No. 158.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 328.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith an important article entitled “China: the Sleep and the Awakening,” written by the Marquis Tseng, and published in the Asiatic Monthly Review.

The first part of this article describes the condition of China up to 1860. She was then asleep. “The light of the burning palace, which had been the pride and delight of her Emperors, awoke her.”

She did nothing desperate then, but she quietly accepted her reverses, and “set about throwing overboard the wreckage and to make a fair wind of the retiring cyclone.”

Then came the “awakening.” China is not aggressive. The emigration of her people must be accounted for rather by “the poverty and ruin in which they were involved by the great Taiping and Mohammedan rebellions than by the difficulty of finding the means of subsistence under ordinary conditions. In her wide domains there is room and to spare for all her teeming population.”

The colonization of her “immense outlying territories has become indispensable.” But, besides the occupation of waste lands, another agency to absorb the overflow of population will be “the demand which will soon be afforded by the establishment of manufactures, the opening of mines, and the introduction of railways.”

To supply the 300,000,000 of her population, these industries will employ an immense number of hands. For these reasons China is indifferent to emigration. The outrageous treatment of Chinese in other countries, which is characterized in strong language, furnishes another argument against emigration. But a better disposition has of late been manifested. “The United States Government, on a recent occasion, energetically suppressed a hostile movement directed against Chinese, and awarded to them compensation for the losses to which they had been subjected.”

The French war, although China was successful, did not cause her to change her bearing towards foreigners. Her policy of moderation will be continued. China will soon attain a position of perfect security.” She is now fortifying her coasts and building a navy. She will proceed in this policy and will not now be diverted from it by the building of railways. China will extend and improve her relations with the treaty powers, ameliorate the condition of her subjects in foreign countries, and place on a less equivocal footing the position of her feudatories. A commission has recently been appointed to visit foreign countries and report on the condition of the Chinese.

“The warden of the marches is now abroad, looking to the security of China’s outlying provinces—of Corea, Thibet, and Chinese Turkestan.” Any interference with the affairs of these countries will be taken as a declaration of a desire to discontinue friendly relations with China.

China is not reconciled to the treaties caused by the events of 1860. “In the alienation of sovereign dominion over that part of her territory comprised in foreign settlements,” and in other respects, China feels that the treaties ought to be denounced “on the expiry of the” present decennial period.” To this end she will “surely and leisurely proceed to diplomatic action.”

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China desires the nations of the east to sink jealousies and combine in an attempt to reform the treaties.

This résumé of the article in question shows * * * by turns denunciation for injuries inflicted, and flattering statements of awakening sense of justice. We have the promise of great material progress in good time. We have denunciation of the treaties, but a statement that the attack is to be “surely and leisurely” diplomatic.

The marquis is probably laying out more work for China than can be accomplished in a generation.

With regard to the denunciation of the treaties, the process proposed is destined to be so lengthy that the subject need not now be discussed. But it may be asserted with absolute certainty that the foreign powers will not abandon their extraterritorial jurisdiction until China shall have remodeled her civil and criminal codes and abolished the cruel practices prevailing under them.

* * * * * * *

The marquis has nothing to say on the treatment of missionaries. Yet, of all questions this has been considered by natives and foreigners alike as the most practical and important question in China. It is not that foreign nations care about religious propagandism. They interest themselves simply in the protection of their people.

The war of 1860, as far as France was concerned, was waged for no reason except that a French missionary bishop had been executed in the interior. From that day to this the serious riots have been against the Catholics. But all foreigners have suffered more or less by them. In October, 1871, Prince Kung used this language: “The missionary question affects the whole question of peaceful relations with foreign powers—the whole question of their trade.”

It is singular that some reassuring words as to religious toleration did not form a part of the document under consideration.

* * * * * * *

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 323.]

china: the sleep and the awakening.

The following important paper by Marquis Tseng appears in the Asiatic Monthly Review:

There are times in the life of nations when they would appear to have exhausted their forces by the magnitude of the efforts they had made to maintain their position in the endless struggle for existence; and from this, some have endeavored to deduce the law that nations, like men, have each of them its infancy, its manhood, decline, and death. Melancholy and discouraging would be this doctrine could it be shown to be founded on any natural or inevitable law. Fortunately, however, there is no reason to believe it is. Nations have fallen from their high estate, some of them to disappear suddenly and altogether from the list of political entities, others to vanish alter a more or less prolonged existence of impaired and ever-lessening vitality. Among the latter, until lately, it has been customary with Europeans to include China. Pointing to her magnificent system of canals silted up, the splendid fragments of now forgotten arts, the disparity between her seeming weakness and the record of her ancient greatness, they thought that, having become effete, the nineteenth century air would prove too much for her aged lungs. Here is the opinion of a distinguished diplomatic agent, writing of China in 1849: “With a fair seeming of immunity from invasion, sedition, or revolt, leave is taken to regard this vast Empire as surely, though it may be slowly, decaying.”

This was the opinion of a writer whose knowledge of China and its literature is perhaps unequaled, and certainly not surpassed; nor was he alone in entertaining [Page 198] such an opinion at the date at which he wrote, for by many it was then considered that the death of Tao Kwang would severely try, if not shake, the foundations of the Empire. But, as events have shown, they who reasoned thus were mistaken. China was asleep, but she was not about to die. Perhaps she had mistaken her way, or, what is just the same, had failed to see that the old familiar paths, which many centuries had made dear to her, did not conduct to the goal to which the world was marching.

Perhaps she thought she had done enough, sat down and fallen asleep in that contemplation which, if not always fatal, is at least always dangerous—the contemplation of her own greatness. What wonder if she had done so? Everything predisposed to such an attitude of mind. The fumes of the incense brought by many embassies from far-off lands; the inferiority of the subject races that looked up to her; the perfect freedom from the outer din insured to her by the remoteness of her ample bournes; all predisposed her to repose and neglect to take note of what was passing in the outer world. Towards the end of the reign of Tao Kwang, however, the sleeper became aware that her situation scarcely justified the sense of security in which she had been reposing. Influences were at work, and forces were sweeping along her coast very different from those to which China had been accustomed. Pirates and visitations of Japanese freebooters had occasionally disturbed the tranquillity of certain places on the sea-board; but the men who now began to alarm the authorities were soon found to be much more redoubtable than these. Wherever they came, they wished to stay. Submissive at first, they engaged in trade with our people and tempted them with strange merchandise. It was not long before troubles arose which showed that the white trader could fight, as well as buy and sell. The treaty of Nanking, in 1842, which was the result of these troubles, opened four more doors in the wall of exclusiveness with Which China had surrounded herself. Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai were added to Canton, thus making five points of touch between China and the West. This did something to arouse China from the Saturnian dreams in which she had been so long indulging, but more was wanting to make her wide awake. It required the fire of the Summer, Palace to singe her eyebrows; the advance of the Russian in Kuldja and the Frenchman in Tonquin, to enable her to realize the situation in Which she was being placed by the ever contracting circle that was being drawn around her by the Europeans. By the light of the burning palace, which had been the pride and delight of her Emperors, she commenced to see that she had been asleep while all the world was up and doing; that she had been sleeping in the vacuous vortex of the storm of forces wildly whirling around her. In such a moment China might have been excused had she done something desperate, for there is apt to be a good deal of beating about and wild floundering on such a sudden awakening; but there was none in the case of China. A wise and prudent prince counseled China to pay the price of her mistakes, whilst the great Chinese statesman who is now in power, and who, since 1860, has rendered such incalculable services to his country, began that series of preparations which would now make it difficult to repeat the history of that, for China, eventful year. It is not a moribund nation that can so quietly accept its reverses, and, gathering courage from them, set about throwing overboard the wreckage and make a fair wind of the retiring cyclone. The Summer Palace, with all its wealth of art, was a high price to pay for the lesson we there received, but not too high, if it has taught us how to repair and triple fortify our battered armor; and it has done this. China is no longer what she was even five years ago. Each encounter, and especially the last, has in teaching China her weakness also discovered to her her strength.

We have seen the sleep, we come now to the awakening. What will be the result of it? Will not the awakening of 300,000,000 to a consciousness of their strength be dangerous to the continuance of friendly relations with the West? Will not the remembrance of their defeats, and the consciousness of their new discovered power make them aggressive? No; the Chinese have never been an aggressive race. History shows them to have always been a peaceable people, and there is no reason why they should be otherwise in the future. China has none of that land-hungering, so characteristic of some other nations; hungering for land they do not and can not make use of, and contrary to what is generally believed in Europe, she is under no necessity of finding in other lands an outlet for a surplus population. Considerable numbers of Chinese have at different times been forced to leave their homes and push their fortunes in Cuba, Peru, the United States, and the British Colonies; but this must be imputed rather to the poverty and ruin in which they were involved by the great Taiping and Mohammedan rebellions, than to the difficulty of finding the means of subsistence under ordinary conditions. In her wide domains there is room, and to spare, for all her teeming populations. What China wants, is not emigration, but a proper organization for the equable distribution of the population. In China proper, particularly in those places which were the seat of the Taiping rebellion, much land has gone out of cultivation, while in Manchuria, Mongolia, and Chinese Turkestan, there are immense tracts of country which have never felt the touch of the; husbandman.

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Not only for economical, but for military reasons, the colonization of these immense outlying territories has become indispensable; and, recognizing this, the Imperial Government have of late been encouraging a centrifugal movement of the population in certain thickly inhabited portions of the Empire, But the occupation of waste lands is not the only agency to absorb any overflow of population which may exist in certain provinces. Another and a more permanent one, will consist in the demand which will soon be afforded by the establishment of manufactures, the opening of mines, and the introduction of railways. The number of hands, which these industries will employ can only he conceived when we remember that hitherto they have contributed nothing to the support of the country, and that were they developed to only a tithe of the extent to which they exist in Belgium and England, amongst a population of 300,000,000, the number of mouths they would feed would be enormous. This consideration will explain the indifference with which the Chinese Government have received the advances which at different times and by various powers have been made to induce China to take an active part in promoting emigration and engagements for the supply of labor. But even had these reasons not existed, the outrageous treatment which Chinese subjects have received, and, in some countries, continue to receive, would have made the Imperial Government chary of encouraging their people to resort to lands where legislation seems only to be made a scourge for their especial benefit, and where justice and international comity exist for everybody, bond and free, except the men of Han. Were it not for the one-sided manner in which, in some of these countries, the law is administered, one might think, from their benevolent dispensation with the lex talionis, that the millennium was at hand there. There is no question of an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth, except when the unfortunate offender belongs to the nation of the almond eye.

If any one should consider this language is too strong, he must be strangely ignorant of the outrages committed on Chinese, and of the exceptional enactments directed against them, to which the press and the statute-book have so often borne testimony within the last three or four years. But, to render justice where justice is due, a disposition has of late been manifested by foreign governments to give Chinese adequate protection against the rowdy elements of their population, and to recognize the right of Chinese subjects to the same immunities as those which, by the law of nations, are accorded to the subjects of other powers. The United States Government on a recent occasion energetically suppressed a hostile movement directed against the Chinese, and awarded to them compensation for the losses to which they had been subjected. But if neither a spirit of aggression springing from and nurtured by the consciousness of returning strength, nor the necessity of an outlet for a surplus population is likely to endanger the good relations which now exist between China and the treaty powers, is it equally certain that a desire on the part of China to wipe out her defeats is not to be dreaded? Such was not the opinion of many who watched the course of events during the Franco-Chinese struggle for the possession of Tonquin. On every side we used then to hear it said, even in circles which took: the Chinese side, that it would be disastrous to foreign relations should France not emerge from it completely triumphant. Success it was maintained would intoxicate the Chinese; make them overbearing and impossible to deal with. But has this been the case?

China laughed to scorn the demands of France for an indemnity; exacted the restoration of her invaded territory, and made peace in the hoar of victory. Did this make China proud? Yes; proud with a just pride. Did it change her bearing, or make her unconciliating in her intercourse with the foreign powers? No. At no time since her intercourse with the West commenced have her relations with the treaty powers, and more particularly with England, been so sincerly friendly. At no time have their just demands been received with such consideration, and examined with such an honest desire to find in them grounds for an arrangement. China will continue the policy of moderation and conciliation which has led to this happy result, No memory of her reverses will lead her to depart from it, for she is not one of those powers which can not bear their misfortunes without sulking. What nation has not had its Cannæ? Answer. Sadowa, Lissa, and Sedan. China has had hers, but she is not of opinion that it is only with blood that the stain of blood can be wiped out. The stain of defeat lies in the weakness and mistakes which led to it. These recovered from and corrected, and its invulnerability recognized, a nation has already reburnished and restored the gilding of its scutcheon.

Though China may not yet have obtained a position of perfect security, she is rapidly approaching it. Great efforts are being made to fortify her coasts and create a strong and really efficient navy. To China a powerful navy is indispensable. In 1860 she first became aware of this, and set about founding one. The assistance of England was invoked, and the nucleus of a fleet was obtained, which, under the direction of Admiral Sir Sherrard Osborn, one of the most distinguished officers of the Royal Navy, would long ere now have placed China beyond anything save a serious attack by a first-class naval power, had it not been for the jealousies and intrigues which caused it to be disbanded as soon as formed. Twice since 1860 China has had [Page 200] to lament this as a national misfortune, for twice since then she has had to submit to occupations of her territory, which the development of that fleet would have rendered difficult, if not impossible.

China will steadily proceed with her coast defenses and the organization and development of her army and navy without, for the present, directing her attention either to the introduction of railways or to any of the other subjects of internal economy, which, under the altered circumstances of the times, maybe necessary, and which she feels to be necessary; for, unlike Turkey, she will not fall into the mistake of thinking that when she has got a few ships and a few soldiers licked into form she has done all that is required to maintain her position in the race of nations. The strength of a nation is not in the number of soldiers it can arm and send forth to battle, but in the toiling millions that stay at home to prepare and provide the sinews of war. The soldiers are but the outer crust, the mailed armor, of a nation, whilst the people are the living heart that animates and upholds it. Turkey did not see this, though it did not escape the keener vision of that Indian prince, who, when looking down on the little British force opposed to him, exclaimed: “It is not the soldiers before me whom I fear, but the people behind them, the myriads who toil and spin on the other side of the Black Water.”

It is not the object of this paper to indicate or shadow forth the reforms which it may be advisable to make in the internal administration of China. The changes which may have to be made when China comes to set her house in order can only be profitably discussed when she feels she has thoroughly overhauled, and can rely on the bolts and bars she is now applying to her doors. It is otherwise with her foreign policy. Of the storms which ever and again trouble the political world, no nation is more master than it is of those which from time to time sweep over its physical horizon. Events must be encountered as they arise, and fortunate is the nation that is always prepared for them, and always ready to “take occasion by the hand.” The general line of China’s foreign policy is for the immediate future clearly traced out. It will be directed to extending and improving her relations with the treaty powers, to the amelioration of the condition of her subjects residing in foreign parts, to the placing on a less equivocal footing the position of her feudatories, as regards the suzerain power, to the revision of the treaties in a sense more in accordance with the place which China holds as a great Asiatic power. The outrageous treatment to which Chinese subjects residing in some foreign countries have been subjected has been as disgraceful to the Governments in whose jurisdiction it was perpetrated as to the Government whose indifference to the sufferings of its subjects residing abroad invited it. A commission has recently been appointed to visit and report on the condition, of Chinese subjects in foreign countries, and it is hoped that this proof of the interest which the Imperial Government has commenced to take in the welfare of foreign-going subjects will suffice to insure their receiving in the future the treatment which, by the law of nations and the dictates of humanity, is duo from civilized nations to the stranger living within their gates.

The arrangements for the government of her vassal states, which, until the steamer and telegraph brought the East and the West so near, had been found sufficient, having on different occasions of late led to misunderstandings between China and foreign powers, and to the loss of some of the most important of her possessions, China, to save the rest, has decided on exercising a more effective supervision on the acts of her vassal princes and of accepting a larger responsibility for them than heretofore. The warden of the marches is now abroad, looking to the security of China’s outlying provinces—of Corea, Thibet, and Chinese Turkestan. Henceforth any hostile movements against these countries or any interference with their affairs will be viewed at Peking as a declaration on the part of the power committing it of a desire to discontinue its friendly relations with the Chinese Government.

It is easier to forget a defeat than the condition of affairs resulting from it; the blow than the constant galling of the girth. Any soreness which China may have experienced on account of events of 1860 has been healed over and forgotten long ago, but it is otherwise with the treaties which were then imposed on her. She had then to agree to conditions and give up vestiges of sovereignty which no independent nation can continue to agree to, and lie out of, without an attempt to change the one and recover the other. The humiliating conditions imposed on Russia with regard to the Black Sea, in 1856, had to be canceled by the treaty of London in 1871.

In the alienation of sovereign dominion over that part of her territory comprised in foreign settlements at the treaty ports, as well as in some other respects, China feels that the treaties impose on her a condition of things which, in order to avoid the evils they have led to in other countries, will oblige her to denounce those treaties on the expiry of the present decennial period. China is not ignorant of difficulties in which this action may involve her, but she is resolved to face them rather than incur the certainty of some day having to encounter greater ones; evils similar to those which have led to the land of the fellah, concerning nobody so little as the Khedive.

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It behooves China, and all the Asiatic countries in the same position, to sink the petty jealousies which divide the East from the East, by even more than the East is separated from the West, and combine in the attempt to have their foreign relations based on treaties rather than on capitulations.

In her efforts to eliminate from the treaties such articles as impede her development and wound her just susceptibilities without conferring on the other contracting parties any real advantages, China will surely and leisurely proceed to diplomatic action. The world is not so near its end that she need hurry, nor the circles of the sun so nearly done that she will not have time to play the rôle assigned her in the work of nations.