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governors, but these governors, though they are appointed

and can be dismissed by him, have become too powerful for

him to control. With the provincial army and finance at

their disposal, they can and do make themselves omnipotent

^ Since October, 191 8, M. Hsu Shih-chang has been elected President
in place of General Feng Kuo-chang.



North and South 39

in their own realm and virtually independent of the
Central Government. Under a nominally centralized
regime, there has never been a- clear distinction between
national and provincial powers and functions, and the
extent to which the province is subservient to the capital
depends, on the one hand, on the pleasure of the governor,
and on the other, on the personality of the head of the
Central Government. General Tuan Ch'i-jui, in order to
command the sympathy and support of the Northern
governors, has to shape his policy in such a way as to make
it acceptable to them. He has to meet all their demands
and to tolerate thwr arrogance. On many occasions they
have shown themselves indifferent to national welfare, and
even to the welfare of the Northern military party, merely
pursuing their personal interests, and quibbling over their
petty jealousies and intrigues. If the Prime Minister
attempts to take any action unfavourable to their self-
aggrandizement, he will probably lose their support. In
short, he is openly opposed by the South, tacitly opposed
by the President and his followers in the Central provinces,
and finally he finds himself at the mercy of the governors
in the North. With the goodwill of these Northern
governors, he, at the time of my writing (August 191 8),
holds the reins of the Central Government, but it is doubt-
ful how long their goodwill will last and to what exte.nt he
can afford to tolerate their unscrupulousness without
endangering his own authority and prestige.

With the North so divided and its counsel so confused,
the South, comprising five wealthy provinces fighting for
the Constitution, should find it easy to win in the field ;
but the South suffers from the same trouble as the North.
For military operations against the North it depends on



40 Political Situation since 191 1

Southern governors who are just as selfish as their Northern
colleagues. It also receives, as its allies, brigands or military
leaders who have some . personal grievance against the
North, and who desire to satisfy their greed and ambition
by taking advantage of the quarrel between the Con-
stitutionalists and the Militarists. Among the army com-
manders of the South, many have no sympathy at all
with the democratic aspirations of the Constitutionalists,
but fight their own battle under the cloak of a good
cause. This hopeless state of affairs is acknowledged and
deplored by the Southern leader. Dr. Sun Yat Sen, who
summarizes the situation by saying that ' the struggle of
military leaders for supremacy is equally rampant in the
South and in the North ', and that ' he has almost exhausted
his voice in calling attention to this incoherent situation
with no effect '.

Under such circumstances it is easy to understand that
neither the North nor the South can overwhelm the other,
and that the opposing armies in the field are each crippled,
not so much by the valour or the superiority of the enemy,
as by the dissensions and disagreements of their own leaders.
A continuance of such conditions must be fatal. If an
army commander, governing a province, directing its civil
and military administration, and having the power to
dispose of its revenue and resources according to his own
wishes, is allowed to defy the authority of the Central
Government and to silence any dissentient voice by arms,
the inevitable result will be a break-up of China into many
provincial units, independent of each other and often
fighting among themselves. A break-up of this kind has
happened at several periods of Chinese history, notably
at the end of the T'ang dynasty, when provincial governors,



North and South ^i

especially those on the Northern frontier, overruled and
finally overthrew the reigning Emperor, and divided the
Empire among themselves ; each occupied, ruled, and
exploited a province or a group of provinces for various
lengths of time. The fall of the Holy Roman Empire was
also to some extent due to the internal weakness caused by
the want of cohesion of its component parts in which
Imperial authority had vv'aned. A recent example is afforded
by the Ottoman Empire ; the Sultan had lost control over
some of the Pashaliks whose rebellions contributed largely
to its decline.

The situation in China is now alarming and, if not
ameliorated, may bring upon her the fate of Turkey and
the Holy Roman Empire. But the history of China has
repeatedly shown that, though she may be divided for
a time, she has the power of re-union. The process of
internal disruption has not yet gone too far, and there is
still time to avert the disaster.

In the first place, it should be made clear that the
struggle between North and South is, strictly speaking, not
territorial. Many from the South are in the service of the
North, and many from the North are fighting for the
Southern cause. In the second place, the bulk of the people,
who take no direct part in politics, cherish no animosity
among themselves. As has already been mentioned, the
same language and the same civilization have united them
as one people. They inherit the same historical traditions,
believe in the same creeds, and cherish the same aspirations.
The barrier created by the difference in dialect has already
begun to be pulled down, as a result of the freer inter-
course of the people, who can now travel between the
North and the South with greater comfort and ease, and



42 Political Situation since 191 1

thus have greater facilities for- learning each other's dialects.
In the National Assembly, in the law courts, and in the
schools of higher grades, the Metropolitan mandarin
dialect has been adopted as the official means of verbal
communication. It is a dialect intelligible to four-fifths
of the population, and the remaining fifth can pick it up
without much difficulty.

The Cantonese are commercially energetic, and many of
them have now established themselves in several of the
Northern ports. They are loved and admired ; and in the
course of their commercial transactions, no instance has
ever arisen of an open hostility between North and South.
The South was different from the North in economic
aspects, as has already been said, but there has never been
any conflict of economic interests. In fact, it is expected
that when Canton is brought within three days' distance
from Peking by rail, the North and the South will supply
each other more extensively with their manufactures and
commodities, and develop their resources to their mutual
benefit.

The North may be more conservative and the South
more radical, but no party in either of them — not even
the Militarists and the Constitutionalists themselves — has
ever intended to separate one from the other and to divide
the country into two Empires or Republics. They wish
well for the country as a whole, and on fundamental ques-
tions such as reorganization of national finance and industrial
development they are at one. They only differ in their
methods of attaining the same end. This difference is, in
fact, found in almost every country, and the recognition of
it is perhaps essential to modern democratic government.

The whole trouble in China between the North and the



North and South 43

South is the work of a few who are not supported at all by
popular wishes or voice. The Northern Militarists and the
Southern Constitutionalists, who both claim to fight for
the liberty of the people, alike ignore the feelings and
sufferings of the silent mass. The people themselves,
owing to the corruptness of their representatives and the
absence of any organization for concerted action, have
never found a channel through which to make their views
heard and their influence felt, though some of them are
much superior, both in intelligence and in public spirit,
to many of the Militarists or the Constitutionalists whose
arrogance, or dead book-knowledge with no vision of real
life, qualifies them to be self-appointed political prophets,
stripped, as they are, of all the attributes of a true statesman
and patriot.

It is hoped that the Northern party will soon discard its
internal dissensions and present a united front to crush
the South, as the latter, owing to the lack of experience on
the part of its leaders, can hardly be expected to overwhelm
the North. The hope seems, however, very remote. Even
if we grant that it can be realized, it is doubtful whether
a unity achieved by arms can be so maintained for any
length of time. As a Chinese writer ^ points out, even
Bismarck, with his iron will and with the victorious Prussian
army at his disposal after the defeat of France, did not
think it wise to coerce the South German States by armed
force, but entered into an agreement with them, in which
lay the foundation and strength of the German Empire.

What will then be the solution of the entanglements
between the North and the South of China ?

^ In a Chinese monthly magazine published in Shanghai, under the
title of The Pacific Ocean (March number, 191 8).



44 Political Situation since 191 1

The problem of ' North and South ' is not simple and
independent. It is interwoven with the problem of the
' Relation of the Central to the Provincial Governments ',
which will be dealt with in a separate chapter. Here I only
indicate my observations and recommendations in a few
lines.

In mediaeval Europe arms were employed by feudal
lords in private warfare, but no modern state can afford
to let the control and command of its forces be divided
among many leaders, who are free to pursue their opposing
interests. The unity of the German Empire was only
achieved when it had been established that the Emperor
should be entrusted with absolute power in time of war,
and limited power in time of peace, to command and
control the armies of all Germanic States. In the United
States and in Switzerland, where States or Cantons enjoy
a large measure of internal autonomy, all military authority
is in the hands of the Federal Government. If China is to
be saved from the danger of internal disruption, \vhich
now threatens her, she also must centralize the administra-
tion of her army. It should be observed that the Central
Government, as matters stand, is the only authority respons-
ible for the organization of the army; that a governor may
not recruit a single soldier or purchase a single rifle without
the permission of the Ministry of War ; and that, in
general, he may not act on his own initiative or receive
orders from any other political department or institution.
The supreme duty of an officer is to maintain the discipline
of the troops under his command, to ensure order and
peace in the country, and to suppress insurrection on the
order of the Central Government, however it may be
constituted. The greatest harm he can do to the country



North and South 45

is to turn his arms to the advantage of one political party
and to the injury of another.

The first step towards this necessary centralization is to
enforce the rule that the officers of the army, whatever may
be their rank, should be prohibited from meddling in party
politics, and should on no account interfere with civil
administration. Hitherto, the military governor has over-
ruled the civil governor in the province and assumed full
control of the provincial revenue which is essential to him
for the payment of his troops ; but the collection and
disbursement of it should, according to existing rules, be
the business of the civil governor and not that of the
military. So long as this usurpation of power is tolerated,
no centralization of army control or subjection of military
governors to the Central Government can ever be possible.
In fact, the rule should be adopted that army divisions,
wherever they are stationed, should be financially supported
by the Central Government, and that on no account should
a province be allowed to maintain its own army with its
own revenue. Stripped of his provincial character and his
civil and financial power, the military commander in the
province will only be a delegate of the Central Government
in charge of the army stationed there. He will be more
subject to control and less liable to seduction by political
adventurers. In fact, political adventurers will be less
inclined to spend so much time and effort in bribing
governors to take their side, when it is clear that the winning
over of an army corps is accompanied by no increase in the
financial support, without which no army can be maintained
or expected to fight.

It will be said by those who know China that my sugges-
tions are not new, and that they can never be carried out,



46 Political Situation since 191 1

as they are not favourable to the personal interests of the
governors already in office. If the governors have made
up their mind to sacrifice the country for their own advan-
tage, I shall have nothing to say. In that case we can only
trust that the whole country will rise against their treachery.
But I am hopeful ; and I am a follower of Confucius in
believing in the original goodness of human nature. The
patriotism of the governors both in the North and in the
South will not be less strong than that of any other Chinese
if they can be made to realize that a surrender of their own
interests is the only way to save the country from further
bloodshed and from the periodical recurrence of internal
revolts. In fact, the proposal to diminish the powers of
governors and to isolate them from civil politics has never
been seriously carried out, though it has been much
discussed. If strenuous efforts take the place of paper
proclamations, it can be reasonably anticipated that they
will meet with success. I do not waver in my faith that
a handful of sincere and disinterested statesmen in
Peking and in the provinces can effect the reform, if they
seriously try.

The struggle between the Militarists and the Constitu-
tionalists will settle itself when the control of the army is
centralized and there are effectual guarantees that troops
will not be employed to support any political factions.
Both the North and the South will lose their instruments
for rebellion, and their political differences will have to be
settled by their strength at the poll and by reasonable con-
cessions and compromises. Even if it should happen that
the differences produce a deadlock, it would be better that
the people should suffer from instability of government than
from the petty quarrels of armed politicians or brigands.



3

Constitution-making

§ I. President

In reading the history of the formation of the Chinese
Republic and of its Provisional Constitution, we are struck
by one conspicuous omission. It will be well to recollect
that after the first French Revolution of 1789 the proposal
was adopted by the National Convention that an Executive
Council, instead of a Presidency, should be established, so
as to avoid the concentration of powers in the hands of
a single individual, which would easily lead to a restoration
of despotism in a different form/ In the American Con-
vention of 1788, though it was finally decided to invest
executive authority in one single person, there were several
States that voted for a collective executive.

In China, however, not a single line was written, and not
a single voice was heard, advocating the need of a collective
executive. It was decided, as a matter of course, that
a President should be chosen to exercise full executive
authority. No doubt the Chinese Republic was made in
haste, and there was no time to deliberate on subtle points
in the Constitution ; nor were there many who were intel-
lectually equipped to deliberate. But there are other reasons
to explain the omission.

In the first place, politicians responsible for the Revolution

^ Even as late as 1848 M. Grevy still opposed the establishment of
a Presidential post.



48 Constitution-making

and the Provisional Constitution were mostly educated in
the United States and in France, and they were naturally
impressed by the political institutions of these two countries,
each of which has a President. In the second place, there
is a historical reason : Republicanism is alien to the Chinese
tradition, and a collective executive would probably make
the alienation more marked. For centuries the Chinese
have been ruled by a single Emperor. To the bulk of them,
it is intelligible that they should be ruled by one man,
whether he is called Emperor or President. It is, on the
other hand, not so easy for them to understand that they
should be ruled by a Committee of men.

Now let us see how the President is elected.

I have already shown above that the two Provisional
Presidents (Dr. Sun Yat Sen and Yiian Shih-k'ai) were
both elected by an Assembly, the members of which
were nominated by the governors of different provinces.
The method of election has now been altered by the law
of October 5, 191 3, which provides that the President shall
be elected by a National Convention composed of the
members of the two Houses of National Parliament.'^

The first President of the Republic, Yiian Shih-k'ai (who
had already served as a provisional President), was elected
according to this law, but the election was not effected
without complication. Yiian Shih-k'ai, though he was
supported by the governors in the North as well as in the

^ ' For the election, an attendance of at least two-thirds of the electors
shall be requisite, and the voting shall be performed by secret ballot.
The person obtaining three-fourths of the total votes will be elected, but
should no definite result be obtained after the second ballot, the two
candidates obtaining most votes in the second ballot shall be voted for,
when the candidate receiving the majority of votes shall be elected.'



President 49

South, and enjoyed the confidence of scholars throughout
the whole country, commanded no majority in Parliament,
in which the Democratic or Revolutionary party was
dominant. To get himself elected, it was necessary to bribe
the members of that party and even threaten them with
a military demonstration. To do them justice, it should
be pointed out that neither the bribe offered to them nor
the threat of military pressure was the sole consideration
that made them eventually vote for Yiian Shih-k'ai and
against the Presidential candidate of their own party. They
feared, and feared rightly, that a defeat suffered by Yiian
would lead to a revolt by his followers against parliamentary
authority, and that an insurrection at that time would shake
the foundation of the newly born Republic and delay its
recognition by foreign Powers.

Even in the absence of corruption or military pressure,
the election of the President by Parliament is undesirable,
because it gives the latter a claim to exercise an influence
or control over the former, no matter how differently the
law may provide. Moreover, at this experimental stage of
parliamentary government in China, when legislators have
not yet been trained in their work, precaution should be
taken against their undue interference with the chief execu-
tive official. Such a precaution was taken by the framers
of the American Constitution, when they thought that it
was essential to the principle of separation of powers that
the Federal Legislature should not be charged with the
function of electing the President.

In view of these considerations, it has been suggested
that in China the election of a President should be effected
by a direct popular vote. This method is practised in Brazil
and lately in Portugal, but in China, where territory and

1832.13 J.



50 Constitution-making

population are nearly four times as vast as those of the
United States, such an election would involve an enormous
amount of time and labour, if the franchise were not
unreasonably and arbitrarily limited. The distance between
the different parts of the country is so great and the means
of communication so imperfect that it would be practically
impossible to hold a direct election and get a majority for
any candidate. Moreover, in their present state of political
education, many Chinese do not understand the value of
the franchise and will always forgo their right to vote.
Those who do not forgo it, will be forced by circumstances
to surrender their freedom of choice to wire-pullers who
understand the art of politics better than the mass. It is
true that, in practice, such a surrender takes place in all
modern democratic countries at almost any election, but
where political parties are well organized, the surrender is
conducive to the smooth working of politics. In China,
where party machinery has not yet been elaborated and
public opinion is almost non-existent, the toleration of wire-
pullers would only lead to the realization of individual
desires which might or might not be in harmony with the
welfare of the State.

The alternative to a direct election would be an indirect
one, as provided in the Constitution of the United States.
This requires the formation of an electoral college to elect
the President. The objection to the application of this
method in China is that a separate Presidential election, be
it direct or indirect, will cause serious disturbance once in
every few years. It is true that parliamentary elections
may also cause disturbance, but in China, where the parlia-
mentary franchise is only recently introduced, people do
not attach much importance to a seat in Parliament, whereas



President 51

they do attach enormous importance to the office of Chief
Magistrate ; and consequently, the excitement raised in
a parliamentary election is not at all likely to be so great
as it would probably be in a Presidential election. More-
over, nothing can guarantee that what has happened in
America will not happen in China — namely, the virtual
substitution of direct for indirect election. It is conceivable
that an ambitious man with a large body of influential
followers throughout the whole country would so control
the votes at the first stage of election as to get them dis-
tributed among those who would pledge themselves to vote
for him at the second stage. When this happens, all the
dangers that might arise from the exploitation of popular
votes for individual ends will be present.

The solution of all these difficulties seems to lie in the
transfer of the functions of Presidential election to pro-
vincial legislatures. These legislatures are far from the seat
of the Central Government and are therefore unable to
interfere with its administration. Their functions are
primarily local and are concerned more closely with the
daily life of the people than those of the National Parliament
are. In consequence, they are watched more carefully and
subject to more frequent examination by those who give
them a mandate. As they are all elected, they, if authorized
to elect the President, would occupy the same position as
the voters at the second stage in an indirect election ; but
as they are elected for another purpose, the discharge by
them of this additional function would not cause the country
to suffer from disturbance or dislocation.

The objection to this method of election is that the
provincial legislatures, as they now exist, are influenced by
provincial governors ; and that it would be easy for a

E 2



52 Constitution-making

governor to induce the legislature in his province to vote
for him or his partisans. This is conceivable, but much
depends on the character and the conduct of provincial
legislators, which are beyond the control of constitutional
law. To reduce the influence as far as law can, it will be
well to provide that the President, to be declared elected,
should have obtained an absolute majority both of the
number of votes cast and of the number of provinces. In
case no candidate gets this majority, it will be wise to follow
the example of the United States by permitting the National
Parliament to elect, by a majority vote, one out of the five
who have got the largest number of votes and provinces.
This provision is, in fact, necessary, in view of the fact that
the provinces are so different in sentiment and outlook,
that they may give their votes to numerous candidates.



Online LibrarySih-Gung ChengModern China, a political study → online text (page 4 of 28)