The Consul General at Canton ( Bergholz ) to the Secretary of State

No. 48

Sir: On Wednesday, March 31st last, it was generally known that Dr. Wu Ting-fang, the second ranking member of the Administrative Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs, had, on Monday morning, March 29, fled from Canton, by the regular morning boat for Hongkong, … Dr. Wu was accompanied by his son, C. C. Wu, and took with him all his personal belongings which would indicate that he has no immediate intention, at least, of returning to Canton. He had announced to no one his intention of leaving and even his immediate entourage only learned of his departure after he was on his way south.

The immediate cause of Dr. Wu’s leaving his post was his dissatisfaction with, and his inability to prevent, the increasing domination of the militarists, whose control of the government was reported in my despatch No. 38 of March 15, 1920.2 Their demands for funds for military purposes, such as General Mo’s attempt to increase and strengthen his hold on the province by sowing dissension among the officers and men of the Yunnan army, were becoming so persistent and so threatening that Dr. Wu, now 78 years of age, felt himself unable to cope with a situation growing daily more and more hopeless, so he, like several other members of the council had done, sought refuge in flight. Upon his arrival in Shanghai he will make a statement for publication explaining fully his reasons for doing so.

That the military party is driving South China into bankruptcy is shown by a report of the Finance Bureau giving the revenue and expenditures for this province for the year 1919. The receipts were $20,496,905 and the expenditures totaled $30,203,682, leaving a deficit of $9,706,700 to which should be added a known debt of $16,934,298. [Page 417] This province, therefore, began the year 1920 with a total indebtedness of, at least, $26,640,998. Of the $30,203,682 expended, the Ministry of War absorbed $24,805,301; Ministry of Foreign Affairs $47,356; Ministry of Home Affairs $3,541,148; the Bureau of Finance $648,478; the Bureau of Education $108,345; the Ministry of the Navy $692,876; the Ministry of Justice $350,096; and for Agriculture and Commerce $9,282.

The constitution of the military government of the Republic of China provides that the government shall be administered by a council of seven members, called the Administrative Council who, if not residing at Canton, may be represented by proxies. Upon the formation of the military government on May 20, 1918, the members of the council were seven, namely:

  • Ts’en Ch’un Hsuan, Chairman.
  • Dr. Wu Ting-fang.
  • Lu Yung Ting.
  • Tang Chi Yao of Yunnan.
  • Dr. Sun Wen.3
  • Tang Shao Yi.
  • Admiral Lin Pao Yi.

Dr. Sun Wen left the council long ago. Tang Shao Yi never formally accepted his appointment and is now at Shanghai as chairman of the peace delegation from the South. Admiral’ Lin Pao Yi, from the province of Fukien, recently resigned. With the departure of Dr. Wu the only resident member of the council is Ts’en Ch’un Hsuan, its chairman, and a rabid militarist. The other members are Lu Yung-ting, referred to in my despatch No. 24 of February 17, 1920,4 as the recognized head of the military party, residing at Nanning and represented upon the council by General Mo Yung-hsin, the military governor of Kwangtung, and Tang Chi Yao, the military and civil governor of Yunnan, stationed at Yunnanfu, whose proxy at the council board was Chao Fan, Minister of Communications, who left the council at the beginning of the difficulty between Tang Chi Yao and General Mo over the command of the Yunnan troops, reported in my despatch No. 38 of March 15, 1920.

With the withdrawal of Dr. Wu the military government, as an active, working organization ceases to exist and the militarists are left absolutely in control. Since, however, the principal officials, civil and military, of the Southern Republic are aligned with the military party the gradual disappearance of members of the Administrative Council will affect the situation but little unless a failure to obtain sufficient funds, now that the customs surplus can no longer be utilized, [Page 418] to hold the different military elements together, should result in a general revolt of the troops. To provide against such an emergency the chairman of the council is said to have requested the premier at Peking, Chin Yun P’eng, to turn directly over to him whatever customs surplus may be apportioned to the south west.

A like despatch has been sent to the Legation at Peking.

I have [etc.]

Leo Bergholz
  1. Not printed; see the consul general’s despatch no. 51, Apr. 28, infra.
  2. Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
  3. Not printed.