- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 3 Mar 1927, p. 40-50
- Goforth, Professor W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- An increase in Canadian interest in Chinese affairs since May, 1925. Factors that have caused this change. Trade figures with China. The Pacific becoming the centre of human thought and actin and intercourse. Our trade with China not the type we need to fear or beware of, with examples. The immense Chinese market now opening. Three main causes of this opening, with some discussion of each: the revolution of 1911; the retrocession of the Boxer indemnity on the part of the American Government and their insistence that the money be used to send Chinese students to the United States (called the intellectual renaissance of China by the speaker); the Great War of 1914 to 1918 which brought about the industrial revolution in China. The need to change the previous conditions under which we as foreigners lived in China appears to be almost too late now, and how that is so. The danger inherent in not realizing the results of procrastination. The speaker's consultation with several Chinese as to the justice of treaty privileges in the first stage of western intercourse with the Far East. Steps that should have been taken, the steps that must ultimately be taken, with discussion: handing back to the Chinese the right to control collection of their customs duties, and to set the tariff level; relinquishing a hold over extra-territoriality, gradually; granting to the Chinese joint administration of the concessions; granting them full police authority in those concessions when they had proved their power to undertake it; a moratorium. More recent events. The peace treaty, which gave China a new sense of equality and national sovereignty. The British position. How the United States and other countries benefited from the British privileges. The present situation not hopeless. The crumbling of the northern military alliance under the pressure of the Nationalist armies as an important matter in the present situation. The speaker discusses the present situation with the aid of a map. Confidence that within six months the Chinese Nationalist party will probably control the whole of China and that power will give them greater conservatism and greater reasonableness. Remembering the warning words of Sir John Jordan, uttered in England two years ago with regard to the new China being not only Britain's opportunity but Britain's responsibility as one who holds within her hand the fateful gift of peace or war in Asia.
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- 3 Mar 1927
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
THE SITUATION IN CHINA
BY PROFESSOR W. GOFORTH, M.A., MCGILL UNIVERSITY, MONTREAL
3rd March, 1927
Introduced by the President, PROFESSOR GOFORTH said : The Chinese puzzle we are trying to solve today has held too little interest among Canadians until recently, especially Canadians of the central and eastern provinces. We have been rather vaguely conscious of some forty thousand Celestials in our midst, and have rather breathed a sigh of relief that the majority of these are in British Columbia and not in Ontario. Many have also made the mistake of judging this nation by the occupational status of most of the Celestials in our midst; and in spite of the fact that 75°0 of the Chinese have never heard of soap and know nothing of its use, yet we have judged them as a nation of laundrymen. (Laughter.)
From May, 1925, however, Canadian interest in Chinese affairs has increased. Among the factors that have caused this change are are the unenviable plight in which our Mother Country has found herself as the focus point of a bitter hatred on the part of some misguided Chinese, a hatred inspired from the outside as well as the inside, a hatred which did not originate in Russia, for it existed long before Bolshevist Russia came into being, but upon which Russia has poured oil of misunderstanding and suspicion, which has increased the flames until they are now blazing brightly. We have also noticed that our trade with China has been growing very rapidly in recent years. Advance figures from the Department of Trade and Commerce show that Canadian exports to China last year were not only the greatest on record, but equal to the total from Confederation to 1913. More and more, eyes are turning towards the Pacific; it is becoming the centre of human thought and action and intercourse, and we are taking a greater interest in it. Those of you who are industrialists will know that our trade with China is not the type we need to fear or beware of. There are very few things we import from China that are competing with our own lines, and the things we send are very much needed there. For instance, Chinese millers find our No. 1 hard wheat essential for their flour; they are also wanting our lumber from British Columbia, and with the present growth of education and of Chinese newspapers, there is a growing demand for newsprint on the part of the Chinese. This immense market, only a part of which has been scratched in the past, is now opening, opening because of three main causes which have come into being during the last generation.
The first fundamental idea we must grasp in order to understand the present situation centres around the revolution of 1911. The revolution of 1911 did not mean a mere change in the appearance of government from an Imperial Manchu dynasty to a so-called Republic. It was more than that. It gave a great impetus
to political thought in China, and it gave a great impetus to those who, like Yung Chu Chow, the Rousseau of China, had done their thinking and writing in secret for fear of losing their heads. Now they came into the open and told the people what they needed, and tried to inspire a new nationalism, a new consciousness of their rights and of their equality with other nations.
The second thing was the retrocession of the Boxer indemnity on the part of the American Government and their insistence that the money be used to send Chinese students to the United States. This, I would call the intellectual renaissance of China, which is one of the fundamental causes of the present situation. If you look down the list of Who's Who in China you will find a large proportion of China's outstanding men today were educated at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Chicago, and soon, a larger proportion than in any other country. In the Nationalist Cabinet today Harvard and Yale predominate. One of the most important members is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and it is rather interesting to relate that he is also a graduate of a Jesuit Seminary, where, probably, he achieved some of his splendid philosophic insight into the political difficulties and political questions, and then in the London Schools of Economics gained his grounding in the essential causes of China's industrial and commercial difficulties.
The third factor, which is all-important in the Chinese situation, the third fundamental cause, was the Great War of 1914 to 1918. This brought about the industrial revolution of China. I am not saying that the industrial revolution has gone its limit yet, any more than ours has gone its limit yet, but the industrial revolution in China came in 1914 with the abnormal demand for Chinese goods in war-torn Europe. The industries of China began to grow rapidly, and a new industrial working class developed. It also opened up a great deal of country previously closed to foreign intercourse. It has been estimated by Professor Rimmer, of St. John's University, Shanghai, that about eighty percent of China, even today, has not been touched by foreign intercourse, except possibly by foreign missionaries. He claims that the only part of China that has or uses any foreign articles, or sends any articles abroad, is this twenty per cent. along the coast and up the rivers, and along the 8,000 miles of railroads,-only one-fifth of the Canadian railway mileage, although the population of China is forty times greater.
This industrial revolution, and the intellectual renascence, and the revolution in political thought, these three things, have brought about the present crisis. The present crisis is an exceedingly complicated and difficult one. There is one thing I would like to say at this point; it is that the need to change the previous conditions under which we as foreigners lived in China, was not realized by Western powers until it was almost too late. It appears to be almost too late now. The strategic time, judged by the statements of eminent students of Chinese history, the strategic time when the Western powers, and Britain especially, should have taken the lead in changing those special privileges and conditions we enjoy in China, the treaty rights, etc., was in 1912, when the Manchu Dynasty had fallen and when Yuan Shih-kai was firmly in the saddle, for a while at least. The dictatorship of Yuan Shih-Kai did not affect the Cantonese nationalists nearly as much as his inability to revise these treaties. Sun Yat-Sen had nailed down in his platform, even before the revolution, that essential plank, the revision of those unequal rights. But we did not grasp that at the time. Possibly all eyes were fixed on Europe and the impending war and we did not realize the results of procrastination. If they had been realized then, that would have prevented China being scattered, with this color scheme of military satrapies which we look upon today. But the opportunity was not taken.
I have consulted several Chinese of all shade of political thought, intellectual Chinese, as to the justice of these treaty privileges in the first stage of western intercourse with the Far East, and nearly all of them admit that they were essential at that stage. Those who have told you that we had no business going to China, that we were never wanted there, are wrong. All intelligent Chinese today will thank us for what we have sent to them; they will thank us for many things. Some of the things are associated with our progress in trade and industry, others with our medical missionaries who have alleviated a great deal of suffering, and others with educationists in China. These things they appreciate, at least the vast majority of them appreciate, and their leaders above all, for the great majority of Chinese leaders today are educated, at least they have come in close contact with, and have received their impetus from western ideas. And they admit that when an irresistible force, like our dynamic West, comes in contact with an immovable object, like the changeless East, it required some device to soften the impact, and that device was this group of so-called unequal treaties. The form they took was naturally judged according to the needs of the time. The special concessions of land along the coast and up the rivers were necessary in order to prevent the possibility of destruction of property and warehouses, and to give security to treaty relations. On the other hand there was another privilege which we gained during this time, which we speak of as extra-territoriality. It merely meant that we claimed jurisdiction over our own nationals throughout China, they were to be tried in our own courts. Why ? Because the judicial system under the Manchus was notoriously corrupt; and China will admit that do-day. One of the reasons for the revolution of 1911, one of their slogans, was to abolish this system and set up a new and humane system in its place. In 1912 they had at least planned this new system, they had it down on paper, and they wanted to put it into effect.
Added to these previous special privileges there was another question, the control of the Chinese Customs. During the nineteenth century, the earlier part of it, and getting worse toward the time when the Customs were taken over, western merchants found themselves open to extortion on the part of the central government, and also the government was unable to check the leakage of funds through the collectors. It is estimated that only about one-fifth of the Customs collected reached Pekin. Our present Customs probe would look very weak alongside of that. (Laughter.) So the western Powers, with China's full permission and approval, took over the administration of the Customs, and for some decades a Britisher has had the position of Inspector General of Maritime Customs, because they trusted his sagacity, and fair-mindedness. Not only was it the will of the Chinese, but of other Powers, that a Britisher should hold that position. It is interesting to note that Sir Francis Aglen, who has been recently discharged from that position, was one of the many who have held the position of Inspector General of Maritime Customs.
Chinese in the south have stated recently in their newspapers that the Pekin government was facing financial suicide by discharging a man who had been one of their most valued and trusted employees during the thirty-nine years of his service for them. (Applause.) As I have already pointed out, by 1912 conditions had changed and the people were eager for reform. The southern party, most of them educated abroad, had planned to change the corrupt conditions. Of course you cannot change a nation in a day, and you cannot change the corruption in a year, and the Western Powers distrusted their hopes and plans, and Bland, the Daily Mail correspondent in Shanghai, claimed that it was a mere paper desire to improve conditions and that we should not make any attempt to loosen up the hold on the Far East. That was our mistake; we listened to men like Bland, instead of to men like Morrison. The result was things got progressively worse. They broke away from the North and chaos followed, which has gone from bad to worse ever since, until now we find ourselves in a very awkward position in the Far East, facing the possibility of a great conflagration and a world war on the Pacific.
What would be the steps we should have taken at that time, the steps we must ultimately take ? These are the steps. First we should have handed back to the Chinese the right to control collection of their customs duties, and to set the tariff level. This could not be done in a day, because all the best trained men were British and foreigners, but it could be done gradually, over a period of ten years, by having the men study the situation under the guidance of the foreigners. Secondly, we should have relinquished our hold over extra-territoriality, gradually. We should also have granted to the Chinese joint administration of the concessions, which we have not done till the last few months, and then only under duress. Then we should have granted them full police authority in those concessions when they had proved their power to undertake it. But all of these must rest on one other thing, that is, a moratorium. Successive Chinese governments, who thought more of lining their own pockets than of advancing the interests of their nation, and who did not represent the best interests of the nation, borrowed heavily from abroad, and mortgaged most of their revenues, including customs revenue. The result was the government Yuan Shik-kai took over had no definite source of income. They had no method of paying the armies, no money to pay for setting up the new judicial system, which in a country of 400 million people would cost a great deal. So a moratorium should have been granted then, and should yet be granted, possibly a ten-year moratorium. It would be better to have the asurance of collecting ten years later than the almost certain assurance that we will collect nothing. That is the problem we are facing today.
To come to more recent events. The peace treaty gave China a new sense of equality and national sovereignty. The peace treaty considered her the equal of other nations, and this impressed many Chinese who heard about what had happened in Paris and Versailles. Again in the Washington Conference of 1922 did we give at least a formal recognition of equality, and the Powers promised to do something for them a promise which could not be kept. We cannot blame them for not keeping it then, for conditions were so bad they saw no way to put it into effect. Other things had caused China to veer around against Britain. Japan had returned Tsing Tau, for which China was thankful, and the anti-Japanese boycott immediately ceased and Japan took the role of the friend of China. Partly through the influence of the late President Harding, another great institution was destroyed in that Washington Conference, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Britain in the hope that a new Anglo-American-Japanese Alliance could maintain peace better, was deceived into breaking off the old alliance, one that was kept to the letter by Japan throughout the years of its history. (Applause.) By the peace treaty Germany and Austria had renounced their rights in China, their concessions, and their extra-territorial rights; they were taken from them almost by a forced measure. Then Russia, whose legal claim to concessions in China were very weak, had renounced all legal claims abroad, and they turned east and in order to make bad things better made a treaty with China which formally handed over her concessions, and gave back to China the right to try her subjects in their courts. This was gradually narrowing down toward the focusing of all Chinese feeling against Great Britain, and one of the most striking factors of the present situation is the isolation of Britain. Those who speak of Britain's foreign policy slightingly should consider the position Britain is in. She is no more responsible for conditions in China than any other Power. She indeed has taken the lead in these special privileges in the past, but other countries have had the benefit of them. The United States never asked special concessions, but United States Merchants have built up their businesses under the protection of British arms and British law. (Applause.) This criticism of Britain sending out a force to protect her nationals, to endeavour to give them security of life and property has reached its culmination in the disgraceful speech of Mr. Wheatley, Labor member of Parliament, the other day, and everybody filled with pride at the reply of Lord Birkenhead when he said it was our proud boast in the days before Wheatley that all those were English who stood for England, and no English life should be imperilled without the resources of the Empire being invoked to his assistance. (Applause.) This was but the echo of those splendid words of Palmerston three generations earlier, words which are looked upon by thousands of Britishers in the far-flung outposts of the earth as their Magna Charta of security, and sacred symbol of safety. It was on the occasion of an unprovoked attack by a Greek on a Gibraltar Jew who was a British subject, and Palmerston was defending the policy of protecting him. These were his words : "As a Roman in the days of old counted himself free from attack and free from molestation when he could say Civis Romanus sum, so also every British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confidence that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong." (Applause.)
The present situation is not hopeless by any means. Those who think that because Britain has sent more than twenty thousand men to the Far East to protect her subjects, a war is likely to break out, are deceived. Twenty thousand men would be useless in any sort of a campaign in the Yangtse valley. The Cantonese know that. If they have criticized our policy, it is to gain face with their own people, not because they think we have any offensive plans in view. Twenty thousand men, as you could see from a map, could barely protect the great investments of British capital, and the British citizens in the Shanghai settlement. It should be a matter of pride that others, including the United States, are allowing their marines to stay aboard ships while their citizens are protected by British guns and British forces. (Applause.)
One important matter in the present situation is the crumbling of the morthern military alliance under the pressure. of the Nationalist armies. As you will see from the map I have here (map displayed), the Nationalist Party, who a few months ago were despised and looked upon a$ impossible as future conquerors of China, as a merely sectional party, have now gained control over nearly two-thirds of China. They marched over the most difficult country in Honan province, covering long distances where they had no railways to help them, and defeated armies much superior in equipment and strength. They advanced on cities in the Yantse valley, and by capturing these they immediately called the attention of the world to themselves and their success. The honor for their success was not due to the brilliant military genius Chiang Kai-shek, or the Russian officers who are his advisors, but to the fact that the Nationalist sentiment, started by Yuan Shih-kai had begun to sift into the hearts of the Chinese, and it is foolish to disregard the apparent fact that about ninety-five percent of the Chinese today stand whole-heartedly behind the principles of the more conservative side of the Nationalist party. There is not any sympathy with the Northern leaders at all. Those who fight, fight for their bread and butter, and because they are forced by pressgangs, and under threat of death. The Northern alliance is crumbling bit by bit, Wu Pei-fu, one of the greatest leaders, is now eliminated. Sun Chuang-fang, the lord of five provinces, is also eliminated, and is going into retirement with the large fortune he has amassed. And the other Northern leaders, formerly bandits, are the only ones who are left now to face this difficult situation in the south. Furthermore, those of you who are military. men will see that this gradual change is becoming more and more in favor of the Cantonese. Feng-Yu-hsiang, the military victor of a year ago is now with twenty thousand men on the borders of Honan, ready to strike when they advance southward, and cut off their retreat. My father wrote to me recently that his army of twenty thousand men is almost as disciplined as his old army of thirty thousand. He is one of the conservative wing of the Chinese army, and those who have read of his anti-foreign and anti-Christian spirit should remember that this has probably come from those who have personal animosity against him. There is no man so greatly spoken against by his enemies or so highly spoken of by his friends as Feng. If he throws in his influence on the side of justice and proper and reasonable distribution of our rights, probably the future will be bright with hope, and peace and security of life and property will take the place of the present chaotic atmosphere.
Those who have been studying the Chinese situation feel confident-and this includes, I think, the feeling of the British Foreign Office-that within six months at the most the Chinese Nationalist party will probably control the whole of China, and we hope, as has been the history of the past-for examples from the past give us many cases of this-that power will give them greater conservatism and greater reasonableness; and when they find their weapon of terror is no longer needed they will be more reasonable and just in their demands, and we will be able to sit around the council table without the danger of racial animosity and hatred spoiling any decision that may be reached.
It would be well to remember, in closing, the warning words of Sir John Jordan, uttered in England two years ago. They were his last public utterance. He was Britain's greatest ambassador to the Court of Pekin, and for many years his sagacity and foresight and profound knowledge of Chinese thought and history won him a high place in the praise and esteem of both Chinese and foreigners, so that when his death was announced, it was as widely mourned in the Land of the Blue Gown as in Britain.. These were his words: " Let us remember that the new China, arising in all the equality of her sovereign rights, having her place at the council table of the world, is not only Britain's opportunity but Britain's responsibility, for she holds within her hand the fateful gift of peace or war in Asia." (Applause.)
The thanks of the club was tendered by Mr. Arthur Hewitt.