§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Commander Eyres Honsell.]
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
The Labour party have pressed for time for the discussion, of the situation in China, and the Government have very readily acquiesced in 907 giving this opportunity. Our object in asking for this opportunity at once is that the question of China is much too grave a one to be mixed up with other Foreign Office questions, such as the Pact, which is going to be discussed next week, and that the country will be glad to have some sort of statement at once from the Government. Another thing which has weighed with us, perhaps more than anything else, is that we feel there ought to be some discussion of the origins of the trouble in China before any condition arises which makes discussion of the subject in relative calmness impossible. I hope it is clear that my object is not to attack the Government; in fact, I would like to say that in one respect, I believe, there will be agreement throughout the House. The situation in China is very alarming and grave, and a position has arisen in which the lives of foreigners, especially the lives of English and Japanese, are liable to be in considerable danger. In all quarters of the House, I think, there is agreement that it is the elementary duty of Government to take measures to protect the lives of our fellow citizens, and in so far as they take the necessary precautions they will have the necessary support from all quarters of the House.
But in a situation of this sort this House has other duties. It is very seldom there is any single or simple explanation for portentious events in this world, and it is important that we should have our minds clear as to why these things have been happening in China. In our view, and I think it is really incontrovertible, the immediate cause of the calamity at Shanghai in China has been an industrial cause. Earlier in the year there was very serious industrial trouble in Shanghai. What I shall quote are simply facts out of various Chinese papers. In the beginning of the year, in February, there was a very serious labour dispute, 29,000 Chinese labourers and Japanese mill hands in Shanghai being on strike. The reasons were as follow:It is understood that the chief cause or the strike is a demand on the part of the men for higher wages, and also in consequence of alleged ill-treatment.Following is a description of the ill-treatment:A few days before the strike a girl worker, 12 years old, in one of the Japanese 908 mills, was struck and seriously injured by a Japanese foreman when found asleep after a 12 hours' night shift. Her sister, 18 years old, on seeing this, argued with the foreman. The latter slapped her in the face. Consequently both night and day workers, who sympathised with the helpless and ill-treated girl, joined in a protest and were discharged from the mill.The strike of the 29,000 was a consequence of that. The strike very soon came to an end. The workers were defeated.
Now I want the House to realise what the strike was about. What are the industrial conditions in Shanghai? Friends of mine who will very likely speak later on may go into this in greater detail, and I shall give only one or two quotations from the Report of the Child Labour Commission of last year, in order to give the House an idea of the kind of conditions against which these strikes are taking place. This Child Labour Commission had on it two merchants, one principal lady factory inspector, an industrial secretary of the world's W.Y.C.A., and, I think, three managers of mills. They may fairly be taken to be representative of what is best in the British community. I only just read a sample or two from their Report in order that the House may understand the situation—The average monthly earnings of a workman of the coolie class are not greater than fifteen dollars, while in some instances, such as ricsha coolies, they may be as low as eight. One witness stated that an adult female feather sorter did not receive more than ten cents for a day's work.I come now to what is the most miserable and disastrous picture which this Report gives, and that is as to the condition of the children:Generally, speaking, the child begins to work in the mill or factory as soon as it is of any economic value to the employer. The Commission has visited a number of mills and similar places of employment, both during the day and at night, and has seen very many children at work who could not have been more than six years of age. The hours of work are generally twelve, with not more than one hour off for a meal. The children frequently have to stand the whole time they are at work. In many industries day and night work is the rule, there being two shifts of twelve hours each. … The Commission heard evidence to the effect that in some instances contractors obtain young children from the country districts, paying the parents two dollars a month for the services of each child. By employing such children in the mills and factories, the contractor is able to make a profit of four dollars a month on each child. Those children are frequently most miserably 909 housed and fed. They receive no money, and their conditions of life are practically those of slavery.There are pages of that kind of thing available, and the House can make itself better informed. All I want to point out is that those are the conditions of labour in Shanghai, and that it was essentially a protest against those conditions of labour that led to the strikes that have been going on during the year. I do not want to lay any great stress on the fact that when the proposals of this Commission were brought up before the Municipal Council of Shanghai it happened that there was not a quorum and that nothing was done. I am sorry nothing was done. Under the circumstances, it was a pity that that occurred at that moment. But what is wrong is that those conditons should exist at all, and what we insist on is that those conditions are a disgrace to any community for which our people are at this moment largely responsible. What followed? There was fresh industrial conflict. The strike in the earlier part of the year, as I pointed out, had failed. Then came about on 15th May the new Government. I will continue the quotation:Since the last two weeks the Japanese cotton mills continue to expel trade union leaders. This aroused indignation and uneasiness among the workers. After the rejection of a demand to call back two of the expelled leaders, and to release five of the imprisoned workers, the workers of the twelfth mill declared a strike on the morning of the 15th instant.With the fear that the strike might spread, the Japanese managers suddenly closed the other four mills, that is the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth, and locked out all the workers numbering more than 20.000. In the same afternoon about 300 workers gathered together before the fifth mill and demanded an explanation from the manager.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Austen Chamberlain)
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, but would he mind belling me from what document he is reading?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I am reading from Chinese papers, which give an account of the situation prior to the fatal events. The quotation proceeds:They shouted and cried out without response. At six o'clock p.m. the doors suddenly opened and bullets were fired from within and 13 of them were wounded, 910 seven very seriously. One by the name of Ku Chen Hun died immediately afterwards.This is the event which gave rise to the demonstrations which ended so fatally in front of the police station, and it was a protest against this which led the demonstrators to go to through the streets of Shanghai. The Government admit that the demonstrators were unarmed, and there is no pretence that they had any means of seriously injuring anybody. There is no evidence that they did injure anybody. Evidence has been given by American missionaries that the crowd was fired upon without any provocation by the crowd at all, and there is a universal belief throughout China amongst the Chinese that these shootings were absolutely unnecessary. In the first instance, six were killed on the first day, and subsequently 21 were killed and 65 wounded, and I think until yesterday no policeman was injured at all. That does not seem to be a very dangerous mob.
This it is that has created all this trouble throughout the country? This it is that is making it necessary, as I dare say it is necessary, to land bluejackets and rush up troops. This it is that may eventually lead to war and slaughter in China. It is an industrial dispute arising out of conditions which all of us regard here as monstrous, it is an industrial dispute which has been dealt with in a way in which it could not have been dealt with in either Scotland or England. Had there been an unarmed crowd of strikers, with nothing more to fight with in their hands than pamphlets in Glasgow or Newcastle, and they had been fired on, even this powerful Government would have been shaken. There is no one to shake in Shanghai. Who rules Shanghai? Who is the controlling authority? Not a modern democratic set of rulers, because there is no popular system of government in Shanghai.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I must ask hon. Members on both sides to allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed without interruption.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
In Shanghai there are nearly 800,000 Chinese and 21,000 foreigners. The foreigners choose the rulers, and the municipality which rules 911 consists of six Englishmen, one Japanese, and two Americans.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
They are chosen by the foreign ratepayers. Here you have an enormous industrial community ruled without any representation whatever of the working part of that community. It seems to me that our first duty, after securing the lives of our fellow citizens, is without regard at all to what the nationality of the people responsible may be, to bring home the responsibility for this tragedy. We owe it to China, we owe it to the world, and we owe it to ourselves. It is no more an obligation of British patriotism to justify a proceeding of this sort which would be impossible in our own land than it is historically an obligation of British patriotism to justify Peterloo which is impossible now.
We do not think that the whole of this question is an industrial question. I know it has its political aspect, but how is it that this position has arisen at all? How is it that foreign police have shot down Chinamen? How is it that there are no native Courts to deal with the trouble in the mills? How comes it that, at this moment, this most kindly and pacific of peoples, the Chinese—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—does anyone deny what I have just said, unfortunately are frantic with hatred of us. The root difficulty is the extra-territorial privileges of the Powers. It is an amazing system. China is practically an occupied territory where you have great towns, and 49 of them, amongst which are the greatest, are largely controlled by foreigners, and in these settlements there is no Chinese representation. The Government is controlled by the traders, and by European and Japanese landowners, and how do the Chinese naturally look upon this system? They feel that they are governed by their economic exploiters—and foreigners at that. What peace would there be in Britain? Would anti-foreign riots be rare in Britain if Southampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Hull, were all controlled by foreigners? Would you be surprised at anti-foreign riots? I may have spoken strongly, but in anything I have said I am not attacking the Government. I ask them what 912 they are going to do. This situation is not unrealised by the Great Powers. Indeed, I think the Great Powers have a bad conscience about it. I should like to quote from the Resolutions at the Washington Conference. They are rather long Resolutions, but I think I must quote a portion of the Fourth Resolution, which runs as follows:These several powers "—that is, the United States of America, Belgium, the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Portugal—have agreed to give every assistance towards the attainment by the Chinese Government of its expressed desire to reform its judicial system and to bring it into accord with that of Western nations, and they declare that they are also prepared to relinquish their extra-territorial rights when satisfied that the state of the Chinese laws, the arrangements for their administration, and other considerations warrant them in so doing …That the Governments of the Powers above-named shall establish a Commission … to inquire into the present practice of extra-territorial jurisdiction in China, and into the laws and judicial system and the methods of judicial administration in China, with a view to reporting to the Governments of the Governments of the several Powers above named their findings of fact in. regard to these matters and their recommendations as to such means as they may find suitable to improve the existing conditions of administration of justice in China, and to assist and further the efforts of the Chinese Government to effect such legislation and judicial reforms as would warrant the several Powers in relinquishing, either progressively or otherwise, their respective rights of extra-territoriality."
And there was a further resolution on behalf of the Chinese Government as follows:China expresses its satisfaction with the sympathetic disposition of the Powers hereinbefore named in regard to the aspiration of the Chinese Government to secure the abolition of extra-territoriality in China.That is to say, the Powers realise that the system of extra-territoriality is at any rate eventually doomed. As far as I know, nothing has been done. I am not complaining of this or any past Government, but am simply saying that I think nothing has been done. I should like to make this definite suggestion, which I know finds approval among the great mass of those who sit behind me on this side of the House. There is, I think, to be a conference about Chinese tariffs. I 913 would ask whether it can be extended to the wider and more essential question of extra-territoriality, and whether, if it be so extended, Britain can take the lead in proposing measures to bring to a conclusion the system of extra-territoriality. Where does British interest lie? How are our people any better off by the exploitation of cheap Chinese labour under the system which at present exists? Where is our interest in that? It is not a British interest, but the interest of a few British shareholders in getting bigger dividends than they would if they invested at home. But there is a British interest in Lancashire cotton mills—a natural British interest—and outside those Lancashire cotton mills adult workers are unemployed in Great Britain, because small children are overworked till they drop asleep in Shanghai and elsewhere in China. After the fierce light which these events have thrown upon our share in the occupation of China, I think that this is the question which the workers in Great Britain will continue to ask: "How long are we going on using our armed forces in the last resort for backing up exploitation of this kind, which does no good either to Britain or to China?"
But the matter is more serious than that. If we go on as at present, it will be a case of using more force, and not less. It seems to me that at this moment we are at the usual cross-roads. Either we have to move towards the redress of grievances and towards justice, or we have to move towards more repression; we can never stand still. Is repression, however unwillingly indulged in in the first instance, going to succeed in China? Can force indefinitely prolong such a system as I have described, which is so utterly incompatible with national development and self-respect in China? Is it not as well to face facts here, now and at once? After all, we are all pretty well aware that European predominance in Asia is declining. The day of co-operation has got to begin between ourselves and the Asiatics, and it cannot begin too soon. If not, what is the other road? The Chinaman may be very patient, and he may be a very bad organiser, but even now the situation is dangerous—dangerous not necessarily at once from the point of view of violence, but probably ultimately so unless an understanding can be come to. 914 Already, however, the Chinese are organising an economic boycott. That can be done by people without arms in their hands. Where will our traders be, where will our trade be, if that is to reach considerable proportions? Even if we use force now, we are not going to be able to use it ultimately with success. What is happening in China now? Why is there all this fighting in China? It is largely because these very Treaty Ports have been emporiums through which the surplus war stock of Europe has been poured into China, keeping China boiling in civil war, but also teaching the Chinese to fight. The future is a very grim one if we are going to go down in that course, and I would ask the Government, not critical of anything they have done, whether they cannot go down the course, not merely of kindly phrases to the Chinese people, but of really giving the Chinese people what can alone satisfy them, namely, control of their own land, making it clear to them that they are eventually going to have that from the great Powers.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope in a debate on foreign affairs one domestic reflection may be permitted. I am a little puzzled to decide why it is that the ex-President of the Board of Education is always chosen by the party opposite to open their debates on foreign affairs. I cannot help thinking that if they were opened by the late Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs or by the late Minister of Foreign Affairs—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not complaining that the right hon. Gentleman chose to follow me rather than precede me.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night the President of the Board of Education was put up to speak on a Board of Trade matter?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If I may resume the sentence in which I was interrupted, I cannot help thinking that if these Debates were opened by the late Under-Secretary, or by the late Prime Minister, they would be handled with a deeper knowledge of all that is involved, and 915 perhaps with a greater discretion. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to make it plain that he did not criticise anything that the Government had yet done, and that he was seeking information only as to what the policy of the Government was in the future. It is not, therefore, of any criticism of His Majesty's Government that I have to complain, or indeed any such criticism that I have to answer. But I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman's view of the situation was too much a surface view, and that anyone who really knows the history of China and the facts of the situation will see that you must go far deeper than the right hon. Gentleman did before you can get a true appreciation of that which is happening in China at the moment.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
And even before. Let me say at this point, as a preliminary observation, to prevent any misapprehension, that neither His Majesty's present, nor any British Government past or to come, will encourage evil conditions in factories in China or will fail to do its best to raise the level of industrial conditions in China wherever their influence may be made to prevail. I say that now in order that in the survey which I would undertake, I may not be thought to underrate for a moment the evils existent in the industrial system in China, though I must not be taken as accepting every statement which the right hon. Gentleman read from Chinese papers—what papers I do not know—or even his statement as regards the employment of child labour as being the whole of the truth, or a fair statement. We all know that the conditions of labour are not what we would wish them to be, and no British Government, this or any other, would be lacking in its duty or lacking in the will to exercise its influence to improve it. May I read one despatch which will appear in the White Paper that has been promised? It is dated from the Foreign Office, 10th June, and is addressed to Consul-General Barton at Shanghai:Sir, I am directed by Mr. Secretary Chamberlain to inform you that he has received Mr. Pratt's despatch of 30th ult. reporting his efforts to further the intro- 916 duction by the Shanghai Municipal Council of Legislation on the lines of the recommendations contained in Part III of the Report of their Child Labour Commission. Mr. Chamberlain, who appreciates the active part taken in the matter by yourself, and in your absence by Mr. Pratt, approves the action reported in the above-mentioned despatch, and desires to be kept fully and promptly informed of all developments. In particular, he wishes to learn what steps can be taken if the deadlock resulting from the absence of a quorum continues.The House, therefore, I hope will take as common ground that we desire to secure better conditions and to remove abuses, and that whatever British Government is in power, its efforts will be directed to these ends.
Having said so much, I would beg the House to look at the large aspects of this problem. If you do not see the occurrences of the last few days in proper perspective, you will never reach just conclusions or see wherein lies the real remedy for present discontent. All of us will remember, and all of us will gratefully acknowledge the support which China rendered to the Allies during the War, and the part she took with us in the common struggle. After the War there met at Washington that Conference to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. There were represented all the great Powers having interests in China, and they met with a single-hearted desire to help China in the difficulties she had to face. I beg the House to consider what those difficulties were. The work, from our point of view, before us was part of the great work of reconstruction which confronted every country, belligerent or non-belligerent, after the upheaval of the War. But in China the circumstances were peculiarly difficult. It is difficult to our imagination to picture the vastness of China, the vastness of her copulation and the diversity which exists between province and province. China is not a country in the European sense or is not best pictured as a country in the European sense. China is almost a Continent—a congeries of nations not wholly amalgamated, with many deep differences dividing its different parts. In includes nearly one-fifth of the human race. The political mind of China from the earliest ages has been static and intensely traditional. It drew its strength from its love, respect and leverence for its ancestors and for the old traditions. Its institutions, from the Throne downwards, were 917 centralised and autocratic. These institutions—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg hon. Members opposite not to add to the difficulties of the Foreign Secretary when he is dealing with questions of this sort.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Hope)
I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to listen to the right hon. Gentleman. I must ask the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) not to interrupt a statement which I believe the whole House wishes to hear.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
These institutions were awakening even before the War. In 1911, after the split between the North and South of China, the old empire disappeared and a rudimentary form of republican government was established. From that time onwards the efforts of the advanced party in China have been to make this rudimentary form of republican government a reality. The task was one of incomparable difficulty. Owing to the unwieldy size of China, the looseness of the attachment of one province to another, the ingrained traditionalism, the semi-independence of the great provincial governors, or satraps, who administer local government in large parts of the territory, it was a task which, even under the best of circumstances, must have tried the statesmanship, the patriotism and the political sense of any country. And it was complicated by the disturbing effect of the impact of Western ideas on an ancient Eastern civilisation, where they fermented like new wine in old bottles. To all these complications you had to add the growth of standing armies and military forces which had come to escape altogether the control of the Central Government; and the conflicting forces often involved China in civil war.
Is it surprising in these circumstances that China is passing through a period of trouble? Is it surprising that in the short time that has elapsed, all these 918 troubles have not been resolved? It was in circumstances of this kind that the Washington Conference met. It met, with a genuine desire to help China over the difficulties with which she was confronted, and with a genuine desire to prevent the rivalries of western nations from interfering with Chinese progress or prejudicing her national development and life. It is sometimes said that the results were negligible. I venture to differ from that opinion, if it is held by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Is it nothing that that Conference was made the basis of peace in the Pacific? Is it nothing that that Conference resulted in an engagement among the great Western Powers and Japan—I used the phrase "Western Powers," and I hasten to say all the great Powers interested in China, and none is more interested in it than Japan—not to encroach upon Chinese sovereignty?
Is it nothing that the Conference resulted in an undertaking to consider the reform of the Customs, with a view to providing China with a greater revenue for the purposes of Chinese development? Is it nothing that it resulted, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, in an undertaking to investigate the working of the extra-territorial system? I think that was a real advance. At any rate, it was a real guarantee that the foreign powers mainly concerned in China would not endeavour to exploit China for their individual interests, but would together seek to help China in her own development. I frankly admit that we have not gathered all the fruits which we had hoped. [Laughter, and an HON. MEMBER: "Nor has China!"] If China has not gathered it, of course, we have not gathered it. Our interest—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Our interest is in the peaceful development of an orderly China and in nothing else. I admit that we have not gathered the fruits for which we hoped, and you can seek for the reason for that, not where the hon. Member would find it, in the double dose of original sin which afflicts all his countrymen except himself, but in the complexity of the situation with which we have to deal, in the transitional character of Chinese development at this moment, and in the internal conditions which have 919 hampered and prevented the full development of the hopes and reforms which were contemplated in Washington. It is difficult to build on quicksand. It is difficult to construct where everything is in a state of flux and transition, and it is immensely difficult when the country which you are trying to help, and in which this work of construction and regeneration must be done, is in a state of transition from the oldest Empire and monarchy of the world to a modern democratic republic.
At Washington I think, perhaps, the representative of the assembled nations took a too rosy view of what was possible. They hoped that once European rivalries, and the attempts of European nations to exploit China, were finished the domestic recovery of China would be smooth and rapid, that her people would be united and peaceful, and that her recovery would be quick and the work of reconstruction not very long delayed. We have been disappointed. Indeed I think that China, instead of moving forward during the last year or two, has moved backward. New armies have sprung into existence. China has been the prey of civil war. The organs of effective Government, whether central or local, have degenerated, and it is difficult to find any authority in China to-day with which you can deal as a representative body of the Chinese Republic or in whose power to carry out any undertaking to enforce their own authority in any part of China you can have any faith.
In these circumstances, the great Powers interested have been able to do little but to watch the situation, refraining from interfering where interference would be misrepresented and might cause prejudice, and waiting for the moment when, in combined action, they could help China to a more peaceful and a more prosperous future. Yet if the attitude of the great Powers interested in China has been mostly negative, I think that it may well be argued that even this inaction has been salutary, and has been the best service they could render to China at this time. Take an example much criticised, and, if hon. Members opposite will permit me to say so, much misunderstood. Take the Consortium of the banks. Every faction holding power in China at any moment would have been ready 920 to pledge the resources of China to obtain money for their own purposes. The Consortium has prevented the rivalry of these foreign Powers interested in China in seeking loans, and in thus dissipating the resources of China. The Consortium itself has done no business. It has gained nothing for itself, but it has prevented a great deal of undesirable business from being done, and it has thus by its negative action conserved the resources of China for the moment where they can be used for an effective resuscitation and restoration of the Chinese Republic.
The hopes which Washington had of securing the early restoration of stability in China having failed, and trouble of a very grave and critical kind having followed, the right hon. Gentleman asks the Government what they are going to do. He asks that question in the midst of an agitation which threatens the lives of British subjects and of foreigners in China. We ourselves have immense interests in China, interests which are as important to China as they are to us. Trade—successful trade—is mutual. Our interest in China is a trading interest, and every pound of profit that a British merchant has made has found its equivalent in value to the Chinese. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] In those circumstances, when some British lives have been lost—[HON. MEMBERS: "How many Chinese?"]—when the lives of all members of the foreign community, it may be, in some cases are in danger, the first answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question—and an answer which I am glad to say he himself foresaw and accepted in the speech which he made—is that, in common with the other Powers interested, we shall protect the lives and properties of British subjects in China, and we shall hold the Chinese Government responsible for all the injury and damage wantonly inflicted either on British subjects or on British property.
On that there can be no weakening, no hesitation, no doubt. It is a fundamental duty of every British Government and it is obvious that any British Government must discharge it. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that is not a remedy. That is a necessity of the outrages which have taken place, but it is not a remedy for the situation. But when the right hon. Gentleman treats the whole 921 question as if we could trace it no further back than to a strike in a Japanese factory, he must permit me to say that really he has only scratched the surface of the trouble. It goes much deeper than that. The seeds of the trouble are in the discomfort—I might use a stronger word—and in the discontent of the Chinese people. They are a practical, hardworking, laborious, industrious people. But what has been their position during recent years? There has been no security for life or property. Armies or armed bands or simple brigands have interfered with their crops, and with their trade. [An HON. MEMBER: "And with their lives."] Yes, and with their lives. The country has been ravaged by marching armies, marching bands and civil war. There has been no incentive to produce, and the springs of credit are drying up.
In those circumstances of general uneasiness and widespread suffering and widespread insecurity, it is easy to stir up trouble, and it is the interests of many to divert attention from the domestic causes which really create this poverty and misery, and to impute to foreign interference all the consequences of their own wrong doing. It is the interests of some people—or at least they think it is to their interest—to foment trouble and to take advantage of discontent wherever it exists to cause, if possible, revolution. Alongside of this there has been in China, as elsewhere, perhaps before the War, undoubtedly greatly stimulated by all that took place in the War, a great growth of a real national spirit. If it can form a united China on civilised principles, strong in its own strength, able to secure order within its borders, and to do justice to the foreigner within its gates, then no one will wish it more success than His Majesty's present Government. At present there is not that union. There is not that unified force in Government. There is a general unrest, a general trouble which is used by some of those who create it and by others, to inflame Chinese opinion against all the strangers within their gates.
That is what has happened. A strike took place in a Japanese factory. I do not stand here to defend the conditions in factories. I said so before. I repeat it now. If that strike had been confined, or if the movement had been confined to a movement for the amelioration of factory conditions, the despatch which I 922 read in my opening observations would have lent the movement all the support that they could command, but bad factory conditions, however bad they may be, are no excuse for the advance of a murderous mob crying, "Kill the foreigner."
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This debate was arranged on the initiative of hon. Members on my left. I presume that they wished to hear the statement by the Foreign Secretary, and I ask them to listen.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
These conditions do not justify the advance of a murderous mob, crying "Kill the foreigner!" upon the police station in which there were large stocks of arms. It was not until, according to the information I have at present, the police station was in danger, with all the arms that it contained, that the order was given to fire. If that be the case, then I say that the order given to fire saved bloodshed instead of causing it. Let me say at once that His Majesty's Government and the other Governments concerned—and remember in these matters it is an international body which is acting in Shanghai; as it is an international body, the Diplomatic Corps, which is acting in Pekin; and that they are acting with more knowledge than any of us have here at the present time under circumstances of responsibility of which no one here can relieve them. Let us give them the credit which we would ask for ourselves for moderation, for humanity, and for a desire to bring a peaceful issue out of those disastrous troubles. It was in these circumstances, I believe, that the firing took place, but we are all agreed that into the circumstances there should be the fullest and frankest inquiry, and in the meantime accepting that, I beg hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to pass judgment in advance of receiving the evidence.
In the second place, we are anxious at the earliest moment to enter upon a full investigation of the best way of improving the relations between China and the Powers in the spirit of the Washington Conference. In our opinion the approaching Tariff Conference which is to meet China in accordance with the 923 Customs Agreement signed at Washington will give an opportunity for such investigation. We are, therefore, anxious that the Conference should meet with the least possible delay, and we propose to consult the other Powers concerned as to the most practicable way of expediting its meeting.
Here I must observe that such a disposition on the part of His Majesty's Government, and of the other Powers concerned, may be helped or hindered or even rendered impossible, according as the attitude of the Chinese authorities, central and local, may be an attitude of goodwill and conciliation, or of the reverse. In so far as the Chinese Government and the local authorities of China fail to show their good faith by repressing this agitation—and, mind you, there are parts of China where a word from the Governor has prevented all this agitation—in so far as the Chinese Government and the local authorities fail to show their good faith by stopping agitation, strikes, and boycotts, steps to hasten the meeting of the Conference become more difficult. I trust, therefore, that not only among the Great Powers a spirit of conciliation and of helpfulness will be found but that among the Chinese also we shall be met by a similar spirit of conciliation and good will, and that by so working together we may help to pilot China through her difficult transitional period and may establish her government on firm foundations of equity and justice to the foreigner, of independence and liberty at home, and that upon that basis we and they together may build our common prosperity to the advantage of the world.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The speech we have just heard is the justification of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) for raising this subject to-night. He has produced a very timely and very helpful declaration, and it has served an exceedingly useful purpose at a very critical moment. It is always very difficult to discuss foreign affairs in public in the House of Commons, especially when a critical situation has arisen. If the facts are not stated, the discussion is of no use. On the other hand, if the facts are truly and frankly stated, mischief may ensue. That is one of the difficulties of discussing foreign affairs. But I am very glad 924 that my right hon. Friend has raised this question in time, before very much mischief has ensued, for he has enabled the Government to make a declaration which, in two or three respects, I consider very satisfactory.
May I restate the three points which I understand have emerged from the statement of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs with regard to the policy of the Government? First of all, I am assuming that life and property are to be protected under any conditions. That is one of the elementary duties of a Government. Therefore, I am not mentioning that, because it is accepted by all parties in this House, and I put it first, of course. Secondly, the Government propose, a really searching investigation into the origin of these disturbances in Shanghai, not shirking in the least the question1 raised by my right hon. Friend with regard to industrial conditions. The third thing is that there is to be a bona-fide conference of all the Powers interested in China and of the Chinese authorities, with a view to improving the relations between the foreign Powers interested in China and China itself.
I would have liked to hear from the Foreign Secretary who were to be represented at that conference, because in the very interesting statement he has made with regard to the conditions in China he has revealed one dominant fact, namely, that there is no voice that can speak on behalf of the whole of China. China is not merely a series of different races, but there are separate provinces, governed very largely by autocrats, and instead of having one great central power with considerable authority, as was the case 20 or 30 years ago—not the same authority as any European authority, but still considerable authority over the various provinces—there does not seem to be any one there' now. The Government at Pekin do not seem to exercise any real authority over any of the other provinces. There is the Manchurian War Lord, who is dominant in his own district. If he agrees with Pekin, that is all right, but unless his agreement enables Pekin to work with Manchuria, Pekin has no real authority. The same remark applies to the southern Provinces, and I am told with regard to the province in the far west of China that 925 there is really no control at all except the control of the individual Governor.
The right hon. Gentleman made a very interesting statement with regard to the position historically, and I think he was right, if I may say so, to have put the whole case in that way before the House. But the statement was incomplete. The right hon. Gentleman rather slurred over the responsibility of the foreign Powers for the position in China. I am all for being firm, but we must also be fair. We cannot altogether assume that the responsibility is the responsibility of the Chinese themselves. We have helped to break up the authority of the centre in China. I am not going back to the days of the opium wars, but undoubtedly they did weaken the centre. What weakened it even more was the method we pursued in connection with the Boxer Indemnity, one of the most cruel and savage and rapacious incidents in the whole history of the foreign Powers. There is no use in concealing that fact. What happened then was that the Boxer Indemnity absorbed to a very large extent the revenues which were at the command of the central authority. By means of those revenues the centre had a control over the provinces. They were able to assist the provinces. The richer provinces, which were controlled from the centre, contributed revenue, which was used very largely in order to strengthen the control over the provinces. That revenue was very largely absorbed in order to pay the interest and sinking fund upon the indemnities which were raised at that moment. There is no doubt that that has been a very serious factor in weakening the authority at the centre over the other provinces.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what steps he proposes to take—if he is not in a position to tell me now, I do not press the question, but if he can tell me, I would like an answer—to see that the people who really represent China will be at this proposed conference, that not merely will there be present nominal representatives from Pekin, but that those great and powerful forces which between them govern China will all be represented at the conference, and will be able to present their case. That, I think, is vital to any settlement that may be made. The next point I want to make 926 is that I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to take isolated action in the matter, and that he is going to insist upon the co-operation of the Powers. The real danger is that this agitation in China will become, not an anti-foreign agitation, but an anti-British agitation. That may suit other Powers; it does not suit us. We ought to insist upon the other Powers taking their part in the whole transaction. There is a very strong anti-British feeling at the present moment.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene in order to emphasise his statement? I think it is of vital importance that in this matter we should act in conjunction with the other great Powers which are interested in China. I felt that, if not from the first day I entered office, at any rate from the first day that I gave a moment's attention to this subject, and that has been my policy throughout.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very glad to hear that, because, after all, there is no use denying that the Chinese have got grievances, as the right hon. Gentleman very frankly admitted. I also agree with him that the source of the discontent is not merely industrial. There is no doubt the industrial conditions there are terrible. They are abominable. I agree there is no adjective you can use that would adequately describe some of the industrial conditions, but the industrial conditions are not at the bottom of this trouble. I agree that this is largely a nationalist and patriotic movement. It is, if I may put it by comparison with what has taken place in other nations, more Sinn Fein than Bolshevist.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Irish Nationalist upheaval had not very much relation to the economic conditions, but had reference rather to a protest against the government of one's country being usurped by an alien, and there is a basis for that feeling. My right hon. Friend has referred to the municipality of Shanghai and has given figures with regard to the number of Chinese there and the very small foreign colony. There is not a single Chinese representative on the municipality. What is still worse, it is not merely that the majority of the popu- 927 lation are Chinese, but I am told that the richest ratepayers in Shanghai are Chinese. So I am told on very good authority. It is monstrous, apart altogether from the question of democracy or whether the majority of a population ought to govern a city, that the people who are contributing largely—some of them the largest contributors to the rates—should have no voice of any sort or kind in the control of the city. That is indefensible, whatever your ideas may be regarding democratic government either here or in China. It is therefore vital that we should make it clear that we mean to have fair play for Chinese nationality. It is a very old civilisation and a very great civilisation; it is very much older than ours. In some respects it is inferior, especially in military equipment. In others it is undoubtedly superior, and therefore we cannot treat this vast population so graphically described by the right hon. Gentleman as if it were a barbarous race on its road towards civilisation. That is not the case. What makes it still more difficult for us is that the alliance which we entered into with Japan upon perfectly equal terms has made a very great impression throughout the whole of the East, and when we are taking 49 Chinese cities and giving them no share in the government of those cities, whilst at the same time we are entering into an alliance with another race just across the water upon perfectly equal terms, you are bound to get all this agitation in China.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman uses the word "we." I presume he means all the Powers external to China? I beg him not to use language which may be misunderstood.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct. I am speaking of "we" as part of the great external Powers. Here is another factor, as my right hon. Friend knows very well, which has been introduced in recent years. There is no doubt at all that the use which America has made of the Boxer indemnity is partly responsible. Although it was a beneficent one, no doubt initiated with the best intentions, it has had a disastrous effect in some respects in China. They have educated thousands of young Chinese in purely 928 Western ideas and given them a first rate American education. They have sent them back to China, where there is nothing for them to do which is adequate to the education which they have got. The result is they are not merely discontented themselves but they are becoming the leaders of discontent throughout the whole of China. That is one of the most serious facts in China, and I am only putting this point in order to urge very great caution so that we should not repeat the mistakes of the Opium War and the almost worse mistake of the Boxer repression. We must not merely repress but redress as well, and I am very glad that the Foreign Secretary has taken that line in the very powerful and clear statement he has made. He has by no means treated it as if the end of the matter were the use of force in order to punish people who riot. He regards it as a very much bigger question. He means to deal with the Chinese as a great friendly people.
There is this great difference between the situation now and the situation in the Boxer days. Then you had all the Powers united, though with all humility, they might have made a much wiser job of it, but at any rate they were together. I do not know whether France has her difficulties. She has entanglements at the present moment, but I have no doubt she will come in, but Russia, which was in with the Powers then, is now hostile. Russia, which took a very great part then in this repression work with the rest of the Powers, is now putting the whole of her influence, the whole of her authority, and very possibly a good part of her equipment, on the side of one of the most difficult forces there is to deal with in China. There is this difference also. You then had to deal with disorganised mobs. The most striking part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was the statement that for the first time you have great armies in China—not armies equipped with antiquated weapons as they were in those days, and badly organised, but really formidable, well-drilled, well-equipped and rather well - led forces. Some-body who knew China told me that taking the forces in the aggregate you probably have a million armed men in China. That is quite a new thing, and you are dealing with the population 929 which is pacifist—which is opposed to war. I have been watching the accounts of these great battles in China, and there is nothing more striking than to see how when these forces come against each other, a few shells are fired, you think a great battle is going to take place, and it ends in a parley. [Interruption.] I do not say they are not brave. On the contrary, they are about the bravest race under the sun. There is not a race under the sun so fearless in the face of death as the Chinese. They will face even cruel death and torture. It is not that. It is undoubtedly the effect of the Buddhist religion which denounces war. But there is a Christian general there now. He has the energy, the initiative and the ideas of the West, and he is enforcing his Christian principles with great power and vigour. There is no doubt at all the Buddhist generals have a great reluctance to shed blood, but our Christian brother has not shown any of that reluctance, and no doubt he is a very formidable factor. Therefore, we are dealing with a situation where co-operation is more vital than ever. We do not want to get entangled in an isolated movement in China.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am glad to see the Foreign Secretary emphasising the importance of that. We have great trade interests there, and, although as a rule these boycotts break down, still you do not want to make Great Britain more unpopular, or to concentrate the whole of the unpopularity, the whole of the national sentiment, the whole of the patriotic feeling of China against us. Make them feel that they are dealing with the whole world, and that the world is prepared to act in the spirit of the declaration which the Foreign Secretary has made, a declaration which means that the lives of the nationals of the various Powers will be protected, but that grievances will be redressed, that there will be an investigation, and, above all, that there will be an attempt to act with China, to make China friendly, and to bring her into the comradeship of nations, instead of repeating the follies of the past.
§ Mr. SAMUEL SAMUEL
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what was the origin of these settlements in Shanghai, and for what reason the Chinese merchants and 930 coolies have occupied these settlements? Is it for their own security, or what?
§ Mr. LOOKER
Anyone who has lived for many years in China, as I have had the honour and privilege of doing, would never have recognised, in the picture which the right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench, the Member for Central Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Trevelyan) painted of the conditions existing: there to-day, anything which was in any sense similar to any conditions he had ever known. Not only was it not similar to any conditions I have ever known, but it was undoubtedly dissimilar to any conditions we are ever likely to know, and I could not help thinking, during the greater part of his address, of that old proverb that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. He laid great stress on the fact that in Shanghai there is no popular basis on which the large Chinese community can vote. I think I can usefully inform the House of the conditions under which foreigners are allowed to live and exist and own property on the coast of China. I think the right hon. Gentleman forgot that Shanghai is a foreign settlement, and I think he forgot, if indeed he ever knew, that no foreigners are allowed to own land in China, and that when it became necessary to allow them to live in the vicinity of China, for the purpose of conducting that trade which China herself is only too anxious to conduct with them, it became necessary that she should create certain areas of land on which the foreigners could live and could own property. Those areas of land exist up and down the coasts of China and up the rivers, and they are known as coast ports and foreign settlements. They are under the entire jurisdiction of the foreign Powers who reside there, and they are under the jurisdiction of the regulations which are imposed by the representatives of the various nationalities living there, and unless they were under that unfettered jurisdiction it would be impossible for us who have to go out to China with our wives and children to be there in peace.
I quite agree, and I think every sensible man who has been in China agrees, that it is desirable to have some Chinese representation upon the official bodies which, govern the lives of these foreign settlements. In Hongkong, 931 where exactly similar conditions prevail, and which is a British Colony, there are Chinese representatives appointed or nominated by the Government and the Chinese community, but it is impossible for them to be elected. There is, in all these foreign settlements, a vast shifting Chinese population, which comes and goes between the settlements and the mainland, and it would be impossible by any system you could devise to give these shifting Chinese elements any method by which they could vote for their representatives upon the international councils, and if they did you would at once undermine the security upon which all foreigners and their families live in those settlements.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Is it not possible on these governing bodies that Chinese representatives might be co-opted, in the absence of a democratic system?
§ Mr. LOOKER
That is the exact point which I have been endeavouring to make, if the hon. Member would do me the compliment of studying a little more carefully the remarks I am making. I think, myself, that the Shanghai Municipal Council, which contains many friends of mine, would be wise if it instituted at once some system under which Chinese representatives, representing the native Chinese in the foreign settlement, were nominated or co-opted to serve on that body with the other nationalities. The right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate referred, I must confess considerably to my astonishment, and I think probably to the astonishment of every one who has any knowledge of China, to 49 Chinese cities under foreign domination, or supervision or authority, where no Chinese representation existed. Ever since he stated that number, I have been racking my brains with sums of addition to find out how he can possibly have reached that number of 49. There are foreign settlements up the Yangtse River and up the West River, there is one at Canton, and there are five or six along the coast, but, unless I am very gravely mistaken, the number does not come anywhere near the total of 49, and I should say that the places in China where foreign settlements exist and foreign jurisdiction is exercised do not exceed something like 15, or perhaps 20.
932 I will now deal with the question of extra-territoriality. I think the right hon. Gentleman forgot that, scattered throughout the length and breadth of China, are numerous families of his countrymen who are living in various conditions and sometimes in isolated places, where they may be at any time at the mercy of any uprising which takes place, and if he suggests for a moment that the rights, liberties, privileges and protection of these countrymen and women of his should rest solely upon native Chinese authorities, I can only say that he is striking a more severe blow at their lives and their security than any other blow he could possibly strike. The right hon. Gentleman made some comments on the fact that the mob whose attack on the police station led to the outbreak of this trouble was unarmed, and, in the sense that it did not possess guns, rifles or revolvers, I have no doubt it was unarmed, but if the right hon. Gentleman had ever faced an unarmed Chinese mob of that description, as once it has been my bad fortune to do, he would know that the prospects of serious trouble are very, very grave indeed, and if he has read the reports in the papers in the last few days, he will have seen that a similar unarmed mob made a very serious attack upon another station up the Yangtse, which similarly necessitated shots being fired to defend the lives of all those who were in the police station or in the settlement in which the attack took place.
The causes of this present trouble in China do not arise, in my opinion, and in the opinion, I think, of any authority on China in this country, in the industrial conditions in the foreign mills or in the Chinese mills. As regards the foreign mills in Shanghai, the industrial conditions there are undoubtedly superior to anything prevailing in the native mills which exist throughout the length and breadth of China. I, personally, have been over various mills in Shanghai, and the remark which was made by one of the great authorities on China regarding the conditions of life in those mills, I can vouch for in my experience. Women and children come out of those mills happy and laughing, and they work there under conditions of which they are only too glad to take advantage. There has recently arrived in this country a gentleman who belongs to an honourable race beyond the 933 Tweed, in other words, he is a Scotsman, and he has just retired from the position of chairman of the municipal council in Shanghai. He is undoubtedly acquainted with all the conditions prevailing in these mills, and he has publicly stated that, to begin with, there are no men employed in the mills, because the men will not go there, but are employed in other capacities. It is chiefly the women who are employed, and they take their children there because they cannot leave them at home, and something must be done with them. They are only too glad to give them the opportunity of earning a little money if they can to help their parents, and also they are only too glad to see that their children are there under their own eyes, instead of being left at home, where they would not know what would happen to them.
We have heard, too, this afternoon that the British mill-owners, and, I think, the foreign mill-owners, in Shanghai take whatever steps they can to prevent children, even under those conditions, from being brought into the mills too young. But it is a very difficult thing to ascertain the exact age of a Chinese child, and consequently the mill-owners have had to adopt the device of putting up a board outside the mills, and admitting no children whose heads do not touch the board. That is the only way they can impose some serious test as to the age of the children. I would remind the House that these mills have been in China and Shanghai for very many years, and if the awful conditions existed in them which we have been led to suspect from statements made in this country, there would have been a serious and genuine outcry, both European and Chinese, long ago against those conditions which are supposed to be such a blot on our civilisation.
What the conditions are in the native Chinese mills outside the Settlement I cannot say, but I would remind the House that China is a very different country from this. Her idea of the conditions under which people should work may be very different from ours, but I believe the Chinese view is that if women insist on bringing their children into the mills at any age, they have no right to say they shall not do so. Who are they to deprive the parents from being accompanied by the children? The conditions in China 934 industrially have prevailed for hundreds of years, and the Chinese consider, rightly or wrongly, that they are matters in respect of which they ought not to be dictated to from outside, and I do not consider that it should be our province to attempt to do more than suggest to China where those conditions might be remedied, and not attempt in any way to impose conditions, however much we might believe in them, which she herself might not welcome or desire.
I suppose that I myself may be taken as a fair sample of the ordinary Englishman who lives in China. Is it possible that we, who have lived out there many years, and countrymen of yours who are living out there now, would tolerate for a moment in any enterprise in which they are engaged, any conditions of labour, and particularly of child labour, like those we have heard so luridly described from the opposite Front Benches? I say to my hon. Friends opposite, not only is it not true, but that they know it is not type, and that they do not believe it. They know their countrymen, when they go out there bearing the white man's burden, as they do, largely for the benefit of the workmen of this country by the business they create, are not going to stand for any conditions for which they would not stand themselves, and I regard it as a slur on every white man who has ever been, or is, in China, that it should be suggested for a moment they are more callous or less humane than people at home. I can assure the House we do not change our feelings for humanity when we go abroad, and I can assure the House that the record of British intercourse with China is, as far as this aspect goes, a very honourable record. It is a record of suffering relieved, of disease cured, of the living conditions of the Chinese improved wherever we have come in contact with them, and you may go throughout the length and breadth of China, in the far interior or along the coast, and you will see hospitals, missionary stations, philanthropic institutions of all descriptions, and of all foreign nationalities, engaged in ministering to the ills, and relieving the diseases, of the Chinese, and there is no one more grateful than the Chinese people themselves.
Nor does the root of the present trouble lie in the weakness of the present Chinese Government. No doubt the 935 Government could stop these demonstrations which are taking place if they chose to do so, and it could repress, if it desired, and if it had the power, those who are responsible for fomenting trouble, but the fact that it has not entirely done so is merely one feature in this question. The root cause of the discontent which exists in China to-day must be sought for in the natural and increasing desire of the Chinese nation, and particularly of its younger generation, to achieve a future for China free from foreign tutelage and leading strings, to see a strong, united, and independent China, taking her place, as she is potentially qualified to do, amongst the civilised countries of the world. That is a desire with which we ought not only to sympathise, but to encourage and to assist to the utmost of our power. I have already said that I think it would be wise for the Shanghai Municipal Council to co-opt Chinese members to sit on that body. I think it would also be wise if the British and foreign merchants throughout China recognised the spirit and determination of the Chinese people for a greater share in direct commercial intercourse with foreign countries.
They are, in my judgment, bound to recognise that or else they will find that that intercourse takes place, perhaps, without them. I think that we as a nation do undoubtedly recognise this growing spirit in China. I think I may say without hesitation that as a nation we all welcome it. We should like to see it increased. We should like to see China progressive and powerful and in a position, as she can be, to handle her affairs with the confidence, not only of her own subject, but of the foreigner as well. When that day comes, there will be no one and no country which will congratulate her more sincerely than will Great Britain.
To get back, however, to the actual situation in China, there are one or two things which, I think, it is very desirable that His Majesty's Government should do. They will, I have no doubt, first make it unmistakeably clear that we are determined to protect the lives and ensure the safety of the many British subjects in China, and, while recognising China's aspirations and her difficulties, will not 936 allow British lives and interests to be disregarded, and will not hesitate to take the firm and drastic measures that may be necessary, perhaps unfortunately, to achieve this end. It will also be necessary for the Government to let China know that while they are determined to take firm measures—if it becomes necessary—for the protection of our interests, that the Government is also determined to treat China with fairness and sincerity, and to mete out equitably and fairly the treatment upon which our contact with the native races with which we are connected is firmly based.
There are two golden rules which it is essential should be observed by any nationality which comes in contact with Oriental races. Those two principles are fairness and firmness. So long as they are observed you will find you will have no difficulty with any race or any country you are brought into relations with, for it implies some sort of control and authority on your part. I think, too, that the Government should make it clear that they consider that it is the duty of the Chinese Government and the Chinese authorities to co-operate in putting down the existing agitation against the foreigner in China which, if steps are not taken firmly to check, may develop into a condition of affairs1 which everyone concerned may extremely and profoundly regret. I do not hesitate to say that any representations of the description which the Government may make to China will have the overwhelming support of the great mass of the peaceful subjects of China herself.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I really feel, after the speeches which have been delivered, that it is almost unnecessary to add anything to the Debate. The few brief hours that we have been able to devote to this subject to-night have been justified. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) will have the consolation that he has been able to elicit from the Foreign Secretary a very important statement regarding Government policy at a moment when, I think, most of us feel such a statement ought to have been made. At the same time, instead of some of the pessimistic prophecies that were made yesterday and the day before, when questions were being put about the, condition of China, that the House, instead 937 of showing a common mind on essentials would show a divided mind on essentials—instead of that pessimistic prophecy being fulfilled, I think the Debate has revealed a common purpose amid certain diversities in points of view, diversities in points of view which, instead of weakening, have strengthened the policy of this country. What we have found to-day is this. The position in China is not merely a police affair, it is not a riot, it is not a temporary disturbance, it is not a work of mere mischief-makers. If the House takes that view, I think the House is taking an exceedingly shallow and an exceedingly unwise view of the Chinese problem. Nor is it altogether and exclusively an industrial question. I think that is too narrow a view. I have never been in China, I admit, but since a very long time, when that most interesting, I think, perhaps, one of the most interesting of all the studies in Chinese civilisation, and naturally made by a Frenchman, M. Simon's book on China, appeared, I have followed, so far as a remotely situated man can follow, the general events in China. What impresses itself upon one more than anything else at the present moment is this, that China is now beginning a very critical process of transformation.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
There never has been a country, there never has been a civilisation, that has begun a critical process of transformation that has not started, unfortunately, through disturbance and chaos, and there never has been a country that has helped that transforming country into health and sanity and order that has failed to see that at the moment when a firm hand should be put upon the developing country to prevent it from going to extremes and excesses, that firm hand must always be accompanied by a very generous and a very forgiving understanding.
It is that combination upon which I shall touch briefly at the present moment. What has happened? Education on Western lines has been actively going on for a generation or more in China. That is one of the great contributions that the missionaries and the other educationists have been making to Chinese civilisation; but alongside of that has been going on an extraordinary and, to a very consider- 938 able extent, unnatural development of Chinese industry. I am sorry that I do not share 5 per cent. of the complacent views regarding industry in China that the hon. Member for South-Eastern Essex (Mr. Looker) expressed. Miss Anderson, who was one of the ablest factory inspectors we ever had, examined these things in China on the spot with a trained mind and intelligence, and acting with others, both British and Chinese, they have examined these matters and produced a report, and that report was not written by people like my right hon. Friend, who does not claim to have been in China. It was written by experts, by people associated with the Young Women's Christian Association, by people associated with various industrial welfare associations, not French, Russians or Chinese, but as good Scotsmen and Britishers as either my hon. Friend or myself. They produced a report, compared with which the hon. Member's speech was mere shallow gloss.
The Foreign Secretary has just told us in his speech that he does associate himself with that report. I understand the despatch which he read is going to be published in a day or two, and that despatch declares that His Majesty's Government fully associate themselves with the British representative on the Shanghai Municipal Council. I understand that is the gentleman who did his best to secure a quorum, so that the Shanghai Municipal Council should of its own free will and in its own fullness of heart, put into operation the report which I have referred to, that is the report made by Miss Anderson and her colleagues. You have these extraordinarily dangerous conditions existing where there has been these industrial developments. There has been sweating of the very worst kind; the hours of labour have been disgracefully long and the wages are correspondingly disgracefully short. You have women working long hours and children working at six years of age, and you have a national university, for instance, at Pekin, you have this education movement, this movement of higher Western combined with higher Eastern culture, which is an explosive element; and you have all these circumstances, combined in recent industrial struggles, strikes, lock-outs, punishments, and so on, uniting the intelligentsia of China with the sweated working classes 939 of China. The result is what you had in Shanghai the other day, spreading to Hankow and so on.
That is the situation which we have to face; but it is this extraordinary, characteristic complication of culture and spirituality on the one hand, and materialism and industry on the other, that we behold working in China, creating the great problem which this nation will, if it be wise, do its best to solve. I am very glad there is going to be a thorough inquiry into the whole case and I am very glad that there is to be co-operation. The very first question I put about this matter, two days ago, indicated that co-operation is necessary amongst the Powers. I hope we shall have in this respect, as in others, a very clear British policy—not merely an acquiescent policy, but a policy which will show China in the most emphatic way our desire to co-operate with her, our desire to encourage her, our desire to help her in every way that we can discover and that she herself can suggest.
There is one more thing that I should like to say. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talk about the necessity of getting a Chinese representative. I am sure the Foreign Secretary would congratulate himself most heartily if he could find that representative, if he could lay his finger upon him, and if he could get the conditions in China which would enable any single man, or any group of co-operating men, to act as representatives under those conditions. It is one of the great difficulties. It does not matter who sits at the Foreign Office, it is one of the tremendous difficulties that he will have to face—this difficulty in China. But do not let us for a moment claim that we are going to help China until we have changed the industrial conditions of China that have spread so largely from the industrial ports, where Western capitalism has taken a root and is doing so much damage at the present time to the physique and the moral of the Chinese people. I hope the result of the Debate has been to make it more plain than ever that this country is not going to join merely in any movement for coercing China, in any movement for merely punishing China: but that this country sees the problem of 940 China in its larger world relations, and that that is the problem we are going to keep steadily before our eyes.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps the House will permit me to intervene for a few moments to say what it is hardly necessary to say—that, of course, I recognise the anxiety of the House to have a discussion on this subject, but that I would also desire to recognise the spirit of concord and general agreement which has prevailed in the discussion; and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) have appealed to the Government—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope I may assume that they represent their colleagues. Whatever may be said about the facts and events in Shanghai, I would beg my countrymen to remember that the mills owned by our countrymen in Shanghai stand in the first flight—and when I say that they stand in the first flight, I express the facts moderately—and that these mills have adopted a resolution complying with the regulations limiting the employment of child labour.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am afraid I cannot give the exact date, but before the month of April this year, at any rate. I am confident that we can count upon the help of our countrymen there to improve the conditions of labour. There is one other thing I want to say. It is really an echo of what fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite near the conclusion of his speech, and a commentary on what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs earlier. If the efforts of the Powers to help China are to have any success or fruition, we need the help of China itself, and one of the greatest difficulties with which we are confronted is the disappearance of any authority which can really speak in the name of all China or can secure the execution of its decrees or its orders in China. There is nothing I should more desire than to find, as the right hon. Gentleman said, 941 a person or a group of persons who can speak in the name of a united China. When China co-operates with those who wish to help her by healing her own wounds, by ceasing civil war and by constituting a firm Government, I am sure that the relations of China with the rest of the world will rapidly improve and that she will be in a fair way to realise her aspirations.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
With reference to the statement the Foreign Secretary has just made, that the British controlled factories at Shanghai give a lead to all the other factories in China, it will be within the recollection of the House that a somewhat similar statement was made on the 15th of this month by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. But we can find no evidence whatever for that. I have here the "International Labour Review," published by the International Labour Office. [An HON. MEMBER: "MOSCOW!"] Moscow is not represented at all. If the hon. Member had the slightest knowledge of the subject he would never have made a silly interruption of that kind. I want to quote what appears in this magazine for December, 1924, regarding this alleged superiority on the part of the British-controlled mills in Shanghai. On page 1025 we read of the problem of how the new Regulations are to be enforced in China, dealing with child labour, and then this comment regarding Shanghai:The Commission recommends that in the event of amended regulations being strictly enforced by the Chinese authorities in Kiangsu and Chekiang, the Council should seek power to enforce them within the limits of the foreign settlement of Shanghai.In other words, not until the Chinese authorities outside enforce these amended regulations shall the municipal authority in the foreign settlement at Shanghai be asked to apply these civilised conditions.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The British mills agreed to take steps to bring these regulations into force. It is obvious that the British controlled mills are very few. They are a minority of the whole number. The British mills have, in fact, got in advance of the recommendation the hon. Member is reading.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member is quoting from it, but I beg him to read it again, and he will then see that though he is quoting it, he is misunderstanding it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am within the recollection of the House. I have already read it. The statement is definitely made that in the event of these amending regulations being strictly enforced by the Chinese authorities in certain parts of China, which are specified, the Council, that is, the Shanghai Council should seek powers to enforce them within the limits of the foreign settlement at Shanghai—then, and not till then.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member is not reading the report when he says "then, and not till then." Whether or not the Regulation had been adopted in the Chinese factories, the British factories had agreed to adopt them.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
If the Foreign Secretary states, as a matter of fact, that in April of this year these Regulations were adopted at the foreign settlement—[HON. MEMBERS: "The British mills!"]—without waiting for the Chinese authorities to enforce them outside, then, of course, I accept his statement. I cease to be surprised at anything I learn in this House, but I must confess to considerable amusement at the speech made by the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Looker). He said that the condition of the child labour in these mills was a fortunate one. I am not sure whether he said that the children were happy, but I think he said that they laughed and that they were prosperous, and looked well. If that were true, if in these Shanghai mills the children looked so well, and if they were so happy, why should the Shanghai Municipal Council appoint a committee to inquire into the conditions in these mills, and bring in recommendations, and why should these comments appear on page 1017?Fainting in hot weather is not uncommon.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am trying to save them from you and your kind. The report proceeds:The children are earning from 20 to 25 silver cents a day. In the main, they present a pitiable sight. Their physical condition is poor. Their faces are devoid of any expression of happiness or well-being. They appear to be miserable, both physically and mentally.
§ Mr. LOOKER
May I inform the hon. Gentleman that when I referred to my own observations of what I saw in the mills at Shanghai, I was referring to the British mills. I did not visit the Chinese mills. May I also inform him that the time of my visit was the hottest period in Shanghai, and that my statement that the women and children looked happy when they were there, and going in and out of the mills, is a statement based on my own personal observations, which the hon. Member may think fit to challenge or not, exactly as he pleases.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I say that the Commission appointed by the Shanghai Municipal Council to inquire into the facts issued this report, and I have not been aware until to-night that its conclusions have been challenged, or that its facts have been denied in so far, at any rate, as the British mills are concerned.
§ Mr. LOOKER
Is the hon. Member aware that the great majority of mills within the area of the foreign settlement in Shanghai are purely Chinese concerns?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
We have been informed repeatedly that the Chinese have no rights of control in this foreign settlement, and we are told in this House that they ought to have no rights. This Shanghai area is controlled by an international group in which the Chinese have no share. My hon. Friend said that, for his part, he was prepared to have some Chinese nominated to the council, but up to now they have had no power, and the wrongs and tragedies in these mills cannot be blamed on the Chinese, but must be blamed on the authorities who are in control in Shanghai. And now as to these happy, prosperous children. Contractors are sent out to scour the 944 villages for them, and are paid for them. This report says, on page 1016:These children are most miserably housed and fed. They receive no money and their conditions of life are practically those of slavery.This is not taken from Chinese newspapers. Moscow has nothing to do with it. We are responsible for it, as long as we refuse to allow the Chinese to govern themselves and their country in their own way. No one on this side would wish to say a word that would imperil the lives of any British subjects or any foreigners in China—far from it. But equally we will do nothing and say nothing to imperil the lives of any Chinaman in China. Our nationals go out there to exploit the Chinese people. Certain British capitalists have invested sums of money, reported to amount to £26,000,000, there. They do not go there for fun, nor for their health, nor for the scenery. They go out there for profit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should they not?"] I listened to the Foreign Secretary to-night talking about restoration, reconstruction, regeneration and resurrection and all the rest of it as to what we were doing in China, and I thought of this £26,000,000 British capital going out there because these capitalists cannot get cheap labour here, and because they can exploit the poor Chinese labourer in a way in which they cannot exploit the British labourer.
When the process goes further and the produce of these cheap labour mills begins to go into India and to prevent the produce of Lancashire factories going into India, as it did in times past, I think of the Lancashire factory worker walking the streets idle because his market has been taken away from him by the cheap sweated labour of China exploited fey British capital. Then when the process goes one step further the Government comes to this House and asks the Lancashire factory worker and the workers of this country to pay their share in taxation to finance a British Navy to go away to the Far East to protect the exploiters in their exploitation and further to degrade the Lancashire factory worker. That is a fact. We all know that foreign loans have been floated in this country by Messrs. Vickers. Why should Vickers, the armament factory owners, float a Chinese loan? They float a 945 Chinese loan—and the hon. Member who knows about Shanghai will probably be able to supply details which we do not possess—for exploiting the people. Where do the Christian general and others get their munitions? They get them supplied by British credit, some of it supported by the League of Nations. We supply those people with munitions of war. We keep them on fighting one another because only as we divide can we rule; keep them at one of our throats, and as they are kept at one another's throats, so certain cotton syndicates in this country can make a long run at 27 per cent. on watered capital. We are not content to allow the Chinese people to be exploited, and as a result of that exploitation our own nationals to be degraded, our unemployed to extend in numbers, and we ourselves to be additionally taxed in order to find munitions of war to protect these exploiters in their exploitation.
While we think that every possible step ought to be taken to safeguard the lives of our nationals there, while we think every possible step should be taken to get our nationals down to the coast if they are in the danger zone, we are not prepared to pay one penny more to keep this exploitation system going in the Far East. We should clear out and leave the Chinese to run their own factories and their own business, trade with us in the ordinary way by exchange of goods, and, by doing so, we shall add to the strength, the might, and the power of the British people. We will give the Chinese fuller right to develop themselves industrially and economically and every other way. [An HON. MEMBER: "You cannot."] We will try it. We will give them a chance to develop themselves. We will increase the chances of peace, and we will never again have a situation such as we have heard of in this House to-night, where British subjects are risking their lives in a foreign city, in perils we do not know of, and financiers, living at a safe distance, exploit both the Chinese and the British at the same time.
§ Sir ARTHUR CHURCHMAN
As one who has a little knowledge of China, having had business relations there, perhaps I might be allowed to make a few remarks. The hon. Member who has just sat down certainly surprised me very much when he seemed to suppose that the 946 encouragement of civil war in any country was a help to those foreign nations who wanted good business. I can assure him that one of the first things which is required if we want to do business with a country is that there should be peaceful conditions in that country. Something has been said to-night about the causes of this trouble It has been pretty clearly proved that the causes of the trouble in China to-day go back a very long way. I am inclined to think that they certainly go back to the year 1904, if not to an earlier date. I wonder whether Members of this House realise that until 1904 no Eastern nation had won a decisive victory over a European nation since the Greeks defeated the Persians in the battle of Marathon. The effect of an Eastern nation, which up to then had been looked upon by the Chinese as an inferior race, practically conquering, or at any rate bringing to a successful issue a war against, a nation like Russia, which had been looked upon as the most powerful nation by the Chinese, must have been very great on the Chinese idea of the prestige of European nations.
With regard to the conditions in Chinese factories, I can speak with some knowledge. I have been into a number of factories in China, and although China is essentially in the first instance a great agricultural nation, it has always been to a large extent also a manufacturing nation. We must not forget that long before there was any attempt to exploit China by any European traders, there was a great trade in silk with China, and in many other things produced in that country in factories by the Chinese—small factories very often and nearly always dirty and ill-managed. I have visited Chinese silk factories and I can assure hon. Members that the conditions are in the main absolutely abominable. But those are Chinese factories. I have been in the Shanghai factories which are run by British companies, and I have seen conditions which would compare most favourably with the conditions in any factories in this country. I can certainly support what an hon. Friend said just now about child labour in the British factories in Shanghai. There is a very strong desire that there should be no child labour employed in British factories, and in those with which I have had something to do or have visited there is no child labour 947 in that sense. I can remember the Board under which people had to pass as an indication that they were of a certain age. I can remember one factory which was so well conducted, and the manager, an Englishman, was so well thought of by the Chinese people in the neighbourhood, that they would bring to him their disputes about land ownership and all sorts of things outside the factory management, because of their confidence in his justness and sense of fair play. I believe that wherever the British people go they take with them justice and honest dealing. While the conditions of affairs in China causes, naturally, the greatest alarm, we must remember that the British influence in China has always been great.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.