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that loss of life of Chinese citizens has occurred as the
result of the present method of war. The Imperial German
Government wishes to point out that the Government of
the Republic of China has never communicated with the
Imperial Government regarding a single case of this kind,
nor has it protested in this connexion before. According
to reports received by the Imperial Government, such losses
as have been actually sustained by Chinese subjects have
occurred in the firing line, while they were engaged in
digging trenches and in other war services. While thus
occupied, they were exposed to the dangers inevitable
to all forces engaged in war. The fact that Germany has
on several occasions protested against the employment of
Chinese citizens for warlike purposes is evidence that the
Imperial Government has given excellent proof of its
friendly feelings towards China. In consideration of these
friendly relations the Imperial Government is willing to
treat the matter as if the threat had never been uttered.
It is reasonable for the Imperial Government to expect
that the Government of the Republic of China will revise
its views respecting the questions.

' Germany's enemies were the first to declare a blockade

3 2

26o New Problems since the War

on Germany and the same is being persistently carried out.
It is therefore difficult for Germany to cancel her blockade
policy. The Imperial Government is nevertheless willing
to comply with the wishes of the Government of the
Republic of China by opening negotiations to arrive at
a plan for the protection of Chinese life and property,
with the view that the end may be achieved and thereby
the utmost regard be given to the shipping rights of China.
The reason which has prompted the Imperial Government
to adopt this conciliatory policy is the knowledge that,
once diplomatic relations are severed with Germany,
China will not only lose a truly good friend but will also
be entangled in unthinkable difficulties.'

By the time this reply was delivered to the Chinese
Government efforts had been made to overcome the opposi-
tion in the country to a war policy. The military party,
who had hitherto been firm against any departures from
neutrality, were persuaded and convinced of the advantages
likely to be obtained from a formal adhesion to the Allies,
and of the improvement of China's international status
which would be brought about by the foundation of a new
foreign policy. Having secured the approval of the Senate
and the House of Representatives, the Government pro-
ceeded (on March 14) to hand the German Minister his
passport, to seize the German ships, to capture German
Concessions in Hankow and Tientsin, and to dismiss all
German employees in the Chinese Government service.
For reasons of internal disturbance which have already been
alluded to elsewhere in this volume ^ war was not declared
till August 12, five months after the severance of diplomatic

Apart from the causes stated in the official note of protest

^ See supra, pp. 25-6.

China in the War 261

above quoted, it is essential to emphasize, in the first place,
that the moral influence of the United States was largely
responsible for the policy of the Chinese Government towards
Germany. For many years China had looked upon the
United States as her disinterested friend, willing to extend
a helpful hand in her time of need. Towards her, the policy
of the State Department at Washington had always been so
planned and directed as to assist her in her regeneration as
a great modern State. On many occasions, whether it was
a question of the maintenance of the open-door policy or
of the refunding of the Boxer indemnity, the Government
of the United States had manifested its sympathy and good-
will. The consequence was that, while the call of Mr. Wilson
on all neutral States to join him in a protest against the
German ruthlessness might have been taken by other States
as merely a formal announcement of his policy, it was seized
by China as an opportunity to show her appreciation of his
friendliness and to assist him in upholding the rights of less
advanced States like herself.

Secondly, scientific inventions had destroyed the distance
between different countries, and in welfare and interest they
had become interdependent. The Great Wall of China had
long been crumbled down ; and whether she wished it or
not, she had to discard her traditional policy of isolation,
which was no longer tenable in this age of steam travel and
electric communication. ' During this unprecedented inter-
national struggle, it was not permissible to her to forget the
world and to remain content by herself.' Moreover, the war
as it had been developed in 1917 was no longer a quarrel
between different European States for national aims. It
was a conflict to decide whether the fundamental principles
of morality and justice, which Confucius taught as much

262 New Problems since the War

as Western prophets, should survive. As a nation, China
had existed only on her moral strength, and at a time when
the world was threatened with moral bankruptcy, she,
though impotent, could not afford to accept the situation
with acquiescence and indifference.

Above these moral considerations, she had her own
interests to safeguard. As a neutral, she was placed in a
position different from that of other neutrals. The military
operations of Japan against the German leased territory at
Kiaochow was, as already explained, prosecuted on her own
soil ; and the future disposition of the territory would form
a subject of discussion between the two opponent States
concerned. A neutral Power was as a rule denied an entrance
to the conference between belligerents ; and yet, in view
of her vital interest in the settlement of Kiaochow, she was
most anxious to have her grievance heard by the Conference,
and it was natural that she should have seized a suitable
opportunity to ensure to herself the right to participate in
the peace negotiations.

Apart from the after-war problems, China had to consider
her interests directly the war was declared. The patriotism
of the different antagonistic factions in the country might
be aroused and their unity achieved by confronting them
with some external danger which would compel them to
sink their differences in regard to home affairs. When China
was threatened with internal revolt, it was thought that if
it were possible to interest the Parliament and politicians
generally in a war with Germany and divert their attention
from internal quibbles, it would consolidate the position of
the executive in Peking. Moreover, the mercenary army,
which had always threatened to revolt, would probably be
Turned to good use, and spare the Government the trouble

China in the War , 263

of keeping it quiet by bargain and by bribery, had it been
possible to dispatch it abroad as a Chinese contingent to
help the Allies. Unfortunately none of these hopes were

In any case, China has benefited financially by her declara-
tion of war. She has suspended the payment of the German
share of the Boxer indemnity and of all the principal, interest,
and dividends due to German investors. In recognition of
her sympathy as well as of her material help, the Allies have
also agreed to suspend the payment of their shares for five
years. A Government that was sorely in need of money
could not but make itself stable and secure by the financial
help so generously extended by the Allies.

It would be erroneous to say that China entered into the
war merely from motives of self-interest. She did not shirk
Her duty as a belligerent, but was ready to render any service
within her power. She has a standing army of about 800,000
men, who were formerly trained by European officers. It
may be deficient in heavy guns and in aeroplanes, and may
be inexperienced, but it is certain that the Chinese soldier
is courageous, brave, and obedient. He is the best raw
material out of which the ideal fighter can be made, provided
he is properly commanded. It was therefore suggested, as
soon as China declared war, that a few divisions of her army
should be shipped to Europe, carrying with them nothing
but uniforms and, probably, rifles. They should be first
trained by British and French officers in the rudiments of
modern warfare and then be placed on garrison duty and
on the lines of communication behind the front, and after
a few months join the fighting line. Guns and munitions
of all descriptions would be entirely supplied by the Allies,
as neither the shipping space nor the productive capacity

264 New Problems since the War

of the Chinese arsenals would make it possible to supply
^ the contingents with equipment from Chinese sources. This
proposal, though seriously discussed, was never carried out,
as shipping difficulties did not even permit the conveyance
of a few divisions of men, stripped of every equipment
except clothing. Moreover, the speedy entry of American
troops into the field made it superfluous tp transport and
to train Chinese soldiers.

China is, however, a big reservoir of man-power. If she
did not help the Allies with troops, she supplied them with
labourers, who are almost as important as combatants in
the operations of war. Their numbers and their contracts,
giving terms of employments and wages, will be dealt with
in the next section, as their importance, their future,
and their influence on the Western labour world justify
a discussion in detail.

In many other Avays China has also helped the Allies. She
placed the German ships seized in her harbours, amounting
to about 50,000 tons, at the disposal of the Allies. She
exported many articles — cotton, steel, iron, copper, cereals,
and poultry — to Europe both for the prosecution of war
and the sustenance of civil populations. Had shipping
difficulties been less great, she would have exported a larger
variety of articles and in greater quantity, as the warehouses
in the different treaty ports were full of cargoes waiting for
ships. It was a common procedure for China to export her
wheat to America so as to release a corresponding quantity
of American wheat for export to Europe, as the distance
between Shanghai and San Francisco is shorter than that
between Shanghai and any European port, and avoids the
passage through the dangerous Mediterranean.

To do her share in shipbuilding for the Allies, China made

China in the War 265

a contract with tHe American Government to build four
cargo vessels of 10,000 tons each in the Kiangnan Dock and
Engineering Works at Shanghai, with the option of eight
additional steamers of the same tonnage. The British
Government also placed orders with the Shanghai Dock and
Engineering Company to construct three standard merchant
ships of 5,000 tons each. For the construction of thefe
ships, materials were mostly supplied by China, except steel,
which had to be shipped from America and Europe (the
steel produced in China being so limited in quantity that,
after a certain amount is exported to Japan by virtue of
a previous contract, little is left for home consumption).
The chief engineers were British and American, but the
construction was done by the Chinese.

To complete the recital of China's help to the Allies, it
is necessary to point out that many of her citizens joined
the French and the American Afmies to fight for the common
cause, and many of those resident in British colonies enlisted
in the Dominion Armies. To help them indirectly, many
Chinese took up work in different hospitals in Great Britain
so as to release men for the army. Not least important was
the fact that thousands of Chinese sailors worked on British
merchantmen in spite of the peril and danger of the sea.
Many of them fell victims to the submarines, but this did
not deter others from enlisting. In fact, it was stated by
some of them that, at a perilous time when their service
was most needed, they could not possibly let themselves be
daunted by disasters. It may reasonably be said that without
them British shipping, while already short in tonnage, would
have been still more restricted by the difficulties of labour.

On the financial side of the war, China, being a borrowing
nation, could not render any assistance. But a number of

266 New Problems since the War

wealthy Chinese subscribed handsome sums of money to
British War Loans and charities. In Hong Kong and in
the Straits Settlement, the Chinese colony was always ready
to respond to the appeal for funds to provide an aeroplane
or an ambulance for the British Army. Moreover, the
' Tank drive ' and the American Red Cross Day not only
secured subscriptions in many Chinese towns from foreign
residents but also from a large number of natives, who
invested as much as a few millions. The sum may appear
insignificant to Europeans, but when it is remembered that
the average income of the Chinese is less than one-tenth
of that of the American, and that capitalists are few in
China, it is evident that the very fact that they subscribed
at all is indicative of the interest in the war.

Had China been provided with a bigger and more efficient
army, she would probably have taken a more active part in
the war. Or had she been better developed on economic
and industrial lines, she would have been a much more
useful ally. But as things were, she had to be content with
the humble share she contributed to the prosecution of the
war. Moreover, the internal chaos and the instability of
government made it impossible for her even to use such
means as were at her command. But to the Allies, it was
a substantial gain that a nation, representing one-fourth of
the human race, and depending for its existence for five
thousand years on moral force and moral force alone, should
have lent them her moral weight and rendered them her
material assistance, however small. A judgement passed by
this ancient civilization in favour of the Allies was a good
asset to them in the sense that it testified to the righteousness
of their cause and raised the confidence of their troops. The
moral to the material force is, as Napoleon said, like three

China in the War 267

to one, and it cannot be denied that the adhesion of China
reinforced the moral front of the Allied Powers.

As to herself, she only hoped to improve her international
status at the conclusion of peace. It was a pity that the
strife of different political factions in the country deprived
her of the opportunity of setting her own house in order,
while Europe was engaged in an unprecedented war. But
at all events it is important to remember that her entry
into the war was the signal of a new foreign policy according
to which she would not only discard her tradition of isola-
tion, but also throw in her lot with other countries in the
world. There is reason to believe that, whatever may happen
to her internal regime, the policy, once announced, can
hardly be recalled.

§ 3. Chinese Labour

It has already been mentioned in the last section that
China's contribution to the prosecution of the present war
consists largely of her supply of labour. At the outset, let
it be said that the employment of Chinese labourers in
other countries is not a recent innovation. Ever since the
beginning of the last century, thousands of them have
emigrated to Australasia, to South America, and to the
United States. But till the present war, with the exception
of those in South Africa, they all went abroad of their own
accord ; no preparation had been made by their employers
to ship them from China. In the case of the South African
gold mines, the number of labourers required was so huge
and the need so instant that the British Government had
to sign a convention with China to lay down general con-
ditions of employment and to appoint consuls and other
officials to carry out the details of supervision. They were

268 New Problems since the War

specially recruited and shipped from China at the expense
of the mining companies ; and the Chinese immigrants,
unlike those in other countries mentioned, were sure to
get employment according to the terms of their contract
signed before their embarkation.

The employment of Chinese labourers by Great Britain
and France in this war is modelled on the South African
experiment. It differs from it, however, in the fact that
when the Allied Governments began to recruit labourers
in China, the latter was unable to sign any convention, as
she was precluded from doing so by her neutrality, which,
though it did not prevent her citizens from enlisting in the
service of any belligerent, did not permit her Government
to render to one belligerent any assistance denied to the
other. The contract signed between the labourer himself
and the British or the French recruiting officer bears no
sign of the sanction of the Chinese Government, which
was denied any power of intervention except that of
protecting its citizens.

France, the first of the two to introduce the Chinese,
began to recruit them early in 1916 ; but Great Britain
did not draw upon this Asiatic reservoir of man-power till
the summer of 1917. Both the British and the French
contracts stipulate that the labourers recruited can on no
account be employed in military operations. They can
only be employed on industrial and agricultural works,
such as railways, roads, factories, mines, dockyards, fields,
and forests. In the French contract, it is said that they
may be employed in Algiers and Morocco, as well as in
France ; whereas the British contract is silent as to the
locality of employment. But to the best of my knowledge,
France has never employed them in her colonies, and Great

Chinese Labour 269

Britain has never introduced them in large numbers into
any region other than the zone occupied by her army in
France. The French contract differs from the British
because France may employ them in private as well as
public works, so long as their employment is sanctioned by
the French War Office ; whereas Great Britain only
employs them in the army, and therefore only on public
service. It is, in fact, in consideration of the objections of
the Labour Party and the Trade Unions that the British
Government agreed to confine the sphere of activities for
the Chinese to the military zones in Flanders and in France.
The few hundred Chinese labourers in Birmingham and
other industrial towns entered into an agreement with their
employers quite independently of those employed in France.

By the terms of the French contract, employment is for
five years, but may be terminated by the employer after
three years. The daily wage for an unskilled labourer is
I franc 25 centimes, and that for a skilled one I franc
50 centimes. These wages are liable to increase, if an un-
skilled labourer has become a skilled one, or a skilled one
has improved his skill. But, on the other hand, if a skilled
labourer is not up to a certain standard of efficiency after
a month's trial, he will be degraded into an unskilled
one and have his wage reduced accordingly. In addition to
these wages, every unskilled labourer receives a monthly
allowance of 35 francs for his family or other dependents,
and every skilled one 40 francs. On their embarkation from
China, all labourers, skilled or not, receive a bonus of
50 francs.

During illness or holidays, a labourer is only entitled to
a daily compensation of 25 centimes, but in case of serious
symptoms which require his repatriation according to

270 New Problems since the War

medical advice, he will be shipped back to China at the
expense of his employer. In the event of his death not
caused by accident within six months from the time of
signing his contract, his family will be paid a compensation
of 135 francs ; but after six months and before the expiry
of the contract, the compensation will be increased to
270 francs. No compensation \vill be paid, if the death
takes place during the returning voyage unless it is caused
by belligerent action.

So much for the French contract.

The British contract is identical with the French in
broad principles, but differs from it in details. Employment
is only for three years and is terminable by. the employer
after one year or six months' notice. The daily wage for
an unskilled labourer is i franc and his family allowance 10
dollars (Chinese). For a skilled labourer, the wage varies
from I franc 50 centimes to 2 francs 50 centimes and his
family allowance from 13 to 30 dollars.

Every fourteen labourers form a section in the charge of
an under-ganger who receives i franc 25 centimes a day.
A ganger in charge of four sections receives i franc 50 cen-
times a day. A foreman in charge of 16 sections or 4 gangs
receives 2 francs as his daily wage and 15 dollars as his
monthly family allowance. Foremen and assistant inter-
preters in charge of 16 sections or 4 gangs have their daily
wages respectively fixed at 2 francs and 2.50 francs, and
their family allowance at 20 and 30 dollars. The inter-
preter-clerks acting as assistants to engineers in charge of
240 men receive 5 francs a day for themselves and 60 dollars
per month for their family or other dependents. For
interpreters and all kinds of labourers, the bonus paid on
their embarkation from China is 60 dollars, and the com-

Chinese Labour 271

pensation is !Ji!i50 in the case of death and $75 in the case
of injury.

The compensations and the wages may not be adequate,
but housing, food, clothing, fuel, medical attendance, and
passage to and back from France are all provided free. In
these times of high cost of living, an unskilled Chinese
labourer, with his family allowance and all other things
included, costs on the average 6 or 7 francs a day, a figure
that corresponds to the average wage of a British or
French manual labourer in pre-war times. The skilled
Chinese labourer costs about 8 or 9 francs a day, a figure
considerably below the average wage received by a skilled
European before or during the war. But if the Chinese
are classified under the same category as the labour and
the engineer corps of the British or the French army, their
remuneration is considerably better than the daily pay of a
French soldier and almost as good as that of a British private.

The bulk of the Chinese are unskilled and mostly
engaged on loading and unloading. They are physically
strong and capable of carrying weights which are considered
in the West to be beyond human strength. In their manner
of handling lifts and pulleys they are neat and systematic ;
and the monotony of their work is much lessened and
modified by their cheerful expression and fondness for
music. The large number of skilled are all engaged in
highly technical work. Some of them are employed on the
repairing of tanks and others on the manufacture of aero-
planes. To them, the most up-to-date machinery is a
novelty that excites their curiosity. Some of them have
already been employed in modern factories in China and
now seize the unique opportunity of improving their skill
and of understanding management on a large scale which

272 New Problems since the War

finds no parallel in their own country. Their output is
high and their zeal is marvellous. To them, as people with
capacity to learn, it is not so much the wages that are
attractive as the new experience they acquire and the new
atmosphere they find themselves in. During my inspections
both behind the front lines and in the interior of France,
many of them have come up to narrate their ambitions
and their schemes for the industrial development of their
fatherland when they return.

Those who had been carpenters or blacksmiths before
they came are found most useful in France. In docks and
on railways, they are indispensable to the two armies for
the maintenance of existing works and the construction of
new plant. New roads have to be made and new buildings
have to be erected after the retreat of the enemy, and it is
often the Chinese who act as pioneers to pave the roads
for motor transport and for gun carriages. They not only
bridge a gap between the rear and the front, but they
sometimes drive engines to convey troops with their food
and equipment.

During work, both the skilled and unskilled Chinese are
more or less mixed up with British and French labourers.
But as regards housing and eating, entirely separate pro-
vision is made (as the barrier of language and the difference
in the ways of thinking have so far made it impossible for
them to cultivate much mutual understanding). They have
their own quarters or in which they sleep, forty or

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Online LibrarySih-Gung ChengModern China, a political study → online text (page 20 of 28)