head of Dole Pineapple, asking that their names be removed from the IPR’s 1953 mailing list.4 In December 1953, the Hawai‘i chapter of the IPR voted to reorganize itself as a separate, independent organization titled the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC), by which it has been known since. News articles about the Hawai‘i chapter’s name change and reorganization make clear these were the result of the charges by McCarran and others associated with McCarthyism.5 This marked the end of the Hawai‘i connection with the IPR.

1 “Statement of Institute of Pacific Relations Held at Honolulu, Hawaii, June 30 th to July 15 th, 1925,” pp. 1-2, Institute of Pacific Relations Records, (M00004), box A-1, folder 2, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

2 Statement of Pledges and Payments to Budget of Institute of Pacific Relations, Honolulu, T.H., July 14, 1925, in IPR Records, box C-1, folder 1.

3“Statement of Institute of Pacific Relations...,” p. 8.

4 Esther E. White, secretary to the president, American Factors, Limited, to Institute of Pacific Relations of Hawaii, 15 May 1953, and “the secretary to Mr. Dole” to Institute of Pacific Relations, 9 June 1953, IPR Records, box D-16, in folder labeled “Honolulu Branch–General Activities 1953, #2.”

5 Various clippings in PAAC General news clippings, 1954[sic]-1956, PAAC Records, box A3.

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