A further illustration of the action of French diplomacy in China has just been provided (April, 1917) in the protest lodged by France against the building of a railway in Kwangsi Province by American engineers with American capital—France claiming exclusive rights in Kwangsi by virtue of a letter sent by the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs to the French Legation in 1914 as settlement for a frontier dispute in that year. The text of the letter is as follows:
“The dispute that rose in consequence of the disturbance at the border of Annam and Kwangsi has been examined into by the Joint Committee detailed by both parties concerned, and a conclusion has been reached to the effect that all matters relating to the solution of the case would be carried out in accordance with the request of Your Excellency.
“In order to demonstrate the especially good friendly relations existing between the two countries, the Republican Government assures Your Excellency that in case of a railway construction or a mining enterprise being undertaken in Kwangsi Province in the future, for which foreign capital is required, France would first be consulted for a loan of the necessary capital. On such an occasion, the Governor of Kwangsi will directly negotiate with a French syndicate and report to the Government.”
It is high time that the United States raises the whole question of the open door in China again, and refuses to tolerate any longer the old disruptive and dog-in-the-manger policy of the Powers. America is now happily in a position to inaugurate a new era in the Far East as in the Far West and to stop exploitation.
CHINA AND THE WAR
The question of Chinese sentiments on the subject of the war, as well as the precise relations between the Chinese Government and the two groups of belligerents, are matters which have been totally misunderstood. To those who have grasped the significance of the exhaustive preceding account of the Republic in travail, this statement should not cause surprise; for China has been in no condition to play anything but an insignificant and unsatisfactory role in world-politics.
When the world-war broke out China was still in the throes of her domestic troubles and without any money at all in her Central Treasury; and although Yuan Shih-kai, on being suddenly confronted with an unparalleled international situation, did initiate certain negotiations with the German Legation with a view to securing a cancellation of the Kiaochow lease, the ultimatum which Japan dispatched to Germany on the 15th August, 1914, completely nullified his tentative proposals. Yuan Shih-kai had, indeed, not been in the slightest degree prepared for such a sensational development as war between Japan and Germany over the question of a cruiser-base established on territory leased from China; and although he considered the possibility of sending a Chinese force to co-operate in the attack on the German stronghold, that project was never matured, whilst his subsequent contrivances, notably the establishment of a so-called war-zone in Shantung, were without international value, and attracted no attention save in Japan.