Gilbert Reid.

China, captive or free? A study of China's entanglements online

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of a League of Nations but of the Treaty of Peace. The
Treaty was the first-fruits of the League. That Treaty
compelled Germany to renounce all that was hers in Shan-
tung in favour of Japan. And China was deserted. "By
their fruits ye shall know them." 1

It was said that compromise was unavoidable. But on
matters of principle there can be no compromise. This

1 See Appendix V.


Treaty, as a lesson to Germany, was to be a treaty of justice.
High moral ideas had been proclaimed by the head of the
American nation and had been accepted by both sides in
the deadly conflict as a basis for negotiation. The Covenant
of a great League was drafted, safeguarding peace and up-
holding righteousness. And at the end the Chinese are told,
"Yes, we have all done wrong. There is no help for it.
We promise by an oath on the Covenant that we will not
wrong you in the future."

When the decision of April 30, 1919, was made known to
the Chinese delegation, and consolation was offered in the
remedial powers of the League of Nations, if the Chinese
only remained patient, one of the delegates gave this apt
reply :

Sirs, your assurances do not give us any ground for hope. In
the first place the League of Nations as yet has no existence;
secondly, if it is organized its power and authority are prob-
lematical; thirdly, in any event the real ruling power of the
League will be the same nations that made the decision in the
Shantung case and wrote the terms of the Treaty and the Cove-
nant of the League; fourthly, it is not logical to assume that a
League that is created in conjunction with the Treaty, and by the
same body, is intended to reverse the provisions of that Treaty;
fifthly, it is only the weak nations that are told to depend on the
League for justice, while the strong Powers refuse to depend on
it for their own security and rights, but state openly that other
guarantees are necessary.

What happened a few days later when the Treaty, em-
bodying the Covenant, was signed, is that the Chinese dele-
gates, having been humiliated and wronged, were absent,
and all because their requests as to how they r-ould sign in
honour and self-respect were spurned as had been all their
requests at the Peace Table before the Supreme Council.
I quote the Chinese Statement to President Wilson, June
28, 1919:


Our country has given way step by step in our claim. At first,
we wanted to embody a reservation in the Treaty itself; it was not
granted. Then we modified our demand to mentioning it in an
annex; it was also disallowed. We further asked that a declara-
tion guaranteeing restitution be given us independently of the
Treaty; again not granted. At last we even offered to accept a
mere declaration without any guarantee; our offer was again re-
jected. We were obliged to say that as a final compromise we
would accept a letter from each of the Great Powers, simply
stating that our signature on the Treaty would not prejudice any
readjustment that we might propose in the future. Up to this
noon all our requests have been entirely rejected to our disap-
pointment. . . . It is to our surprise and indignation that the
Plenary Council should have acted in such an autocratic way,
without showing even an infinitesimal degree of consideration
toward the honour and dignity of our country.

China made many requests to the Peace Conference, and
from the standpoint of reason and the sense of right argued
well. China had, indeed, a hearing. Secret agreements
made by China's military faction and Japan were brought
to the light. China opposed Japan, antagonized Japan and
trusted America, Great Britain and France. After all this,
it is not China, but Japan in China, that is stronger than
before the war, yea, before the framing of that Treaty which
is to assure the world a reign of justice under lasting

Japan cannot alone be blamed. Even the United States
must be held responsible, especially the Executive Branch
of the Government. The American Minister in Peking for
more than two years buoyed China up with assurances of
American succour. The President of the United States,
chief exponent of right principle at the Peace Conference,
failed to satisfy China's hopes or the world's sense of jus-
tice. The whole procedure from February, 1917, to June,
1919, has been detrimental to American prestige and in-


fluence in China. The Japanese may be blamed, but not by

Having failed at Paris with the executive and diplomatic
agents of the three mighty nations whose word is law, a few
of the Chinese delegation had recourse to the United States
Senate, like a drowning man clutching at a straw. As
early as May, 1919, they urged the Senate to assist in se-
curing a revision of the Shantung settlement "by speedily
passing a resolution affirming the same to be inconsistent
with the national honour and interests of America, an in-
credible injustice to China, and a danger to the world
peace." After much agitation the Senate Committee of For-
eign Relations presented to the Senate a majority report
favouring as an amendment the substitution of "China"
for "Japan" in the three Articles 156, 157 and 158. With
my knowledge of the Oriental temperament, this drastic
alteration seems unnecessarily offensive to the Japanese,
while it will accomplish nothing for China.

Later on, November 18, 1919, the Senate adopted by a
majority vote fifteen reservations, the seventh of which
reads :

The United States withholds its assent to Articles 156, 157 and
158, and reserves full liberty of action with respect to any con-
troversy which may arise under said Articles between the Re-
public of China and the Empire of Japan.

Still later the words at the close referring to China and
Japan were omitted, and the reservation as such was again
adopted by a majority vote. Either form being linked with
all the other reservations and then with ratification of the
Treaty as thus modified requires a two-thirds vote to be
effective. The reservation, however, defends American
prestige in the estimation of the Chinese, and so far is a
patriotic move. But no one need suppose that China will


be rescued thereby from her present entanglements. If
China is rescued, it will not come from the Versailles
Treaty, even as thus modified, neither will salvation come, I
am sorry to admit, from the United States Government.
China's rescue depends, strange to say, on a changed

After all the discussion that has taken place, in the Sen-
ate, in the "White House, on many a platform and in the
secular and religious press, the conscientious-minded man
must be amazed at the way America's chief delegate at
Paris failed so conspicuously to match principle with prac-
tice. Such an one must all the more be amazed when he
sees the stand taken by the President, even in February,
1920, in reference to the Adriatic or Fiume question, and
how he remained indifferent on the Shantung or Tsingtao
question. Both questions concern two allies in the late war.
Both may equally well be settled by the same principles.
This is what the President promulgated February 10, 1920 :

The American Government, while no less generous in its desire
to accord to Italy every advantage to which she could offer any
proper claims, feels that it cannot sacrifice the principles for
which it entered the war to gratify the improper ambitions of one
of its associates, or to purchase a temporary appearance of calm
in the Adriatic at the price of a future world conflagration.

Substitute the word " Japan" for "Italy," and "Shan-
tung" for "the Adriatic," in the above, and the problem of
Eastern Asia is well stated.

Note also these words :

It [the American Government] is unwilling to recognize an
unjust settlement based on a secret treaty, the terms of which are
inconsistent with the new world conditions, or an unjust settle-
ment arrived at by employing that secret treaty as an instrument
of coercion.


Apply this to the China-Japan question, and what would
the plain Chinese reasonably infer? But the President
even more aptly, and without any change in language,
states the truth as adapted to China and Japan, just as well
as to Jugo-Slavia and Italy. The words may be pondered
as to whether their significance is the same in Eastern Asia
as in Southern Europe :

If substantial agreement on what is just and reasonable is
not to determine international issues; if the country possessing
the most endurance in pressing its demands rather than the coun-
try armed with a just cause is to gain the support of the Powers ;
if forcible seizure of coveted areas is to be permitted and con-
doned, and is to receive ultimate justification by creating a situa-
tion so difficult that decision favourable to the aggressor is
deemed a practical necessity; if deliberately incited ambition is,
under the name of national sentiment, to be rewarded at the
expense of the small and the weak; if, in a word, the old order
of things which brought so many evils on the world is to prevail,
then the time is not yet come when this Government can enter a
concert of powers, the very existence of wbicb must depend upon
a new spirit and a new order.

How the Chinese nation, yea, how the whole world would
be stirred with new moral vigor, if it could realize that such
words were to be applied as much to one question and to
one portion of humanity as to another ! If President Wil-
son has had a duty to speak positively to Italy and the
European Allies, how much greater his duty to warn Japan
and to help China, bearing in mind that it was the Amer-
ican Government which thrust the war issue into China and
assured the Chinese of the dawning everywhere of a new

It has been well said that nothing is settled until it is
settled right. And there are many wrong settlements in
this Treaty even more than in the League. The following


brave words of Dr. Felix Adler x form a fitting summing-up
on the basis of high ethics :

It is sometimes said that we must be satisfied with the begin-
nings of a League of Nations, and trust to future development
to improve it. But if it begins with the seeds of mischief in its
very constitution, future development can only serve to ripen the
evil seeds into full-blown fruition. It is said that half a loaf is
better than no bread, and that compromises are unavoidable. But
no bread is better than a fraction of a loaf if that fraction con-
tains poison; and compromise, while indispensable as to the
means by which policies and principles are effectuated, is wholly
inadmissible in respect to the principles themselves. To give
way in first-rate matters of principle is not to compromise but to

The great men of mighty nations, who were assembled
in Paris, in the memorable year, 1919, thought perhaps in
their hearts, as they arranged so delicately the sad obse-
quies for China, that she was now laid away to rest, never
again to breathe the breath of life.

China's national entity and her glory were indeed badly
shattered by the potentates of peace who met in Paris. But
was her life wholly extinct ? Is there hope for China in the

1 The Nation, May 24, 1919.



THE obsequies of China have taken place, but she is not yet
dead ; she is not even asleep. She has only suffered a severe
operation and is now convalescent.

The feeling of the Chinese over the decision reached at
the Paris Conference concerning the demands of China and
Japan is well expressed by a statement from a delegate to
Paris, the seventy-fourth descendant of Confucius, a state-''
ment sent out by the Associated Press from the home of
Confucius, September 6, 1919:

We trusted Mr. Wilson entirely too much. We sent a note to
President Wilson asking him how he could reconcile assurances he
had given to China before she had entered the war with the
decision. He sent a representative to us expressing his sorrow
and he suggested that he would help us when the League of Na-
tions was formed.

On the morning of the day set for the signing of the Treaty,
after China had been refused the right of signing with reserva-
tions, crowds of students patrolled in front of the hotel of Lou
Tseng-tsiang, our chief delegate, who had been suffering ill-health
and was again confined to his bed. The question of signing had
not been decided when the delegates gathered in his room. He
was asked for the last time if he would consent to sign and he
replied with tears streaming from his eyes:

" I signed the Twenty-one Demands. Can I, must I, also sign
this?" It was the only answer he gave and the delegates under-
stood. That is why when the Conference was called to order the
seats of the Chinese were vacant.



Facts are hard things to face, but they must be faced by
China if she hopes for rehabilitation, prosperity and con-
tentment. Facts are of the past and shape the destiny of
the future. That is the reason so few Chinese are hopeful.
They feel themselves in bondage to Fate, for facts are fatal-
istic. A fait accompli is irreversible. Wrongdoing, more
of the nation than of the individual, cannot be wiped out,
though it may be condoned or forgiven. Wrong done to a
nation to China, for example is a blow, not only at na-
tional existence, but at the indispensable quality of hope-
fulness. There is not any such thing as return to status
quo ante. Considering, then, what has happened to China
these last five years, all the calamities unnecessarily im-
posed upon her by outside nations, how can we Westerners
expect to find buoyant, sanguine, joyful Chinese?

The people of China through hereditary influences are
stoical and patient. They bow to the inevitable. Let me
give to them, and to every one else interested in China's
future, this philosophy of an ancient Greek Stoic: "When
what thou wiliest befalls not, thou then must will what be-
falleth. " To this let me add the philosophy of Christian-
ity, that over all is a kind Providence, overruling evil,
' ' making the wrath of man to praise Him, ' ' and so shaping
human events that for him who follows the will of God
"all things work together for good." As I look at events
that have just hurried by, this philosophy is the only con-
solation and stay for the millions of China, distracted and
keenly disappointed. "Some trust in horses and some in
chariots" some in Governments and some in Presidents
but, let the Chinese now say, "we will trust in the Lord
our God." On the negative side, the Chinese will do well
if they no longer look for succour to outside nations, not
even to the American Government, and on the positive
side, let them rely on Heaven and then on themselves.
"Heaven," it is said, "helps those who help themselves."


A people who have pushed ahead for so many centuries are
not going to be wiped off the map. A few selfish, grabbing,
callous officials have not the power to write over China,
"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." If China escaped the
fatality of the Boxer folly, how much more is it possible
to escape the fatality of the Great War's folly. China,
indeed, presents a bewildering maze, but no more so than
most of the countries of Europe. ''Where there's a will,
there's a way."

A correspondent of the Far-Eastern Bureau writes : " It
is unfair to say that China must suffer because 'it is her
own fault/ and 'China ought to help herself.' ' He then
proceeds to denounce Japan for solitary, outstanding culpa-
bility. In my opinion, China, to be sure, "ought to help
herself, ' ' and she will suffer not must suffer because it is
partly "her own fault." Let not the Chinese any more
than others be imposed upon by the fallacies of self-com-
placency. As for their sufferings, there is a way of escape.

In giving a forecast of China's future, I outline in part
what is probable and in part what is possible.

In general, all the elements that have brought misfortune
to China and that retard the free action of China's devel-
opment, should be reversed in the reconstructive policies of
the future. It is not restoration going back to the past
that is needed in China, but reconstruction a remodelling,
the building of a new structure.

(1) In particular, in this new structure, there must
dwell a new soul, vivified by the highest moral energies.
During the war period, and even from the overthrow of
an alien dynasty in the first revolution of 1911, the Chinese
have laid emphasis on the unessential and subsidiary qual-
ities of national prosperity, rather than on the essence of
the inner life. And, unfortunately, this attitude of mind
has been encouraged by outside environment. The Chinese
have been thinking, discussing, wrangling about such mat-


ters as forms of State a monarchy or a republic, parlia-
mentary government, centralization in the President or the
Cabinet, and provincial autonomy. They have divided
into two opposing factions over the war issue, and then over
militarism versus democracy. All the time corruption has
been rampant in the government. Persuasion to action by
the free use of money played a part when China severed
relations with Germany, and later in the negotiations of
1918 between China and Japan over loans and concessions,
the sale of arms and military conventions.

"China," says an American resident in Shantung, "the
land richest in natural resources, richest in territory, has
already become the power of heartless, militaristic Japan,
sold out to her by her own corrupt militaristic clique, sedu-
lously, incessantly solicited with Japanese gold." 1

If Japan and other countries, in their war-propaganda,
in their political ambitions or through military necessity
and commercial advantages, have appealed to the baser in-
stincts of Chinese officialdom, and are to this degree blame-
worthy, the Chinese themselves must bear the blame for a
quick readiness to be enticed, and for the existing enslave-
ment that appalls the Chinese mind. Conservative officials
of the old-time regime, though prejudiced against foreign
innovations and the material improvements of the Western
world, were as a whole more upright, patriotic and public-
spirited than the new type of progressive officials. I regard
the crux of the question of China's permanency to rest
with this moral factor.

The China Press, an American paper in Shanghai, for
June 10, 1919, used these words:

First and foremost, if China is ever to rise out of her present
shameful condition, every one of her sons must be taught that
treason to his country is man's greatest crime. . . . The Peking

1 Far-Eastern Fortnight^, September 29, 1919.


officials have not only sold the wealth of the country, but they
have betrayed her integrity. The worst enemies of China are not
in Tokio but in Peking.

It is not political reform or any kind of superficial, ma-
terial reform that can save China in her present entangle-
ments; it must be a downright moral reform, it must be
spiritual reformation. Here is a task for Christian mis-
sionaries; they have had their interlude of magnifying
war, let them now revert to fundamental principles of the
religious consciousness. And the Chinese will respond. No
greater opportunity for appeal to the conscience, to reason,
to the sense of fairness, exists anywhere than among the
Chinese people. Their future is promising, if they with the
aid of foreigners build their new structure with righteous-
ness as the corner-stone.

(2) China's future lies in the abandonment of militar-
istic methods and in the pursuit of peace and international
conciliation. If there is any one object which Americans,
and to a certain extent the Allied peoples, have proclaimed
to the world more than any other, it is the overthrow of
Prussian militarism. But men are learning gradually that
some other tag beside "Prussian" must be affixed to that
enemy of mankind, militarism. In reality the Allied na-
tions have been more keen on destroying the Prussian
species of the genus militarism than in destroying the genus
itself. It is recognized that the strongest Allied nation in
the Orient has been Japan, and that Japan is the prototype
both of militarism and of its Prussian form. It must also
be recognized that Japan, because of her superiority in a
military way, has been accoided a permanent position in
the Supreme Council of the League of Nations as "one of
the five great Powers. " Is it anj wonder, then, that young
Chinese, fired with a new national spirit, should come to
believe that China, in order to be preserved, must also bs-


come military? Prof. John Dewey, writing of the con-
ditions in China after the war, says : 1

At present the militaristic faction whose power was confirmed
by the happenings of the summer of 1917 is still in control of the
government. . . . They have welcomed the demonstration offered
at Paris that Might still makes Right in the case of weak nations,
so that in a strange and subtle way the diplomatic victory of
Japan in particular and of imperialism in general has been a
vindication of their own anti-democratic and militaristic policy.

One of the younger class in China, a representative at
Paris of the Canton Government and of Christian adher-
ents, in a speech in New York City, July 25, 1919, spoke
these sensible words:

We hope our defeat will serve to arouse the sentiment of all
China, to the end that she will depend upon herself and that her
sorrow will be her national salvation. The war started as a
conflict of Right over Might, but I do not see that the end of the
war justifies that idea. Germany is crushed, but there is another
Germany in the Far East, and perhaps this will not be the last
war, for there surely will be another if justice is not done now.

It would have been better, so far as China is concerned,
if Americans and other democratic peoples, instead of con-
centrating their energies and hate on the overthrow of
Germany had fought for the overthrow of militarism and
had refused for any reason to give any countenance to it,
whether found in Germany, in Japan, or in the military
faction, the governing body of China. By the support given
to such a body of men in China by such nations as the
United States and Great Britain, and by China 's participa-
tion in the war and her advocacy of all kinds of war-meas-
ures, the view now held is that China, too, must build up

1 The New Republic, September 10, 1919.


a strong army and navy, in order to find a place in the
family of nations, and perhaps later on become one of a
future Big Six in the Supreme Council of the world. But
this view is superficial. The craze for war and disbelief in
the power of ideas cannot last forever. Even the Covenant
of the League intimates a coming universal disarmament,
making a start with the Central Powers. Let the Chinese
consider how much greater the gain of their country would
have been, if they had remained at peace at home and
abroad and had pursued all peaceful pursuits. Their dire-
ful experiences from the war should make them turn away
from war in disgust, and forego hereafter the military am-
bition. That extreme lover of universal peace termed a
pacifist may be a fool in virile America, but he fits in well
to life in China, where the indigenous religion known as
Taoism teaches both pacifism and passive-ism.

Let it be borne in mind that if China should begin to
spend millions on a vast army and a strong navy as a dis-
tinctively national movement, the Japanese under existing
conditions would assume direction, or, in case of a navy,
would wait until it became a valuable prize and then cap-
ture it. Or, if China should join with Japan in a defensive
and offensive military alliance, the development of China's
military capacity under Japanese guidance would prove
the menace of the future and the opening of the next war.
Is this to be the result of the world's wisdom which arises
from the horrors of the last World "War ? Are the Chinese
to continue to be infatuated by the war spirit and along
this line go to their doom?

(3) There are great possibilities for China if reunion is
brought about by the opposing governments centred in Pe-
king and Canton, and commonly designated as the North
and the South. The fourth revolution of China has been

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Online LibraryGilbert ReidChina, captive or free? A study of China's entanglements → online text (page 16 of 26)