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England has been for fifty years the expected from Lord Salisbury, the paramount Power in China. By the United States Government took the vast preponderance of her trade, the matter up and secured assurances of numbers of her nationals living and definite adherence to the "open door" trading there, her experience of the from every nation except Russia, whose East, her supply of capable adminis- reply was characteristically vague and trators, her unquestioned command of unsatisfactory. But this was too late the sea highway thither, the position to prevent the absorption of Manchuria of leader has naturally fallen to her by a Power whose fixed policy is the among the nations. How she has ac- prohibition of foreign trade, whereas quitted herself of this responsible and there was plenty of time, after the inproud task is sufficiently shown by the tentions of Russia were plain to all the facts of the situation to-day as sum- world, to secure a general declaration marized above. The humiliation, the of open trade policy for all China forloss, the possible horrors, lie chiefly at ever, which no Power could have subthe door of England. Her paramountcy sequently abrogated except by force of is gone forever, beyond the faintest arms. possibility of retrieval. That the open- Sooner or later order will reign once ings for her trade will be largely cur- more in Peking, there will be some centailed is also no longer a matter of tral authority there, and the Ministers doubt. Our statesmen have been la- of the Powers will once more be about mentably and conspicuously wanting their business-or other Ministers if in the energy necessary to the perform- these are in their graves. Then Engance of their task, and as the most im- land will have to profess a policy of portant problems have arisen during some kind, and make an effort of some Lord Salisbury's present Government, sort to carry it out. Beneath any polit is the Cabinet of to-day that has icy there are a number of axioms, and done, or left undone, most to bring this so far as these are borne in mind that injury upon the nation.
policy will stand a chance of success, Since Lord Salisbury has been in and so far as they are overlooked it office there have been several occasions will once more fail. Expert opinion when an intelligent appreciation of
will differ somewhat, of course, con. affairs, backed by bold and straightfor- cerning these axioms, but upon most ward action, would have preserved the of them, all who know the Far East, integrity of China, kept for all nations will be in substantial agreement, and alike the huge actualities and greater
my desire here is to set some of these potentialities of her trade and postponed plainly forth. Before doing so, howindefinitely, if not forever, the dangers ever, it is essential to recall to public of a war over her partition. The abil. attention a few of the extraordinary ity of England to do this thing was far lapses from common sense and comgreater than that of any other country, mon energy that have characterized our for the simple reason that the world treatment of the Chinese problem durrealizes that we are by fixed policy a ing the last few years. So many other free-trading nation, and that our object exciting events have overlaid them is to maintain open markets for all. that they have probably passed out of The United States and Japan, with pos- public recollection. sibly Germany as well, would have Is it generally remembered, for insupported us in diplomatic action di- stance, that the British Parliament rected to this end-indeed, when it be- passed a resolution formally declaring came evident that nothing was to be the integrity of China to be a Britisb concern? It meant nothing, and no at the time, “I am profoundly conaction whatever was intended to follow vinced that although the statement as it. It was tossed as a sop by a policy- to the conclusion of a private treaty less Government to an uneasy House. may have been textually inaccurate, Could anything have been more dis- the broad fact is indubitable.” It might creditable to the British Empire than have been thought that the Foreign this bit of feeble bluff? The Cassini Office would have inquired privately Convention is even less likely to be into the sources of so very serious a recollected. In November, 1895, the rumor. On the contrary, it simply inTimes published a telegram from a formed Russia indirectly that she could correspondent in Hong Kong, stating not be allowed to possess herself of that a secret treaty had been signed Port Arthur. On the 8th of February, between Russia and China, by which 1898, Mr. (now Lord) Curzon reassured the former was conceded the right of the House of Commons as follows: anchorage for her fleet in Port Arthur, and the right to build railways across Up to now, Russia has done nothing Manchuria to Vladivostok and Port in respect of Port Arthur which she Arthur. The Russian Embassy in Lon
has not been perfectly entitled, under
treaty rights, to do. Russia has sent don at once declared these statements
ships of war to Port Arthur; and if to be “absolutely unfounded." On the
blame is to be attached to her for so do28th of October, 1896, the North China ing, Her Majesty's government must Daily News published the full text of be included in the accusation, for a this Convention, which was seen to fortnight ago we did exactly the same place the whole of northern China vir- thing (Cheers). The right to send
war tually under Russian protection-Rus
to Port Arthur is
right which we enjoy together sia might station any force she pleased
with other Powers under the treaty of in this territory, raise and drill Chinese
Tientsin, and when the occasion arises, levies, develop mineral resources, forti. we shall do it again. fy Port Arthur, Talienwan and Kiaochao; if she found herself in danger of On the 27th of March the "lease" of war, China bound herself not to cede Port Arthur by China to Russia was strategical points to any other Power, signed by Li Hung-chang, Chang Chihand Russia undertook to defend China tung and M. Pavloff, the Russian repreagainst other foreign encroachment. sentative in Peking, with the following Again and again the British Govern. as its Article VI:ment denied the existence of this convention. Yet for six weeks the baggage The governments of the two counof the Russian Minister in Peking was tries agree that as Port Arthur is sole packed ready for his instant departure ly a naval port, only Russian and Chi
nese vessels are to be allowed to use as soon as it was signed, and his car.
it, and it is to be considered a closed riages and mule litters stood ready all
port as far as the war and merthis time in the courtyard of the Rus
cbant vessels of other Powers are consian Legation. The Times felt com- cerned. pelled by courtesy, in view of the official Russian denial, to repudiate its Thus, within seven weeks the remark correspondent, but the English papers of the Under-Secretary in the House in the Far East persisted in the fact of Commons was shown by events to of the Convention, and, as I myself be as ignorant in fact as it was flippant knew this correspondent intimately and in form. The above "lease" was not the sources of his information, I wrote generally known until the 3d of June,
when the Times published it. At once several more pawns. Before this, too, Lord Salisbury telegraphed to the Brit- the British Government had commitish Ambassador in St. Petersburg to ted a blunder without parallel in modinquire if it was correct, and to instruct ern diplomacy for sheer ineptitude. The him, in that case, to point out to the country and the House of Commons Russian Government that Article VI had become very restless at the proswas "quite inconsistent with the spe- pect of the seizure of Port Arthur by cific assurances of the Russian Gov- Russia and the apparent failure of Lord ernment and with our treaty rights in Salisbury to take any steps to prevent Chinese ports." This infantile belief this. Thereupon, besides the statement of that the Russian Government would Mr. Curzon quoted above about the ships, care a jot about “specific assurances" which was received with hearty cheers and “treaty rights" in a matter which of relief in the House, the Admiralty Russia had so close at heart as the circulated a list of ships' stations in the eventual mastery of northern China, Far East containing these words: “At when she knew perfectly well that a Port Arthur, Immortalité and Iphifew sarcastically turned sentences in genia.” That is, we had two powerful a despatch would be all she would have cruisers at the danger-point to guard to bear for ignoring them, is of a piece our rights. Naturally the country was with too much of our diplomacy for much relieved and criticism ceased. years past. Of course Russia pooh- Shortly afterwards Russia requested poohed all the objections, with even that these two ships should be wit'ı. less consideration for our feelings than drawn, and by an act of folly without usual. One course alone would have equal, I repeat, in diplomatic annals, saved the situation. The treaty of they were withdrawn-forever. And Tientsin (1858) gives us “free and equal the country, after being quieted by the participation in all privileges, immuni- news of their presence there, was posities and advantages that may have tively assured that their presence had been, or may be hereafter, granted by possessed no signification whatever! His Majesty, the Emperor of China to Once more a domestic storm broke the Government or the subjects of any upon the Government, and a dangerous other nation,” Here was a clear issue discussion loomed ahead in the House. -the deliberate infraction by Russia of To stave off this--to have something the old standing treaty rights of all to pacify its supporters with-the Govother nations. The British flagship-a ernment arranged with Japan, always more powerful vessel than any Russia ready to act with us in keeping China had on the spot-should have been or- open, to occupy Wei-hai-wei when dered to enter Port Arthur, by Japan evacuated it upon payment of force if necessary, and to stay the remainder of the war indemnity by there until the affair was settled in China. Military and naval opinion, alaccordance with the Treaty of Tien- most without exception has declared tsin, the Magna Charta of the West in this place to be useless to us; the GovChina. Every student of the interna- ernment was besought by one of the tional situation knows that Russia first authorities upon strategy not to would not have accepted the gage of put any valuable stores there to be capbattle; but even if she had, it would tured by the enemy or to keep the fleet have been better to fight her with the idle in defending them; ten thousand allies we should necessarily have had, men would be necessary to protect the on such an issue, than to postpone an place, and we have raised one solitary inevitable conflict until she had queened regiment of Chinese; a million sterling
on which our Ministers have so often prided themselves as one of the great achievements of British policy in the Far East, turns out to be no assurance at all. No man in private life would invest single sovereign on the strength of a declaration so evasive and illusory. ... This is nothing more than an academic expression of opinion, which commits the Chinese Government to nothing. It might change its opinion tomorrow and cede half the valley, yet, were this a transaction between judividuals to be submitted to an ordinary tribunal, we should simply be laughed out of court if we pretended to found a claim upon such a simulacrum of an assurance. .. Is it not time for Her Majesty's Government to drop playing with phrases and to look at facts?
would have to be spent in fortifications, and we have spent nothing; our vital interests, now that the partition of China has begun, are in the Yangtse Valley, and the Wei-hai-wei can more defend that, as a great military authority has said, than a helmet upon a man's head would defend his vitals; the place, in fact, is an encumbrance to us from a naval point of view, while any commercial value it might have had has been destroyed by our voluntary promise to Germany not to construct a railroad from it to any other part of the province.
The list of further failures of our diplomacy in the Far East is far too long to pursue, but one or two others must be mentioned. We offered a large loan to China and strongly urged her to accept it. Russia forbade her, and she declined it. British capital was provided to build the railroad from Peking to Niu-chwang; Russia protested; we wrote many strongly-worded despatches; and then accepted the Russian insistence that the loan should not give the right to any lien upon the railway. The country became uneasy at the apparent neglect of our interests in the Yangtse Valley, but was once more relieved by the Government's assurance that an undertaking had been given by the Chinese Government safeguarding these interests. Three and a half months later this undertaking was issued to the public, but immediately withdrawn because the official copy contained Mr. Curzon's private marginal notes—“strictly speaking, this is not grammar,” etc. It proved to be absolutely worthless. I quote the comment of the Times:
One of the facts was that not long afterwards a concession for a railway from Peking to Hankow, the great port in the very heart of the Yangtse Valley, was granted (in spite of Lord Salisbury's energetic protests-on paper) to a Belgian company, financed by the Russo-Chinese Bank-that is, by the Russian Government under one of its numerous aliases.
During the time these things were going on it was impossible for the country, through its Parliamentary representatives, to obtain prompt, accurate, or even straightforward information. One glaring example must suffice. When the British Government offered its loan to China and strongly urged acceptance, while Russia was successfully intriguing against it, Ministers in both Houses were sharply questioned as to the progress of negotiations. At the same hour of the same day these two absolutely contradictory answers were given. Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords:
Perhaps our light-hearted Under-Secretary of State would not mind even the ridicule with which his carelessness has covered him if it helped him to divert public attention from the substance of these documents. . . . In point of fact, this assurance up
I am not going through the proposals; the Degotiations are not concluded and it would not be right for me to do
Mr. Balfour in the House of Com- Chinese territory where British entermons:
prise may have a chance? At present
there are few indications that the The whole transaction is now a mat. problem has been seriously grapplej
with by the Government. ter of ancient history. I mean the loan negotiations; they do not ask for the
In view of such an outcome of British loan, and there is an end of it.
efforts, it would be too painful to charAgain, the Times said: “It is difficult acterize the following brave words to be quite accurate about the Belgian spoken by Lord Salisbury in the House concession because Lord Salisbury and
of Lords: Mr. Curzon are not in agreement about its history." In fact, Mr. Curzon's an.
Not only have we not surrendered
one iota of our treaty rights, but we swers in Parliament became something
have intention of surrendering of a public scandal, in proof of which
them, and though I will not make use strong statement it may suffice, to
of those high-sounding words which save space, to quote the remark of the grate on the noble earl's nerves, I will Times that “we are lulled to sleep for say there is no effort which this counmonths by Parliamentary statements
try will not make rather than allow of a more or less disingenuous charac
those rights to be destroyed. ter."
“Words, words, words," only good to To conclude: the situation two years
be laid away in the camphor of a stuago was that the policy imperatively
dent's note-book alongside Sir Michael required by British interests in China, and openly, indeed even defiantly, pro
Hicks-Beach's equally brave and equal
ly empty declaration that “ the Gov. fessed by the British Government, was
ernment were absolutely determined at hopelessly beaten and driven from the
whatever cost, even at the cost of war field. Once more I cite the Times, a
if necessary, that the door should not strong supporter in other matters of
be shut." Lord Salisbury's administration, since my own assertion to this effect might be
Unless we thoroughly realize how regarded by those who have not followed the facts as a partizan utter
badly we have done in the past, there is no hope that we shall do better in the
future. The object of this brief but
į It is most surprising that, after its
humiliating retrospect, therefore, is to failure and its utter impossibility bave
exhibit the urgency of a complete been clearly demonstrated, the Govern. change in our method of dealing with ment should go on complacently behav- the Chinese problem. Two things are ing as if the open door policy were alive indispensable. First, a policy; second, and winning all along the line. In the
a determination to carry it out. The actual condition of affairs that policy
second of these can be furnished only is merely a spare and a delusion. The other policy for good or ill is dominant
by the pressure of public opinion, but and inevitable. Each nation is taking
the former is a matter of discussion and in hand as much of China as she can knowledge, and the light of past experideal with, and all are firmly resolved ence. Hitherto we have had no policy that British trade shall not, if they can at all; nobody can look at the Far Easthelp it, effect an entry into their areas.
ern record of the present Government Are we to go on for ever trying to keep
and believe that at any time they had out the ocean with a mop or are we going to take the world as we find it,
definitely decided what they wished to and to secure at least some arei of
do, except from day to day, or at what