to Mr. Bayard.
Peking , September 9, 1887. (Received November 2.)
Sir: What effect the railway schemes of Russia may have on the policy of the Chinese Government it is impossible to prognosticate, but the effect of the completed lines on China is not difficult to forecast.
The scheme of a trans Uralian railway which will connect St. Petersburg, on the Baltic Sea, with Wladiwostock, on the Pacific Ocean, is vast but feasible. The construction of our own transcontinental railways, and particularly the completion of the Canadian Pacific, have at the same time demonstrated the feasibility of building railways of great length, and their usefulness when completed.
England finds, over the Canadian Pacific, a new route to India, partly on her own Soil, and the balance on the sea which her navy dominates. Russia is keenly alive to the advantages which would thus accrue to her great rival in the event of a war for India, which has so often been imminent, and, some day, as the world believes, must transpire. But the country which is most threatened by the proposed Russian line is China.[Page 219]
The trans-Siberian railway is now completed from St. Petersburg to Tiumen, a trans-Uralian city. As the new line is laid, it depends somewhat on steam navigation. But, as the waters in Siberia are closed by ice from the 10th of November to the 10th of April, the railway line to serve the required purposes must be continuous. The line must rely largely on governmental aid. A railway can not compete with the Amur River steamers in carrying tea, nor probably with the caravan route across the desert to Irkoutsk. Grain and cattle are cheap in Siberia, but so they are in Russia. It will take many years to develop the immense mining interests in Siberia. The road will be very costly to build, and can not rely on its own revenues. Military exigencies for such a road are pressing. In 1878 and 1879 war nearly resulted between Russia and China over the rejection by China of the treaty made by Chung How. The immense labor and expense of accumulating men and munitions of war at Wladiwostock, the insufficiency of the fleet in the Pacific, the want of a base of operations, the absence of arsenals, all taught Russia a lesson.
She abandoned the treaty as made and gave back to China the largest part of Hi, retaining, however, some strategic positions.
Russia now recognizes that by existing means of communication she can not move troops and stores in requisite quantities. She realizes that, by building a road to the Pacific, she may become the greatest power on that ocean. It is true that her Pacific port, Wladiwostock, is closed by ice during the winter, but when once she has grasped the Pacific, she will not be slow in seizing a more southern port, perhaps Port Lazaref.
The necessities of the Chinese Empire thus become clear. She must build railways to preserve her lines of communication, and to enable her to mass troops. She must build a line to Moukden, with a branch thence to the Amur, and another to Possiet; so as to give strategic communication with Corea. She must defend her frontier with forts and men, and there must be communication to them by rail.
What influence these ideas have had on the late action of China in connection with American capitalists, I can not say; but, as they are now being discussed in all the newspapers, either in criticism or approval of that action, it is likely that the Chinese statesmen have grasped the problem.
From the Chinese Times, to which I am indebted for some of the foregoing facts, I take the following statement of the distances of the proposed railway: From St. Petersburg to Tiumen, 1,816 English miles; from Tiumen to Wladiwostock, 4,796 miles, or, allowing for divergencies, 7,226 miles. The cost of building the line between Tiumen and Wladiwostock is estimated at £48,000,000 sterling.
I have, etc.,