THE FINAL PROBLEM:—REMODELLING THE POLITICO-ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHINA AND THE WORLD
The careful narrative we have made—supported as it is by documents—of the history of China since the inception of the Republic six years ago should not fail to awaken profound astonishment among those who are interested in the spread of good government throughout the world. Even casual readers will have no difficulty in realizing how many lives have been lost and how greatly the country has been crippled both owing to the blind foreign support given to Yuan Shih-kai during four long and weary years and to the stupid adhesion to exploded ideas, when a little intelligence and a little generosity and sympathy would have guided the nation along very different paths. To have to go back, as China was forced to do in 1916, and begin over again the work which should have been performed in 1912 is a handicap which only persistent resolution can overcome; for the nation has been so greatly impoverished that years must elapse before a complete recovery from the disorders which have upset the internal balance can be chronicled: and when we add that the events of the period May-July, 1917, are likely still further to increase the burden the nation carries, the complicated nature of the outlook will be readily understood.
Happily foreign opinion has lately taken turn for the better. Whilst the substitution of a new kind of rule in place of the Yuan Shih-kai regime, with its thinly disguised Manchuism and its secret worship of fallen gods, was at first looked upon as a political collapse tinged with tragedy—most foreigners refusing to believe in an Asiatic Republic—the masculine decision of the 9th February, 1917, which diplomatically ranged China definitely on the side of the Liberal Powers, has caused something of a volte face. Until this decision had been made it was the fashion to declare that China was not only not fit to be a Republic but that her final dissolution was only a matter of time. Though the empire disappeared because it had become an impossible rule in the modern world—being womanish, corrupt, and mediaeval—to the foreign mind the empire remained the acme of Chinese civilization; and to kill it meant to lop off the head of the Chinese giant and to leave lying on the ground nothing but a corpse. It was in vain to insist that this simile was wrong and that it was precisely because Chinese civilization had exhausted itself that a new conception of government had to be called in to renew the vitality of the people. Men, and particularly diplomats, refused to understand that this embodied the heart and soul of the controversy, and that the sole mandate for the Republic, as well as the supreme reason why it had to be upheld if the country was not to dissolve, has always lain in the fact that it postulates something which is the very antithesis of the system it has replaced and which should be wholly successful in a single generation, if courage is shown and the whip unflinchingly used.