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HISTORY]
207
CHINA

Lamsdorff frankly told the British ambassador at St Petersburg that Russia took no interest in missionaries, and as the foreigners massacred in the provinces belonged mostly to that class, she declined to join in the action of the other powers.

The real explanation of Russia’s cynical secession from the concert of powers on this important issue must be sought in her anxiety to conciliate the Chinese in view of the separate negotiations in which she was at the same time engaged Russia and Manchuria. with China in respect of Manchuria. When the Boxer movement was at its height at the end of June 1900, the Chinese authorities in Manchuria had wantonly “declared war” against Russia, and for a moment a great wave of panic seems to have swept over the Russian administration, civil and military, in the adjoining provinces. The reprisals exercised by the Russians were proportionately fierce. The massacre at Blagovyeshchensk, where 5000 Chinese—men, women and children—were flung into the Amur by the Cossacks, was only one incident in the reign of terror by which the Russians sought to restore their power and their prestige. The resistance of the Chinese troops was soon overcome, and Russian forces overran the whole province, occupying even the treaty port of Niu-chwang. The Russian government officially repudiated all responsibility for the proclamations issued by General Gribsky and others, foreshadowing, if not actually proclaiming, the annexation of Chinese territory to the Russian empire. But Russia was clearly bent on seizing the opportunity for securing a permanent hold upon Manchuria. In December 1900 a preliminary agreement was made between M. Korostovetz, the Russian administrator-general, and Tseng, the Tatar general at Mukden, by which the civil and military administration of the whole province was virtually placed under Russian control. In February 1901 negotiations were opened between the Russian government and the Chinese minister at St Petersburg for the conclusion of a formal convention of a still more comprehensive character. In return for the restoration to China of a certain measure of civil authority in Manchuria, Russia was to be confirmed in the possession of exclusive military, civil and commercial rights, constituting in all but name a protectorate, and she was also to acquire preferential rights over all the outlying provinces of the Chinese empire bordering on the Russian dominions in Asia. The clauses relating to Chinese Turkestan, Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan and Mongolia were subsequently stated to have been dropped, but the convention nevertheless provoked considerable opposition both in foreign countries and amongst the Chinese themselves. Most of the powers, including Germany, who, however, denied that the Anglo-German agreement of the 16th of October 1900 applied to Manchuria,[1] advised the Chinese government not to pursue separate negotiations with one power whilst collective negotiations were in progress at Peking, and both Japan and Great Britain pressed for definite information at St Petersburg with regard to the precise tenor of the proposed convention. At the same time the two viceroys of the lower Yangtsze memorialized the throne in the strongest terms against the convention, and these protests were endorsed not only by the great majority of Chinese officials of high rank throughout the provinces, but by popular meetings and influential guilds and associations. Ultimately the two viceroys, Chang Chih-tung and Liu Kun-yi,[2] took the extreme step of warning the throne that they would be unable to recognize the convention, even if it were ratified, and notwithstanding the pressure exercised in favour of Russia by Li Hung-Chang, the court finally instructed the Chinese minister at St Petersburg to decline his signature. The attitude of Japan, where public feeling ran high, was equally significant, and on the 3rd of April the Russian government issued a circular note to the powers, stating that, as the generous intentions of Russia had been misconstrued, she withdrew the proposed convention.

The work of the conference at Peking, which had been temporarily disturbed by these complications, was then resumed. Friction between European troops of different nationalities and an Anglo-Russian dispute over the construction The peace protocol, 1901. of certain roads and railway sidings at Tientsin showed that an international occupation was fraught with manifold dangers. The question of indemnities, however, gave rise to renewed friction. Each power drew up its own claim, and whilst Great Britain, the United States and Japan displayed great moderation, other powers, especially Germany and Italy, put in claims which were strangely out of proportion to the services rendered by their military and naval forces. It was at last settled that China should pay altogether an indemnity of 450 million taels, to be secured (1) on the unhypothecated balance of the customs revenue administered by the imperial maritime customs, the import duties being raised forthwith to an effective 5% basis; (2) on the revenues of the “native” customs in the treaty ports; (3) on the total revenues of the salt gabelle. Finally the peace protocol was drawn up in a form which satisfied all the powers as well as the Chinese court. The formal signature was, however, delayed at the last moment by a fresh difficulty concerning Prince Chun’s penitential mission to Berlin. This prince, an amiable and enlightened youth,[3] son of the Prince Chun who was the emperor Hien-fêng’s brother, and thus himself half-brother to the emperor Kwang-su, had reached Basel towards the end of August on his way to Germany, when he was suddenly informed that he and his suite would be expected to perform kowtow before the German emperor. The prince resented this unexpected demand, and referred home for instructions. The Chinese court appear to have remained obdurate, and the German government perceived the mistake that had been made in exacting from the Chinese prince a form of homage which Western diplomacy had for more than a century refused to yield to the Son of Heaven, on the ground that it was barbarous and degrading. The point was waived, and Prince Chun was received in solemn audience by the emperor William at Potsdam on the 4th of September. Three days later, on the 7th of September, the peace protocol was signed at Peking.

The articles recorded the steps to be taken to satisfy the demands of the powers as to commerce. Article 11 provided for the amendment of existing treaties of commerce and navigation, and for river conservancy measures at Tientsin and Shanghai. The British government appointed a special commission, with Sir J. Mackay, member of the council of India, as chief commissioner, to proceed to Shanghai to carry on the negotiations, and a commercial treaty was signed at Shanghai on the 6th of September 1902, by which existing obstacles to foreign trade, such as likin, &c., were removed, regulations were made for facilitating steamer navigation on inland waters, and several new ports were opened to foreign commerce.

In accordance with the terms of the protocol, all the foreign troops, except the legation guards, were withdrawn from Peking on the 17th of September, and from the rest of Chih-li, except the garrisons at the different points specified along the line of communications, by the 22nd of September. On the 7th of October it was announced that the Chinese court had left Si-gan-fu on its way back to the northern capital. A month later (7th of November) the death of Li Hung-Chang at Peking removed, if not the greatest of Chinese statesmen, at any rate the one who had enjoyed the largest share of the empress-dowager’s confidence.  (V. C.) 


(E)—From 1901 to 1910.

The events connected with the Boxer rising and its suppression demonstrated even more forcibly than had the war with Japan in 1894-1895 the necessity for the adoption of

  1. In negotiating this agreement Lord Salisbury appears to have been largely influenced by the aggressive features of Russia’s action in North China, while Germany appears to have been actuated by a desire to forestall isolated action by Great Britain in the Yangtsze basin. In Germany the agreement was known as the Yangtsze Agreement. Great Britain held, however, that it applied equally to Manchuria.
  2. Liu Kun-yi died in 1902. In the same year died Tao-mu, the viceroy of Canton. In these men China lost two of her most capable and enlightened officials.
  3. Prince Chun was born in 1882. He was the first member of the imperial family to be sent on a foreign mission.