Imatges de pàgina



picture the Chinese Empire presents would be piteous if all
those who regard it were not engrossed in the designs prompted
by self-interest. But for the moment China lies on the sea of
time like a rudderless and mastless vessel awaiting the decree
of Fate or the advent of a deliverer.

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THE German occupation of Kiaochao, the important port and natural naval station on the southern side of the extreme promontory of the province of Shantung, marks the parting of the ways in China. It may be considered as commencing the dismemberment of China on the one hand, and as forming the termination of the policies previously followed by each of the Great Powers and trading nations on the other. Germany was the first to lay her hands on a portion of Chinese territory since the Japanese war, and it must be admitted that she acted with excellent judgment in that she secured probably the very finest position for a naval station and arsenal round the coast of China. Kiaochao was coveted by Russia, and in the Cassini Convention its name was mentioned as devolving on her at the right moment for occupation. Considering this fact and the close and cordial relations between the Courts of Berlin and St. Petersburg, it is impossible to arrive at any other conclusion than that Russia expressed her approbation of Germany's proceeding to effect the temporary occupation of the place to which she herself had established a prior claim. The supposition that Germany would attempt to do anything in the Far East displeasing to her neighbour on the Vistula is as impossible of belief as that Russia would acquiesce in the loss of a possession of which she had made sure. The assumption of an understanding between the German Emperor and the Russian Czar on the subject of China is the only theory on which the events of the winter of 1897-8 can be explained.

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If that theory, and it is the only plausible theory that has yet been put forward, is adopted, a key is provided for the elucidation of recent events of which every person can at his own inclination make use. In the Far East we are then bound to recognize the working out of a concerted policy that was not adopted without thought, and that was set in motion for other than British or universal purposes. For the present juncture Russia and Germany are acting in concert, and as Russia signifies France as well, this means that the triple alliance which was formed against Japan has been revived for the ulterior ends of its component members.

In November, 1897, two German men-of-war entered the harbour of Kiaochao, and ordered the Commandant to evacuate the place in reparation for the murder of two German missionaries in the Province of Shantung. They gave him 48 hours within which to obey, and he telegraphed to Pekin for instructions. The Tsungli Yamen replied to the effect that he was to offer no resistance. The German seizure of Kiaochao was thus effected without loss or difficulty, and it was also remarkable for having been made without any preliminary notice or warning to the Chinese Government. Having taken possession of Kiaochao, the German Government then announced the terms on which it would consent to evacuate it. Four of the clauses related to the reparation demanded by the outrage on the missionaries, and were not open to exception ; but the fifth claimed for Germany the right to construct all railways and to work any mines in the province of Shantung. The significance of this demand lay in the fact that it arbitrarily defined a sphere of influence for Germany in China on similar lines to those adopted in Africa. The Chinese, not wholly lost to a sense of their dignity if ignorant of their power, refused to discuss the matter until Kiaochao was evacuated, and Li Hung Chang appealed to the Russian representative at Pekin.

The German occupation of Kiaochao having reopened the question of the Far East, it is not surprising that Russia at once put forward her claim to compensation in a port free from ice on the Pacific. In December the Russian Government announced that the Chinese had given them permission

to winter their fleet at Port Arthur, and in making this communication to Japan, the words used were that Port Arthur was lent "only temporarily as a winter anchorage.” The Japanese reply was terse and dignified. They “credited” the statement and took note of it. In this manner Russia acquired the practical recognition of her hold on Port Arthur, but in the first instance she represented, as Germany did at Kiaochao, that her occupation was not final, and that she had only temporary objects in view. One month more gave a fresh turn to the question. Kiaochao was surrendered by China to Germany on a lease of ninety-nine years. Germany thus revealed her game. Russia carried hers one point further by adding Talienwan to Port Arthur, but in the first instance accompanying it by a declaration, to disarm hostile criticism, to the effect that “any port would be open to the ships of all the Great Powers, like other ports on the China mainland." Having made this promise, Russia proceeded to qualify and minimize it until practically nothing was left except the substantial fact of Russian possession. One month further of ambiguity and diplomatic fence followed, and then Russia announced that she must hold Port Arthur and Talienwan on the same terms as Germany held Kiaochao.

The reason given for this demand was the curious one that their possession was essential to the proper defence of Manchuria against aggressive Powers, while in Europe no disguise was made in the matter of the fact that Russia had determined to secure these places as giving her the ice-free port to which she was entitled on the Pacific. On 27th March, 1898, a convention was signed at Pekin, giving the Russians the usufruct of Port Arthur and Talienwan. The use of the word " usufruct" gave the pundits an opportunity of displaying their knowledge, but its meaning in this instance was clear and simple. It signified that, whereas Germany had secured Kiaochao for ninety-nine years, Russia had obtained Port Arthur and Talienwan without conditions and for ever.

Germany and Russia having done so well at the expense of China, it followed that France would not be content to go away empty-handed, and she accordingly put forward her claim to compensation, and, by the aid of Russia's friendly

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co-operation, obtained possession of the port of Kwang-chaufu, which is the best outlet to the sea of the southern province of Kwangsi. Some surprise was felt at the moderation of the French demand, as it was generally assumed that France had cast her eyes on Hainan, but perhaps her experience of island colonies was such as to deter her from embarking on a new venture like that of Madagascar. Of Hainan itself it may be said that, although its transfer from Chinese to European hands would not be difficult, its conquest from the aboriginal tribes might be attended with greater loss and trouble. At the same time that France obtained Kwang-chau-fu, she reiterated her claim, previously advanced by M. Gerard in 1895, to a prior right to control the future of the province of Yunnan. The claim in itself is neither more nor less natural than that put forward by Germany in Shantung, to which the British Government has so hastily expressed its compliance, but the legitimate development of British Burmah is incompatible with the pretensions that France has successfully advanced with the Tsungli Yamen.

When Germany, Russia, and France had made these successive moves, the British Government found itself compelled to take a corresponding step. It began by declaring that, whatever rights other Powers obtained in China, it should equally enjoy them by virtue of the most favoured nation clause in the Treaties with China. This was the principle of " the open door.” Morally and theoretically it was perfectly sound and unassailable, but it could only have been vindicated on this occasion by the hazard and perhaps the certainty of war with Russia and France, and perhaps Germany as well. Perhaps the moment for taking that great risk in the Far East has not quite arrived, and it is only on that assumption that Lord Salisbury's policy will escape unanimous condemnation.

It may at least be declared that at the moment of Russia's extreme action, Japan, our only probable ally, was not quite ready to embark on a great war. She had still to receive twelve millions of the war indemnity, and two years must elapse before she will obtain all the war vessels she has ordered to be constructed in foreign and principally British dockyards. If, then, we may assume that Japan desired the

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