Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Address of the President to Congress December 4, 1917
File No. 893.00/2650
Consul General Heintzleman to the Secretary of State
Canton , June 6, 1917 .
Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith, for the information of the Department, copy of my despatch No. 23, of today’s date, to the Legation.
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Consul General Heintzleman to Minister Reinsch
Canton , June 6, 1917 .
Sir: I have the honor to state that during the agitation in Peking and elsewhere throughout the country over the question regarding a declaration of war against Germany the influential commercial guilds and the press generally in Canton opposed the Government’s policy of entering the war, while several of the minor political parties only were inclined in favor of war. The officials as a rule appear to be indifferent in the matter.
None of the southern provinces, which, it will be recalled, were leaders in the revolutions of 1911, of 1913 and of 1916, have declared their independence from the Central Government. The natives generally throughout this province view the movement in the north against the Central Government with strong disfavor; indeed, it may safely be stated that the people and the provincial assembly, the party leaders and former revolutionists are so completely on the side of the President and Parliament as to give the provincial authorities no cause for apprehension as to the local situation. The local press, too, regardless of party, is supporting the President and the Parliament. I am assured on every hand that no disturbance is to be feared in South China, so far at least as the lending of military assistance to the Tuchuns in the north would be conducive of such a result.
The attitude of this province in the present crisis is indicated by recent telegrams which the provincial assembly has despatched to the President and to the provincial governors. The telegram to the President denounced the conduct of the rebellious Tuchuns as lawless and urged him to uphold the national dignity and safeguard the rights of the citizens by punishing those who disobeyed his orders. The circular telegram to the provincial governors called upon them to act in accordance with the constitution and obey the Central Government. It recalled the fact that most of them took an active part in the second revolution for the re-establishment of the Republic, and pointed out that their manifest duty was to subordinate personal or party feeling to the general interests of the nation, which required that they should uphold the law and support the Central Government.
As showing how completely the governing body of the province supports the Central Government, it may be noted that both the military and civil governors have telegraphed the Vice President invoking his assistance in the immediate suppression of the seceding provinces. General Lu Yung-ting, Inspector General of the Two Kwangs, has also telegraphed the Vice President, as well as General Chang Hsun, asking that they attempt to persuade the seceding provinces to refrain from military action and wait for a peaceful settlement. This action on the part of Civil Governor Chu Ching-lan is all the more remarkable as he is a northern militarist and a henchman of the retired Premier, Tuan Chi-jui.
I gather from conversations with leading Cantonese that they are fearful lest the President and Parliament, in their eagerness for peace, will yield to the demands of the northern Tuchuns and thus sacrifice the principles underlying the Republic. General Chen Ping-kun, the newly appointed acting Tuchun of Kwangtung, in conversation yesterday during an official call, told me he hoped that the southern provinces would be able to arrange peace by serving as an intermediary between the Central Government and the seceding provinces. He stated that the south would insist in preserving the republican form of Government, and that centralization was necessary to any adequate reform.[Page 57]
In approaching the rival factions with the object of having them compose their differences, an important element, apart from the tendency of the Chinese mind for compromise, is the ever present fear of foreign interference. The high provincial authorities here believe that all parties will be finally brought to see that, should their activities lead to the establishment of two separate governments, the ensuing turbulence would easily be provocative of foreign interference, with all that is comported with such a condition; and that China’s best hope in preserving her integrity lay in presenting a united front.
Whether peace and order will be eventually restored through the agency of the high officials of the southern provinces, as they fondly hope, is difficult to foretell. It is significant, however, that in the meanwhile the leaders among the former revolutionists and republicans of South China are in communication concerning means for opposing the military party in the north, and supporting the President and Parliament. Generals Chen Chiung-ming and Hu Han-ming, former governors general of this province, as well as former Viceroy Tsen Chun-hsuan and Li Lieh-chun, radical southern leaders with large followings in Canton, are expected to meet here soon to discuss the situation and consider means of lending, if necessary, armed assistance to the so-called liberal constitutional elements in the Central Government. These men, though absent, exert a dominating influence over this province.
In the present crisis, as was invariably the case in those of the past, the leading difficulty lies in the historical opposition between North and South. The successes of the three recent revolutions had been as much a victory of the latter as the triumph of another form of government. The higher ability and wealth of the southern maritime provinces had long chafed under the predominance of the less intelligent North. The situation was reversed and Canton triumphed over Peking. The hostility between this sectionalism presents an element of danger by offering the possibility of a divided China. The country is still so invertebrate, the means of communication as yet so scantily developed, the degree of civilization so diverse, that this peril is perhaps the most serious of all. The real question concerns less the title of the Government, its personnel, and the nature of the constitution than the ability of China in the presence of these disruptive forces to evolve without anarchy and disorder from its primitive condition toward that of a modern state.
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