Sih-Gung Cheng.

Modern China, a political study online

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Chinese Government are customs duties, excise, salt duty,
and land tax. A distinction has been drawn between the
National and Provincial revenue, but when money is needed
for provincial expense, governors always retain the instal-
ments due to the Central Government for their own
requirements ; they sometimes come to Peking for financial
reinforcements. Attempts have been made to appoint
officials direct from Peking to collect the national revenue,
but without success. China is supposed to be a centralized
country ; all provincial officials are primarily agents of the
Central Government. They should collect money on its
behalf without the need of a separate set of officials like
the Marshals of the United States Federal Courts. But
the weakness of the Central control over the provinces has
prevented this ideal from being realized and has resulted in

8o Constitution-making

the instability of Central finance. I shall have more to say
on this point when I deal with the relations between the
Central and the Provincial Governments.

This Ministry is responsible for the preparation of the
annual budget ; all Government departments send in their
estimates some time before the beginning of the financial
year ; and the Budget must be discussed at a Cabinet
meeting before being presented to Parliament, provided the
latter is in session. During the last three or four years, when
Parliament had been dissolved, the Budget was authorized
by the Cabinet and the President without any interference
by Parliament. Accounts are audited by a separate depart-
ment directly under the President and independent of the
Cabinet or Parliament.

Currency reform and the adoption of gold or a gold-
exchange standard have been under discussion for the last
twenty years, but nothing definite has so far been done.
A beginning has been made to secure a uniform silver dollar
standard; but different provinces are still permitted to
coin their own money, which suffers discount in any
province other than that in which it is coined. Moreover,
the silver dollar is not the only money in circulation. Silver
bars in vaiious shapes are largely employed in business
transactions, and the difference in the system of weight in
different localities again introduces confusion into the value
of the bar.

The Bank of China is the only Government bank under
the control of the Ministry of Finance, the other Govern-
ment bank being under the Ministry of Communications.
It is authorized by the Ministry to issue notes, but other
banks, Chinese and foreign alike, may also issue notes to any
amount they think fit without any Government authoriza-

Cabinet 8i

tion, though they are not accepted as legal tender for
payments to the Government. Europeans may wonder
how business can be carried on with such a confused system
of currency and banking, but the spirit of tolerance and
carefulness has so deeply permeated the mercantile and
agricultural classes of China (not the political class) that
they can make their life cheerful and happy in spite of all
barriers and hindrance.

The functions and duties of the Ministries of the Army
and the Navy are obvious from their titles. The best part
of the Chinese Navy was destroyed in the Chino-Japancse
War, and financial difficulties have not permitted it to be
replaced. The biggest man-of-war is an unarmed cruiser,
twenty years old, with a tonnage of 5,000. Many gun-boats
are used for coastal and river defence and for the suppression
of pirates. The Ministry of the Navy can perhaps hardly
justify its own existence, but it is useful as a department in
charge of the training of naval oi^cers and architects tor
the future extension of China's force at sea. It controls
a few naval schools, and it is in charge of a few docks and
shipyards, where old ships are repaired and new gun-boats
of inconsiderable size can be constructed by the Chinese
without foreign expert assistance. It should be responsible
for buoy-lights and coastal life-saving appliances, but the
care of these is undertaken by the Customs Service. It
controls several wireless stations.

The Ministry of War has perhaps more vexatious duties
to discharge. The old ' Bannermen ' Army of the Manchus
has been entirely replaced by a new army trained and
equipped more or less on modern lines. The standing army
of the Republic is believed to be 800,000 strong, but its
exact number is not definitely known. The Ministry is

1832.13 Q '

82 Constitution-making

supposed to be in supreme control of the organization and
the movement of troops, but as a military governor can
order the troops stationed in his province in any way he
likes, it is extremely doubtful whether the Ministry has
full authority over the Army. The bravery of the Chinese
and their fearlessness of death qualify them to make the
best fighting material, but the absence of discipline and
leadership causes them to compare very unfavourably with
a modern European army.

Conscription has not been introduced ; and as China in
the last twenty years has not been in a position to organize
an army to meet a foreign foe, the need for it has not
arisen. But unless patriotism can be cultivated and dis-
cipline maintained, even a big army will not afford adequate
defence to the country, but will be used by its leaders to
foment revolution and destroy its unity. The equipment
of the army, though much improved in recent years, is
still almost obsolete and quite inadequate for modern
warfare. The progress of science and its application to the
manufacture of munitions have altered the designs and
construction of arms of every description, and new inven-
tions add new weapons to the old. China has certainly not
kept pace with this rapid progress. It is true that she has
aeroplanes in her army, but the number is very insufficient.
Motor transport, which is most vital to modern fighting,
does not exist in the Chinese Army. Its heavy artillery
is perhaps not strong enough to hold even one mile of
front in the battlefields of Flanders and France. To create
an army for China adequate to the demands of her national
defence is one of the dreams which the patriotic Chinese
hope to realize in the near future.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the establish-

Cabinet 83

ment, the maintenance, and the supervision of all judicial
courts within the Republic. It is responsible for the appoint-
ment of judges, the examination of advocates (there is no
distinction between barristers and solicitors in China), and
the training of legal students. It is the highest admini-
strative authority in all civil or criminal cases and is in
charge of prisons. The separation of judicial and executive
office is a new departure in China's legal history, the judicial
functions having been formerly entrusted to district magi-
strates and provincial governors. The judicial system has
been reorganized on European models, but, in many parts
of the country, modern courts have not yet been established,
and district executive officials are still temporarily charged
with judicial functions.

The Chinese are tolerant and always endeavour to avoid
litigation : Confucius taught that in a perfect society there
are no law-suits ; and the Chinese aspire to live up to this
high ideal. Moreover, the corruption practised by the
district magistrates under the old regime has horrified the
peaceful and respectable Chinese, and the dread of law
courts has deterred them from appealing to public authorities 4
on minor grievances. The modern courts, though improved
in buildings and accommodation, have not yet been suffi-
ciently provided with experienced judges. These defects
will, it is hoped, be made good in course of time.

Education is in the care of a separate central department.
The range of its functions covers University, secondary,
elementary, and popular education. By popular education
is meant education through libraries, museums, botanic and
zoological gardens, exhibitions, musical and dramatic per-
formance, and public lectures. Popular education thus
defined is indeed highly recommended by European educa-

G 2

84 Constitution-making

tionistp and probably gets the maximum amount of
educational efficiency with the minimum amount of cost,
but, so far as China is concerned, little or nothing has been
done in this direction, though elaborate schemes have been

There are a few Universities in China, but their academic
standard leaves much to be desired. It has been difficult
to get qualified professors or even students. But numerous
colleges of specialized character have been opened in which
training for certain trades or occupations is given. This is
an imitation of the German 'technische Hochschule' and has
been proved very usefv;l both in Japan and in China. On
the same level as these specialized colleges are the Normal
Colleges where teachers are trained.

Below these colleges are the secondary or middle schools,
which correspond perhaps to the continuation schools in
England, but their curriculum is much higher. Graduates
of this grade of schools enter direct to Universities or
technical colleges. In elementary schools writing, reading,
and arithmetic are taught together with elementary history
and geography. Compulsory education has so far not been
enforced, but schools are mostly maintained at Government
expense and the charge is so small that they are practically

The Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce covers also
a vast field of action. It is supposed to deal with questions
relating to agriculture, sugar, tea, and cotton plantation ;
irrigation, cultivation of wasteland, cattle-breeding, forestry,
fisheries, mining ; registration of companies and of trade
marks, stock exchange. Government subsidies, insurance and
labour conditions. Like the Ministry of the Interior, it is
entrusted with numerous functions on paper which would

Cabinet 85

require several departments, were China a modern industrial
state. But for the present, the Ministry is confined to
making reports and mining surveys. The unsettled condition
of the country and the lack of funds have crippled its activi-
ties. A few experimental cotton stations have been opened to
produce cotton of improved quality ; and the improvement
of the quality of wool has also engaged the attention of the
Government. Over the private mining industries the
Government exercises little control except in the matter of
registration, and it has so far opened no mine on its own

China is a country of extensive and intensive farming.
A big population requires a large quantity of food. In
fertile regions two or three 'staple crops are produced on
the same allotment every year, and practically every inch
of soil is under cultivation. But for this advanced state of
farming the Government can claim no credit. As M. Simon ^
observed, ' Every farmer in China is himself a Minister of
Agriculture '.

Factory life is only beginning, and the labour movement
has, as yet, no organization. The Chinese are so human
and tolerant that they probably require no organization to
protect themselves against employers, even when capitalism
has replaced the prevailing system of private ownership and
partnership. The Ministry is, in fact, charged with many
functions which do not exist. There is no Stock Exchange
in China, except among foreign commercial communities in
Tientsin and Shanghai, and these are not subject to the
control of the Ministry.

The Ministry of Communication is in charge of railways,
posts, telegraph and telephone, and merchant vessels. China
•• La Cite chinoisc.

86 Constitution-making

has about 8,000 miles of railway under Government control.
The Ministry regulates its freights, enforces rules of safety
and sanitation, authorizes through communication between
several lines, and supervises their trafhc management. It
appoints and dismisses all railway officials, including foreign
engineers and accountants. It audits railway accounts and
controls railway finance. Its more important function is,
however, that of planning further railway extensions to be
carried out either by the Government or by private enter-
prise or by foreign capitalists. Railway nationalization has
been largely effected, and lines privately owned are also
controlled by the Government. Several important lines are
under construction and more have been projected, but the
construction has been much delayed owing to mismanage-
ment or to the difficulty of getting materials from abroad
in time of war.

The postal service is one of the few efficient departments
of modern China and has been extended to practically every
corner of the country. It was initiated by the Customs
Houses, but has now been taken over by this Ministry. The
telephone system has not yet been widely extended, but
towns and villages of considerable size are now all connected
by telegraph wire. Wireless stations have been set up, but
as they are reserved for Government correspondence they
are not available for the transmission of commercial intel-
ligence. No ocean-going vessel is under the Chinese flag,
but a Chinese company owns many vessels of four or five
thousand tons for coastal and river traffic.

The functions of the Ministry will, no doubt, grow when
the whole country is netted with more rails and wire. The
spirit of enterprise will not, let us hope, fail to promote
shipping industry in foreign seas when China's trade is more

Cabinet 87

extended and the Chinese have acquired more knowledge
of the organization of transport. The Ministry, even at
the present, is more active and more attractive than some
other Ministries, because it controls a large amount of rail-
way purchase and revenue ; and its control of the Bank of
Communications enables it to come into closer touch with
the financial market. Its power of making appointments
to desirable and remunerative posts attracts ofiice-seekers
and experts to it more than to any other Government

So far I have mentioned the departments which are under
members of the Cabinet. There are other departments
(under the President) whose chiefs are not in the Cabinet.
Among them is the Audit Department, which I have men-
tioned in connexion with the Ministry of Finance. The
General Staff is in charge of the National Defence. It
directs the education of staff officers and controls
staff colleges. Its functions include land- and sea-survey,
military communications, and the appointment and
instruction of naval and military attaches to the legations

The Department for Mongolia and Tibet which in other
countries would probably be named The Colonial Office, is
also under the direct control of the President, who deals
with questions in connexion with these two regions. The
cultivation and economic development of Mongolia and
Tibet are subjects of burning importance, but the depart-
ment is for the present fully occupied with the pacification
of native chieftains of various tribes. Its head is always
a Mongol, and he is often confronted with diplomatic
entanglements which arise from the British and the Russian
interests in these two Chinese dependencies.

-S8 Constitution-making

The Administrative Court, the Censorship, the Historio-
graphical Department, and the Department of Salt
Administration are all under the direct supervision of the
President, the Cabinet having no control over them except
as regards their expenditure, which falls on the national

I have now enumerated all the Government departments
and have stated very briefly their importance, their func-
tions, and the general conditions of the various matters
which they control. The distribution of functions among
them is, of course, subject to alteration as times change ;
new functions may necessitate the creation of new depart-
ments. Before long, the Air Force will probably require
a separate department, as has been the case in several
European countries. But for the present I recommend
neither the creation of new departments nor the abolition
of the old. The scarcity of skilled engineers, the incom-
petence of civil servants, the absence of capital and organizing
power, and the lack of unity in the country have all con-
tributed to the delay and interruption of economic develop-
ments. Unless these defects can be made good, a new
department will bring no salvation, but afford a place where
a few hundred candidates for office can earn good salaries,
while their intellect and spirit of enterprise simply deteriorate
from lack of occupation. China is already provided with
more Government departments than her administration
needs as yet. The creation of a new department may either
precede or follow the rise of new administration, but the
present is certainly not the time when a new department
in China can initiate new Government enterprise or sub-
sidize and encourage private concerns. The departments
that already exist may be useful as means of developing

Cabinet 89

more competent and more active departments in due course.
Their arrangements should be considered provisional rather
than permanent. Several have special officials to translate
and compile books and reports which will, it is hoped,
enlighten the future generation and lay the foundation of
an improved administration.^

§ 3. Legislature

Of the new institutions that have been introduced into
China since the establishment of the Republic, none is so
foreign to her traditional conceptions of government as an
elective Parliament. Throughout the long range of her
history, there is nothing parallel to an assembly, the members
of which are authorized by a popular mandate to represent
the popular voice in the sphere of government. It is because
of its novelty that Parliament has not been allowed to
proceed with its work ; it has been more than once sum-
moned and dissolved in the short space of three years. At
the time of writing (December 191 8) the Parliament in
Peking is elected by a law promulgated in 1918, and the old
Parliament that refuses to obey the Presidential order of
disso'lution, but convokes itself and sits in extraordinary
session in Canton, is elected by the law of 191 2, which has
been abrogated, revived, and again abrogated by the Peking
Government. The Constitutionalists in Canton refuse to
recognize the law of 191 8, because (though issued by the
President) it has not been passed by an elective assembly,
which, according to them, alone has the right to make laws.

This confusion need not give rise to any alarm for the
safety of the State ; it is but the consequence of the violence
with which the Constitution has been introduced. In
^ For Customs Service see Chapter 7.

go Constitution-making

revolutionary France the confusion was even greater, but
it resulted in valuable additions to the stock of constitutional
knowledge which the world possessed, and to-day many
countries are in a position to profit by her experiments in
dealing with the difficulties of parliamentary government
and with the necessity of adapting it to the prevailing
social and political conditions. China may also contribute
something to the science of politics by her numerous experi-
ments, and it is with the view of making that contribution
that I propose to examine and criticize both the law of
191 2 and that of 1918 with equal care and at equal length.
Should it be asked which of the two now possesses operative
value, the reply is that as the Government in Peking is de
facto and recognized by foreign Powers, the law that con-
stitutes its Parliament should be considered the law of the
land, but as the Government is approaching the Southern
Constitutionalists with proposals of compromise, the law of
1918 may be abolished in favour of that of 1912 before
these pages go to press. These two laws both provide that
Parliament shall be composed of a Senate and a House of
Representatives. Let us begin with the constitution of the

According to the law of 1912, the Senate consists of the
following members :

{a) Ten members elected by the Provincial Assembly in

each province (210 members from 21 provinces

{b) Twenty-seven members elected by the electoral college

of Mongolia.
(c) Ten members elected by the electoral college of Tibet.
{d) Three members elected by the electoral college of

Chinese Turkistan.

Legislature 91

(e) Eight members elected by the Central Educational

(/) Six members elected by the Chinese residents overseas.

It will be seen that the preponderant majority of the
Senators are elected by provincial assemblies ; that the
special electoral colleges are only constituted where no pro-
vincial assembly is available (as in Mongolia and Tibet) ;
and that only insignificant representation is given, to the
Central Educational Society and to the Chinese abroad
whose interests are not otherwise represented. The funda-
mental idea of the Chinese Senate, like that of the American,
is to give every province equal representation, irrespective
of its population. Although the Constitution of China is
not federal, the construction of her Senate is based upon
a federal principle.

It is argued that as China will have to adopt some sort
of federation in view of the ineffectiveness of centralization
and the rise of modern activities which require more pro-
vincial initiation, the Senate in the future should be elected
by provincial assemblies, as provided by this law. But, as
will be explained elsewhere in this volume, the federation
of China, if ever adopted, will only grant limited and
specified powers to provinces and will not justify the creation
of a Senate to represent provincial interests. Moreover, if
it is believed that the Central Government should always be
informed of the situation in every province and provided
with an assembly ready at hand to consult on questions
affecting it, it may be arranged that the seats in the Senate,
no matter how it is constituted, shall be so distributed as
to give all provinces an equal or approximately equal repre-

Before expounding my views on the best constitution of

92 Constitution- making •

the Senate, let us examine the law of 191 8. This law
relieves the provincial assemblies of the responsibility of
choosing senators and transfers it to the local and the central
colleges specially constituted for the purpose. Members of
a local college must be over thirty years of age and possess
one of the following qualifications :

(i) Graduation at a higher special school.

(2) Possession of an educational qualification equivalent

to that of clause (i) and employment in the public
service for three years or more.

(3) Employment as master or teacher in schools higher in

grade than the middle for three years or more.

(4) The publication or invention of something which has

been examined and approved by the Government
departments concerned.

(5) Employment as a Government official higher than the

third grade for three years or more.

(6) Employment as an official of the second grade for one

year or more.

(7) Receipt of ' Orders ' and ' Decorations '.

(8) Payment of an annual direct tax of more than §300.^

(9) Possession of immovable property more than §50,000

in value.
Any of the following are disqualified from becoming members
of a local electoral college :

(i) All those whose civil rights have been taken away and

not yet restored.

(2) Bankrupts whose bankruptcy has not yet been re-


(3) All those affiicted with mental disease.

1 One Chinese dollar is equal to about two shillings at the pre-war
rate of exchange.

Legislahire 93

(4) Illiterates.

(5) All those on the active list of army or navy.

(6) Judicial, administrative, or police officials on the active


(7) Monks, priests, or other religious teachers.

(8) Students at schools.

Teachers of elementary schools may vote, but may not be
elected as senators.

Every thirty of those qualified to vote shall elect one
voter ; and the voters so elected shall constitute a college
to choose senators, of whom every province elects live, everj^
special administrative area one, Mongolia fifteen, Tibet six,
and Chinese Turkistan two. Candidates for the senatorial
election by local colleges must be over thirty-five years
of age and not subject to any of the disqualifications
enumerated above.

So much for the local college ; the central college shall
be composed of the following groups :

(i) Graduates of a Chinese or foreign university who have
been employed in public service for more than three

Online LibrarySih-Gung ChengModern China, a political study → online text (page 7 of 28)