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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/463

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463
CHINA'S GREAT PROBLEM

CHINA'S GREAT PROBLEM
By Professor THOMAS T. READ

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.

NEITHER the institution of republican forms of government, nor the creation of a spirit of natural unity, not even the inculcation of republican ideals constitutes China's great and imminent problem. It is not inappropriate that a nation whose people are best known for their skill and probity in business affairs, at the close of revolution engendered in large part by financial considerations and brought to a speedy termination by that modern arbiter of warring factions and nations, the international money lender, should find her most imminent and pressing problem a plain one of business. The average man finds it necessary to give constant consideration to the relation between his income and expenditures and to possible sources of increase of the one and diminution of the other. Nations are no more fortunate and China is unusual only in that her monetary affairs, through her international loans, have become matters of cosmopolitan importance.

At the beginning of last year China had a total foreign indebtedness, secured by Imperial revenue, of approximately $700,000,000[1] corresponding to an annual interest charge of approximately $35,000,000. During the year a budget was prepared, the first in the history of the nation, which showed that the estimated annual income of the empire was some $180,000,000. The budget made evident to all what many had long known, that China was unable to make both ends meet, and like a spendthrift was using her capital to pay her debts. The fundamental causes of the revolution of 1911 have been much obscured by the natural human desire to weave adventure and romance into war, but it is true, nevertheless, that just as the "embattled farmers" were irritated beyond bearing by a tax on tea, so were the "sons of Han" roused to arms by burdening them with a foreign loan of which they did not approve.

It will be remembered that after the American financiers who had acquired a concession to build a railway from Hankow to Canton perfidiously sold it to the Belgian interests, whom the Chinese especially wished not to secure it, the concession was bought back by China and the people of the provinces through which the road passed attempted to

  1. Only approximate figures can be given, for the varying rates of exchange and diverse rates of interest make exact figures impossible.