The Chinese Republic

Author Tenney, Charles Daniel

ms numberms794-004

Persistent Identifier
The Chinese Republic. Introduction. Changes in China since 1882.
The U.S. was the first foreign country to recognize the new Republic Govt. of China in 1913. This act was an index of the interest of the American people in the welfare of the Chinese and it also showed the interest which we take in the success of the Republican experiment on the western side of the Pacific, On this side of the Great Ocean we have made a success of the experiment. Hitherto the Chinese have posed as the oldest of all monarchies and have been proud of their ancient civilization and long history. As a Republic however they hare junior to us. We look upon them as our imitators. I have a profound respect for the good qualities of the Chinese, and I wish that I might praise the success of their nine years trial of the new form of govt., and hold them up as an example to their great sister
Republic on this side of the ocean. I cannot do this, however, for the Chinese are still feeling their way through the dark forest. Given time, I have great confidence in the common sense of the nation and I believe that they will find their way out of their difficulties.
During the last years of the Manchu Monarchy an attempt was made to modernize the Monarchy. In 1908 a scheme of gradual development was announced by the throne according to which all the necessary reforms were to be carried out in a period of ten^nine^ years. At the end of this period the Monarchy was to become a fully equipped Constitutional Monarchy with a parliament to represent the people and with a cabinet responsible to that parliament. I think that all sober-minded friends of China approved of this method of gradual ^education and^ approach.
Radical young China found the process too slow and an outcry arose for a more rapid change. Under this pressure the Court in 1910 agreed to put the calendar forward. The parliament which according to the original program was not to assemble until 1916 was to be organized in 1913.
But in spite of this concession the radical element would no be satisfied and the 1st Revolution broke out in November of 1911. I was among the moderates who would have liked to see the change intro­ duced gradually according to the program announced in 1908 but it was not to be. I gave much thought in 1911 and 1912 to the question of the fitness of China for the sudden change to a modern from of Govt. and I will tell you the conclusions
at which I arrived.
On the one side we have the long experience of the Chinese in local self­ government. This has prevailed in China for ages. Every town and village is managed by its elders chosen rather^in most cases rather^ by common consent than by regular election. The highest ambition of every community is to be let alone by the Central Govt. Except is certain definite matters like the dyking of the Yellow River they expect nothing from the Central Govt. but consider the land lax as a solace money in return for which each community is to be left free to manage its own affairs. Analogous to this habit of self-government is the old system of organizing the trades and industries, especially the banking system in guilds for mutual cooperation and for mutual protection. On the whole therefore the experience which the Chinese have had in local self-government may be counted to their credit as fitness to manage the affairs of a Republic.
The only respect in which their experience counts on the other side is the absorption in local interests involved in it. If the [illegible: unit] can be enlarged to include the welfare of the nation as well as that of the village it will be well.
The second element of fitness to manage a Republic I find in the character of the Chinese people. They are sober, thoughtful and resourceful. They are capable if left to themselves of adjusting themselves to a new set of conditions. Just here I wish to say that California has had almost no opportunity to observe the real Chinese. The real true Chinese entered China in ancient times from the north west. They developed their language and literature in the northern portions of China, though they spread over the whole country as conquerors. The aborigines whom they found in possession of the land were not ^racially^ so different from their conquerors as were
the American Indians and the Europeans and therefore easier to assimilate, though large numbers of them still live untouched by the Chinese civilization on reservations in Yunnan, Kuangsi and Kweichow. The Chinese ^of Kuang Tung^ who have come to America in so large numbers
live on the border of the between the Chinese and the Malays and no doubt represent a blend of the two bloods.
are a blend of Malay and Chinese. They are quite different both physically and mentally from the pure Chinese of North China. They are sometimes brilliant, always more emotional and more quarrelsome than the pure ^other^ Chinese. Physically they are smaller than the real ^pure^ Chinese
The qualities of sobriety and serious mindedness, ability to think through a new situation which I have attributed to the Chinese will certainly make for their success in managing the affairs of the new form of government which they have adopted.
Against the fitness of the Chinese to succeed as citizens of a Republic the conditions are more obvious. They are
1. The illiteracy of the masses. The Chinese are burdened with a written language which is not written phonetically and this condemns the great majority of the people to illiteracy. To read a modern newspaper one needs to have memorized four or five thousand symbols or characters and besides that to be familiar with the phrases of the literary style or semi-literary style in which the average newspaper is written. This is evidently impossible for the ordinary working man. If you will only compare this with the amount of labor required to lean to read English you will see what a different problem the Chinese have. With us it takes time to acquire a vocabulary, to learn to spell, and to learn the art of expression, but many of us cannot remember the time when we were unable to read. It is my own opinion that the masses in China can only become creditable citizens of a Republic after a phonetic system of writing the colloquial has been generally adopted and a new literature in the colloquial has been established.
Progress has been made in both these directions.
The illiteracy of the masses must un­ doubtedly ^act^ as one of the handicaps under which the Chinese suffer in their attempt to run successfully a Republic.
An even greater obstacle to the success of the Republic is the general ^inherited^ attitude of the people toward the Central Govt. I have already mentioned the fact that the people do not expect much of the Central Govt. except to leave them alone. The feeling goes even further than this. I am afraid that the common people think of the Central Govt. as a sort of brigand organization which must be because it always has been. The history of China is a partial explanation of this. Every dynasty has begun with strong men. The virility of the rulers has steadily and progressively disappeared under
the influences of harem, eunucks and seclusion. When the court has entirely lost the respect of the people, some brigand chief begins his operations. He deluges the land in blood, exter­ minates the supporters of the old dynasty and many others besides, and finally ends by making himself the first emperor of a new dynasty. This was the process that was going on in the middle of the 19th Century, when the foreigners interfered with it and suc­ ceeded in propping up the Manchu Dynasty against the T'ai P'ing Rebels. Only two years ago an ex-premier of the Republic said to me reflectively that the reason why the Republic is unstable is because not enough blood has been shed to effect a change of government. He came to this conclusion through his knowledge of Chinese History. The combination of lack of ability to read and this hereditary
conception of the Central Government make the establishment of a real republic very difficult. Three years after the Republic had been established one of my sons was travelling in Shensi Province. One of the peasants finding that he could speak Chinese came to his room and asked him to explain who the "Ta Tsung T'ung", President, was He asked "Is he ^really^ a Chinese or a foreigner?" It did not speak well for the standing of this Shensi man as a citizen of the Republic that after three years he should be uncertain whether his president was a Chinese or a foreigner.
I might go on to mention the lack of experience in election methods as an obstacle to the successful working of the new form of government. I remember meeting a Chinese literary graduate from Lau Hsien in Chihli Province just after there had been held an election for members of the parliament ^provincial assembly^ and I asked for whom he had voted. He replied that he had not voted at all. He explained that a notice has been posted
summoning all eligible voters to meet at the office of the district magistrate on a certain day, but when they reported, the magistrate said it was not necessary for them to vote as he had selected someone who would be satisfactory to everybody. My friend seemed to see nothing wrong about this manner of disposing of this business.
The time will not allow me to do more than give an outline of the history of the Chinese Republic from 1911 to the present time. I will group what I have to say around the "Three Revolutions".
The 1st Revolution, was, of course, against the Manchu Court and led to the estab­ lishment of the Republic. A small minority of radicals under the leadership of Sun Wen, or as he is commonly called "Sun Yat-sen" had undoubtedly planned to change the government of China from a Monarchy to a republic, but to the majority of those concerned in the 1st Revolution the idea had not occurred at the beginning of the movement. They drifted into it.
The immediate cause of the 1st Revolution was the dissatisfaction of the provinces with
the policy of the Manchu Govt. to centralize the control of the railways, taking that control away from the provinces. In this matter the Central govt. was entirely right and the provinces were wrong. The Manchu Court, however, had aroused the disgust of the Chinese by its weakness, corruptions and degeneracy and especially by its constant yielding to foreign pressure in granting to foreigners territory and the control of various enterprises which the Chinese regarded as belonging to themselves. Ssüch'uan first broke into revolt and Hupei soon followed. I remember that at this time two young men called at my office and expressed themselves as eager for the establishment of a Republic. I said "Why are you young men shouting so for a Republic? Why are you not satisfied so by the Constitutional Monarchy which has been offered to you?" They replied "Dr. Tenney, you do not understand us. We do not care whether the country is a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy, but we insist on being rid of the Manchus. We are in favor of a Republic only because that seems the only alienation to the continuance of Manchu rule." I think that these young Chinese expressed the general sentiment. The First Revolution was directed against the Ta Ch'ing (or Manchu) Dynasty and its primary object was this expulsion of the Manchus rather than the change to a Republic.
Ssüch'uan first broke into revolt and Hupei soon followed. At Wu Ch'ang, the capital of Hupei, disorder commenced on the evening of Oct. 10, 1911. The soldiers of Li Yüan-hung revolted and insisted upon Li Yüan-hung's acting as their leader. Later on the well disciplined and well equipped armies of the Northern govt. might easily have suppressed the revolt if they had not been held back by the then premier, Yüan Shih-K'ai. During the next month fighting began at Nanking, which was captured by the revolutionaries Dec. 2nd, 1911. I have not time to follow in detail the course of events either at and near Wu Ch'ang nor and Nanking. Wu Ch'ang is part of an immense center of population consisting of the three cities of Wu Ch'ang, Han Yang and Hankou and is ^which are^ the commercial center of Mid-China.
Nanking is regarded as the political center of Mid-China it has several times been the capital of the Empire. The name means "Southern Capital" as distinguished from Peking, the "Northern Capital."
I will mention two or three of the leaders who came into prominence in that year of 1911.
1. Sun Yat-Sun
Dr. Sun had been well known for many years as the leader of the radical reformers. He stood for the expulsion of the Manchus and the organiz­ ing of a Chinese Republic. Strange to say he was not in China, but in Europe when the 1st Revolution took place. He arrived at Shanghai on the 27th of Dec, 1911 just as the republican representatives were in conference at Nanking on the organization of a new government. They were in doubt whom to choose as Provisional President and on his arrival he was immediately chosen to the office and inaugurated on New Year's day of 1912. The Manchu Court abdicat­ ed on the 12th of Feby, 1912 and two days later Dr. Sun resigned his post and Yuan Shih-K'ai was elected in his place. As Yuan Shih-K'ai controlled the northern armies it was necessary that Dr. Sun should retired in the interests of peace between the Northern and Southern sections of the country and his self-effacement was certainly much to be praised.
[inline]At the same time Yuan had a reputation as a reformer and much hope centered on him.
Subsequently he was disappointed in
Yuan Shih-K'ai and became implicated in the 2nd Revolution and had to flee to Japan where I found him in 1908^14^ living and dressing as a Japanese ^(my attempt to act as peacemaker)^ after the death of Yuan Shih-K'ai and the establish­ ing of military dictatorships in the North he organized a Southern Government at Canton which finally collapsed and he with his colleagues took refuge in Sh'ai where I met him a year ago. His reestab­ lishing of the Southern government at Canton has all taken place since I returned to America. At the present time in Canton govt. appears to be more flourishing than ever before and it seems that it will be a factor in the final settlement of affairs.
My impression of Dr. Sun is that he is rather an idealist than a practical man. His influence is great among the Cantonese, especially among those who live abroad. He labors under the disadvant­ age of not carrying great weight with the Chinese of the North and of the Interior
2. Yuan Shih-K'ai
To give you any insight into the character of Yüan Shih-K'ai I must briefly trace his career before the time of the 1st Revolution. Previous to the Chinese-Japanese War of 1894 he was Chinese resident in Corea. Judge [illegible: Decury], the American advisor to the Corean government has brought serious charges against him in a pamphlet which he published in the early nineties. After his return from Corea he undertook the foundation of a model corps for the Chinese army at Hsiao Chan near Tientsin. In 1889 the young Emperor Kuang-hsü had assumed the responsibilities of government. After the disastrous war with Japan he came under the influence of K'ang Yu-wei and other reformers and soon commenced issuing reform edicts of a very radical nature. Finding that the Empress Dowager and her supporters ^were conspiring against him^ he sent orders to Yuan Shih-K'ai at Hsiao-Chan to march on Peking with his model army, and emprison the Empress Dowager and defend him from his enemies. Yüan ^declined to obey this order^ and revealed the plot and ^Emperor's plan to the supporters of the Emp. Dowager.^ This lead to the resumption of office by the Empress Dowager and the virtual imprisonment of the Emperor Kuanghsü until his death in 1908. The brother of
The brother of Kuanghsü became regent for his infant son Hsüan T'ung after the death of the Empress Dowager and of the Emperor in 1908 and one of his first acts was to dismiss Yuan Shih-K'ai, who was then a member of the Cabinet. This happened Jan.2, 1909. To avenge the betrayal of his brother, the Prince Regent would have decapitated Yüan Shih-K'ai had he dared. After Jan, 1909 Yüan retired to his nation Province, Honan and lived there in seclusion until the outbreak of the 1st Revolution. The Manchu Court being at its wits' end saw no other way out of their difficulties than to recall Yüan Shih-K'ai. He delayed and made conditions and only returned to Peking when he became the defacto head of the Govt. ^as Premier.^ Through the control of the modern army which he had organized he could easily have beaten the ill-equipped forces of the revolutionaries, but he held back and allowed the Republican movement to go forward until at last he found himself President of the new Republic after the abdication of the Manchus.
I have always felt that Yüan Shih-K'ai had
the power, had he so willed, to make the the Republic a success. Unfortunate­ ly for the Republic their first President was not a George Washington. Yüan's energies were devoted to building up his own power; to making himself Dictator. I have always regretted that his American advisor, President Goodnow, gave him substantial aid in this policy. Dr. Goodnow drafted the "Constitutional Compact" which was promulgated May 1, 1914 to take the place of the "Provisional Constitution" which was passed at Nanking in Jan, 1912. By the Constitutional Compact all real power was centered in Yüan Shih-K'ai. Even this did not satisfy the growing ambition of Yüan and he at last tried to imitate Ta Yü the founder of the Hsia Dynasty who changed the ancient selective system over 2000 B.C. in order to do what the Chinese historians call "Chia t'ien hsia", make a family possession of the country ^Empire^. In December, 1915 The "Hung Hsien" Dynasty was announced with Yüan Shih-K'ai as the founder and first Emperor. He was
He was never enthroned however, ^He had misjudged his prestige.^ The whole country rose against him. He issued a mandate on the 22nd of March, 1915 cancelling the monarchy scheme and on the 6th of June he died.
Circumstances have caused me to see a great deal of Yuan Shih-K'ai during the past twenty five years. Until his last rush for Imperial honors I always regarded him as a man of force and great ability, though I always recognized the fact that he had no conscience. ^and no regard for human life if that life stood between him and the satisfaction of his ambition^ His career illustrates the danger that brains without conscience in will fail a man at some point in his career however will highly developed that brain may be.
I should like to give sketches of many others who have been prominent in China since the time of the 1st Revolution such as Li Yuan-hung elected Vice President with Yuan Shih-K'ai and by succession President after the death of Yüan, Feng Kuo­ Chang, afterwards General of the Imperial forces at Hankow and Han Yang, ^and Imp. Gov. of Nanking^ who
afterward became Vice President and President of the Republic; T'ang Shao-i at first associated with Yüan Shih-K'ai but later allied with the Southern party. The time will not allow this, however, and I must go on with the history of the Republican experiment in China. I have spoken of the First Revolution which led to the abdication of the Manchus and the estab­ lishment of the Republic in 1912. President Yüan in 1913 negotiated what is called the "Reorganization Loan" of £25,000,000. with Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Russia. Parliament which had been convened in the spring of 1913 was bitterly opposed to the terms of this loan, but though the Provisional Constitution stipu­ lated that all measures affecting the National Treasury must receive the assent of Parliament, the President carried it through in spite of the opposition of Parliament. By this means he secured funds for making firm his dictatorship. This led to what is known as the "Second Revolution."
This was easily suppressed by President Yüan whose modern troops soon captured both Nanking and Canton. The Republican leaders fled into exile. The Second Revolution was the only phase of the struggle which I did not personally witness. At the time of the First Revolution when Dr. Sun set up his government at Nanking, I had telegraphic instructions from Washington to go to Nan­ king and report on the situation, but I had returned home on leave when the outbreak occurred in regard to Yüan's dictatorship and his scheme for financing it.
Yüan followed up his suppression of the revolutionaries by dissolving the Parliament and his adoption of the Constitutional Compact which suited him better than the Provisional Constitution. passed at Nanking in 1912.
Upon Yuan Shih-K'ai's attempt to make himself Emperor in the winter of 1915 and 16, the Southern Provinces rose again and this time effectively. The insurrection started in Yunnan Province under Gen. Ts'ai Ao and it soon spread until An ultimatum was sent to Peking stating that the monarchy must be
cancelled and the chief monarkists must be executed or Yunnan would take such steps as were considered necessary. Yunnan, Kweichow, Kuangsi, Kwangtung and Chehkiang soon declared their independence and eight other provinces were preparing to follow suit. When the great province of Ssüch'uan declared its independence, Yuan suffered a nervous collapse which brought on his death on June 6th. This constituted the Third Revolution which came to an end with the death of the would-be Emperor. Li Yüan-hung became President, having been elected Vice President in 1912. During the lurid career of Yüan Shih-K'ai he had kept in the back-ground. In fact he had practically been a prisoner. ^after the 2nd Revolution^ He had saved his life by remaining absolutely aloof from politics and he had refused to accede to the proposed chance from President to Emperor. Though a military man his sympathies had been with the constitutionalists and his first act was to reconvene the original Parliament that had been dissolved by Yuan Shih-K'ai in 1913^4^. We entertained great hopes of the Republic
under the guidance of Li Yüan-hung but difficulties soon arose. Following the example of Yuan Shih-K'ai, the various military leaders aspired to control the government and jealousy soon arose between them and the Parliament. This became acute in 1917 over the question of the declaration of war with Germany and Austria. President Li was threatened into dissolving Parliament again. Wu T'ing-fang was premier at the time and he persist­ ently refused to sign the dissolution mandate. Finally his resignation was hurriedly accepted and Gen. Chiang, Chief of the Peking gendarmeries was put in his place, and signed the mandate. This happened on June 13th, 1917. Li Yüan-hung escaped to the foreign Settlements of Tientsin and Following shortly after this dramatic event came the mid-summer madness of Chang Hsün and his attempt to restore the Manchus to power. On the 1st of July Chang Hsün taking advantage of the confusion into which the governmental
affairs had been plunged marched his army into Peking enthroned the young Emperor, Hsüan T'ung and formed a Cabinet, and attempted to start again the old regime. This was, however, too much for the stomachs of the military leaders who had bullied President Li into dissolving Parliament. Ex-Premier Tuan Ch'i-jui marched on Peking and after eleven days the republic was reestablished and Chang Hsün sought asylum and the members of his shortlived cabinet took flight. ^[left]Restoration of Manchus impossible if Chinese remain their own masters.^ President Li Yüan-hung retired to the Foreign Concessions in Tientsin and refused longer to act as President. This brought Feng Kuo-chang into the Presidential chain, as he had been chosen Vice President on the promotion of the the former Vice President Li Yüan-hung. From that time to the present, the struggle has been between the advocates of control by the military and the advocates of civilian control through constitutional means, and the end is not yet.
after^Since^ the death of Yuan Shih-K'ai there has also been much rivalry between different military leaders,
and this has led to much strife in the North. Tuan Ch'i-jui, the head of one faction has been now relegated to the background by another combination of generals. The great war-lord at present in Chang Tso-lin, who has the three provinces of Manchuria under his jurisdiction He was formerly chief of a band of brigands but is now a high official of the Republic. Since I left China last autumn Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his adherents have resumed the activities of the Constitutionalists at Canton and the reports that I receive of the success of the venture are rather encouraging. In the North after ^during^ the presidency of Feng Kuo-chang another Parliament was organized at Peking ^under the control of the military.^, the legality of which is, of course, denied by Dr. Sun's Presidency the present incumbent, Mr. Hsü Shih-ch'ang. I have known President Hsü for over 25 years and think highly of him. Under the Empire he held the
high position of Viceroy of Manchuria. He is not a military man and has resisted a horror of ^civil^ war. He has resisted the pressure of the military satraps to settle with the Southern provinces by and appeal to arms, and is always trying to arrange differences by negotiations. In my last interview with President Hsü ^before I left Peking^ he told me that I might expect news of his success in a few days. When I reached Honolulu I saw by the telegrams that he had pro­ posed the dissolutions of both parliaments and a new election. This was not accepted by the radicals and now the division between North and South seems more marked than ever before. The lines on which an agreement may probably be launched are likely to be provincial autonomy with a clean definition of the powers and revenues to remain in the hands of the Central Govt. As I said before I deeply regret that I cannot give a more encouraging view of affairs in our Sister republic. In spite of the discouraging features I am confident that, if only
[gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): China] can be let alone; [gap: tear][guess (MKR): if] no other [gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): people] interferes to keep up strife by ^intimidation and^ corrupt methods the good sense of the Chinese people will certainly bring about a solution of their difficulties, and the military bullies will be crowded out. Except when the people have been in the immediate track of the armies, [gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): they] have certainly made progress during the nine years of the Republic. Industry has developed. Mills and factories have multiplied. The new ideas of road making and sanitation are meeting always with greater favor, and China is rapidly being modernized in the true sense.
When we remember how long it took France to get into her paces as a Republic Indeed when we remember our own long period of experimenting we need not be impatient with the Chinese.