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ever questions its authority. In China it will not be
possible, at any rate in the next decade or two, to secure
such an efficient and respected Court, and the conflicts

Its Relation to the Central Government 135

may be difficult to adjust. But it is hoped that with the
settlement of the political situation in the country, and with
the gaining of experience by judges, it will not be difficult
to make the existing Supreme Court at Peking as efficient
as the Federal Court at Washington, provided that it
commands the service of promising lawyers who have
already distinguished themselves in legal learning and in
judicial decisions.

In the first few years of Federation, my fear is that some
remote provinces like Kansu and Shensi may not be enthusi-
astic in taking over the provincial government to themselves.
It is, perhaps, not desirable to force self-government on
the people before they show a desire for it. To meet this
contingency, it is possible to provide that the devolution of
powers by the Central Government shall be only applicable
to those provinces which have shown their willingness to
accept the responsibility, and this willingness may be
tested by a plebiscite or by the opinions of provincial and
local gentry, who can more or less speak for the in-
habitants. At all events, it should be the object of the
Central Government to foster the spirit of self-government
in the people and to educate it in that direction.

§ 2. Provincial Government and Government of
Provincial Subdivisions

To understand the structure of the Provincial Govern-
ment it will be necessary to have some notion of the extent
and population of the twenty-one provinces, which are
shown in the following table. It leaves out Mongolia, Tibet,
and Chinese Turkistan, which do not concern us here, as
they are under a different system of administration.


Provincial Government




Chili .

















Kirin .


Total .



Pop. per

sq. miles.

Census, 1 9 10.

sq. mile.






































1 1,300,000























It will be seen that the least extensive province, Chekiang,
is bigger than Portugal (excluding her colonies), the area of
which is 35,500 square miles ; and that the most extensive
province, Szechuan, exceeds the French Republic or the
German Empire (colonies excluded) by 10,000 square miles.
The least populous province, Kansu, has a population almost
as big as that of the Kingdom of Sweden or of Greece ; and
the most populous province, Chili, has one as big as the
populations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Chilian
Republic combined. Under the Manchu regime, every
province, were it small or big, populous or not, was governed
by a viceroy or governor appointed by the Emperor and
assisted by a provincial treasurer and a commissioner of
justice, who were also appointed from Peking. In the later

Government of Provincial Snhdivisions


years of the dynasty, a permanent commissioner of education
was added to every province.

Each province was divided into circuits, every one of
which was presided over by an intendant, commonly known
as Taotai, who, besides being the chief administrator of the
area, had always some special function, such as the supervision
of customs service or the collection of the salt tax. The
intendants were appointed from Peking on the recommenda-
tion of the viceroy, and they were always subordinate to him.

The circuits, which varied in size, were each divided into
prefectures, from two to ten in number. The prefecture
was under the rule of a prefect appointed by the viceroy
with the approval of the Central Government. It was
subdivided into districts, each of which had a magistrate
as its chief administrator. Under the Imperial regime there
was no distinction between administrative and judicial
officials ; and all dignitaries, from the viceroy to the magi-
strate, were at once civil servants and judges.

The viceroy, the intendant, the prefect, and the magi-
strate formed, so to speak, a ladder, the different steps of
which were represented by different grades of officials who
were responsible to the grade immediately above for that
immediately below. The provincial Treasurer and the
Commissioner of Justice were intended to check the viceroy,
as they were all granted equal power of representation to
the Central Government, and the Treasurer was even
authorized to impeach the viceroy on the grounds of
administrative inefficiency or lack of personal integrity. But
in practice, they were both relegated to the position of
subordinates and were prevented by his personal supremacy
from asserting their recognized rights.

Throughout the province there was no elective institution,

138 Provincial Government

but in the provincial capital, the prefecture, the district, or
the village, the gentry, consisting of literati and men of
eminence, were all-powerful. They commanded respect
from officials as well as from the populace, and served as
the link between the governor and the governed. It is true
that their existence had no legal sanction, but in China, as
in many other ancient communities, statutes played only
a secondary part in the realm of government. Customs and
traditions, which were in practice more binding than enact-
ments, had enabled the gentry to exist and to exercise their
powers for many long centuries without a single instance
in which their authority was questioned. The most obvious
defects in their position were that they were not liable to
be called to book for the advice they rendered, and that
opinions expressed by them were not necessarily heeded,
far less accepted, by the viceroy or other officials.

So far, I have described the system of government
in the province as it had existed before the Revolution.
The changes that have since been introduced are : (i)
the separation of the viceroyalty into military and civil
governorship ; (2) the conversion of the gentry into a pro-
vincial assembly ; and (3) the abolition of the prefecture
as a distinctive unit of local government. , Let us discuss
these changes in turn.

(i) During the Revolution, military emergency neces-
sitated the creation of military governorships, of which there
were often several in the same province. In October 191 3,
when the Republic had been more or less firmly established,
it was thought undesirable to have more than one military
governor in each province and to leave its civil administra-
tion in the hands of military commanders. The rule was
then adopted that each province should have only one

Government of Provincial Siihdivisions 139

military governor, in addition to whom there was to be
a civil governor. During the past five years, this rule has
not been strictly enforced, and the Tuchuns (military
governors), with the armed force at their command, have
always overwhelmed their civil colleagues. This union of
military and civil powers is only temporary, and unless the
country is to tolerate a continuance of military despotism,
it will be necessary to enforce the rule of 191 3.

According to that rule, the civil governor is appointed
by the Central Government. This has been objected to on
the ground that, as some kind of federation has to be adopted
in China, it will be necessary to leave the choice of governors
in the hands of provincial assemblies, granting that there
are practical difficulties in the election of governors by
a popular vote on the model of the State Government in
the United States. It will, however, be seen that the
objection is unsound when it is remembered that the federa-
tion for China, as suggested in the last section, only grants
limited powers to the province, and that so long as the
provincials do not take an active interest in their govern-
ment, the provincial assembly can easily play into the hands
of political adventurers. Moreover, at the present time,
when politicians have not as yet acquired the habit of
obedience and respect for law, it will be necessary to take
precautions against any attempt of provincial revolt against
the Central Government. A governor appointed from
Peking is, no doubt, more likely to be obedient to it than
one elected by the province.

An alternative to this method of appointment will be
recommendation by the provincial assembly of three or
more candidates, out of whom the Central Government
appoints one. This procedure combines appointment with

140 Provincial Government

election, but in case, as may well happen, the three or
more persons recommended are all rejected by the Cabinet
in Peking, it will be difficult to adjust the ensuing

It will, indeed, be a safeguard sufficiently strong against
encroachment by the Central Government on the powers
of provincial authorities, if the rule is enforced that, although
the governor is appointed from the capital, he is responsible
to the provincial assembly. The assembly, being possessed
of the power of impeaching the governor, should be in
a position to protect itself against his tyranny, whatever is
the way in which he is appointed. Moreover, if and when
the Central Government is stable and has no need to coerce
the provinces, it will be expected to pay due respect to their
feelings in exercising its power of appointment. Mutual
respect and toleration promote harmony in the political
world, even though no law can supply them.

Under the governor, there should be a number of depart-
ments in charge of different branches, such as education,
sanitation, and agriculture and industry. The heads of these
departments should not be responsible to the assembly, but
to the governor, who is responsible to it. There is no need
to create a dual responsibility by making them responsible
to both, as is suggested by some writers in China. They
should occupy the same position as the Secretaries of the
Federal Departments in Washington, and not that of the
ministers in the different States of the Australian Common-
wealth. The case of. the Chinese province differs from that
of the Australian State by the fact that in the former the
Governor has responsible duties to perform, whereas in the
latter he is only a representative of the Crown and delegates
the real power of government to his ministers.

Government of Provincial Subdivisions 141

The creation of the departments should be made depen-
dent upon the requirements of administration. Experience
in the past few years has shown that the establishment of
a new department is not always followed by initiation of
new activities, but affords opportunities to ofhce-seekers of
enjoying handsome salaries without doing any useful work.
It should therefore be enacted that in the next few years,
when the reorganization of the provincial government is
in the course of taking shape, no new departments should
be created unless it is proved that new activities have already
grown up and require additional supervision and direction,
or that the financial strength of the province and its com-
mand of experts is so strong that a new department will
immediately promote new enterprises. In the meantime,
the existing staff of the Governor should be improved and
enlarged in order to meet the increasing volume of work
entrusted to him.

An Executive Council, consisting partly of members
appointed by him and partly of members elected by the
provincial assembly, should be created to assist the governor.
It should be in the same relation with the assembly as that
of the Senate with the House of Representatives. The
Provincial Assembly is a single-chamber legislature, and
it should be supplemented by a Council charged with the
functions of investigating bills passed by the assembly, and
of advising the governor to veto or promulgate them and
to initiate new bills. There need be no fear of overlapping
between the Council and the governor's staff, because the
former is only responsible for the shaping of policy and for
the general supervision of administration, whereas the latter
is charged with actual administrative work,

(2) The provincial assembly, according to the law pro-

142 Provincial Government

mulgated in 191 3, is elected by indirect election and on the
same franchise as that for parliamentary election laid down
by the law of the same year.^ The qualifications and dis-
qualifications for voters and candidates in a parliamentary
election are equally valid in the election of a provincial
assembly. The electoral area of the first-stage election is
coincident with Hsien (district), and that of the second-stage
is a group of districts arranged by the Central Government.
The number of members of a provincial assembly varies
from 184 to 94 according to the provincial population.

The undesirability of indirect election has already been
exposed in the section on Legislature, chapter 3. It is
defended in the case of parliamentary elections by such
arguments as the vastness of the constituencies and the large
number of electors, but in the province, with an average
population of 15,000^000 returning perhaps no members
to the provincial assembly, there is no difficulty in adopting
the system of direct election by dividing the province into
as many constituencies as the number of members to be
returned. One member may fairly represent 140,000 inhabi-
tants, of whom half are disqualified to vote by sex and many
others by property and educational tests.

The powers and functions of the provincial assembly differ
in different provinces, but, broadly speaking, they conform
to the Provincial System proposed in July 191 2. It provides
that the provincial assembly has the power to pass all the
laws applying to the province so long as they do not conflict
with national legislation. It has also the power to pass
provincial budgets ; to discuss the method of collecting
(provincial) taxes ; to control the issue of (provincial) loans,
and to decide all matters concerning the purchase and
1 See chapter 3, § 3, pp. 92-3, 97.

Government of Provincial Subdivisions 143

management of provincial properties. It is authorized to
reply to all questions submitted to it by the Civil Governor,
to receive and consider popular petitions, and to deal with
all other matters the decision of which rests with the
Governor. In case the provincial assembly considers the
Governor guilty of ' violation of the law ' or ' neglect of
duty ', it may, by a two-thirds majority of the quorum,
denounce him to the President through the Cabinet.

This list of powers and functions is very comprehensive
and, at this early stage of parliamentary government, should
not be extended. It should indeed be curtailed by the
introduction of clauses restricting the initiation of financial
bills to the Governor or his delegates, and requiring the
concurrence of the Executive Council for bills of impeach-
ment. To ensure harmony between the Governor and the
Assembly, it should be provided that the former has free
access to the latter and, if necessary, may act as its leader.
All the members of the Executive Council, including those
nominated by him, should have seats in the Assembly, and
the Governor should be allowed to delegate them to speak
on his behalf. The Governor's staff should be put in close
contact with the different committees of the Assembly and
be allowed to appear at their meetings.

The term of the provincial assembly is now fixed at three
years. It is a reasonable length of time, but at present the
people of China should not be too frequently called upon
to vote at elections, as their patience is not yet trained to
bear it. Moreover, when the voters have only just begun
to be interested in public affairs, opinions will not change
very much in three years, and the provincial assembly should
in that case be given the opportunity of pursuing a would-be
consistent policy for a greater length of time. It is therefore

144 Provincial Governmcjit

desirable to extend the period to say five years, but an exten-
sion to more than five w ould give the representatives time to
develop their own policy without the check of public opinion.
Electors in China at present are not in a position to judge
of candidates, and in case incompetent candidates get elected,
and their actions prove them unworthy of the mandate,
voters should be granted a chance in every five years to
change their representatives and to elect more promising

So far I have examined the system of government for the
^vhole province. Let us now proceed to inquire into the
conditions concerning the government of provincial sub-

(3) As already noted, the prefecture has ceased to exist
as a distinctive unit of government since the Revolution.
The circuit over which the intendant presides should also
be abolished, and the provincial governor should be put in
direct communication with the magistrate without any inter-
mediate authority. The present position of the intendant
in the circuit is anomalous. He is empowered to control
the magistrates under him, but in practice he can do hardly
anything without the order of the Governor. His duties
and powers often overlap with those of the magistrate and,
if active, he is likely to come into conflict with him. More-
over, the magistrate should be accorded sufficient freedom
to fulfil his administrative duties. He should not be subject
to a dual control by the Governor and the intendant. If
the province is vast and the Governor finds it difficult to
supervise the administration of all its magistrates, he can
easily appoint inspectors to tour the different districts.

The magistrate, having been placed under the direct
control of the Governor, should be assisted by an elective

Government of Provincial Subdivisions 145

council, which does not exist now, though it had existed
for two years after the Revolution before it was abolished
in 1914. The duty of the Council should be to legislate for
the district and to receive and examine all petitions or
complaints from the inhabitants. It should be possessed of
the power to impeach the magistrate and to denounce him
to the Governor, who would then examine and decide the
case on its merits. The power of appointing the magistrate
should rest with the Governor until the local self-governing
institutions are well organized enough to warrant a transfer
of it from him to the Council. Like the Governor, the
magistrate should be equipped with an Executive Council,
the members of which should be partly appointed by himself
and partly elected by the Legislative Coujicil. This Executive
Council should be authorized to advise the m.agistrate on
any question that is initiated by or referred to the Legislative
Council. On certain important measures involving public
expenditure, the concurrence of the Executive Council
should be made necessary for the execution of proposals
brought forward by the Legislative Council. This would
restrict the power of the Legislature and enable the magi-
strate to strengthen his personal authority through the
Executive Council.

There should be no difficulty in electing a Legislative
Council for the district. The district is small in area and
its population has always been interested in its Government
— a contrast to the indifference of the Chinese at large to
the Government of the whole Empire. The members of
the gentry, who have always been influential in the district,
should be encouraged to offer themselves for election, and,
by virtue of the traditional respect they command from the
inhabitants, they would find themselves easily elected. The

1832.13 L

146 Provincial Government

authority and influence of the gentry would be increased if
they were accorded a legal standing and the decisions taken
by them were made binding on the magistrate. It should
again be emphasized here that, unlike the conception of
gentry in Europe, the word ' gentry ' in China does not
denote any class distinction. It includes not only scholars
but also representatives of many interests, merchants and
manufacturers, farmers and labourers, and the representation
of them all in a Council would create an ideal assembly.

In the village, where there has never been any official
appointed from the Central or provincial Government, the
old tradition of government by the gentry should be main-
tained. Like those in the district, they should be organized
into a Council, and formal elections should replace the
assumption of office by tacit consent. The elders should
offer themselves for election and should be responsible to
the villagers for what they do. They should also be made
subject to the control of the nearest magistrate so that, in
case they misrepresent the people or misgovern the locality,
they may be made answerable. On their own part they
should not be apprehensive of any undue interference from
the magistrate, as the latter, being far from the scene, would
be unable to exercise too close a scrutiny. In fact, they
would be much aided in their work if the magistrate were
required by law to give them subsidies or grants for any
enterprise that they undertook, provided that it produced or
promised to produce valuable results for the locality they


A Historical Sketch of China's Foreign Relations

The relations of China with other States may be traced
back to ancient times. During the Chou dynasty, 1122-
255 B.C., the neighbouring countries often sent missions to
the Emperor. During the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 a.d.)
mihtary expeditions led by General Chang Chien were
dispatched to countries west of the Bolor mountains.
Diplomatic courtesies were often exchanged between the
Celestial Court and those of the Arabs, the Persians, and
the Parathusians. Commercial relations were also estab-
lished between China and the Roman Empire ; ' the
caravans carrying silk traversed the whole latitude of Asia
in 243 days from the Chinese Ocean to the sea-coast of
Syria '.^

The Nestorians penetrated into China as early as the
seventh century, but did not establish themselves there.
The travels of Marco Polo and the record of his visit
vividly impressed Europeans with the greatness of Chinese
civilization ; and the discovery of the sea-route to the
East gave the Portuguese opportunities of promoting their
commercial interests in the Celestial Empire. Macao was

^ Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter 40. In
Bury's edition, vol. iv, p. 230.

L 2

148 A Historical Sketch of

opened to Portuguese trade in 1550 and tacitly recognized
by the Chinese Government as a Portuguese settlement.
The Dutch East India Company tried to open commercial
relations with the Chinese, but was refused by the Court ;
the Spaniards, after their occupation of the Philippine
Islands, also attempted to enter China, but were prevented
by their rivals, the Portuguese.

The first formal treaty that China has concluded with an
external Power since the time of Marco Polo is that with
Russia in 1689 to delimit the boundaries of the two Empires
in Manchuria and Siberia, and to grant their subjects mutual
right to travel and to trade. Another treaty was signed in
1727 to limit the number of Russian merchants that might
be admitted to Peking in every three years to two hundred,
free from the payment of any tax. The missionaries of the
Russian Orthodox Church were also granted the privilege
of erecting ecclesiastical institutions in Peking.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the British
East India Company had established commercial relations
with the Chinese in Canton, but the Chinese Government
was most reluctant to extend the privileges already granted
to the Russians to merchants of other nationalities. Russia,
through her skilful diplomacy and through her historical
connexions with the Mongols and the Manchus, was
specially favoured by the Chinese Emperor, who had other-

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Online LibrarySih-Gung ChengModern China, a political study → online text (page 11 of 28)