Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HISTORY]
201
CHINA

(December 1877). Russia was now called upon to restore Kulja, China being in a position to maintain order. China despatched Chung-how, a Manchu of the highest rank, who had been notoriously concerned in the Tientsin massacre of 1870, to St Petersburg to negotiate a settlement. After some months of discussion a document was signed (September 1879), termed Imperial consolida-
tion.
the treaty of Livadia, whereby China recovered, not indeed the whole, but a considerable portion of the territory, on her paying to Russia five million roubles as the cost of occupation. The treaty was, however, received with a storm of indignation in China. Memorials poured in from all sides denouncing the treaty and its author. Foremost among these was one by Chang Chih-tung, who afterwards became the most distinguished of the viceroys, and governor-general of Hu-peh and Hu-nan provinces. Prince Chun, the emperor’s father, came into prominence at this juncture as an advocate for war, and under these combined influences the unfortunate Chung-how was tried and condemned to death (3rd of March 1880). For some months warlike preparations went on, and the outbreak of hostilities was imminent. In the end, however, calmer counsels prevailed. It was decided to send the Marquis Tseng, who in the meantime had become minister in London, to Russia to negotiate. A new treaty which still left Russia in possession of part of the Ili valley was ratified on the 19th of August 1881. The Chinese government could now contemplate the almost complete recovery of the whole extensive dominions which had at any time owned the imperial sway. The regions directly administered by the officers of the emperor extended from the borders of Siberia on the north to Annam and Burma on the south, and from the Pacific Ocean on the east to Kashgar and Yarkand on the west. There was also a fringe of tributary nations which still kept up the ancient forms of allegiance, and which more or less acknowledged the dominioi of the central kingdom. The principal tributary nations then were Korea, Lu-chu, Annam, Burma and Nepal.

Korea was the first of the dependencies to come into notice. In 1866 some Roman Catholic missionaries were murdered, and about the same time an American vessel was burnt in one of the rivers and her crew murdered. China refused satisfaction; both to France and America, and suffered reprisals to be made on Korea without protest. America and Japan both desired to conclude commercial treaties for the opening up of Korea, and proposed to negotiate with China. China refused and Korea and Japan. referred them to the Korean government direct, saying she was not wont to interfere in the affairs of her vassal states. As a result Japan concluded a treaty in 1876, in which the independence of Korea was expressly recognized. This was allowed to pass without protest, but as other nations proceeded to conclude treaties on the same terms China began to perceive her mistake, and endeavoured to tack on to each a declaration by the king that he was in fact a tributary—a declaration, however, which was quietly ignored. Japan, however, was the only power with which controversy immediately arose. In 1882 a faction fight, which had long been smouldering, broke out, headed by the king’s father, the Tai Won Kun, in the course of which the Japanese legation was attacked and the whole Japanese colony had to flee for their lives. China sent troops, and by adroitly kidnapping the Tai Won Kun, order was for a time restored. The Japanese legation was replaced, but under the protection of a strong body of Japanese troops. Further revolutions and riots followed, in which the troops of the two countries took sides, and there was imminent danger of war. To obviate this risk, it was agreed in 1885 between Count Ito and Li Hung-Chang that both sides should withdraw their troops, the king being advised to engage officers of a third state to put his army on such a footing as would maintain order, and each undertook to give the other notice should it be found necessary to send troops again. In this way a modus vivendi was established which lasted till 1894.

We can only glance briefly at the domestic affairs of China during the period 1875–1882. The years 1877–1878 were marked by a famine in Shan-si and Shan-tung, which for duration and intensity has probably never been equalled. It was computed that 12 or 13 millions perished. It was vainly hoped Domestic affairs, 1875–1882. that this loss of life, due mainly to defective commumcations, would induce the Chinese government to listen to proposals for railway construction. The Russian scare had, however, taught the Chinese the value of telegraphs, and in 1881 the first line was laid from Tientsin to Shanghai. Further construction was continued without intermission from this date. A beginning also was made in naval affairs. The arsenal at Fuchow was turning out small composite gunboats, a training ship was bought and put under the command of a British officer. Several armoured cruisers were ordered from England, and some progress was made with the fortifications of Port Arthur and Wei-hai-wei. Forts were also built and guns mounted at Fuchow, Shanghai, Canton and other vulnerable points. Money for these purposes was abundantly supplied by the customs duties on foreign trade, and China had learnt that at need she could borrow from the foreign banks on the security of this revenue.

In 1881 the senior regent, the empress Tsz‛e An, was carried off by a sudden attack of heart disease, and the empress Tsz‛e Hsi remained in undivided possession of the supreme power during the remainder of the emperor Kwang-su’s minority. Li Hung-Chang, firmly established at Tientsin, within easy reach of the capital, as viceroy of the home province of Chih-li and superintendent of northern trade, enjoyed a larger share of his imperial mistress’s favour than was often granted by the ruling Manchus to officials of Chinese birth, and in all the graver questions of foreign policy his advice was generally decisive.

While the dispute with Japan was still going on regarding Korea, China found herself involved in a more serious quarrel in respect of another tributary state which lay on the southern frontier. By a treaty made between France Tongking and Hanoi. and Annam in 1874, the Red river or Songkoi, which rising in-south-western China, flows through Tongking, was opened to trade, together with the cities of Haiphong and Hanoi situated on the delta. The object of the French was to find a trade route to Yun-nan and Sze-ch‛uen from a base of their own, and it was hoped the Red river would furnish such a route. Tongking at this time, however, was infested with bands of pirates and cut-throats, many of whom were Chinese rebels or ex-rebels who had been driven across the frontier by the suppression of the Yun-nan and Taiping rebellions, conspicuous among them being an organization called the Black Flags. And when in 1882 France sent troops to Tongking to restore order (the Annamese government having failed to fulfil its promises in that respect) China began to protest, claiming that Annam was a vassal state and under her protection.

France took no notice of the protest, declaring that the claim had merely an archaeological interest, and that, in any case, China in military affairs was a quantité négligeable. France found, however, that she had undertaken a very serious task in Troubles
with
France.
trying to put down the forces of disorder (see Tongking). The Black Flags were, it was believed, being aided by money and arms from China, and as time went on, the French were more and more being confronted with regular Chinese soldiers. Several forts, well within the Tongking frontier, were known to be garrisoned by Chinese troops. Operations continued with more or less success during the winter and spring of 1883–1884. Both sides, however, were desirous of an arrangement, and in May 1884 a convention was signed between Li Hung-Chang and a Captain Fournier, who had been commissioned ad hoc, whereby China agreed to withdraw her garrisons and to open her frontiers to trade, France agreeing, on her part, to respect the fiction of Chinese suzerainty, and guarantee the frontier from attack by brigands. No date had been fixed in the convention for the evacuation of the Chinese garrisons, and Fournier endeavoured to supplement this by a memorandum to Li Hung-Chang, at the same time announcing the fact to his government. In pursuance of this arrangement the French troops proceeded to occupy Langson on the date fixed (21st June 1884). The Chinese commandant refused to evacuate, alleging, in a despatch which no one in the French camp was competent to translate, that he had received no orders, and begged for a short delay to enable him to communicate with his superiors. The French commandant ordered an attack, which was repulsed with severe loss. Mutual recriminations ensued.

From Paris there came a demand for a huge indemnity as reparation