Changing China
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Sep 1922, p. 227-236


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Ross, Dr. J.W., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description:
The progress and development that is going on in China. An historical review, to see China from a different angle from that presented today. China as the oldest civilized nation in the world, outliving all its contemporaries of Ancient History. Reasons why China has survived for so long. China as the most poorly understood country in the world, and reasons for that. China's discouragement of foreign visitors. The great fertility of China. Production of silk, tea, cotton, and every kind of grain. Coal, iron ore and other minerals. The mistaken belief that rice is the universal food of the Chinese people. The myth of over-population. The several races that make up the Chinese population. Characteristics and customs of the Chinese people. The Chinese business man. Domestic commerce. Most of China's troubles traced to foreigners, with illustrative examples. Ways in which China is changing. Much of the progress observed in China due to the expansion of foreign business, the establishment of industries, and the employment of machinery that is now becoming common. Signs that show that the field of the world's greatest activity is likely to shift from Europe to Asia during this century. Expectations for China's future. A last word with regard to the position of China and Japan. Japan's changing attitude towards China. The possibility of an attitude of "Asia for the Asiatics."
Date of Original:
28 Sep 1922
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
CHANGING CHINA
AN ADDRESS BY DR. J. W. ROSS, CANADIAN TRADE COMMISSIONER IN CHINA.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
September 28, 1922.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Dr. Ross who was received with applause.

DR. J. W. ROSS.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,--I feel myself exceedingly embarrassed in addressing such a distinguished audience as this before me. Usually the role that I play in meetings of this kind is that of an attentive listener. We have organizations of the same nature in China. We have what is called the Saturday Tiffin Club, so that any man or woman of distinction arriving in China is invited to address the gatherings, largely composed of Chinese, who are now so well educated in the English language that they know what we talk about, and are exceedingly interested in hearing the addresses which are given by those people. Most of the visitors are Americans. Occasionally, however, we have British visitors, but the British do not seem to come so far, or at least send their distinguished men so far.

Although I have been, as your President has said, for a number of years in China in the capacity of

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Dr. Ross has resided in China for nineteen years, has travelled extensively along the coast and in the interior and knows the trading posts. He was in China during the two great revolutions and is an authority upon political and economic conditions in that vast country. As Canadian Trade Commissioner he hopes to interest our manufacturers and others in the development of trade with China.

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Trade Commissioner, yet it is not my intention to speak upon trade today, except a very little. I would rather tell you something of China itself, and the progress and development which is going on in that interesting country, rather than devote your time to trade subjects. In order to do this it is necessary to go back in history a little, and view China from a different angle from that presented just now.

You must remember that China is the oldest civilized nation in the world. It has outlived all its contemporaries of Ancient History. The Roman Empire, Egypt and other eastern powers have fallen away, yet China has survived and is still carrying on, probably stronger than ever. The main reasons for this are that they occupied the most productive portion of the earth's surface, and were able to maintain their population, no matter how dense it became, and it was not necessary for them to make conquests of other powers or neighbours, but simply develop peacefully their own resources, so that they have grown from an insignificant population to the great number that are now there. They never carried on a war of aggression, and never tried to usurp any other country. China's military power was always exercised towards keeping others out rather than going out after conquest themselves.

It is not necessary for me to say a great deal about the extent of the country, only that it is an exceedingly vast country, somewhat larger than the United States, and next to the British Empire and Russia it has the largest territory of any nation, and more people under one government than any other power.

China is probably the most poorly understood country in the world. There is no country regarding which there are such false impressions. This has been due to different causes. The Chinese have never encouraged people to come to their country; rather, they have discouraged them; they have been content to live by themselves. They have a very difficult language, and an extraordinary manner of writing. They have maintained an intense dislike for foreign people, and have not encouraged intercourse with the rest of the world, although they are an enterprising people. These are the main causes which kept people away, and yet China is not a difficult country to visit; indeed it is an extremely easy country to know. It is very homogeneous; it is all together in one mass; there are certain lines of travel that have been gone over for hundreds of year, and it is not at all difficult for the tourist. But a Cook's tourist on a three days' visit cannot see very much of China; neither can a correspondent or novelist come out and write a story about China after three weeks' residence; yet they try to do it. One of your Canadian lady writers made a visit to China two or three years ago, and she produced a book after a couple of months' residence. She found out some wonderful things, and it seemed a marvellous experience, yet men had passed for fifty years over the same places she had discovered, and everything she had to say was very obvious to everybody who lived there, but who never thought enough of it to record it, though it was recorded as a wonderful example of Chinese history or backwardness.

Another writer, a gentleman from Japan, a Canadian, stated that the Japanese were very friendly to foreign tourists, and that on every railway station the name was printed in English. Well, that was only natural, for the Japanese have a great many tourists visiting their country, and the English names enabled them to know where to get off and on. That was recorded as a remarkable thing; yet when that writer would go to China he would find that he could post a letter in any of the several hundred post offices there, and send it to any part of the world, though written and addressed in English; or he could send a telegram in the English language from any telegraph office in China to Toronto, and it would be cabled, just as you can telegraph from here to Montreal,--showing that China is not backward in that respect, but absolutely up-to-date. You can do business out there just as well as you can in any place, and transportation is quite simple.

As to the great fertility of the country, and the number of products, no nation equals it. No other nation can produce at the same time silk, tea, cotton and every kind of grain. China produces wheat at one end of the country and tropical fruits at the other. It is said to have as much coal as all the rest of the world put together, and abundance of iron ore, seventy-five percent of the antimony of the world, besides other minerals, except gold and silver, of which they probably have none. China would never have had famine if they had good transportation, which is a great need.

Another error is the belief that rice is the universal food of the Chinese people. Rice is too expensive to be used by a great portion of the population of China. Wheat is very widely cultivated and they have millet and a great deal of vegetable food. They make macaroni out of the bean. Rice is too expensive except for people in the central and southern portions of the country, as it costs four dollars of your money per bushel, which is very dear.

Another error is that China is over-populated. The fact is that per square mile China is not populated as densely as Japan, Great Britain, Italy or Germany, or as the State of New York. Hence China can maintain and support its great population without too great a drain upon her resources.

The Chinese people are made up of several races. The Chinese you see in this country are all Cantonese from the south of China. In my tour through Canada I have not yet met a single northern Chinese; they are all Cantonese, speaking a language that I cannot possibly understand. They are more adventurous, possibly, than the other people, and have gone abroad so that now they are probably all over the world. It has been stated that the Scotch are the most ubiquitous people, but I think the Chinamen beat them. I have never been in a place where there was not a Chinaman, and they are spreading themselves wherever they can find work. The Chinaman practically controls the commerce of the Malay States, Singapore, all those South Sea Islands; he is the great middleman who takes the products, the spices and the different things that grow in that country, buys them from the natives and sells them to the foreigners for export. He is the carpenter and the bootmaker of India. He is conducting butcher shops and provision stores in Java, and he is your countryman here.

The northern man has never gone abroad. In spite of that, the Chinese people, especially the poor ones, are really beasts of burden in work. In Northern China the coolie does all the heavy work, hauling heavy trucks, and it is not uncommon to see fifty or sixty coolies hauling a big boiler through the streets of Shanghai by sheer brute force, yet withal he is cheerful and happy, and never turns a hair. He is a wonderful man, always hoping for better things tomorrow; they never give up, but keep at it continually, owing to the remarkable spirit within them. They are very resourceful, as shown by your houseservants. If a gentleman has been staying late at the club, playing billiards or bridge, and telephones about nine o'clock saying he is coming home to dinner with two friends, although his regular dinner hour is eight o'clock, his Chinese cook will have a dinner ready for himself and two other men without making any fuss about it; he will fix it up somehow or other. If you are giving a dinner party and have not enough dishes, one Chinese boy will borrow them from the boy next door or in the next block. That is one of the features of living in China. We are getting away from that, but it used to be so in the old days. A story is told of a bride who brought a dinner service with her to China, and the same dinner set was noticed every place she went, and she remarked to one hostess that her dinner set was just like her own, to which the lady replied, "Perhaps it is yours; it isn't mine." (Laughter)

The Chinese business man has a wonderful reputation; I am afraid he has too good a reputation. People ask me if he is a wonderfully honest mars. Well, he is an honest man if everything goes all right, but the present prices of stuff in commercial life go to show that the Chinaman is pretty much like everybody else. He bought goods when they were dear and exchange was acceptable; he bought great quantities of goods, then war came suddenly to an end, prices fell, and the value of his money went down, so he was left with his goods which he had to pay for in many more dollars that he had to dig up: He could not do that, and he would get his bank to carry him. Then afterwards it got so bad that he simply disappeared. He went back to his home and family. That involves wreckage, but in the main he is an honest man, and a most enterprising man.

There is an enormous volume of purely domestic commerce from one end of China to the other, and the transportation is managed by large Chinese merchants and Chinese banks. These transactions run into millions of taels, yet the business is done without any fuss and in a very quiet way. Personally I do not advise any Canadian manufacturer to deal directly with the Chinese, because we can 'always deal through British firms in the Far East who have a good Chinese connection, and you thus avoid a good many risks.

Now I am coming to a rather unpleasant subject. There is no doubt that the powers have not done for China as they might have done. Most of China's troubles can be traced to the foreign man. Sir Robert Hart, who was for so many years SecretaryGeneral of Chinese customs, states in his "Life" that Chinese officials of the high class said to him, "Oh, if you foreign men would only go away and leave us alone, we would be so happy." But, of course, that is impossible, and so they stayed. In the old days, when might was more or less right, they put pressure upon China, which still exists, and thinking men do not consider it fair, because had China been powerful she could have resisted those demands; but she was not only weak, but was ignorant of the world's conditions. The greatest offender in that matter was probably Russia. That clever but arch-scoundrel, Li Hung Chang, made such deals with China that South Manchuria was lost to China, and is now controlled by Japan. The latter country has come in for a great deal of criticism also. That feud is not easy to explain, but after all, Japan has done some good. In South Manchuria, at the port where I go in my work, the Japanese have done a good deal lately for the Chinese; they have encouraged and improved agriculture there, and have furnished a market for the Chinese farmer for his beans. They made the port of Dargan next to Shanghai in point of trade. They maintain an excellent hotel and railway service, and have erected hospitals all around there. They have established experimental agricultural stations and introduced new seeds. They kept order in the country, so that today South Manchuria is the most peaceful part of the Chinese Empire. I think I can say that for Japan. I do not want to explain away anything, but I think this is justly due to Japan, and we should give justice where justice is due.

Now I have come to the main point of my address, which is, "Changing China." As I said, the Chinese have always maintained the most intense hatred of the foreign man; it was not mere dislike, it was real hatred. There has been some reason for that, as we can learn from history. Ancient China was the most conservative country in the world, and they felt that their civilization was enough for them, and they made futile struggles to get away, until the last struggle, that of the Boxer trouble in 1900. No doubt China thought she could break away and get China free from foreign influence. Of course it was foolish, but it seems to me to have awakened in the minds of the Chinese the final conclusion that they could not get rid of the foreign man by force, but must adopt some other measures to meet his competition. About that time, or a little before, they were gradually buying back from the holders the foreign concessions, such as the mines and the railways, and getting them under their own control. Then they took to sending students abroad to Great Britain and America, so that we may say the real progress of China began after that, for those students carried back new ideas from Britain and America, and they took minor posts in the government, and their influence began to be felt. The railways were put under way, and helped by their engineering skill. I believe that the student movement has been greatly responsible for the modern advance of China. Another element of Chinese progress is the very active native press, which is becoming a strong social force. The newspapers get the latest telegrams, such as Reuter's telegrams, just as other papers do, and there is a newspaper in Shanghai with a circulation of 60,000 a day. The Chinese are great readers. They know all about this Turkish trouble that is going on, just as well as you do, and will form their own conclusions regarding it. The establishment of the republic has also been a cause, and has created a national sentiment that did not exist before. The great war was an education for the Chinese people, showing the relations of one country to the other, as that of Canada to the Empire.

Much of the progress observed in China is due to the expansion of foreign business, the establishment of industries, and the employment of machinery that is now becoming so common in that country. This progress is mostly confined to the great centres where foreign merchants reside, but it is not entirely confined there; indeed, foreign machinery is in operation to some extent in nearly all the large centres of the country.

All signs go to show that the field of the world's greatest activity is likely to shift from Europe to Asia during this century. Europe is bankrupt, and with few resources, but Asia, particularly China and Russia, have great undeveloped resources. There is therefore reason to expect that immense changes must take place within those countries in the coming years, and that the people of those countries will adjust their affairs to meet those changes. The Chinese must finally change their outlook through coming in contact more and more with foreign people, by their young men and women continuing to go abroad to be educated in foreign countries, and by the influence of Christian teaching on the daily affairs of life. The Chinese will then become more efficient than our people, and the result will be that they will be foremost in every industrial enterprise. I do not see how that can be avoided. This competition will probably not come soon, but that it will come some day is inevitable, and it may come sooner than we expect. China is already an industrial country, and this feature will surely extend, because skilled labour is plentiful and cheap. I want to say a little more in regard to the position of China and Japan. There is every evidence that Japan is changing her attitude towards China. The military government which they have had for so many years is losing out, and the Japanese people are becoming so heavily taxed that the military party has been discredited, and to a large extent has failed. Japan's attitude towards China, we all think so, over there-will be one of friendship rather than antagonism. She will cultivate China, and teach China to develop her industries. There may thus arise a new factor in the world's affairs. The cry of "Asia for the Asiatics" may go up, and that is what the rest of the world must have in mind. It may occur. I think it probably will. (Loud applause)

MR. S. R. PARSONS expressed the thanks of the Club to Dr. Ross.

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Changing China


The progress and development that is going on in China. An historical review, to see China from a different angle from that presented today. China as the oldest civilized nation in the world, outliving all its contemporaries of Ancient History. Reasons why China has survived for so long. China as the most poorly understood country in the world, and reasons for that. China's discouragement of foreign visitors. The great fertility of China. Production of silk, tea, cotton, and every kind of grain. Coal, iron ore and other minerals. The mistaken belief that rice is the universal food of the Chinese people. The myth of over-population. The several races that make up the Chinese population. Characteristics and customs of the Chinese people. The Chinese business man. Domestic commerce. Most of China's troubles traced to foreigners, with illustrative examples. Ways in which China is changing. Much of the progress observed in China due to the expansion of foreign business, the establishment of industries, and the employment of machinery that is now becoming common. Signs that show that the field of the world's greatest activity is likely to shift from Europe to Asia during this century. Expectations for China's future. A last word with regard to the position of China and Japan. Japan's changing attitude towards China. The possibility of an attitude of "Asia for the Asiatics."