Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 365.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 362 of this date I had the honor to transmit to you copies of the recently published returns of trade for 1905 of the maritime customs, relating to the central, southern, and frontier ports of China.

I have now to call your particular attention to the interesting special report contained in the southern coast reports on the Santuao native customs, which shows native methods of administration in the native customs of Santauo (near Foochow) and the result of honest foreign management of the same.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.


[The North China Daily News—Impartial, not neutral.]

the foreigner in china.

We published yesterday an interesting report by Mr. F. W. Carey, acting commissioner of customs at Santiago, reproduced from the I. M. C. returns of trade. The description therein given of native methods would have been [Page 287]extremely interesting and valuable at any time, but it comes with peculiar fitness at the present juncture, critical to an extent which few foreigners realize, in the development of what is commonly called the national movement in China. We earnestly commend Mr. Carey’s report to the careful attention of the diplomatic and consular authorities who have to deal with the peculiar difficulties of the existing situation; we commend it also to the chamber of commerce, the China association, and all local bodies whose duty it is to maintain the foreigner’s political and commercial rights in the country.

Our readers will remember that lately we reproduced, from a native paper published in Tientsin, the arguments put forward by the young China party in favor of replacing the foreign staff of the imperial maritime customs by suitably educated Chinese. The writer, after giving details of the numbers and salaries of foreigners employed in the collection of the Chinese revenue, and naively comparing the salary of the inspector-general with that of viceroy or governor, expressed the opinion that no good reason exists for debarring Chinese from filling the highest posts in the service, and that only education is required to make thousands eligible for these posts. The essential qualification of administrative honesty was entirely overlooked in this document, the writer apparently taking it for granted and confining himself to the claim, undeniable in theory, that Chinese should be employed, rather than foreigners, in the service of their country. But it is just in this matter of administrative honestly that lies the crux of the whole question which the “patriotic” Chinese are now raising. Mr. Carey’s report proves conclusively the fact, which those most in sympathy with the national movement are unable to deny, namely, that the corruption of the official class in China shows no signs of diminution. We might go further and say with truth that all experience up to the present shows that education on western methods rather aggravates than diminishes the peculiar disposition of Chinese officials to enrich themselves at the expense of the state they profess to serve. Any discussion of the question of China’s sovereign rights which overlooks this central truth is, therefore, certain to lead China into further difficulties and to preclude any reasonable hope of maintaining the authority and credit of the central government.

Competent observers see in the present movement an appeal, on the one hand, by the mandarin class to those patriotic instincts which have undoubtedly been organized by the spread of western literature and the energies of the native press; on the other hand, an equally evident intention to use the results of this movement for the immediate benefit of the mandarins and of the agitators at their back. The attempts persistently made by Chinese officials during the past year to obtain control of the administration of this settlement at and through the mixed court have precisely the same ultimate object as the attempt to obtain a footing in the imperial maritime customs; that object is, undoubtedly, in the first instance, an aggressive policy on the part of China and the suppression of the foreigner. Those who advocate this policy are quite prepared to see both the maritime customs and the foreign settlement revert to that state of things which existed in the native customs at Santuao until 1901, which Mr. Carey has so graphically described. It is nothing to them that 600 officials should be required for the collection of revenue which yields the sum of $11,000 per annum to the imperial exchequer; it is nothing that the collection should be accompanied by every form of corruption and hindrance to trade. Similarly, it would be nothing to those who hope to batten on the wealth of this settlement that the administration of the mixed court should be accompanied by native yamen abuses.

It were well that we should clearly recognize this essential fact. Those who are now urging railway construction throughout the country by provincial bureaus are attempting to persuade the gentry and people of the excellence of their own motives and the wealth that lies before all concerned. It does not require, however, any deep knowledge of Chinese affairs to realize that the state is not likely to profit greatly by railway construction in the hands of officials of the type already appointed to take charge of certain bureaus. The first results are even now apparent—provision of sinecures for thousands of hungry officials, levying of taxes and subscriptions from the people, of which money not one-tenth will ever go into railway work.

Those who wish to see the system of native administration working out its effect should take a trip on the railway from Canton to Sanshui; even the British-financed northern railway under the practical control of the Cantonese party (which has obtained a free hand under Viceroy Yuan Shih-kai) is showing unmistakable signs of that swift descent from efficient administration to native [Page 288]chaos, which is the inevitable end of management by mandarins. The immediate remedy for these things is not apparent, inasmuch as western education appears to be of no effect. Pending discovery of a solution, Mr. Carey’s report should give pause to those who are inclined to place implicit reliance upon the eloquent protestations of the young China party.