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SIH-GUNG CHENG, M.A., B.Sc. (Econ.)






Oxford University Press

London Edinburgh Glasgow New Tork

Toronto Melbourne Cape To^in Bombay
Humphrey Milford Publisher to the University


This book is an attempt to deal with some of the im-
portant problems which confront the Chinese statesman and
diplomat, and those who have anything to do with China.
It has been the author's hope to give a true picture of
things in the Far East and to suggest constructive schemes
for every subject touched upon. He has tried to avoid
patriotic bias and to discuss politics with disinterestedness ;
and it is hoped that he has not altogether failed in his

The world has become small through the rapid means of
communication and through the economic interdependence
of its different parts, and it is certain that, before many
years have passed, a country with a territory extending
oyer four million square miles and with a population of
nearly four hundred millions, will play a far more important
part in the intellectual and economic developments of the
world than it does at present. It will indeed be most
gratifying to the author should this book afford some food
for thought to readers interested in human progress and
international relations.

Most of the chapters were written while the War was
still in progress, and that explains the present tense in
Sections 2 and 3 of Chapter 9 (on ' China in the War '
and on ' Chinese Labour '). Section i in the same chapter
has been revised since the Armistice, and again since the
signing of the Peace Treaty.

The Peace Conference, which required the author's

iv Preface

presence in Paris, has interrupted his work, and has made
it impossible for him to give reference notes to many of
the statements based on authoritative works or ofhcial
documents. He is leaving for America while these pages
go to the press and has to entrust the work of making
an index to his publishers, to whom he wishes to express
his thanks. To the numerous friends who have been
kind to him, and made him feel at home during his five
years' stay in Great Britain and France, it will be impossible
(if not out of place) to express individual thanks, but among
those who have been helpful to him in the preparation of
this work, he is deeply grateful to Viscount Bryce and to
Viscount Burnham for the valuable information they have
given him. He is equally indebted to Sir John Macdonell
(King's Remembrancer and Master of the Supreme Court),
to Sir Francis T. Piggott (late Chief Justice of Hong Kong),
to Professor Gilbert Murray (of Oxford University), to
Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson (of King's College, Cambridge),
and to Professor Graham Wallas (of London University),
for useful information and critical suggestions. One of
his countrymen, his Excellency Dr. V. K. Wellington Koo,
Chinese Minister at Washington and plenipotentiary
delegate to the Peace Conference, has taken great interest
in this work and it will be only fitting to record here the
deep esteem and respect which the author has long enter-
tained for the distinguished diplomat. To complete the
list of acknowledgements, it will be necessary to thank the
British Foreign Office Library for the loan of some Blue

S. G. Cheng.

August, 1919.






§ I. The Revolution ....... 12

§2. North and South 28


§ I. President . ....... 47

§ 2. Cabinet ........ 63

§ 3. Legislature ....... 89

§ 4. Judiciary . . . . . . . .110


§ r. Relation of the Central to the Provincial Governments 121
§ 2. Provincial Government and Government of Provin-
cial Subdivisions . . . . . • ijS








vi Contents


§ I. Kiaochovv Question ....
§ 2. China in the War ....

§ 3. Chinese Labour .....
§ 4. The Ascendancy of Japan in the Far East
§ 5. The Policy of the United States





§ 1. Political Outlook. ...... 299

§ 2. Foreign Policy ....... 305


1. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China . 316

2. Treaties respecting Shantung, South Manchuria and Eastern

Inner Mongolia, and Exchanges of Notes between China
and Japan, May 25, 1915 ...... 322

3. Documents relative to the Negotiations between Japan and

the Allied Powers as to the disposal of German rights in
respect of Shantung Province, and the South Sea Islands
north of the Equator ....... 341

4. Exchange of Notes between the Chinese Minister at Tokio

and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs respecting
the Construction of the Tsinanfu-Shunteh and the Kaomi-
Hsuchow Railways, September 24, 191 8 . . . 348

5. Preliminary Contract between China and Japan respecting

the Tsinanfu-Shunteh and the Kaomi-Hsuchow Railways,
September 24, 191 8 ....... 349

6. Exchange of Notes between the Chinese Minister at Tokio

and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs respecting
Adjustment of Questions concerning Shantung, Sep-
tember 24, 1918 352

Contents vii


7. Exchange of Notes between the Chinese Minister at Tokio

and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Afifairs for building
Four Railroads in Manchuria and Mongolia, September 24,
i9»8 354

8. Preliminary Contract for Loans to build Four Railroads in

Manchuria and Mongolia, September 28, 191 8 . . 355

g. Clauses of the Treaty of Peace with Germany, relating to
China, signed on June 28, 1919, by the Allied and Asso-
ciated Powers and Germany, but not by China . -358

INDEX . . . 365


Historical Conception of Chinese Government

In ancient times, when the Empire of China was not
larger than any one of its present-day provinces, the
Emperor was approachable to all, and there were facilities
for the people to express their opinions on the government
of the country and to give their advice. Thus, we find in
the Canon of History the following passages :

' Emperor Shun asks for advice in the regions of the
four sacred mountains. He throws open all the doors of
Communication between the Court and the Empire, and
seeks to see with the eyes of all and hear with the ears of
all.' 1

' Every year in the first month of spring, the herald
with his wooden-tongued bell goes along the roads in order
to let the people speak out their minds ; officials and
instructors all send in their admonitions to the Emperor ;
and workmen engaged in mechanical affairs remonstrate on
the subjects concerning their business.' ^

At the time of the Chou dynasty (1122-255 b.c), when
the Empire had been extended, it was no longer possible
for the Emperor to receive addresses from all his subjects.

^ Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. iii, pt. 1, p. 41.
- Ibid., vol. iii, pt. i, p. 164.
1832.13 „

2 Historical Conception of Chinese Government

A system of selection was then adopted which required the
headman of every village (Shang-lao) to recommend scholars
of distinction to the Government for employment in appro-
priate positions. At a later time the number of persons to
be recommended from a district was made proportional to
its population. The primary object of this recommendation
was to get men of talent for Government posts, but
incidentally it became a means through which the people
participated in the government. Scholars were believed
to be leaders of men and to understand their conditions
and wants. In employing them in Government service, the
Emperor was supposed to give the people representatives
to express their views and to conduct the government on
their behalf. The respect for scholars had always been
very great among the Chinese ; and their selection as
representatives was determined by previous achievements in
local politics and popularity in their own districts, which
popularity was created by ' their sincerity and faithfulness
in fulfilling their fraternal and filial duties ', in addition to
their scholastic skill. Moreover, the system of selection
was considered to be very democratic, because the field
was open to all who proved themselves intellectually
equipped for the task. To students of modern history and
political science it should perhaps be mentioned that, in
ancient times, there was no separation between the legis-
lative and the executive powers, and a participation in
government meant participation in both functions.

The system of recommendation was changed into com-
petitive examination in the sixth century a.d. during the
Sui dynasty. The qualifications required of candidates
were no longer notable achievements and distinguished con-
duct, but ability to recite classics and to compose poems

Historical Conception of Chinese Government 3

and prose. Fluent recitation and literary distinction were
no guarantee of capacity for government, and the repre-
sentative idea disappeared with the introduction of an
examination which was only a means of recruiting civil
servants. But it was still believed that the examination
embodied a democratic principle of government, because
it was open to candidates of all kinds, irrespective of their
faith, wealth, social standing, or family traditions, and
any one who was sufficiently intelligent to pass it had
a chance of participating in the government. But in
practice, it was difficult and laborious to remember classical
texts and to write good poems. An education in these
subjects was long and expensive. The result was that only
those who were comparatively well-to-do or, at any rate,
enjoyed some special advantages could afford to prepare
themselves for an examination. An ' intellectual ' aris-
tocracy was thus created which governed the country without
any regard to public sentiments, and the cleavage between
governors and governed became marked.

It was argued, however, that as the influence of the
Confucian classics was very strong over the Chinese —
stronger than that of Holy Scriptures in other countries —
it was the classical spirit that really governed China. In
fact, it has been said that even though Emperors and
officials of China were not restricted by any constitution
and not controlled by any representative assembly, the Con-
fucian classics took the place of a constitution and the
Confucian influence that of representative institutions. In
that sense, China was a constitutional monarchy of a perfect

1 This Is the argument of a compatriot of mine, told me by Professor
Graham Wallas.

B 2

4 Historical Conception of Chinese Government

Let us examine the truth of this statement in the light
of Chinese history.

First, it should be made clear that Confucian doctrines
could only be established by moral force, or in other words,
by the conscience of rulers. No physical force was available
except a revolt, which could not often take place. Human
nature is defective ; and human beings all the world over
have failed to live up to the ideals that religious prophets
have set before them, and no exception can be made of
the Chinese. According to the classics, ' only the virtuous
becomes Sovereign ', but, throughout the greater part of
Chinese history, Emperors were either impotent medio-
crities or intolerable despots, levying heavy taxes on the
people in order to enrich themselves. Some of them failed
to control powerful and ambitious ministers and court
eunuchs, and finally were dethroned by their intrigues.

' Heaven will not tolerate an Emperor lacking in virtue.'
It is therefore incumbent on virtuous persons to overthrow
tyrannical and oppressive monarchs. The twenty-four
revolts recorded in Chinese history, each of which succeeded
in replacing one dynasty by another, may be justified by
the necessity of saving people from the misrule of hopeless
Emperors, but the persons who raised the standard of
revolt and founded dynasties of their own were not always
virtuous. Many of them had been robbers and brigands,
or, to use a Chinese expression, ' heroes in forests and
marshes '. Some were illiterate, could not read the classics,
and had never heard of the doctrine that a Sovereign must
be virtuous. At the time of their revolt, they had probably
been forced by economic stress to take violent measures
without any desire to improve the condition of the people.
It often happened that, in the interval between the over-

Historical Conception of Chinese Government 5

throw of an old dynasty and the successful establishment of
a new, there were several rival leaders who aspired to the
throne and competed for supremacy among themselves.
It is acknowledged that ' those who are successful become
Emperors ' and ' those who fail become " rebels " '. His-
torians always attribute to founders of new dynasties many
virtues which they do not possess, and disparage defeated
' rebels ' out of proportion to their actual faults or short-
comings. In other words, the worship of success has become
so strong a habit among the Chinese, that they are always
ready to believe that a successful leader is favoured by

On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that,
whatever their previous records, the founder or founders
of a new dynasty are always capable, active, and energetic.
They may not be so well-trained in the classics that they
become virtuous rulers, but they always employ the best
scholars and most competent ministers to conduct their
government. The founders of the Han, theT'ang, and the
Ming dynasties, though they were respectively a brigand,
an ill-bred soldier, and a monk during their early years,
were all remarkable and admirable as rulers of men as soon
as they had ascended the throne. They all made splendid
offerings at the temple of Confucius, revived and propagated
his teachings, and appointed men of administrative ability
and constructive genius to important positions. They
encouraged agriculture by letting peasants have free land ;
they extended commerce by reducing taxation and improving
the means of transport ; they established schools over the
whole Empire ; and they invited the services of those who
were possessed of technical skill but could not pass an

6 Historical Conception of Chinese Government

A more remarkable instance is that of the Emperor Kang
Hsi of the Manchu dynasty. In the early years of his life he
was not brought up in the orthodox Confucian school, but
as soon as he became Emperor he instinctively adapted him-
self to the classical ideals of a virtuous Sovereign. ' No
discrimination was made in official appointments between
the Manchus and the Chinese, but all were appointed
according to their ability.' He made special efforts to
extend education by building libraries and schools in the
Empire, and by compiling and revising standard works
under the Imperial auspices. He also introduced western
science and art into China through his contact with Jesuit

The government of China would, indeed, have always
been efficient and her history different, had all the Emperors
of the successive dynasties been as Confucian as their first
Imperial ancestors. The tragedy was that, when peace
and prosperity had reigned in the Empire for one or two
centuries after each revolt, the ruling Emperor always
became idle and corrupt, and his government incompetent
and inefficient. Indulgence, ignorance, intrigues, and
finally the habit of inertia brought about his decline ;
and eventually, in his lifetime or in that of his successor,
the dynasty succumbed to the revolt of some active and
ambitious men, just as the dynasty preceding it succumbed
to that of his ancestors. The rise and fall of different
dynasties seem to have proceeded in accordance with a
periodical law, and the government of the country to have
oscillated at all times between two extremes — ^great efficiency
and great corruption.

In the provinces, the efficiency of government depended
almost entirely on the personal character of the Emperor

Historical Conception of Chinese Government 7

and his ministers. If they were enlightened and public-
spirited, they would, in the first place, choose capable and
disinterested officials for provincial and local posts ; and in
the second, they would command respect from provincial
authorities who, in fear of their justice and honesty in the
distribution of rewards and execution of punishments, would
refrain from acting corruptly, and would always be ready
to promote public interests. If, on the other hand, the
Emperor and his ministers were ignorant and corrupt, the
provincial officials would always be tempted to a neglect
of duty and to an indifference to provincial or local welfare.
Moreover, under a corrupt Central Government, provincial
and local officials were obliged to make money out of their
positions in order to retain office and pay tribute to, and
meet the arbitrary exactions of, the Central Government.
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to expect a viceroy
or a magistrate to be attentive to his duty and to maintain
the efficiency of his administration.

From what has so far been said, the conclusion may be
arrived at that the classical ideals of government are lofty
and have much to recommend them ; that the observance
of these ideals depends almost entirely on the personal
characters of rulers ; and that as ideal rulers only appear
at long intervals, the government of China sometimes rises
to these ideals, and sometimes falls short of them. To use
the expressions of modern political treatises, China has
always been governed by ' rule of men ', and not by ' rule
of law '. ' Rule of law ' maintains a certain standard of
efficiency for all times, unaltered by a change of personnel ;
whereas ' rule of men ' makes the standard vary according
to individual integrity. The contemplations of Confucius
do not touch upon ' rule of law ', as he himself confessed

8 Historical Conception of Chinese Government

that if ' proper persons exist, proper administration is carried
on, but when they are dead, it stops '.^

It is inexplicable that the Chinese should have remained
content with a periodical oscillation in the efficiency of their
government. Throughout their history, they have created
nothing like a direct participation in government, or even
an indirect participation through elected representatives
responsible to themselves. They revolt against tyrannical
rulers, but they have no permanent safeguard to prevent
the rulers from becoming tyrannical. What they have done
is to develop self-government in their municipal districts,
independent of authorities appointed by the Central Govern-
ment, and exercising a certain amount of control over
them. But there is nothing in the nature of self-govern-
ment for the whole Empire. In the capital, the seat of
Central administration, the Emperor and his ministers were

The so-called self-government in municipalities is carried
on by th-e family, the guild, and the gentry. It will be
essential to describe briefly each of them in turn.

In the social organization of China, the family plays an
important part ; and the family often means a whole clan.
In modern Europe, such duties as elementary education
and poor-relief fall upon the local authorities ; but in China
they fall upon the head of a family, possessed of an authority
extending even to matters spiritual and giving him a position
analogous to that of an English churchwarden of the
seventeenth century, some of whose duties might be com-

1 The Doctrine of Mean, chapter 20. Dr. Legge's translation runs as
follows : ' Let there be the men and the government will flourish ; but
without the men, their government decays and ceases.' See Legge's
Chinese Classics, vol. i, p. 269.

Historical Conception of Chinese Government 9

pared with that of making provision for ancestral worship
at a family shrine.

In rural districts, several families are grouped into a village,
and the elders form the village gentry, who maintain roads,
enforce sanitary measures, and provide public education and
poor-relief to those who are not already provided for by
their family. They also form the judicial authority in the
sense that they arbitrate in civil disputes, and sometimes
even try criminal cases between villagers. In any business
which must be brought to the notice of the magistrate of
the district of which the village forms a part, these elders,
or gentry, always act as intermediaries between the official
and the villagers, and they are also sometimes delegated by
the magistrate to collect the land tax.

In a city the inhabitants, mostly engaged in various trades,
form different guilds, which enforce discipline on their
members and arbitrate in their trade disputes. Every guild
is responsible for the maintenance of its poor members and
their families, and also for the education of their children.
It often happens that several guilds combine for an enter-
prise which is of common interest to all guilds, or too
expensive and strenuous for one guild to undertake. In
many towns, for instance, guilds support institutions for
infants and widows, who have otherwise no means of sub-
sistence. Their leading members, together with some retired
officials and men of literary eminence, form the city gentry
and have some authority in local administration. In the
provincial capital, the gentry are drawn from similar classes.
They are powerful and often exercise strong influence over
the provincial governor or viceroy ; and in any enterprise
that affects the whole province they have their voice. But
as communication between the different parts of a province

10 Historical Conception of Chinese Government

is difficult, the provincial gentry have not proved so success-
ful as those of the town or of the village. They do not
always act in concert with the leaders in different centres
of the province, and their activities have been confined to
the provincial capital rather than extended over the whole
province. In cases like river conservancy or famine relief,
which affect more than one town (if not the whole province),
they invite the co-operation of the gentry of other districts ;
and, in times of conflict with the viceroy or governor, they
also take collective action with them.

The numerical strength, the influence, and the activities
of these bodies of gentry vary in various parts of the country,
but the system is universal. It is this system that has
governed the Chinese for centuries. It is this system that
justifies many foreign observers in describing China as
' one of the most democratic countries on earth ' and as ' a
vast self-governed, law-abiding Society, costing practically
nothing to maintain and having nothing to apprehend save
natural calamities and national upheavals '. Such a system
was not anticipated in the Confucian classics. In fact, the
classics reserve the duty or privilege of government to
scholars and deny farmers and merchants, who are now
prominent as members of the gentry, any influence in
administration. It is indeed due to the failure of the com-
petitive examination to produce benevolent and efficient
administrators that the people are forced to take this step
in self-government.

The family and the guild may be efficient organs of local
government, but they are strictly local and do not incite
their members to look beyond their limits. They have all
failed to create a national spirit among the Chinese.

The secret, however, is that till recently the Chinese

Historical Conception of Chinese Government ii

required very little government. They have developed
self-control to an extraordinary degree ; and law-abiding
spirit has become their second nature. The family, the
guild, and the gentry, though imperfect, have been adequate
for their requirements and have satisfied their wants. More-
over, the spirit of tolerance and compromise, characteristic
of the Chinese, has enabled them to live peacefully with
their Government officials, provided the latter do not inter-
fere with the individual freedom that they have so jealously

The introduction of modern industrial and economic life
into China has altered her social position. Modern activities

Online LibrarySih-Gung ChengModern China, a political study → online text (page 1 of 28)