Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HISTORY]
209
CHINA

motives of the contracting parties to be the maintenance of the independence and territorial integrity of China and Korea, and Manchuria. the securing of equal opportunities in those countries for the commerce and industry of all nations, i.e. the policy of the “open door.” Protests were lodged by Great Britain, Japan and the United States against the grant of exclusive rights to Russian subjects in Manchuria. Russia asserted her intention to respect the commercial rights of other nations, and on the 8th of April 1902 an agreement was signed at Peking which appeared to show the good faith of the Russian government, as it provided for the withdrawal of the Russian troops in Manchuria within eighteen months from that date. In accordance with this agreement the Shan-hai-kwan-Niu-chwang railway was transferred to China in October 1902 and the district between Shan-hai-kwan and the Liao river evacuated by Russia. But it soon appeared that Russia’s hold on the country had not relaxed. Advantage was taken of the terms of concession granted in August 1896 to the Russo-Chinese Bank[1] to erect towns for Russian colonists and to plant garrisons along the line of railway, and to exclude Chinese jurisdiction altogether from the railway zone. The so-called evacuation became in fact the concentration of the Russian forces along the line of railway. Moreover, the maritime customs at Niu-chwang were retained by the Russo-Chinese Bank despite protests from the Chinese imperial authorities, and a Russian civil administration was established at that port. The evacuation of southern Manchuria should have taken place in April 1903, but in that month, instead of fulfilling the conditions of the 1902 agreement, the Russian chargé d’affaires in Peking made a series of further demands upon China, including the virtual reservation of the commerce of Manchuria for Russian subjects. Though Russia officially denied to the British and American governments that she had made these demands, it was demonstrated that they had been made. The United States and Japan thereupon insisted that China should conclude with them commercial treaties throwing open Mukden and two ports on the Yalu river to foreign trade. The American treaty was signed on the 8th of October 1903—the day fixed for the complete evacuation of Manchuria by Russia—and the Japanese treaty on the day following. Both treaties provided that the ports should be opened after ratifications had been exchanged. From fear of Russia China, however, delayed the ratification of the treaties. Meantime, in August 1903, a regular through railway service between Moscow and Port Arthur was established. In the same month a Russian Viceroyalty of the Far East was created which in effect claimed Manchuria as a Russian province. In September Russia withdrew some of the demands she had made in April, but her concessions proved illusory. When the 8th of October passed and it was seen that the Russians had not withdrawn their troops[2] there issued for a time threats of war from Peking. Yuan Shih-kai, the viceroy of Chih-li, who had at his command some 65,000 troops trained by Japanese officers, pressed on the government the necessity of action. At this point Japan intervened. Her interests were vitally affected by Russia’s action not only in Manchuria, but in Korea, and seeing that China was powerless the Japanese government negotiated directly with St Petersburg. In these negotiations Russia showed that she would not yield her position in either country except to force. Japan chose the issue of war and proved successful.

The Russo-Japanese War did not very greatly alter China’s position in Manchuria. In the southern part of that country Japan succeeded to the special privileges Russia had wrung from China (including the lease of Port Arthur); in the north Russia remained in possession of the railway zone. For Japan’s position as at once the legatee of special privileges Lessons of the Russo-Japanese War. and the champion of China’s territorial integrity and “the open door” see Japan, § History. However, the attitude of Japan was more conciliatory than that of Russia had been; Mukden and other places were thrown open to foreign trade and Chinese civil administration was re-established. The important results of the war, so far as China was concerned, were not to be looked for in Manchuria, but in the new spirit generated in the Chinese. They had been deeply humiliated by the fact that in the struggle between Russia and Japan China had been treated as a negligible quantity, and that the war had been fought on Chinese territory. The lesson which the loot of Peking and the fall of the Boxers in 1900 had half taught was now thoroughly mastered; the awakening of China was complete. The war had shown that when an Eastern race adopted Western methods it was capable of defeating a European nation.

It was fortunate that among the influential advisers of the throne at this time (1905-1908) were Prince Chun (the prince who had visited Germany in 1901), Yuan Shih-kai, the viceroy of Chih-li, and Chang Chih-tung, the viceroy of Hu-kwang (i.e. the provinces of Hu-peh and Hu-nan), all men of enlightened and strong character. In 1907 both the viceroys named were summoned to Peking and made members of the grand council, of which Prince Ching, a man of moderate views, was president. Yuan Shih-kai was an open advocate of a reform of the civil service, of the abolition of Manchu privileges, of education and other matters. He had specially advocated the reconstitution of the military forces of the empire, and in Chih-li in 1905 he demonstrated before a number of foreign military attachés the high efficiency attained by the forces of the metropolitan province. The success achieved by Yuan Shih-kai in this direction incited Chang Chih-tung to follow his example, while a decree from the throne called upon the princes and nobles of China to give their sons a military education. The formerly despised military profession was thus made honourable, and with salutary effects. The imperial princes sought high commands, officers were awarded ranks and dignities comparable with those of civil servants, and the pay of the troops was increased. The new Army reform. foreign drilled northern army was called upon to furnish a large proportion of a force sent under Prince Su into Mongolia—a country which had been on the point of falling into the hands of Russia, but over which, as one result of the Russo-Japanese War, China recovered control. In 1906 a step was taken towards the formation of a national army by withdrawing portions of the troops from provincial control and placing them under officers responsible to the central government, which also took over the charge of the provincial arsenals. In the years which followed further evidence was given of the earnestness and success with which the military forces were being reorganized. Less attention was given to naval affairs, but in the autumn of 1909 a naval commission under Tsai Hsün, a brother of the emperor Kwang-su, was sent to Europe to report on the steps necessary for the re-establishment of a fleet. Previously (in 1907) societies had been started in several provinces to collect funds for naval purposes.

The most striking evidence of the change which had occurred was, however, the appointment (in 1905) of an Imperial Commission, headed by Prince Tsai Tse, to study the administrative systems of foreign countries with a view to the possible establishment of a representative government in China. The revolutionary nature of this proposal excited indignation among the adherents to the old order, and a bomb was thrown among the commissioners as they were preparing to leave Peking.[3] After visiting Japan, America and Europe the commission returned to

  1. This institution was nominally a private concern which financed the Manchurian railway, but it acted as part of the Russian government machinery. The existence of the contract of the 27th of August 1896 was frequently denied until expressly admitted by the Russo-Chinese agreement of the 8th of April 1902.
  2. On the 8th of October the Russian troops had been withdrawn from Mukden, but they reoccupied the town on the 28th of the same month, Admiral Alexeiev, the viceroy of the Far East, alleging that the inertia of the Chinese officials seriously hindered the work of extending civilization in Manchuria.
  3. The form of outrage, probably the first of its kind in China, was itself a symptom of the changed times. The bomb injured Prince Tsai Tse and another commissioner, and the departure of the commission was consequently delayed some months.