WHAT IS TO BECOME OF CHINA?
AN ADDRESS BY RT. REV. W. C. WHIT, BISHOP OF HONAN
26th April, 1928
PRESIDENT FENNELL introduced the speaker, who was received with applause and spoke as follows: China is a big subject as you know, and probably the aspect of it that I want to take would require a good long time to exhaust, if you ever could exhaust it, What is to become of China? That is the subject that is in people's minds today, and more and more as years have gone by, people have wondered what is to become of China. It is the great problem, it seems to me, of this world and the nations of this world.
Some thirty years ago, just after I went to China, Lord Charles Beresford wrote a book on The Break-up of China, and at that time people thought that China was going to break up, but she has not broken up yet. And then they began to suggest different measures to remedy the situation of China. One was the matter of annexation, and you know how the Powers began to lop off pieces of China. For instance, in the south France got Tongking and other parts, and in the north Germany got Kiau Chow; and Britain got Wei Hei Wei, and Japan got Formosa, and Korea in time; and even Italy and Belgium began to apply for parts of China. That was one method that they had in their minds from twenty to thirty years ago,--annexation. Then they found it could not be done, it was too big a problem, China was too great, and the jealousy among the powers more or less prevented that. Then another attack was made along the line of spheres of influence. France was to have her sphere in the south of China; Japan was to have her sphere in the north, that is, part of Manchuria, and also Formosa and Fukien. Britain was to have the Yangtse Valley as her sphere of influence.
Where did the United States come in? She had not annexed anything, she had no concessions, but she wanted to have a right to go into every part of China--(Laughter)--and so she propounded the theory of The Open Door, and that was backed up in time by Britain, and the suggestion of spheres of influence was stopped. Of course at the same time the Boxer trouble and, a little later on, the Russo-Japanese war all had an influence in stopping the suggestion of spheres of influence. And then came another suggestion, a suggestion that has been maintained up to the present, international intervention on the part of the Powers. That is, that the Powers join together and by international arrangement, govern China. They found that that was too big a thing. Then it was suggested that the Powers should do this through certain sections of the country, and then, again, that they should intervene through control of the institutions and organizations of China as, for instance, international control of railways, international control of land taxes, international control of the salt gabelle, which is more or less under international control; and of course the customs and the postal service. These three services have been under foreign control up to the present and, as a matter of fact, they are the three sheet anchors of China today from the point of view of finance to carry on the government, that is the Customs, the salt gabelle, and the postal service.
I may say in passing with regard to intervention that even this week suggestions have been made with regard to intervention in China, and I want to say here that the sending out of troops by Britain to protect her interests in Shanghai cannot be called intervention on the part of the Powers in China. Intervention is really interfering in part with the sovereignty of China, touching the sovereign rights of China. This matter of sending troops by Britain was not an interference in any way with the sovereign rights of China; it was simply to protect British nationals and it was one of the best things that Britain has ever done, certainly in the last few years. (Applause.) There are Chinese who a little over a year ago opposed sending troops to Shanghai, who today are praising Britain for that, and they recognize that Britain saved China from a tremendous affair. No one knows what would have happened it Britain had not had troops to protect Shanghai. Certainly Shanghai would have gone down in a welter of bloodshed. Britain saved the situation there; it was only to protect British property and the lives of British subjects but through that action she saved China from a catastrophe.
As we look back over the situation there is no doubt that the Powers have exploited China to a greater or less extent, and China has suffered all these indignities and insults, and seemed helpless; but they have all brought about the situation which has stirred China into new life and you have a situation there at the present time which is full of great promise. In my thirty-one or more years of residence in China, I do not think that China has ever appeared to me to be so full of hope as she is today. (Applause.) That may seem strange to you. The truth is, it required something of that kind to stir China into life, new life. You remember what Napoleon said about China: "China is a sleeping giant: let her sleep. When she wakes she will move the whole world." Now she is awakening and there is new life full of promise.
When we speak of the nationalist movement in China we out there speak of it as "The New Thought Tide," and that is what it is. It is a new spirit that is underneath this disturbed surface; the wind is blowing, as it were, across the surface and the spray of the waves is blowing in all directions. That is the disturbance you see on top; but underneath there is a set of the tide in one direction, and that is towards a new life, towards a reconstruction of China, and that is a hopeful situation. As we look back upon the years we see many things that have brought this about. It began, you might say, some eighty years ago by those first contacts between the different nations and Chine,, contacts at the beginning of a commercial kind, nations wanting to trade with China, and then because of misunderstandings on both sides, conflicts occurred, and so there was a great deal of commercial aggression backed up by military force, dating from eighty years ago to recently. There have been other influences there, the contacts of western civilization with that old, more or less stagnant Oriental civilization. Both sides not quite understanding each other, there have been conflicts. Also western education. You remember how by the stroke of a pen the old system of education in China in 1905 was done away with, and a new system based upon our methods of education was adopted. That meant that instead of the old Chinese classics, they now had to study things that made them look ahead to the future. The old Chinese system of, education was simply a knowledge of the classics, whose writers lived a couple of thousand years ago. And it was only that. Their idea of science, as you know, was practically nil, although in early days they showed that they were of an inventive genius and could produce the mariner's compass and could invent gunpowder. Block printing was in use in China hundreds of years before it was used in Europe. Even a thousand years ago they had a taxi system. It was Professor Giles, Professor of Chinese in Cambridge, who looking through the old books of a thousand years ago came across that idea, that some of the carts that used to travel across the plains of Honan had a system by which at every lee--that is one of the units of distance there, about a third of a mile very lee a gong sounded, and every ten lee another unit--the drum used to be struck. We have seen in Punch about the Scotsman having his first experience in a taxi; immediately the dial registered sixpence, he said "Bang goes saxpence." It was literally a bang in that taxi system of a thousand years ago. (Laughter.) So many things point to a capacity for invention but it became stagnant and, as you know, China has of late been probably the slowest country to take in things of today, modern things, things connected with modern machinery and modern science. She lived only in the past. Now she is beginning, by this change in education, to look out to the future, teaching not only to memorize the classics but to think out things. That is going to create a great situation there.
Besides western education, there has been the matter of Christianity. I want to mention that here because Christian missions in China have had a powerful influence in producing the situation in China today. It has been said to me that many have the idea that the bottom has dropped out of missions in China, that it has lost out. Anything but that. This situation in China, the evacuation of something like six thousand missionaries out of a total of 8,200 missionaries, is going to be one of the greatest things for the expansion of the church of Christ in China that I know of. It has put on the cause of missions twenty-five years. It has produced a situation that could never have been produced if it had not been for the evacuation of the missionaries. It has made the Chinese Christians and the Chinese Christian leaders take hold of their responsibility in the church, and when the missionaries go back after this, and a great many will not be required, the Chinese will only have those that they want, they will have a say after this. When missionaries go out after this, they will go out to assist the Chinese church that has come into being, that is now on its feet, and that has measured up during this last year in a wonderful way to this new situation. (Applause.) They will be assistants in the future, the missionaries will. The Chinese Church is now in the lead, and that, as you may understand is what we want. Just here, in passing, I may say in regard to our own little mission in Honan, it was eighteen years ago last month since we began our work there. At that time no work had been done, we had not a foot of land, we had nothing. Now we have a synod of the Church carrying on with its different boards and different committees, and just a few weeks ago that Synod elected its Chinese Assistant Bishop and this Assistant Bishop, I hope, will be consecrated to that high office when I return at the end of this summer. There is something I want to mention in regard to that which is in line with the idea I want 3o give you of China's capacity for continuance. The Assistant Bishop's name is Jung. Now 2600 years ago one of the feudal states that included almost the whole of the province of Honan at that time, was the feudal state of Jung. That means that the Jung clan was the ruling clan in that state. The Assistant Bishop is a descendant from that ruling clan that ruled in that province 2600 years ago. Is there any country on the face of the globe where you would find anything like that, that the first Chinese Bishop in this province should be a descendant of the ruler of that very place 2600 years ago? (Applause.)
With regard to these contacts bringing about this awakening, this aggression, commercial and military, these contacts, Christian, educational, and with western civilization--has developed a situation which is a critical one for China. You have been reading in the papers yesterday and today of this movement against the North. About sixteen years ago, the Chinese republic began through a revolutionary party under the leadership of Sun Yat Sen in the south of China. At that time they won, and they astonished themselves when the Manchus abdicated. At the same time in the north there was a strong reactionary party under Yuan Shi Kai. He had charge of the army of China, and the centre of government was there in Pekin. The people had not a chance to realize what their liberty from the Manchu yoke meant, and so there was for a time a deadlock; there was the southern party under the Sun Yat Sen, the provisional president, and the reactionary party in the north under Yuan Shi Kai. The Manchu house had abdicated, but there it was. Sun Yat Sen did a very fine thing, he gave up his position as provisional President in favor of Yuan Shi Kai, and Shi Kai became the first President. It happens in many places, but particularly in China, that men gather around the new President, and it was not long before they practically hoodwinked him. I had this from men in close touch with him at that time. One thing they did was to have papers published, only two or three issues a day, and they made clippings from this paper and brought them to Yuan Shi Kai and said, "The people do not want a republic, they want to revert to a monarchy, a limited monarchy; they want you to be the emperor of China." Shi Kai said, "If this is the will of the people, as we see from the clippings of these newspapers"--he did not know it was this private issue--he said "we will do so," and you remember he was declared emperor. It all came out. Immediately the south under Sun Yat Sen organized once more and this time they were going to fight to a finish. That is what has been going on ever since then. These groups, particularly in the north, and the revolutionary party in the south, standing steadily for that one goal, to do away with the militarists and the reactionary parties, and reorganize China. They had no money or munitions. They went to the different powers. Britain said, "We cannot interfere." The United States said the same; other nations said the same, except Russia. Russia helped by advisors, military and political. Borodin was the chief military advisor. They helped with funds, helped with munitions, and contributed two things in which the Chinese were deficient, one was the matter of propaganda--they carried out a tremendous propaganda system throughout China and the other was the matter of organization. Those two things strengthened the Nationalist party of the south, so that they were able to carry on, and are now today practically coming into the ascendency in the situation in China. In letters I have received from Chinese the last few weeks, and from our missionaries, writing from Honan, right there under Veng, the Christian general, have told very clearly that an advance against the north was anticipated. They were very confident. Even in the city where I lived, they were preparing to receive 20,000 wounded men; so they were preparing to do things on a big scale. They have already taken Tsinanfu and Pekin is almost within their grasp. As far as I can see now, it will mean the evacuation of Pekin before many days, and the occupation of Pekin by the southern government.' That does not mean that Manchuria will be taken, perhaps, for many years, but they will control China proper, and having Pekin as the centre practically, China will be unified nominally, although it will take many, many years before conditions will be put right in China. That is as I see at the present time, and the one man that seems to be outstanding in all this welter over there, is the Christian General, Feng. So many questions have been asked about him on all sides; people say, "But he is a traitor, he has gone back on his colleagues." And that is true; as far as one can see he has gone back on his colleagues many a time. I have seen documents signed by Feng himself, with regard to munitions from Russia, one amounted to something like seven and a half million roubles and another was three and a half million. On those documents he declared that he would hold himself under the orders, practically of Russia, that he would pay back in any way and at any time that Russia should demand. That meant practically that he had sold himself to them. Now we know he has gone back upon Russia. That is something that unfortunately we see in regard to this man. You can only explain his christianity by a statement that Sir John Jordan made about him. He said, "He is an Old Testament Christian." (Laughter.) To my mind, that explains him.
Not very long ago Veng has sent messages to me, that is, he has sent his men to my men out there to pass on messages to me, and he has shown by those messages that he is going to do all that he can to straighten things out, with regard, for instance, to the losses that the missions have suffered. In our own case, for instance, some of our buildings have been looted and we have lost considerably. St. Paul's Hospital, given to us by St. Paul's Church, Toronto, has been looted more than once, but the extraordinary thing is that that is under Chinese management and that is the only hospital in the province that has been able to function through this year. Feng sends a message and says, "As soon as the situation has cleared up we will make good the losses you have suffered." Now since he is on the winning side we hope to see him make good. (Applause.)
Britain has of course suffered a good deal of criticism the last year or so, especially since 1925, over the trouble in Shanghai. But really Britain's diplomacy in regard to the Fast is wonderful. She seems to make mistakes and somehow she comes out on top after all. At the present time I would advise those who are interested in this matter to get a little book by Sir Frederick White; it is the revision of that little book prepared for the Institute of Pacific Relations that met in Honolulu last year; it was published last month, and is on China and the Foreign Powers. In that book Sir Frederick clearly shows the position of Britain in China up to date, and he says that after all Britain has come out on top, and she is now able to initiate movements there which will amount to a very great deal. We have for instance the boycott of British goods. We have lost a great deal of late but the memorandum that was given by the British Government in December, 1926, and the annex to that memorandum in January, 1927, are away ahead of anything that any other country has done, not excepting the United States. The other nations have not measured up to those most generous concessions that Britain is willing to make in regard to the revision of those so-called unequal treaties, and the restoring to China of those things which China considers belong to her sovereign rights, such for instance as extra-territoriality, consular jurisdiction, the control of the maritime customs, and matters of that kind. Britain has made her stand there, and it is really a splendid position, and the Chinese now recognize it. Before leaving China this time I had occasion in Pekin, and in Tientsin, and in Shanghai, to talk to men who are leaders in the government, some on one side and some on the other, and now they have nothing but praise for Britain. They put Britain first for two things, first British integrity, when Britain gives her word she stands by it; and the other is that British goods are first-class. A little over a year ago I said to a man, "Why do you want to criticize Britain in this regard?" "Well," he said, "we feel her goods are best and when she gives her word she stands by it, but if we can get Britain to agree to these things all the other Powers will follow, and that is why we are concentrating on Britain." He is a high diplomat and had a great deal of criticism in regard to the diplomacy of Britain in one particular thing I am not able to mention here but it was a very important matter, and I believe he is right. I believe some of the individuals have probably not been all that they ought to be, and they have been looking at it from one standpoint only, not trying to take a long view and to realize that to get Chinese good-will means a great thing for Britain in the long run.
To understand the China of the future you must understand the China of the past. Those of us who heard Dr. Davidson Black the other evening will remember how he told that human origins from the standpoint of zoogeography were to be found in Central Asia. If he went on from that he would tell you probably about the traces of early man found up in Mongolia of Paleolithic times, a little further down, in Shenshi, further traces, then down in Honan traces of Neolithic man, and how Dr. Andrews, realizing that there was a stream of migration probably from Central Asia, made investigations and found similar things, Neolithic traces, in the pottery and other remains, things very much like the pottery found in Shushan the capital of Persia, and many things in Mesopotamia. He would tell you how in regard to culture, you would find parallels between the culture of China and the culture of Egypt, the culture of Babylonia, and Assyria, and Greece and Rome and Persia, and when you take a bird's eye view of the whole situation, you realize that the first point that stands out clearly over the past history of China is her capacity for continuance. Greece and Rome and Persia and Egypt and these other countries rose to great heights in the matter of culture and civilization, but they have gone down; and yet China has carried on steadily, the only nation in the world that has done so. You do not find any break whatever. You might say that from Paleolithic times to the present, Chinese people have lived in China and carried on in China. In the 13th century the Mongols came in and acquired China, but they were there only a hundred years when they were absorbed by the Chinese. In the 16th century the Manchus came down and acquired China, and the Manchus in acquiring China made the Chinese wear the pigtail; it was a badge of their servitude. More than that, the Manchus established in every walled town a Manchu garrison, and they put those Manchu soldiers all over China to control China; and after 215 years what happened? The very same thing; they were simply absorbed, and Mongolia and Manchuria are a part of China, and the Mongolians and Manchurians are Chinese practically. No nation can conquer China; it is absolutely impossible. That is the first thing, their capacity for continuance.
The second point is their power of absorbing and making their own. I would like to speak a little about this. Take, for instance, Buddhism; it came there from India but the Buddhism of China is very unlike that of India it has taken on a Chinese color. The same in regard to Mohammedanism; the same with regard to Christianity. Christianity in China is not going to be our western kind, it is going to be a Chinese kind and they are going to contribute to the Church of God something that we could not contribute. (Applause.) Here is one thing that is outstanding along this line. When we look out over the world we find Jews in every nation under the sun and they cannot be absorbed; they are always Jews. In China the Jews came in probably two thousand years ago, probably longer than that. They had synagogues at one time wherever they had their Jewish communities and in those places they carried on their Jewish practices. But today there is no trace of Chinese Jews; they are Chinese. I could tell you of my attempts to revive the colony of Jews in the city where I live. We have tried to organize them, we have promised them a synagogue on a site which has come into our hands, and the memorial stones are kept in our hands. They said, "The Anglicans are the successors of the Jews, and we are not going to carry on any longer". The head Jew came back from Hong Kong and said: "In Hong Kong I went into the Anglican Church and I told them I was an Anglican." I said: "That was not true; we have been trying to get you to come to church here and you say you do not want to be a Christian." He said he thought it would be diplomatic there to keep in touch with the Anglicans because they are very high in HongKong. (Laughter.)
The third matter is their essential unity. Some people think the Chinese are divided, north and south. They are fighting against each other now, but let any country go into China to interfere, and you would find them come together immediately. The Chinese are one. There is no greater difference between the southern and the northern people than between the races of Great Britain, in fact not so great. I know they speak different dialects in the south, and the Canton dialect is different from that of the north; but underneath even the spoken dialects you find a common language, that is the written language, common to the whole of China. Actually it is the language of Japan, because the classics of Japan are really the classics of China, and it is written in the same way. There is an essential unity there.
The fourth thing is the greatness of her people. You cannot live in China without being greatly impressed by that. You get to love them and the more you live there, the more you feel they are a big people; they draw out your respect. I would like to quote Professor Flinders Petrie, where he lays great emphasis upon that fact and points out that China has those qualities, in which perhaps we are lacking. The astonishing thing, he says, is that people who live out there get to love them; and that is true.
Those are four very important things as we look over the past. What do they augur for the future?
First of all is the thought that China will be great in the councils of the world's peace. The Chinese are not fighters. They seem to be fighting each other just now; you would think they are a warlike people, but they are not. They hate war. The class of soldiers was placed at the very bottom of the list of professions; the Chinese people do not like it. Today they are fighting for principles, they are fighting for ideals, for what nationalism has taught them, that they must be a free people, able to express themselves. It is self-expression they want, and so they are doing that today, but they are not really in themselves a fighting people. Go back in their history and you find so many things that point to that. You find. for instance, that the very first League of Nations is to be found in China. In 546 B. C. fourteen of those feudal nations were joined together to stop war and signed a document; that is a most interesting thing. (Applause.) You will find when China comes into her rightful place among the nations of the world, her word with regard to international matters will be for peace.
The next point is that she is great in literature and learning. I need not touch upon that. Her literature is unsurpassed; there is a tremendous amount of it not yet explored even by themselves. There it is, a wonderful literature and there is something now taking place in China that is going to transform the people of China, who are immature, unlettered. There is only a very small portion of Chinese literate, and something like ninety percent illiterate. There is a movement going on that we speak of as the mass education movement. Chinese is an exceedingly difficult language and so complicated in writing that it has hindered the matter of literacy of the masses. That mass education movement is sweeping from north and east to west and south, and it will not be long before you find these people will be able to read and write their own language and the common people will be able to get learning.
The third point is they are great in commerce. British merchants say the Chinese are just like ourselves in that regard, they are great merchants. After his trip around the world, General U. S. Grant was asked what he considered the most interesting thing he had seen in his travels, and he said, "In a port in China there were two merchants, one was a Jew and--the other--a Chinese; they were rivals and the Jew was run out of the place by the Chinaman." (Laughter.) Think for a minute of China as a market for Canadian produce. The imports into China of wheat in 1922 were 4-1/4 million dollars Mexican; in 1923 they had raised to 12-3/4% million in 1924 to 24 million. The same with regard to flour; in 1922, 23-3/4 million dollars Mexican, in 1923, 38 million; in 1924, 42-1/4% million. What does that mean? It means that the Chinese are becoming a wheat-eating people. On the other hand, what about rice? You find a decrease of rice from Saigon and the Straits Settlements, from 1922 when there was a matter of 112 million dollars' worth, to 1924 when it had gone down to 89-1/4 million. For a wheat-growing country like Canada there is going to be a great market in China.
China is great in industry. The industrial age of China has not begun. There are many at home, I believe, who have been misled on that point. They have said that merchants have exploited China on the industrial side, but the industrial situation has not begun. When it does begin the whole world will know it, because of the cheapness of labor. I think I ought here, in justice to British industrialists, to mention this. They have said that British merchants and industrialists have exploited woman labor and child labor and I have seen things in papers here in Canada along that line. The facts are these: A labor government in England, under Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, sent out and had that whole situation investigated, and it has come out in a blue book just recently, showing very clearly that British industrialists have not been exploiting China. (Hear, hear.) With regard for instance to the cotton mills, that is one great industry that is coming into being in China, it is shown that two-thirds of all the machinery in all the factories in China is from British sources. The capital in the cotton mills is 57 million dollars Chinese capital, 136 millions Japanese, and only five millions British. So you see the proportion, practically one-fortieth only is British capital. Then with regard to the mills themselves, out of a total of 122 factories, 73 are Chinese owned, 45 are Japanese owned, and four only are British owned. So really there is not much of a problem. Then when you come to the conditions, this blue book shows that factory conditions are away ahead of the Chinese themselves. The Chinese do not carry out their regulations.
Fourthly, they are overwhelmingly great in population. I was astonished two or three days ago in receiving the last papers from Pekin to see the last population given by the Postal Administration. I have been saying the population was increasing, and probably in ten years' time it would be 450 million people. Here is the last census, given by the Postal Administration, who have been working for years on this: 485,508,000 odd. They have been increasing in the last four years, since the last census, as far as you can take a census there, something like ten million a year. When you think of better hygienic conditions coming into being there, when you think of the breaking down of the old idea of the clan being at one spot and not able to move because of their idea of ancestor worship-that has broken down now and they are spreading all over China and the densely populated parts are being disintegrated and these people are going to Manchuria, for instance, where they have great grain-growing land-when you think of these things, I say, you will see that China will grow at a tremendous rate. It has grown at a tremendous rate now. Here is a country with this overwhelming population coming now to be able to stand on an equality with the other nations, equipped in a modern way, educated in a modern way, beginning now along this line of industry with the cheapest labor in the world, and with a stock with hardiness of physique and with capacities for endurance, astonishing capacities, when you think of that, what is going to happen to the world? It will mean that China will be almost the dominating country in the whole world.
It seems to me that the interests of Canada require that we should be on the very best terms with China. (Hear, hear.) We ought to understand that nation better, understand her history, understand her culture, understand her national aspirations and aims. There are two institutions in Canada that are working along this line. One is McGill University where they have the beginnings of a very fine library of Chinese things and they are developing a Chinese department in that University. That is where, it seems to me, the University of Toronto is lacking. But there is something that Toronto has, and practically Toronto University, which is going to mean a great deal, and that is the Royal Ontario Museum with the best collection, I suppose, of Chinese antiquities that you will find in any museum that I know of. It is attached to the University, there is every facility there for students for the investigation of Chinese culture and Chinese things, and that being so it seems to me it ought to be more developed; a Chinese department ought to be developed in connection with Toronto University, so as to make available to the utmost this wonderful collection that we have in the Ontario Museum.
There is a great future for China, and if Canada swings and has close relationships of harmony and goodwill with China, our children in days to come will benefit from these close contacts of good-will and good fellowship. (Applause.)
The thanks of the club were extended to the speaker by Bishop Stringer of the Yukon, who was present as a guest of the Club.