Edward Harper Parker.

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

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latter ultimately involved China in triangular
difficulties with ourselves and France (1894-5).
In 1891 the Siberian railway (the Tashkend
extension of which had already attracted China's
uneasy attention in 1881) was inaugurated at
its far- eastern end by the present Czar, and
simultaneously Count Cassini appeared upon the
scene at Peking. For some years since the Port
Hamilton bungle of 1886, things had smouldered
in comparative quiet in Corea, but China's general
attitude had meanwhile become somewhat
aggressive, haughty, and notably anti-missionary,
after Admiral Lang — a British Captain, lent to
China — had shown the dragon flag in the
southern and Japanese seas ; she had lost
foreign sympathy. In 1894 the sudden out-
break of the Sino-Japanese war, however, took
every one by surprise, culminating, as it did, in
the crushing defeat of China, the destruction of
her fleet for the second time, and the loss of
Formosa : Germany, notwithstanding, success-
fully engineered a joint effort with Russia and
France to secure Japan's renunciation of the
Liao Tung peninsula point of vantage ; but Japan
held on to Wei-hai Wei, on the mainland oppo-
site, as security for the fulfilment of other peace-
treaty conditions ; and now began the first of
those heavy foreign borrowings which have since
landed China into such financial embarrassment.


Li Hung-chang, after settling matters with
Japan, proceeded to Europe and America in
1896 to see what he could do there to mend
matters politically ; as he was still burning with
a sense of personal and patriotic humiliation at
his diplomatic defeat by Count Ito in Japan, it
seems certain that he must have had a large
share (probably when in Russia) in the concoc-
tion of the Cassini treaty concluded at Peking
that autumn : indeed, he was appointed on his
return to assist at the Foreign Office only a day
or two after its conclusion. In a secret clause
of that treaty certain preferential "options" at
Kiao Chou (never published, I think, except in
Chinese) were granted to Russia.

Meanwhile Germany, as "honest broker" in
the Liao Tung affair, had received no reward ;
but at an interview with the Czar about that
time, William the Second seems to have twisted
some sort of an acquiescence out of the Kiao Chou
discussion with the Czar and Prince Lobanoff or
his successor (just before or shortly after that
statesman's death in August 1906), which, on the
murder of some German missionaries in 1897, he
treated as part justification for his audacious
seizure of what was a secret option rather than
an admitted Russian " right " ; and thus we find
Germany plumped down almost exactly opposite
the commanding spot on which she had hypo-
critically objected to the Japanese presence.
Russia was therefore not long before she found
an excuse for leasing the coveted Port Arthur.
Japan's security hold on Wei-hai Wei being now
liquidated, China, ever ready to set one barbarian
against the other, agreed in May 1898 that Japan
should hand it over to Great Britain for as long
as Russia held Port Arthur; and, moreover,
the mainland territory opposite Hongkong was
largely extended for Great Britain's benefit.


Meanwhile in April the French had taken
" French " leave and secured a free port, with
Hinterland, in the extreme south ; and even the
Italians were claiming countervailing coastal con-
cessions between Ningpo and Foochow (success-
fully resisted). Thus abject China had almost
resigned herself to the " melon-slicing" or spheres
of influence process when the young Emperor,
under the vivifying influence of the Cantonese re-
former K'ang Yu-wei, suddenly took every one's
breath away by launching a series of revolutionary
edicts with the object of shaking up China from
her lethargy ; but, as to popular representation,
there had been, up to this date, no visible demand
for it ; reform was inspired from above. There
was really nothing amiss about the matter of
this reform ; it was rather the abrupt manner
of the move that roused conservative and pocket
interests to hostility. The old Dowager, who
had long retired with her eunuchs to an inoffen-
sive otium cum dignitate, now angrily emerged
from her seclusion. K'ang Yu-wei and the
Emperor tried to suppress her, and enlisted the
aid of Yiian Shi-k'ai (who since the disastrous
Japanese war had been training up an effective
army near Tientsin). But instead of murdering
the Dowager's nephew the Viceroy Jungluh,
Yiian made to him, as his military chief, a clean
breast of the business ; the Viceroy hastened to
Peking ; the Emiperor was placed under sur-
veillance ; the Dowager assumed charge once
more ; and all the premature reforms were
summarily annulled. But with these suspicious
events a glimmering of true patriotic feeling,
coupled with sympathy for the Manchu Emperor,
had now begun to possess even the Chinese
mind ; to which must be added a sentiment of
disgust at Manchu cabinet's incapacity to de-
fend the integrity of an ancient empire against

A.D. 1898-1902] THREE GOOD VICEROYS 369

foreign aggression in the same way that the
Japanese had done for themselves.

This indefinite bitter feeling culminated in the
ill-conceived " Boxer " revolt, which was simply
an inarticulate protest and an arms-taking
against the sea of troubles mistily visualised.
Practically it ended in the " Boxers " saying to
the dynasty : — "Clear these (European) foreigners
out, or get out yourselves." It was this
consciousness of a quandary that forced the
Dowager to adopt the hedging or " run with the
hare and hunt w4th the hounds " attitude that
proved so mystifying to onlookers during the
Legation siege. Her sanest adviser close at hand
was Jungluh. Fortunately the experienced as
well as extremely sane viceroys of the Yangtsze
valley, co-operating with Governor Yiian Sh'i-
k'ai of Shantung province, saved the situation
beyond the bounds of Peking just in time ; and
after the Legation relief in the autumn of 1900
it was the task of the veteran Li Hung-chang to
cobble up the best peace he could with the
assembly of eleven foreign envoys at Peking.
But, after indulging in this egregious dance,
China had naturally to pay the piper, the neces-?
sary huge foreign loans of course increasing her
permanent commitments to an enormous extent.
On return in 1901 from her self-imposed exile
in West China, the Dowager set industriously to
work upon real reform, military, judicial, finan-
cial, administrative, and what not, acting chiefly
under the earnest and detailed exhortations of
the two Yangtsze viceroys Liu K'un-yih and
Chang Chi-tung above referred to.

Meanwhile Yiian Shi-k'ai, who on Li Hung-
chang' s death had become Viceroy at Tientsin,
and had seen with his own eyes how well
foreigners administered that place, showed an
excellent example by putting locally into prac-


tical effect a number of foreign methods, coupled
with genuine reforms. At Peking a thorough
investigation into constitutional principles was
made, with a decided bias in favour of the
limited German and Japanese types. The
Dowager herself gradually followed the lines
taken in 1898 by the rash young Emperor she
had ruthlessly put in the background, and by
1906-1907 not only was a Constitution promised
within nine years, but effective armies were
created, a free press spread general intelligence,
and China was rapidly being covered with a
network of business-like railways. The fierce
war of 1904-5 between Russia and Japan had
meanwhile practically left China proper un-
touched, and indeed had given her as a tertia
gaudens a welcome respite of breathing time ;
as for Manchuria, which economically scarcely
concerns — or then concerned- — China at all, it
had been for a time quietly abandoned or
ignored as a heaven-sent cockpit for the two
formidable com.batant neighbours. China's official
history scarcely mentions the war ! It was quite
a coincidence and not by calculation that Great
Britain — since 1902 an ally of Japan — also
found 1904 a convenient year for settling her
accumulated disputes with Tibet about rival
influences there, and so far from " grabbing "
anything for herself beyond the long- stipulated
frontier trade, she really placed Manchu authority
in Tibet in a stronger position than it had been
for some years ; in fact, the way was left almost
too generously open for the reconstitution of
Chinese suzerainty during the four years of the
Dalai Lama's flight, and a fair understanding
with Russia was arrived at besides.

But now we come to the more immediate
causes of the revolution of 1911, the brewing of
which, as we have seen, had been in reality

A.D. 1908-1915] A GIGANTIC BLUNDP^R 371

going on steadily ever since the fringes of China
— Corea, Manchuria, Formosa, Annam, Burma,
Tibet, and part of Hi in turn — liad either
dropped off or been lopped off. The Dowager-
Empress and the Emperor unexpectedly died
within a few hours of each other, and whilst the
forgiven but unrepentant Dalai, on his way back
to Tibet, was actually on the spot in Peking to
see things for himself and contribute his prayers
for the im^perial souls. Instead of continuing
to utilise Yiian Shi-k'ai's services in conjunction
with those of the surviving elder statesmen at
Peking, the late Emperor's brother and wife
(the Regent and the new Dowager) unfortun-
ately soon succumbed to a vindictive palace
intrigue, having for its main object the avenging
of the late Emperor's 1898 failure ; and thus
the only rem.aining statesman in China who had
had practical dealings with the representatives
of all nations, and had been able to test in the
actual working improved administrative and
military measures based on foreign concrete
examples, was relegated under a silly pretext to
private obscurity.

The master hand having been thus removed,
the new provincial councils began to meddle,
and attempts were made to speed up the
National Assembly temporarily acting for the
Parliament promised for 1915. Moreover, the
newly created foreign-drilled armies rapidly dis-
covered that they possessed a coherence and a
dignity vis-a-vis of civilians they had never en-
joyed before. This unwelcome military pro-
vincialism, particularly in railway management,
coupled with the perception of its ominous
political importance, made the Manchus on the
one hand as eager for central control as the
provinces on the other were determined for
local management : the attempt on the part of


the Imperial Government to place Manchu
princes in control of military, naval, and other
departments might have succeeded if these
young men had exhibited adequate strength of
character. Financial reforms were nullified by
rival central and provincial claims to likiUf
which, so far from being abolished as stipulated
under the Mackay treaty of 1902, was actually
used more and more by short-sighted foreign
financiers as a security for further loans. Thus
many local leaders of the Chinese people, at first
sympathetically inclined towards the Regent,
his infant son the new Emperor, and the new
Dowager-Empress (widow of the late Emperor,
the Regent's brother), gradually began to despair
of ever obtaining the promised Constitution,
and shrank back with horror at the prospect of
effective central military and railway control
riveting their loosened chains to Peking corrup-
tion once more ; the National Assembly actually
did meet in 1910, and a programme of graduated
work was sanctioned, the Emperor, however,
remaining " above the law, but living within
the law," like Justinian of old and the Emperor
of Japan anew.

So, when the Hankow-Wu-ch'ang revolution
prematurely broke out in the autumn of 1911
(October 10), the cry of "Away with the
Manchus " raised there was immediately caught
up by the provinces generally ; Sun Yat-sen
and the exiled republicans of 1898 hurried back
to China with all speed ; and then, as a last
hope, the Manchu government, in their conster-
nation, appealed perforce to the very man they
had flouted in 1909, begging him to come back
and save the situation. This on pressure he at
once loyally attempted to do, first as Viceroy
of Hu Kwang (the two lake provinces) and with
combined powers as Generalissimo for the whole

A.D. 1911-1912] VAE VICTIS! 373

Yang-tsze valley, and then as Premier at Peking
(13th November), where again he was at once
placed in supreme command over all the metro-
politan forces.

Meanwhile as anarchical war was still going
on or threatening in the provinces, with a pro-
fessed view to stopping bloodshed, the baby
Emperor under the Dowager's and Regent's
direction announced to the spirits of his ancestors
(26 November) the Magna Charta of nineteen
articles which the Senate or Deliberative Parlia-
ment (Tsz-cheng Yiian) had passed on 2nd Novem-
ber, and as a further act of propitiation all
Manchu princes Avere removed from high mili-
tary and naval command. On 6th December
the Regent gave up his seals of office, and the
next day an imperial decree, countersigned by
all the heads of departments, sanctioned the
cutting off of the Manchu queue, and likewise
the discussion of a Western or solar in place of
the ancient lunar-solar Calendar. On the 28th
December an edict of the Dowager-Empress,
bearing the imperial seal and countersigned by
all departmental ministers, left it to an Emer-
gency Parliament {Lin-sh'i Kwoh-hui) to decide
whether the new form of constitutional govern-
ment should be monarchical (Kiin-chu) or re-
publican (Kung-ho). However, all these and
many other desperate efforts to save the dynasty
were of no avail, and the very last imperial
decrees, dated 11th February, but issued the
12th February, announced that the Dowager-
Empress and the Emperor had form.ally abdi-
cated under agreed conditions then fully set
out : it is characteristic that the deceased old
Dowager's brother Kweisiang was, as though by
a Parthian shot, at the same moment appointed
to a lucrative post in the Peking Octroi (he died
in the following December).


On the 13th Yiian Shi-k'ai issued his first
mandate as " Plenipotentiary to function as
Emergency President of the Repubhcan {Kung-
ho) Government," from which circumstance it
stands out plainly as an historical fact that, in
technical form at least, the Republic was not a
self-creation, but the result of an act of imperial
grace. The following day tlie Hawaiian-born
Cantonese Sun Yat-sen, vv^ho had arrived in
Shanghai on the 26th and been elected President
on 29th December (elected at Nanking, but
election sanctioned by the Shanghai delegates),
telegraphed his congratulations to Yiian and, with
the Nanking Assembly's approval, announced
his willingness to resign ; his Vice-president Li
Yiian-hung also sent from Wu-ch'ang a friendly
message, and promised to arrange with Nanking
for a conference : the official gazette of the
17th February (30th of the 12th moon) contained
an announcement that Yuan Shi-k'ai had tele-
graphed (presumably on the 29th) a reply to
Sun Yat-sen and to the Nanking Assembly
{Ts^an-i Yiian); and in the gazette of the 1st
moon (cyclic year, not reign year), but dated
30th of the 12th moon, appeared an announce-
ment from " the newly elected President Yiian "
to the effect that " we must now use the first
day of the purely solar year, jen-tsz, of the endless
cycle, and style it the 18th day of the second
month of the first year of the Chinese Republic "
(Chung-hwa Min-kwoh). These details are his-
torically important in view of the fact that
Li Yiian-hung had in October already used the
endless cyclic era beginning conventionally with
the mythical Emperor Hwang Ti (2697 B.C.),
and had styled a.d. 1911 "the 4609th year of
Hwang Ti."

Thus also it is historically recorded how, by
ingenious manipulation, Yiian Shi-k'ai succeeded

A.D. 1912] VIVAT RES PUBLICA ! 375

in getting rid of the Manchu dynasty on dignified
terms agreeable to the Manchu princes them-
selves ; how the Manchu dynasty, ignoring the
Nanking Republic, created the Republic in a
voluntary way through their own plenipoten-
tiary agent Yiian ; and how Yiian in turn
never took any notice of the new love at Nan-
king till he was clearly off with the old love at
Peking ; Nanking making the first advances to
him, he himself as the " newly elected " (inferen-
tially by Nanking included) in the plenitude of,
his powers establishing a Min-kwoh, which was
neither monarchical (Kiln-chu) nor Kung-ho as
suggested by the Emergency Parliament on
28th December. It is necessary to emphasise
the exact bearing of all these points, in order
to bring out the generation of the Chinese
Republic in its true historical light.

At the end of February a serious military
revolt, accompanied by looting, broke out at
Peking, to the personal hum.iliation of the
President, whose position had really been upheld
by these very men's support : it was suppressed
with difficulty, and not on creditable terms :
it formed, however, a fair pretext for Yiian' s
declining to proceed to Nanking for investiture,
as he had to " preserve order " at Peking.
On 10th March Yiian Shi-k'ai was formally and
duly installed as President, took the oath of
fidelity to the Republic in the presence of the
Nanking delegates, the Army chiefs, the Manchu,
Mongol, Tibetan, and Turki representatives,
the Foreign Custom.s and Post-office officials,
and the European, Japanese, and American
journalists : the yoh-fah ( = concise law) or
Constitution of fifty-six Articles as drawn up
by Li Yiian-hung at Wu-ch'ang in December and
adopted, with him as Vice-president, by tlie
Nanking republic, seems to have been promul-


gated as part of what on 10th March the new
President swore to maintain ; the defect in this
hastily drawn-up document was that it had been
draughted by neo-Chinese, i.e. by men more
ignorant of Chinese administrative history and
practice than competent to introduce theoretical
European reforms ; and tliis absence of experi-
enced northern deliberative concurrence natur-
ally kept open the cleft between the conserva-
tive or northern and the ultra-radical or southern
elemicnts ; these latter were represented by the
T^ ung-7neng Hwei or " United League Associa-
tion," founded by Sun Yat-sen and [General ^]
Hwang Hing shortly after the " Boxer " humilia-
tion of 1901, but afterwards known as the
Kwoh-min Tang or " Popular Party," under
which name after Yiian's installation it deliber-
ately set to work, by m.eans of the two-thirds
vote rule, to thwart the action both of the new
President and of his provisional Parliamxcnt.

Meanwhile Yiian's old Corea henchman T'ang
Shao-i (now enrolled as a member of the United
League) as Premier had formed a ministry ;
Hwang Hing had been propitiated with the
post of Chief-of-the-Staff, also with the rank
of Field-Marshal to maintain order in the
Yang-tsze Valley; and an important railway
inspectorship had been invented in order to
conciliate the disappointed Sun Yat-sen, who
was evidently waiting for a " job," as he does
not appear to have formally abandoned his
southern presidency until a little later, i.e. on
29th March. No doubt it was under the restraint
of this inconvenient covert opposition that Yiian
on 19th March issued his " scrap of paper,"
denouncing by " mandate " those misguided per-
sons who advised a return to monarchy, and

^ Died as such towards the end of 1916, and buried with the
highest ofificial honours as a good patriot.

A.D. 1912] TOO MANY COOKS 377

referring once more to his solemn oath of fidehty
to the Kung-ho principle. On 13th April the
Vice-president Li Yiian-lmng, though remaining
at Wu-ch'ang, was made Chief-of-the-Staff, and
a mandate recommended the " five races " com-
posing the Chinese dominion {cf. p. 375) to take
advantage of the new privilege of intermarriage :
one more effort was made also to secure the aboli-
tion of the barbarous " squeezed feet " custom
amongst purely Chinese females. The temporary
Parliament now gave way to a National Assembly
or Advisory Council (Ts'an-i Yuan) of more man-
ageable proportions. A few revolts or rebellions,
now of the mihtary discontents, or anon the " last
ditchers " of the Manchu Party, in several pro-
vinces, were quelled without much difficulty one
after the other ; but still the civil agitators of
the United League displayed persistent hostility
at Peking, where the northerners or conserva-
tives had, notwithstanding, at last succeeded in
reversing the practical balance of power.

For some time attention was now concentrated
upon foreign loan negotiations ; the question
of what military and naval flags should be
adopted was finally settled ; and presidential
mandates once more dealt seriously with the
necessity of getting rid of the opium curse.
Then there were difficulties with Tibet and Outer
Mongolia, both of which territories had at an
early stage declared their independence ; similar
tendencies manifested themselves in Chinese
Turkestan and the Tarim valley. T'ang Shao-i,
harassed by United League squabbles, soon got
tired of his premiership, from which he quietly
" walked away " one day; as he did so narrowly
escaping assassination by a political crank at
Tientsin. Meanwhile, talk became more general in
China about the advantages of a Dictatorship, if
only in order to put a stop to this eternal parlia-


mentary wrangling ; at the same time it must
be allowed that Sun Yat-sen and Hwang Hing
had a hearty reception when they visited Peking
in August, though in view of the recent execu-
tion at Peking of two of their quondam military
friends they felt extremely uneasy as to their
own safety. On 10th January, 1913, Parlia-
ment (elected mysteriously) was announced to
meet in April, and it was amidst all these seeth-
ing intrigues that the second Dowager died
on 22nd February ; and after the assembly of
Parliament in April America and Mexico " re-
cognised " the Republic.

The murder at Shanghai of the Popular Party's
hero, Sung Kiao-jen, in March 1913, placed
Yiian Shi-k'ai in rather a suspicious position,
and perhaps it was as a consequence of the
general uneasy feeling as to his connivance that
in May a really serious revolt broke out once
more in the Yang-tsze provinces, the disgruntled
Hwang Hing joining hands in the fray, in open
declared war against Yiian' s growing pretensions ;
against Hwang & Co. was pitted by Yiian the re-
doubtable General Chang Hiin with his "pig-
tailed" army, which subsequently captured and
mercilessly sacked the city of Nanking. Chang
Hiin is one of the most curious and picturesque
products of the great revolution ; he had faith-
fully held Nanking for the Emperor in 1911
until, driven out by the republicans, he suc-
ceeded in escaping with his defending army to
the important land and water junction of Sii
Chou in North Kiang Su, one of the three or
four real hinges or pivot points of the whole
empire * ; emerging from this stronghold (where
he is still practically independent in 1917), he
assisted early in 1914 in the White Wolf
robber campaign, and ever since then he has,
by his jnonunciamentos upon " policy " generally,

1 c/. p. 252.

A.D. 1913-1914] OH ! WHAT A TANGLED WEB ! 379

been a danger to the best interests of public
order ; no one can get at him or round him.

But, to return to 1913. In the autunm Yiian
arrested certain members of both houses of
Parhament, and began to take strong measures
towards " controUing " recalcitrant votes. The
result of all this intriguing v/as that on 6th
October he was elected Permanent President, and
was solemnly inaugurated as such on the second
anniversary of the 1911 revolution, receiving in
due course the coveted recognition of the
" Powers " that chiefly mattered to him, i.e. the
European Powers and Japan. The Committee
charged to draft a new Constitution were so
obstinately impracticable, however, that the
result of their efforts by the beginning of Novem-
ber was only to clog still further the wheels of
real progress, and to chain President, Cabinet,
and Judiciary alike to the uncertainties of par-
liamentary caprice ; seeing which Yiian Shi-k'ai,
now firmly seated with the" desired foreign
support, summarily broke up the Popular Party
altogether, and by a sort of Pride's Purge drove

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 30 of 35)