Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

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secular im.pression upon, or give permanent
shape to this jelly-fish mass of corruption. The
Board, which was as corrupt and conservative
as the provinces, went about its business in a
very hand-to-mouth, rough-and-tumble sort of
way. Instead of saying : " Your receipts are
5,000,000, and your disbursements 4,900,000 ;
send 100,000 to the balance chest," it used to
say :—

" From your land-tax, eight-tenths nominal
of which are this year only expected (after deduc-
tion made for disasters), 500,000 will be sent for
Peking salaries (original), 100,000 for the same
(extra), 200,000 for the Palace, and 100,000 to
make up for shortage in the remittances to Man-
churia for 1896. It must arrive (with the usual
extras for Board's fees) in part before the seventh
and entirely before the tenth moon. As your
salt likin is transferred to the Inspector-General
of Foreign Customs for the service of loans,
six-tenths of the ordinary likin which used to go
to the Manchurian armies must replace the salt
likin remittances on Peking account, whilst four-
tenths will take the place of what used to be

A.D. 1880-1900] HARLEQUIN FINANCE 215

repayments on Full Kien account, but wliich
since 1886 have been transferred to the appro-
priation for Yiin Nan copper (minus scale and
waste). If this be insufficient, the saving of
7 per cent, on the scale for army payments accu-
mulated since 1881 can be temporarily trans-
ferred to the arsenal contribution (subject to
discount). The province of Kwei Chou complains
that your 6,000 taels a month for its frontier
army have not been sent. Sz Ch'wan has been
directed to advance the requisite sum ; and mean-
while, as the Inspector-General has compounded
with Sz Ch'wan and Hu Peh for a lump annual
sum down instead of collecting their joint salt
likin, you can direct the Salt Commissioner to
send up quickly for the new Tientsin artillery
the 200,000 taels a year formerly devoted to the
Canton torpedo college."

This picture of imperial Chinese finance is of
course an artificial one, slightly exaggerated with
an extra tinge of local colour so as to illustrate the
hopeless confusion that reigns. Each viceroy or
governor used to dispute every new demand, and
it was quite understood that some appropria-
tions were intended to be more serious than
others. Some simpleton of an honest man from
time to time threw everything out of gear by
allowing a truth to escape : but the Board never
let a " flat " of this sort score in fact, even though
he might appear to do so in principle. A governor
could not be expected to show zeal for Yiin Nan
copper when he knew that the high officer in
special charge was making a fortune out of it.
On the other hand, the " Board's rice," though a
matter of no public importance, was always
promptly sent ; on the same general ground that
a consul, in writing to the Foreign Office, is always
very careful to docket his despatches neatly' —

216 REVENUE [chap, x

to avoid a wigging. It does not do to quarrel
with your bread and butter ; and underlings at
headquarters can easily put a spoke into the
wheel of the biggest man in the provinces if he
gets nasty to them.

There were many other absurd results of this
rule-of-thumb system. Province A received
subsidies from province B, but, itself owing
others to province C, paid B on behalf of C.
Thus there are two freights to pay, and two
losses on exchange. Sometimes A might be
directed even to pay a subsidy to a province B,
which already pays one to province A. Funds
which might easily be sent by draft were usually
despatched in hollowed-out logs of wood, with a
guard of soldiers as escort, accompanied by carts,
fighting " bullies," and a commissioned officer.
Even when sent by draft, there was a charge of
2 or 3 per cent, for remitting, and a commissioned
officer was sent to carry the draft — (just as we
send favoured officers to carry treaties or news of
victory), so that he might gain " kudos " for his
zeal. It was pathetic to read the accounts of
hundreds of coolies trotting all the way to
Shanghai from Shan Si with hollowed logs of wood
containing silver wherewith to repay the interest
on European loans. The extraordinary care and
punctuality exacted in matters of form, duty,
or national honour in Manchu times were only
equalled by the shameless peculation and callous
waste of time and money which prevailed in
personal matters connected with the performance
of the same public duty. Officers of high rank,
who were known to make 30,000 or 40,000 taels
a year out of their posts, gravely worked out their
balances to the thousand-millionth part of an
ounce, forgetting that (even if the clerk's salary
were only sixpence a day) the time occupied in
counting and subtracting each line of figures


would cover, ten thousand times over, tlie clerk's
salary rate per minute. In a word, the whole
Chinese financial system was, and to a certain
extent still is rotten to the core ; childish, and
incompetent ; and should be swept away root
and branch. I am no financier, but, so far as I
can see, Peking is as hopeless as ever, whilst the
republican provinces have cut the Gordian Knot
by the simple process of not sending any revenue
at all. Until there is a fixed currency, a Euro-
pean accountancy in all departments, and a
system of definite sufficient salaries, all reform
is hopeless to look for, and it is astounding
that the ministers do not act upon this view
when they contemplate the results of Sir R.
Hart's and Sir R. Dane's work.

Table of possible Revenue Items in 1900 for Eighteen Provinces of
China and Three Provinces of Manchuria.^


Money land tax 25,967,000

Grain tax, value in money, commuted or not 7,540,000

Native Customs 4,230,000

Taxes of all kinds on Salt, direct or indirect 13,050,000

Foreign Customs CoUectorate . . . 22,052,000

Likui, excluding that on salt and opium . 12,160,000

Taxes on native opium and opium licences 2,830,000
Miscellaneous undefined taxes, licences, fees,

etc 2,165,000

Duties on reed flats .... 215,000

Rents on special tenures .... 690,000

Corvees and purveyances (roughly valued) 110,000

Sale of office and titles .... 266,000

Subsidies from other provinces . . 9,282,000

Tea taxes 900,000

Fuel and grain taxes .... 110,000

Total, Taels . 101,567,000

[Native loans and benevolences not included

in the Grand Total, as being exceptional] [6,334,000]

^ For fuller particulars, see the reprint from Otia Mersiana
alluded to in the chapter on " Population."


Table of Total Revenues of each Province forming the

Name of Taels (including Name of
Province. subsidies). Province.

An Hwei . . 4,033,000 Shan Si
Cheh Kiang . . 5,786,000 Shan Tung .
Chill Li . . 6,360,000 Shen Si
Fuh Kien . . 6,035,000 Sz Ch'wan .
Ho Nan . . 3,235,000 Yiin Nan .
Hu Nan . . 2,765,000
Hu Peh . . 7,320,000 Total, Taels
Kan Suh . . 5,946,000
Kiang Si . . 4,800,000 Sheng King .
Kiang Su . . 21,450,000 Kirin .
Kwang Si . . 1,730,000 Tsitsihar
Kwang Tung . 7,525,000
Kwei Chou . . 1,107,000 Grand Total
[Less subsidies from one province to the
other] ......

[chap. X

above total.

Taels (including

. 4,040,000
. 4,530,000
. 2,380,000
. 6,050,000
. 1,985,000

. 97,077,000

. 3,340,000

. 101,567,000

Translation of official statement of expendi-
tures for 1910 as telegraphed to each Province by
the Board ; it will be seen that the expenditure
in 1910 was double that of the revenue in 1900.

Feng-t'ien (S. Manchuria)
Kirin (Central Manchuria)
Heh-lung Kiang (N. Manchuria)
Chih Li . . .

Jehol (military governor)
Kiang Su (Soochow Division)

Do (Nanking Division)
An Hwei
Kiang Si
Shan Tung
Shan Si
Ho Nan
Shen Si
Kan Suh
Sin Kiang ( =
Fuh Kien
Cheh Kiang
Hu Peh
Hu Nan
Sz Ch'wan
Kwang Tung
Kwang Si
Yiin Nan
Kwei Chou

(For further particulars,
10th April 1910.)

New Territory)














The Board's circular instructions for 1911,
the last year of the Empire, were that in making
estimates of expenditure for the Budget, items
must be gathered under four main heads — to
wit :- —

1. The requirements of the Peking yamens.

2. Tliosc of each province under the re-
modelled system of official appointments.

3. The internal administrative expenditure of
each province.

4. Garrisons, proconsulates, residents, etc.,
in Mongolia and Tibet.

The deficit for 1911 was budgeted for 88,000,000

The First Republican Budget showed a
deficit of 280,520,000 taels, consisting of the
following : —


Deficit on the Manchu Budget . . . 88,000,000

„ "Annual" „ . . . 82,520,000

Provisional Expenditure . . . 110,000,000

In other words, enlightened democracy, taking
Mr. Micawber as model, " gives an I.O.U. for
total amxount," for the Income side has " nil "

The Budget for 1913 (the first complete year
of President Yuan Shi-k'ai's government) was as
follows V —

Total expenditure, about . . . $903,000,000

consisting of

Total ordinary expenditure, about . 410,000,000

„ extraordinary expenditure, about 163,000,000

„ reserve funds, about . . . 230,000,000

„ fund to encourage industries

[our old friend Yiin Nan copper

specially included] . , . 100,000,000

220 REVENUE [chap, x

To meet the above expenditure, the available
revenue is given as follows :- —

Total revenue.

about .

. $726,733,208

consisting of

1. Land-tax „ . . 62,690,988

2. Salt-tax „ . . 49,954,250

3. Customs „ . . 63,696,465

4. Likin „ . . 18,292,002

5. Sundry taxes „ . . 6,342,217

6. Government Industries „ . . 12,549,627
8. Sundry (royalties, etc.) „ . . 28,674,615

(a) Ordinary 265,723,208

[but the total is only $222,100,064, and

item No. 7 (which is omitted !) accounts

presumably for the missing $33,623,144]

(6) Extraordinary (foreign loans, etc.),

about 70,000,000

(c) Revenue to be carried forward (internal

loans, etc.) 400,000,000

I do not discuss this absurd "Budget" seri-
ously ; there are numerous explanations given
as to why the Customs is underestimated so
many tenths, why salt so many tenths, etc.,
etc.' — the old thimble-rigging in a new form.
In short, complete incapacity of the good old
order is exhibited all round. It will be noted
that the above " Budget " is on a silver dollar
basis, and that a dollar was (roughly) two shillings
— i.e. has 25 per cent, less silver than a tael;
hence the sterling " receipts " of this precious
" budgetastro " would be very roughly about
£72,000,000, or 570,000,000 taels, and the ex-
penditure £90,000,000 or 720,000,000 taels.^

China's really serious indebtedness only began
after her foolish Japan war in 1894-1895, and
ever since then she has plunged deeper and deeper

^ Silver has been unusually high this last Christmas, and £60
I remitted only fetched $390 in Shanghai. Two years ago the
same amount of gold remitted brought me considerably over
$600. Thus allowance must be made in all my scattered financial
remarks for the period to which those remarks refer.

A.D. 1894-1913] CHINA'S INDEBTEDNESS 221

into the treacherous mire. Her total owings
cannot now fall far short of £200,000,000/ the
interest on which (including amortisation) is
much greater than her total revenue (liberal
"squeezes" all round included) for 1894. When
the Reorganisation or Five Power loan of 1913
was on the tapis, a complete list of all out-
standing indebtednesses was published in the
North China Herald for 15th February 1913, to
which lovers of mammon are referred.

^ A Hongkong newspaper received as I correct proofs, says
£150,000,000 ; but my estimate includes short loans, provincial
loans, informal loans, irregular loans, etc.



The salt industry contributes its share to illus-
trate for us both the natural principles on which
China is divided into pro\'inces, and the con-
tinuity of her institutions. A statesman named
Sang Hung-yang is stated to have been the
first (in 90 B.C.) to establish an excise upon salt.
It will be noticed from the accompanying map
that the areas from which a revenue is derived
from salt do not entirely correspond with the
political subdivisions of the Empire into groups
of provinces. We have the Valley of the Canton
River, the Old Region of the Northern Yiieh
kingdoms, the Old Kingdoms of Wu and Ch'u,
all supplied with sea-salt, extracted and pre-
pared in different ways, according to the natural
facilities at hand in each producing place. Then
we have the various kinds of well-salt, with or
without fuel in the shape of gas, which supply
the western and mountainous parts of China,
broadly corresponding to the ancient Kingdoms
of Shuh, Tien, and K'ien.^ The lake-salt of
the desert competes with the pond-salt of Shan
Si for the service of what may roughly be
styled the mixed Tartar-Chinese regions. Finally,
there are the primitive reed-flats of the north,

^ The ancient kingdoms, and their gradual absorption, do not
fall within the scope of this book ; the question is analysed in
Ancient China Simplified, published in 1908,


A.D. 400-1900] CANTON SEA-SALT AREAS 223

which serve the needs of the greater part of
Old China. These administrative areas will be
found to correspond in a general sense with the
different stages of Chinese conquest, and with
the spread of Chinese influence. A glance at
the list of provinces given upon page 5 of the
first chapter, and a reference to the remarks
upon Han Wu Ti's annexations, in the chapter
OH " History," will perhaps assist to make this
clearer. A reference to the first chapter will
show us that the vast tract called the Two
Kwang — that is, West Kwang and East Kwang
— being the northern half of the old state of
South Yiieh, is simply the delta about Canton,
including all the network of streams which in
any v.ay contribute to it : the Swatow River
system in the east is really by nature and ethno-
graphy part of Full Kien. Accordingly we find
that the sea-salt v.hich is prepared along the
Canton coasts is, and since the fourth century
always has been, all concentrated under one
management. This was, and probably still is
the modern administration of the First Class
Salt Commissioner at Canton, aided by a Second
Class Commissioner for Kwang Si, both in
Manchu times subject to the supreme nominal
direction of the Two Kwang Vicerov. There
were seventeen subordinate mandarins on the
staff, and 159 depots of all kinds, managed by
six different ''chests'* or counting-houses, the
ancient head centre of all being, as of old, at
Tung-kwan, lower down than Canton, at the
junction of the ''Great" and the "Lesser"
rivers. Ovring to financial straits, efforts were
made after the "Boxer" indemnity settlement
to stretch the annual yield of excise as far as
possible, say, to 1,000,000 taels : in the last year
of the Empire, 1911, this figure was quadrupled.
It will be noticed that the head waters of the

224 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

West River above Peh-seh rise in Kwang-nan Fu
( Yiin Nan) : accordingly this prefecture ^ alone
uses Canton salt, and in return sends supplies of
copper for the mint. One of the northern tribu-
taries of this West River rises in the township
of Ku-chou (in Kwei Chou province), and in
the same way that department gets its salt
supplies from Canton, instead of from Sz
Ch'wan or the Hwai monopoly. It is not quite
so obvious why three districts in the south of
Hu Nan and three whole prefectures in the
south of Kiang Si should make two more
exceptions, though certainly part of the so-called
" North " River rises in the first-named province,
and part of the " Small " River in Kiang Si :
no doubt there are special local conditions to
consider ; and in any case the irregularity is
nearly a century old, at the very least. For
salt administrative purposes the Two Kwang,
so far as they are drained into the delta, are
divided into two distributions : that of the
" Great River " (west of Canton), and that of
the "Small River" (east of Canton). The
Swatow River rises in T'ing-chou (in Fuh Kien
province), and therefore that large prefectural
area uses the Canton salt in vogue in the valley
of the Swatow River, in preference to the less
accessible coast salt of Hing-hwa (Fuh Kien).
The island of Hainan is of course included in
the Canton scheme, which thus rounds itself
off by cutting corners from provinces politically
and financially appertaining to rival salt

The salt industry of Fuh Kien, being smaller
than that above described, is managed by a

^ Although fu prefectures (groups of Men) are now aboHshed,
no new maps are yet pubUshed, and accordingly the old nomen-
clature must be, partially at least, continued for the purposes
of this chapter.

A.D. 1000-1900] OLD YUEH COUNTRY SALT 225

Second Class Commissioner and seventeen sub-
ordinate mandarins, who were in Manclm times
under the supreme nominal control of the Viceroy
at Foochow : this administration (like that of
Canton just described, which latter dates from
the organisers of the fourth century of our era)
can only be traced historically back to times
when a good political hold upon the land had
been first obtained by advancing Chinese civili-
sation (say A.D. 1000). I find that, when
changes were made in 1157, the dues produced
80,000 " strings " a year. The number of sub-
ordinate salt officers employed in each province
depends upon the stage at which the salt leaves
official hands to pass through middlemen to the
consumers : hence in Fuh Kien it is unusually
large. Since Formosa became Japanese terri-
tory in 1895, the development of Fuh Kien salt
productiveness has of course been further circum-
scribed, at least officially ; but I have no doubt
that, with so conservative a people, things would
continue to run very much in their old channels,
so long as Japanese excise and customs interests
were not adversely affected. During the Taiping
rebellion of 1855-1865 there was a period of
spasmodic energy in Fuh Kien, owing to the
transport service of the Yang-tsze or Hwai
system having become disorganised ; but after-
wards matters settled down to a dull uninterest-
ing routine, and very little information of
interest reached the general inquirer. The total
nominal income raised from Fuh Kien salt
in 1899 was about 500,000 taels a year ; in 1911
thrice that sum. As an instance of what '* hanky-
panky" goes on behind the scenes in China, I
may mention that I once went to the point
where the head waters of three provinces meet,
and, sailing down several hundred miles to
Wenchow (Cheh Kiang), met enormous fleets of

226 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

Foochow salt boats actually working their
way up from behind, as it were, to the northern
and inland frontiers of Fuh Kien. From in-
quiries made I found that a huge trade of 70,000
tons a year — that is, much more than the total
official trade — was connived at by the sagacious
likin officials of Cheh Kiang. French statistics
place the salt consum.ption of all Indo-China in
1889 at 150,000 tons, so that my conjectural
figures may not be far from the mark, having
in view the comparative areas of Indo-China
and the region served as explained.

Following our way up the coast, we now
reach the next province of Cheh Kiang, which,
for the purposes of its salt administration, is
still divided into East and West Cheh. This
nomenclature takes us back to times when one
of the Yang-tsze embouchures entered the sea
at Hangchow, and a considerable part of the
very modern province of Kiang Sti was included
in the Cheh regions. In the year 1132, what
was called the Hwai-Cheh salt system or systems
was put on an Excise basis. From Shanghai,
all down the coast-half of the province to the Fuh
Kien frontier, was the division of Eastern Cheh;
and the inner portion, including Chinkiang,
Nanking, and Hangchow, was the division of
Western Cheh, as already partly explained in the
chapter on " Population." Just as in England
our ancient dioceses overlap more modern
administrative boundaries, so in China, for grain
and salt purposes, the obsolete divisions of Kiang
Nan and Two Cheh are still in use, though
Kiang Nan has become two provinces, and the
Two Cheh have become one. As the area of
supply is large, there is a First Class Commis-
sioner in charge of it, in Manchu times under
the nominal supreme direction of the Governor
at Hangchow; and there were thirty-nine sub-

A.D. 1900-1910] SEA SALT OF CHEH KIANG 227

ordinates at the various distributing depots.
As in the case of the two industries already
described, the salt is nearly all, if not all, sea-
salt, collected and treated under varying con-
ditions and in different ways at certain centres
along the coast. During the Taiping rebellion
this salt also took advantage of the general
disorganisation of transport to encroach upon
the Hwai monopoly ; it went far up the Yang-
tsze, and even down the Poyang Lake. But
nearly a century back I find " Fychow " (Hwei-
chou Fu in An Hwei) already consuming the
West Cheh article ; this exceptional arrangement,
which perhaps is an ancient one, is easily ex-
plained by taking a glance on a good map at the
river system, and reflecting that teas from the
same region were driven in 1899-1900 by likin
exactions from Kewkiang to Ningpo. There is
another corner of An Hwei province (Kwang-teh),
and also a wedge of Kiang Si (Kwang-sin)
similarly included in the Two Cheh system, but
without the justification in either case of a
river source. All Kiang Su south of the Great
River is included, except the extensive prefec-
ture of Nanking. There are special arrange-
ments for the two islands of Ting-hai and
Ch'ungming (which latter produces salt of its
own too), into which, however, I need not enter
here, as my object is m.erely to sketch general
principles. After the Japanese war and the
conseqvient foreign loans, it was found necessary
here and elsewhere to increase the consumers'
price of salt, and of course this added something
to the general feeling of discontent and unrest
then already prevailing in China. For 1899 I
estimated the Two Cheh salt revenue at 1,000,000
taels ; for 1911 it was nearer 3,500,000 taels.

The great organisation known as the Two
Hwai — that is, the Northern and Southern

228 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xl

divisions of the Hwai River (which, owing to
Yellow River vagaries, now only exists in a
truncated or mouthless condition) — is, as I
stated in the earlier editions, well worthy the
attention of a British syndicate, and, indeed,
forms the basis of Sir Richard Dane's highly
successful reforms now astonishing the world.
The more the Yellow River (and fresh water
generally) can be kept away, the better for the
salt flats ; and the Chinese engineers of the
Hwai are almost as expert as the Dutch manipu-
lators of the Zuider Zee dykes in regulating the
levels of competing waters. It will be seen
from any tolerably good map that the whole of
Kiang Su north of the Great River and east
of the Canal is a dreary flat, and a great prtioon
of this land is very lightly taxed, owing to its
brackishness, and to its inability to grow other
crops than rushes. Here lie all the celebrated
salt flats of the Hwai, and the business distinc-
tions of North and South, whatever they origin-
ally meant, now refer chiefly to difference of
origin, colour, and treatment in the trade article,
together with capriciously demarcated respec-
tive areas of consumption, which are apt to
vary a little when one or the other kind of
salt runs short in its own " preserve." The
Niichen Tartars and the Sung dynasty, nearly
1,000 years ago, used to have a customs and
salt station on the Hwai. Since the great
Taiping rebellion, the whole system has been
completely reorganised by a succession of very
able viceroys ruling at Nanking. Their chief
aim was how to regain for the Hwai interest the
area lost during the wars and rebellions of
1855-65, and how to establish an Ausgleich, or
modus Vivendi, with the immense salt-well expor-
tation from Sz Ch'wan, so as to leave the latter
a fair share of the consumers' ground which

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 19 of 35)