The Commercial Force and the Economic Revolution
WORLD CONDITIONS THAT ARE AFFECTING CHINA
SEVERAL outside forces have pressed steadily and heavily upon the exclusiveness and conservatism of the Chinese, and though they have not yet succeeded in changing the essential character of the nation, they have set in motion vast movements which have already convulsed great sections of the Empire and which are destined to affect stupendous transformations. The first of these forces is foreign commerce.
To understand the operation of this force, we must consider that its impact has been enormously increased by the extension of facilities for intercommunication. The extent to which these have revolutionized the world is one of the most extraordinary features of our extraordinary age. It is startlingly significant of the change that has taken place that Russia and Japan, nations 7,000 miles apart by land and a still greater distance by water, are able in the opening years of the twentieth century to wage war in a region which one army can reach in four weeks and the other in four days, and that all the rest of the world can receive daily information as to the progress of the conflict. A half century ago, Russia could no more have sent a large army to Manchuria than to the moon, while down to the opening of her ports by Commodore Perry in 1854, the few wooden vessels that made the long journey to Japan found an unprogressive and bitterly anti-foreign heathen nation with an edict issued in 1638 still on its statute books declaring--"So long as the sun shall continue to warm the earth, let no Christian be so bold as to come to Japan; and let all know that the King of Spain himself, or the Christian's God, or the great God of all, if He dare violate this command, shall pay for it with his head."
Nor were other far-eastern peoples any more hospitable. China, save for a few port cities, was as impenetrable as when in 1552 the dying Xavier had cried--"O Rock, Rock, when wilt thou open!" Siam excluded all foreigners until the century's first quarter had passed, and Laos saw no white man till 1868. A handful of British traders were so greedily determined to keep all India as a private commercial preserve that, forgetting their own indebtedness to Christianity, they sneered at the proposal to send missionaries to India as "the maddest, most expensive, most unwarranted project ever proposed by a lunatic enthusiast," while as late as 1857, a director of the East India Company declared that "he would rather see a band of devils in India than a band of missionaries." Korea was rightly called "the hermit nation" until 1882; and as for Africa, it was not till 1873 that the world learned of that part of it in which the heroic Livingstone died on his knees, not till 1877 that Stanley staggered into a West Coast settlement after a desperate journey of 999 days from Zanzibar through Central Africa, not till 1884 that the Berlin Conference formed the International Association of the Congo guaranteeing that which has not yet been realized "liberty of conscience" and "the free and public exercise of every creed."
Even in America within the memory of men still living, the lumbering, white-topped "prairie schooner" was the only conveyance for the tedious overland journey to California. Hardy frontiersmen were fighting Indians in the Mississippi Valley, and the bold Whitman was "half a year" in bearing a message from Oregon to Washington.
The Hon. John W. Foster tells us in his "Century of American Diplomacy" that "General Lane, the first territorial governor of Oregon, left his home in Indiana, August 27, 1848, and desiring to reach his destination as soon as possible, travelling overland to San Francisco and thence by ship, reached his post on the first of March following--the journey occupying six months. At the time our treaty of peace and independence was signed in 1783, two stage-coaches were sufficient for all the passengers and nearly all the freight between New York and Boston." It is only seventy years since the Rev. John Lowrie, with his bride and Mr. and Mrs. Reed, rode horseback from Pittsburg through flooded rivers and over the Allegheny Mountains to Philadelphia, whence it took them four and a-half months to reach Calcutta.
Nor was this all, for scores of the conveniences and even necessities of our modern life were unknown at the beginning of the nineteenth century. To get some idea of the vastness of the revolution in the conditions of living, we have but to remind ourselves that "in the year 1800 no steamer ploughed the waters; no locomotive traversed an inch of soil; no photographic plate had ever been kissed by sunlight; no telephone had ever talked from town to town; steam had never driven mighty mills and electric currents had never been harnessed into telegraph and trolley wires." "In all the land there was no power loom, no power press, no large manufactory in textiles, wood or iron, no canal. The possibilities of electricity in light, heat and power were unknown and unsuspected. The cotton gin had just begun its revolutionary work. Intercommunication was difficult, the postal service slow and costly, literature scanty and mostly of inferior quality."
How marvellously the application of steam as a motive power has united once widely separated regions. So swiftly have the changes come and so quickly have we adapted ourselves to them that it is difficult to realize the magnitude of the transformation that has been achieved. We can ride from Pittsburg to Philadelphia in eight hours and to Calcutta in twenty-two days. The journey across our own continent is no longer marked by the ox-cart and the campfire and the bones of perished expeditions. It is simply a pleasant trip of less than a week, and in an emergency in August, 1903, Henry P. Lowe travelled from New York to Los Angeles, 3,241 miles, in seventy-three hours and twenty-one minutes. Populous states covered with a network of railway and telegraph lines invite the nations of the world to join them in celebrating at St. Louis the "Purchase" of a region which a hundred years ago was as foreign to the American people as the Philippines now are. The Rev. Dr. Calvin Mateer, who in 1863 was six months in reaching Chefoo, China, on a voyage from whose hardships his wife never fully recovered, returned in a comfortable journey of one month in 1902. To-day, for all practical purposes, China is nearer New York than California once was.
No waters are too remote for the modern steamer. Its smoke trails across every sea and far up every navigable stream. Ten mail steamers regularly run on the Siberian Yenisei, while the Obi, flowing from the snows of the Little Altai Mountains, bears 302 steam vessels on various parts of its 2,000-mile journey to the Obi Gulf on the Arctic Ocean. Stanley could now go from Glasgow to Stanley Falls in forty-three days. Already there are forty-six steamers on the Upper Congo. From Cape Town, a railway 2,000 miles long runs via Bulawayo to Beira on the Portuguese coast, while branch lines reach several formerly inaccessible mining and agricultural regions. June 22, 1904, almost the whole population of Cape Town cheered the departure of the first through train for Victoria Falls, where the British Association for the Advancement of Science has been invited to meet in 1905. Uganda is reached by rail. Five hundred and eighty miles of track unite Mombasa and Victoria Nyanza. Sleeping and dining cars safely run the 575 miles from Cairo to Khartoum where only five years ago Lord Kitchener fought the savage hordes of the Mahdi. The Englishman's dream of a railroad from Cairo to the Cape is more than half realized, for 2,800 miles are already completed. In 1903, Japan had 4,237 miles of well managed railways which in 1902 carried 111,211,208 passengers 14,409,752 tons of freight. India is gridironed by 25,373 miles of steel rails which in 1901 carried 195,000,000 passengers. A railroad parallels the Burmese Irrawaddy to Bhamo and Mandalay. In Siam you can ride by rail from Bangkok northward to Korat and westward to Petchaburee. The Trans- Siberian Railway now connects St. Petersburg and Peking. In Korea, the line from Chemulpho to Seoul connects with lines under construction both southward and northward, so that ere long one can journey by rail from Fusan on the Korean Strait to Wiju on the Yalu River. As the former is but ten hours by sea from Japan and as the latter is to form a junction with the Trans-Siberian Railway, a land journey in a sleeping car will soon be practicable from London and Paris to the capitals of China and Korea, and, save for the ferry across the Korean Strait, to any part of the Mikado's kingdom. The locomotive runs noisily from Jaffa to venerable Jerusalem and from Beirut over the passes of Lebanon to Damascus, the oldest city in the world. A projected line will run from there to the Mohammedan Mecca, so that soon the Moslem pilgrims will abandon the camel for the passenger coach. Most wonderful of all is the Anatolian Railway which is to run through the heart of Asia Minor, traversing the Karamanian plateau, the Taurus Mountains and the Cilician valleys to Haran where Abraham tarried, and Nineveh where Jonah preached, and Babylon where Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, and Bagdad where Haroun-al-Raschid ruled, to Koweit on the Persian Gulf.
In a single month forty-five Philadelphia engines have been ordered for India. The American locomotive is to-day speeding across the steppes of Siberia, through the valleys of Japan, across the uplands of Burmah and around the mountainsides of South America. "Yankee bridge-builders have cast up a highway in the desert where the chariot of Cambyses was swallowed up by the sands. The steel of Pennsylvania spans the Atbara, makes a road to Meroe," and crosses the rivers of Peru. Trains on the two imperial highways of Africa--the one from Cairo to the Cape and the other from the upper Nile to the Red Sea--are to be hauled by American engines over American bridges, while the "forty centuries" which Napoleon Bonaparte said looked down from the pyramids see not the soldiers of France, but the manufacturing agents of Europe and America. Whether or not we are to have a political imperialism, we already have an industrial imperialism.
Walter J. Ballard declares that the aggregate capital invested in railways at the end of 1902 was $36,850,000,000 and that the total mileage was 532,500 distributed as follows:--
Miles United States ................... 202,471 Europe .......................... 180,708 Asia ............................ 41,814 South America ................... 28,654 North America (Except U. S.) .... 24,032 Australia ....................... 15,649 Africa .......................... 14,187
Jules Verne's story, "Around the World in Eighty Days" was deemed fantastic in 1873. But in 1903, James Willis Sayre of Seattle, Washington, travelled completely around the world in fifty-four days and nine hours, while the Russian Minister of Railroads issues the following schedule of possibilities when the Trans-Siberian Railroad has completed its plans:--
From St. Petersburg to Vladivostok ..... 10 days " Vladivostok to San Francisco ....... 10 " " San Francisco to New York .......... 4<1/2> " " New York to Bremen ................. 7 " " Bremen to St. Petersburg ........... 1<1/2> " ----- Total ............................. 33 days
As for the risks incident to such a tour, it is significant that for my own journey around the world, a conservative insurance company, for a consideration of only fifty dollars, guaranteed for a year to indemnify me in case of incapacitating accident to the extent of fifty dollars a week and in case of death to pay my heirs $10,000. And the company made money on the arrangement, for I met with neither illness nor accident. With a very few unimportant exceptions, there are now no hermit nations, for the remotest lands are within quick and easy reach.
And now electricity has ushered in an era more wondrous still. Trolley cars run through the streets of Seoul and Bangkok. The Empress Dowager of China wires her decrees to the Provincial Governors. Telegraph lines belt the globe, enabling even the provincial journal to print the news of the entire world during the preceding twenty-four hours. We know to-day what occurred yesterday in Tokyo and Beirut, Shanghai and Batanga. The total length of all telegraph lines in the world is 4,908,921 miles,--the nerves of our modern civilization. And it is remarkable not only that Europe has 1,764,790 miles, America 2,516,548 miles and Australia 277,419 miles, but that Africa has 99,409 miles and Asia 310,685 miles, Japan alone having, in 1903, 84,000 miles beside 108,000 miles of telephone wires.
I found the telegraph in Siam and Korea, in China and the Philippines, in Burma, India, Arabia, Egypt and Palestine. Camping one night in far Northern Laos after a toilsome ride on elephants, I realized that I was 12,500 miles from home, at as remote a point almost as it would be possible for man to reach. All about was the wilderness, relieved only by the few houses of a small village. But walking into that tiny hamlet, I found at the police station a telephone connecting with the telegraph office at Chieng-mai, so that, though I was on the other side of the planet, I could have sent a telegram to my New York office in a few minutes. Nor was this an exceptional experience, for the telegraph is all over Laos, as indeed it is over many other Asiatic lands.
From the recesses of Africa comes the report that the Congo telegraph line, which will ultimately stretch across the entire belt of Central Africa, already runs 800 miles up the Congo River from the ocean to Kwamouth, the junction of the Kassai and Congo Rivers. A Belgian paper states that "a telegram dispatched from Kwamouth on January 15th was delivered at Boma half an hour later. For the future, the Kassai is thus placed in direct and rapid communication with the seat of Government, and Europe is also brought close to the centre of Africa. Only a few years ago, news took at least two months to reach Boma from the Kassai, and the reply would not be received under another two months, and this only if the parties were available and the steamer ready to start."
More significant still are the submarine cables which aggregate 1,751 in number and over 200,000 miles in length and which annually transmit more than 6,000,000 messages, annihilating the time and distance which formerly separated nations. When King William IV of England died in 1837, the news was thirty-five days in reaching America. But when Queen Victoria passed away January 22, 1901, at 6:30 P. M., the afternoon papers describing the event were being sold in the streets of New York at 3:30 P. M. of the same day! As I rose to address a union meeting of the English speaking residents of Canton, China, on that fateful September day of 1901, a message was handed me which read, "President McKinley is dead." So that by means of the submarine cable, that little company of Englishmen and Americans in far-off China bowed in grief and prayer simultaneously with multitudes in the home land.
Not only Europe and America, but Siberia and Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, Korea and the Kameruns, Laos and Persia are within the sweep of this modern system of intercommunication. The latest as well as one of the most important links in this world system is the Commercial Pacific Cable between Manila and San Francisco.
President Roosevelt gave a significant illustration of the perfection of this system when, on the completion of the Commercial Pacific Cable July 4, 1903, he flashed a message around the earth in twelve minutes, while a second message sent by Clarence H. Mackay, President of the Pacific Cable Company, made the circuit of the earth in nine minutes.
What additional possibilities are involved in the wireless system of telegraphy we can only conjecture, but it is already apparent that this system has passed the experimental stage and that it is destined to achieve still more amazing results. A startling illustration of its possibilities was given by the Japanese fleet March 22, 1904. A cruiser lay off Port Arthur and by wireless messages enabled battleships, riding safely eight miles away, to bombard fortifications which they could not see and which could not see them.
Commerce has taken swift and massive advantages of these facilities for intercommunication. Its ships whiten every sea. The products of European and American manufacture are flooding the earth. The United States Treasury Bureau of Statistics (1903) estimates that the value of the manufactured articles which enter into the international commerce of the world is four billions of dollars and that of this vast total, the United States furnishes 400,000,000, its foreign trade having increased over 100 per cent. since 1895. While the bulk of the foreign trade of the United States is with Europe, American business men are gradually awaking to the greatness of their opportunity in Asia. A characteristic example of their aggressiveness was given when President James J. Hill, of the Great Northern Railroad, testified before a Government Commission, October 20, 1902:--
"We arranged with a line of steamers to connect with our road so that we could get the Oriental outlet. I remember when the Japanese were going to buy rails, I asked them where they were going to buy, and they said in England or Belgium. I asked them to wait until I telegraphed. I wired and made the rates, so that we made the price $1.50 a ton lower and sold for America 40,000 tons of rails. Then I got them to try a little of the American cotton, telling them if it was not satisfactory I would pay for the cotton, and the result was satisfactory."
In these ways, the interrelation of nations is becoming closer and closer, their separation from the world's life more and more difficult. Dr. Josiah Strong well observes:--
"Until the nineteenth century, there was but little contact between different peoples throughout the world. They were separated, not only by distances hard to overcome, but by differences of speech, of faith, of mental habit and mode of life, of custom and costume, of government and law, and isolation tended steadily to emphasize the divergence which already existed. Thus increasing differences of environment perpetuated and intensified the differences of civilization which they had created. In other words, until the nineteenth century, the stream of tendency down all the ages was towards diversity. Then came the change, the results of which are, in their magnitude and importance, beyond calculation. Steam annihilated nine-tenths of space, and electricity has cancelled the remainder. Isolation is, therefore, becoming impossible, for the world is now a neighbourhood. This means that differences of environment will, from this time on, become constantly less. The swift ships of commerce are mighty shuttles which are weaving the nations together into one great web of life."
THE ECONOMIC REVOLUTION IN ASIA
THE result of the operation of this commercial force is an economic revolution of vast proportions. When ever I went in Asia, I found wider interest in this subject than in the aggressions of European nations. The reason is obvious. The common people in Asia care little for politics, but the price of food and raiment touches every man, woman and child at a sensitive point. Almost everywhere, the old days of cheap living are passing away. Steamers, railways, telegraphs, newspapers, labour-saving machinery, and the introduction of western ideas are slowly but surely revolutionizing the Orient. Shantung wheat, which formerly had no market beyond a radius of a few dozen miles from the wheat-field, can now be shipped by railroad and steamship to any part of the world, and every Chinese buyer has to pay more for it in consequence. In like manner new facilities for export have doubled, trebled and, in some places, quadrupled the price of rice in China, Siam and Japan. The Consul-General of the United States at Shanghai reports that the prices of seventeen staple articles of export have increased sixteen per cent. in twenty years while in Japan the increase in the same articles for the same period was thirty-one per cent.
The depreciation in the value of silver has still further complicated the situation. The common Chinese tael, which formerly bought from 1,500 to 1,800 cash (the current coin of China), now buys only 950 cash. The Shanghai tael brings 897 cash, and the Mexican dollar only 665. This of course, means that the common people, who use only cash, have to pay a larger number of them for the necessaries of life. The same difficulty is being felt to a greater or less extent in many other countries of Asia, while in China, an already serious advance in prices is being heightened by the heavy import taxes which have been levied to meet the indemnity imposed by the Western Powers on account of the Boxer outbreak.
The prices of labour and materials have sharply advanced in consequence of the enormous demands incident to the construction of railways, with their stations, shops and round-houses, the vast engineering schemes of the Germans at Tsing-tau, the British at Wei-hai Wei and the Russians at Port Arthur, the extensive scale on which the Legations have rebuilt in Peking, the reconstruction of virtually the entire business portions of both Peking and Tien-tsin, as well as the coincident rebuilding of the mission stations of all denominations, Protestant and Catholic. It will be readily understood what all this activity means in a land where there are as yet but limited supplies of the kind of skilled labourers required for foreign buildings, and where the requisite materials must be imported from Europe and America by firms who "are not in China for their health."
It is futile to hope that the competition will be materially less next year, or the year after, or the year after that. Commerce and politics are planning works in China which will not be completed for many years. Railway officials told me of projected lines which will require decades for construction. China has entered upon an era of commercial development. The Western world has come to stay, and while there may be temporary reactions, as there have been at home, prices are not likely to return to their former level. There are vast interior regions which will not be affected for an indefinite period, but for the coast provinces, primitive conditions are passing forever.
The knowledge of modern inventions and of other foods and articles has created new wants. The Chinese peasant is no longer content to burn bean oil; he wants kerosene. In scores of humble Laos homes and markets I saw American lamps costing twenty rupees apiece, and a magistrate proudly showed me a collection of nineteen of these shining articles. Forty thousand dollars worth of these lamps were sold in Siam last year. The narrow streets of Canton are brilliant with German chandeliers and myriads of private houses throughout the Empire are lighted by foreign lamps. The desire of the Asiatic to possess foreign lamps is only equalled by his passion for foreign clocks. I counted twenty-seven in the private apartments of the Emperor of China and my wife counted nineteen in a single room of the Empress Dowager's palace, while cheaper ones tick to the delighted wonder of myriads of humbler people. The ambitious Syrian scorns the mud roof of his ancestors and will only be satisfied with bright red tiles imported from France. In almost every Asiatic city I visited, I found shops crowded with articles of foreign manufacture. "Made in Germany" is as familiar a phrase in Siam as in America. Many children in China are arrayed only in the atmosphere, but when I was in Taian-fu, in the far interior of Shantung, hundreds of parents were in consternation because the magistrate had just placarded the walls with an edict announcing that hereafter boys and girls must wear clothes and that they would be arrested if found on the streets naked. At a banquet given to the foreign ministers by the Emperor and the Empress Dowager in the famous Summer Palace twelve miles from Peking, the distinguished guests cut York ham with Sheffield knives and drank French wines out of German glasses. Everywhere articles of foreign manufacture are in demand, and shrewd Chinese merchants are stocking their shops with increasing quantities of European and American goods. The new Chinese Presbyterian Church at Wei-hsien typifies the elements that are entering Asia for it contains Chinese brick, Oregon fir beams, German steel binding-plates and rods, Belgian glass, Manchurian pine pews, and British cement.
India is eagerly buying American rifles, tools, boots and shoes, while vast regions which depend upon irrigation are becoming interested in American well-boring outfits. Persia is demanding increasing quantities of American padlocks, sewing- machines and agricultural implements. German, English and American machinery is equipping great cotton factories in Japan. I saw Russian and American oil tins in the remotest villages of Korea. Strolling along the river bank one evening in Paknampo, Siam, I heard a familiar whirring sound and entering found a bare-legged Siamese busily at work on a sewing- machine of American make. Nearly five hundred of them are sold in Siam every year, and I found them in most of the cities that I visited in other Asiatic countries. When I left Lampoon on an elephant, six hundred miles north of Bangkok, a Laos gentleman rode beside me for several miles on an American bicycle. There are thousands of them in Siam. His Majesty himself frequently rides one and His Royal Highness, Prince Damrong, is president of a bicycle club of four hundred members. The king's palace is lighted by electricity and the Government buildings are equipped with telephones, and as the nobles and merchants see the brilliancy of the former and the convenience of the latter, they want them, too. In many parts of Asia people, who but a decade or two ago were satisfied with the crudest appliances of primitive life, are now learning to use steam and electrical machinery, to like Oregon flour, Chicago beef, Pittsburg pickles and London jam, and to see the utility of foreign wire, nails, cutlery, drugs, paints and chemicals.
Many other illustrations of a changed condition might be cited. Knowledge increases wants and the Oriental is acquiring knowledge. He demands a hundred things to-day that his grandfather never heard of, and when he goes to the shops to buy his daily food, he finds that the new market for it which the foreigner has opened has increased the price.
Americans are the very last people who can consistently criticise this tendency in Asia. It is the foreigner who has created it, and the American is the most prodigal of all foreigners. I never realized until I visited other lands how extravagant is the scale of American life, not only among the rich, but the so-called poor. My morning walk to my New York office takes me along Christopher Street, and I have often seen in the garbage cans of tenement houses pieces of bread and meat and half-eaten vegetables and fruit that would give the average Asiatic the feast of a lifetime. In Europe, Americans are notorious as spendthrifts. In the Philippine Islands, they have thrown about their money in a way which has inaugurated an era of reckless lavishness comparable only to the California days of "forty-nine." In the port cities of China, the porters asked me extortionate prices because I was an American. Two or three coolies would seize a suit case or change it from man to man every few minutes, on the pretense that it was heavy. In Tien-tsin, you hire a jinrikisha and presently you find a second man pushing behind, though the road is smooth as a floor. In a few minutes a third appears to push on the other side, and once a fourth took hold between the second and third. All of course demand pay, and it is difficult to shake them off. They do not understand your protests, or they pretend not to, and you have to be emphatic to get rid of them. At Tong-ku, my sampan men calmly insisted on two dollars for a service that was worth but forty cents. Everywhere, I found that it was wiser to make all purchases and bargains through trusty native Christians, or to ascertain in advance what a given service was really worth, pay it and walk off, deaf to all protestations and complaints, even though as in Seoul, Korea, the men plaintively sat around for hours. In Cairo, a certain hotel charged me on the supposition that because I was an American, I was a millionaire or a fool--perhaps both. True, we have hack-drivers and hotel-keepers in America who are equally rapacious, and a New Yorker in particular need not go away from home to be overcharged. But it is just because we have become so accustomed to this careless profusion at home that we exhibit it abroad.
But it is useless to protest against the increased cost of living in Asia. It is as much beyond individual control as the tides. The causes which are producing it are not even national but cosmopolitan.
Nor should we ignore the fact that this movement is, in some respects at least, beneficial. It means a higher and broader scale of life and such a life always costs more than a low and narrow one. This economic revolution in Asia is a concomitant of a Christian civilization which brings not only higher prices but wider intellectual and spiritual horizons, a general enlarging and uplifting of the whole range of life. There are indeed some vicious influences accompanying this movement, as brighter lights usually have deeper shadows.
But surely it is for good and not for evil that the farmers of Hunan can now ship their peanuts to England and with the proceeds vary the eternal monotony of a rice-diet; that the girls of Siam are being taught by missionary example that modesty requires the purchase of a garment for street wear which will cover at least the breasts; that the Korean should learn that it is better to have a larger house so that the girls of the family need not sleep in the same room as the boys; and that all China should discover the advantages of roads over rutty, corkscrew paths, of sanitation over heaps of putrid garbage and of wooden floors over filth-encrusted ground. Christianity inevitably involves some of these things, and to some extent the awakening of Asia to the need of them is a part of the beneficent influence of a gospel which always and everywhere renders men dissatisfied with a narrow, squalid existence. To make a man decent morally is to beget in him a desire to be decent physically.
The native Christians, especially the pastors and teachers, are the very ones who first feel this movement towards a higher physical life. Nor should we repress it in them, for it means an environment more favourable to morals and to the stability of Christian character as well as a healthful example to the community in which they live. To say, therefore, that the average annual income of a Hindu is rupees twenty-seven (nine dollars) is not to adduce a reason for holding the pastors and evangelists of India down to that scale. They should, indeed, live near enough to the plane of their countrymen to keep in sympathetic touch with them. But they should not be expected or allowed to huddle in the dark, unventilated hovels of the masses of the people, or, by confining themselves to one scanty meal a day, have that gaunt, half-famished look which makes my heart ache every time I think of the walking skeletons I saw in India. I am not ashamed but proud of the fact that it costs the average Christian more to live in Asia than it costs the average heathen, that the houses of the Laos Christians are better than the single-roomed sheds about them, that the graduates of our Siam mission schools for girls wear shirt waists instead of sunshine, that the members of any one of our Korean churches spend more money on soap than a whole village of their heathen neighbours whose bodies are caked with the accumulations of years of neglect, that the sessions of our Syrian churches are Christian gentlemen in appearance as well as in fact, and that the houses of our Chinese Christians do not mix pigs, chickens and babies in one lousy, malodorous company.
But these altered conditions have not yet brought the ability to meet them. The cost of living has increased faster than the resources of the people. Only France and Russia are primarily political in their foreign policy. England, Germany and the United States are avowedly commercial. They talk incessantly about "the open door." Their supreme object in Asia is to "extend their markets." They are producing more than they can use themselves, and they seek an opportunity to dispose of their surplus products. They are less concerned to bring the products of Asia into their own territories. Indeed, Germany and particularly the United States have built a tariff wall about themselves, expressly to protect home industries from outside competition, and not a few American manufacturers have recently been on the verge of panic on account of Japanese competition. Europe and America are trying to force their own manufactures on to Asia and to take in return only what they please.
In time, this will probably right itself, in part at least. While the farmers of the Mississippi Valley find living much more expensive than it was two generations ago, they also find that they get more for their wheat and that they eat better food and wear better clothes and build better houses than their grandfathers. The era of railroads ended the days of cheap living, but it ended as well days when the farmer had to confine himself to a diet of corn-bread and salt pork, when his home was destitute of comforts and his children had little schooling and no books. So the American working man of today has to pay more for the necessaries of life than the working man of Europe, but he is nevertheless the best paid, the best fed, the best clothed and the best housed working man in the world, a far better and more intelligent citizen because of these very conditions.
The same changes will doubtless take place in Asia. That great continent is capable of producing enormous quantities of food, minerals and both raw and manufactured articles which the rest of the world will sooner or later want. Already this foreign demand is bringing comparative wealth to the rug dealers of Syria, the silk embroiderers of China and the cloisonne' and porcelain makers of Japan. But only an infinitesimal part of the total population has thus far profited largely by this wider market. Where one man amasses wealth in this way, 100,000 men find that aggressive foreign traders exploit their wares by flooding the shops with tempting articles which they can ill-afford to buy. The difficulty is rapidly becoming acute. My inquiries in Japan led me to the conclusion that while the cost of the staple articles of living has increased nearly 100 per cent. in the last twenty years, the financial ability of the average Japanese has not increased thirty per cent. In China, Siam, India, the Philippine Islands, and Syria I found substantially similar anxieties though the proportions naturally varied. "True, there has been commerce since the early ages, but caravans could afford to carry only precious goods, like fine fabrics, spices and gems. These luxuries did not reach the multitude, and could not materially change environment. But modern commerce scatters over all the world the products of every climate, in ever increasing quantities."
So the economic revolution in Asia is characterized, as such revolutions usually are in Europe and America, by wide-spread unrest and, in some places, by violence. The oldest of continents is the latest to undergo the throes of the stupendous transformation from which the newest is slowly beginning to emerge. The transition period in Asia will be longer and perhaps more trying, as the numbers involved are vaster and more conservative; but the ultimate result cannot fail to be beneficial both to Asia and to the whole world.
It is therefore too late to discuss the question whether the character and religions of these nations should be disturbed. They have already been disturbed by the inrush of new ideas and by the ways as well as by the products of the white man. Like their ancient temples, the religions of Asia are cracking from pinnacle to foundation. The natives themselves realize that the old days are passing forever. India is in a ferment. Japan has leaped to world prominence. The power of the Mahdi has been broken and the Soudan has been opened to civilization. The King of Siam has made Sunday a legal holiday and is frightening his conservative subjects by his revolutionary changes, while Korea is changing with kaleidoscopic rapidity.
Whereas the opening years of the sixteenth century saw the struggle for civilization, of the seventeenth century for religious liberty, of the eighteenth century for constitutional government, of the nineteenth century for political freedom, the opening years of the twentieth century witness what Lowell would have called:--
"One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt Old systems and the word."
FOREIGN TRADE AND FOREIGN VICES
THE influences that are thus surging into the Middle Kingdom are tremendous. The beginnings of China's foreign trade date back to the third century, though it was not until comparatively recent years that it grew to large proportions. To-day the leading seaports of China have many great business houses handling vast quantities of European and American goods. The most persistent effort is made to extend commerce with the Chinese. That the effort is successful is shown by the fact that the foreign trade of China increased from 217,183,960 taels in 1888 to 583,547,291 taels in 1904. This shows the enormous gain of 168 per cent., though this is slightly modified by the fact that the report for 1904 includes goods to the value of 402,639 taels carried by Chinese vessels which, though plying between native and foreign ports, were not formerly reported through the customs. According to official reports, the foreign trade of China has been growing rapidly during recent years, the only falling off having been in the Boxer outbreak year 1900. In 1891, the imports into China were, in round numbers, 134,000,000 taels and the exports were 101,000,000, a total of 235,000,000, and an excess of imports of 33 per cent. In 1904 the imports had advanced to 344,060,608 taels and the exports to 239,486,683 taels, a total of 583,547,291 taels, an increase of 148 per cent. and an excess of imports of 44 per cent. In 1899 the total foreign trade of China had reached 460,000,000 taels. The next year it dropped to 370,000,000 taels, but in 1901 it sprang to 438,000,000 taels, and has advanced nearly 150,000,000 taels within the past three years.
 "Returns of Trade for 1904," published by the Maritime Customs Department of China.
 "Returns of Trade for 1904," published by the Maritime Customs Department of China.
The share of the United States is larger than one might infer from the reports, as no inconsiderable part of our trade goes to China by way of England and Hongkong and is often credited to the British total instead of to ours. American trade has, moreover, rapidly increased since 1900. We now sell more cotton goods to China than to all other countries combined, the exports having increased from $5,195,845 in 1898 to $27,000,000 in 1905. In the year 1904, 63,529,623 gallons of kerosene oil valued at $7,202,110 were shipped from the United States to China. The development of the flour trade has been extraordinary, the sales having risen from $89,305 in 1898 to $5,360,139 in 1904.
In Hongkong, I found American flour controlling the market. I learned on inquiry that years before, a firm in Portland, Oregon, had sent an agent to introduce its flour. The rice-eating Chinese did not want it, but the agent stayed, gave away samples, explained its use and pushed his goods so energetically and persistently that after years of labour and the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars a market was created. Now that firm sells in such enormous quantities that its numerous mills must run day and night to supply the demand, and the annual profits run into six figures. That city of Portland alone exported to Asia, chiefly China, in 1903:--
849,360 barrels flour $2,974,620 522,887 bushels wheat 413,901 46,847,975 feet lumber 647,355 Miscellaneous merchandise 352,879 ------- Total $4,414,651
While cotton goods, kerosene oil and flour are our chief exports to China, there is a growing demand for many other American products. The utility of the American locomotive has become so apparent that in 1899, engines costing $732,212 were sent to China and additional orders are received every few months. With the enormous forests bordering the Pacific Ocean in the states of Oregon and Washington, and with the development of cheap water transportation, there is a rapidly widening market in China for American lumber. Eastern Asia is too densely peopled to have large forests, and those she has are not within easy reach. Native lumber, therefore, is scarce and often small and crooked. That in common use comes from Manchuria and Korea. I was impressed in Tsing-tau to find that the Germans are using Oregon lumber and to be told that it is considered the best, and in the long run, the cheapest. Oregon pine costs more than the Korean and Manchurian, but it is superior in size and quality. The transportation charges to the interior, however, are a heavy addition. Manchurian pine can be delivered at such an interior city as Wei-hsien, via the junk port of Yang-chia-ko and thence by land, for twenty dollars, gold, per thousand square feet, which is considerably less than the Tsing-tau retail price for Asiatic lumber. Oregon lumber costs in Shanghai, thirty-two dollars gold, per thousand, but an importer estimated that it could be delivered at Tsingtau for twenty-five dollars gold per thousand in large quantities.
The exports of the United States to China, according to the reports of Consul-General Goodnow of Shanghai, increased from $11,081,146 in 1900 to $18,175,484 in 1901 and $22,698,282 in 1902, while for 1904 they reached the total of about $24,000,000, a gain of nearly 125 per cent. since 1900 and of several hundred per cent. as compared with 1894.
Meantime, the United States imported from China goods to the value of $30,872,244 in 1904, which is an increase of $14,255,956 over the imports for 1901. Silk and tea are the principal items in this trade, the figures for the former being $10,220,543 and for the latter $7,294,570, though of goatskins we took $2,556,541, wool $2,325,445, and matting $1,615,838. The United States is now the third nation in trade relations with China. This is the more remarkable when we consider the statement of the late Mr. Everett Frazar of the American Asiatic Association that in January, 1901, there were only four American business firms in all China. When our business men establish their own houses in China instead of dealing as now through European and Chinese firms, it is not unreasonable to expect that the United States will outstrip its larger rivals Great Britain and France, though, as I have already intimated, it is one thing to ship foreign goods to China and quite another thing to control them after their arrival, for the Chinese are disposed to manage that trade themselves and they know how to do it.
Unfortunately the stream of foreign trade with China has been contaminated by many of the vices which disgrace our civilization. The pioneer traders were, as a rule, pirates and adventurers, who cheated and abused the Chinese most flagrantly. Gorst says that "rapine, murder and a constant appeal to force chiefly characterized the commencement of Europe's commercial intercourse with China." There are many men of high character engaged in business in the great cities of China. I would not speak any disparaging word of those who are worthy of all respect. But it is all too evident that "many Americans and Europeans doing business in Asia are living the life of the prodigal son who has not yet come to himself." Profane, intemperate, immoral, not living among the Chinese, but segregating themselves in foreign communities in the treaty ports, not speaking the Chinese language, frequently beating and cursing those who are in their employ, regarding the Chinese with hatred and contempt,--it is no wonder that they are hated in return and that their conduct has done much to justify the Chinese distrust of the foreigner. The foreign settlements in the port cities of China are notorious for their profligacy. Intemperance and immorality, gambling and Sabbath desecration run riot. When after his return from a long journey in Asia, the Rev. Dr. George Pentecost was asked-- "What are the darkest spots in the missionary outlook?" he replied:--
"In lands of spiritual darkness, it is difficult to speak of `darkest spots.' I should say, however, that if there is a darkness more dark than other darkness, it is that which is cast into heathen darkness by the ungodliness of the American and European communities that have invaded the East for the sake of trade and empire. The corruption of Western godliness is the worst evil in the East. Of course there are noble exceptions among western commercial men and their families, but as a rule the European and American resident in the East is a constant contradiction to all and everything which the missionary stands for."
Most of the criticisms of missionaries which find their way into the daily papers emanate from such men. The missionaries do not gamble or drink whiskey, nor will their wives and daughters attend or reciprocate entertainments at which wine, cards and dancing are the chief features. So, of course, the missionaries are "canting hypocrites," and are believed to be doing no good, because the foreigner who has never visited a Chinese Christian Church, school or hospital in his life, does not see the evidences of missionary work in his immediate neighbourhood. The editor of the Japan Daily Mail justly says:--
"We do not suggest that these newspapers which denounce the missionaries so vehemently desire to be unjust or have any suspicion that they are unjust. But we do assert that they have manifestly taken on the colour of that section of every far eastern community whose units, for some strange reason, entertain an inveterate prejudice against the missionary and his works. Were it possible for these persons to give an intelligent explanation of the dislike with which the missionary inspires them, their opinions would command more respect. But they have never succeeded in making any logical presentment of their case, and no choice offers except to regard them as the victims of an antipathy which has no basis in reason or reflection, That a man should be anti-Christian and should de- vote his pen to propagating his views is strictly within his right, and we must not be understood as suggesting that the smallest reproach attaches to such a person. But on the other hand, it is within the right of the missionary to protest against being arraigned before judges habitually hostile to him, and it is within the right of the public to scrutinize the pronouncements of such judges with much suspicion."
Charles Darwin did not hesitate to put the matter more bluntly still. He will surely not be deemed a prejudiced witness, but he plainly said of the traders and travellers who attack missionaries:--
"It is useless to argue against such reasoners. I believe that, disappointed in not finding the field of licentiousness quite so open as formerly, they will not give credit to a morality which they do not wish to practice, or to a religion which they undervalue or despise."
These facts are a suggestive commentary on the popular notion that civilization should precede Christianity. The Rev. Dr. James Stewart, the veteran missionary of South Africa, says that it is an "unpleasant and startling statement, unfortunately true, that contact with European nations seems always to have resulted in further deterioration of the African races. . . . Trade and commerce have been on the West Coast of Africa for more than three centuries. What have they made of that region? Some of its tribes are more hopeless, more sunken morally and socially, and rapidly becoming more commercially valueless, than any tribes that may be found throughout the whole of the continent. Mere commercial influence by its example or its teaching during all that time has had little effect on the cruelty and reckless shedding of blood and the human sacrifices of the besotted paganism which still exists near that coast." Of his experience in New Guinea, James Chalmers declared:--"I have had twenty-one years' experience among natives. I have lived with the Christian native, and I have lived, and dined, and slept with cannibals. But I have never yet met with a single man or woman, or with a single people, that civilization without Christianity has civilized."
Substantially similar statements might be made regarding other lands.
"The more we open the world to what we call civilization, and the more education we give it of the kind we call scientific, the greater are the dangers to modern society, unless in some way we contrive to make all the world better. Brigands armed with repeating rifles and supplied with smokeless gunpowder are brigands still, but ten times more dangerous than before. The vaste hordes of human beings in Asia and Africa, so long as they are left in seclusion, are dangerous to their immediate neighbours; but, when they have railroads, steamboats, tariffs, and machine guns, while they retain their savage ideals and barbarous customs, they become dangerous to all the rest of the world."
A Christless civilization is always and everywhere a curse rather than a blessing. From the Garden of Eden down, the fall of man has resulted from "the increase of knowledge and of power unaccompanied by reverence.... No evolution is stable which neglects the moral factor or seeks to shake itself free from the eternal duties of obedience and of faith. . . . The Song of Lamech echoes from a remote antiquity the savage truth that `the first results of civilization are to equip hatred and render revenge more deadly, . . . a savage exultation in the fresh power of vengeance which all the novel instruments have placed in their inventor's hands.' "
 The Rev. Dr. George Adam Smith, D. D., "Yale Lectures," pp. 95-97.
What is civilization without the gospel? The essential elements of our civilization are the fruits of Christianity, and the tree cannot be transplanted without its roots. Can a railroad or a plow convert a man? They can add to his material comfort; they can enlarge the opportunities of the gospel, but are they the gospel itself? What does civilization without Christianity mean? It means the lust of the European and American soldiers which is rotting the native Hawaiians, the European and American liquor which is debauching the Africans, the opium which is enervating the Chinese, 6,000 tons a year coming from India at a profit of $32,000,000 to the English Government.
How can such a civilization prepare the way for Christianity? As a matter of fact, the Chinese already have a civilization, and if our civilization is considered apart from its distinctively Christian elements, it is not so much superior to the Chinese as we are apt to imagine. The differences are chiefly matters of taste and education. The truth is that always and everywhere,--
"civilization, so far from obliterating iniquity, imports into the world iniquities of its own. It changes to some degree the aspects of iniquity, but does not make them less. Further than that its effect is rather regularly to dress iniquity in a less repulsive and more attractive form, and in that way makes it more difficult to get rid of than before. There is no sin so insinuating as refined and elegant sin, and of that civilization is the expert patron and champion. The sin that is the devil's chief stock in trade is not what is going on in Hester Street, but on the polite avenues. . . . Evangelization conducts to civilization, but civilization has no necessary bearing on evangelization; that is to say, there is in civilization no energy inherently calculated to yield gospel facts. By carrying schools and arts, trade and manufacture, among people that are now savages you may be able to refine the quality of their deviltry, but that is not even the first step towards making angels, or even saints of them."
Lowell is said to have administered the following stinging rebuke to the skeptical critics who sneered about missionaries and declared the adequacy of civilization without them:--
"When the microscopic search of skepticism, which has hunted the heavens and sounded the seas to disprove the existence of a Creator, has turned its attention to human society and has found a place on this planet ten miles square where a decent man can live in decency, comfort and security, supporting and educating his children unspoiled and unpolluted; a place where age is reverenced, manhood respected, womanhood honoured, and human life held in due regard; when skeptics can find such a place ten miles square on this globe where the gospel of Christ has not gone and cleared the way, and laid the foundation and made decency and security possible, it will then be in order for the skeptical literati to move thither and there ventilate their views."
But we may add Darwin's conjecture that "should a voyager chance to be at the point of shipwreck on some unknown coast, he will devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary may have extended thus far." Bishop Thoburn says that no nation without Christianity has ever advanced a step, and that while in Washington there are 6,000 models of plows invented by Americans, India is using the same plow as in the days of David and Solomon. But wherever Christ's gospel goes, true civilization appears. "A better soul will soon make better circumstances; but better circumstances will not necessarily make a better soul."
"We must be here to work, And men who work can only work for men, And not to work in vain must comprehend Humanity, and so work humanly, And raise men's bodies still by raising souls."
THE BUILDING OF RAILWAYS
 Part of this chapter appeared as an article in the American Monthly Review of Reviews, February, 1904.
THE extension of trade has naturally been accompanied not only by the increase of foreign steamship lines to the numerous port cities of China, but by the development of almost innumerable coastwise and river vessels. Many of these are owned and operated by the Chinese themselves, but as steamers came with the foreigners and as they drive out the native junks and bring beggary to their owners, the masses of the Chinese cannot be expected to feel kindly towards such competition, however desirable the steamer may appear to be from the view-point of a more disinterested observer. But this interference with native customs has been far less revolutionary than that of the railways.
The pressure of foreign commerce upon China has naturally resulted in demands for concessions to build railways, in order that the country might be opened up for traffic and the products of the interior be more easily and quickly brought to the coast. The first railroad in China was built by British promoters in 1876. It ran from Shanghai to Woosung, only fourteen miles. Great was the excitement of the populace, and no sooner was it completed than the Government bought it, tore up the road- bed, and dumped the engines into the river. That ended railway-building till 1881, when, largely through the influence of Wu Ting-fang, late Chinese Minister to the United States, the Chinese themselves, under the guidance of an English engineer, built a little line from the Kai-ping coal mines to Taku, at the mouth of the Pei-ho River and the ocean gate way to the capital. Seeing the benefit of this road, the Chinese raised further funds, borrowed more from the English, and gradually extended it 144 miles to Shan-hai Kwan on the north, while they ran another line to Tien-tsin, twenty-seven miles from Tong-ku, and thence onward seventy-nine miles direct to Peking. This system forms the Imperial Railway and belongs to the Chinese Government, though bonds are held by the English, who loaned money for construction, and though English and American engineers built and superintended the system. The local staff, however, is Chinese.
No more concessions were granted to foreigners till 1895, but then they were given so rapidly that, in 1899 when the Boxer Society first began to attract attention, there were, including the Imperial Railway, not only 566 miles in operation, but 6,000 miles were projected, and engineers were surveying rights of way through whole provinces. Much of the completed work was undone during the destructive madness of the Boxer uprising, but reconstruction began as soon as the tumult was quelled. According to the Archiv fur Eisenbahnwesen of Germany, the total length of the railways in use in 1903 in China was 1,236 kilometers or about 742 miles.
Several foreign nations have taken an aggressive part in this movement. In the north, Russia, not satisfied with a terminus at cold Vladivostok where ice closes the harbour nearly half the year, steadily demanded concessions which would enable her Trans-Siberian Railway to reach an ice-free winter port, and thus give her a commanding position in the Pacific and a channel through which the trade of northern Asia might reach and enrich Russia's vast possessions in Siberia and Europe. So Russian diplomacy rested not till it had secured the right to extend the Trans-Siberian Railway southward from Sungari through Manchuria to Tachi-chao near Mukden. From there one branch runs southward to Port Arthur and Dalny and another southwestward to Shan-hai Kwan, where the great Wall of China touches the sea. As connection is made at that point with the Imperial Railway to Taku, Tien-tsin and Peking, Moscow 5,746 miles away, is brought within seventeen days of Peking. Thus, Russian influence had an almost unrestricted entrance to China on the North, while a third branch from Mukden to Wiju, on the Korean frontier, will connect with a projected line running from that point southward to Seoul, the capital of Korea. A St. Petersburg dispatch, dated November 26, 1903, states that a survey has just been completed from Kiakhta, Siberia, to Peking by way of Gugon, a distance of about a thousand miles. This road, if built, will give the Russians a short cut direct to the capital.
In the populous province of Shantung, a German railroad, opened April 8, 1901, runs from Tsing-tau on Kiao-chou Bay into the heart of the populous Shantung Province via Weihsien. The line already reaches the capital, Chinan-fu, while ulterior plans include a line from Tsing-tau via Ichou-fu to Chinan-fu, so that German lines will ere long completely encircle this mighty Province. At Chinan-fu, this road will meet another great trunk line, partly German and partly English, which is being pushed southward from Tien-tsin to Chin-kiang. An English sydicate, known as the British-Chinese Corporation, is to control a route from Shanghai via Soochow and Chin-kiang to Nanking and Soochow via Hangchow to Ningpo, while the Anglo-Chinese Railway Syndicate of London is said to be planning a railway from Canton to Cheng-tu-fu, the provincial capital of Sze-chuen. Meanwhile, the original line from Shanghai to Wu-sung has been reconstructed by the English.
One of the most valuable concessions in China has been obtained by the Anglo-Italian Syndicate in the Provinces of Shan-si and Shen-si for it gives the right to construct railways and to operate coal mines in a region where some of the most extensive anthracite deposits in the world are located. A beginning has already been made, and when the lines are completed, the industrial revolution in China will be mightily advanced.
An alleged Belgian syndicate, to which was formed with then wholly disinterested assistance of the French and Russian legations, obtained in 1896 a concession to construct the Lu Han Railway from Peking 750 miles southward to Hankow, the commercial metropolis on the middle Yang-tze River. It is significant, however, that while the Belgian syndicate was temporarily embarrassed, the Russo-Chinese Bank of Peking aided the Chinese Director-General of Railways to begin the section running from Peking to Paoting-fu. The road is open to Shunte-fu, 300 miles south of Peking and to Hsu-chou, 434 kilometers north of Hankow. The Russo-Chinese Bank is building a branch line from Ching-ting via Tai-yuen-fu to Singan-fu in Shen-si, where it will be well started on the beaten caravan route between north China and Russian Central Asia. On November 13, 1903, the Belgian International Eastern Company signed a contract to construct a railway from Kai- feng-fu, the capital of the Province of Honan, 110 miles west to Honan-fu.
I found the line running south from Peking well-built with solid road-bed, massive stone culverts, iron bridges, and heavy steel rails. The first and second class coaches are not attractive in appearance, and though the fare for the former is double that of the latter, the chief discernible difference is that in the first class compartment, which is usually in one end of a second- class car, the seats are curved and the passengers fewer in number, while in the second-class the seats are straight boards and are apt to be crowded with Chinese coolies. Neither class is upholstered and neither would be considered comfortable in America, but after the weeks I had spent in a mule-litter, anything on rails seemed luxurious. Our train was a mixed one,-- the first-class compartments containing a few French officers, the second-class filled with Chinese coolies and French soldiers, while a half-dozen flat cars were loaded with horses and mules. A large Roger's locomotive from Paterson, New Jersey, drew our long train smoothly and easily, though the schedule was so slow and the stops so long that we were seven hours and a half in making a run of a hundred miles.
Railway-building in South China, outside of French territory, began with a line from Canton to Hankow which was projected in 1895 by Senator Calvin S. Brice, William Barclay Parsons being the engineer. The usual governmental difficulties were encountered, but in 1902 an imperial decree gave the concession to the American-China Development Company. American capital was to finance the road, though with some European aid. The company had the power, under its concession, to issue fifty-year five per cent. gold bonds to the amount of $42,500,000, the interest being guaranteed by the Chinese Government. The main line will be 700 miles long, and branches will increase the total mileage to 900. On November 15, 1903, a section ten miles long from Canton to Fat-shan was formally opened for traffic in the presence of the Hon. Francis May, colonial secretary and registrar-general of the Hongkong Government, a large number of Europeans and Americans, and immense crowds of Chinese who manifested their excitement by an almost incessant rattle of fire-crackers. By October, 1904, trains were running regularly to Sam-shui, about twenty-five miles beyond Fat-shan. This is a branch line. The main line will run on the other side of the West River. In 1905, the government decided to complete the line itself and cancelled the concession, paying the company as indemnity $6,750,000. A line from Kowloon to Canton has been planned for some time and it is likely to be hastened by the announcement in the South China Morning Post, May 12, 1904, that an American- Chinese syndicate had obtained a concession, granted to the authorities of Macao by China through a special Portuguese Minister, to construct a railway from Macao to Canton. The syndicate hopes to secure American capital and the British merchants of Hongkong are a little nervous as they think of the possibility of an independent outlet for the Canton-Hankow Railway at Macao.
It will thus be seen that if these vast schemes can be realized there will not only be numerous lines running from the coast into the interior, but a great trunk line from Canton through the very heart of the Empire to Peking, where other roads can be taken not only to Manchuria and Korea but to any part of Europe.
In the farther south, the French are equally busy. By the Franco-Chinese Convention of June 20, 1895, a French company secured the right to construct a railroad from Lao- kai to Yun-nan-fu. The French had a road from Hai-fong in Tong-king to Sang-chou at the Chinese frontier, and in 1896 they obtained from China a concession to extend it to Nanning- fu, on the West River. This privilege has since been enlarged so that the line will be continued to the treaty port of Pak-hoi on the Gulf of Tong-king. The French fondly dream of the time when they can extend their Yun-nan Railway northward till it taps and makes tributary to French Indo-China the vast and fertile valley of the upper Yang-tze River. Meanwhile, the English talk of a line from Kowloon, opposite Hongkong, to Canton, and of connecting their Burma Railroad, which already runs from Rangoon to Kun-long ferry, with the Yang-tze valley, so that the enormous trade of southern interior China may not flow into a French port, as the French so ardently desire, but into an English city.
It would be impossible to describe adequately the far- reaching effect upon China and the Chinese of this extension of modern railways. We have had an illustration of its meaning in America, where the transcontinental railroads resulted in the amazing development of our western plains and of the Pacific Coast. The effect of such a development in China can hardly be overestimated, for China has more than ten times the population of the trans-Mississippi region while its territory is vaster and equally rich in natural resources. As I travelled through the land, it seemed to me that almost the whole northern part of the Empire was composed of illimitable fields of wheat and millet, and that in the south the millions of paddy plots formed a rice-field of continental proportions. Hidden away in China's mountains and underlying her boundless plateaus are immense deposits of coal and iron; while above any other country on the globe, China has the labour for the development of agriculture and manufacture. Think of the influence not only upon the Chinese but the whole world, when railroads not only carry the corn of Hunan to the famine sufferers in Shantung, but when they bring the coal, iron and other products of Chinese soil and industry within reach of steamship lines running to Europe and America. To make all these resources available to the rest of the world, and in turn to introduce among the 426,000,000 of the Chinese the products and inventions of Europe and America, is to bring about an economic transformation of stupendous proportions.
Imagine, too, what changes are involved in the substitution of the locomotive for the coolie as a motive power, the freight car for the wheelbarrow in the shipment of produce, and the passenger coach for the cart and the mule-litter in the transportation of people. Railways will inevitably inaugurate in China a new era, and when a new era is inaugurated for one-third of the human race the other two-thirds are certain to be affected in many ways.
That the transformation is attended by outbreaks of violence is natural enough. Even such a people as the English and the Scotch were at first inimical to railroads, and it is notorious that the great Stephenson had to meet not only ridicule but strenuous opposition. Everybody knows, too, that in the United States stage companies and stage drivers did all they could to prevent the building of railroads, and that learned gentlemen made eloquent speeches which proved to the entire satisfaction of their authors that railways would disarrange all the conditions of society and business and bring untold evils in their train. If the alert and progressive Anglo-Saxon took this initial position, is it surprising that it should be taken with far greater intensity by Orientals who for uncounted centuries have plodded along in perfect contentment, and who now find that the whole order of living to which they and their fathers have become adapted is being shaken to its foundation by the iron horse of the foreigner? Millions of coolies earn a living by carrying merchandise in baskets or wheeling it in barrows at five cents a day. A single railroad train does the work of a thousand coolies, and thus deprives them of their means of support. Myriads of farmers grew the beans and peanuts out of which illuminating oil was made. But since American kerosene was introduced in 1864, its use has become well-nigh universal, and the families who depended upon the bean-oil and peanut-oil market are starving. Cotton clothing is generally worn in China, except by the better classes, and China formerly made her own cotton cloth. Now American manufacturers can sell cotton in China cheaper than the Chinese can make it themselves.
All this is, of course, inevitable. It is indeed for the best interests of the people of China themselves, but it enables us to understand why so many of the Chinese resent the introduction of foreign goods. That much of this business is passing into the hands of the Chinese themselves does not help the matter, for the people know that the goods are foreign, and that the foreigners are responsible for their introduction.
Nor are racial prejudices and vested interests the only foes which the railway has to encounter in China. As we have seen, the Chinese, while not very religious, are very superstitious. They people the earth and air with spirits, who, in their judgment, have baleful power over man. Before these spirits they tremble in terror, and no inconsiderable part of their time and labour is devoted to outwitting them, for the Chinese do not worship the spirits, except to propitiate and deceive them. They believe that the spirits cannot turn a corner, but must move in a straight line. Accordingly, in China you do not often find one window opposite another window, lest the spirits may pass through. You will seldom find a straight road from one village to another village, but only a distractingly circuitous path, while the roads are not only crooked, but so atrociously bad that it is difficult for the foreign traveller to keep his temper. The Chinese do not count their own inconvenience if they can only baffle their demoniac foes. It is the custom of the Chinese to bury their dead wherever a geomancer indicates a "lucky" place. So particular are they about this that the bodies of the wealthy are often kept for a considerable period while a suitable place of interment is being found. In Canton there is a spacious enclosure where the coffins sometimes lie for years, each in a room more or less elaborate according to the taste or ability of the family. The place once chosen immediately becomes sacred. In a land which has been so densely populated for thousands of years, graves are therefore not only innumerable but omnipresent. In my travels in China, I was hardly ever out of sight of these conical mounds of the dead, and as a rule I could count hundreds of them from my shendza.
Every visitor to Canton and Chefoo will recall the hilly regions just outside of the old city walls that are literally covered with graves, those of the richer classes being marked by small stone or brick amphitheatres. Yet these are cemeteries not because they have been set apart for that purpose, but because graves have gradually filled all available spaces.
The Chinese reverence their dead and venerate the spots in which they lie. From a Chinese view-point it is an awful thing to desecrate them. Not only property and those sacred feelings with which all peoples regard their dead are involved but also the vital religious question of ancestral worship. Accordingly Chinese law protects all graves by heavy sanctions, imposing the death penalty by strangling on the malefactor who opens a grave without the permission of the owner, and by decapitation if in doing so the coffin is opened or broken so as to expose the body to view. Imagine then their feelings when they see haughty foreigners run a railroad straight as an arrow from city to city, opening a highway over which the dreaded spirits may run, and ruthlessly tearing through the tombs hallowed by the most sacred associations.
No degree of care can avoid the irritations caused by railway construction. In building the line from Tsing-tau to Kiao-chou, a distance of forty-six miles, the Germans, as far as practicable, ran around the places most thickly covered with graves. But in spite of this, no less than 3,000 graves had to be removed. It was impossible to settle with the individual owners, as it was difficult in many cases to ascertain who they were, most of the graves being unmarked, and some of the families concerned having died out or moved away. Moreover, the Oriental has no idea of time, and dearly loves to haggle, especially with a foreigner whom he feels no compunction in swindling. So the railway company made its negotiations with the local magistrates, showing them the routes, indicating the graves that were in the way, and paying them an average of $3 (Mexican) for removing each grave, they to find and settle with the owners. This was believed to be fair, for $3 is a large sum where the coin in common circulation is the copper "cash," so small in value that 1,600 of them equal a gold dollar, and where a few dozen cash will buy a day's food for an adult. But while some of the Chinese were glad to accept this arrangement, others were not. They wanted more, or they had special affection for the dead, or that particular spot had been carefully selected because it was favoured by the spirits. Besides, the magistrates doubtless kept a part of the price as their share. Chinese officials are underpaid, are expected to "squeeze" commissions, and no funds can pass through their hands without a percentage of loss. Then, as the Asiatic is very deliberate, the company was obliged to specify a date by which all designated graves must be removed. As many of the bodies were not taken up within that time, the company had to remove them.
In these circumstances, we should not be surprised that some of the most furiously anti-foreign feeling in China was in the villages along the line of that railroad. Why should the hated foreigner force his line through their country when the people did not want it? Of course, it would save time, but, as an official naively said, "We are not in a hurry." So the villagers watched the construction with ill-concealed anger, and to-day that railroad, as well as most other railroads in North China, can only be kept open by detachments of foreign soldiers at all the important stations. I saw them at almost every stop,--German soldiers from Tsing-tau to Kiao-chou, British from Tong-ku to Peking, French from Peking to Paoting-fu, etc.
Nevertheless, railways in China are usually profitable. It is true that the opposition to the building of a railroad is apt to be bitter, that mobs are occasionally destructive, and that locomotives and other rolling stock rapidly deteriorate under native handling unless closely watched by foreign superintendents. But, on the other hand, the Government is usually forced to pay indemnities for losses resulting from violence. The road, too, once built, is in time appreciated by the thrifty Chinese, who swallow their prejudices and patronize it in such enormous numbers, and ship by it such quantities of their produce, that the business speedily becomes remunerative, while the population and the resources of the country are so great as to afford almost unlimited opportunity for the development of traffic.
As a rule, on all the roads, the first-class compartments, when there are any, have comparatively few passengers, chiefly officials and foreigners. The second-class cars are well filled with respectable-looking people, who are apparently small merchants, students, minor officials, etc. The third-class cars, which are usually more numerous, are packed with chattering peasants. The first-class fares are about the same as ordinary rates in the United States. The second-class are about half the first-class rates, and the third-class are often less than the equivalent of a cent a mile. This is a wise adjustment in a land where the average man is so thrifty and so poor that he would not and could not pay a price which would be deemed moderate in America, and where his scale of living makes him content with the rudest accommodations. Very little baggage is carried free, twenty pounds only on the German lines, so that excess baggage charges amount to more than in America.
The freight cars, during my visit, were, for the most part, loaded with the materials and supplies necessitated by the work of railway-construction and by the extensive rebuilding of the native and foreign property which had been destroyed by the Boxers. But in normal conditions the railways carry inland a large number of foreign manufactured articles, and in turn bring to the ports the wheat, rice, peanuts, ore, coal, pelts, silk, wool, cotton, matting, paper, straw-braid, earthenware, sugar, tea, tobacco, fireworks, fruit, vegetables, and other products of the interior. Short hauls are the rule, thus far, both for passengers and freight. This is partly because the long-distance lines within the Empire are not yet completed, and partly because the typical Chinese of the lower classes in the interior provinces has never been a score of miles away from his native village in his life, and has been so accustomed to regard a wheelbarrow trip of a dozen miles as a long journey that he is a little cautious, at first, in lengthening his radius of movement. But he soon learns, especially as the struggle for existence in an overcrowded country begets a desire to take advantage of an opportunity to better his condition elsewhere. Once fairly started, he is apt to go far, as the numbers of Chinese in Siam, the Philippines, and America clearly show. The literary and official classes are less apt to go abroad, but they are more accustomed to moving about within the limits of the Empire, as they must go to the central cities for their examinations, and as offices are held for such short terms that magistrates are frequently shifted from province to province. When this vast population of naturally industrious and commer- cial people becomes accustomed to railways and gets to moving freely upon them, stupendous things are likely to happen, both for China and for the world.
And so the foreign syndicates relentlessly continue the work of railway-construction. Trade cannot be checked. It advances by an inherent energy which it is futile to ignore. And it ought to advance for the result will inevitably be to the advantage of China. A locomotive brings intellectual and physical benefits, the appliances which mitigate the poverty and barrenness of existence and increase the ability to provide for the necessities and the comforts of life. In one of our great locomotive works in America I once saw twelve engines in construction for China, and my imagination kindled as I thought what a locomotive means amid that stagnant swarm of humanity, how impossible it is that any village through which it has once run should continue to be what it was before, how its whistle puts to flight a whole brood of hoary superstitions and summons a long-slumbering people to new life. We need regret only that these benefits are so often accompanied by the evils which disgrace our civilization.