No. 80.
Mr. Young to Mr. Felinghuysen.

No. 151.]

Sir: The frequent rumors in reference to military and naval preparations on the part of China and Japan have interest because of the strained relations between these two countries. I have kept the Department well informed, confidentially and otherwise, of the information that has come to the legation. There are many irritating questions between China and Japan, which all require wisdom and patience on the part of the two Governments, or, that failing, the earnest persuasion of the outside powers to prevent serious complications.

Some weeks ago there was a report that the Chinese were building ten gunboats at Shanghai and two at Foochow. I made inquiry as to its truth. The result of this inquiry will be found in inclosures from Mr. Cheshire, the vice-consul-general, and Mr. Win gate, the consul at Foochow.

Mr. Cheshire confirms the statement so far as Shanghai is concerned, but explains that the proposed new vessels, small gunboats, are to be iron plated and to do service on the Yangtse River. I do not suppose, however, that in an emergency they would be incapable of doing service elsewhere.

Mr. Win gate reports that one war vessel to carry eight guns is almost completed at Foochow, and that the work has been done by Chinese artisans and under the superintendence of Chinese experts who had studied the art in France. It is said also that four more vessels of the same class will soon be constructed at Foochow.

These reports have value when read in connection with the news from Japan of appropriations and expenditures for military purposes. It has a further interest as showing, first, that the Chinese Government have resolved upon a steady increase of the navy; and, second, that they are learning how to build their own vessels, and do not intend to depend upon the ship-yards of Germany and England.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 151.]

Mr. Cheshire to Mr. Young.

Sir: In answer to the inquiry made in your dispatch No. 35, I have the honor to submit the following information which I have obtained from Chinese sources.

Some few months ago Peng Keng Pao, commonly known as the admiral of the Yangtse, memorialized the throne in reference to the advisability of building small gunboats of light draught for service on the Yangtse River. I understood that the memorial received the favorable consideration of the Emperor, and Peng, acting in conjunction with the viceroy Tso of Nanking, decided to build ten vessels of 109 feet (Chinese) in length, at the Shanghai and Foochow arsenals.

The stocks for the first vessel, which will be built as an experiment, will be laid shortly at the Kiangnan arsenal at Shanghai; and after she has been completed, and if found to be a success, it will then be decided as to where the others are to be built. It is thought, however, that half will be built at Shanghai and half at Foochow.

These vessels are to be iron plated, and all of the material necessary for their construction is to be imported from foreign countries.

They are intended to perform the same services on the Yangtse as the Foochow class of gunboats perform along the coast, i. e., protecting Chinese commerce against pirates.

I am, &c.,

[Page 203]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 151.]

Mr. Wingate to Mr. Young.

Sir: In reply to the inquiry contained in your dispatch of the 23d January, 1883, No. 13, I have the honor to report that a war Vessel, the Kai Chi, was launched at the Foochow arsenal on the 11th January last, and is now in process of completion, although it is not expected to be ready for sea for some six months.

I am not able to give you the details of its size and armament, but eight Krupp guns intended for it are reported to be now on their way, one from Germany.

This vessel was designed by, and built under the superintendence of the Chinese who were educated in France and returned to Foochow some three years, or less, ago.

Aside from some portions of the machinery and the iron plates, the whole work has been done at the arsenal.

I understand that four similar vessels are to be built, hut that the laying of the keels is delayed owing to the fact that the imperial commissioner left immediately after the launching of the Kai Chi, and a new commissioner has not been appointed.

I have, &c.,

United States Consul.