Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £49,482, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum
necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st (lay of March, 1900, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
The reduction which I have to move in the salary of Lord Salisbury is based on a sad case, but a clear and grave case of neglect by the Government, and I propose to speak on one other question only before moving it. Last year I moved a reduction in the salary of the Secretary of State on account of matters which had occurred in the course of the previous twelve months. There had been developments in connection with Tunis, Siam, Madagascar, and China, all of which we wished to censure. An opinion was expressed that the Liberals were not agreed in their views on foreign policy; but every Liberal present voted for the reduction, which had the support of my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire. Since that time there has, no doubt, on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech this year, been an attempt by my hon. friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Kearley) again to raise the question of Madagascar. There has been a new Blue Book which justified his action, for it shows that no reply has been received from France to Lord Salisbury's remonstrance. But there is no new material. The matter was covered by the reduction which I moved last year. We attacked the Government with regard to it last year. The Blue Book of this year is virtually the same as the Blue Book of last year, for the whole matter has arisen from Lord Salisbury's neglect in 1890. We can add nothing to what we said last year, but we received no answer.
§ *THE UNDER - SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRODRICK,Guildford) Surrey,
The arguments were very fully replied to.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I do not think that an examination of Hansard will bear out that statement. We all agree that the principal events in foreign affairs which have lately happened, the choice of our representatives to the Hague, and the Mid-Africa delimitations, form a success for Lord Salisbury—a success to set against many failures. Relations 779 with France are better, but there is the as yet unexplained incident of Muscat. The Muscat papers have virtually been refused to the House of Commons. The papers would not be damaging to the cause of peace, but they would be damaging to the Government. They are refused on the shallow pretext that. "local details are still under discussion." The French Government has told its supporters that we expressed "profound regret" for something which they term an inconvenance—that is, "an unseemly or unbecoming act"—on whose part? We can all agree in regretting that we should he placed in the position which the Government, by refusing papers, seem to admit. The one subject upon which, in addition to that upon which I have to move the reduction, I wish to speak, but briefly—as I shall doubtless be followed by my noble friend, the Member for York, who has had unrivalled opportunities of forming opinions on the spot—is that of China, which is always with us. The recent arrangement with Russia is a very partial one, apparently a mere recognition of existing facts, leaving all dangerous matters where they were. It is exactly the agreement which, on the 12th of August of last year, was suggested by Mr. Lessar, the Russian Chargé d'Affaires, to the Leader of this House, and at first cold-shouldered by the Leader of this House. The Government have been riding two horses. The muddle between the policy of the "open door" and that of the Yang-tsze sphere has led to confusion which seems to have caused failure. On this point I think the House is really as unanimous as it was unanimous in previous debates with regard to the withdrawal of our ships from Port Arthur at a moment when a more general agreement with Russia might have been come to, more satisfactory than that which has been tardily made. My right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire last year adopted and made his own upon this point all what he called the "very just criticism of the Member for Chester"—in other words, in the first place, criticism on the invitation to Russia to come to Port Arthur, without any arrangement with Russia at the time when one could have been made; and secondly, on the absurdity of the Yang-tsze scheme unless, which the Government do not intend, effective occupation of the Yang-tsze Valley should be brought about. 780 A paper which supports the Government said the other day that, of the two policies, the integrity of China was gone, and the sphere policy had prevailed, but that all China was likely to become the Russian sphere; and this, I confess, seems to me to be the net result of the Government policy. Its effect has certainly been a wonderfully rapid growth of Russian influence at Pekin, and all now see that the Chinese Empire, as we prophesied last year would be the ease, is taking its place with Turkey and Persia among the fringe of empires under the protection of Russia which surround that Empire on the east and south and west. The now obvious exposure of the Chinese capital to Russian land attack is a curious commentary on the reasons which were given here for the occupation of Wei-hai-wei. I read in the "Naval Annual" for this year (a book which, on the whole, has always been friendly to the policy of the Admiralty) "Russia should be able to hold Manchuria," and, as I read the passage, whatever she can reach from Manchuria by land, "notwithstanding our command of the sea." I leave, however, the Government policy in China to my noble friend the Member for York and others, and pass at once to that matter which stands in such a position that a reduction on the vote is the only adequate means of expressing with regard to it what I feel. The story of the Waima incident is one of the strangest kind. In November, 1893, Colonel Ellis, commanding our forces in Sierra Leone, was warned by a confidential telegram from the Home Government that the French were near the frontier, and that he was to be careful. His letters home show that he was most careful, and that he wrote warning the French of his approach. On the 23rd December a French force attacked a force of the 1st West India Regiment and police. They killed Captain Lenity, D.S.O., Lieutenant Liston, Lieutenant Wroughton, one sergeant-major, four privates West India Regiment, two Sierra Leone police, and severely wounded fifteen non-commissioned officers and men and two police. The French lost one officer and two men killed, and a few wounded. On Christmas Day, 1893, Colonel Ellis wrote to the Government a letter published in the London Gazette, in which he said—That Waima is well within the sphere of British influence is, I think, beyond question.781 And he added definite explanations which seemed to prove this. A letter from Colonel Ellis to the French commandant, also published in London Gazette, and his letters home make it clear that Ellis had no doubt that Waima was within our sphere, and that the French, on consideration did not assert that it was either French or Liberian. Colonel Ellis mentioned in his letters home that he had letters from the French commandant showing how very far the French had previously penetrated into the British sphere, and the fact is confirmed by a letter from Captain Lendy to Ins mother, written before the engagement, which she has. Colonel Ellis was knighted and died. On the 12th February, 1894, Lord Rosebery wrote to the mother of one of the officers killed that he was "determined" that the matter "shall be probed and examined to the uttermost." Before, In however, making a formal demand on France for reparation the Government consulted the Astronomer Royal, and they also sent up surveying parties to the neighbourhood, whose work is mapped in Trotter's "Sources of the Niger." After two years inquiry and survey, Colonel Ellis's view was fully confirmed. When the payment of £10,000 was proposed as compensation to the French Missions in Uganda for action by Colonel Lugard, which had been approved and justified by the Government, some of us offered opposition on the ground that the Waima matter ought, at least, to be settled at the same time. We were beaten, and the money was paid over to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster to disburse aiming the French and Alsatian claimants: that is, this somewhat similar claim was dealt with and settled by itself. On the 18th March, 1898, I pressed with regard to this matter a question which was followed by a correspondence between the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Sir Henry M. Stanley) and the then Under Secretary of State, in which Mr. Curzon denied that the position of Waima was known at the time, but admitted that the former Government hail, after full investigation, "included the question of compensation among the bases of discussion at the African Conference in Paris" in 1894–5. That Conference was held at the end of 1894 and beginning of 1895. If, as Mr. Curzon stated, the position of Waima was properly "determined" "in 1895," why, then, was the 782 matter not actively pressed after the determination in 1895? On the 1st April, 1898, the matter was mentioned by the Member for the Swansea district; on the 19th April I was informed that the frontier was not finally determined till 1896. On the 28th April I asked whether it was the case that compensation had distinctly been refused by France before the 15th September, 1895. This was denied by the Leader of the house; but the information is contained in a letter from Lord Darwin, our then Ambassador in Paris, to the widow of one of the officers killed. On the 6th May, 1898, the senior Member for Portsmouth asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies a question on the subject, in the answer to which hope was held out that the matter would be settled, arid a suggestion was made of temporary help pending settlement. Temporary help has been given in one case only, though not out of taxes. On the same day the Member for the Swansea district put another question to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who confirmed the statement that the position of Waima was substantially known at the time of the incident, although not astronomically determined until 1895, or "finally determined" till 1896. On the 28th June, 1898, a question was asked by the Member for Chester (Mr. Yerburgh), when the Under-Secretary of State repeated that the matter was then included in general negotiations with France, and that, pending the result, a grant to the families of those slain was under consideration. No such grant was ever made, except the one advance just named of £100 from the Patriotic Fund. On the 14th July, 1898, there came a sudden change in the Government position, and that Government wrote to the French for compensation, treating the matter, not in connection with others, but as one apart. On the 21st July, in reply to the Member for the Leek Division of Staffordshire, the Government admitted this, but said t hat no reply had been received from France. No reply has been received, as I understand, up to the present time; yet the Uganda compensation has been paid. On the 1st August last year the hon. Member for Chester asked if a Supplementary Estimate, for the relief of the sufferers pending the settlement, could be proposed. The Under Secretary said that "should a Supplementary Vote 783 be required, it would be asked for in that financial year." The financial year expired with last March, and nothing has been asked for, in spite of the need and of the promises. Coming to the present year, on the 13th February, the member for the Leek Division asked again with regard to compensation, and the present Under Secretary of State related a long story, ending "any case of urgency will be considered." Several of the cases are urgent. Nothing has been done in addition to the grant of £100 to one widow last year. On the 2nd March the hon. Member for Hampstead brought out the fact of the isolated treatment of this subject on the 14th July of last year, and of the receipt from France of no reply. But by this time the Government had come back again to the old position, and said that they were treating the matter in connection with other claims arising out of affairs in West Africa. On the 16th March the Member for the Wick Burghs, and on the 17th March the Member for the Swansea District, elicited the fact that the matter was before the law officers of the Crown. So that five and a-half years after the incident, and three years after the accurate determination of the facts, we have got as far as asking our own people what is our case. On the 23rd March the Member for the Leek Division discovered that no exact amount has ever been asked for from France, although France asked for a definite amount from us in the Uganda case; in other words, we have merely asked a vague question of France as to her willingness to pay compensation, to which, naturally, no reply has been returned. On the 24th March the Member for Chester discovered from the Government that the matter was not included in the recent African negotiations with France, but "is being dealt with separately." A more humiliating story was never placed before the House of Commons. I know nothing of the circumstances of the families of the native police, nor of those of the gallant non-commissioned officers and men of the West India regiment. The circumstances of the survivors left by the British officers killed are known to me. One of the mothers, aged seventy, has lost both her sons in Africa. The death of the one killed at Waima, a most distinguished officer of the Derbyshire regiment, has left that lady and 784 her daughter alone in the world. Of the two other officers, one has left a widow and three children. They have received from the Government a nomination to Wellington, and £100, which went to pay the doctor's bills for the widow's premature confinement from shock and grief, but the lady is forced to eke out her income by sewing, the pension being insufficient. And the other mother, who is also a widow, has lost her only son. She has one other lady dependent upon her, who is earning her livelihood as a typewriter. These are cases of extraordinary hardship. But I am concerned with the blot upon the administration of the Foreign Office that its treatment of the matter has involved, and, having followed it closely since the time when the incident occurred, I feel that I have no alternative but to move the reduction, which I commend to the consideration of the House. The two matters that I have brought forward, that of Waima and that of China, are both examples of imbecility in the classical sense of that word: want of firmness of purpose, or distinct ideas clearly set before us. The energies of the Foreign Office have been too much taken up with Africa to enable the affairs of China to be properly dealt with. There was a time last year when the Foreign Office appeared to have set before itself the policy of alliances, specially intended to affect the Chinese situation—alliance with a military Power (Germany), alliance with the United States and with Japan. The most welcome, the policy of alliance with the United States, as we pointed out, is not a practical policy, for nobody in the United States desires a fighting or war alliance. The one thing necessary, however, above all, is clearness of foresight and of purpose, and that is what has been conspicuously wanting, especially in the case of China.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State."—(Sir Charles Dilke)
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
The rigid hon. Baronet has brought two cases before the Committee, and one I think I may describe as very humiliating—I refer to the Waima incident I should like to express my concurrence in the views of the right hon. Baronet on 785 the matter. The facts of the case are these: The Government has acknowledged that these poor ladies do deserve some compensation, and they have asked the French Government to pay it. As far as I understand it, the French Government did not answer the letter for a very long time, and when eventually they did answer it they refused to pay anything. Three British officers were shot by French troops at a point twelve miles within our own boundaries—within our sphere of influence—and their widows and children can get no compensation. What a contrast between this case and the one in which our Government promptly paid £10,000 to the Uganda missionaries! And, above all, the Government sent out a Commission to find out the exact spot where the affair took place. It took two years to do its work. Why did they not send to the naval officer at the nearest station? He would have done the work in three days. I must say that what has occurred in this case would be a disgrace to any Government, whichever party might be in power. I now come to a question of great interest to the people of this country, and particularly to all connected with trade and commerce. I consider it to be one of the gravest problems this country has ever faced; it is a problem which requires immediate attention, and certainly wiser statesmanship than it has yet received. What is the problem? It is, that we have to secure our trade in that great country of China. This is a matter of vast importance to our working classes. Wherever we look we see that our markets are getting very circumscribed, thanks to the competition which we have to meet. It is not a question of territory that makes trade; it is one, rather, of population. and the population of China is enormous, exceeding 400,000,000. What is the struggle going on in China? It is struggle between nations who want trade and nations who seek territory. Nations are represented by governments, and I say that the present Government are doing nothing whatever to secure or develop our trade with China. It may be suggested, in consequence of the remarks I am about to make, that I ought to belong to the Opposition. I do not think so by any means, but I do hope that my criticism will be most fair. One of the main things we are now suffering 786 from is the weakness of the Opposition. A weak Opposition means a weak Government, and a strong Opposition a strong Government. I do not propose to go into the reasons which brought us into our present position. I want to take things just as they are. I freely acknowledge that the Government have had a very difficult time in their foreign policy; they have had difficulties with many nations, but I maintain that most of these difficulties are now settled, and that this question of China ought to be brought prominently forward, and more ought to be done than is being attempted at present. Now, what are the dangers with regard to the future? One is in regard to the position of Russia in the North; and the other is that there is likely to be very shortly a rebellion in China. There have already been rebellions there, but that there will be some more very heavy rebellions in the near future I have not the slightest doubt. There are two policies, as the right hon. Baronet has pointed out—one is the policy of the open door and the other is the policy of spheres of influence. From what I can gather from Her Majesty's Government they have been bellowing very loudly for the Open door, but they have been working all the time for the spheres of influence. What they have really been doing is drifting, and doing nothing at all. I have heard it said that the Government are deceiving the people, and I want to corroborate it by saying that they have deceived me. When I went out to China I was absolutely certain that the Government policy was that of the open door, and not only to keep the door open, but to put the house in order on the other side. When I get home again I find from the declarations of the Government that they are certainly working towards the policy of the spheres of influence, and against the open door. Why, the two things are imcompatible, and you must have either the one policy or the other or else you will drift on to the rocks as certain as possible. I maintain that the people of this country do not know the importance of our policy in China. We must take into consideration that our trade of this country amounts to a total of £970,000,000, and I quite understand that the commercial classes of this country would think, if we were to interfere in a strong measure or upon lines which 787 might bring about war, that, for the sake of the £35,000,000 of trade which we do with China, we might jeopardise the whole of the £935,000,000 we do with other countries. But I do not agree with the argument at all. If we had begun to lose our trade in China this country would certainly have been in a worse position than now. Now, what does that £35,000,000 of trade with China mean?
§ THE SECRETARY or STATE FOR THE COLONIES (MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I think the noble lord said the trade of China was £970,000,000.
§ LORD CHAS. BERESFORD
No. I said that £970,000,000 was the total trade of the Empire. My point was that, taking the £35,000,000 from the total, it left £935,000,000 as the amount of trade we do with other countries, and those people who were interested in the larger sum might be disinclined to do anything which might jeopardise that trade by doing something with the object of protecting this £35,000,000. Now what does our trade with China represent? If I take the cost of the raw material and what the merchants provide, it will about represent the wages and rent of 350,000 people in this country. That, I think, is a very fair computation, and if I am not right I hope some hon. Gentleman with a more technical head than I have will correct me. With reference to the open door policy I maintain that the door is closed now. I maintain that directly you allowed the Russians to interfere with purely commercial enterprise, as they did in the ease of the Shanghai-Kiang Railway, the open door was as effectively closed as if you had put a tariff on our goods. What happened? I asked my right hon. friend below me if all was true that I read in the Blue-book, for in that book it is perfectly clear that the British Minister told the Russian Minister at Pekin that the British Government, would not tolerate any interference with the contract made between the British Corporation and the Chinese Government with regard to this railway. My hon. friend says that the British Corporation agreed to this interference; but they did nothing of the sort. The Corporation agreed because the Government told them to scratch nut, two- clauses which the Russians ob- 788 jected to, and it was on that objection that our Minister said that the British Government would not tolerate any interference. I have said once or twice before—but it has been made out that I am wrong—that our treaties had been completely broken in China, and absolutely broken. I was told that I was altogether wrong, but if hon. Members can understand this book they will find on page 7, in Dispatch 14, from Mr. Balfour to Sir Charles Scott, that the First Lord of the Treasury himself says:An undoubted breach of our treaty rights with China is involved therein,that is to say, if the Russians persisted in this matter of interfering with commercial enterprises. Mr. Lessar said that he did not deny that what was contemplated constituted a breach of the treaty; but what was contemplated was carried out, and the Tientsin Treaty has been broken with regard to the Shanghai-Kiang Railway. Therefore we have no rights either in Shantung or Manchuria according to the treaties in force. That is absolutely so. By the treaty I have alluded to we were allowed to have those rights in Manchuria, but those rights have been absolutely nullified now, because Russia has told us that we must not go there. Now I come to the open door. Upon this policy the Government have certainly "taken in" one of their most energetic supporters. There was nobody so violent as the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this point, for he was prepared to fight for the open door with great violence. The right hon. Gentleman said so in his speech. Now I come to my right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies, who was going to arm himself with a "long spoon," and he was all for the open door. Then I conic to the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was more vigorous than anybody else over the open door.
*THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCIIEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
I never spoke about it.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
What did he do? Why, he came down here and asked the House to vote four battleships, four cruisers, and twelve torpedo boats. What for? Why, to protect our trade and commerce, and our trade and commerce cannot exist without the open door. Surely that is an argu- 789 ment on my side. Well, I do say that very big words were used, and I say that with regard to China we have seen them followed by very small deeds. It would have been better if the Government had done something in a strong, clear, and definite way which everybody could understand, than to have done nothing whatever. Now, the right hon. Baronet has made an allusion to a statement of mine, but I do not think that I ever used the word "alliance." I was very careful not to do it in America, because I knew that I should be metaphorically jumped on immediately. There has been no suggestion yet made to solve this problem of the future between China and this country. My suggestion was that the four cot mtries—Great Britain, America, Japan, and Germany—should go to the Chinese and say: "We have got so much trade with you, and we will ask you to allow us to take over your army and we will put it right for you." It would be a Chinese Army with probably an Englishman at its head, but I do not see anything very absurd in that. I have only suggested that you should do ill the case of the Chinese Army what you have already done with the Chinese Customs. You have a British man over the Customs, and why should you not have a British man over the army? I must say that, in speaking with members of other countries, I found both the Russians and the French were equally friendly towards my object. The mission I went out upon on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce was to be as friendly and conciliatory as possible with everybody in that country, and I found that they all agreed with my proposal. I may be asked, why did I leave out France and Russia. I did so because I am a business man. France and Russia have no trade in China, and why should we ask them to come and help us to secure our trade? But even under this proposal France and Russia would be offered an equal opportunity to create trade, an opportunity which they do not possess now. It has been said that Germany would not join in this suggestion; but supposing I had not included Germany, all those people who oppose this scheme-would have said this was a mischievous proposal, and that I wanted to get England, America, and Japan against the whole of Europe. The reason why I put 790 in Germany was that she has a trade there already, and I may inform the House that I have the most complete sympathy of the German merchants out there with the idea which I suggest. I do not know whether the Government has tried this suggestion with other countries. They know more about it than I do, and I imagine that they may have approached them. If they have, and these countries have proposed to join us, then the Government should let the people of China know this. I think we should do what we have always done before whenever we have had any of our interests in danger, that is, we should take the lead and then the other countries will be sure to follow. I am quite sure that the Americans will follow. But in Japan I got a most distinct intimation from many people that, if Great Britain led, Japan would certainly follow on this question. There is another point about the open door. Under the proposal I made it would not cost this country anything to leave the door open. The finances of China are ample. The Budget has already made provision for defence, and the arsenals and the army would also be amply provided for. If the money was expended as was intended, we would not have to pay a single shilling extra for getting this army into order. And it would give equality of opportunity to all nations. The open door would not cost this country one shilling. But I am absolutely certain that if we drift into spheres of influence we shall drift into war, on the face of it. Because if you go into spheres of influence you do away with the properly constituted Chinese authorities, and what are you going to put in their place? You will have to send troops there to maintain order and look after your trade. Now, let me refer to this precious Agreement. First of all I understand Russia proposed the Agreement. And what for? At the moment she proposed that Agreement there was a good deal of irritation in this country about the Shanghai-Newchwang Railway. Russia has extremely clever diplomatists, and they know that there is a magic word in this country, and that word is "peace," and they thought that if they put forward this Agreement it would be an Agreement on all questions, and that it would take in our own people immensely. They put forward the Agreement on account of the disturbance 791 amongst our people, but they were astonished to find that our Foreign Office jumped at it with the greatest avidity. Russia by that Agreement forbade us to go to the north side of the Great Wall; but why didn't we, directly that Agreement was proposed to us, propose something that would be advantageous to ourselves? There were two things which would have been of great advantage to us. One was that Russia should not under any circumstances have put on preferential rates on the railways. The other was that a definite definition should be made of that part of the Yang-tsze country to which we were supposed to have some right. It would hardly be believed, but the Foreign Office never suggested these things at all, and it was not till a month afterwards that these things were suggested to Russia. It is again hardly to he believed that both these points were refused by Russia. There is a despatch in the Blue Book in which Lord Salisbury referred to what these spheres should be—the Yang-tsze and the provinces of Ho-nan and Che-kiang—but there is nothing whatever in regard to preferential rates. Then there is another point. Directly the Russians found we were so anxious to come to this agreement, they secured a great number of delays—everybody had something the matter with him, or someone had gone on holidays, or something of that sort. At any rate, they delayed answering the questions put to them, and, so far as I can make out, it was seven or nine months before the Agreement was signed. Now, why did Russia object to the insertion of these conditions? It was because, when the time comes when she is in a proper position to put on these preferential rates, she will do so. I should like to do away with all these questions of sentiment. We blame other countries for putting on protective tariffs. Why should they not? Other countries know their own affairs best. We have gone in for the open door and Free Trade, because it is best for our people and for our commerce. They put on their tariffs because it is best for them. If they did not put on their tariffs everyone of these countries would be over-run with English and American travellers, and they would not have a chance with us and the Americans at our own trade. At the same time we should do all we can to try arid keep the door open wherever we can. 792 There is another point. My right hon. friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs answers questions. Now, I object to the way he answers questions. Sometimes we really want an answer to the questions we put, but the way in which my right hon. friend answers them is much more suitable to the nursery than to the House of Commons. It is the way of the Foreign Office and some of their people whom I have met abroad. I met a gentleman, who was not the Minister at Pekin, but who was associated at Pekin with the -Foreign Office. I said to him, "How very badly things are going on in China," and he replied, "Not at all; they are going on very well indeed."
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I said, "I have just read the Blue Book, and I have never read anything so shocking"; and he replied, "Oh! you Members of Parliament must know that there are a great number of matters that we don't put in the Blue Books." I said "You want me to believe that the Government put in the Blue Books everything against themselves and keep up their sleeve everything that tells for them." The Foreign Office appears to me like this sort of thing; that if London were occupied by the French, they would say it was the best thing under the circumstances. What I want to point out is that Lord Salisbury himself has been perfectly open about the matter. He has told us that there is nothing whatever in it, or words to that effect. I may say that he has laughed at the whole thing in a diplomatic way. Here is what Lord Salisbury himself says: "Her Majesty's Government cannot but note the scanty dimensions to which it has been reduced by these long negotiations." He knows perfectly that there is nothing in it, or in any other Agreement that Russia should think of making. Russia never made an Agreement yet except for her own advantage. She does not break the Agreement at once, but waits till the time is suitable. In saying this I do hope the Committee will not misunderstand me. I don't blame Russia one bit. We know what her policy is. But I do blame the people who are continually taken in by that policy. And they will be taken in again. Russian diplomatists are very clever, and they have a policy. They go across frontiers a long way, and whenever a re- 793 monstrance is made, the Russian general goes back, but he never goes back to where he came from, but remains a long way on the wrong side of the frontier. While Lord Salisbury was laughing at this question, the Cabinet were most triumphant; and when I heard the First Lord of die Admiralty bringing out all the advantages and benefits to trade and to the peace of the world, and all the other things that were going to come out of this Agreement, the tears came into my eyes. I must say that I agree with Lord Salisbury. I do not think that there is anything in that Agreement which is worth anything. In that Agreement, which we have signed, the Russians have a right to run a railway to the southwest of Pekin. We see in the Press—and I always believe the Press—that this is a fact, and that if Russia does run that railway it will compete with a railway in which British capital has been invested on the faith of Chinese assurances as well as those of our own Government that it would not be interfered with. If that railway is made I want to know what is to become of the large properties of the Pekin Syndicate, and what will become of all that English capital which has been invested there. Moreover, what will become of that country which is not designated the Yang-tsze region, which has no boundary, and about which no agreement has been come to with Russia? I hope the Government will put their foot down on this question if on nothing else. We gave over to Russia the Newchwang Railway, I suppose, for the sake of peace. Why should not Russia give in to us about the railway to Pekin If the railway goes to Pekin? Russia must dominate the whole of China, and that would become a more serious question than anything else for this country. My own opinion is that if our Government would put their foot down over this question they would find that Russia would not make the railway. I believe that it is a very clever bit of diplomacy. I do not think they ever intended to make the railway, but that they imagined we would object to it, and that they would be able to say on some other occasion, "You see how we gave in when you objected to the railway to Pekin." Take t other point of policy which was conveyed in the term "spheres of influence." I object altogether to the proposal as to spheres of influence, and I shall oppose it with all 794 my might as long as I can. I believe that every man in China, every corporation and every single member of every commercial community—and they know their business there—would do everything they can to oppose the policy of spheres of influence, towards which the Government are most certainly drifting as fast as they can. And I will give sonic reasons for my position. If you have spheres of influence you cannot have everything. You will have to give up a large amount of your trade sooner or later. You cannot say to a nation, "That is your sphere of influence," and dictate to them what they are to do with it. We have never been able to do it yet. And you invite a hostile tariff if you go in for spheres of influence. Look at Madagascar, Indo-China, and other places, where they invariably put on a tariff against your trade. Let us see how our trade in China goes. Our total trade with China is 35 millions. Thirteen millions of these are with the provinces of Kwangsi and Kwang-tung, which are in the French sphere of influence; and 3½ millions are with Manchuria, which we might as well at once acknowledge as Russian. There is no sentiment in this country which can drive the Russians out of Manchuria, but I believe there is a great and a growing sentiment that we should have a definite policy in China; that we should know what we intend to allow Russia to do, and what we intend to do ourselves. Under the sphere of influence policy we should lose Chifu, Tien-tsin, and Newchwang, the trade of which is seven millions sterling, equal to that of seven of the ports in the Yang-tsze Valley. That will give some sort of idea of what we stand to lose if we adopt the sphere of influence policy. There is even a greater objection than that. There is no doubt that with a sphere of influence we must have military occupation. I do not believe anyone in this Committee or even in this country wants to see one single acre added to the British Empire. That is the opinion on all sides of the Committee, and it is a common-sense opinion. Our Empire is too big now.
LORD CHARLES ERESFORD
Who says no? I will ask the hon. Member who says "No" a question. Supposing we had disturbances in the Cape and in 795 India, and that at the same time we had some bother with another country as we were likey to have had in France recently, those disturbances would not be naval but military questions; and, even if we had conscription, would we have enough of men to settle them? We would not. Therefore I maintain that our Empire is quite big enough—in fact, it is too big—already; and anything we can do to avoid adding to our spheres of influence or our domination of any character must be for the benefit of the Empire. There is one solution of the difficulty in China, and that is to manage the army on exactly the same lines as the Maritime Customs are managed. There is no difficulty in it whatever. On the question of men, the population of the provinces which we are supposed to have under our sphere of influence is 176 millions. We could send out at this moment about 30,000 troops, and that is all, unless the Reserve is called out. I daresay it may be said that I am unpatriotic. I was told that before, when I showed up the weakness of the Navy, when the only people who did not know about that weakness was our own. It is the same Row with the Army. The argument is, "We must not do anything now, because we have so few men." Where will we be in five years? Russia will then have 140,000 men; we will have still 30,000. Will the Russians be able to dominate us? I think they will. Then about our sphere of influence. I find we have been claiming what we have not got. I found in Shanghai that the French settlement was called "French soil." When I went to visit the Viceroy of Nanking his Excellency asked my advice on certain questions in which the French were pressing him. I said; "I am only a commercial agent, but as your Excellency is good enough to ask my opinion, I will give it to you very frankly. Do not give the French anything. Balance the point. If you give this to the French you will put the Europeans in Shanghai on one side and the Chinese on the other; because the Chinese are certain to riot, and they will be right to riot." One of the proposals of the French was to turn a native burial ground into an abattoir. If a riot breaks out in the East you never know where it is going to stop. I was not uncivil to the French. I said that I did not believe the chivalrous French nation really meant it, and that 796 the demand was only an exuberance of feeling which obtains occasionally in all nations. What could the French do? They could not bombard Shanghai. I do not know whether the Viceroy took my advice or not, but all I know is that the French did not get anything, and that the French Consul said if it had not been for "ce sacré Beresford" he would have got all he wanted. Han-kau is in my humble opinion the most important city in China. It is the Chicago of the future. It will have the rail head from north to south, and it has got great waterways. Our interests in Hankau are very small compared with the interests of France and Russia. They got all they could. They have taken our property and put it into their own concessions, notwithstanding that our Foreign Office stated that no British property was to go into a Russian concession without the consent of the owners. But what about the property of Messrs. Greaves and Co., Messrs. Evans and Pugh, Mr. Jardine, and Mr. Sassoon? I said to Mr. Pugh, "Don't make a row about it, but you must be very ill and you must put on your night - clothes and be carried out by Cossacks, and you will see the British public will take the question up." (Laughter.) Hon. Members appear to think there is some joke in that, but I think that it is a very serious thing indeed, and I bring it forward to show that the Foreign Office and the Government are not taking those steps for the protection of British property which the owners have a right to expect. I was again asked my advice. I said, "Put a fence around your property" but the others said, "The Russians will pull it down." I said, "Let them pull it down 40 times; then you will have something to go on." I believe my advice was sound, and I hope my right hon. friend will tell us what happened to Mr. Pugh's property and the other properties. I should like to say a few words about the railway question. Everyone recognises that railways are the greatest civilising agencies any country can have. I should be delighted if other countries constructed railways in China, or anywhere else where we convey our trade, provided they did not put on a differential tariff. But let us remember this about Chinese railways. We talk about British railways in China. There is no such thing. There are 797 railways in China which have been built with British capital, but they are Chinese railways under Chinese administration, Chinese responsibility, and Chinese protection. But the Russian railways are altogether different. They are put down avowedly for strategical purposes, and they are under Russian supervision, Russian administration, and Russian protection. That is a very different thing from the so-called British railways, and if we have trouble with Russia, it will be greatly to our disadvantage to have the railways in the position I have described. With regard to Northern China we have not a single atom of counterpoise to Russian influence, which is increasing every day. As I have already pointed out, Russia has refused to put in any clause stating that she will not put on differential rates on her railways, and it is absolutely child's play to imagine she will not when her position is strong enough. One word about the condition of China itself. There appears to be an opinion in this country that China is utterly and completely rotten. I entirely deny that. I was most careful to go around everywhere. I saw all the big people in China except two. I visited six out of eight Viceroys, and I lost no opportunity of paying my respects to every big man I could. I found that the Chinese people are an honest and hardworking and thrifty people. There is not a more honest lot of traders in any country in the world than in China. I went to all the banks and I asked questions, and every single banker said that the Chinaman's word was as good as his bond. It is the system that is corrupt, and it is the system that breeds corruption. is there any man in this Committee who would govern 70, 40, or 20 millions of people for a salary of £180 a year? The officials must be paid somehow, and the system plays on one of the worst passions of the human race. There are many excellent, splendidly patriotic, and honest men in China, but they are obliged to squeeze by the system. And yet many of the Mandarins and Viceroys are poor, though many more are very rich. But it is the fault of the system, and to say that the Chinese as a nation are corrupt is not right, especially when it is said by as chivalrous a country as this generally is on questions of this character. As to the question of troops, the Chinese would 798 make a splendid army. Their acts of heroism are very creditable, and when they are paid and fed and clothed properly they stick to their commanders, and are absolutely fearless on the battlefield. If the Chinese Army were taken over, as I suggest, it would be as fine an army as any in the world. The idea that it would be difficult to put China right is not accurate. It would be easier to put it right than Japan, and I will tell you why. In Japan you have vested interests, feudal interests, and a religion. In China you have nothing of the kind. In China there are no vested interests. A Viceroy or a general is only three years in a position, and no one knows who is to succeed him. Again, there are no feudal interests whatever, and as for religion, the Chinese worship their ancestors, which is a religion that does not produce that fanaticism which other religions induce. Therefore, if we asked Russia and France to help us in recognising the Chinese Army exactly on the lines of the Maritime Customs, I believe it would be the salvation of China's power. There is one serious point with regard to China, and that is that in pursuing the policy we are pursuing now we shall be absolutely certain to drive China and Japan into the arms of Russia; and where shall we be then? That is the position we are certain to get into. The Chinese say to themselves, "Here are two great Powers, one who is not afraid to fight if necessary, and another win, is." One of the Chinese Mandarins said to me: "Your country is like an old man who has made all his money and wants to keep it, and is afraid of running any, risk by which he may lose it. Is it not better for us to throw ourselves into the arms of Russia, and trust her, rather than trust to you, our old friend, who are now trying to break us up? "What do the Government at this moment trust to? So far as I cart make out they are trusting to the Peace Conference. I have a great respect for the theoretical part of the Peace Conference, but for the practical result I have none. The essential thing for Russia at the present moment is peace. Russia knew our country would take any step and make every effort in the direction of peace, and knew that we would go to the Peace Conference, and therefore it was that it was proposed. Why will not our people he practical, and instead of looking 799 at theoretical sentiments look at the practical position? What has Russia done within a few weeks before the Peace Conference? In the last two years she has sent 22,000 troops through the Suez Canal to China, 22,000 more than she has brought back, and she has added 9,000,000 tons to her fleet. Here is the point—are we to Relieve all the assurances that are given to us by a country which cannot even keep the promises she makes to her own people? What is the case of Finland? The Finnish army is altogether 9,600, 5,600 with the colours and 4,000 in the reserve, and Russia promised that it should not be increased. Now it is to be run up to 125,000 in order to replace the troops that have gone out to Manchuria, and those which are going. The Coronation oath of 1889 promised that the Army should be increased no further, and that no Finnish troops were ever to be brought out of Finland. Now they are not only to serve in Russia, but Finland is to pay the whole of the expense, in spite of promises made in the Coronation oath of 1889. Let us look at the facts; we need not be rude, but let us look at the facts. What I think about the Government position is this. I quite admit that the problem is immense and very difficult, and I will work with all my heart and soul to keep the peace, but if we are going on as we are going on now we must drift into war, and when we do we shall find ourselves at a disadvantage. I think if we show true courage in this matter, and having stated our views are prepared to back them up, we shall have peace. I do not believe Russia can fight at this moment. That is my opinion. We do not want rashness, we want true courage, and if we attempt to tide over great difficulties, and do not attempt to solve them, we are certain to enlarge the difficulties. The Government can condemn my suggestions and my policy, but they cannot deny obvious facts with regard to Russia and our danger in China. We have had enough of this policy of drift, or what I may call a "pipe down" policy. We drifted into the Crimean war, the Egyptian war, and into the Soudan war. If the Government had only listened to the man in command then—I allude to General Gordon—we should have had none of the Soudan war, and none of the expenses which it has entailed. Let 800 us not drift into another Chinese war, let us have a definite policy, and let us have the policy put before the country itself with resolute courage. We need not he rude; things can be done in a conciliatory manner; but let us let other countries know what we are going to do, and then let us do it.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I do not think there will be any difference of opinion among members of the Committee as to the character of the speech we have just heard from my noble friend. We always listen to my noble friend with the greatest possible interest in this House. He has spoken this evening with his usual wit, with a great deal of imagination, and with an intimate knowledge, from his own standpoint, of the subject on which he has addressed us. I must say, on behalf of the Government, that I think we owe him some gratitude in this respect, that, unlike some Members who attack the Government—and I think we must treat my noble friend's speech as having been almost from first to last an attack, certainly one of criticism and attack—he endeavours to look at the question of China as a whole. He has a policy of his own, and is quite ready to take responsibility in regard to it. So far, we are entirely in favour of the way in which my noble friend has treated the subject, and we are grateful to him for the valuable statistical information he has compiled, and we feel that in his visit to China he did a great deal of good. First of all, he very much impressed the official classes with his own personality, and, secondly, he diffused around him, especially among the merchants—who, he told us, were very much in need of it—that cheerfulness and geniality which he always diffuses, whether he speaks in this House or outside. The cardinal point in my hon. friend's speech was the one item of commerce. My noble friend told us more than once in the course of his speech that he was making a commercial speech. I confess I thought that in many parts of his speech he was uncommonly near leaving the department over which my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade presides and calling in at the department of War. My noble friend made a fighting speech, full of strategy from beginning to end. He carried that out even in China, when he advised the man who was going to be evicted to put on his nightshirt and 801 become ill. But he did in China exactly what he has done to-night. He arrived in China with the undoubted countenance and confidence of the Chambers of Commerce. He announced himself in every place that he visited as having come on a purely commercial mission. But the fighting spirit, the old Adam, is very strong in my noble friend. Before he had been in China four days he had begun upon the most crucial question he could attack. He arrived on October 16. He visited the Yamê on October 20, and, as he tells us in his admirably compiled work, four-fifths of his first conversation was entirely spent in advising the Yamên as to a complete reorganisation of their army. At their second meeting, apparently leaving all commercial questions on one side, they went into the question of reorganising the army, and the Yamên offered. him 2,000 men to experiment upon. I notice that those 2,000 men were not those who were massed near the capital, but were in more or less distant provinces thought which they thought my noble friend was likely to go into after some period of time. By a natural sequence of thought he told them that the central Government was very weak, and might require to be supported. I have sometimes thought whether these conversations did not somewhat interfere with the commercial mission of my hon. friend. But in the East an army is not always considered from the point of view of defence from invaders, but is looked upon more as an admirable instrument for carrying on an arbitrary government comfortably within. (Hear, hear.) During the rest of his tour my noble friend gradually lost more and more of his commercial surroundings.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
When he arrived in the Yang-tsze Valley—I am sure he will not deny this—he was received with almost royal honours. He travelled in a Chinese man-of-war; he was saluted by the forts and by the fleets; the streets were kept clear for him by foot-soldiers; cavalry were massed for his reception; Viceroys received him bowing and with proper reverence for his exalted rank and the mission on which he had come. Through all this circumstance and pomp my noble friend went forward with all the consciousness of commercial predominance. The idea of certain Orientals is that the greater reception you give a man, the 802 more cordially you agree to his advice, the sooner he will be apt to remove his somewhat dangerous personality from their district to that of somebody else. He received magnificent receptions, But I am afraid that, when he tells the Government that they have indulged in big words and have only got small results, I must retort on him that, although the reception of his advice was almost unlimited, the results which have come from it have hitherto been almost nil. And, although that does not in the least derogate from the position he has a right to take in this House, I think we must admit that in China my noble friend's mission, so far as the advancing of our trade is concerned, did not go very far. But he came back with a series of proposals which he desires the Government should discuss seriously. He says that capital is insecure in China. He tells us that the central Government must be supported and the army reorganised, that the open door must be kept open, and that these spheres of influence are of no use; and, above all, that in all this there is a great loss of British prestige. Now, Sir, what does my noble friend propose? I do not wish to occupy the House at great length, but what he proposes is practically a complete change of the whole government of China.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
I beg your pardon. I do mot wish Great Britain to undertake the government of China, but the reorganisation of the military and police, so that there may be some security for our trade.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Yes, but in his speeches elsewhere and the work he has contributed to literature, what he has asked for is not the reorganisation of the army and police only, but a reorganisation of the fiscal system of China. If there is any doubt about it, I can quote from his book. How are you to raise an army and carry on the police in all these districts which are not under control from Pekin? How can you reorganise the Whole fiscal system, provide roads, posts, and telegraphs, unless you are going to take under your control the government of China? There are three ways of doing it—either by standing behind China and regulating her present Government; adopting my noble friend's plan, and joining other Powers in putting pressure on China; or 803 taking the matter into our own hands. In his speech at Hong-kong the noble Lord said that in his view the future of China depended on an alliance between the United States, Germany, England, and Japan to preserve the integrity of China and the open door. Now he says France and Russia can join if they like. But he said Russia was not to be relied upon, and the policy of France was opposed to our own.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Now as regards the government of China through the Yamên. He says nothing is easier. His speeches teem with cases which show the weakness and inertness of the present Government in China. He tells us that the greater part of the administration in China is carried out by the Viceroys without, regard to the. central Government. The noble Lord said that in the war with Japan the Chinese Army was made up to a large extent of men armed with obsolete weapons and men for whom weapons could not be found. How are we to deal with these abuses unless we interfere in almost every portion of Chinese local and imperial life? Take the question of likin. If you are to adopt fiscal reforms in China, you must deal not only with the Customs, but with the likin at present exacted in the inland districts. Thanks to the efforts of Sir Claude Macdonald in getting the transit pass system enforced, goods coming from outside are, by one payment, free from the extortion to which they might be subject in the inland waters of China. It actually pays a Chinaman better at this moment on the Yang-tsze or the West river to export his goods and pay the cost of export and import, and pay duty both on export and import, and then pay the transit pass duty (12½per cent.) rather than send them straight from one inland town to another paying the likin. To change this system would be to make a complete change in the whole fiscal system of provincial administration in China. I do not say it ought not to be attempted, but for foreigners to attempt it, and not the Chinese Government, would probably be an impossible operation; and when the noble Lord spoke of the Government of China two or three times as easy, as compared with Japan, I think he 804 has not grasped the greatness of the problem with which he has to deal. What are the attempts you can make by means of other Powers? In the first place, what other Powers are you to invite? He spoke of Germany, the United States, and Japan. What inducements can you offer to a country like Germany to come into such an arrangement? If you could obtain a concert of all the Powers interested in China you might do a great deal. We have had experience of the concert of Europe in Crete. The House knows how long it has taken to obtain a general concert of the Powers in regard to the administration of Crete. Remember that any attempt of any kind in China must be made, as the noble Lord has pointed out, by Powers whose views are absolutely divergent, some having an interest in the "open door," others in obtaining a sovereignty over the spheres in which they have an interest. He does not believe in Russia and her policy, or France, but severely attacks them, and I think he is over-sanguine when he states the United States would join, since the only evidence we have from him here is that while in the United States he received no encouragement to believe they would join. Germany is one of the Powers that might have a great interest in China, but she has a much greater interest in not joining. To ask a Continental Power to join in an alliance for special operations in the East, from which her two nearest European neighbours are debarred by policy or some other reason, is in itself a most unwise operation. Surely the reply of Germany would be that her interest in Europe is a thousand times as great as any that she has in Asia, and she would not undertake any business in company with three Powers, two of whom, not being European Powers, are not able to influence to the same extent the course of European events. The noble Lord says he desires to see Great Britain use every effort to maintain the "open door." But if he wants it kept open I very much doubt whether he has shown absolute wisdom in so constantly pointing out the advantages we shall gain and the disadvantages other Powers must have by maintaining the open door. I think the policy of the open door, so long as we can make it good under the treaties, is one to which we must unflinchingly adhere. But, at the same time, if we want to obtain 805 assistance in that respect, I am not sure that the open manner in which he speaks of it is the way to obtain it. We have only a third alternative—that Great Britain should undertake the task alone. He does not suggest that, but it has been suggested over and over again in this House that our representations to the Yamên should be treated as demands from which we cannot recede—that we alone of all Powers should press requests on the Yamên, which requests should be practically orders. If any other Power receives any advantage against which we protest, we are diplomatically beaten, but anything we ask must be granted. What position does that put us in? It puts us in the position of claiming for ourselves what other Powers have, and for asking, not only concessions in the Yang-tsze Valley and basin—our special spheres of interest, but equal advantages throughout the rest of China. If we are to do that, we have to discover first how we are to retain these concessions when obtained. The first thing that would happen would be that an enormous force would be needed to occupy a railway being made against the will of a portion of the population. In Manchuria Russia supplies that force, because she has some 120,000 Russians there. How is it to be supposed we could maintain the necessary force to protect concessions throughout China? We must act in this respect through the Yamên, if at all, and with the assent of the Chinese people. For us to attempt to govern China against the wishes of the Chinese people and with the open or occult hostility of other Powers interested in China, would be to undertake a responsibility which would be exhausting to the British Empire. It is asked, if we cannot, control the Chinese Government, how can we secure that British interests all over China are not lost. The position in which we stand in regard to that I will state frankly. We cannot make the Yang-tsze Valley a province like Shantung or Manchuria, first, because it is infinitely larger, and, secondly, we are not prepared to undertake the immense responsibility of governing what is practically a third of China. If we do not do that, how then, it is asked, tan you secure that you are not elbowed out completely? My noble friend has told us that all the treaties under which we hold concessions have been absolutely broken, but I do not think he is correct. Of course the pre- 806 sence of a large Russian force in Manchuria may cause him to say that if Russia closes the door we shall not be able to reopen it, but up to this moment the Treaty of Tien-tsin has been observed, and no door has been shut. Our trade goes wherever it has gone before, and even to places where it formerly did not go; and though my noble friend treats Russian promises as waste paper, we are bound to accept the assurances of Russian statesmen. No door has been closed, and, as regards access to the treaty ports in China, we hold the Chinese Government to the Treaty of Tien-tsin. We are ready to continue to do everything we diplomatically can to induce the Chinese Government to move forward for the benefit of the Chinese people. Upon this there will be no doubt in this country by those who have observed in the last eighteen months the immense amount of good that has been effected. New treaty ports have been opened, and we have promise of the inland waters being opened to steam navigation. In all cases where we have suffered loss from revolutionary movements we have been enabled to claim indemnity, and rioters have been punished, up to the last events in Hong-kong. It is therefore not to be assumed that diplomatic action in China is exhausted. The position as regards the Yang-tsze Valley is different. We have from the Chinese Government a promise not to alienate any portion of the provinces of the Yang-tsze to any foreign Power, and the Yang-tsze river is so far open that up to Nanking, 240 miles from the mouth, we are able to send, and are constantly sending, cruisers drawing up to 26 feet of water. Up to Han-kau, 600 miles from the mouth, we can and do send vessels drawing at high water 18½feet and at low water 10 feet. We have fourteen vessels of various types and four cruisers available to proceed to Han-kau, a town that may in future become the Chicago of China. A thousand miles upward from the mouth of the river we can send gunboats drawing 6ft. of water, and even beyond that distance there is open water if we succeed in passing through the gorges. Although we are not prepared to police the inland parts of China, we are prepared to patrol the Yang-tsze river in order to protect our trade, and we are quite aware of the immense preponderance 807 of British shipping and trade on the Yang-tsze. It is an essential part of the policy of the Government in the changes taking place in China that special protection for our trade in this region is assured, and we believe that that trade, large as it is, can be largely developed. At present it is hampered by every kind of restriction, and our efforts are directed to the removal of these difficulties. We are endeavouring to secure, and so far we have secured, that a full share of railway and mining concessions shall fall to British investors. Secondly, by means of transit passes we shall endeavour to provide that trade shall be free from undue taxation and exempted from likin. And thirdly, we are looking forward to the opening of inland waters besides the Yang-tsze and ports that are not now treaty ports to trade. In all these matters we must recognise the control of the Yamên, but that does not appear sufficient to properly protect our trade except in the large centres, and although we will not undertake to relieve the Yamên from the responsibility for the internal government of China, looking to the magnitude of the interests involved, we are not prepared to allow our trade to suffer. We propose, therefore, as regards the Yang-tsze Valley, to proceed as follows. We hold the Chinese Government to their undertaking not to alienate any of the provinces in the Yang-tsze basin to any other Power, and to permit the extension of the Burma railway into Yun-nan, which will connect us with Chunking, whenever British investors desire to make it—that is to say, whenever we demand the extension the Chinese Government will fulfil their pledge. We regard the improvement of the gorges of the Yang-tsze as a question, under arrangement with the Chinese Government, for British engineers. Experiments are shortly to be tried. We have at prose at three gun-boats on the Yang-tsze river, besides such men-of-war as may be at Shanghai. We shall keep what force is considered necessary between I-chang and the mouth of the Yang-tsze, and we shall consider whether gunboats can be maintained above the gorge at L-chang. These measures will be purely precautionary, and it will be understood they are taken with the object of giving security to our merchants and traders. My noble friend has raised a very important question as 808 to how far we are diverging from the open door policy to the policy of spheres of influence. I, however, put the question rather differently, and I deny, On behalf of the Government, that we have abandoned the one policy or adopted the other; but 1 do say that I think the events of the last eighteen months should have taught any man who had studied what is going on in China that the method of carrying on operations and negotiations with foreign Powers interested in China by a duel in which the Yamên is the centre, receiving shots from both sides, is not altogether a desirable one. I do not think for a moment that we can regard the Yamên as a Quantité négligeable; they are the Government of China in all matters concerning concessions to one Power or another, and it is necessary to go to them and take their authority; but I do think that the late recent Agreement with Russia, upon which my noble friend has been extremely severe, is not only a valuable Agreement but is in itself a happy augury for the future. My noble friend says Lord Salisbury had a diplomatic laugh at the Agreement, and said it had shrunk to modest dimensions, but knowing as I do how Bard at work my noble friend has been since his return from China I am not surprised that he did not read the Blue Book with greater care. A few pages beyond he may see that Count Muravieff undertook an ex tension which has been carried out, and the expanded Agreement is that neither Power will ask for concessions in the sphere of the other or oppose a concession asked for by its neighbour. That is an important change, for it goes to the bottom of our, policy and desire to come to terms with our opponents as to what is fair and just on both sides. Nobody supposes we can get a monopoly of the trade all over China: our object, like my noble friend's, is to secure our fair share. Beyond the Agreement which we have made with Russia, within the last few days English capitalists have, by Agreement with Germany, arranged for the construction of a railway to Chiukiang, which passes through the German sphere of influence and our own—Germany constructing that part the railway in her sphere, and British capital constructing the more southern portion of the railway. Then we have the Agreement of 1896 with France in regard to the 809 Provinces of Szu-chuan and Yun-nan. The object of that Agreement is to establish that the two Powers have the same interest, and we have agreed that there shall be no monopoly of concession, and that no concession shall be given which will keep out the other Power from trade or other advantages. Well, if we are to proceed by agreement and not by fighting, then I think we must put aside, to some extent, the policy of distrust. I do not deny that there has been distrust on both sides, anal possibly legitimate distrust; at all events, we think so on our side. But is it desirable that every concession winch is given to another Power, however remote from us, should be quoted in this House and out of it as a distinct loss of prestige on our part? That is the line which is taken up very often as regards these concessions, the results of which are often found to be absolutely different from the brief telegraphed summary which first reaches us. I believe that there is not only distrust on both sides, but the very feeling which animates the more interested of our fellow countrymen in regard to What other Powers get in China is felt in regard to ourselves by other Powers, not only in respect of China, but of places almost all over the world. I read the foreign papers pretty closely, and I can say this, that you will hardly ever fail, in the course of a few days' reading, to find there the in-sinuation that, whether it is in Asia or Africa, wherever there is a scramble, we always manage to get the lion's share, not only in quantity, but We also generally contrive to get the tit-bits in quality. I am not sure, looking to the past history of Great Britain, that there is not some truth in that contention, and that from having been on the spot much earlier than other Powers, and having pushed our trade When trade was not so popular as it is now, we have obtained great advantages. But the past on either side is beyond recall, and if we are to have a new departure we must make it by dealing with doubtful questions in an amicable spirit, and by endeavour to arrive at the conclusion that a fair compromise is not a bad bargain. In reference to what has fallen from my noble friend with regard to the railway proposed by Russia to Pekin, I do not think, although it has been stated in the papers that the Russian Government demanded a railway to 810 Pekin, that there is any truth in it, and I doubt whether any such demand has ever been made. But the Russian Government have a right, under their Agreement, to run railway branch lines in a south-westerly direction, if they cart get such concession from the Yamên. Questions have been put to me On various occasions recently as to the effect of the railway connecting the Manchurian railway with Pekin, and the view winch Her Majesty's Government would take of such an undertaking. I think I have made it sufficiently clear that Her Majesty's Government are inclined, as a general principle, to welcome any railways, by whomsoever established, or any operations on the inland waters of China which tend to open up China to the general trade and the commercial enterprise of the world. But the case of Pekin is undoubtedly different. Pekin is the seat of Government, and from Pekin edicts conveying utterances which are held to be semi-inspired are sent forth to nearly 400 millions of people. It would be certainly difficult for any of the Powers who are interested in China to acquiesce in the establishment in Pekin of a single great Power as a voice behind the Throne. Such a position would inevitably tend to the break up of China. It is obivious that if the edicts of Pekin were to be dictated by any one Power the tendency would be for the other Powers, who have spheres of influence, to turn those spheres of influence into spheres of sovereignty. This would be a result especially distasteful to Great Britain, which does not desire to obtain further territorial acquisition or a continental frontier, but which, at the same time, as we all know, has great commercial interests Which we have no intention of surrendering. It is, therefore, in no spirit of jealousy, but simply in the general interest of China, that We must declare that we should be forced to advise the Chinese Government against any steps calculated to transfer the Government at Pekin to any other Power. Our position in this matter is very clear, because the issues are great. The proposal that has been offered to us this evening in my noble friend's speech might, if carried unit, place us in that position to which I have referred, for if we were to control the army and the taxes we should not be far short of controlling the Government. Put let me say. one word before I sit down as to the difficulties which the Government have to 811 face in dealing with this question. There is in this country great impatience at the delay, and a feeling which has found an echo in this House that the results achieved in China are very imperfect. I neither wonder at the one view nor cavil at the other. I think we ought to remember that Western methods are very different from those to which the Chinese are accustomed. You are dealing with superstitions and with the natural waste of energy of an Oriental Government which has undergone very little change in the course of many hundreds of years. You have mountains of prejudice to overcome and valleys of misgovernment to fill up, and in respect to this very policy which I have just sketched to the House it is one which ties our hands behind our backs. Consequently, there must be delays. In modern times there are two great Empires which have either broken up or are in the process of breaking up; the first has been dealt with by Europe, and the second has been dealt with by ourselves. In Turkey, for fifty years past, there has been held to be symptoms of inability on the part of Turkey to govern its provinces and to carry out the reforms which are demanded by Western civilisation. The Powers of Europe have addressed themselves to the task more than once or twice, and what has been the result? After 50 years some provinces have been detached from Turkey, but we can hardly say that the realms over which the Sultan bears sway are to-day administered in accordance with Western civilisation. We have ourselves experimented in a similar way with the great Empire of India, which is certainly not so extensive as China, has not so large a population, and is less homogeneous; but it is in Sonic respects an easier task, because the complex nature of its population has made it more open to foreign invasion. In the course of some 140 years, however, we cannot see the end of our task in India, and there is still much to be desired there. Therefore I say, considering the great changes which have taken place in China not in 50 or 100 years or in 50 or 100 months, but in a period of much nearer 50 or 100 weeks since the first great change began when foreigners commenced to take any control of various spheres of influence in China—I do not think that what has been done since that time a question either for impatience or still 812 less for despair. On the contrary, I contend that the progress which has been made during the last 18 months is one calculated to give us confidence and hope. We have obtained the rights to open up the country, and we have also obtained from the Chinese Government the power to carry out extensions of our trade, and I hope that we shall not altogether waste our time and energy in struggles between the Powers who are carrying out this great work, but rather that we shall unite and work together not for the benefit of one country but for the benefit of all countries concerned. We have had very many other questions brought forward to-night, one of which has been a matter of severe comment by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. The right hon. Gentleman says that the incident of the slaughter of British soldiers at Waima was one in which we conspicuously failed, and for which we deserved the severest censure of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman has continually applied to us such language in connection with Madagascar and also in connection with the minor difficulties we have had with the French Government. I notice that from time to time he has entirely ignored the replies which have been made to him on previous occasions. In the case of Madagascar, which was brought forward by him upon a previous occasion, the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs made him a very complete answer. Although I am not going to debate this question now, I may say that these difficulties have arisen out of arrangements which Lord Granville was responsible for making, and therefore, if these incidents are to be made points of attack between one Government and another, I say that the Government to which the right hon. Gentleman owes allegiance must bear its full shave of responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman renewed all these attacks the other clay on an occasion when I must say that I think Ins speech was positively grotesque. The right hen. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, speaking in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, made a speech full of the highest anti-imperial sentiments, and complained of the number of questions raised in every part of the world, and urged the Government of Lord Salisbury not to be carried away by the entrancing 813 vision of Imperialism. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean got up directly afterwards, and, by way of comment on his leader and colleague, proceeded to say that Lord Salisbury was not half Imperialist enough, and was constantly neglecting Imperial interests in all parts of the world. The right hon. Gentleman also said that if we had a more vigorous Foreign Minister we should occupy a better position than we do now. As to the point of which the right hon. Gentleman complains, I do not want it to be supposed for a moment that I speak with any want of sympathy with regard to this unfortunate assault made by the French, in pure ignorance, I believe, of the circumstances. But at the same time, without in any way admitting that they are not to blame, and without in the slightest degree detracting from what occurred, I will say that certainly nobody is less to blame than Lord Salisbury for compensation tint having been given. The right hon. Gentleman himself stated that one suggestion after another had been made as to how the question should be treated—first, that we should deal with it as part of a general settlement, and, secondly, that it should be dealt with alone. Her Majesty's Government have, up to the last few days, been pressing this matter upon the attention of the Government of France, and we have the strongest hope that it will be brought to arbitration and duly settled. The fact that officers serving their country in West Africa have been subjected to attacks of that character, and have been killed, will hardly justify us in asking that their widows should be treated differently from those of other officers who have also been killed in action, because they were on duty at the time. We must consider what is fair and just, and if we can obtain from the French Government proper satisfaction for this unfortunate occurrence—I mean pecuniary satisfaction—we shall, of course, be only too glad to give the relatives of those officers the compensation which they seek.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
Will the right hon. Gentleman state the date of the last reply from the French Government?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
A great deal has been done by verbal communication and not by despatch, and I cannot give the exact date. The other questions touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman I may perhaps be excused from going into at this moment. He suggested that if the local details are under discussion in regard to Muscat, it is very curious that the foreign Office should not have been able to produce the papers. The local details are under discussion, and have been under discussion, as to what shall be done with regard to the coal store which the French desire to have in Muscat. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is impossible to give the papers until the negotiations have been brought to an end. When they are brought to an end we shall be able to make a statement to the House. I am afraid that I have detained the Committee for too long a period, but in doing so I have had to travel over the whole of our policy in China. I can only say this, that we are most anxious to take Parliament into our confidence upon all questions relating to China. We know that it is a great strength to us to have the House of Commons behind us in this matter, and I trust that the House of Commons will appreciate the difficulties which we have to face, that they will not conceive it possible at the same time to treat amicably with foreign Powers and to begrudge them anything which they may obtain which may be of a valuable nature; that they will not see in the concessions made in the nature of compromise that lack of courage which my noble friend suggests, but that they will credit us with resolutely pressing forward on a diplomatic course, but with sufficient support behind us, I think, from what has been achieved, to justify us in believing that in the future, by perseverance, by persistence, by watchfulness, and above all, by patience, we shall be able to preserve British commercial interest. in China.
§ SIR E. GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
This debate, I am sure the Committee will feel, has already been sufficiently interesting, and there are probably other Members, with special knowledge on this important subject, who will 815 greatly add to its interest. I shall not stand for very long between the Committee and those who wish to speak after me. Some things that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said, I think, will make my task both a shorter and a pleasanter one than perhaps it would have been if he had been more reticent. I will first begin by expressing my obligation to the noble Lord the Member for York, both for his book and for his speech. Not that I agree with everything that he has written or has said, but he has brought into this question a brisk and keen interest which, I think, is thoroughly wholesome. In all these questions it is a great relief to have the drudgery of collecting statistics done by someone else, and the noble Lord has performed that drudgery and enabled us to have a most valuable book of reference at hand. I am glad to feel, too, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the very. important statement which he made with regard to the Government's view of what might he done in China, has made a great advance in definiteness upon anything we have heard before. It has been a much more definite and businesslike statement, and as far as it went it was, I think, entirely in the right direction. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to have reaffirmed again that a cardinal part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government is the independence of the Government at Pekin. I understood one part of his speech to be devoted to reaffirming that in set terms. Well, we are all agreed that that is very desirable; but a condition of the independence of the Government at Pekin is that it should be able to keep order in its own country. If no other foreign country is to step in and exercise a predominant influence at Pekin, they must hot have excuses for interference. But hardly a month passes without our hearing that some demand is made at Pain for compensation be sonic foreign Power because the Chinese Government has not kept its local officials and populace under control in different parts of that great country. It is essential, if the Government at pain is to remain independent and grow stronger, that, though it may be difficult for it to adopt Western methods, it is absolutely necessary that it should learn to approach more to Western methods than it has yet done. And I cannot help 816 feeling that if the policy of the independence of the Chinese Government in its own house is to be preserved, it was rather unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should have to spend so much time in showing with great force the difficulties which attached to the policy advocated by the noble Lord the Member for York. The noble Lord has put forward as a policy the strengthening of the Government at Pekin, and he has stated a method by which he thinks it might be attained. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out with great force how difficult it would be to adopt these methods, and I fully recognise the great force there was in the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman as to sonic of the practical parts of the recommendations of the noble Lord. I assume that, though we cannot undertake obligations and responsibilities beyond a certain point, we should at any rate be perfectly ready to lend our advice and even to lend personnel to the Chinese Government if they would only ask for it and say that it was willing to make fair use of that advice and give a fair chance to such advisers as we lent. Apart from those points I differ entirely from the noble Lord with regard to the policy of having an agreement with Russia. I willingly recognise that in carrying out this agreement with Russia Her Majesty's Government have our sympathy, that we give them full credit for the earnestness that they have shown to bring the negotiations to some satisfactory conclusion, and I will go further and say that they have our sympathy in the trouble which they have evidently had in coming to any conclusion at all. The noble Lord the Member for York says this Agreement is not worth anything. I differ from that, view entirely. He thinks it is not worth anything, because he thinks Russia will not keep that or any Agreement. Of course, if there is to he had faith on the part of any Government with whom we are closely concerned in Chinese affairs, there will be trouble. But the Agreement does remove one chance of trouble; it brings affairs to this point, especially if it is followed up by extending the scope of the Agreement to other matters—that if there is trouble, it is trouble entered upon deliberately by one of the two parties to the agreement. At least one of the dangers of which we have been most afraid is that of causing trouble between Russia and our own 817 country in the Far East, and as the two Powers Were drifting in the same direction, it would take very careful steering to avoid their coming into collision, and apparently there was no communication going on between them, no interchange of views as to what their respective courses were. The only way in which a collision in the Far East between Russia and ourselves can be avoided is by frank communication as to the course which each country believes it to be in its own interest to take. I believe that, if frank communication takes place trouble will be avoided, because the interests of the two countries can be mutually reconciled. I therefore welcome this Agreement, not so much for what is contained within the four corners of it, but because it is the beginning of a policy of frank communication between the two countries, and because at last we are getting into the habit of discussing matters directly with each other instead of through the Government at Pekin, which must be an unsafe thing to do. But although the Government have my sympathy in the trouble that they have encountered, I think it is partly their own fault that they have had so much tremble, because in order to get an agreement with Russia you have to overcome prejudices naturally created, at any rate in a large section of Russian politicians, by 50 years of previous policy. You have to overcome that prejudice in order to bring them to an agreement at all, and you have to convince them first of all of our good faith, and to convince them that it is to their own interest to have an agreement. When our ships were at Port Arthur, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said to-night, and when the suggestion was first made that we should move our ships, we had the greatest opportunity that could possibly have been brought to us of persuading Russia, first of all, that we meant to deal fairly by her, and, next, that it was to her own interest to deal with us. That point, I know, has been made several times before, but it has never yet been answered. It has sometimes been misrepresented, as if we had urged that Her Majesty's Government should have kept the ships at Port Arthur, and should have told Russia that it was done in order to prevent her ever having an outlet to the sea. We never meant them to be used in that way. We 818 regarded this opportunity which came to us at Port Arthur as a great lever for removing the dead weight of suspicion, of reluctance, and of indecision which the Russians have shown towards us, and if you throw away a lever of that kind you find the task very much harder than it would otherwise have been and the results proportionately less. All through these negotiations there have been continual delays, but I do not think they are to be entirely attributed to suspicion. Some of the delays were due to genuine geographical ignorance on the part of those who were actively engaged in the negotiations on both sides. But if the Russians were suspicious, that was not very unnatural; because, as I understand, their object was that they should have a free hand in Manchuria, free from the interference of other Powers with their aims there. At the very time when we were pressing for a settlement with them on the point, we were also pressing a claim for a railway to be made by British capital to go into their sphere of interest in Manchuria. I am not surprised that when they found us advancing these two apparently inconsistent aims at the same tune they should think that we had some ulterior object in view. The whole history of the case enforces what was well said. that the negotiations should be direct, and that we should not, have two Powers, one and the other, bombarding Pekin, without entering into negotiations with each other; that they should not each have two opposite policies in mind, and that the actions of the representatives of each should be consistent. If I were to make a criticism as to the lesson to be learned by the Russian Government from the negotiations, I should say that it was that it should be more careful that the action taken by its representative at Pekin should correspond to the action at St. Petersburg. The policy of not letting the right hand know what the left is doing may be justifiable in certain circumstances; but, it has been carried too far. But now that the British Government have shown their wish to discuss the matter in St. Petersburg, both the Governments should lie careful that the action of their agents at Pekin should correspond with the action in St. Petersburg. I welcome that agreement both for its own sake and for what it promises in the future. As to our own special sphere of interest, the Yang-tsze region, we are all agreed 819 that we do not wish to have more territorial responsibility in China—the responsibility of governing a vast extent of territory, and large masses of people. To my mind, one of the great dangers of spheres of interest is that they are so liable to bring with them direct obligations of a grave character, and that is why I especially welcome the policy of the Government in regard to the Yang-tsze. To patrol that great means of communication is within our power, without incurring any serious responsibility. It is likely to be more important and more effective, and to involve far less expense for the advancement of our rights in China, than the taking of Wei-hai-wei. I welcome these proposals of the Government, not merely because I believe they would be beneficial to British trade and British traders in the Yang-tsze region, but because the Government, in pursuing that line of policy, are giving one of the best guarantees they can give that they are not pursuing a far more burdensome line of policy. Indeed, the Government have never made any secret that they are anxious to avoid territorial responsibility in China. But one thing occurs to my mind, and that is that we should not merely have a definition of the region of the Yang-tsze. If the Chinese have promised the non-alienation of that region, it is a concession that must not be made on paper only. If the Yang-tsze region is to remain the special happy hunting ground for British commerce, it is necessary that British capital should take advantage of the opportunities for investment offered by that region. What I have been a little afraid of is, that the Government have been devoting an undue amount of energy to other demands; that they are pressing for concessions in Kiang-Si—concessions in districts out of our reach, districts that are not approached by the river or waterway of the Yangtsze, and where, if British capital were invested, and there were disturbances, we should find it difficult to obtain redress. Less effort should have been devoted to concessions further north, such as in the case of the Newchwang Railway, which caused a great deal of diplomatic inconvenience, and which certainly cannot lead to any very great development of commerce, except in that sphere of influence in the north in which Russia is to have a free hand. The importance of the railway concessions has not always been 820 admitted by Lord Salisbury in his speeches, and I think that there is some colour for the suggestion that Lord Salisbury has sometimes given the impression that we are exaggerating their importance. But, after all, railway concessions are important, for although the railways are riot to be made at once, it is not likely to facilitate the making of the railways by urging that that is to he done by British capital alone. Then comes in the question of preferential rates. It appears from both the Blue Books that we have not made any great progress in regard to its settlement. I think on all these questions in regard to China that, although the Government have demurred to our criticism, we are entitled to say, considering everything that has happened hitherto, our criticism has not been exaggerated; but, on the contrary, has been exceedingly restrained. After all, this is not merely a battle of concessions. There has been a great change of late in the balance of influence and power in the Far East, and I have from time to time wondered how far the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman put before us to-night would have been accepted as satisfactory if we had been sitting on that side of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman had been sitting on the Opposition side of the House. I admit that many of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were restrained in their criticism when the Liberal Government was in office; but I am afraid, Sir, that the state of incandescence to which some hon. Members on the other side would have been heated had we made an agreement of this kind with Russia, handing over Manchuria as their sphere of interest, would have been such that it would have been very difficult for their own leaders to appease them, even if they had made every effort in their power to do so. But we do not wish to make any criticism which would bring this China question into an active and prominent position in party politics. Only we have felt that the importance of the question made it necessary that the policy of the Government should be characterised, as the noble Lord the Member for York said, by clearness of thought and decisive action. And our uneasiness of late has been due to the fact that where the action of the Government has been decisive it has not been the result of clearness of thought. At the very moment when 821 they were themselves anxious to enter on a policy of giving Russia a free hand its railway making, they took decisive action in regard to the Newchwang Railway; but we do not consider that that was the result of any carefully thought out policy. Again, if they were anxious to make arrangements with Russia for an understanding, it was late in the day when they tried to obtain that understanding, and only after they had lost the best opportunity for doing so. The policy of the Government a year ago was to maintain not only the independence of China, but its integrity as well; and yet, since then, very serious inroads have been made on the integrity of China. The very basis of this Agreement is an inroad on the integrity of China. Then there is the policy of the open door. That formerly included the right to press for concessions, but of late a certain amount of limitation has been put on it, and we have had to modify the right to press for such concessions in every part of the Chinese Empire. I confess I am not so hopeless as the noble Lord the Member for York in regard to the policy of the open door. I regret the noble Lord should have assumed that it is to the interest of Russia and France to have preferential tariffs in their spheres of influence. On the contrary, I do not believe that the experience of the French colonies shows that it is for their interest to have these high tariffs. Their experience has been that these high tariffs make any possession they obtain an expense to their own country. Although I do not see that it is possible to have anything like an alliance between the Powers interested in the Far East, there may come to be such at preponderance of opinion among them in favour of maintaining the open door in regard to tariffs as would lead to diplomatic pressure being brought to bear at Pekin to have portions of the Treaty of Tien-tsin applied in all parts of China. I consider the acquisition of Wei-hai-wei the most expensive part of the policy of the Government. Its acquisition was defended by Lord Salisbury not merely on naval grounds, but also, and even still more, on the ground that it would give moral courage to the Central Government at Pekin. I am still of opinion that the selection of Wei-hai-wei as a secondary naval base was wise, but I differ absolutely from the Government on the point that it would give moral 822 courage to the Central Government in Pekin. It has become perfectly apparent that it has not given that moral courage, and that it cannot do so, because it can never be regarded as a counterpoise to the consolidation of Russian power north of Pekin—a consolidation to which the new Agreement has given additional weight. Wei-hai-wei is occupied, and money is to be spent upon it, but it can never be a counterpoise to Russian influence in Pekin. All that the right hon. Gentleman has told us as to the plans of the Government about the patrolling the Yang-tsze River goes to prove that Wei-hai-wei is not the most satisfactory position which could have been chosen for practical purposes in respect to what is our great interest—the protection of British commerce in China. Well, we have had this anxiety with regard to what the Government has done, and We do not think that the best has been done: We think that some valuable opportunities have been lost in the course of past events; but I do welcome this Agreement with Russia for the sake of the relations between the two countries. I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night, as far as it goes, as a businesslike proposal, and one which is a considerable advance on, and more encouraging than, anything which has hitherto been heard of. In regard to the question of Madagascar, I think the right hon. Gentleman has gone too far in saying that Lord Salisbury's predecessors were responsible for what has taken place there. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are very apt to assume that the responsibility does lie on Lord Salisbury's predecessors for the present position of affairs in Madagascar. The recognition of the Protectorate took place in 1890. The right hon. Gentleman stated accurately that the notification of the Protectorate took place before 1890; but the recognition of the Protectorate had not taken place, and no action was taken in regard to it before 1890. The right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to assume that, because no protest had been made, Lord Salisbury was bound to make the bargain he did. My position is not that Lord Salisbury was wrong in recognising the Protectorate, but that the responsibility for the merits of the bargain in recognising the Protectorate is one that rests upon him and him alone, and that, With regard to What has happened since, the hands of succeed- 823 ing Governments have been tied by the actual terms of the bargain Lord Salisbury made in 1890. A great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said with reference to Waima appealed to me very strongly. It is undoubtedly a very hard case, and I would only say that, as far as we are concerned on this side of the House, the Government would have our sympathy and support in extending to it the most liberal treatment in their power. I know there have been great difficulties with regard to the case. I would like to raise again a point on this question which was referred to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, in connection with the payment of £10,000 at the request of the French Government for losses sustained by French missionaries in Uganda. The right hon. Baronet criticised very strongly our action in making that payment without having got compensation for what had taken place in Waima. It fell to me to defend the payment of that £10,000, and I submit that when Her Majesty's Government undertook to pay the £10,000 to the French missionaries, instead of insisting upon the British East Africa Company paying is, they did so because they were dealing with the question, not on what they believed to be the strict and narrow ground of legal right, but because they wished to approach it on generous grounds. When I had to defend the action of the Government in this House, my defence, was that there were two great countries, with very important questions and controversies between them, and it was not wise to haggle over smaller points; that especially a case like this, where views differ, and it was a question of money payment, should be dealt with on broad and generous lines. I think the Government chose the better and more magnanimous part in paying the £10,000. I wish the French Government could have taken the same view; and I hope, now that so much has been settled between the two Governments, the French Government may be able to isolate from their minds the payment of £10,000 which we made on their demand, though we were of opinion, and are still of opinion, that if the circumstances of the case had been strictly argued out, it was an exceedingly generous payment to have made. I trust that the result of this debate will be to impress upon the French Government how very similar, in the spirit in which it 824 may be treated, the claim with regard to Waima is to the claim they made on behalf of their own Catholic missionaries in Uganda.
§ *SIR E. SASSOON (Hythe)
I am moved to interpose in the debate by the reflection that any contribution, however slender, by the humblest member of the Committee, who happens to have sonic knowledge of China may be acceptable. I listened with unremitting interest and attention to the statement of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in regard to China, and it certainly seems to me to be a great advance upon former statements of policy Made by the Government. I was especially glad when the right hon. Gentleman said that Her Majesty's Government would strongly object to the removal of the capital from Pekin, and that they would hold the Chinese Government personally responsible for any alienation of territory in the Yang-tsze region. But I listened in vain for any statement as to whether my right hon. friend had in his mind any means of seeing that those engagements into which the Chinese Government have entered are to be fulfilled. Take the case of the Pekin and Hankow railway. While Her Majesty's Government were receiving assurances of non-alienation from the Chinese Government the present concessionaires of the railway cut in and obtain a contract for its construction in the very heart of our sphere of influence, and inferentially obtain exclusive rights over the whole of the land across which the railway would have to run. In regard to the revolt which took place in the Palace in Pekin, I deplore the countenance which was given by the famous tea party to the usurpation by the Dowager Empress of the Throne of die Emperor of China. If the information in our possession as to what was brewing fell short of enabling us to exercise some timely influence on behalf of the young Emperor, I submit that we ought certainly to have refrained from giving any colourable sanction to a regime which did not bode any good to China or to our own interests. I firmly believe that our Minister would have immensely increased his prestige and position if, cutting himself adrift from his colleagues in the Diplomatic body, he had abstained from acknowledging the machinations of an 825 oligarchy mainly composed of corrupt and besotted reactionaries. I do not wish to minimise the signal services rendered by Sir Claude Macdonald when confronted by extreme difficulties. These difficulties he has surmounted by the exercise of undoubted skill, and tact, and resource. I believe, indeed, that Sir Claude Macdonald has done more for the interest of Great Britain in China than any other of our representatives. His opportune intercession in favour of Kung-Yi, the chief of the reform party in China, was the means of saving the life of that, able man, a course that must redound to the credit and character of the British Envoy. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and the noble Lord the Member for York rather fell foul of Russia in the course of their speeches. They seemed to consider ill of its scope and probable effects. I frankly confess that a case might be made out for those who condemned Russia. I also admit that some economic or geographical causes in Russia, or, better still, the boundless ambition of many men in that country, might account for what has taken place. The ink was not dry on the compact between Great Britain and Russia in regard to China when proposals were made in Pekin which were in direct contradiction to the spirit of that Agreement. I say "spirit," because while we have engaged not to interrupt leer schemes north of the Great Wall, for some occult reason or other a similar concession has not been made to us south of that Wall. I am inclined to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs how it is that that arises, and that the definition of the Yang-tsze region has been whittled down so much. What is the meaning which Her Majesty's Government attach to the word "basin"? Does it embrace all the territory watered by the Yang-tsze river itself, and its tributaries? My noble friend the Member for York has been good enough, in a speech characteristic of eloquence, to treat the Committee to the impressions he gathered during his distinguished commercial travels. He also presented us with an almost cut and dried scheme by which he expects to bring about the regeneration of China. It seems to me that the keystone of the edifice suggested by my noble friend is that we should enlist and mobi- 826 lise a solid phalanx of Chinese troops in order to prevent, I suppose, Russia or any other Power taking liberties with our rights in the Chinese Empire, or assailing India. I do not pretend to be able to say whether the latter contingency is chimerical, but I do say that with our present responsibilities in Egypt and elsewhere, My noble friend, with all his dash, will find it difficult to persuade the people of this country to undertake still further extensions and responsibilities in the manner he suggests. I hope that we are not destined yet awhile to witness a recrudescence of the state a feeling which Lord Salisbury 25 years ago described very aptly by the word "Mervousness." I should like to ask how the districts bordering on the Yang-tsze Valley stand. I take it that Russia, by means of the railway to Pekin, will be able to join with the French railway coming from the south-west of China, and running direct through the territory in which we are interested. The hon. Baronet opposite has also pointed out that no provision has been made against preferential rates or preferential treatment such as is certain to occur later on. I now turn to the other side of the shield. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the spirited effort they have made to secure and very substantially to secure—British rights in other parts of China. The acquisition of Kowloon and Mirs Bay has immensely strengthened our naval and Military position. Then again I am sorry I differ from the hon. Baronet opposite—I think that the establishment of a port of arms at Wei-hai-wei as counterpoise to the activity of another Power is another feather in the cap of Her Majesty's Government. The opening of another free port, and the vigorous stand made against the unjustifiable pretence of another Power in Shanghai are also matters on which the Government are to be congratulated. But all these would be eclipsed by any failure to uphold the integrity of the Yang-tsze Valley in its fullest sense. Already, as my noble friend has pointed out, there has been very serious attempts made to confiscate British owned property by the Russian and French consuls. At one port it was sought to confiscate property which was held and enjoyed ever since the port had been opened, and the right to which had never been questioned, but our Minister, with 827 very considerable promptitude, went to the scene of these attempted depredations. Then, at Han-kau, which we are told is to be the Chicago of China, British merchants who had been established there for a whole generation have been interdicted from trailing by Russia, and advised to move out of the settlement. Hon. Members who know anything of the fiscal system of Russia will not believe that British trade and enterprise in the whole of the north of China, or wherever Russian power is consolidated, will come in for anything but the shortest of shrifts, or have anything meted out to it but that preferential treatment to which I have alluded, and the effect of which will he to intercept all those advantages which the Treaty of Tien-tsin was designed to confer. You could drive a coach and six through that Treaty. I may mention one instance. The stipulation that Port Arthur should be reserved for the use of Russia and China is a distinct infraction of Article 52. That being the position, what is the remedy? The right hon. Baronet the member for the Forest of Dean spoke rather disparagingly of the prospects of an alliance between the three great Powers. The right hon. Baronet seems to think that it would not be to the interest of any of those Powers to enter into an alliance, or that they would be debarred by constitutional prescriptions. But the alliance I would respectfully urge the Government to enter into would he a defensive alliance. Those Powers have interests and rights in China, and if they are attacked they will be obliged to stand up for them. In my humble judgment a, defensive alliance would have every prospect of duration. At any rate we cannot afford to ignore any consideration which would enable us to Maintain our trade in the midst of all the rivalries which entangle the position in China. At present we appear, as far as China is concerned, to be in a state of suspended animation, or, perhaps more correctly, in a disembodied condition. Until the question of the Yang-tsze Valley is settled I would humbly urge the Government to stiffen their backs and to show the same leaven of grit and virility which they displayed with such conspicuous success in the North and on the West Coast of Africa, and even in China itself, when they made Count Muroavieff withdraw his protest against the Newchwang loan, so that the 828 British flag may continue to be regarded as the symbol of liberty, security, and unrestricted freedom of trade.
§ *MR. JOSEPH WALTON (York W.R., Barnsley)
It will not be necessary for me to occupy the time of the Committee by demonstrating that Her Majesty's Government have failed to carry out their announced policy in the Far East of upholding intact British treaty rights. The "open door" means, not only equal opportunities for general trade, but also equal opportunities to undertake commercial enterprises, whether the construction of railways or the development of mines. When Her Majesty's Government, unasked, conceded to Germany preferential rights in the great province of Shantung the open door was doomed, and then it became clear to everyone but to Her Majesty's Government that by this action they had made it inevitable that a similar concession must be granted to Russia in regard to Manchuria. I wish to refer to the recently concluded Anglo - Russian Agreement. Lord Salisbury, in his first public announcement of the conclusion of this Agreement, naturally minimised its importance, inasmuch as, in a telegram accepting the proposed Agreement in its general scope, on February 22nd, he remarks that "Her Majesty's Government cannot but note the scanty dimensions to which it has been reduced by these long negotiations." It is perfectly true that all parties in the country have strongly expressed the opinion that an agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Russian Government in regard to China ought to be sought, and the announcement that such an agreement had been reached was hailed with satisfaction by the nation. When, however, the text of this Agreement was before us, we found that it was so limited in its scope that our satisfaction was greatly diminished. The object of this Agreement is stated to be "a sincere desire to avoid in China all cause of conflict where the interests of Great Britain and Russia meet, and to avert all causes of complications between them." I should like to examine the Agreement in order to see how far this most desirable object has been seemed. In the first place Great Britain engages not to seek for her own account, or on behalf of British subjects, or of others, any railway concessions north of the Great Wall of China, and not to obstruct, directly or in— 829 directly, applications supported by the Russian Government for railway concessions in that region. In the second place, it is stated in the additional Note, that the present special Agreement is naturally not to interfere in any way with the right of the Russian Government to support, if it thinks fit, applications of Russian subjects or establishments for concessions for railways which, starting from the main Manchurian line, in a southwesterly. direction, will traverse the region in which the Chinese line, terminating at Sin-ming-ting and Newchwang, is to be constructed. In reference to stipulation No. 1, I would draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the fact that in the earlier communications from the Russian Government leading up to the Agreement all that Russia asked for was that England should undertake the same engagement in regard to Manchuria which Russia was prepared to give in regard to the Yang-tsze basin. I would ask why, in the Agreement concluded, the Russian sphere of concessions is defined as north of the Great Wall of China instead of simply as Manchuria, and whether this indicates that the Russian sphere is not to be regarded as limited to Manchuria. I would point out that, though we consider Corea as practically being an independent kingdom, the vagueness of the Agreement would appear to make it possible for Russia to contend in the future that geographically some portion, at any rate, of Corea is north of the Great Wall of China; and England has debarred herself in that area from undertaking commercial enterprises or supporting, directly or indirectly, the just claim of her natural allies the Japanese to preferential rights and privileges. This is an interpretation calculated to jeopardise the friendly relations and the co-operation of England and Japan in the Far East. Another serious defect in the Agreement is the absence of any exact definition of the limits, regarded as those of the Yang-tsze basin, which the Russian Government repeatedly stated it would be necessary to know before concluding the arrangement. In reply to a question which I put to the Under Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman said the Yang-tsze Basin comprised the provinces adjoining the Yang-tsze River and the provinces of Ho-nan and Che Kiang. To a second question as to whether Her Majesty's Government could 830 state exactly or approximately the point at which the Pekin-Hankau Railway would enter the basin of the Yang-tsze River I received the reply, "At the watershed of the Yang-tsze River." These two answers are clearly inconsistent, as it cannot for a moment be imagined that the boundary of the provinces to the inorth of the Yang-tsze River is identical with the line of the watershed of the river. What I therefore desire to ask the right hon. gentleman is, whether the definition of the geographical limits of Manchuria and the Yang-tsze basin, as understood in the Anglo-Russian Agreement—which was to he fixed, on further examination, by a later Agreement—has yet been arrived at. Then with regard to the right of Russia to undertake the construction of railways starting from the main Manchurian line in a south-westerly direction. This stipulation cannot refer to railways north of the Great Wall, as in respect of that district the exclusive right of Russia to construct railways is clearly recognised in the first letter exchanged. The additional Note can, therefore, be only understood to apply to a district in China south of the Great Wall. And what I should like the Committee specially to notice is the fact that in the Agreement with Russia there is no understanding set forth calculated to avoid all cause of conflict where the interests of Great Britain and Russia meet in that enormous tract of territory in China stretching from the Great Wall southwards to the northern boundary of the Yang-tsze Basin. I hope, therefore, that we shall have a definite statement front the right hon. Gentleman as to what the arrangement really is in regard to this portion of the Chinese Empire. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman how far in a south-westerly direction from the Manchurian Railway the right (of Russia to construct railways is recognised. Already the Russo-Chinese Bank has constructed a railway 100 miles in length from Pekin southwards to Proceeding; and the extension of that railway southwards to Cheng-ting is now proceeding. Russia has, again, the right to construct a line 140 miles westward to Tai-yuan-fu, and, according to repeated reports last year, also from that point a further line, about 330 stiles long, to Si-ngan-fu, the capital of Shan-si, and a point, I may observe, only 200 miles north of the Yang-tsze river. The Russo- 831 Chinese Bank deny having Made this application, but the Russian Government have made no denial. Russia will certainly desire to link up the railway system to which I have just referred with her Manchurian railways, and this means that she will not only dominate North China, but be placed practically in military occupation of the country southwards to the boundary of the Yang-tsze Basin. The importance of establishing herself at Si-ngan-fu is apparent, when we remember that it is situated on the immemorial trade route to Central Asia, and it is the city which the Chinese Government have contemplated making the capital of China, if their position at Pekin becomes intolerable. I would further ask whether, in recognising the right of Russia to build railways in a south-westerly direction from her main Manchurian line, Her Majesty's Government did not obtain an assurance from Russia that the route of these lines should not be in such close proximity to the Pekin-Shanghai-Iowan Niu-chwang line as would enable them to be in any sense competing lines for the traffic which would otherwise naturally come over the railway now being constructed with British capital. Her Majesty's Government sent special instructions last year to Sir Claude Macdonald to insist upon the insertion of provisions in all railway concessions securing equal treatment for British trade British nationals. But I observe the Anglo-Russian Agreement contains no such provisions. This is the more un-accountable, inasmuch as Lord Salisbury telegraphed to Sir Claude Macdonald, on the 10th of September last, that preferential railway rates, or differential treatment, should of course be provided against in agreement with Russia in regard to railway concessions in Manchuria and the Yang-tsze region. I also find it stated in the Agreement that the two Governments have nowise in view to infringe in any way the sovereign rights of China or existing treaties. But I would point out to the Committee that, if ultimately territory in China be annexed by Russia, it will no longer be a part of the Chinese Empire; and the rights which this country now enjoys under treaties entered into with the Chinese Government would be absolutely abrogated. I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any agreement has been arrived at with the Russian 832 Government which will secure to each nation equal opportunities to trade in the spheres in which the preferential right of either nation has been recognised, not only so long as they remain integral parts of the Chinese Empire, but even after partition has taken place, should that come about. I think the Committee ought also to have some explanation of the support given by the British Legation at Pekin in sending a communication to the Yamên explaining that Russia had made no demand, but only a friendly request that China should concede in principle the right to build a railway to Pekin when applied for by Russian subjects. And I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the ridiculous position in which Her Majesty's Government were subsequently placed when the Russian Minister notified the Tsung-li-Yamên that—Russia is unable to regard Chinese wishes in the matter, and will send engineers to survey a line for connecting the Russian Manchurian Railway in the south-west to Pekin.It seems to me that the China Correspondence (No. 2) just published, and the Notes exchanged between the United Kingdom and Russia with regard to their respective railway interests in China, most unfortunately demonstrate that Her Majesty's Government are still pursuing a policy of drift and of so-called "graceful concessions" which will result, in the long run, in scrim is injury to British commercial interests in Northern and Central China. A particularly humiliating diplomatic defeat is that sustained with regard to the conclusion of the Newchwang extension loan contract. On the 8th of August, 1898, Lord Salisbury informed the Chinese Minister that Russia had no right whatever to object to a mortgage loan being made by the Hung-kung and Shanghai Batik for the Newchwang Railway; and he strongly advised China to pay no regard to the Russian Government's objection. And yet our Foreign Minister allowed himself to be driven to so completely abandon that position that the loan was concluded without any mortgage on that portion of the line north of the Great Wall. Such surrenders must of necessity entirely destroy the prestige and influence of this country with the Chinese Government. Perhaps I may be allowed to draw attention to what I consider is not an unimportant matter in connection with the 833 negotiations which arose as to the Newchwang Extension Loan. I find that, after the negotiations had been proceeding for months, our representative in St. Petersburg had to admit his utter ignorance of the true locality of Si-nmingting; and apparently no official map was in his possession showing distinctly the railway which was to be constructed by the proposed Newchwang Extension Loan; and it was only on reference to a map of Manchuria in Colquhoun's "China in Transformation" that our representative was enabled to ascertain the precise situation of Si-nmingg-ting. It is only fair to point out that a similar ignorance was displayed by the Russian officials. I only drew attention to this matter in order to venture the suggestion that it is high time our officials abroad were provided with the most complete maps, and the fullest information generally, whenever they have to conduct negotiations of so difficult and delicate a nature. In the correspondence just published between Her Majesty's Government and the Russian Government we have most startling evidence that Lord Salisbury, though he was a party to giving, unasked, to Germany preferential rights and privileges in the province of Shantung, did not seem at all anxious to secure similar rights and privileges for this country in the Yang-tsze Basin. In a letter to Sir Charles Scott on the 27th of February last, with reference to the proposal to limit the Agreement with Russia to simply imposing upon England and Russia the obligation of abstaining from opposing Russian and English railways in Manchuria and the Yang-tsze Basin respectively, Lord Salisbury stated:Her Majesty's Government, however, are not disposed to take any objection to the proposal, now made by Count Muravieff, on account of its more limited application. England and Russia will still each be bound to abstain from opposing railway projects of the other in its own sphere of interest, but they are not hound each to abstain from projecting railways of its own in the other's sphere of interest.I must confess that I read these words with amazement. The only meaning they can bear is that Lord Salisbury had no objection to leave Russia free to undertake the construction of railways in the Yang-tsze Basin. It is true that he adds:This latter method of opposition is not one that is likely in either case to be adopted, but 834 it cannot be said to impose any special disadvantage on Great Britain.Having regard to the position thus taken up by Lord Salisbury in respect to the Yang-tsze Basin, the Committee is surely entitled to have from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a clear and definite statement as to whether Her Majesty's Government claim any preferential rights or interests in the Yang-tsze Basin whatever, so that this country may know exactly where we are. As to Germany, the German Ambassador declared to Lord Salisbury that Germany Karl acquired "a special position" in Shantung, "whereas Great Britain, not having occupied any place in the Yang-tsze region, that region is still unreservedly open to German enterprise." In reply to a question in the House, the right hon. Gentleman stated that no further communication had been addressed to the German Government in regard to this Matter. Unless an agreement be entered into, limier which Genitally will recognise the British nation as possessing similar preferential rights in the Yang-tsze Basin to those which we have conceded to Germany in Shantung, our interests cannot be regarded as by any means fully protected. It is most desirable that we should co-operate with Germany as far as possible the Ear East; but it would, I submit, be very foolish on our part to rely much on the assistance and support of Germany in China. It is obvious that Germany will not risk any conflict with Russia in the Far East which would expose her to attack on two frontiers in Europe, where she is situated between, so to speak, the hammer and the anvil, having Russia on her eastern and France on her western frontier. I do licit know whether there is any truth in the rumour that the British Government are about to transfer Wei-hai-wei to Germany. I sincerer, trust this report is well founded.
§ *MR. WALTON
Well, I regret to hear it. I certainly had hoped it was true. Wei-hai-wei was taken, We were told, to restore the balance of power after Russia had seized Port Arthur, and to give courage to the Chinese Government at Pekin. But of what earthly use, I ask, will 835 Wei-hai-wei be to this country when Russia becomes practically in military occupation of North China, and probably of Pekin itself? I therefore earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government will lose no time in getting rid of the white elephant of Wei-hai-wei, that they will abstain from spending money over it, and that they will, instead, take possession of some other position at or near the mouth of the Yang-tsze where our interests are predominant. Then, with regard to British commercial interests in the densely populated regions of Southern China, I have more than once called the attention of the Committee to the definite Agreement between the Governments of France and England, of January, 1896, under which each nation undertook to use its good offices to secure each for the other equal rights, privileges, and advantages for the prosecution of trade in the provinces of Yunnan and Szechuan. This Agreement appears to have been entirely disregarded by the French Government without, so far as the Committee have as yet been informed, any protest whatever having been made by Her Majesty's Government. A demand was certainly made upon the Chinese Government on the 25th of April, 1898, for an assurance, in writing, in regard to the provinces of Yunnan and Kwang-tung, similar to that given to France; but, continuing the policy of drift which has so discredited British prestige in China, the right hon. Gentleman had to inform the House the other day that the assurance in writing had not yet been received, and was no longer being insisted on. A further important point, which may affect seriously British commercial interests in South China, is the position taken up by France with regard to the province of Kwang-si, in respect of which they have compelled the Chinese Government to enter into agreement as to non-alienation, ceding, or leasing. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in reply to a question I put to him, admitted that Her Majesty's Government had not addressed a similar demand to the Chinese Government, on the ground that the province of Kwang-si did not affect British interests in the same way as the province of Yunnan and Kwang-tung. I would, however, point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the merchants of Hong-kong take a view of the importance of 836 our commercial interests in Kwang-si which is diametrically opposed to that of the right hon. Gentleman. They declared to the noble and gallant Lord the Member for York that Great Britain ought to indicate clearly that the immense amount of British trade interests in the provinces of Kwang-tung and Kwang-si are such as to make it impossible for her ever to allow, under any conditions, prohibitive tariffs similar to those put on in Madagascar and Indo-China. With regard to that most interesting and also able work "The Break-up of China," by Lord Charles Beresford, perhaps I may be permitted to say how much, in my opinion, the whole nation is indebted to the noble Lord for having undertaken, in our commercial interests, the visit which he has recently made to China. The First Lord of the Treasury seemed some-what amused that the noble Lord should have assumed the new rôle of a commercial emissary. For my part, however, I believe that, so far from having diminished the admiration with which he is regarded as a gallant and dashing naval officer, the noble Lord has increased his prestige, if possible, by the peaceful mission he undertook to promote the commerce of the country, and which has resulted in his giving to the world a mass of valuable commercial information, prepared in a manner so careful and lucid that it would do credit to any man entirely engaged in commercial affairs. III view of the opinion of the commercial men of Hong-kong, I ask whether Her Majesty's Government will not reconsider their decision to take no steps to uphold British commercial interests in the Province of Kwang-si. With regard to the great Province of Kwang-tung, the hinterland of Hong-kong, the position of affairs is exactly similar to that in reference to Yunnan; and the opinion I have quoted of the commercial men at Hong-kong in respect to the extreme importance of upholding British commercial interests in Kwang-si applies with still greater force to Kwang-tung. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who did not favour the Committee with any information on this point when Chinese affairs were last under discussion, will now give the Committee some clear statement of what the Government policy is to be in regard to the upholding and safeguarding of British commercial interests in Southern China Surely in the 837 ettlement of our outstanding differences with France some attempt has been made to come to an amicable and equitable agreement under which we shall be able to co operate alongside of France in the development of Southern China on equal terms and conditions. As affecting the support which Italy may be expected to give us, if she secures a footing in China, I regret that Her Majesty's Government should have jeopardised the friendly relations between this country and our old traditional ally Italy by having handed over to France, so far as they could do it, the hinterland of Tripoli, to which the Italians have undoubtedly a superior claim. And I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what, if any, communication has passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Italian Government in regard to this matter. I am glad to see that Lord Salisbury—who minimised the value of railways in China, and expressed considerable doubt as to whether they would ever be constructed, and, if they were constructed, whether they would not prove a most unfortunate speculation has now been driven to regard the question of the laying down of rail ways in that country as one of supreme importance, for I noticed the other day that the noble Lord said: "The politics of China are the politics of railways." This recognition by Lord Salisbury of the vital part that railways are going to play in the future of the Chinese Empire will, I trust, be followed by the adoption of a more energetic policy in securing that a fair proportion of them, shall be constructed by British enterprise. It is well to bear in mind that, alone of all the nations seeking to acquire (rights and interests in China, Great Britain will permit other nations to trade in her special sphere on equal terms and conditions with herself. The knowledge, too, that there is not the remotest desire on the part of this country to interfere with the sovereign rights of China ought to have had the effect of making our influence with the Chinese Government at Pekin absolutely predominant, had not our prestige and influence been utterly destroyed by the diplomatic defeats that we have courted and suffered at the hands of other Powers. We were told in a formal and explicit manner last year, by Lord Salisbury, that 838 negotiations were proceeding for the reorganisation of the Chinese forces. It would be interesting to the Committee to know what has been the result of these negotiations. The question is When, if ever, does Her Majesty's Government intend to take some clear and definite action to prevent our being slowly but surely elbowed out of China? The contrast between the energy of the Russians, French, and Germans, awl their clear conception of what they want, with the supineness, irresolution, and total lack of a clear and consistent policy which has marked the dealings of our Government with a great crisis in the history of China, and of British interests in that country, is most humiliating. If ever we are to succeed in asserting the priority of British rights in the Yang-tsze Basin, there is not an hour to lose. In my opinion it is simply astounding, having regard to he fact that we were the pioneers in opening up trade with China, and that we have waged at least two warsat an enormous cost to maintain our right to trade there, that yet our Government have neither the enterprise nor the courage to move a single finger to enter into effective occupation of the rich Yang-tsze Basin. The great Yang-tsze River ought to have been surveyed by Her Majesty's Government right to its navigable limits, and a report not only presented, but the removal of obstructions to navigation should have been proceeded with long ago, in order that a flotilla of river gunboats might be placed upon that river to enable British trade to be carried on under proper protection, and also to assert our priority of claim to that region. I am glad to learn from the speech of the Under Secretary that Her Majesty's Government contemplate putting some gunboats on the Yang-tsze; and on this point I speak feelingly, because, as a British subject, I shall look forward to having their protection when I make my intended expedition, into Chung-King within the next six months. I am bound to admit that the statement of policy made in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is a distinct step in advance, and so far as that is the case, though I speak from the Radical benches, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government on having, even at the eleventh hour, become more alive to the serious dangers that face us in regard to 839 Our commercial interests in the great neutral market of China. We cannot afford to be driven out of that market, inhabited as it is by nearly a quarter of the world's population. I see no reason why we should not seek in a friendly fashion to work alongside with, and to co-operate with, all other Powers interested in opening up and developing that great Empire: but at the same time it is our duty to maintain British rights, and to see that they are preserved to us in the future on equal terms with all other nations throughout the Chinese Empire.
§ *MR. BILL (Staffs., Leek)
I rise to urge the Government to consider favourably the claims of the families of the officers killed at Waima. These officers lost their lives, not in what we may call the ordinary risks of their vocation, but in what I have seen described as an unfortunate accident that never should have happened. They were shot down by the troops of a friendly Power, whose susceptibilities we have always been ready to consider. These friendly troops were operating many miles within the British sphere. It is true that they were in pursuit of a foe common to both the English and the French, and it is equally correct that neither expedition was aware of the existence of the other; but the leader of the French expedition, in his eagerness and recklessness, had overlooked the boundaries and had penetrated at one time to a point 58 miles from French territory. No doubt the responsibility for this slaughter rests upon his shoulders, and it does seem to rue inexplicable that the French Government did not at once express its regret for the occurrence and offer an indemnity to the families of the slain officers. But five and a half years have elapsed and nothing has been done, and we do not even know if the French Government have given any reply to the formal demand addressed to them last July by the Foreign Office. What would the French have said had the position been reversed? If our troops had gone 50 miles beyond our boundaries, and had slain three French officers, the whole of France would have rung with denunciations of this country. I do appeal most strongly to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that they will not let this matter be protracted any longer. There are many Members on both sides of the House who take an interest in the question, and we 840 are all agreed that it should be settled with the utmost despatch.
§ *MR. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
I would not have intruded on the present occasion but for the fact of the hon. Member for King's Lynn about twelve months ago having enabled me, by the tacit consent of this House, to pay a visit to China whilst Parliament was sitting. I am glad I went there, because my visit has disabused my mind of many of the prejudices which I entertained as to the country. One of those wrong impressions, held in common with a great many other people, was that the Chinese people had a great objection to railways. What appeared to he an insurmountable objection to railway construction in China was, of course, the worship which the Chinese paid to their ancestors. The bodies of these ancestors are distributed all over the country, and there is a great objection to interfering with them. But, after all, a Chinaman is an astute commercial man, and now that he finds that he can get a good price for his ancestor's body his objection to railways has disappeared, for at a fixed rate of five dollars each the ancestor's body has become a valuable asset, and when it has been removed from the route of one railway it has had a happy knack of turning up on the route of another projected line ready for sale again. A new state of affairs has of late grown up in China to that which has obtained for centuries past, and now there are great possibilities of opening up that magnificent country. We already possess something like 70 per cent. of the commerce with that country, and if we are not alive to our interests, if we are not firm in our policy with that nation, I very much fear from what I have seen that our trade in the future will not he as prosperous as it has been in the past. I was very glad indeed to hear the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs tell us to-night that our sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley is to be secured, and that British gunboats are to protect our interests along its course; and that other nations will not be allowed to alienate that territory to the exclusion of our trade. Our object, and the object of the Government, must be to encourage trade with China. Whilst in China I received very great courtesy and kindness during my visit to Pekin from our Minister there. 841 Sir Claude Macdonald, who has earnestly at heart the interests of this great empire. I should like to bear my ungrudging testimony to the hard work he has done, work which has so seriously affected his health, unfortunately. I quite agree with the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for York as to the marvellous industry, great perseverance, and energy displayed by the Chinese people in the development of their own trade. They work morning, noon, and night with unceasing toil and intelligent interest in their work, arid certainly we ought to convert this industry on the part of this wonderful nation to our own commercial advantage. We have every facility for approaching them, for I have found that a great feeling of respect and attachment to this country permeates the Chinese mind. I came into contact with many of the Mandarins and other leading men in China during my visit there, and I found one of them—Chang-yen-Maw, a man of vast wealth, who holds a very exalted position, and who possesses a controlling influence in China at the present time—to be a man of wide sympathies and possessing a large-hearted tenderness for England and its people, whatever may be said of him to the contrary. I believe that if we only deal as openly with the Chinese as we do with other nations we shall largely increase our commercial strength in that country. Another point which has been brought out in this debate is the fact that Chinese can he made into magnificent soldiers and sailors. I have been to Wei-hai-wei, and have seen the tops of the vessels which were deliberately sunk by the Chinese themselves rather than surrender them to the enemy, afar did what the noble Lord the Member for York, when he was in command of the "Condor" would have done had he been in the same position as the Chinese commander. It is well known that the admiral in command of the Chinese squadron, Admiral Ting, is a man of undaunted bravery, determined to fight to the very last, and it was only in consequence of direct instructions from Li Hung Chang, his chief on land, that he did not do so. I believe that the Chinese, properly drilled by English officers, properly fed and clothed, and capably led, will be found to make really good soldiers and sailors. In conclusion I can only express the hope that the Government will he firm in their 842 determination to secure our trade in the Yang-tsze Valley and will run a British coast railway as far as they can from Shanghai to Hong-Long, securing the possession of British ports and British trade where they can be protected, if need be, by the British Navy.
§ *MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)
I think it is a great pity that the British Government and our Legation at Peking were not better informed of the events which were taking place in China. It is quite clear that the ordinary diplomatic staff of our Legation there can hardly have, during the short time that they are placed at this post, an opportunity of making themselves roasters of the ins and outs of Chinese life. I am not prepared to propose a remedy, but probably some scheme for giving the Chinese Secretary higher rank and greater prestige, anal giving him a greater number of Chinese retainers, would give the Legation an opportunity of obtaining that information the absence of which seems rather to have endangered our credit in allowing this coup d'eėtat to take place, instead of supporting the reform party. I would say that the coup d'ėetat having taken place it would he just as well to make friends with the de facto ruler of China. But I think the Government and I am Legation have failed to take the hest step. Nevertheless the invitation to break down and remove the barrier which has hitherto been maintained by the Chinese Court against foreign ladies was one which they did not do amiss to accept. I agree with what has been said as to the Agreement effected by the exchange of Notes on the 28th of April last, seeing that it creates a sort of no man's land between the Yang-tsze basin on the south and the Russian sphere. With regard to that I think the Additional Note is specially unsatisfactory, as it seems to me to give Russia an invitation to pass through this no man's land. The last clause runs thus:The present special Agreement is naturally not to interfere in any way with the right of the Russian Government to support, if it thinks fit, applications of Russian subjects or establishments for concessions for railways, which, starting from the main Manchurian line in a south-westerly direction, would traverse the region in which the Chinese line terminating at Si-nmin-ting and Newchawang is to be constructed.My right hon. friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs yesterday, 843 in answer to a question as to the meaning of the last clause, said it did not, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, cover the question of railway communications to Peking; but if it does not do so I am unable to attach any meaning to it at all. I fully sympathise with what my right hon. friend has said about the great difficulty of coping with the immensity of work which has been put upon the Foreign Office by the situation in China, as well as in other parts of the world. The Russians are in a very much more favourable position than England; their territory lies on the frontier of their own country, and Russians are on the frontier as soldiers and settlers, and they are more easily in touch with their new territories. They are not troubled either with a Parliament, or having having to make extra-Parliamentary speeches, and therefore they have a greater opportunity of dealing with any difficulties that may arise. It has been stated in this House by the First Lord of the Treasury, or by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place, that the staff at the Foreign Office has not grown in proportion to the increase of work; and if I may say so, I, for one, if there were an increased estimate brought in, in order to permit an increase in the staff, should heartily support it.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
The keynote given by the noble Lord in his speech is commerce, and in the few remarks that I make I wish to speck from that standpoint, because the commerce with China nearly concerns the county from which I come. Most of the China trade is transacted in some form or other on the Manchester Exchange, and Lancashire is extremely interested in the development of the China trade. Everything which concerns that trade concerns us in a direct manner, and I am not ashamed to own that we look upon this matter from the point of view of £ s. d. I do not rise to condemn the Government's foreign policy, nor will I concur in any such condemnation. I think the one passion which Lord Salisbury possesses—if so cold a soul can be said to have any at all—is a passion for peace, and those who come from Lancashire will be very backward in condemning a policy which has been guided throughout by the desire to establish the peace of the world and maintain good relations with other 844 nations. I venture to offer my humble expression of gratitude to Lord Salisbury and the Government for their great desire to preserve peace. Looking at this question from a commercial point of view—I have no right to speak for Manchester—as one who attends the Manchester Exchange, which is the centre of trade in Lancashire, I may have a better opportunity than the First Lord of the Treasury, who represents that city, of judging and feeling the general mind of Lancashire upon this point. As to the points raised by the noble Lord the Member for York as to the two policies, the open door and the possession of territory, we in Lancashire ale still in favour of the policy of the open door, and I should like to point out to the Committee that the one policy is not equivalent to the other from the commercial point of view. Before the recent changes occurred we had free trade throughout the Chinese Empire, and it is very valuable to us as a matter of trade, because we have been shut out from so many other places. My experience as a member of the cotton trade is that we have been shut out from one place after another. Russia has shut us out, France has shut us out, and I deeply regret that the Government has allowed us to be shut out from the market of Tunis. This state of things cannot go on; we are bound to protest, not only for our own sake, lint for the sake of the people who contribute so large a sum to the welfare of this country. Therefore, I say, you cannot balance the two policies of the open door and the preserved districts. Look at it from a trade point of view—the result of the spheres of influence is that our trade will be restricted to a market of 170,000,000 of people, rather than the 400,000,000 that inhabit China, with whom we should trade if we have the open door. This country cannot afford to be shut out from trading with half the large population of China. I have heard it said that the trade is not very large or important, lint that is not the point which we have to consider. What we have to consider is not the present dimensions of the trade, but the prospect. We believe that in the future we shall do a greater trade in proportion to the population than we have ever done in the past; and it is riot that we object to be shut out from the trade at this moment, but that we object to be shut out from the prospective trade. This point of view is 845 one which may be fairly brought before the Committee and the country, and we in Lancashire feel it so strongly that if it comes to a question whether we shall have to go to war to keep the "open door," cruelly as we and all other persons would suffer by such a circumstance, I venture to tell the Under Secretary that if in the last necessity he is compelled to take that step we shall support him to the utmost of our power. I venture to make these few remarks because we feel very strongly in this matter. We are proud of our politics, proud of oar Empire, proud of responsibility; but, above all, we are proud of our trade, and we shall object to the last to being shut out from any portion of our trading rights in the Chinese Empire.
§ *EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
My principal object in intervening in this Debate to-night is to add a few words in support of what has fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean with regard to the claims of the relatives of those unfortunate officers who fell in the affair at Walnut. I cannot say how deeply I regret the non possumnsattitude winch has been adopted by the Under Secretary, awl I also regret the claim put forward by the right hon. Baronet should have been given such a partisan character. I want at the outset to separate altogether what I may call the Imperial from the personal side of this question. The Imperial is no doubt an important—perhaps it is the most important—side of the question, but it is a side on which I wish only briefly no address the Government. To the ordinary onlooker the claim is so obvious and so legitimate that I regret that it should take our Government such a long time to receive satisfaction. Whatever may he the cause of the delay, I recognise fully that the Government has a light to say on this side of the subject that they, and they alone, are most competent judges of the methods to be adopted in securing the object which they assure us they have in view. But when we leave the Imperial side of tine question and come to the personal we are on totally different groin Upon the personal side of the question I think every Member of this House is not only capable, but is almost bound, to form an independent opinion on the facts before us. I must say that, after full considera- 846 tion of the facts which have been put before me, I do think that the wives of these officers have been treated very unhandsomely and very ungenerously. As 1 understand, only one of these ladies has received any compensation at all, and that a miserable pittance of £150, while both the other ladies have been told that they cannot have any compensation because they have other means of support. Now, Sir, the Government said that they were following the precedent usual in these matters, and that the case of these widows is parallel to that of the widows of officers who are killed in ordinary action in the performance of their duties. If that be the case, then I cannot understand why the Government is pressing for compensation from the French Government at all. The very fact that tile Government are pressing for compensation is an admission that you have a grievance, and if that be the ease those who are the principal sufferers have a prior claim to any satisfaction obtained. The more you emphasise the view that this was a pure accident, and that the French and English officers did not know on what territory they were meeting, and the more strongly you emphasise the fact that the geographical determination of Waima was at the time of the encounter uncertain, the more strongly you emphasise difference between the personal and Imperial aspect of the question. It seems to me that it is proved emphatically that if there is any claim for compensation at all it is the widows of those officers who ought to receive it. I do think there is ground for urging the Government as strongly as we can to take into serious consideration whether they cannot give to the relatives of the officers who were killed as liberal and as generous compensation as we should be expected to mete out as private employers to the relatives of those killed in our service. I want to make myself perfectly clear in the matter. I do not press this claim as a matter of charity. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question some time ago, stated that, although the claims were still under the consideration of the French Government, the English Government were prepared to take into consideration the question of urgency in any particular case. I do not think this is a question of urgency at all; it is a question of moral justice. I 847 think the Government are morally bound to provide compensation for these people on the grounds I have mentioned, and I feel sure that if they could see their way to conic to this House and ask for an adequate grant they would soon find that the House of Commons was not disposed to offer any unnecessary objection, or to adopt an ungenerous attitude. Well, Sir, I should like, for one or two minutes, with the indulgence of the Committee, if I am not detaining them too long—["No!"]—to add one or two words in reference to the question of China. That is not a question on which, up to the present time, I have ventured to trouble the Committee with my own views, and I confess I should feel somewhat diffident to be called upon to contribute any very valuable contribution to Debates upon a subject which, up to the present moment, have done singularly little to elucidate the problem to be solved. The chief criticism which ha s been hitherto directed against the policy of the Government is the criticism which was reiterated to-night by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, awl which, I think, may be summed up in the words employed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed last year, when he said that we should find our policy landed us between two stools—the policy of the open door on the one hand, and the policy of spheres of influence on the other. I cannot say that the criticism is of a very illuminating character. We all of us know that the Chinese Empire is at the present moment passing through a transition stage either of development or decay, awl under these circumstances I think it is exceedingly difficult this evening to see how our policy can be more or less than a policy of transition. No one has suggested that the Government ought to go to war with other Powers in order to prevent the establishment of spheres of influence, and therefore the only practical problem that this House has now to solve is as to what steps to take in order to prevent those spheres of influence from becoming actual protectorates, or to prevent the open door being shut in our faces. Upon that point we have had no advice whatever from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed, or from any of his supporters. At the most the suggestion is that we should come to some general agreement 848 with reference to this question with Russia. To-night the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself satisfied with that agreement. If that was the whole point of his complaint it was a very small one, and very easy to satisfy. I do not myself attach the slightest importance to the Russian Agreement. I do not think it offers the slightest guarantee to us for any of the matters that we have at heart. If it had been possible to secure by a general agreement with Russia the objects which we are really aiming at, then everybody knows that that agreement would have been secured long ago. If the aims of Russia in China and our own aims in China are mutually inconsistent, then I do not see the least use of perpetually urging the Government into playing a game where one party shows all his cards while the other keeps the best trumps up his sleeve. We all know that our desire is to obtain a general recognition of our sphere of influence. We all know that the German Minister pointed out the other day that we have not the courage, and are not likely to have the courage, to take steps to effect the occupation of that sphere of influence. No definition whatever of our sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley has been included in the Russian Agreement. Therefore it seems to me that the points we now have to decide are, in the first place, what we intend to be the limit of our sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley; secondly, what steps we intend to take in order to make our occupation of that sphere effective; and, in the third place, what are the limits beyond which any intrusion on the part of a foreign Power will be regarded as an unfriendly act. If the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed or his colleagues had told us how far they were prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in undertaking additional obligations in China, I believe we should have advanced the subject a considerable length, because we should then have been in a position to confront Russia in the case of China, as we confronted France in the case of Egypt, with a united national front. Now, Sir, as I understand it—I hope I am not detaining the Committee—["No!"]—only three possible or practicable policies with regard to China have been adumbrated. There is, in the first place, the policy of Her Majesty's Government, of which I am a hearty supporter. That policy I conceive to be 849 the continuance of the distinction—which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs laid sufficient stress upon, for I hold it to be a very important distinction—between spheres of interest and spheres of influence. We are prepared to admit the principle that in its own sphere of interest each Power should be entitled to railway and mining concessions but at the sane time we maintain that all over China, and in all these spheres the open door shall be kept for trade generally, and that no Power should be allowed to exercise pressure or coercion upon the central Government at Pekin. That policy has two advantages. In the first place it does not commit us to any immediate extension of out responsibilities; and in the second place, so long as China remains intact, we preserve the status quo. But I think the Government themselves will he the first to admit that that policy is of an essentially temporary character. The tine must inevitably come when the Chinese Empire will fall into decay; and when Russia has concentrated all her forces along the northern frontier it will he idle to talk about the preservation of any sphere of influence. Then there is the policy of the noble Lord the Member for York, which seems to be nothing less than the assumption on the part of this country of the responsibility for a protectorate over the whole of China. The noble Lord wishes us to reorganise the military and naval defences of the empire and the whole administration of finance, and to generally bolster up tile entire fabric—if possible, by international co-operation, and, failing that, by isolated intervention. He expressly points to the example of Egypt as an instance of isolated action on our part, in case of the failure of international co-operation. But he entirely ignores the fact that not only may Russia and the other Powers refuse to co-operate with us, hut that they may offer the most strenuous opposition to any idea of isolated action. Therefore the policy of the noble Lord entirely falls to the ground unless he is prepared to assume responsibility infinitely greater than that which would be entailed by our having to defend some particular sphere of our own. He has the greatest objection to the policy of spheres of interest which may ultimately develop into spheres of influence. He asks us triumphantly what is to become 850 of the rights of private concessionaires and bondholders in the event of the transformation of those spheres into actual facts? But he entirely forgets that those spheres are already a fait accompli, and it is only by obtaining some definite sphere of our own, the transformation of which into a Protectorate would inflict an injury on foreign Powers, which they are not prepared to face, that you can prevent such an eventuality. Then we have the theory of the hon. Member for Chester, which he has described as the policy of Egyptianising the Yang-tsze Kiang Valley; but if there is one thing more than another which would have condemned that policy I think it is the phrase he has chosen. There is really no analogy whatever between our position in Egypt and our position in China. Not only have we no control over the central government of China which we have over the central government of Egypt, but the geographical conditions of the country render the same method of defence impossible. Therefore it seems to me that the policy of the hon. Member for Chester also falls to the ground, unless he is prepared to contemplate the establishment of at least a fairly defensible frontier to the north of the Yang-tsze Valley. Now, Sir, although I am a strong supporter of our policy, and although I believe it is the only practicable policy, it is nevertheless one which may well be supplemented by steps which, if taken now, will prevent any misunderstanding and confusion in the future. By all means continue your amicable negotiations with Russia on the question of the continuation of the railway in China to Pekin. These are questions on which you may easily arrive at some modus vivendi. But at the same time I hope the Government it will recognise that, although they cannot undo the harm winch has been already done, at any rate they can prevent any misunderstanding of this kind occurring again, and ensure that whatever foreign railways have up to the present penetrated into our sphere of influence shall henceforth be unique specimens of their kind, and that within that sphere henceforward British enterprise alone shall have preferential rights. I do riot pretend to have the advantage of any personal acquaintance with the internal geography of China, but I do not see why the Government should not say to any Power concerned that any intrusion 851 on their part into the country south of the Hoangho will be regarded by ourselves as an unfriendly act and resented accordingly. That policy ought to secure the co-operation and support of every Power which desires to avert the disintegration and disruption of China. I confess that, so far as I have studied foreign politics, there is one feature of our policy on which I feel inclined to lay the greatest stress, and that is the desirability of our securing a firm, cordial, and lasting understanding with Germany. She is the only Power, both in the Near and the Far East, whose aims are at present, and must always be, practically identical with our own. We have been always talking, and talking again to-night, about the inevitable disruption and decay of Empires like Turkey and China. Well, Sir, I do not think they are likely to disappear, at any rate before Europe has undergone very considerable alteration. But, at all events, the external fact of the present situation is that, while Russia's object is almost openly to disintegrate and hasten the fall of the Chinese Empire, the policy of the other Empires is to prevent that action. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary asked us just now what possible object Germany could have in coming to a definite arrangement with us. If you could show Germany that your whole object is directed simply to the maintenance of the strengthening of the Chinese Empire, I believe you would have her thorough support in any strong line of action that you chose to take in order to secure it. Lastly, there is the great advantage that you would come to a clear understanding both with the Governments of Turkey and China, that your watchword is friendly, hearty, consistent support of them, coupled with insistence, not merely suggestion of reforms; and that you do not intend, whether they like it or not, to give them the satisfaction of committing suicide. You may say that that is a policy which has been tried and met with disastrous failure. Sir, I do not think it is a policy which has been given a fair trial. I should like to see the Government make up their minds in Turkey, in Persia, and in China as to the precise points on which their Imperial interests are directly or indirectly touched, and, having done so, declare urbi et orbi to all whom it may concern that within the circle of those interests we intend to take any action Which may 852 be necessary to safeguard them. Then, having made that declaration to Europe, you can go to China and say, "You may conduct your own government on any principles you please, but if disturbances arise either on the frontier or the Chinese Valley, or in the provinces which abut on the Yang-tsze river, then those disturbances which directly or indirectly menace our own interests will be stopped by us." This is not a selfish policy. I am perfectly prepared to say that if you adopted that policy all round you would form those spheres of influence into agents for promoting the general welfare of the Empire. I believe that both in China and Turkey the one desire is to arrive at a cordial and friendly understanding with this country. The attitude of these countries at the present moment is this:We know perfectly well that the Objects of England are far more coincident with our own than those of any other European nation; the only thing of which we are not sure is whether England attaches sufficient importance to those objects to justify us in incurring the enmity of other Powers.It is therefore necessary that they should be placed in a position to deal with its directly, and that there should be correspondence between the Governments at Pekin and Constantinople on the one hand and with the Government in London on the other. In conclusion, I would only suggest that the policy I have indicated is no more than the policy to which we are already committed. You talk about assuming fresh responsibilities. To my mind you have already assumed responsibilities which cover the whole ground. At the present moment you are pledged to defend Turkey against ally foreign combination, provided that she carries out reasonable reforms, and we are also pledged to defend China against any foreign combination, no matter what it may be, in all cases where any foreign nation puts pressure upon the Government at Pekin to refuse us concessions. What is the difference between that policy and the policy of saying, "You shall do so and so because it is to your own interest, and we will defend you whatever comes of it"? The only difference, to my mind, is that one is an open-handed and honest policy, and the other is a dishonest policy, which lays you open to the charge of hypocrisy. There is only one clear and honest attitude to. 853 take up, and I do not think the Government have any option in the matter. These spheres of influence have already been created, and unless you step in and create your own spheres of interest you will find the open deer slammed in your face. My criticisms may not seem to lie one essentially of support to the Government, but they are meant to be. It is for this reason, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has recognised the fact—which I believe to be the true one—that not only are spheres of interest and the open deer not incompatible, but absolutely identical and correlative; and the only reason I have risen to-night is to urge upon the Government the necessity of carrying out that policy to its legitimate conclusion. I hope the Government will make up its mind, apart from any agreement with other nations, to lay down the limits of those spheres of influence, and declare at once that within those spheres of influence they do not intend to allow of any interference whatever.
§ *MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
I think this Debate, like those which have preceded it both last year and this year, has shown clearly that our sole interests in China which we desire to maintain are commercial, and that we have no intention whatever—so far as we have heard the opinion of those who have spoken on this subject in every part of the House—to promote any scheme of territorial aggrandisement. Even the noble Lord the Member for York—to whom we are indebted for the largest and most complete book on China, so far as commercial questions arc concerned—places the question on a trading basis, and modestly calls himself a commercial agent. I think this shows that at last commercial matters are obtaining more attention in this House than they formerly did, and for a country that has always been largely governed by country gentlemen that is something to be thankful for. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his speech this evening, stated what had been dune, and if he was more definite than formerly, it was merely because he had not to tell us of so many assurances which he had required to accept, and which had not been, or would not be, observed by those who made them. On the other hand, he spoke, 854 as be always does, apologetically with regard to the past, and he was mildly optimistic in regard to the future. He had many things to explain with regard to the Blue Book and the Chinese papers, and he spoke very hopefully of the future. But in regard to actual results he had very little to say, because the gains were very few. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had received a full share of mining and railway concessions. I may say, in this respect, so has Belgium, which is a little country with no navy or army that the Chinese Government need fear. He also said that he had succeeded in inducing China to observe its pledge, for the non-alienation of the Yangtsze There would be very little difficulty indeed in inducing the Chinese Government to keep their promise in that respect, because we have no rights in the Yang-tsze Valley which are not common to all other nations. We have asked for no exclusive privileges there, for in that valley there is still the open door, which is as much open to every other country as it is to us. I think one of the most remarkable things which the right hon. Gentleman told us to-night was that the Tien-tsin Treaty had always been observed, and that no door had been closed. That was what the right hon. Gentleman said when he last addressed the House. I am very much surprised that he should say so, because the evidence shows that the Tien-tsin Treaty has not been observed, and that the doors that have been closed are very numerous. The basis of our trade with China is the Tien-tsin Treaty, and upon one clause—Article 54—which is usually known as the "most favoured nation" clause. That clause gives the British Government and British subjects free and equal participation in all privileges and advantages which have been or may be granted by the Emperor of China to any other Government or people. What has happened since that Treaty was signed? France has taken possession of a large part of Southern China, and she has imposed duties against every country except herself. Japan has taken possession of Formosa, and has practically done the same thing. Germany has taken possession of Shantung, and she has barred us from all mining and railway privileges in that province, and all commercial opportunities of every kind except such as she may not happen to want her- 855 self. And yet the right hon. Gentleman says that no door has been shut. It has not only been, shut on us in Shantung, but the closing of it has been made in terms dictated to us from Berlin. In a despatch which was printed on the 4th of April last year our Ambassador at Berlin said, referring to Baron von Richtofen:His Excellency suggests a declaration to the following effect: that England formally declares to Germany that she has no intention, in establishing herself at Wei-hai-wei, of creating difficulties for Germany in Shantung, or of injuring or contesting her rights there, and more especially that in that province she will not establish railway communication.That was not sufficient to satisfy Germany, because a few days afterwards the Ambassador wrote again to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, at that time in charge of our Foreign Office, in order to satisfy Count Hadzfeldt:It is specially understood that England will not construct any railroad communication from Wei-hai-wei or from any other point on the coast to the interior of the province of Shantung.Therefore we not only closed that door, but we allowed Germany to state the terms on which the door should be closed. Again, take the railway agreement entered into only some few weeks ago with Russia. In that we practically agree that Russia shall close the door against ourselves so far as Manchuria is concerned. Now, how can any of these cases be reconciled with the principle of the most favoured nation clause, which was to secure our participation in all privileges, immunities and advantages which were given to any other country or might be given hereafter to any other country? But, besides this, all these parts of China which have been already appropriated by other countries are now defined areas in which France, Japan, Germany, and Russia have exclusive rights, and we have been warned off in every case, and we can obtain no concession of any description except by their permission, and that will certainly not be given in regard to anything which they want themselves. On the other hand, the Yang-tsze Valley is open to everybody; we have no exclusive rights there, nor could we say one word with reference to any mining or railway concessions being granted in the 856 Yang-tsze Valley to any other country. In our dealings with Russia we have conducted our business without definiteness; whereas, on the other hand, Russia has clearly defined her policy. The result is that Russia has obtained many definite advantages, whereas we have obtained nothing at all. The Russian Agreement defines their rights in Manchuria as coming to the Great Wall, which is within about 50 miles of Pekin. Our agreement does not define the Yang-tsze Valley or that immense area of country between the Yang-tsze Valley and the Great Wall which has been spoken of as "no man's land." We may depend upon it that it will not be "no man's land" very long, and we shall find that some country has obtained rights there and we shall be excluded from it. Her Majesty's Government have stated that they do not consider the Russian Agreement covered a railway to Pekin; but according to the telegrams from China it is stated distinctly that it is on the basis of that Agreement that Russia has asked for the concession of a railway to connect Port Arthur with Pekin. It certainly appears as if the statement of The Times correspondent was borne out by all that took place at the time. Our Government apparently knew nothing about Russia's intentions with regard to that railway; or if so they surely would not enter into such an agreement if it was to be immediately set aside? There was a very extraordinary circumstance connected with our representative at St. Petersburg in connection with that Agreement The Russian Government informed him that they did not make any demand on the Chinese Government, hut merely made a friendly request, which our representative communicated to the Government at Pekin, and was answered to the effect that Russia had made the demand, and would not take any refusal. The papers in regard to this matter have not been laid upon the Table, and we shall not probably see them printed this session, When the question comes up again on the next China Debate no doubt we shall find that Russia has obtained everything she wants, and that she has paid no attention whatever to the Agreement signed only five weeks ago. What is going to be the result of this? Russia has gradually come down from the north, step by step, for generations, and she will very soon control all Northern China, and Pekin as 857 well eventually. Tien-tsin is the gate of Manchuria and the port through which all the imports go which are sent to the north of the Great Plain, and there our tonnage was in 1896 represented by 1,250,000, whilst Russia was absolutely unrepresented by a single vessel. And yet the whole of Northern China is going to pass under the control of Russia. I know that I need not tender advice to the Government upon this question. It is only necessary for us to point out where they make mistakes, or express our approval where they are successful. If Russia does all these things while the Manchurian railroad is building, what will she do when it is finished? Naturally Russia will then be in a position to send as large an army as she pleases to Northern China, and there would be nothing to hinder her even taking possession of the Yang-tsze Valley, and we should be powerless to prevent her doing that. That point has been dealt with by other speakers in this House, and it certainly has been referred to many times by our Minister at Pekin. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs mentioned one circumstance which he said was always alluded to by speakers on this side, and that was that the Government lost prestige whenever a concession was given to any other country. But it is not on account of concessions to other countries that we have lost prestige. The fact is that we have been losing prestige for years in China under the government of both parties; but of all the series of diplomatic rebuffs we have received in China the most serious was sustained by us by the withdrawal of our men-of-war from Port Arthur and the abandonment of our rights in Shantung. Another reason for our loss of prestige was the acceptance of assurances from the Chinese Government and the representatives of other Governments which meant nothing at all, for they were merely given to satisfy our representative; many were not observed, and were never intended to be observed. Under the late Government We abandoned our claim to a portion of Southern China, and although the Chinese were under a signed Agreement with us not to give up that territory to any other country, yet in the very next year it was handed over to France. And what did We do in this matter? Why, nothing 858 at all. That was all done by the last Government, and I am speaking in no party sense in connection with these mistakes by the Foreign Office, because the last Government was no better than this Government in this respect. The only difference is that the present Government has had ten times more opportunities of making mistakes than its predecessors, and has taken advantage of them all. Our commercial policy in China has been neglected, and neither Government has made any serious attempt to secure our commercial interests. All these things have caused a great loss of prestige. Now, it is a very remarkable fact that while the Government policy is supposed to be dictated by the promotion of our commercial interests, there is amongst the commercial men of that country a feeling prevailing of the very deepest dissatisfaction at the way in which the possibilities of Chinese trade have been neglected for many years past. You could not find a dozen commercial men in China who would not blame both this and the last Government hr their neglect Of our real interests. I do not know whether the Government have ever taken advice from Chinese merchants, or from sources other Hiatt their strictly official channels. There is no doubt that the Government have been much more industrious of late, but their policy has been of little benefit to the commercial community. Take the much-lauded opening up of the Chinese waterways, which were spoken of in such glowing terms by the First Lord of the Treasury. It is idle to say that we have any waterway rights in China when the regulations and restrictions prevent us taking advantage of them. They have given something to us on paper, and taken it away from us in fact. I have had long business experience with China, and almost everything I have to say about the people is in their favour, for the Chinese merchants are honourable and enterprising, and that is quite as much as can be said for the commercial classes in any country under the sun. If we are to retain the trade we still have in China and increase it in proportion as commerce with China 859 increases, then the Government must be firmer than it has been in the past in laying down a policy and maintaining it. If the Government fail to do this, we must inevitably lose the greater part of the trade which we have with China at the present time. The present Government, through their supineness and policy of drift, do not know to-day what their policy will be this day month, and that is the way our commercial interests in China have been dealt with. Unless this is changed, and a definite, clear, consistent, and firmer policy is adopted, which will command the respect of the Government at Pekin and the Powers represented there, we need not expect that we shall be able even to retain in China the commercial advantages which we have at the present moment.
§ *MR. R. A. YERBURGH (Chester)
I express my congratulations to the Government on their Agreement with Russia. I have had the honour, for some time, of advocating such an Agreement, for I believe it is the best way of securing the interest of this country in China. I do not lay great stress on the Agreement itself, for it is not a very extensive one; but I look upon it, not for what it gives at the present time, but rather for what it foreshadows in the future. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether I am right in understanding that he said that the Agreement gave Russia the right to construct a railway to Pekin?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Her Majesty's Government do not consider that by the Agreement Russia will be Justified making a railway to Pekin.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
That is not an answer to my question. I want to know whether Her Majesty's Government think that the Agreement gives Russia the right to make a railway to Pekin.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that ender the Agreement Russia would have a right to construct this railway to Pekin, and i was going to show that Russia could not possibly have any such right. If we look at page 90 of the Blue Book we see that the Note of Sir Charles Scott to Count Muravieff states:That the present special Agreement is naturally not to interfere in any way with the right of the Russian Government to support applications of Russian subjects for concessions for railways which, starting from the main Manchurian line in a south-westerly direction, would traverse the region in which the Chinese line terminating at Sinminting and Newchwang is to be constructed.Well, there is a line already constructed as far as the Great Wall, and it is therefore obvious that Sir Charles Scott's Note cannot be construed as giving power to Russia to make a railway in the region between the Great Wall and Pekin, where no railway is to be constructed by the British Corporation. I would go even further than that. if the Memorandum of Count Muravieff, which will be found on page 84 of the Blue Book, is looked at, it will be found that it deals with the extension of the railway from the junction of Hsiao-hei-Shan to Sinminting, and with no other put of the line. It is pointed out that, while noting the assurances given in Sir Charles Scotts Memorandum, it must be clearly understood that the Imperial Government reserves to itself the right to support any application for railway concessions which Russian subjects may desire to obtain to the south-west of the main line towards Port Arthur, in the same region which is served by the line granted to the British and Chinese Corporation. I submit, then, that this additional Note, taken with the Memorandum, only gives Russia the right to construct a railway in the district between her main Manchurian line and the districts situated between Newchwang, Sinminting, or Hsiao-hei-Shan. We are extremely anxious to avoid any dispute with Russia, but as Russia has put in an application for a right to construct a railway to Pekin, we are face to face with the fact that that application may be pressed, and we are entitled to ask the Government what they intend to do should the claim be pressed. People have invested their money in the Newchwang railway extension largely on the 861 strength of the Government having allowed its name to appear on the prospectus, and the Russian demand has placed the Government in a serious position, although I think it is not a position from which it is altogether impossible to escape. Manchuria was lost when Port Arthur was allowed to pass under Russian domination. Why should we fight for the shadow when we have given away the substance? Why should we support these railway extensions into the Russian spheres of influence? I think it would have been a better policy for the Government to have attempted to induce the parties to the Newchwang Concession and to this concession for the Chenting Taiyuan railway in Shansi, where we have very large interests, to make an exchange of their respective concessions. They would thus have got rid, once for all, of any intrusion into the Russian sphere of influence, and have confined operations to a region where Germany by an Agreement made with us has recognised that we have a sphere of railway interest. There is another point I should like to deal with in connection with our position in Northern China. I understood my right hon. friend to say that the policy of the Government was to keep any single Power from dominating Pekin. What does that mean? It means that you have deliberately to-night made yourselves responsible for checking the advance of Russia upon Pekin. And my right hon. friend added that the Government were opposed to the transference of the Imperial Court to any other part of China.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I never used the words "Imperial Court" at all. I said that the Government would advise the Chinese Government against the transference of the Chinese power from Pekin.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
I ask the Committee how, after we have given up Port Arthur and Manchuria, this country can oppose, with any chance of success, the predominance of Russia at Pekin. I listened with Very great interest to the very admirable, able, and eloquent speech of my noble friend the Member for Kensington. He did me the honour of coupling my name with one of the three different policies which have been suggested with regard to China, namely, the Egyptianising the Yang-tsze region. 862 The noble Lord commenced by condemning the policy, but afterwards adopted it and extended it much further. He contended that there was no proper frontier of the Yang-tsze Valley, and that our sphere should therefore be extended up to the Yellow River. He would even go further than that; he would have Chinese troops to defend the region, and would build forts to defend the river. I therefore claim the noble Lord as a convert to the policy of Egyptianising the Yang-tsze region, which, combined with the policy of keeping the open door for general trade, is the policy which, when put forward last session, met with the severest criticism from the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Let us hope that the Government will make up their minds to Egyptianise the Yang-tsze region. What does that mean? It does not mean that you are to undertake the absolute control of the Yang-tsze region. I do not propose that for a moment. It means that you are to lend the Chinese Government men of capacity to assist them in reforming their finances, in establishing a commercial code, and in reorganising the forces of China. I believe I am right in saving that on the 17th of June last Lord Salisbury stated in the House of Lords that the proposition had been made to the Chinese Government that we should assist them in reorganising their army and navy, but that the difficulty was that the Chinese would not give a sufficiently independent position to our officers. If that difficulty had been met I take it that at the present time our officers would have been reorganising the Chinese navy and army. But what can be the objection to our officers reorganising the Chinese forces in the Yang-tsze Valley? It is not so large a scheme, and, perhaps, more feasible than Lord Salisbury's original proposition. It is well known that the Viceroys in the Yang-tsze region are in a more or less independent position, and that their connection with the central Government at Pekin is Very loose. I believe there will be very little difficulty in getting the Viceroys in these provinces, if they were approached in the right way, to assist us in carrying through this reform. You need not undertake it all at once, but do it by slow degrees. An objection possibly might be that the cost would be too great. That is a very strong objection, but it could be met by 863 a reform of the finances, for only about a sixth of the revenue of the provinces now reach the Imperial Exchequer. In regard to the general question, I think my noble friend has used language as to the conduct of affairs by the Government which is not altogether justifiable. He says that the Government have done nothing to develop or secure trade. I do not think anyone can bring that charge with any justification who has read the last Blue Book, There are in that Blue Book many instances of what the Government have done in the direction of developing and securing our trade interests. I need only quote in support of that the last annual report of the China Association. The Government have done a great deal in the past to support and develop the trade in China, and I have but to express the hope that they will not be weary in well-doing. If the Government are determined to continue to assist British enterprise as they have done in the last few months, if they will only have the courage to undertake these reforms in the Yang-tsze Valley, I do not think that any British Consul will have to write, as Consul Brennan had to write two or three years ago, that our pioneers in the treaty ports have been discouraged because they have received no effectual support from the Government. Let me turn for a moment to the Waima incident referred to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. To me the position of affairs is most sad, and it is made more sad when only the other night we passed by universal consent a vote to Lord Kitchener for his successful operations in the Soudan. I think it is a shame that not a finger has been put forward to help the relatives of the murdered soldiers who have been left in penury and poverty. For six years their agony has been prolonged, and for three years the Government have known that justice was on their side; and yet the Government have done nothing. Last year a question was put to the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to whether tile Government could not find any money for the use of these poor people until such time as compensation would be paid fry the French Government, but still nothing has been dome. I think it is inconceivably mean that the relatives of British soldiers who lost their lives in unfair combat should have received 864 no consideration from a British Government. I know there is a strong feeling on these benches in regard to this matter, and I do hope that the Government will see their way to give a more kindly and sympathetic consideration to this extremely distressing case.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
I cannot speak on behalf of the Foreign Office, nor do I intend to enter into the history of the Waima case; but as that case has been before me in my position as Chancellor of the Exchequer I should just like to say a word or two with regard to it. My hon. friend has characterised the conduct of the Government as "inconceivably mean." Now, it is a very much easier thing, and a pleasanter thing, to do what I am sure the sympathies of all of us would desire, and to treat a case of this kind in a popular and liberal way. But one has to consider what the effect generally of such action would be. What are the circumstances in this particular case? These officers lost their lives in the discharge of their duty, as many other officers have done during the last three or four years. They left behind them near relatives in an unfortunate pecuniary position who suffered in that way heavily by their death. They lost their lives by what was unquestionably an accident. There is a regular system by which pensions or grants are given to the widows or near relatives of officers who have lost their lives in combat with the enemy on the field. Would it be right, and a principle that this House would desire to adopt, to treat the relatives of officers who have lost their lives in the discharge of their duty, by accident, better than the relatives of those officers who have lost their lives in the discharge of their duties in combat with the enemy? If you were once to adopt that principle it would be impossible to adhere to the rules which now govern the War Office in these matters. This is a case in which compensation has been demanded by the British Government from the French Government, but until the last few days we have had no real reason to suppose that the request for compensation would be favourably considered by the French Government. Therefore if we had granted to these unfortunate persons something by way of excep- 865 tional relief, we should have been treating them With exceptional favour as compared with the widows and the relatives of other officers who had lost their lives fighting in Egypt, the Soudan, or India without receiving similar compensation. I am happy to be able to say that very recently we have hail reason to believe that this matter may be favourably considered by the French Government; and it is possible that sonic terms of arbitration may be arranged. All I can say is this, that if that hope collies to fruition, if an arrangement is made, as I hope it may be, by which it is admitted that it is a case for arbitration, then I think the time will have arrived when we might consider the circumstances of these unfortunate persons, and ask the House to afford them some temporary relief.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I have listened to the speeches that have been Wade in the course of this Debate, and as far as I can see the unfortunate Government has no friend in the House. Even hon. Members on the opposite side have taken exception to the main points of the Chinese policy that has been adopted; and, being one of those who without respect of Party, are always prepared to support any Government which acts in a plain, sensible way with a view to establishing our commerce as far as possible by establishing peace abroad, I come forward and tender the Government my humble and sincere support. At the commencement of this Debate I think I saw in the gallery the distinguished representative of China in this country, but he has now gone away, and I am glad that he has left, because if he had stayed and listened to the speeches he would have thought that he had strayed into a den of thieves instead of the House of Commons. Because everybody who got up started a new theory for the elating up and distributing of China between the various Powers. The Debate was commenced by the noble Lord the Member for York, and I have to congratulate him because, although 1 do not agree with much that he said, there is one thing that I do agree with. The noble Member for York, not like me a poor civilian, but au eminent warrior, said he was against expansion. He may he called a little Englander, but I do not think he will care for that—that 866 is a term which is applied by a foolish man to a wise one. It is a term that has been applied to Lord Salisbury, and if I may refer to so humble an individual, it has also been applied to me. I listened to the brilliant speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington, which I do not agree with, in which he said we complained of the policy of the Government in China because it was a temporary policy. The policy is admittedly temporary at this moment, and it is the act of a wise Government to pursue a temporary policy, to look after our interests, and not pledge itself in any way. He was disposed not to treat with Russia, because he distrusted her; that means that we must go to war with Russia. In order to do that we are to enter into an alliance with Germany, and the risible Lord seemed to consider that he had the Governments of all Europe in his pocket, as if Germany would enter into au alliance with us against Russia for that purpose. Germany would not enter into any such alliance. But the noble Lord went further and said that what we ought to do in China was, whatever conies, to tell the people We were ready to protect them, and whether they were attacked by France, Germany, or Russia, we would see they were not hurt. To do that we should have to have an Army not of 20,000, but of 2,000,000. Another hon. Member wished to Egyptianise the Yang-tsze Valley. He made a speech of very impressive character, and impressed upon us that what we were to do was to take into our possession a Chinese army and carry all before us in China. If the Government were to listen to such proposals as that, they world lose the confidence of the country in uncommonly short time. The Government have most unquestionably a very difficult task before them. What ought to be the aim of the Government? They ought to do their best, without getting us into trouble with foreign countries, to maintain and extend so far as they call our trade with China. I am bound to say that in my opinion they have done this, and I do not see what else they could have done. Then, again, in the Yang-tsze valley, which, as everybody knows, is divided by a great river, we are told that they have now gunboats on the river which can go up a thousand miles, and that they are patrolling the river and 867 securing to us the commerce. We are further told that certain dredgings are taking place which will enable our gunboats to go further up, and this enables us to obtain all the commerce of that district and does not entail territorial expansion. We are told the treaty ports have been increased, and I am very glad to hear of it. We have heard also a good deal about the recent Treaty with Russia, and I congratulate the Government on having entered into that Treaty, and I am glad that they have given up the "long spoon" policy which was recommended by a colleague of the Government with regard to Russia. Nothing can now be done without our consent. We admit the Russians have a right to Manchuria, and that we are not going there. I do not quite understand the observation made by the Under Secretary just now that the Agreement with Russia did not justify that country in going to Pekin. I think, on the contrary, that Russia has expressly reserved a right to make railways wherever she pleases in a south-westerly direction from the Great Wall towards Pekin. I am most desirous to avoid lending advisers to the Chinese Government, because that would only lead to Russia doing the same thing, and ill blood would be bred between the two countries. The present Government, I quite admit, has a very difficult diplomatic task before it. At the present moment diplomacy is very difficult in any country whore there is a free Press. The Press generally obtain all the news first, and very frequently obtain wrong news—I am now speaking of the daily Press. They got little scraps of information which are generally wrong, and build elaborate theories upon them. I entirely agree with Lord Salisbury when he said you must not form any Conclusion as to the method of diplomacy pursued by the Government until it is completed. And I am bound to say, looking at his policy as a whole, it seems to have been a sound policy, getting as far as he can into agreement with Russia, and doing his best for the commerce of this country without compromising us with that or any other country.
§ *MR. KESWICK (Surrey, Epsom.)
It appears to me that to give effect to the recommendations of the noble Lord the Member for York it would be absolutely necessary that we should establish a protectorate over the Empire 868 of China. I do not think that it would be possible to give effect to his views in that way, and therefore we must be prepared to fall back and do that which is possible and practical do there are some people Who say and think that the Government have not done enough; but I do not see how they could have done more than they have without getting into trouble and producing a serious condition of things, which possibly we should not have approved of. It is not to war that I look for the universal observance of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, but it is to agreements entered into with other Powers. Our trade in China is very large, and capable of great extension, and the efforts of the Government in the opening of treaty ports and other ways have done a great deal towards extending it. Although the opening up of the inland waterways has been so far unsuccessful in the sense that the Customs arrangements have not been of such a satisfactory character as to allow inland navigation to be undertaken, I am encouraged by the fact that those ports are recognised as treaty ports, and all that is left to be done now is to make reasonable and suitable regulations. The future of China is, of course, speculative, but I fear that events are going so fast that it will he very difficult indeed to maintain our authority otherwise than by the united feeling of the whole of the country in support of the Government. There ought in this matter to be no party feeling, but an entire devotion to the best interests of commerce in China. If we can avoid taking territory, I hope will be avoided. I fear, however, it will not, because we must protect our interests. But perhaps that may be possible without the acquisition of territory. I beg to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ *MR. BARLOW (Somerset, From)
I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Chester. He expressed the hope that the Government would enter on a new and better course, and I inferred from the general tenour of his speech that he was not altogether pleased with the action of the Government. I noticed that when the hon. Gentleman recently spoke in Lancashire he studiously avoided saying anything about the action of the Government with regard to the present question. 869 Lancashire is a county very deeply interested in the Chinese question, and it is only fair to suppose that if the hon. Member had been able to say anything about the Government which he thought might commend them to the electors he would have said it. However, so far as my experience goes, the Government have been viewed with a great deal of suspicion in Lancashire, not only with reference to the Chinese question, but also in regard to the manner in which they have dealt with other questions in the East. I would not have intervened in this Debate had I not been interested in China for a number of years. I am not interested in China as the hon. Member for Northampton suggested some hon. Members were—as concessionaires, but I am interested as a merchant in China, and therefore I have a more abiding interest in the prospects of the country than perhaps other Members, who Wray be interested as concessionaries. There is no doubt there are huge undeveloped potentialities in China. A great deal has been done to secure our trade in various parts of the world, but I think that the present Government have to some extent sacrificed our interests in China, where we already had a firm foothold, and where there is a much greater prospect of speedy development than in some other parts of the world Africa, for instance, of which we have heard a great deal during the present year. There is nothing more certain in connection with Eastern Asia, and particularly with China, than one fact, and that is if you lose prestige, if you give the impression that you are a declining Power, your influence and your trade are apt to depart from you, and I am sorry to say that from communications I have received from China, and from watching affairs very closely, that the policy of the present Government has given the idea to the natives of China that we are a declining Power. The noble Lord the Member for York said in his speech that there was an idea that we were like an old and wealthy man who was afraid to risk his money because he thought that if he risked it he might lose it; that Russia, a much younger Power, was prepared to take greater risks and responsibilities, and that therefore it had advanced in recent years at a much more rapid rate than we had. I have no hostility to Russia. Russia has a settled purpose, and intends to carry it out to its 870 legitimate, and from its own point of view proper, conclusion. What I complain of is that if our Government have a settled purpose they have not made it clear to the residents in China, not only to the natives, but to the Europeans and the mercantile community. They think that the action of the Government means that English interests are being sacrificed, and that we will give way on any point when we are squeezed. That is not a course of policy which can secure us respect in the East or eventuate in our success. The prospect of the construction by Russia of a railway to Pekin is most likely to be prejudical to our interests and influence in China. It is possible, and indeed likely, that this will not impress the natives of China with our power, wisdom, or farsightedness. Speaking from an experience extending over many years, it is my opinion that there is no nation in the East more reliable and trustworthy in its mercantile transactions than China. I would trust a Chinaman as soon as, and sooner than, any other native of the East to carry out any engagement he enters into, and therefore it is a very great mistake that this country should do anything that would prejudice or let slip our hold on a country where we have undoubtedly done a great deal, where we have most of the foreign trade in our hands, and where a conservative population were beginning to see that we have long been their friends. We have treated them fairly and well, and that population and its Government will not desert us unless convinced that we are unable to support them in their just demands against the In 'doubted interference of outsiders. I was sorry to hear the almost apologetic tone of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with reference to affairs in China. Apology does not commend itself to the nations of the East. We must be strong if we want to secure their respect and obtain their support, and unless we are strong they will go to what they consider to be the rising star and the coming nation. I do not think that the way in which we allowed the Tien-tsin Treaty to be encroached upon is likely to secure us the respect or support of the natives of China. In that matter as in some others, the conduct and action of the Government have been reprehensible in many ways. The idea, we have given in China, is that we have been warned off by other Powers, 871 and if they by our weakness secure the influence we had, the natives will begin to consider whether we are really strong, and whether these other nations—new comers—are not stronger and better able to defend an Empire which has very serious internal difficulties to deal with. The condition of China is a large, difficult, and intricate subject, but I am convinced that the present position which we occupy in China is not satisfactory to the people who know China, who have studied it on the spot, who know the peculiarities of its Government and the temperament of its people. There is a great and almost immeasurable trade to be obtained in China; but we shall not obtain it, we shall not keep pace with other nations, if we do not show we are able to defend the rights we have obtained and that we are willing to take our full liability for the development of the resources of China. If we inflow it to be seen that other countries can get concessions with reference to railways, and can have those railways managed by their own officials, while we allow our capital to go into China and to be managed by foreign people of one kind or another, as has been said in this Debate, then China will say, not unnaturally, from the Eastern point of view, that we are afraid to defend and stand up for our interests, and therefore we are not to be relied on to defend and promote its interest if it trusts in us. I have only spoken to-night in order, as far as it in my power lies, to warn the Members of this House of the unfavourable impression which the action of the Government has caused in China. Not a few hon. Members have been in China—I have been in some parts of the East myself—but it is very difficult for those who have not been in the East to realise to what an extent this feeling prevails. You may depend on it that a strong and reliable Government will be supported, cost What it may. The idea which obtains in China is that we are not definite, do not know what we want, and are turned away from our objects; whereas other countries make up their minds as to what they want and get it. Nobody knows what we want, and nobody cares whether we get anything or not. That is not the way in which our commerce in China has been built up. Other forces and ideas have now come into play, and it is only by adapting ourselves to them that we can retain the 872 influence we have in China. Therefore I hope the Committee will do all in its power to assist the Government in taking up a strong, determined, and decided view that English interests in China must not be sacrificed; that China must he supported in its legitimate demands and aspirations; that English influence must be kept to the front, and not be allowed to lag behind in the race with other nations, which undoubtedly is getting keener for the new markets of the world. China presents great prospects for tile future. It has a large, industrious, thrifty, and hard - working population, and it is in a country of that sort that we may expect the greatest expansion of trade in the future; and unless we secure that expansion it will be impossible for the people of this country to maintain their position among the nations of the world. I speak not alone for Lancashire, but for other counties which have an indirect interest in the welfare of our producing community, and I say that it will be impossible for us to maintain our position when competition becomes keen unless the Government of the day, to whichever side it may belong, does what it can to support our legitimate influence and prestige in China, which I fear is sadly prejudiced at present.
§ MR. MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I wish to appeal to the Government to reconsider their decision with regard to the granting of compensation to the relatives of the unfortunate officers who were killed at Waima. I cannot help thinking that I am expressing the view of many hon. Members when I say that the Government ought not to wait until the French Government recognise their duty, but that they should do something themselves in the matter. Whatever difference of opinion may be expressed on other subjects, I believe there is no difference of opinion on this.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
There is one subject to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee. It has been already discussed during the present session, but it is a question which I, for one, will not allow to remain undebated as long as the institution of slavery remains under the British 873 flag. At the present moment there are something like 350,000 slaves under the British flag in the Zanzibar Protectorate. The Government accepted the pledge of the late Government to free these slaves at the earliest possible moment, but up to the present have not carried it out. They find session after session an excuse for allowing this institution to remain. At the present rate of progress there are about 750 slaves annually freed in Pemba and Zanzibar, while on the mainland the Government have not taken any steps whatever to free the slaves employed there, and the Government, I know, assert that any slave can apply for his freedom, but I have evidence in my possession which shows that a great deal of pressure is placed upon the slave population to prevent them obtaining their freedom even through the courts. It is only recently that an individual employed in Pemba received all intimation from his superiors that his services were no longer required, and when one came to inquire into the reason it was found that it was attributed to the fact that he had endeavoured to secure justice for the slaves as against the Arab slave masters. There was a Debate a short time ago on the question of the retention of slaves by British subjects, and some doubt was expressed by hon. Members of this House as to whether it was legal for a British subject to administer a law allowing the detention of slaves. An Order in Council passed in 1877 applied the Indian Penal Code to the dominions of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and Section 370 of that Code enacts that whoever disposes of, accepts, or detains any person as a slave shall be liable, with or without a fine, to imprisonment for seven years. I hold that every one of Her Majesty's Ministers who are parties to the administration of the law with regard to slavery are really detainers of slaves and are morally guilty. All that is asked is that the Government should keep the pledge it gave to Parliament. In 1895 the First Lord of the Treasury stated that he would be glad to take any steps that 874 could be reasonably taken. Four years have now elapsed, and practically no steps have been taken to liberate the slave population on the mainland. But a new interpretation has been placed on the law with regard to the abolition of the legal status of slavery. Hitherto, in the Indian Empire, it has always been interpreted as practically the same as the abolition of slavery itself; but in the East Coast Protectorate a different interpretation has Leon placed upon it, and the spirit in which the law is administered is indicated by the necessity imposed on a slave to go into the courts in order to obtain his freedom. The process is made difficult by the native officials, who themselves own a large manger of slaves. The policy adopted by the Government with regard to the slave population has been to conciliate the Arab population rather than do justice to the slaves. The Government appear to me to have exaggerated the rights of the Mohammedan population, and as an illustration I might point to the fact that while no subject of the Sultan is allowed to inherit any slaves, unless he is the son of the owner, yet the present Sultan was permitted to inherit 30,000 slaves from the previous Sultan, although he is not a direct descendant. That shows the spirit in which the law is administered. I might also refer to a revolting case of cruelty which occurred in 1896, when a man placed a slave, for running away, in double irons, connected by a bar near the ankles, and to prolong his misery a cocoanut was given to him morning and evening. The miserable slave continued in the same spot, exposed to all kinds of weather, for seven months. The owner received a sentence of seven Years' imprisonment, but the moment the judge's back was turned to come home on a holiday at the instance, I believe, of Sir Lloyd Mathews, the Sultan's Prime Minister, the Arab, who had almost killed the slave, was liberated from gaol. Such an act of so-called clemency was calculated, of course, to give encouragement to other Arabs to ill-treat their slaves. I object to the policy of the Govern- 875 ment on this question on several grounds, but I object very strongly on the ground that they have made an exception in favour of allowing the concubines of the Arab population to be exempt from the decree. I know the Foreign Office justify this on the ground that the children of concubines would become bastards if the concubines were allowed to take advantage of the decree. But no question of legitimacy or any alteration of connubial rights was raised. We desire to raise the moral tone of the home life of the Arab population. There are many concubines at present who are not slaves, and all the concubines of the Arab population should have the same opportunity of 876 going into court to secure their freedom as other slaves.
It being midnight, the Chairman left the chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.