Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

but it was not until 1843 that any other nation acquired them. In that year Great Britain obtained the right to try British subjects by its own consuls, a right secured in more explicit terms by the United States and France in 1844. Now eighteen powers, including Japan, have consular courts for the trial of their own subjects according to the laws of their native lands. Mixed courts have also been established, that is, a defendant is tried in the court of his own nationality, the court giving its decision under the supervision of a representative of the plaintiff’s nationality. In practice the Chinese have seldom sent representatives to sit on the bench of consular courts, but, as the Europeans lack confidence in the administration of Chinese justice, no suit brought by a foreigner against a Chinese is decided without the presence of an assessor of the plaintiff’s nationality.

Defence.—The Chinese constitution in the period before the reform edicts of 1905-1906 provided for two independent sets of military organizations—namely, the Manchu army and the several provincial armies. On the establishment Army. of the dynasty in 1644 the victorious troops, composed mainly of Manchus, but including also Mongols and Chinese, were permanently quartered in Peking, and constituted a hereditary national army. The force was divided into eight banners, and under one or other of these all Manchus and all the descendants of the members of other nationalities were enrolled. They form the bulk of the population of the “Tatar city” of Peking. Each adult male was by birth entitled to be enrolled as a soldier, and by virtue of his enrolment had a right to draw rations—i.e. his allowance of the tribute rice, whether on active service or not. Detachments from one or other of the banners were stationed as garrisons in the chief provincial centres, as at Canton, Fuchow and Hang-chow, &c., and their descendants still occupy the same position. As a fighting force the Manchu garrisons both in the capital and in the provinces had long become quite effete. In the capital, however, the élite of the Manchu soldiery were formed into a special corps termed the Peking Field Force. Its nominal strength was 20,000, the men were armed and drilled after the European fashion, and fairly well paid. There were other corps of picked Manchus better paid and better armed than the ordinary soldier, and it was computed that in 1901 the Manchu army in or near Peking could muster 40,000, all more or less efficient.

The second organization was termed the army of the Green Standard, being the Chinese provincial forces. The nominal strength was from 20,000 to 30,000 for each province, or about 500,000 in all; the actual strength was about one-third of this. They were enrolled to keep the peace within their own province, and resembled a militia or local constabulary rather than a national army. They were generally poorly paid and equally badly drilled and armed.

The only real fighting force which China possessed at the beginning of the 20th century was made up of certain special corps which were not provided for in the constitution, and consequently used to be termed yung, “braves,” or irregulars, but had acquired various distinctive names. They were enlisted by provincial governors, and all had some smattering of foreign drill. They were also fairly well paid and armed. After the Chino-Japanese War of 1894-95 some of these corps were quartered near Peking and Tientsin, and came generally to be spoken of as the Army of the North.

An imperial decree issued in 1901 after the Boxer rising ordered the reorganization of the military forces of the empire, and on provincial lines something was accomplished—especially in Chih-li under Yuan Shih-k‘ai, who practically created “the Army of the North.” It was not, however, until after the Russo-Japanese War that determined efforts were made to organize a national army on western lines; an army which should be responsible to the central government and not dependent upon the provincial administrations. A decree of 1905 provided (on paper) for training schools for officers in each of the provinces, middle grade military schools in selected provinces, and a training college and military high school in Peking. The Army Board was reorganized and steps taken to form a general staff. Considerable progress had been made by 1910 in the evolution of a body of efficient officers. In practice the administration remained largely provincial—for instance the armament of the troops was provided by the provincial governors and was far from uniform. The scheme[1] contemplated the creation of a force about 400,000 strong in 36 divisions and in two armies, the northern and the southern. Recruitment is on the voluntary principle, except in the case of the Manchus, who apparently enter the new army instead of the “eight banners.” The terms of service are three years with the colours, three in the reserve and four in the territorial army. The Japanese system of training is followed. Reservists are called out for 30 days every year and the territorialists for 30 days every other year.

Up to 1909 six divisions and one mixed brigade of the northern army had been organized in Shan-tung, Chih-li and Ho-nan; elsewhere three divisions and six mixed brigades; total strength about 60,000 with 350 guns. (These figures do not include all the provincial foreign trained troops.) The efficiency of the troops varied; the northern army was superior to the others in training and armament. About a third of the 60,000 men of the new army were in 1909 stationed in Manchuria (See also § History.)

An imperial edict of the 15th of September 1907 reorganized the army of the Green Standard. It was placed under the control of the minister of war and formed in battalions and squadrons. The duty of the troops in peace time remained much as previously. In war they pass under the control of regular officers, though their use outside their own provinces does not seem to be contemplated.

The Chinese navy in 1909 consisted of the 4300 ton cruiser “Hai Chi” (two 8-in., ten 4.7-in. guns) of 24 knot original speed, three 3000 ton cruisers, “Hai Yung,” “Hai Schew” and “Hai Shen” (three 6-in., eight 4-in. guns) of 19.5 knot Navy. original speed, some modern gunboats built in Japan, a few miscellaneous vessels and some old torpedo boats. With the destruction of the northern fleet by the Japanese at the capture of Wei-hai-wei in 1895, the Chinese navy may be said to have ceased to exist. Previously it consisted of two divisions, the northern and southern, of which the former was by far the more formidable. The southern was under the control of the viceroy of Nanking, and took no part in the Chino-Japanese War. While the northern fleet was grappling in a death-struggle, the southern was lying snugly in the Yangtsze waters, the viceroy of Nanking apparently thinking that as the Japanese had not attacked him there was no reason why he should risk his ships.

The New Scheme.—An edict of the 15th of July 1909 created a naval and military advisory board. Nimrod Sound, centrally situated on the coast of Cheh-kiang, was chosen as naval base, and four naval schools were ordered to be established; a navigation school at Chifu, an engineering school at Whampoa, a school for naval artificers at Fuchow, and a gunnery and musketry school at Nimrod Sound. A superior naval college was founded at Peking. The coast defences were placed under the control of the naval department, and the reorganization of the dockyards undertaken. During 1910 orders for cruisers were placed abroad.

Arsenals and Dockyards.—After the loss of Port Arthur, China possessed no dockyard which could dock vessels over 3000 tons. Many years ago the Chinese government established at Fuchow a shipbuilding yard, placing it in the hands of French engineers. Training schools both for languages and practical navigation were at the same time organized, and a training ship was procured and put under the command of a British naval officer. Some twenty-five or thirty small vessels were built in the course of as many years, but gradually the whole organization was allowed to fall into decay. Except for petty repairs this establishment was in 1909 valueless to the Chinese government. There were also small dockyards at Kiang-nan (near Shanghai), Whampoa and Taku. There are well-equipped arsenals at Shanghai and at Tientsin, but as they are both placed up shallow rivers they are useless for naval repairs. Both are capable of turning out heavy guns, and also rifles and ammunition in large quantities. There are also military arsenals at Nanking, Wuchang, Canton and Chêngtu.

Forts.—A great number of forts and batteries have been erected along the coast and at the entrance to the principal rivers. Chief among these, now that the Taku forts formerly commanding the entrance to Tientsin have been demolished, are the Kiangyin forts commanding the entrance to the Yangtsze, the Min forts at the entrance of the Fuchow river, and the Bogue forts at the entrance to the Canton river. These are supplied with heavy armament from the Krupp and Armstrong factories.


In fiscal matters, as for many other purposes, the Chinese empire is an agglomeration of a number of quasi-independent units. Each province has a complete administrative staff, collects its own revenue, pays its own civil service, and other charges placed upon it, and out of the surplus contributes towards the expenses of the imperial government a sum which varies with the imperiousness of the needs of the latter and with its own comparative wealth or poverty. The imperial government does not collect directly any part of the revenues, unless the imperial maritime customs be excepted, though these, too, pass through the books of the provincial authorities.[2]

It has hitherto been extremely difficult to obtain anything like trustworthy figures for the whole revenue of China, for the reason that no complete statistics are published by the central government at Peking.[3] The only available data are, first, the returns published by the imperial maritime customs for the duties levied on foreign trade; and, secondly, the memorials sent to Peking by the provincial authorities on revenue matters, certain of which are published from time to time in the Peking Gazette.

  1. See The Statesman’s Year-Book (1910 edition).
  2. A few of the old native customs stations, which are deemed perquisites of the imperial court, may also be excepted, as, for instance, the native custom-house at Canton, Hwei Kwan on the Grand Canal, and various stations in the neighbourhood of Peking.
  3. The production of a budget in 1915 was promised in one of the reform edicts of 1908.