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a meeting to discuss the matter, held in Chefoo, between Sir Thomas Wade and the trusted counsellor and envoy of the Chinese Government, Li Hung-chang. The representative of the British Government, fortified by the report of the Grosvenor Commission of Enquiry, originally demanded an examination into the conduct of the Yunnan Viceroy, Tsên yü-ying, in whose jurisdiction the murder had been committed, but he ultimately yielded to the representations of Li as to the impossibility of the Chinese Government putting a Viceroy on his trial, and accepted the compromise known as the Chefoo Convention. By this Convention, which was signed at Chefoo in the summer of 1876, the Chinese paid 10,0007. blood money to the relatives of the murdered consular agent, and agreed to open five new ports to foreign trade, of which Pakhoi on the west coast of Kwang-tung, Wenchow in Fokien, with Wuhu and Ichang on the Yangtse river, were opened unconditionally. Not one of these ports has, so far, justified by its trade the maintenance of the Consul which its opening to British residents has been held to necessitate. The last concession, and in our opinion the only valuable one of the whole, was the opening of Chungking as soon as it should have been proved accessible to steamers. This most unfortunate condition precedent’ robbed the only real equivalent offered for our abandonment of the demand that Margary's murderers should be brought to trial, of half its value, while it opened the door to that endless quibbling in which Chinese diplomatists are past masters. Such as it was, the convention was signed. The fleet that had been sent north, threatening the Chinese with reprisals should they persist in their refusal to punish Margary's murderers, was withdrawn, and in due course the new ports were opened. So insignificant are the regions which they serve, that, so far, those four new ports combined only give occupation to five resident European merchants, and of these five three are Germans. Little attention was paid to Chungking, the condition precedent' being considered too onerous and too risky for any prudent merchant to
In order to be allowed eventually to settle in the port, he must first build a steamer fit to navigate the rapids, then get permission for her to run, and if he succeeded in getting up to Chungking and back without mishap, he would still have to wait an indefinite time for the practical result. For thus ran the wording of this celebrated negatively-worded convention :
• British merchants will not be allowed to reside in Chungking or to open establishments or warehouses there so long as no steamers have access to the port. When steamers have succeeded in
ascending the river so far, farther arrangements can be taken into consideration.'
But what if he lost his steamer in the first attempt ? The Chinese might easily assert that this fact proved the river not to be navigable, and so endeavour to dispose of the question once for all. Even if backed up by a minister in Peking, of more energy and determination than falls to the share of the average official, he should succeed in obtaining permission to make a second, or a series of attempts, where was the man of business possessed of the inexhaustible resources that might be needed ? In this way Chungking was forgotten, and the Convention generally regarded as one more of the many sham triumphs of a diplomacy content to rest on the practical successes of a past and more vigorous generation. At length, in 1883, a Shanghai merchant, Mr. Archibald Little, made a journey up to Chungking, subsequently described by him in glowing colours in Through the Yangtse Gorges,' and was so much impressed with the capabilities of the region that on his return he set to work to get it opened up. A preliminary application for permission for a steamer to run up, made at Mr. Little's request to the Tsung li Yamen by the then British Chargé-d'affaires in Peking, Mr. N. R. O'Connor, produced a favourable although somewhat indefinite reply. Mr. Little, however, felt so far encouraged to proceed that, failing to find the required support in China, he came to this country in 1885 in the hope of arousing public interest here. For, strange as it may seem, European residents in China are somewhat sceptical of the benefits derivable from new ports. They are not unnaturally wholly absorbed in their own special business, in which too, as a rule, all their available capital is engaged. A new port in their neighbourhood takes away business from many of the old-established firms at the existing ports, and often com pels them in self-defence to incur the expense, risk, and labour of establishing a branch at the rival entrepôt. Although there is indisputable evidence that the general trade between Great Britain, her colonies, and China, besides the profits in the new carrying trade thereby opened up to British vessels, is largely increased by the admission of new regions to the gate of a privileged treaty port'; yet much of the produce, that formerly came to the old port, may now find its way to the new, while native buyers, 'if they find their wants supplied nearer home, will cease to make the more distant journey to the original mart. Hence the lack of enthusiasm in progress in China on the part of those supposed to be most interested, which is a surprise at first until we Vol. 171.–No. 341.
remember how strong is the conservatism of vested interests, with their rooted antipathy to any change that may disturb them. But here in Britain the case stands differently: Manchester cares not whom she sells to, and the more marts are open to her wares, the more she rejoices; Glasgow, too, finds, in new ports, new routes for her steamers and new openings for her indefatigable citizens. And it was in these centres of our trade that Mr. Little found the main support of his scheme. He formed a small company, entitled the Upper Yangtse Steam Navigation Company, which in 1887 despatched from the Clyde their pioneer steamer the · Kuling,' a sternwheeler designed to navigate the rapids above Ichang, and so open out the road to Chungking. But after his return to China his real difficulties commenced. The Tsung-li Yamên, or Chinese office for foreign affairs, whether they felt themselves entrapped into their original assent by Mr. O'Connor and so determined to back out of it at all hazards, or whether they really feared the resistance of the local authorities to the carrying out of the Chefoo Convention as far as Chungking was concerned, it is needless to decide. Suffice it to say, from the day of the arrival of the steamer in Ichang, February 1888, to the day of her sale to the Chinese Customs in December 1889, the Chinese authorities, both central and local, exerted every artifice for delay that a crafty people could devise, or a British minister, over anxious to stand well in their good graces, would submit to. Mr. Little was referred about from Peking to Ichang and back again without being able to get possession of the repeatedly promised permit to run. It was granted at last in Peking, subject to confirmation by the local officials, with whom it seemed that now nothing further remained to be done but to draw up simple rules for the navigation; for which ostensible purpose, certain • Wei-yuen,' or deputies, were sent to meet and arrange with Mr. Little and the British Consul at Ichang in the early part of the year 1889, and there to hand him formally the hitherto intangible document, which, it was alleged in Peking, had already been despatched to Ichang for
The Central Government had already exhausted their reasons why the steamer should not be allowed to go. Despatch after despatch had detailed to the British Minister the impediments that would inevitably be met with, and for which the Tsung-li Yamên protested in advance that they would not be held responsible. The dangers besetting the path of an explorer upon the 450 miles, which separate the haven of Ichang from his goal, Chungking, were depicted in most forbidding language.
Not alone the irate junkmen and trackers would sink the steamer by collisions, but the monkeys, on their precipices in the long gorges, would resent the intrusion of the strange apparition into their domain by hurling down rocks on her devoted decks. All these the Chinese Government expressed themselves powerless to control. Now that the • Deputies,' or High Commissioners, had arrived in Ichang, professedly to make arrangements for the coming voyage of the Kuling, they put forward the danger to the junks as the chief obstacle, and proposed all kinds of impossible rules, evidently with the sole object of procuring delay. In order to remove all pretext for further delay, Mr. Little offered to pay the value of all junks his steamer might run down, whether the steamer were in the right or in the wrong, and to enter into a bond giving security for the payment of such sums as might be adjudicated as due to the sufferers by collision both in life and property. This offer was telegraphed to Peking, but without result. "The Chinese had determined the steamer should not go; and when one pretext after another was set aside, they finally avowed that the Government would not permit steamers and junks to navigate the river simultaneously. Their final condition was that two days in each month should be set aside for the steamer's exclusive use of the river, during which days the junks should be tied up to the bank. This preposterous clause would have made of the run to Chungking a three months' voyage at least. Though seriously put forward, it was, of course, never meant to be accepted seriously. In short, the proposal was so absurd that it had the desired effect of breaking off the negociations in Ichang, and thus, after three months wasted, the farce of the Ichang Convention, so called, came to an end. The British Minister in Peking, Sir John Walsham, refused to give the Chinese notice that after a certain date he should authorize the steamer to start, and that he looked to the authorities to see that she was not molested. This simple course, which would n:ost certainly have been adopted a generation back, and which was strongly pressed upon the Minister, appeared not to be in accordance with modern diplomatic ideas, and the opportunity was lost. For the more our diplomatists get involved in correspondence with an astute people like the Chinese, the more hopeless does their position become. At last the Chinese proposed to secure themselves a respite by purchasing the corpus delicti of the diplomatic struggle, and so temporarily putting an end to it. This solution was eagerly seized upon on all sides. It conceded no principle; it was a purely private transaction, and it gave everybody a breathing time after a wrangle in
which all concerned were
Thus the proverbial patience of the Chinese triumphed over the impatience of the barbarian, and the tortoise once more got the better of the hare. The legation officials in Peking were sick of the whole business after the impasse they had arrived at, and the shareholders in the steamer had reached the end of their resources. The abortive congress of Chinese and British officials, at Ichang, broke up in May 1889, and in December of that year the steamer . Kuling' finally changed hands; the interval having been occupied in vain attempts, by the British Minister in Peking, to obtain a serious reply to his repeated request that the Kuling' should be allowed to run. Lord Salisbury, we are told, pressed the Chinese to fulfil the convention of 1876 with persistent vigour, and did not fail to urge our Minister in China to bring matters to a conclusion. But the Chinese are past masters in the diplomatic art, and instantly perceive how far an antagonist is likely to push matters. Having found that we are no longer likely, as in the old days, to push matters to extremes in case of refusal, they now, when an unpalatable concession is demanded, take refuge in a non possumus and in absolutely shameless procrastination. They have pursued this policy in the Thibetan Question so far successfully, and they did the same in this Upper Yangtse business. So, when the offer for the steamer was telegraphed to London to the owners, we hear that the Foreign Office, who were, of course, informed of the offer and consulted on the matter, decidedly approved of its being accepted, believing that negociations would go on more expeditiously with the steamer out of the way. And, in truth, no sooner was the steamer gone, than a counter-proposition appears to have been put forth by the Chinese—on the one hand, to open the port of Chungking at once, without waiting for the proof of the navigability of the river, which was the condition precedent' set forth in the ambiguous Chefoo Convention; while, on the other hand, access to the long-sought goal is denied to British steamers until the Chinese themselves have led the way. An immediate advantage, in the admission of foreign goods into Szechuen upon payment of one import duty in Shanghai, is conceded, while the implied right to run steamers forthwith through to Chungking is withdrawn. These terms having been accepted by our Government, it remains now to be seen how long it will be before Chinese
In the meantime, the admission of Chungking to the rank of a “Treaty Port’ will, undoubtedly, lead to a considerable increase in the consumption of British manufactures in Szechuen and Western China, as a result of the abolition of all intervening transit dues from the coast; but for
steamers commence to run.