The Vice Consul in Chargé at Canton (Price) to the Secretary of State

No. 258

Sir: I have the honor to report that the “Inauguration” of Dr. Sun Yat-sen as “President of the Republic of China” took place according to schedule on May 5, 1921. As, naturally, I could [Page 333] not attend the ceremonies, my knowledge of what took place there is based on the reports of friends who attended. My own observations were confined to “the man in the street” as seen from a vantage point on the Bund some two miles from the scene of the actual ceremonies.

Not only I but many old residents of Canton were amazed at the display of popular interest in this event. For days before the 5th steamers, junks and trains were crowded with people coming to Canton. Hotels and rooming houses were swamped. For the day itself there was a complete shut-down of shops and other places of business, not, I understand, by order, but voluntarily. Shops, boats and road vehicles were decorated. For hours before the time set for the inauguration,—12 noon,—a stream of humanity that practically filled the broad Bund surged past the place where I looked on toward the center of attraction two miles away. The river was likewise crowded with every kind of boat, all moving in the same direction. This went on for at least three hours in the face of a pouring rain.

Those who attended the actual ceremonies tell me that for blocks in every direction there was a solid mass of humanity through which the inaugural parade made its way with difficulty but in perfect order. There was everywhere a marked absence of police and soldiers. The parade was marshalled by Boy Scouts, assisted by a very small scattering of mounted police. In the parade itself there were not over five or six companies of soldiers. The parade was made up of and represented nearly every activity in the city,—students, merchants, guilds, labor organizations, and—but distinctly in the minority—governmental departments. All observers with whom I have talked agree that there was a distinct spirit of enthusiasm both in those who made up the parade and in the crowd that watched. Much of the decoration of the parade was quickly ruined by the rain, but still it kept on and still the people watched and cheered.

In the evening came a river parade which I did not attempt to see because of the rain, but which I understand took place according to schedule.

Throughout the celebration there was apparent a modesty of official display. Decorations of the streets, buildings and river craft were obviously by the people themselves. The ceremony was extremely simple, the reception following it was, I understand, most modest.

The most interesting feature of the whole thing was the very apparent part taken in the demonstration by the common people. There was undoubtedly both interest and approval shown by those masses of people who took part and who looked on. Had there [Page 334] been any considerable amount of opposition to Dr. Sun among the people of Canton it must have asserted itself. In view of the more than usual lack of ordinary police surveillance, the order, cheerfulness and apparent unanimity of that huge crowd of people was remarkable.

Since his accession to office, Dr. Sun has issued his first “Presidential Mandates”, appointing his Cabinet. As appointed the Cabinet Ministers are as follows:

  • Wu T’ing-fang,—Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • Ch’en Ch’iung-ming,—Minister of Interior and of War (It is understood he remains as Civil Governor as well);
  • T’ang Shao-yi,—Minister of Finance;
  • T’ang T’ing-kuang,—Minister of the Navy;

Other appointment[s] are:

  • Li Lieh-chiin (now Commander of Yunnan troops in Hunan—Chief of Staff);
  • Hsu Chien,—President of the National Law Court, (The Ministry of Justice is thus abolished);
  • C. C. Wu,—Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • Liao Chung-k’ai,—Vice Minister of Finance;
  • Ch’eng Ch’ien,—Vice Minister of War, (Former Commander of Hunan troops);
  • Lin Yung-mu,—Vice Minister of the Navy, (Former Commander of the Cruiser Hai Chu); and
  • Chiang Tsun Kwei,—Assistant Chief of Staff.

While the demonstration which took place on the 5th undeniably indicates that Dr. Sun Yat-sen has a real popular support in his own city, the fact should not be overlooked that the business people, particularly the larger ones, view the situation with a good deal of pessimism. The Chinese business man is notoriously selfish and lacking in patriotism, and I believe it is as true here in Canton as elsewhere. The commercial people see in the situation evidence of an indefinite prolongation of disunion and political unrest. While I do believe the Cantonese business man prefers his own present leaders to any others, he prefers most of all a state of things wherein he can pursue his business with a maximum of certainty and a minimum of interest in governmental affairs. So far the Chinese commercial classes have refused to assume the burden of self-government, while at the same time complaining if those who do rule demand their assistance and participation.

On the other hand there is evidence of a growing class-consciousness on the part of the laboring class. This group supports Sun, and it is this group that was most strikingly represented in the pre-inauguration and inauguration day demonstrations.

As to the future prospects of the South I can only repeat what I said in my despatch No. 255 of May 2, 1921. I am convinced [Page 335] that the present group of leaders will hold together and will maintain a hold over a certain section of China at least provided they do not have to carry on a military enterprise. I am also convinced that in this group of men, not merely Dr. Sun but the really large and loyal group of men who are supporting the principle and cause of democracy in South China, lies the only hope for China. These particular men may never see the realization of their hopes, but it will only be men actuated by their ideals of public service and zeal to lead their inarticulate people up to a plane of political and national self-consciousness and self-expression that will save China from the slough in which she has been wallowing as a nation and into which she seems to be sinking constantly deeper.

As a democratic people I feel that it is in accord with our own feelings and our own best interests to extend real sympathy wherever an honest effort is being made to establish democracy anywhere in the world. In this I am confident that I speak the feelings of every American in South China. Daily I have Americans say to me: “Isn’t there some way in which we Americans or our country can let these people know that they have our sympathy?” I might add that any definite suggestion coming from the United States as to how South China could, without compromising her fundamental ideals, effect a union with the North would, I am sure, be gladly and sympathetically received. I wish it were possible for our older democracy to show the way to help the Chinese people now struggling toward the light to see their way.

I enclose without comment a copy of a “Manifesto”,11 and a sealed letter addressed to the President of the United States, which I have been asked to transmit.12

I have [etc.]

Ernest B. Price
  1. For text of manifesto, see p. 336.
  2. See instructions, June 25, to the consul general at Canton, p. 339.