Imatges de pàgina

spirit of the machine. The efforts of China during the following thirty years to build up a navy, a system of coast fortifications, and even to raise an army, the most difficult of all, originated in the experience gained in the final suppression of the fifteen years' rebellion. A precocious attempt to supply a navy on entirely foreign lines was thwarted by Li Hung Chang, even at the time when the need was pressing, on the ground that the Chinese must use foreigners, but not let foreigners use them.

It is an interesting coincidence that it was at the same time that Japanese regeneration began, an identical incentive having started both. An English squadron had bombarded the capital of the Prince of Satsuma in 1864, and then and there the seed of the new Japanese Empire was sown, for that must also ‘not happen again.' Thus two streams sprang simultaneously from the same watershed; but how divergent their history! One followed a clear and steady course towards its ocean, gathering force and volume as it proceeded, fertilising the country as it flowed, and shedding wealth and blessing. The other meandered through wastes of sand and lost itself in a dismal swamp. Why this difference, the circumstances being apparently the same? It is an inquiry which would involve a deep study of national and racial character, for the two peoples who have been coupled together in our thoughts and in popular speech are as wide as the poles apart.

China and Japan entered on their reforms in the same way, and there was as little to distinguish them as there is to distinguish the

braird’of two different species of plant on its first springing from the seed. They established schools for Western science, and they sent young men abroad to study. There was no apparent difference, but there was a very real one. The heart of the one nation was in the new enterprise ; of the other not. In Japan it was not one or two particularly far-seeing statesmen who led the reform, but the whole nation, which was sharp-set like a pack of hounds, eager in the pursuit of knowledge, wealth, and power. The huntsmen had little to do but let them go. In China, on the other hand, the people were densely uninterested, the Government inert, and the governing classes, if they had any passion at all, were passionately opposed to everything foreign and everything new. In Japan the innovators were carried forward on a wave of national enthusiasm. In China the solitary reformer had to drag after him a gigantic mass of dead matter, as well as to contend with both open and covert opposition, from above as well as from below. The different results arrived at in the two countries are precisely what would be expected from the premises. One effect has been that, as Li Hung Chang was the only man who did anything, he is the only man blamed for everything that was not done, just as the one man who was on deck is responsible for the loss of the ship. Such is the world's justice. Yet is there a

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reasonable side even to that, for a reformer may conceivably block the way of his betters, as my lord the elephant' did in Kipling's story.

It is not without interest to note how unequal was even the partial success of Li Hung Chang in the reform of the national defences. The scheme naturally fell into three parts--army, navy, and forts—and the odd thing is that his greatest failure was in the department where success was prima facie the easiest. The Chinese knew what an army was, and it might have been thought easier to improve what existed than to make new creations. The contrary was

For reasons which are obvious on a little reflection a tabula rasa would have formed a more hopeful base for a new army, where no comparisons could be made, nor arguments founded on antiquity drawn from the books of history.

The case of the navy was more hopeful, for though the Chinese had legendary experience of sea-power, by which, in fact, they had been enabled to expel the Japanese from Korea in 1578, yet immense floating batteries propelled by steam, worked by electricity, and carrying terrible explosives, torpedo boats with their lightning speed and deadly weapons, constituted an entirely new thing which had to be created from the egg, so to speak, with nothing to assist comparison or suggest criticism. The navy had the further advantage of moving in an element which was regarded with aversion by the ordinary Chinese official. For that and other reasons the navy could be developed out of sight, without interference from ignorant or prejudiced critics. The whole thing, indeed, was so mysterious that the Supreme Government was but too well pleased to leave its management in the hands of the only man who was equal to the responsibility. The consequence of all this was that Li Hung Chang came very near succeeding with the navy. Where he failed was in relaxing his efforts before adequate progress had been made, probably from sheer weariness, and so letting the fleet fall behind. Moreover, he allowed his foreign officers and advisers to quit the service while their training work was half done. The result was that when the trial came the ships were obsolete, and neither equipped nor disciplined

Still, the navy was the sole redeeming feature in the Chinese collapse.

That Li Hung Chang was responsible for the conduct and result of the war with Japan is true, but it is also fair to remember that the war was forced on him. He went as far as he dared in his efforts to avert it, but the power behind the throne was impracticable, and the war was forced on the Emperor, first, by an unprovoked and unanswerable challenge, and next by the opening of hostilities by the Japanese. Some of the Japanese organs have hinted that a little more judgment shown by the representatives of Great Britain would have obviated the war. This is plausible, if not quite true. No doubt had they dealt frankly with Li Hung Chang, and sup

for war.

ported him against the ignorant, insane, and impracticable coterie of Imperial councillors, a compromise would certainly have been offered by China, which, if it did not prevent the war, would at least have cut the moral ground more completely from the feet of the Japanese. The war would have proceeded quand même, but possibly the sympathies of Europe would have gone more with the victim than the victor—which might have made a difference.

The peculiar position occupied by Li Hung Chang vis-à-vis the foreign representatives deserves a passing remark. He was not officially Foreign Minister, nor'a member of the Board which constitutes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, neither did he reside in the capital. He was nevertheless the de facto arbiter in foreign matters, in virtue of his being the only man who knew anything or dared to say what he knew, and the only man whom the Imperial family could trust with any kind of business. Hence the intercourse between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the foreign representatives has for a quarter of a century been regulated by Li Hung Chang. The Yamên dared not take any step without consulting him, because whenever they attempted to do so they got themselves into a mess through their ignorance. The situation was of course irregular as well as inconvenient, and some of the foreign representatives and others resented the position in which they were placed. They had installed themselves in formidable array in Peking for the purpose of being at the very centre of government, though any other residence would have been more agreeable. Yet they felt there was a man at a distance virtually controlling the game, as we might conceive a Bismarck doing under certain circumstances at Friedrichsruhe. It was found by experience that whoever wanted business put through did best by dealing direct with Li, who was never reluctant to show the importance of his position. But this was compounding illegitimacy, and the British Ministers in particular have always stood out against it. Did we not, they said, go to war with China mainly to establish the principle that our dealings should be with the Central Government alone? Have we not in deference to this principle allowed the interests of British subjects to be sacrificed ever since the war of 1860; because we would not use the pressure which lay to our hands against the provincial authorities, who would have given us what we wanted ? And shall we now confess that our theoretical right was a practical wrong, and go to a provincial magnate, eighty miles away, for that which the Central Government denies us ? Certainly not, your Excellencies, only you will observe that your colleagues, regarding only what makes for the interest of their respective countries, and being less tightly laced up in diplomatic purism, enter by the side door, which is open, while you hammer at the front door, which is closed. Under these circumstances it was natural that the protesting Ministers should seek to suppress and even extinguish the disturbing element in their diplomatic system. To ignore Li Hung Chang and force the Foreign Board to do the same became a kind of policy with them. But a fact remains a fact even though it be ignored. Had Li Hung Chang been really ill-disposed towards the English, which has never been the case, he might have found a reasonable justification in the inveterate hostility to himself evinced by British representatives.


But her Majesty's Government have never really been bound to a fetish of legitimacy. Their attitude was perfectly explicable on the theory that they had alternative channels which offered advantages, and which they also fancied might be a counterpoise to the influence of Li Hung Chang. That was the English head of the Chinese Customs and the English Secretary to the Chinese Legation. Through these channels the British Government imagined it would gain its ends. But if the Li Hung Chang agency was illegitimate, one of these at least was by many degrees more so, and it has produced the miseries which inevitably result from irregularity. A perfectly gratuitous rivalry was set up between the head of the Customs and the Viceroy, whereby their forces, which united would have been nearly omnipotent, have been neutralised, and the Customs service itself brought perilously near dissolution because it was regarded as an English institution. British influence in China has, partly from the same cause, fallen below zero. Instead of maintaining the position of arbiter of the destinies of China which she held in the sixties, she has in these last days become the Ishmael of the Far East.

It is sometimes said that Li Hung Chang is favourable to this or that country, and it has been suggested that he has never been overfriendly to England. This is an error. It would be no credit to any statesman to cherish sentimental fancies, and no man was ever freer from the influence of likes and dislikes than Li Hung Chang. He has always had a leaning towards England on solid grounds, and might still have if she would only be steady and have a policy which would remain in focus for a few seconds. This preference for England is simply dictated by the consideration that on the whole there is less to be apprehended from her than from some other Great Powers. It is true that his continental experiences have shown him clearly how absolutely blind was the statesmanship which has led England to forego her birthright in the Far East, and to lift her rivals into her vacant place; and the moral suggested by analogous exhibitions in common life must be irresistible, that those who fail to guard their own are unfit trustees for other people's interests. So far as Li Hung Chang is anti-English, it is because England herself has been so; untrue to herself, and therefore untrue to others.

The only occasion on which the Viceroy came into direct collision with Great Britain was on the occasion of the murder of Mr. Margary on the frontier of Yunnan. The matter was taken up seriously by the British Government, and justice was demanded from the Chinese. After long and fruitless discussion between the British Minister in Peking and the Tsungli Yamên war seemed near. The British Minister left the capital and proceeded to Shanghai in order to place himself in direct telegraphic communication with his Government. Then the Chinese Government became alarmed, and sent Li Hung Chang post-haste after him to Chefoo, a pleasant summer resort on the Gulf of Pecheli, where negotiations were opened. There was a British Flying Squadron close at hand, and it looked like surrender for the Chinese, which it would actually have been but for an unlooked for turn in their favour. It was in the summer of 1876, when affairs in Europe looked stormy, and news came at the crisis of the negotiations which showed that the British Flying Squadron might bark but would not bite. The representatives of several of the Great Powers were also then assembled at Chefoo. For some reason, personal or official, there was a lack of confidence between the British Minister and his colleagues. They claimed to know what he was doing, as in case of war they must take measures for the protection of their nationals. But the Englishman claimed the right to keep his own counsel. Of course they all knew through the Chinese what turn the negotiations were taking, and that something of the nature of an ultimatum was impending. Having taken the side of the Chinese, these other Ministers were able to communicate to Li Hung Chang most important information, which took the sting completely out of the British Minister's menaces. They knew by their private advices from Europe that the Flying Squadron was muzzled, and they told Li Hung Chang, who was immensely relieved. The Chinese Minister, ably supported by Sir R. Hart, the head of the Customs service, and his very capable lieutenant, Mr. Detring, now became master of the situation, and of course took full advantage of it, as the famous Chefoo Convention testifies. In fact, if the British Minister had not accepted what the Chinese Government was ready to concede, it was arranged that Li Hung Chang should be despatched with full powers to London to treat with the Foreign Office. A steamer was waiting for him in Chefoo Harbour.

The result of the Chefoo negotiations did not perhaps dispose British Ministers to dealings with the astute Li Hung Chang, and may possibly have had somewhat to do with their reserved attitude towards the great satrap ever since. One of the minor effects of the Chefoo campaign was that the experience he had gained of Mr. Detring's capacity induced Li Hung Chang a few years later to get him transferred to his own post, Tientsin, where he has practically remained ever since, as much against the routine of the Customs service as the Viceroy's own extended term of office has been contrary to the official rules of China. It is the same Mr. Detring who has recently been acting as secretary to Li Hung Chang's mission in Germany, and to whose exertions is doubtless largely due

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