The British government has the right to extend the Burma railway system through Yun-nan and north to the Yangtsze.
There are local lines in Hu-nan and Ho-nan which connect with the trunk line from Canton to Peking. The Peking-Kalgan line (122 m. long) is a distinct undertaking. The Chinese propose to continue it another 530 m. north-westward to Urga in Mongolia, and an eventual junction with the trans-Siberian railway in the neighbourhood of Lake Baikal is contemplated. This line would greatly shorten the distance between Moscow and Peking.
In 1910 there were open for traffic in China (not reckoning the Russian and Japanese systems in Manchuria, q.v.) over 3000 m. of railway, and 1500 m. of trunk lines were under construction.
China is traversed in all directions by roads. Very few are paved of metalled and nearly all are badly kept; speaking generally, the government spends nothing in keeping either the roads Roads, rivers, and canals. or canals in repair. The roads in several instances are subsidiary to the canals and navigable rivers as a means of communication. The ancient trade routes were twelve in number, viz.:—
|1.||The West river route (W. from Canton).|
|2.||The Cheling Pass route (N.W. from Canton).|
|3.||The Meiling Pass route (N. from Canton).|
|4.||The Min river route (N.W. from Fu-chow).|
|5.||The Lower Yangtsze route (as far W. as Hu-peh and Hu-nan).|
|6.||The Upper Yangtsze route (from I‘chang to Sze-ch‘uen).|
|7.||The Kwei-chow route.|
|8.||The Han river route (Hankow to Shen-si).|
|9.||The Grand Canal (already described).|
|10.||The Shan-si route.|
|11.||The Kiakhta route.|
|12.||The Manchurian route.|
Of the routes named, that by the West river commands the trade of Kwang-si and penetrates to Yun-nan (where it now has to meet the competition of the French railway from Tong King) and Kwei-chow. The Cheling Pass route from Canton is so named as it crosses that pass (1500 ft. high) to reach the water-ways of Hu-nan at Chen-chow on an affluent of the Siang, and thus connects with the Yangtsze. The trade of this route—whence in former times the teas of Hu-nan (Oonam) and Hu-peh (Oopaek) reached Canton—has been largely diverted via Shanghai and up the Yangtsze. The Canton-Hankow railway also supersedes it for through traffic. The route by the Meiling Pass (1000 ft. High) links Canton and Kiu-kiang. This route is used by the King-te Chen porcelain works to send, to Canton the commoner ware, there to be painted with florid and multicoloured designs. The Min river route serves mainly the province of Fu-kien. The Lower Yangtsze is a river route, now mainly served by steamers (though the salt is still carried by junks), and the Upper Yangtsze is a river route also, but much more difficult of navigation. The Kwei-chow route is up the river Yuen from Changte and the Tung-t‘ing lake. The Han river route becomes beyong Sing-nagn Fu a land route over the Tsingling mountains to the capital of Shen-si, and thence on to Kan-suh, Mongolia and Siberia. The Shan-si route from Peking, wholly by road, calls for no detailed account; the Manchurian route is now adequately served by railways. There remains the important Kiakhta route. From Peking it goes to Kalgan (this section is now served by a railway), whence the main route traverses Mongolia, while branches serve Shan-si, Shen-si, Kan-suh, Turkestan, &c. By this route go the caravans bearing tea to Siberia and Russia. Other routes are from Yun-nan to Burma and from Sze-ch‘uen province to Tibet.
The government maintains a number of courier roads, which, like the main trade roads, keep approximately to a straight line. These courier roads are sometimes cut in the steep sides of mountains or run through them in tunnels. They are, in the plains, 20 to 25 ft. wide and are occasionally paved. The chief courier roads starting from Peking go to Sze-chu‘en, Yun-nan, Kweilin (in Kwang-si), Canton and Fu-chow. Canals are numerous, especially in the deltas of the Yangtsze and Si-kiang.
In the centre and south of China the roads are rarely more than 5 ft. broad and wheeled traffic is seldom possible. Bridges are generally of stone, sometimes of wood; large rivers are crossed by bridges of boats. In the north carts drawn by ponies, mules or oxen are employed; in the centre and south passengers travel in sedan-chairs or in wheelbarrows, or ride on ponies. Occasionally the local authorities employ the corvée system to dig out the bed of a canal, but as a rule roads are left to take care of themselves.
Posts and Telegraphs.—Every important city is now connected by telegraph with the capital, and the service is reasonably efficient. In 1907 there were 25,913 m. of telegraph lines. Connexion is also established with the British lines in Burma and the Russian lines in Siberia. The Great Northern Telegraph Company (Danish) and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company (British) connect Shanghai by cable with Hong-Kong, Japan, Singapore and Europe. An imperial postal service was established in 1896 under the general control of the maritime customs. By an edict of November 1906 the control of the postal services was transferred to the Board of Communication. The Post Office serves all the open ports, and every important city in the interior. There were in 1910 some 4000 native post-offices, employing 15,000 persons, of whom about 200 only were foreigners. The treaty powers however, still maintain their separate post offices at Shanghai, and several other treaty ports for the despatch and receipt of mails from Europe. During the years 1901-1908 mail matters increased from ten millions to two hundred and fifty-two millions of items; and the 250 tons of parcels handled to 27,155 tons. In postal matters China has adopted a most progressive attitude. The imperial post conforms in all respects to the universal Postal Union regulations.
- (G. J.; X.)
IV. Government and Administration
Changes in the traditional form of government in China—an autocracy based on parental rule—were initiated in 1905 when a commission was appointed to study the forms of government in other countries. On the 1st of September 1906 an imperial edict was issued in which the establishment of parliamentary institutions in China was foreshadowed. In 1907 an advisory council—as a sort of stepping-stone to representative government—was established by another edict. On the 27th of August 1908 an edict announced the convocation of a parliament in the ninth year from that date. An edict of the 3rd of December 1908 reaffirmed that of the 27th of August. An edict of the 31st of October 1909 fixed the classes from which an Imperial Assembly (or Senate) was to be selected, and an edict of the 9th of May 1910 gave the names of the senators, all of whom had been nominated by the throne. The assembly as thus constituted consisted of 200 members drawn from eight classes: (1) princes and nobles of the imperial house—16 members; (2) Manchu and Chinese nobles—12 members; (3) princes and nobles of dependencies—14 members; (4) imperial clansmen other than those mentioned—6 members; (5) Peking officials—32 members; (6) eminent scholars—10 members; (7) exceptional property owners—10 members; (8) representatives of provincial assemblies—100 members. The national assembly, which was opened by the regent on the 3rd of October 1910, thus contained the elements of a two-chambered parliament. The edict summoning the assembly contained the following exhortations:—
The members should understand that this assemblage of the senate is an unprecedented undertaking in China and will be the forerunner of the creation of a parliament. They are earnestly desired to devote to it their patriotism and sincerity, to observe proper order, and to fulfil their duties in representing public opinion. Thus it is hoped that our sincere wish to effect constitutional reforms in their proper order and to aim at success may be duly satisfied.
Concurrently with these steps towards a fundamental alteration in the method of government, changes were made in many departments of the state, and an elective element was introduced into the provincial administrations. The old conception of government with such modifications as had been made up to 1910 are set forth below.
The laws of the state prescribe the government of the country to be based on the government of the family. The emperor is the sole and supreme head of the state, his will being absolute alike in the highest affairs and in the humblest details of The Chinese conception of government. private life. The highest form of legislation was an imperial decree, whether promulgated in general terms or to meet a special case. In either form it was the law of the land, and no privilege or prescriptive right could be pleaded against it. All officers of state, all judges and magistrates, hold their offices entirely at the imperial pleasure. They can be dismissed, degraded, punished, without reason assigned and without form of trial—even without knowing by whom or of what they are accused. The monarch has an advisory council, but he is not bound by its advice, nor need he pretend that he is acting by and with its advice and concurrence. This condition of affairs dates back to a primitive state of society, which probably existed among the Chinese who first developed a civilized form of government. That this system should have been maintained in China through many centuries
- See Morse, op. cit. chap. x.
- The maritime customs had established a postal service for its own convenience in 1861, and it first gave facilities to the general public in 1876. An organized service for the conveyance of government despatches has existed in China for many centuries, and the commercial classes maintain at their own expense a system (“letter hongs”) for the transmission of correspondence.
- For the causes leading to this movement and the progress of reform see § History.
- For recent authoritative accounts of the government of China see H.B. Morse, The Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire, chap. iii.; Richard’s Comprehensive Geography, &c., Bk. I. § v., and The Statesman’s Year Book.