Present Conditions In China
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Feb 1944, p. 295-309
Ferguson, Dr. John Calvin, Speaker
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Item Type
The speaker's repatriation. President conditions in China. China's contribution to the Allied Nations and the part she can contribute to the winning of the war. The current situation in China in terms of attack and invasion by the Japanese. Occupied China. Ousting the Japanese one of the most difficult features of the war. What has been accomplished. What is left to be done. The control of the railways and the waterways by the Japanese. The opposition of the Chinese. Chinese students in Japan. A misconception by some Chinese of what would happen when the Japanese invaded. The need now for perseverance. Assisting China.
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17 Feb 1944
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Chairman: The President, Mr. W. Eason Humphreys.
Thursday, February 17, 1944

MR. HUMPHREYS: Gentlemen: Last year when this Club considered China, I mentioned some facts worth repeating today. These are: China has fought for freedom for thirty-two years. She has been at war with aggression from without for ten years. The nations now united with her have experienced war for only about half that time.

These facts are worth remembering, for we are to hear about "Present Conditions in China" from a distinguished Canadian, unusually well qualified to discuss those conditions-our guest, Dr. John Calvin Ferguson, B.A., Ph.D., LL.D.-so recently repatriated in the steamship Gripsholm.

Gentlemen, I hope I do not transgress if I take a few minutes regarding this opportunity of outstanding importance-an occasion of a lifetime.

Today's meeting has special significance for Ontario, and Toronto in particular.

A priceless possession of this community is the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. A Chinese Library is part of its world-famous Chinese collection. That library was inspired by Bishop White, who secured Dr. Ferguson's co-operation when both gentlemen were in China.

Bishop White was in Honan when the famous Wu Library there became available. It was known that the custodians were anxious that the library be lodged somewhere in the British Empire. Bishop White and Dr. Ferguson shared the cost of the library with the late Sir Robert Mond and Dr. Sigmund Samuel-the latter Past Vice-President of this Club. Thus, this wonderful collection of 50,000 priceless volumes was brought to the Royal Ontario Museum, where they are available to students and, indeed, to the public.

The collection contains the most complete set of a very ancient Chinese Encyclopedia. There are 97 volumes, which were produced in 1240 A.D., during the Mongol Dynasty, 200 years before Claxton invented the printing press.

The only other outstanding Chinese library in North America is at Harvard University.

By the way, the British Museum has an incomplete set of approximately 80 volumes of this Chinese Encyclopedia, and the authorities there expressed considerable surprise upon learning of our collection at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Now, three of the four gentlemen responsible for this library are present today. Our guest of honour, Dr. Ferguson, Bishop White, and Dr. Sigmund Samuel. I hope Dr. Samuel will forgive me for telling you that he it was who donated the special wing in which the library is housed.

You are perhaps aware that the University of Toronto has established a Chinese Scholarship-that scholarship being under the direction of Bishop White. The Chinese class now has over 40 students. Much of this and future success has been and will be due to the existance of the Chinese collection to which I have referred.

And now, a word about our guest.

Dr. Ferguson has a long, distinguished career. He has been advisor to the National Government of China, President of Nanking University, and President of Nan Yung College.

Our guest has held several semi-political positions--such as Secretary to the Chinese Minister of Commerce, and also to the Chinese Imperial Railway Administration.

Dr. Ferguson has conducted several special missions and, several times, acted as Delegate for the Chinese Government. In fact, he has been in the service of the Chinese Government almost continuously.

In 1912 our guest was Delegate for that Government to the 9th International Red Cross Convention at Washington, and later represented China at the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armament and Far Eastern questions. Dr. Ferguson was also honoured with the Order of Merit of the Red Cross Society.

Dr. Ferguson's books are: Outlines o f Chinese Art and Chinese Mythology.

Gentlemen, I have the honour to present to you a cousin of the Honourable G. Howard Ferguson, and our guest of honour today: Dr. John Calvin Ferguson, B.A., Ph.D., LL.D., who is to address us on' "Present Conditions in China". (Applause.)

DR. JOHN CALVIN FERGUSON: Mr. President, Fellow Guests and Gentlemen: The President has said that I am among those who were repatriated from China on the Gripsholm. Today I must plead to having a double repatriation. I am a citizen of the United States, but was born in Canada, and today come back as a repatriate among you and as one of you.

I was pleased when the President introduced me as a Canadian. That has not often happened in my lifetime. I was very pleased, Mr. President, that you included me among yourselves.

The repatriation from Canada is the part of my life which leads me to speak today to you on the question of "Present Conditions in China", for which I was repatriated from China where I had spent practically all my life.

I have not had the pleasure of speaking in this city since the Conference for Disarmament to which the President referred in his introduction, when in 1922, just about this time or perhaps a little earlier in the New Year, I spoke to the Canadian Club at that time on the results of the Conference up to that date, which had included very much of interest and benefit and future profit to the new Republic of China.

That Disarmament Conference had as part of its organization a conference for the consideration of affairs in the Pacific Ocean.

Yet I find on coming home that too little is known about China's contribution to the Allied Nations and the part she can contribute to the winning of this war.

The seriousness of the condition in which China finds herself has been continuously impressed upon the public by my friend, Mr. Grew, who was Ambassador to Tokyo, perhaps more than anyone else, as it fell to his lot to try and straighten out so many of the things that occurred in China since Japan started her enterprise on July 7, 1937. Mr. Grew has continuously called attention to the seriousness of the situation in which the other United Nations find themselves in their plans for a victory in the Pacific Ocean.

Recently the President of the United States has called attention to this fact and has said that our most difficult military operations are ahead of us, not behind us.

Recently, Admiral Nimitz and General Stillwell, who is fighting in Burma, have also called attention to the fact that there must be landings on the coast of China. All of them agree that the importance of the winning of the was not only points toward Europe but points also to the Pacific Ocean.

It is in support of this general premise that I am calling your attention today to the large amount of territory belonging to China that has already been occupied by Japan and out of which she must be turned before the war can be considered a victorious war in the Pacific. Occupied China, that is China occupied by Japan, might be compared perhaps to the Eastern Coast of the Atlantic. Take the Province of Quebec and this province, take your great granaries in the grain-raising provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which are similar to the Manchurian Provinces, take the province in which Peiping is located, the Province of Hopei, on down the coast, a territory which might be likened to the original thirteen colonies. Add to that Cuba--the Japanese occupied the Island of Hainan, which is about of the same importance that Cuba would be in the American layoutand you have approximately the part of China that is now occupied by Japan.

As to population, it is much higher than the total population of the United States and Canada put together. Probably if you took the British Isles, Canada and the United States, the population of this district which I have described as Occupied China would be about equal to it. That is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 million people.

If you then take into consideration that there are in this occupied part of China, provinces which are wealthy, not only in grain, but also in iron and in coal, you might add some of the parts of Canada and America in which these two essential elements for warfare are found. There you have Occupied China. Between it and Free China-Unoccupied China-there is no particular section which could be called "No Man's Land", although there is a large section which could be called the "Land of Guerillas", and guerillas are also scattered throughout Occupied China. Occupied China, you might compare perhaps to the section of the United Statesthe great Province of Szechwan might be compared to Texas, and the coast provinces along the Pacific, including some of the fine mining districts at the foot of the Tibetan Hills, and there you would have Free China. Now, it is impossible for us to come to any other conclusion than that the ousting of the enemy from the occupied part of China is one of the most difficult features in the war in which we are at present engaged. What has been accomplished has been wonderful. General MacArthur, having left the Philippines and taken command of the Allied Forces, stopped the advance upon Australia and New Zealand, stopped the advance on India and now is island-hopping toward the enemy. That of itself will require patience and a very large supply of war material, but after that is accomplished, there will still remain the half million troops that the enemy has in China's occupied territory--in Manchuria, on the Russian border--and perhaps a million men in the provinces along the east coast of the country.

I need only mention the size of the district involved, and the number of people resident in that occupied district along with the number of troops which the enemy has in that district, to impress upon you the importance of the task we have in hand.

In addition to the occupation by the army of this district, this large district, there is their possession of the means of communication. They have all the railways. First, they have the railway across Siberia, which perhaps many of you may have been on, which was taken over from the border of Manchurian Provinces, southward to the territory bought by Japan from the Russians. That makes a line of communication not only down through the northern provinces of China, the old Manchurian Provinces, but connects out with branch lines to the sea just west of Japan, the northern part of Korea, where Japan has two important ports from which she can send ships inland, and carry her troops back and forth as she pleases. From that railway south to Peiping down to Soochow, there is a very rich mining province, reaching from Peiping southward--I will speak of that in a moment-but from Peiping westward it reaches into the Province of Suiyjan, from Peiping southward, out to the sea at Tsingtao and southward and westward into Shansi Province.

All of this is no longer in Chinese hands but is entirely controlled by the enemy. Not only controlled, but protected.

I saw in the early days of the Trans-Siberian Railway the military protection which the Russians devised for that land which extended through what to them was a more or less unknown or hostile country, but what the enemy has done in China is much more extensive, much more important than what Russia did in the protection of the Trans-Siberian Railway. On both sides of the railway they have dug deep trenches and by trenches I do not mean ordinary three or four feet wide trenches. They are trenches about twenty feet at the top and ten feet or so below. These ordinarily are flooded with water on both sides of the railway; from where the railway enters China proper, the Manchurian provinces, proper, both sides of the line are protected by ditches. There are many pill-boxes. The roofs of all the stations have been flattened and guns placed on them. Every train carries armed guards. The important passenger trains have before them an armed pilot engine. Every precaution is being taken, not that the public shall be protected in travelling, but that the transportation for troops and supplies for troops may be secure and they are secure, to a certain extent.

When we came down from Peiping to Shanghai, the group which was being repatriated in the north, there were three accidents on the line. That was unusual. That is there were three places in which there had been derailments or the track torn up or a bridge taken away. That was done by the guerillas but everywhere they have taken the utmost pains, not only to control the railway but to protect it.

The same is true of the waterways. China had a good fleet of steamers previous to 1937, that had gradually been built up. It was known as the China Merchant Steam Navigation Company and had sufficient good standing so that it was in co-operation with the two British firms, and these three organizations, two of them British and one of them Chinese, were working in co-operation, not only in the coast-wise trade, but also in the trade on the Yangtse Sea.

These are all gone now. Many of the British ships were taken away in time and a few of the Chinese ships. The rest of them were seized and at the present time there is no shipping, either on the Yangtse Sea or on the coast which is not controlled by the enemy.

In the occupied part of China the whole of the previous equipment for communications by air, boats for mail and passengers, and for military operations, that has all disappeared.

It is a very dark dismal picture that I present to you. The unfortunate part of it all is that it is true and even of greater importance than the few words which I am able to express to you today can tell you.

But there is another side to the situation and that is the spirit of the Chinese people. Here I am not speaking in terms of flattery or in terms of wishful thinking, but also of actual facts. The spirit of the Chinese people has been simply marvellous since 1937. Everywhere people have rallied to make up for the mistake of having been caught napping. They were the first of the nations of the world to be caught napping. Their experience ought to have taught the rest of the world not to have been caught, but we paid too little attention to what was going on in the Far East, and it is to help to avoid that condition of mind for the future that I am speaking to you today.

It took too much for granted, and in 1937 the Japanese army walked in with very little resistance in the north, with strong resistance at Soochow and Shanghai, but finally, with so poor equipment as compared with that of the enemy, that they were driven first westward, toward Hankow, and from there to the Province of Szechwan.

We had our own period of being over-confident, as you all know. The loss of Hong Kong and Singapore, the loss of the Philippine Island, the great debauch at Pearl Harbor might have been avoided if our Allied Nations at that time had given sufficient importance to the events that were happening, that had happened in China.

Due warning had been given by the example of what had happened to China. But Chinese names are hard to remember. Chinese faces are difficult to distinguish. In my early years of acting, frequently on behalf of the Chinese Government, one of the problems in the European capitals was that the Chinese names were so difficult they could never remember the name of more than one man at a time. They knew Chiang Kai Shek, but apart from that they couldn't remember the name of more than one man at a time. Perhaps the fact that they are spelled in combinations which it is easier for us to remember than the usual spelling of the names in Chinese makes it possible for Japanese names often to be remembered more easily than the names of leading Chinese.

This spirit of opposition on the part of the Chinese from the commencement of the Japanese operations in 1937, I repeat, has been splendid. We have had a generation of young men, one or two of whom I am glad to see with us here today, who have been brought up in the traditions since the Revolution of 1911 and 1912. No one questioned that all the young men and young women of China would be enthusiastic in their support of the Government. There was doubt as to the attitude of the older generation who were more content as the years went on with their well being as it was, and without so much ambition for the future.

There was also the attitude of the large number of Chinese who had been educated in Japan. For after the Russo-Japanese war the great movement of Chinese students was not toward the west but toward Japan. They had believed that Japan had been able to take the essential parts of our western civilization and assimilate them for use in the development of their new oriental countries, and after Japan had succeeded in defeating Russia the Chinese wanted to know the secret of her success, the secret that she had learned from the west and had adopted to her own use.

At one time there were more than 20,000 Chinese students in Japan, along about 1907 or '08. That number has fallen to a lower limit but still has remained until the outbreak of war in 1937, much higher than the number of students altogether who went abroad to other countries.

These received a smattering of an education. A few of them received very sound and thorough education. The majority of them, however, were content with what I have just called a smattering of education. But it was sufficient for them to realize what Japan, where they had studied, had accomplished in her progress in the world.

These men to a large extent were naturally not conversant with Japanese things, but also, more or less prejudiced in their favour and they had this conviction that Japan, having taken the civilization of the West and converted it to its own use, it would be an easier process to take this converted civilization and adapt it to China than to go through the process of digestion themselves by sending students to the West.

It is the process of our predigested breakfast foods, compared with the oatmeal on which we were brought up, that came fresh from the mill.

That was a sincere conviction on the part of many and was an asset to the invading power because this group believed that when the Japanese came to China they would be able to join with them, oust the government which had received most of its impetus from Western countries, and take over the control of their own country which would not work in with western nations, but would work in with Japan.

The proposition had much to be said for it, we must say, speaking objectively. But as soon as they put it in operation they found that the Japanese had come, not to co-operate but to control, not to work with the Chinese, but to have the Chinese work f or them, and one by one they have gone over, they have been disillusioned and have come to the conclusion that the solution of China's problems for the future cannot be in co-operation with Japan, but against Japanese policy.

I should say that among all that pro-Japanese group which I knew, which we all knew were part of the community, occasionally if there was one man who was too fervent in his support of that policy he would be turned down by the community, but as a group they were received as loyal Chinese and as Chinese who had a different viewpoint of what the foreign connections of China should be. But once they came into contact with Japan, with Japan in action, with Japan in control, they soon were obliged to change their opinions and know that Japan had no idea of co-operation with China but intended to control China for her own use.

I heard a very witty Chinese friend say that the motivation of the co-operation was only the necessity of Japan, that there was no such thing as co-operation--it was Japanese co-operation and Chinese consent.

The attitude of the people was at first what it usually had toward the Govermnent--as long as the government didn't bother them they didn't bother the government. As long as anybody left in control had the good old fashioned idea inherited from the time of the sages, that that government was best which governed least.

And I presume that that is a doctrine which we advanced people of the west may some day take to our hearts as having had the experience of the ages to confirm it. However, that is too heterodox even to suggest at the present time in our world regard.

Now, in view of the amount of territory occupied by Japan and in view of the Chinese people and the way in which they have stood up in their constant resistance to the enemy, what can be done for the future?

It seems to me that the first thing that must be emphasized is to persevere. There must be no yielding. There must be no compromise. This has been the great point of the Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. He may not be a great soldier, he may not be a great administrator, but he has been a stubborn, strong, steady, unflinching, persevering opposer to the invading power. He and his Administration may be criticized for weakness here or failure there, but with no possibility of criticizing that administration as to its strength in resistance, and that resistance must go on. Never say "Die"-even after def eat.

We, ourselves, had Dunkirk and Pearl Harbour and all the rest of it. And we have stuck it. But the Chinese started that idea of persevering in steady opposition for nearly four years before we were involved in the war, and they are still at it. They have lost more men, directly and indirectly, by the war than Russia and Germany combined, adding our small losses up to the present to it all. And that loss has not been with the aid of our army. That loss must be accounted as gain to us in time for our own preparation to defend our own countries in their desire to live the democratic life.

Perseverance. We must go on.

Next, we must stick together. This is a difficult proposition. I sometimes think of us as four triangles. You take those triangles, one representing Great Britain, and one representing America, and you put them together any way you want to. Any of the sides will fit on to another side. Any side of America in any triangle will fit on to any side of the British triangle and will work.

We have had Cairo and we have Teheran. You can take the Russian triangle and fit it in some spots. Some spots, it is difficult, either with America or with Great Britain.

You can take the Chinese triangle and in spots fit it to the Russian or the American or the British triangle. But until the time comes when we can take those four triangles and make out of them a solid square, we still have negotiations to be carried on. We still have to consult, but in principle we must take this decision that for good or evil we must stick together to the end of this business. (Applause.) And that sticking together must be of those four triangles until they form a square, and those triangles must be infused with a spirit which will make it possible for any one of those triangles on any one side of the surface to come in contact with the triangles that represent the other countries at any place in which we put them to make a solid square for presentation against the enemy.

Furthermore, we must help China at once. China is in a difficult position. The Burma Road is a very small road. You run one train from Winnipeg to Montreal or Quebec with seventy-five or eighty cars and one big locomotive carrying as many supplies on that one train as you can run on the Burma Road for a week or ten days or two weeks.

If you are going to fly it over, when you are flying on your own gas, how much gas have you left to give to the people to whom you are flying it, and yourself get back to the base you started from? How much have you left? Very little. So the flight over the great humps is a very difficult proposition.

Russia, on the north, has supplied a great deal to China and will continue to do so, but Russia is very pressed for herself. What we must do is what has recently been suggested, and what it seems that all of the able military air authorities agree upon, that is that landings must be made along the coast of China. If that is done we may expect to pay the price of it, just as we are paying the price of it now in Italy and as we can be prepared to pay the price on the north coast of Europe when the landing is made there.

But the price, Mr. President and Gentlemen, we must be ready to pay and we must be ready to pay it as soon as an opportunity presents itself. China must be helped, and helped at once. This is the burden of my message to you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

MR. HUMPHREYS: Gentlemen, I am going to ask an old colleague of our guest, Bishop White, to thank our guest on our behalf.

BISHOP WHITE: Mr. President, you have done me a great honour or given me a great privilege to express the appreciation of all of us this afternoon to the speaker for this message direct from the front, because, as we have heard, he has just come back from China, so he has been able to give us this picture of the present conditions in China.

But I want to say just one word on this. He has just lifted the corner of the curtain of what he could tell us about China. It was forty-seven years ago that day the 17th of February--that I reached Shanghai, and that was when I heard of Dr. Ferguson. He was an educationalist and as you notice by the call of this card, he was at that time at the point of giving up the Presidency of Nanking University and taking the Presidency of another one, a very important college, the Han Yang College.

Not only is he an educationist but he has through these years perhaps done more than any man I know of in connection with the upheaval and change and reconstruction that this generation, and more nearly two generations, have brought to us in connection with China, more than any other man, I say, as a statesman, because his help has been sought for in the highest political circles in all the changes of government we have had in China.

It has been mentioned here with regard to the honour in connection with the Red Cross work, but if we could only know the number of honours that have come to him through the great work he has done and that has been recognized by the Government of China.

The first decoration that came to me from China was through Dr. Ferguson. I think he forgot about it until I reminded him of it a couple of days ago. That was in 1910 when he was organizing a great Famine Relief movement from Shanghai.

Well, not only in statesmanship, not only in educational work, but in journalism, he has been prominent in the life of China. Now there are very few like Dr. Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson has so stuck to China that we in the West haven't heard from him or know of him except through those who have been following his work closely or are interested in it themselves. You know, journalism in China is a recent thing, but now it has taken hold in a wonderful way and I suppose what was done by Dr. Ferguson in setting the standard of modern journalism in China in that daily, of which I just found out-I knew it had a very high circulation for those days-I just got from him before he spoke that when he handed it over to Chinese hands it had a circulation of 180,000. For those days that was very great and that standard has been impressed upon all succeeding journalistic work in China. Then I might mention about the China Journal o f Arts and Sciences, which has been a wonderful help to us all.

In art, in archaeology, in education, in journalism, in the political arena where his help has, as I have said, been sought, he has been a pioneer, and to be a pioneer in these constructive days in China, days of great change and great moment to the rest of the world, that is something to be proud of.

So this afternoon I know for this brief--short, it had to be--picture of present conditions in China, we give you our heartfelt praise and thanks to Dr. Ferguson. (Applause.)

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Present Conditions In China

The speaker's repatriation. President conditions in China. China's contribution to the Allied Nations and the part she can contribute to the winning of the war. The current situation in China in terms of attack and invasion by the Japanese. Occupied China. Ousting the Japanese one of the most difficult features of the war. What has been accomplished. What is left to be done. The control of the railways and the waterways by the Japanese. The opposition of the Chinese. Chinese students in Japan. A misconception by some Chinese of what would happen when the Japanese invaded. The need now for perseverance. Assisting China.