It is obvious that arterial communication is the first organic need of all civilized States, and pre-eminently of a country so vast and various in its terrestrial conditions as is China. This need has been recognized by the ablest of its rulers, who, from time to time, have made serious efforts to connect the most distant parts of the empire by both land and water routes. The Grand Canal, or Yunho ("River of Transports"), is pronounced as memorable a monument of human industry in its way as is the Great Wall. It is not, however, a canal in the Western sense of the word, but merely, as Richthofen has explained, "a series of abandoned river beds, lakes and marshes, connected one with another by cuttings of no importance, fed by the Wanho in Shantung, which divides into two currents at its summit, and by other streams and rivers along its course. A part of the water of the Wanho descends toward the Hoangho and Gulf of Pechihli; the larger part runs south in the direction of the Yangtse." The Grand Canal links Hangchow, a port on the East China Sea, south of the Yangtse, with Tientsin in Chihli, where it unites with the Peiho, and thus may be said to extend to Tungchow in the neighborhood of Pekin. When the canal was in order, before the inflow of the Yellow River failed, there was uninterrupted water communication from Pekin to Canton, and to the many cities and towns met with on the way. For many years past, however, and especially since the carriage of tribute-rice by steamers along the coast began, repairs of the Grand Canal have been practically abandoned. The roads in China, confined generally to the northern and western sections of the country, are described as the very worst in the world. The paving, according to Baber, "is of the usual Chinese pattern, rough bowlders and blocks of stone being laid somewhat loosely together on the surface of the ground; 'good for ten years and bad for ten thousand,' as the Chinese proverb admits. On the level plains of China, where the population is sufficiently affluent to subscribe for occasional repairs, the system has much practical value. But, in the Yunnari mountains, the roads are never repaired; so far from it, the indigent natives extract the most convenient blocks to stop the holes in their hovel walls, or to build a fence on the windward side of their poppy patches. The rains soon undermine the pavement, especially where it is laid on a steep incline; sections of it topple down the slope, leaving chasms a yard or more in depth." Where traveling by water is impossible, sedan chairs are used to carry passengers, and coolies with poles and slings transport the luggage and goods. The distances covered by the sedan chair porters are remarkable, being sometimes as much as thirty-five miles a day, even on a journey extending over a month. The transport animals--ponies, mules, oxen and donkeys--are strong and hardy, and manage to drag carts along the execrable roads. The ponies are said to be admirable, and the mules unequaled in any other country. The distances which these animals will cover on the very poorest of forage are surprising.
The rapid adoption of steamers along the coast and on the Yangtse has paved the way for railways. Shallow steamers have yet to traverse the Poyang and the Tungting Lakes, which lie near the Yangtse, and Peiho and Canton Rivers, as well as many minor streams. It is the railway, however, that is the supreme necessity. Mr. Colquhoun has pointed out that, except along the Yangtse for the thousand-odd miles now covered by steamers, there is not a single trade route of importance in China where a railway would not pay. Especially would a line from Pekin carried through the heart of China to the extreme south, along the existing trade routes, be advantageous and remunerative. The enormous traffic carried on throughout the Celestial Empire in the face of appalling difficulties, on men's backs, or by caravans of mules or ponies, or by the rudest of carts and wheelbarrows, must be, some day, undertaken by railways. In the judgment of careful observers, too much stress should not be laid on the introduction of the locomotive for strategic purposes. The capital aim of railway construction should be, they think, the development of the interprovincial trade of China, the interchange of the varied products of a country which boasts so many climates and soils. This would bring prosperity to the people, render administrative reforms possible, and open China for the Chinese quite as much as for the European merchant or manufacturer. From the viewpoint of Chinese interests, the most useful lines would be two that should connect Pekin, Tientsin and all the northern part of the country with central and southern China. Trunk lines could be constructed for this purpose without any difficulty. They would pass along the old trade tracks, and would encounter populous cities the whole way. Through eastern Shansi and Honan, for example, to Hangchow on the Yangtse; thence to the Si Kiang and Canton; such lines would be shafts driven through the heart of the Middle Kingdom, connecting the North and the South. For the entire distance, some 1,300 or 1,400 miles, the extent, fertility and variety of the soil are described as remarkable. From the North, abounding in cotton and varieties of grain and pulse, to the South, where many vegetable products of the Orient are met, the redundancy of the population is a striking feature. A constant succession of villages, towns and cities would be transformed into a picture of bustle and business.
The internal economical conditions of China to-day are very much the same as were those of India when railways were introduced. The only difference is that the Chinese people are better off per man, and that the Chinese and Indo-Chinese, unlike the natives of India, are born travelers and traders. Yet, even in India, contrary to expectation, the passenger traffic on the railways has, from the first, exceeded the goods traffic. In 1857, the number of passengers carried by railway in India was 2,000,000; in 1896, it had risen to 160,000,000. In the first named year, the quantity of goods transported was 253,000 tons; in 1896, it was 32,500,000 tons. There has been witnessed in India during those forty years an expansion of commerce which, at the outset of the period, would have been deemed incredible. The imports and exports rose in that time from 400,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 rupees. Forty years ago, India was merely a dealer in drugs, dyes and luxuries; now she is one of the largest purveyors of food grains, fibers, and many other staples. Few persons are aware how favorably the earnings of Indian railways compare with those of other countries. The average earnings of railways in the United States are 3 per cent; in Great Britain, 3.60 per cent; in India, 5.46 per cent. This in spite of the fact that, in India, a man can travel 400 miles within twenty-four hours for the sum of $2.08. The policy of low charges has answered well, the people, on its adoption, at once having begun to travel and to send their produce by rail. In China, also, low rates will be a necessity. Another fact of importance to China is that, out of the 260,000 people employed on Indian railways, 95.66 per cent are natives. Only the higher posts are held by Europeans. In China, the proportions would probably be even more in favor of the native element.
Mr. Colquhoun, who is a high authority, has no doubt that, as Richthofen anticipated years ago, China will eventually be directly connected with Europe via Hami, Lanchow and Sian. "No direct connection of this kind," says Richthofen "is possible south of the Wei basin, and any road to the north of it would have to keep entirely north of the Yellow River and run altogether through desert countries." The same reason which confined the commerce of China with the West during thousands of years to the natural route via Hami will be decisive as regards railway communication also. In respect of natural facilities, and because of the existence of populous, productive and extensive commercial regions at both ends of the line, it is the only practicable route. It is further to be noted that the whole tract would be provided with coal. The province of Kansuh rivals Shansi in the richness and extent of its coal fields; no section of it north of the Tsungling Mountains appears to be deficient in coal measures, and, in some parts, a superabundance of the combustible exists. The coal formation extends, with few interruptions, from Eastern Shansi to Hi through thirty degrees of longitude. There is scarcely, remarks Richthofen, an instance on record "where so many favorable and essential conditions co-operate to concentrate all future intercourse on so long a line upon one single and definite channel." As regards railways within the empire, a Pekin-Hankow line has been arranged for, as we pointed out in the previous chapter, with a so-called Belgian syndicate, and, if properly executed, should be a good line; but, as we have said, it is the opinion of experts that the best railway contemplated in China would be that from Pekin via Tientsin to Hangchow, with an extension later to Canton. The line would pass some forty towns, with an average population of 25,000 each, and a large number of villages. The length of the Grand Canal from Tientsin to Hangchow is 650 miles. According to Mr. Colquhoun, no better line for a railway exists in the world, from the viewpoint of population, resources and cheapness of construction. It follows the most important of the actual routes of commerce in the empire, passes the greatest possible number of cities, towns and villages, and connects great seaports with rich coal regions of authenticated value.
We pass to the telegraph and postal service. It appears that government telegraphs are being rapidly extended throughout the empire. There are lines between Pekin and Tientsin, and lines connecting the capital with the principal places in Manchuria as far as the Russian frontier on the Amour and the Usuri, while Newchwang, Chefoo, Shanghai, Yangchow, Souchow, the seven treaty ports on the Yangtse, Canton, Woochow, Lungchow, and, in fact, most of the principal cities in the empire, are now joined by wire with one another and with the metropolis. The line from Canton westward passes via Yunnanfoo to Manwein, on the borders of Burmah. Shanghai is in communication with Foochow and Moy, Kashing, Shaoshing, Ningpo and other places. Lines have been constructed between Foochow and Canton and between Taku, Port Arthur and Seoul in Corea, and the line along the Yangtse Valley has been extended to Chungking. By an arrangement made with the Russian telegraph authorities, the Chinese and Siberian lines in the Amour Valley were joined in the latter part of 1892, and there is now overland communication between Pekin and Europe through Russian territory. The postal service of China is unquestionably primitive from a Western point of view. It is carried on by means of post carts and runners. There are, besides, numerous private postal couriers, and, during the winter, when the approach to the capital is closed by sea and river, a service between the office of Foreign Customs at Pekin and the outports is maintained. The Chinese, it seems, have always been great believers in their own postal system. Even those who have emigrated to British colonies have adhered to their own method of transporting letters, refusing to use the duly constituted government posts, except under compulsion. Both Hongkong and the Straits Settlements have been actually compelled to legislate in the matter. It is said, however, to be remarkable how safe the native post is, not merely for the carriage of ordinary letters, but for the conveyance of money. We should add that, on February 2, 1897, the Imperial Chinese Post Office was opened under the management of Sir Robert Hart, and China has since joined the Postal Union.
In a chapter of Mr. Colquhoun's book bearing the caption "England's Objective in China," we are told that there are two ways of attacking the trade of China in the Middle Kingdom, so far as England is concerned. The one is from the seaboard, entering China by the chief navigable rivers, notably the Yangtse, which is the main artery of China, and the West River, which passes through the southern provinces. The other mode of approach is from England's land base, Burmah, through Yunnan. It is acknowledged that the sea approach, hitherto the only one, is, from the purely trading point of view, incomparably the more important; but the other, or complementary land route, is pronounced a necessity if England's commercial and political influence is to be maintained and extended. The isolation of China over sea has long since been annuled by steam, and her former complete isolation by land has now ceased also. Hitherto cut off from access by land, she will, in the north, be shortly placed in direct railway communication with Europe, a fact which by itself renders imperative a corresponding advance from the south. It is many years since Mr. Colquhoun began to advocate the railway communication of Burmah with southwestern China, first with the view to open Yunnan and Szchuen, and, secondly, to effect a junction between those two great waterways, the Yangtse and the Irrawaddy. It seemed to him that the connection of the navigation limit of the Yangtse with the most easterly province of Anglo- India was a matter of cardinal importance, not merely because it was eminently desirable for commercial purposes to connect the central and lower regions of the Yangtse with Burmah, but also for political reasons. It so happens that the navigation limit of that river lies within the province of Szchuen, which, in Mr. Colquhoun's opinion, should be the commercial and political objective of England. Szchuen, from its size, population, trade and products, may, according to Mrs. Bishop, be truly called the Empire Province. Apart from its great mineral resources, the province produces silk, wax and tobacco, all of good quality; grass cloth, grain in abundance, and tea, plentiful though of poor flavor. The climate is changeable, necessitating a variety of clothing. Cotton is grown in Szchuen, but Bourne states that Indian yarn is driving it out of cultivation, not apparently on account of the enormous saving through spinning by machinery, but because the fiber can be grown more cheaply in India. The greater part of the surplus wealth of Szchuen is devoted to the purchase of raw native and foreign cotton and woolen goods. All the cotton bought is not consumed in the province, for the inhabitants manufacture from the imported raw material and export the product to Yunnan and western Kweichow. Rich as it is, Szchuen has the disadvantage of being difficult of access from the rest of the world, for at present merchandise can now only reach it during certain months of the year, and after a difficult voyage. Its trade would be increased very greatly were the navigation of the Yangtse rendered easier and safer, thus facilitating the establishment of effective steam communication not only to Chungking, but as far as Suifoo.
The natural channel of trade between Hongkong and southwestern China is the Sikiang, or West River. Owing, however, to the obstacles raised by taxation and the non-enforcement by England of the transit-pass system, trade has been diverted to other channels, such as the Pakhoi-Nanning route, and later to the Tonquin route, the French having insisted on the effective carrying out of the transit-pass system via Mengtse. At present British goods are actually sent from Hongkong through French territory via Mengtse to a point within seven days of Bhamo in Burmah. The Lungchow route, whatever its merits might have been, had the railway line from Pakhoi to Nanning not been secured by the French government, is now, according to Mr. Colquhoun, of quite secondary importance. He concedes that, unless the West River is at once effectively opened throughout its course, the Pakhoi-Nanning-Yunnan route is bound to command the largest share of the trade of south and southwestern China.
Having passed under review the provinces of south and southwestern China and the great waterways--to wit, the Yangtse and West rivers--we may now inquire what measures should be adopted to improve the present state of affairs in the interest of China and of foreign trade. The first step suggested is the improvement of communication by railways and steam navigation. So far as railways are concerned, Burmah should be connected with Tali and Yunnanfoo, Yunnanfoo with Nanning, Canton with Kaulun. This would thoroughly open the whole of Southern China lying between Burmah and the British colony of Hongkong. Yunnanfoo should also be connected to the northeast with Suifoo on the upper Yangtse, the navigation limit of that waterway. Steam navigation should at once be extended to Nanning and to Suifoo, and also, wherever it may be practicable, throughout all inland waters. Next in importance to the creation of proper communication is the question of taxation. All travelers, in Southern China especially, dwell on the obstacles to trade resulting from the collection of so many various imposts. The British government should insist on its treaty rights, especially the enforcement, successfully accomplished by the French government, of the transit-pass system. It is, finally, the conviction of all competent students of the subject that it is from Burmah, on the one hand, and from Shanghai and Hongkong on the other, that England must, by the aid of steam applied overland and by water, practically occupy the upper Yangtse region, which will be found to be the key to a dominant position in China.
In some comments on China's prospective commercial development Mr. Colquhoun, the latest first-hand observer, sets forth some statistics which are of interest not only to Englishmen but to Americans. He shows that in 1896 the total net value of imports and of exports was 55,768,500 pounds, and the total gross value 57,274,000 pounds, of which the British dominions contributed 39,271,000 pounds, leaving for all other nations 18,003,000 pounds. Of this aggregate Russia contributed 2,856,000 pounds, the rest of Europe 4,585,000 pounds, Japan 4,705,000 pounds, and other countries, including the United States, 5,767,000 pounds. The percentage of the carrying trade of the Middle Kingdom under foreign flags was: British, 82.04; German, 7.49; French, 2.00; Japanese, 1.34; Russian, 0.59; other countries, 5.54. The percentage of dues and duties paid under foreign flags was as follows: British, 76.04; German, 10.12; French, 2.95; Japanese, 2.28; Russian, 1.90; all other nations, 6.71. It appears, then, that Great Britain not only carries eighty-two per cent of the total foreign trade with China, but pays seventy-two per cent of the revenue resulting from that trade. Until recently, British subjects were at liberty to carry on business at but eighteen ports in China. They were Newchwang, Tientsin, Chifui, on the northern coast; Chungking, Ichang, Hankow, Kiukiang, Wehu, Chinkiang and Shanghai, on the Yangtse River; Ningpo, Wenchow, Foochow, Amoy, Swatow, Canton, Hoihow (Kiungchow) and Pakhoy, on the coast south of the Yangtse. To these must be now added Shansi on the Yangtse, between Ichang and Hankow; Hangchow and Souchow, two inland cities near Shanghai; Woochow and Sanshui on the West River and Ssumao and Lungchow, in the south. It is also reported that three other ports have been very recently opened; viz., Yochow, on the Tungting Lake; Chungwang, on the Gulf of Pechihli, and Funing in Fuhkien.
Let us now proceed to demonstrate how deeply the United States are concerned in the China question from the industrial point of view. Inasmuch as, owing to the fact that Americans now manufacture more than they consume, they are compelled to embark on a foreign policy and to look increasingly to foreign markets, they cannot but feel that the future of the Middle Kingdom is a matter of vital importance to themselves. It is manifest that the Pacific slope, though at present playing but a small part, is destined to be more profoundly affected by the development of China than is any other section of the American republic. Our Pacific States are possessed of enormous natural resources; their manufactures have quadrupled in twenty years, and will, in the course of time, find a most advantageous market in the Far East. When the Nicaragua Canal shall have been dug, the Atlantic States will also be brought into close connection with China and with the rest of Eastern Asia. The volume of the United States traffic with China already represented a considerable part of the foreign trade of the empire in 1896. While the imports from China received by the United States have increased but slowly, the exports from the last-named country to the Middle Kingdom have increased 126 per cent in ten years, and are more than fifty per cent greater than the exports of Germany to the same market. The export of American cotton cloths to China amounted to $7,485,000 in 1897, or nearly one-half the entire value of cotton cloths sent abroad by the United States. The export of kerosene oil from the States to China now ranks second in importance to that of cotton goods, and is likely to increase at a rapid rate. The Chinese demand for the illuminating fluid is quickly growing, and the delivery of it from the United States to China has more than trebled in value during the past ten years. That is to say, it has risen from $1,466,000 in 1888 to $4,498,000 in 1897. The Russian oil has hitherto been the only serious foreign competitor of the American product, but the Langkat oil is coming to some extent into use. The exports of American wheat flour to China reached a value in 1897 of $3,390,000, and those of chemicals, dyes, etc., $1,000,000. At present, the export trade of the United States to China is confined mainly to cottons and mineral oils; that is to say, it is largely restricted to commodities which would be hard to sell in any Chinese port where the conditions of equal trade did not prevail. It would probably prove impossible to sell them in any Asiatic port controlled by Russia or by France. It follows that, although England has most to lose by the partition of China, even though she should receive a large share of territory, the United States are also deeply interested in the question, for their trade is already considerable, and is likely, under favorable circumstances, to undergo great expansion.
Let us, finally, examine the Chinese question from a political point of view. We concur with Mr. Colquhoun in believing that Englishmen are now at the parting of the ways, and that their failure to take the right course in the Far East will mean the loss of England's commercial supremacy, and, eventually, the disintegration of the British Empire. He maintains that, since November 16, 1896, when the German government was compelled by Bismarck's revelations to disclose the drift of its future policy, it has been apparent that there is an increasing tendency toward cooperation in the Near East and the Par East between Germany and Russia, and therefore, also, between those powers and France, which is Russia's ally. The understanding is based upon mutual interest, territorial in the case of Russia, commercial in that of Germany, and political in the case of France. The cornerstone of the combination is Russia, whose goodwill is sought for at all costs by France, in a lesser degree by Germany, and, latterly, even by Austria-Hungary. The chief aim of the combination is the reduction of England to a secondary position, politically and commercially. In China, the outcome of the coalition has been to isolate England completely. For some years past, her efforts to secure concessions at Pekin have been frustrated by Russia and France. Meanwhile, these two countries, and, more lately, Germany as well, have secured for themselves solid advantages. Japan, on her part, since she was compelled to submit to a revision of the Shimonoseki treaty, has been watching silently and preparing anxiously for eventualities. England's official optimists talked in 1895, however, as they still talk, of the successes gained, the "rectification" of the Burmo-Chinese frontier and the incomplete "opening" of the West River. As a matter of fact, the British government has done little or nothing to establish overland railway communication from Burmah to China, or to reach China "from behind," as Lord Salisbury called it; and the Upper Yangtse, the main artery of China, has remained practically unopened. Such, at least, was the situation a few months ago.
To understand the present situation, which is the natural sequel of 1895, it is needful, first of all, to recognize the fact that Russia is, at this moment, the protector of China against all comers, and that France supports her firmly, while Germany, having once taken the decisive step of placing herself alongside Russia, is likely to follow the czar's lead for two sufficient reasons; namely, for fear of displeasing the Russian ally of France, and because concessions are not likely to be obtained at Pekin by Germany, if the latter country places itself in direct and open opposition to the St. Petersburg government. Russian influence has, for some time past, been omnipotent at Pekin, mainly through the kindly assistance rendered to China in 1895, followed up by what has been practically an offensive and defensive league. The nature of the understanding between Russia and the Middle Kingdom has, indeed, for some time been patent to all the world except Englishmen, the chief features of it being: First, an offensive and defensive alliance; secondly, branch railways through Manchuria; thirdly, the refortification of Port Arthur and Talienwan, both to be paid for by China, and either or both of these harbors to be placed at Russia's disposal whenever they may be required. It is true that China has denied the existence of any agreement except that concerning the northern Manchurian Railway, but Russia has never denied anything except the accuracy of the version of the so-called "Cassini" Convention, published by a Shanghai paper. Apart from the existence of any written contract, the facts speak for themselves. Russia, having had a prior lien on Kiao Chou, it is obvious that Germany could not have seized that harbor in opposition to Russia. Again, what is to prevent Germany from discovering some day that Kiao Chou does not "meet her requirements," in which event what is there to hinder Russia from taking over Kiao Chou and giving Germany another port? Provision has, in truth, been made to enable Germany to treat Kiao Chou as a negotiable bill of exchange.
There is really nothing unforeseen in the recent evolution of affairs in the Far East. On the contrary, it has been clearly indicated by various writers in the past fifty years. As far back as 1850, Meadows wrote: "China will not be conquered by any Western power until she becomes the Persia of some future Alexander the Great of Russia, which is the Macedon of Europe. England, America and France will, if they are wise, wage, severally or collectively, a war of exhaustion with Russia rather than allow her to conquer China, for, when she has done that, she will be mistress of the world." In reply to those who ridicule the policy of "guarding against imaginary Russian dangers in China," he said: "Many may suppose the danger to be too remote to be a practical subject for the present generation. The subject is most practical at the present hour, for, as the English, Americans and French now deal with China, and with her relations to Russia, so the event will be. For those to whom 'it will last our time' is a word of practical wisdom, this volume is not written." Again, a few years later, Meadows wrote: "The greatest, though not nearest, danger of a weak China lies precisely in those territorial aggressions of Russia which she began two centuries ago, and which, if allowed to go on, will speedily give her a large and populous territory, faced with Sveaborgs and Sebastopols on the seaboard of Eastern Asia. Let England, America and France beware how they create a sick giant in the Far East. China is a world-necessity." Foreshadowing the gradual extension of Russia into China, and the time when the former country would become dominant at Pekin, and when, with all Manchuria organized behind her, she would occupy the whole of the Yellow River basin, Meadows expressed the belief that, should that occasion occur, no combination of powers would then be able to thwart Russia's purpose. "With 120,000,000 Chinese to work or fight for her, nothing would stand between Russia and the conquest of the rest of the Celestial Empire; not China alone, but Europe itself would then be dominated, and it would cost the Russian Emperor of China but little trouble to overwhelm the Pacific States of the New World." Such was the forecast of a writer whose name is to-day forgotten.
What are the advantages which Russia possesses over England in dealing with China? There is, in the first place, the advantage of proximity. The Chinese people in the northern provinces, and especially at the capital, which is not far from the Great Wall, undoubtedly discriminate between Russians and other foreigners. Like other Orientals, they only believe what they see; and Russia is seen and realized on the northern frontier. Besides the effect of contact, the Russians possess a gift in dealing with the Chinese. The affinities and analogies which the Russians and Chinese exhibit have been depicted by Michie in his book on the "Siberian Overland Route." "Analogies in the manners, customs and modes of thought of the two races are constantly turning up, and their resemblance to the Chinese has become a proverb among the Russians themselves. The Russians and the Chinese are peculiarly suited to each other in the commercial as well as in the diplomatic departments. They have an equal disregard for truth, for the Russian, in spite of his fair complexion, is, at the bottom, more than half Asiatic. There is nothing original about this observation, but it serves to explain how it is that the Russians have won their way into China by quiet and peaceable means, while we have always been running our heads against a stone wall, and never could get over it without breaking it down. The Russians meet the Chinese as Greek meets Greek; craft is encountered with craft, politeness with politeness, and patience with patience. They understand each other's character thoroughly, because they are so closely alike." Michie went on to say that "when either a Russian or a Chinese meets a European, say an Englishman, he instinctively recoils from the blunt, straightforward, up-and-down manner of coming to business at once, and the Asiatic either declines a contest which he cannot fight with his own weapons, or, seizing the weak point of his antagonist, he angles for him until he wearies him into acquiescence. As a rule, the Asiatic has the advantage. His patient equanimity and heedlessness of the waste of time are too much for the impetuous haste of the European. This characteristic of the Russian trading classes has enabled them to insinuate them selves into the confidence of the Chinese; to fraternize and identify themselves with them, and, as it were, to make common cause with them in their daily life; while the Western European holds himself aloof, and only comes in contact with the Chinese when business requires it; for, in all the rest, a great gulf separates them in thoughts, ideas and the aims of life."
Of interest, also, as showing how history repeats itself, are the observations made nearly forty years ago by Lockhart, a missionary, after a long residence in China. Lockhart wrote: "The Russian government anticipated us, not in the knowledge of the advantages of close commercial and political relations with an empire so enormous in its resources, but in the employment of those arguments that alone could render a vain and effeminate State sensible of their value.... The map of all the Russias, published at St. Petersburg, now includes that vast portion of Central Asia heretofore constituting the outlying provinces of the Chinese empire beyond the Great Wall. Having placed a mission in the Chinese capital and organized an overwhelming army in Chinese Tartary, with magazines of warlike resources, Russia easily secured a permanent footing in region after region, till she had dominated over, and then obtained the cession of, all the intervening space, leaving the conquest of the entire Chinese empire to the time when it should please the reigning Czar to order his Cossacks to take possession. It is impossible to state with any precision the amount of moral or material support which the Chinese emperor received from his imperial brother and formidable neighbor, and which encouraged him to the obstinate resistance that he offered to the demands of England and France [in 1860]; but a slight acquaintance with Russian policy must satisfy any one that, having established itself as a favored nation, Russia could not regard with complacency any attempt made by another nation to share such advantages." Comprehending, therefore, the Chinese character, perceiving clearly that the present Manchu dynasty is unable to perform the elementary functions of an organized society, that Pekin is another Teheran or Constantinople, that, while the people are sound, the courts and the officials are corrupt, Russia has studied and gained over certain influential persons and applied skillfully the maxim, _divide et impera_. What China is taught night and day is that Russia is a land power, and, therefore, alone can protect China; that she keeps her promises and threats; that, with England, on the other hand, it is always a case of _vox et praeterea nihil_. In short, Russia protects China in a peculiar sense, that is to say, for a price, to be paid to Russia or even to her friends. The dominating idea instilled into the Chinese court and bureaucracy, which, in the absence of a strong policy on England's part, are in a hypnotized condition, is to be saved from Japan. The great object of Russian policy is to utilize China for territorial and political expansion.
What would China be worth to Russia? This question is answered by Mr. Colquhoun at considerable length. What the utilization of China would mean can be realized, he says, only by a full appreciation of the extraordinary resources of that country, judged from various points of view. The Celestial Empire has the men with which to create armies and navies; the materials, especially iron and coal, requisite for the purposes of railway and steam navigation; all the elements, in fact, out of which to evolve a great living force. One thing alone is wanting, namely, the will, the directing power, which, absent from within, is now being applied from without. That supplied, there are to be found in abundance within China itself the capacity to carry out, the brains to plan, the hands to work. When, moreover, it is understood that not merely is the soil fertile, but that the mineral resources, the greatest, perhaps, in the whole world, are, as yet, practically untouched, the merest surface being scratched; when we further consider the volume of China's population, the ability and enterprise, and, above all, the intense vitality of the people, as strong as ever after four millenniums; when we reflect on the general characteristics of the race; it seems indisputable that the Chinese, under wise direction, are destined to dominate the whole of Eastern Asia, and, may be, to play a leading part in the affairs of the world. Even although the Celestial Empire appears to be now breaking up, it is capable, under tutelage, of becoming reconsolidated. Often before now, when conquered, has China either thrown off the yoke or absorbed its conquerors. But never before has the conqueror come, as does the czar to-day, in the guise of a great organizing force. To much the same effect wrote Michie, whose opinion is of weight, and from whom we have already quoted: "The theory that China's decadence is due to the fact that she has long since reached maturity and has outlived the natural term of a nation's existence does not hold good. The mass of the people have not degenerated; they are as fresh and vigorous as ever they were; it is the government only that has become old and feeble; a change of dynasty may yet restore to China the luster which belongs legitimately to so great a nation. The indestructible vitality of Chinese institutions has preserved the country unchanged throughout many revolutions. The high civilization of the people and their earnestness in the pursuit of peaceful industry have enabled them to preserve their national existence through more dynastic changes than perhaps any other country or nation has experienced." Mr. Colquhoun, for his own part, testifies that, in peaceful pursuits, in agriculture, in the arts and manufactures, no limit can be placed to the capabilities of China. Even in the paths of war, he deems it difficult to foretell what, under skillfull direction, may not be accomplished. It is true that, touching this point, there is a wide difference of opinion. Prjevalski said, apropos of the Tonquin campaign: "She [China] lacks the proper material; she lacks the life-giving spirit. Let Europeans supply the Chinese with any number of arms that they please: let them exert themselves ever so energetically to train Chinese soldiers: let them even supply leaders: the Chinese Army will, nevertheless, even under the most favorable conditions, never be more than an artificially created, mechanically united, unstable organism. Subject it but once to the serious test of war, speedy dissolution will overtake such an army, which could never hope for victory over a foe animated with any real spirit." On the other hand, high testimony has been borne by other travelers and military critics to the excellent quality of China's raw material for military purposes. Wingrove Cooke, the "Times" correspondent with the allied forces in 1857-58, who is generally accounted one of the best critics of Chinese men and affairs; Count d'Escayrac de Lauture, one of the Pekin prisoners in 1859-60; Chinese Gordon and Lord Wolseley, have all spoken highly of the courage and endurance of the Chinese soldier. The following summary of his capabilities was given by one who had had experience with Gordon's "Ever-Victorious Army": "The old notion is pretty well got rid of that they are at all a cowardly people, when properly paid and efficiently led; while the regularity and order of their habits, which dispose them to peace in ordinary times, give place to a daring bordering on recklessness in times of war. Their intelligence and capacity for remembering facts render them well fitted for use in modern warfare, as do also the coolness and the calmness of their disposition. Physically, they are, on the average, not so strong as Europeans, but considerably more so than most of the other races of the East; and, on a cheap diet of rice, vegetables, salt fish and pork, they can go through a vast amount of fatigue whether in a temperate climate or a tropical one, where Europeans are ill fitted for exertion. Their wants are few; they have no caste prejudices and hardly any appetite for intoxicating liquors." It is Mr. Colquhoun's opinion, based upon prolonged observation, that, if China were conquered by Russia, organized, disciplined and led by Russian officers and Russian administrators, an industrial and military organization would be developed which India could not face, and which would shake to its foundations the entire fabric of the British Empire. If, he says, the Chinese failed to profit by their numerical superiority and their power of movement in Tonquin, it must be remembered that they were as ill-equipped and supplied and nearly as unorganized and unofficered as they were in the Chino- Japanese war. Transport, commissariat, tents, medical service, all the paraphernalia employed in organized army work, were then, as in the late campaign, absolutely unknown. Notwithstanding the unfavorable judgment of Prjevalski that the Chinese are animated by neither military nor patriotic spirit, the conviction of many observers is that, however undisciplined they proved themselves in the Chino-Japanese war; however badly the undrilled, unfed, unled Chinamen in uniform compared with the highly organized troops of Japan, their capabilities, as the components of a fighting machine, should be rated exceedingly high. The apparent inconsistencies of the Chinese can, in all likelihood, be reconciled. That they offer excellent military material when shaped and guided by foreigners may be pronounced certain. If they come from the Manchurian provinces or from Shantung, they are found to be steady, willing to be taught and amenable to discipline, of splendid physique and able to bear hardships and cold without a murmur. If from Honan, they exhibit many of the best characteristics of highland races--courage and loyalty to their own leader, but they are more difficult to manage, and they are not steady in any sense of the word. The southern Chinese seem to be held generally in low esteem, but one should not forget that the best fighters of the Taeping army were the men from the Canton province, and that, as seamen, the coast populations of Southern China are unequaled. The western highlanders, whether Mohammedans or not, are men of good physique, and would make good fighting material. The Mongolians are horsemen from their early years, and are suitable for light cavalry of the Cossack type.
Like the Central Asian peoples, the Chinese possess in a high degree the virtue of passive bravery. At first the Russians, in their contests in Central Asia, expended much time and wasted many lives in besieging towns. They acted with caution, throwing up approaches and opening trenches. This method, however, was presently abandoned for that of open escalade, as, for instance, at Tashkend, Khojand and Uratapa. Finally, the plan was adopted of storming breaches, to permit of which breaching batteries would be thrown up at very close quarters, after which, a favorable time being chosen, the place would be carried by storm. From every point of view, this proved to be the most effective method. The Chinamen, as has been proved repeatedly, is like other Central Asiatics in this respect, that, under cover, he sustains the heaviest fire with indifference; he never surrenders except under bold assaults, which he cannot withstand.
What is the conclusion to which the observations of all first-hand students of China have conducted them? Their conclusion is that it is a question of vital importance, a matter of commercial life and death, for England to maintain and consolidate herself in the Yangtse basin, which cannot possibly be done except by an effective occupation of the upper Yangtse, and by developing in every possible way her communications along that watercourse, and by the West River from Hongkong, also by railway connection with Upper Burmah and through that province with India. Mr. Colquhoun, for his part, also believes it to be high time that countries like the United States, Australasia and Germany should set themselves to watch with attention, not to say anxiety, the situation in the Far East. He advises them to reflect upon the history of the ancient empire formed by Genghis Khan and his successors, for that history is repeating itself to-day. Russia is conquering by modern methods the kingdoms of Genghis and Kublai Khan, and the Russian Czar, once emperor of China, will take the place of the Tartar conquerors who carried fire and sword beyond the Carpathians and the Vistula and throughout eastern, western and southern Asia.