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ART. I.-1. The Yangtze Valley and Beyond. By Mrs.
J. F. Bishop. London: John Murray, 1899. 2. Through the Yangtse Gorges. By Archibald John Little.
Third and Revised Edition. London : Sampson Low, 1899. 3. The Break-up of China. By Lord Charles Beresford.
London and New York: Harper and Brothers, 1899. 4. China in Transformation. By A. R. Colquhoun. London
and New York: Harper and Brothers, 1898. 5. The Far Eastern Question. By Valentine Chirol. London:
Macmillan and Co., 1896. 6. Foreign Office Blue-books. Correspondence respecting
Affairs in China. China, No. 1 (1898); China, No. 1 and
may properly be divided into two unequal periods. The first extends from the close of the Anglo-Chinese War of 1858-60 down to the Japanese War of 1894–95. The second and much shorter period comprises the four or five years that bave elapsed since the conclusion of the latter struggle. A marked contrast can be drawn between these two periods. In the long space of thirty-four years following the Treaty of Tien-tsin the most distinctive characteristics were stagnation and dull monotony. Trade proceeded on the lines laid down in the Treaty, and, all things considered, made fair progress; but outside the limits of the Treaty it may be said that no progress whatever was made. Time after time applications were addressed to the Chinese Government for permission to work some of the vast mineral wealth of the country, or to assist in improving the inland communication by building railways ; but all in vain. The Chinese Government would neither work their mines themselves nor permit them to be worked by
Vol. 191.-No. 381.
others ; and while every other country in the world was being overspread by a network of railways, China alone refused to
It was only within the last few years of the period that a very small beginning of railway enterprise was made. In other directions equal indifference prevailed. In finance, in the judiciary, and in military organisation no attempt was made to introduce reforms. The governing powers were perfectly well satisfied with the state of affairs, and turned a deaf ear to all suggestions of improvement.
In contrast with this long period of stagnation the history of the last five years presents a picture of feverish activity. Sensible of her helplessness under the crushing defeat inflicted by the Japanese arms, China has yielded to fear everything that she formerly denied to reason. Developments have followed one another with startling rapidity. . Concessions, both for mines and railways, have been obtained almost wholesale, and trading privileges have been granted of greater importance and of greater value, potentially at least, than all that went before. More startling still, the two principal naval strongholds—the only two in fact that China ever possessed-have been made over, the one to Russia, the other to England, under the euphonious term of a lease; while two other convenient anchorages on the coast have been similarly conveyed, the one to Germany and the other to France. These latter will, doubtless, be in time transformed into places of arms. Simultaneously with this, China has appeared as a borrower in the European market; and whereas her previous borrowings were mere flea-bites, she has now pledged her revenues up to the hilt, and has contracted to pay to Europe, by way of interest and sinking fund, a sum which, as things now stand, will leave her barely enough to live on. And,
And, as a last and tragic act in this drama, China has put to death, banished, or imprisoned a band of young reforiners who apparently were single-minded in their desire for their country's good, and whose only fault was that they were in too great haste to remove the fetters which have so long cramped and restrained the better energies of the nation.
Such are the main features of the second and shorter, period of recent Chinese history; but, in order to enable us better to estimate the precise value of the concessions gained and to take stock of the actual situation, we think it desirable to review very briefly the leading features of the earlier period.
In a recent number of this Review,* a writer, dealing with
* Quarterly Review, April 1894.
the life of the late Sir Harry Parkes, gave a short account of the political conditions in China which led up to the war of 1860. The Treaty which followed that war was an eminently reasonable one, and great things were expected of it. We had gone to war, nominally to avenge an insult to the flag, in reality to put an end once for all to a long series of insults and injuries inflicted on our merchants. The war was completely successful. Peking fell into our hands, the Emperor fled to Mongolia, and we might have imposed whatever terms we chose. As it was, we asked for nothing but a fair commercial bargain. We demanded a modest indemnity, but we exacted no humiliating terms, no cession of territory such as might rankle in the Chinese mind. The Treaty was meant on our side to be what it bore on its title page-a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship'; and it was hoped that as the advantages of an expanding commerce became more and more manifest, the Chinese would in time throw open inland markets and permit the marvellous resources of their country to be utilised alike for their own benefit and for the benefit of mankind.
Such hopes, however reasonable they may have appeared, were doomed to disappointment. It is not too much to say that the history of our diplomatic relations with China for the thirty-five years which followed the Treaty has been simply the history of our efforts to compel the Chinese to observe their treaty engagements.
We have been but moderately successful even in this limited aim; while, as for anything outside the four corners of the Treaty, the mere idea of granting it was preposterous. No matter whether it was big or little, whether it tended to benefit China or not, the mere fact that it was asked for by a foreigner was sufficient to ensure a peremptory refusal. It is matter of regret both for China's sake and our own that this view was too readily accepted by our authorities. The Treaty came to be looked upon as a sort of heaven-sent document, eternal and immutable. Had occasionally reminded the Chinese of the origin of the pact and shown that it was capable of revision, they might have had cause to thank us to-day.
As it was, we made practically no progress from the date of the Treaty till the rude awakening of China by the Japanese war. The conditions of trade remained the same year after year. Nothing was done on the part of the Chinese to encourage production, to facilitate transit, or to lighten the burdens on commerce. On the contrary, these burdens grew heavier and heavier every year, and they are
now in some places all but prohibitive.
Viewed in the light of these remarks it will be seen how extremely important are the concessions which have recently been obtained. We shall first briefly state what they are, as appears from the Blue-books.
1. The opening of several new Treaty ports, including Nanning, a city on the West River near the Tongking frontier.
2. The opening of the whole of the inland waterways to foreign-owned steam craft.
3. Grants to various British companies to build about 2800 miles of railway. Other railway concessions of a similar nature have been granted to companies of other nationalities to an extent altogether (excluding Manchuria) of about 2100 miles. With these, however, we are not concerned.
4. The grant to a British company (the Peking Syndicate) of a sixty years' lease of minerals (coal and iron) in Shansi and Honan. The coal field in Shansi is described as the largest and richest in the world, extending to over thirteen thousand square miles of best anthracitic coal.
The importance of these grants can hardly be over-estimated. They are precisely the measures which foreign merchants have all along been urging the Chinese Government to take. Their value is not so much that the individual concessionaires will profit by them—though that may be counted on too—as that an enormous impetus will be given to the trade and commerce of the country. Undeveloped as China is, she is, next to India, the largest market we have for Manchester cottons. We export yearly to China between five and six hundred million yards of cotton cloth, while India takes altogether nearly two thousand million yards. In natural resources China is altogether more favoured than India. She has a larger area, a soil on the whole more varied and fertile, and a more active and industrious population. It is clear that, if to all these advantages are added the benefits which a country derives from an efficient railway system, China presents immense possibilities of development.
All this is satisfactory so far as it goes. But the question arises, how can these grants—which are but paper-grants as yet -be utilised in a practical way for the common benefit?
We speak now of the railway and mining concessions, which differ from other privileges, such as the opening of new ports and waterways. The latter may be called concessions pure and simple : they entail no expenditure on our part, and no risk need be run to secure the advantages, if advantages there be. But a
* Blue-book, China, No. 1 (1899),' pp. 344 et seqq.
railway or inining concession is different: it is not so much a concession as a contract, under which the concessionaires, as well as the other side, have a duty to perform. They have to provide the capital to build the railway or to open up the mines; their reward is not immediate, but deferred; and deferred it may be over a long series of years. The important question therefore arises—what security has the Chinese Government to offer that capital thus invested will be safeguarded, and that British investors will be protected in the exercise of the rights and privileges they have acquired ?
If we had only the Chinese Government to reckon with, we believe there need not be the slightest difficulty on that score. In our long intercourse with the Chinese their commercial honesty has become almost proverbial. The Government, as a whole, shares this enviable reputation with the mercantile classes. They have never shown the slightest disposition to go back on their monetary obligations. Much as we have had to complain about in other respects, this has never been a subject that required diplomatic intervention. Further, the country, as a whole, is pre-eminently one which offers a suitable field for the investment of capital. It possesses, indeed, all the requisites for the acquisition of wealth, except capital. It has a most fertile soil, capable of producing in abundance almost everything that mankind desires, including such special products as tea and silk, which only limited areas of the earth's surface can produce. It is inhabited by a swarming population, frugal, active, and industrious. It enjoys a benign climate, temperate over two-thirds of the area, and in no part trying for European residents. Lastly, there are untold treasures of mineral wealth lying underneath the surface, as yet entirely untouched.
All this has been waiting through the centuries, and is still waiting, for two things, capital and knowledge-capital to bring together the labour and the raw material, and knowledge how best to utilise the two for the benefit of the world. In China itself there is neither. For years the European world, scientific and industrial, has been standing by, waiting for permission from the Chinese Government to step in. Permission has hitherto been refused, for reasons compounded of ignorance, timidity, and jealousy. It has at last been given. The right to set to work has been definitely granted, and, so far as the Chinese Government is concerned, it only remains that it should be kept up to its engagements—a task that ought not to be difficult of accomplishment.
But China is not the only Power we have to reckon with in the Far East. Before 1894 the main question before us was