Riazanov, “Karl Marx on China,” Labor Monthly, 1926
Published in Labour Monthly, February 1926
Translated from Under the Banner of Marxism.
Transcribed by Adam Buick.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Already in the Communist Manifesto the significance of the East Indian and Chinese market is pointed out as a factor in the development of European capitalism. It was, indeed, from East India that British capitalism began its offensive against China. The East India Company used its trade monopoly with China to make the latter a market for the sale of Indian opium. Since, however, all English traders were equally interested in the intoxication of the Chinese people, the monopoly was removed in 1833. The attempt of the Chinese Government in 1839 to forbid the import of opium produced the so-called opium war against China, which Marx characterises in Capital as one of the chief links in the long chain of trade wars in which since the sixteenth century, even in the East, the European nations were engaged. After the English had cruelly destroyed a whole series of Chinese towns and had slaughtered thousands of Chinese for the honour of Christianity and European civilisation, they forced on China in 1842 the treaty of Nanking, which provided for the opening of the five Treaty Ports – Kanton, Amoy, Ningpo, Shanghai and Foochow, the payment of what was at that time an enormous indemnity, and the surrender of the island of Hong Kong, which forms the chief base for British Imperialism in the Far East. Following the treaty of Nanking came treaties with the United States and with France.
The defeat in battle with the Europeans was a hard blow for the prestige of the Manchu dynasty which had been supreme in China since the seventeenth century. Among the peasant masses, groaning under the burden of taxation and the pressure of the bureaucracy, and who reacted at times to their subjection by sporadic revolts, there now began to ripen a ferment of dissatisfaction which was especially strong in the South East where the destructive influence of foreign capital most made itself felt. To this was added the fermentation among the Chinese “intelligentsia” of that time, the teachers and the lower officials, as well as among the craftsmen ruined by foreign competition.
Just at the time when in West Europe the waves of the 1848 revolution reached their height, the activity of the secret societies in China also became stronger and propaganda for new religious sects developed among the peasants. The European missionaries against their will played the part of hens with a brood of ducklings. They remarked with terror that the drawing-room Christianity preached by them had taken root among the rebellious peasantry in the only militant form of Christianity, which demands equality in this world. Europe learnt of this for the first time through the well-known German missionary and sinologist, Gutzlaff, who also was the first to make a Chinese translation of the Bible.
In the same international review (January, 1850) in which Marx investigated the influence of the discovery of the Californian gold mines on the development of the world market, and in which he prophesied for the Pacific Ocean the same rôle that the Mediterranean had once played in the ancient world, and which had then passed to the Atlantic Ocean, Marx also refers to the interesting communications of Gutzlaff. He wrote:–
“The slow but regularly increasing over-population of the country long ago made the social relations there very oppressive for the great majority of the nation. Then came the English and enforced free trade for themselves in the five ports. Thousands of British and American vessels sailed towards China, and in a short time the country was filled to excess with cheap British and American factory wares. The Chinese industry based on hand labour was subjected to the competition of the machines. The hitherto unshakeable Central Empire experienced a social crisis. Taxes ceased to come in, the State fell to the edge of bankruptcy, the population sank in masses into pauperism, broke out in revolts, maltreated and killed the Emperor’s mandarins and the priests of the Fohis. The country came to the verge of ruin, and is already threatened with a mighty revolution. And there is even worse. Among the masses and in the insurrection there appeared people who pointed to the poverty on the one side and the riches on the other, and who demanded, and are still demanding, a different division of property and even the entire abolition of private property. When Mr. Gutzlaff, after twenty years’ absence, returned once more to civilised people and Europeans, he heard talk of Socialism, and asked what that was. When it was explained to him he exclaimed in consternation, ‘Shall I then never escape this pernicious doctrine? The very same thing has been preached for some time by many people among the mobs in China’.”
“Chinese Socialism,” continues Marx, “bears much the same relation to European Socialism as Chinese philosophy does to Hegelian philosophy. It is, in any case, an intriguing fact that the oldest and the most unshakable empire in the world has in eight years by the cannon-balls of the English bourgeoisie been brought to the eve of a social revolution which will certainly have the most important .results for civilisation. When our European reactionaries in their immediately coming flight across Asia finally come up against the Great Wall of China, who knows whether they will not find on the gates which lead to the home of ancient reaction and ancient conservatism the inscription, ‘Chinese Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity’.” (Literary Remains, vol.3, pages 444-5.)
The movement on which the good missionary Gutzlaff, the apostle of China, as the Germans called him, gave information to the Europeans was the forerunner of the great Taiping rebellion. The leader of this movement, Hung, had become acquainted with Christianity through the Gutzlaff translations of the old and new Testaments. As early as 1851 he became the leader of the revolting peasants. The Taipings took one town after another. Finally, in March, 1853, even Nanking was taken, which for a long time remained the capital of the celestial empire founded by Hung. At that time it appeared as if the Taipings within a few months would also take possession of Peking. The entry into Nanking, however, remained the highest point in the rebellion.
It was at this period that there was written the article of Marx which appeared in the New York Tribune on June 14, 1853. At that time reaction was triumphant in Europe. The Communist League was in dissolution, the Mailand [Milan] revolt (February 1853) which was organised by Mazzini and his followers ended in defeat. Marx had greeted it as the symptom of an approaching revolutionary crisis. With even greater fervour, therefore, he greeted the beginning of the revolutionary movement in the Far East. The contrast between petrified Europe and the movement in China, where movement had so long been absent, forcibly impressed itself. Civilised Europe, where thrones and altars had been stormed, was now diligently occupied with table turning, a fashion of American origin. “One is reminded of the fact,” wrote Marx later in Capital, referring to these events, “that China and the tables began to dance when all the remaining world appeared to be standing still – pour encourager les autres.”
The State founded by Hung or Tjan-Wang was of a purely theocratic character. After the Taipings and their leaders had renounced all hope of the conquest of Northern China, they sought to assure themselves of the South-East, utilising for this purpose the antagonism between the Manchus and the English. When in 1856 a new Chinese war broke out with England, and later also with France, the Taipings allowed themselves to be taken in tow by the British Imperialists. While they owed their first victories precisely to the circumstance that they had risen against the yoke of the strangers, against the Manchus, they now – in order to save their theocratic state – made common cause with the much more revengeful and treacherous foreigners. Thus the Taiping movement which in the beginning had borne a revolutionary character, became a reactionary movement which lost the sympathy of the peasant masses. After the English, in union with the Taipings, had subdued Northern China, they helped Pekin to drown in blood the Taiping insurrection.
Marx followed attentively the further development of these events in China and not only stigmatised, in a series of articles in the New York Tribune during 1857-1859, all the crimes of the “civilised seafarers,” but also subjected to a new analysis the statistics of Anglo-Chinese trade.
Although Marx in the article mentioned begins with the fact of the rapid destruction of the “Asiatic mode of production” under the influence of the penetration of English capitalism, and although he still hoped that the imminent European revolution would find the requisite support in the awakened East, nevertheless he comes to the conclusion that he had at first over-estimated the extent and tempo of the destructive influences of English capitalism.
“The real task of bourgeois society,” wrote Marx in 1858 in a letter to Engels, “is the creation, at least in outline, of a world market, and of a type of production resting on this basis. Since the world is round, this task seems to have been brought to a conclusion with the colonisation of California and Australia and the inclusion of China and Japan. The difficult question for us is as follows. Revolution is imminent on the Continent and will at once assume a Socialist character. But will it not necessarily be crushed in this little corner, since over a much greater territory the movement of bourgeois society is still in the ascendant? As far as China is especially concerned, I have assured myself by a close analysis of the movement of trade since 1836, firstly that the soaring of English and American exports in 1844-1846 revealed itself in 1847 as a sheer delusion, and that also in the ten years following the average has remained practically stationary while Chinese exports to England and America increased enormously, and secondly that the opening of the five ports and the occupation of Hongkong only resulted in the trade of Canton passing to Shanghai. The other ‘emporiums’ do not count. The chief cause of the failure of this market seems to be the opium trade, to which in fact all increase in the export trade to China is continually limited; and, after that, the internal organisation of the country, its minute agriculture, &c., which will cost an enormous time to break down.” (Correspondence of Marx and Engels, vol.2, pages 292-3.)
When Marx in 1862 renewed his writing on the Taiping movement (Press, July 7, 1862) he was already much more condemnatory. As already mentioned, this movement was in a stage of complete dissolution. Marx says:–
“A little while before the tables began to turn, China, this living fossil, began to become revolutionary. In itself there was nothing extraordinary in this phenomenon, for Oriental empires continually exhibit an immutability in social sub-structure with restless permutations of the persons and races who have possessed themselves of the political super-structure. China is ruled by a foreign dynasty. After three hundred years why should not a movement develop for the overthrow of this dynasty? The movement had from the beginning a religious complexion, but that was a feature it had in common with all Oriental movements. The immediate motives for the appearance of the movement were obvious – European interference, opium wars, and consequent disruption of the existing Government, the flow of silver out of the country, disturbance of the economic equilibrium through the introduction of foreign manufactures, &c. What seemed to me a paradox was that the opium animated instead of stupefying. As a matter of fact the only original part of this revolution was its leaders. They are conscious of their task, quite apart from the change of dynasty. They have no slogans. They represent a still greater torment for the masses of the people than for the old rulers. Their motive seems to be nothing else than to bring into play against the conservative marasmus grotesquely repulsive forms of destruction, destruction without any germ of regeneration.”
In many respects, indeed, the Taiping insurrection was reminiscent of the European peasant wars, if only in as much as the participation in it of the town proletariat was equally non-existent.
In regard to India, also, as in regard to China, Marx was compelled to come to the conclusion that the tempo of development, measured in terms of world history, took place at a much slower rate from the point of view of the individual than might have been anticipated. In the third volume of Capital he wrote:–
“The obstacle presented by the internal solidity and articulation of pre-capitalistic national modes of production to the corrosive influence of commerce is strikingly shown in the intercourse of the English with India and China. The broad basis of the mode of production is here formed by the unity of small agriculture and domestic industry, to which is added in India the form of communes resting upon common ownerships of the land, which, by the way, was likewise the original form in China. In India, the English created simultaneously their direct political and economic power as rulers and landlords, for the purpose of disrupting these small economic organisations. The English commerce exerts a revolutionary influence on these organisations and tears them apart only to the extent that it destroys by the low prices of its goods the spinning and weaving industries, which are an archaic and integral part of this unity. And even so this work of dissolution is proceeding very slowly. It proceeds still more slowly in China where it is not backed up by any direct political power on the part of the English.” (Capital, vol.iii, English translation, C.H. Kerr & Co., pages 392-3.)
The power of resistance of the “Asiatic mode of production” proved itself so great that several decades passed before European capitalism succeeded in shattering this “Great Wall of China.” To the assistance of the economic factor, the low prices of industrial goods, came the political factor, a new series of wars, in which the youthful Japanese imperialism played no small part. The indivisible union of agriculture and industry, the main secret of the immobility of the “Asiatic mode of production,” was burst asunder. The Chinese peasantry separated from itself great masses of “coolies,” and fell ever deeper into dissolution. Emigration, which for a period had acted as a safety valve, soon proved itself powerless in the struggle with the “plague spot of the proletariat.”
Attracted by cheap labour power in China, Japanese and British capitalists began to bring into existence a “national” big industry. In effect they produced an organised and disciplined industrial proletariat, which is now preparing to assume the leadership of all the exploited poor, rural as well as urban.
The question which Marx formulated sixty years ago has been given a positive answer by history. No danger threatens the European revolution from the East. There, also, capitalism is finding its grave-diggers. And even if ancient Europe still has the appearance of stability, “immobile” China on the other hand, following the example of Soviet Russia, is already dancing the revolutionary Carmagnole – Ca ira, Ca ira!
Raphael Pumpelly, “Our Impending Chinese Problem,” The Galaxy, July 1869.
IF we turn from the splendid sunrise of our national morning to the misty veil that enshrouds the future, we shall see a giant spectre slowly defining its shadowy form against the Western heavens. Let us look and reflect; for it is the mirage of a distant empire, a looming of one-third of the human race. It is the foreshadowing of a problem which only time can solve; but which is none the less one of the most important in the worlds history. Let us examine the elements of this problem: On the Western shore of the Pacific there is a country, not much larger than the United States east of the Mississippi, in which a population of more than four hundred millions treads closely upon the capacity of the soil for supporting existence. So true is this, that those years in which the productiveness of the earth falls below the average, witness widespread famine and all the horrors that follow in its train. By untiring patience and industry, by intelligence and the skill attained through ages of experience, by uniting all these qualities in wrestling from Nature the last atom she can yield, and, finally, by returning to Mother Earth, with scrupulous care, all that has been taken from her, with interest drawn from sea and river, this race maintains its vitality unimpaired. But it is a struggle for life. So long as the throes of this tremendous struggle were confined to China by strong natural and political barriers, they found a remedy in decimation by famine and pestilence. But the past twenty years have effected as great breaches in the political barrier ~which the Chinese had raised about them, as twenty centuries have made in their ancient wall of brick and stone. The social and political restraints which have opposed emigration are disappearing, and the first consciousness of an expansive power is beginning to show itself in the maritime provinces of the empire. A few years since, the confines of Asia and its archipelagos were the horizon of the world to every Chinaman. The small fields therein opened to a peaceful race attracted many enterprising emioTants but neither were the openings large enough, nor the facilities for reaching them great enough to initiate any very important movement. The discovery of gold in California and Australia and the demand for labor on the distant shores of the Pacific Ocean, gave the needed impulse. Timidly, at first, small numbers xvent abroad; then tens of thousands, until now there must be nearly two hundred thousand Chinamen on the American continents alone. During these years there has been, also, a continuous stream returning to Asia, and carrying home, in the aggregate, a large amount of money and information. Thus, the number of Chinamen who have seen the outside world cannot be far from one per cent. of the whole male population of the empire. These act as a leaven on ever-growing circles at home, spreading among hundreds of millions those stories of adventure in distant lands, of wonders, of boundless demand for labor and of high wages, which make individuals think and become restless. Thoughts arise which, when they become common to large numbers, are intensified to a degree proportionate to the size of the masses swayed by them, until the sympathetic attraction of remote countries produces the tidal wave and currents of emigration. The measure of this movement is the exact resultant of all the social and physical forces which operate in its action. These are, of course, intricate and obscure beyond computation;
View page 23
1369.1 OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM.
but they are resolvable, in general terms, into one set of favorable and opposing forces in China, and other sets, with different resultants, for each country outside of China. In China we have one-third of the human race, suffering from an excessive death-rate and all the misery of an incessant struggle for life, with no remedy but the ability to overflow into other lands, until the population at home shall stand in a proper ratio to the means of support. Leaving out all other questions, the capacity of America for receiving emigrat ion is at present boundless, as compared with the capacity of all the world to supply it. An eminent English geographer has carefully calculated that the two Americas are capable of supporting thirty-six hundred millions of inhabitants. Room and subsistence are not wanting. The capacity for absorption of labor is scarcely more limited. The end of the long-continued exodus from Europe cannot be far off; to think otherwise is to believe unjustiflably in a rapidly-approaching decay of the nations beyond the Atlantic. Social and political reforms raising the condition of the people, especially that of the women of the lowest classes, the increase in industrial prosperity, and the continued drain of skilled labor to foreign countries, seem to be silently working throughout Europe toward the establishment of a proper balance between population and means of support. The Chinaman in this country was for years excluded from all participation in the development of the national prosperity, and was grudgingly allowed to work only in those gold diggings which were considered worthless by the American. But when a pressing necessity arose for labor on the public works of California and Nevada, the Chinaman was found to answer every need; and now, having become identified with our internal improvements, he has obtained recognition as a necessary element of populationthe execution of great enterprises is b2sed on his co-operation. For ~veal or woe, the Pacific Railroad is uniting more distant extremes than the two shores of our continent. The facilities for crossing the Pacific are yearly increasing; and so is also the knowledge of America in China. Unless obstacles be placed in the way, immigration will increase rapidly; with additional encouragement it will soon become enormous. Having no rights, exposed to continued extortion, treated with contempt and indignity, branded as an idolator, and charged with every vice by his scrupulously just, religious, and virtuous neighbors, the Chinaman, feeling that he has no position here, seeks California, as the pearl diver does the bottom of the sea, and returns as soon as possible to the free air of his native soil. Place these Chinamen on the same footing with other immigrants, and the result will be that, while many will return to the home of their forefathers, a large portion will make this the home of their descendants. This was and is the case in the Dutch East Indies, where they were less oppressed than in California. Under these circumstances, if this immigration should be proportionate to the necessity for relief that exists in China, or to the capacity for receiving it here ; or, again, if it should bear the same relation to the parent population that the emigration from Ireland and Germany bears to the home population of those countries, the male adults of Mongolian origin on this continent would soon outnumber those of the European race. \Vhen we consider that the I)rejudice of race is, with us, a part of the foundation of politics ; that the moral characteristics of various nationalities become important parts of the framework on which parties are constructed; that the View page 24
24 THE GALAXY. LJULY, opposing armies which fight with the ballot, and at times threaten the s~vord, are, to a large extent, massed by races ; when we consider this, and then turn to the prospect of a homogeneous mass of people among us, their male adults outnumbering largely those of all other component parts of the population, and having no sympathetic bond with us in their language, traditions, or, so far as it goes for anything, their religion; then the social and political importance of this great problem dawns on the mind. To the thinker who has come to look upon the Americas as the birthright of the European under the tutelage of the Anglo-Saxon; as presenting the prospect of a hemisphere peopled with a new race built up from the best elements of the European, numbering more than twice the present population of the globe; a race ~vhich will be homogeneous, enjoying the most complete means of intercommunication by steam and electricity, having one language, one form of government and one idea of God; to him the startling possibilities involved in the problem before us come as the discovery of neglected data, which may invalidate the results of years of calculation. If the probabilities of the case bear any proximate relation to the possibilities, the teeming population of our hemisphere two or three centuries hence may have more Chings and Changs in their geneological trees than Smiths and Browns; for, other things being equal, the predominant blood will be that of the race best able to maintain an undiminished rate of increase; and the vitality of the Chinese nation during a constant struggle for life seems to bespeak for it at least equally favorable prospects in less crowded homes. With an emigration from China standing in the same ratio to the home population that the drain from Germany holds to the population of that country, we should have an influx of more than one million Chinese yearly. Ten years of this rate would place upon our soil a preponderance of male adults of Mongolian blood over those of all the other families of man among us. The perception of this possibility cannot but awaken in the mind of the true American the gravest thoughts. The social, political, and ethnological questions involved are of transcendent importance. The question of the prohibition or the heavy taxation of Chinese immigration is almost sure to be one of the earliest and most bitterly fought political issues of the Far West. The hostility to the Chinese of the white laborers, especially of the Irish, is already beginning to show itself openly in the most violent acts of intimidation. But it is not difficult to foresee that any legislation, which has for its object the suppression of any social element or force that has once shown itself to be a necessity in rapidly carrying forward the system of internal improvements on which a large part of our material industry rests, must ultimately fail. We may therefore assume that the recognition of the necessity of Chinese labor in the Far West insures an influx of Chinese proportionate at least to the extent of the great system of public works, which will be needful for the growth of the Western States and Territories. We shall see, further on, that these Asiatics are obtaining strong foothold in almost all other branches of labor, because they answer the requirements better than any other class of people. It is therefore not improbable that they will find their way, in large numbers, to this side of the Rocky Mountains. Is it probable that the party warfare of the country will leave this enormous quantity of possible political force in the latent condition appertaining to aliens? View page 25
1869.] OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM. 25
Gaining the right to vote means gaining citizenship, the removal of disqualifications, and the protection of their distinctive interests and customs to a degree proportionate to the number of their votes. Having obtained these, the Chinese emigrant will become, beyond a doubt, a permanent citizen. With this prospect before us it may not be uninteresting to glance at the characteristics of this race, both in countries to which they have emigrated, and in their own home. Twenty years of contact between the two races in California have done little toward removing the prejudice against the Chinese. They have poured steadily into and out of the country; but, surrounded by barriers, they have been forced to form a world of their own. XVithin this some fifty thousand men have been thriving, while n~any of them have amassed large fortunes. Many an enterprise, too, has swamped in failure, which would have given brilliant returns but for the tyranny of white workmen who prevented the employment of cheap Chinese labor. This tyranny is met with at every step: from the court-room, where the Chinaman is denied the right of giving evidence in mixed cases, to the gold diggings, where white rowdies, acting as self-appointed collectors, levy the mining tax which is never assessed upon Americans. Recently, however, various manufacturers, farmers, and others, braving that wild beast, the Irish mob, have begun to employ Chinese labor, and with such success that capitalists see in it the sine~v and muscle of the Far West. A writer in the Overland Monthly, March, 1869, says of the Chinamen: What they want is employment snd such pay as ~vill support them and leave something over to send hack to the father and mother, or to the wife and the children, left at home. So accustomed have they always been to give a full and honest days labor to tlsose who have hired them, that they expect to give their employer the service of their muscle and their skill during all the hours of the day, only asking a reasonable time for meals, together ~vith tlse stipulated wages when their work is done.
The owners of woollen factories praise them as the best of workmen. The officers and foremen of the Central Pacific railroadon which some ten thousand Chinamen are said to be at workspeak no less highly of them. Their work is full and honest, no lagging and story-telling, no whiskey drinking, and few fights. Overseers declare that they can drill more rock and move more dirt with Chinamen than with an equal number of men who claim this kind of occupation as their specialty. What they lack in bodily vigor is made up in persistency and steadiness. Indeed, California is just beginning to feel how suicidal her course toward Asiatic labor has been, and she is finding that her material prosperity is increasing apace with the innovation upon that policy. The Chinese are found now in woollen, paper and powder mills; in th. borax works; in the hop plantations, fruit orchards and vineyards; following the reaping machines on farms, and working the salt-pits on the coast; doing almost universally the cooking, and engaged in hundreds of branches of industry that would be impossible without their cheap labor. The sure result of this will be that, in a few years, the small savings of these workmen will, by accumulation, transform the coolie of to-day into the capitalist, contracting to build railroads, owning large farms or factories and lines of ships, and making great commercial combinations. This is certain, for no people on the face of the earth advance so unswervingly in the accumulation of capital; and in its investment from childhood upward they combine the shrewdness of the Jews with the many-sidedness of the Yankee. What the Jews have been in banking, the Chinese may easily become in general commerce and industry on the Pacific coast. View page 26
THE GALAXY. [JULY,
On the island of Java, where they have long been tolerated, the Chinese number not far from 150,000, the greater part having more or less Javan blood. The oppression of the Dutch is the cause of the population not being larger. They are obliged to pay a mulct for leave to enter, and a larger one for permission to quit, besides a poll-tax; none of which imposts are levied on other foreigners. During the last century they were so badly treated that they revolted, and in i~~o were attacked in their quarter in Batavia, when ten thousand of them are said to have been slaughtered. Sir Stamford Raffles, writing in i8 17, says: The most numerous and important class of foreigners in Java are the Chinese, who do not fall short of soo,ooo, and who, with a system of free trade and free cultivation, would soon accumulate tenfold, by natural increase within the island and gradual accessions of new settlers from house. They arrive at Batavia to the amount of a thousand or more in junks, without money or resources; but by dint of industry soon acquire comparative opulence. There are no women in Java who caine directly from China; but as the Chinese often marry the daugbters of their countrymen by Javan women, there results a nunserous mixed race which is often scarcely distinguishable from the native Chinese. Many return to China annually in the junks, but by BO means in the same numbers as they arrive. They are governed in matters of inheritance and minor affairs by their own laws, administered by their own officials appointed by~tbe Dutch governor. They are distinct from the natives and are in a high degree more intelligent, niore laborious, and more luxssrious. They are the life and soul of the commerce of the country. In the native provinces they are still the farmers of the revenue, having formerly been so thoughout the island.
Beginning on their arrival as coolies and laborers, they soon accummulate enough to work independently, and many of them amass large fortunes. They have obtained nearly the monopoly of the native produce and an uncontrolled command of their market for foreign commodities. Their industry embraces the whole system of commerce, from the greatest wholesale speculations to the most minute branches of the retail trade. In their hands are all the manufactories, distilleries, potteries, etc., and they have large coffee and sugar plantations. Their means are increased by their knowledge of business? their spirit of enterprise, and their mutual confidence. They are equally well adapted for trade or agriculture. In the English colony of Singapore 50,000, out of a population of 8o,ooo, are Chinamen, chiefly from the island of Hainan. Here the Chinese have obtained a strong foothold, and, under the full protection of English law, are accumulating great fortunes. Nearly all the trade is under their control, and this represented, in 1867, $35,000,000 imports and $a8,700,000 exports. Carrying with them and retaining their innate energy in a country where both the natives and Europeans succumb, morally if not physically, to the enervating climate, they are absorbing every department of labor. The writer was told some years since that the English owners of a large machine shop at Singapore ~vere gradually removing their English workmen and replacing them with Chinamen, having found the latter more docile, sober and enduring, and, with the same amount of instruction, equafly skilful. So successful is their competition that Parsees, Jews and Europeans can retain no foothold in face of it. The growth of Chinese population and industry in the East Indian Archipelago is already a matter of great significance. In it we may see the coming solution of an important problem. The vast areas of tropical lands, insular and continental, have hitherto been, comparatively speaking, a closed world. And yet the warm regions yield larger returns of those plants they have in common with the temperate zones, and have peculiar plants which yield more nourishment from the same area. Thus maize, which yields fortyfold or fiftyfold in France, gives one hundred and fiftyfold, on an average, in Mexico. Humboldt estimates that an aey5ent (five-sixths of an acre) which will barely support two men, when sown in ~vheat, will feed fifty with bananas. View page 27
OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM. 27
A good authority has given the following tabular statement of the relation between latitude and productiveness. Lditude 0 deg. 15 deg. 30 deg. 45 deg. 6o deg. Productiveness xoo 90 65 35 12 1-2
It is this excessive bounty of tropical nature that feeds the Southern races without labor. And the absence, during ages, of the necessity for labor in these regions, has unfitted the natives for active participation in making their countries contribute their full share to the needs of mankind. But the time must come, sooner or later, when these vast forests and jungles will be the granaries from which the deficiencies in the production of other lands will be made good; when they will stand in the same relation to other countries that our prairies and the wheat-fields of Russia hold to manufacturing England, or that Siam is just beginning to hold to China; and when the great wealth of raw materialgreater by far than ~ve as yet appreciatewhich is contained in the vegetable world of the trol)ics, will be a necessity to countless manufactories, supplying comforts and luxuries to largely increased populations over the whole world. The Chinese alone, of all races, have shown themselves able to maintain vigorous moral and physical vitality in the unwholesome and enervating climates of the South. Wherever they go and are allowed a fair field, they turn their attention to the discovery and development of the resources of the land in every direction known to their experience, and with fully as much good judgment, energy, and success as are shown by the European. Indeed, they possess, in an eminent degree, the qualities that are essential in colonizers, especially that strongly-marked national individuality which enables them to retain the best characteristics of their race in the midst of the effeminate customs of the inferior natives. The ability to thrive in the most extreme climates is a remarkable characteristic of this people. We have just seen how well they resist the enervatincr and unwholesome climate of the tropics. The writer has also seen them collected together from different parts of the Chinese Empirepursuing, in considerable numbers, the different branches of their industry, on the confines of Tartary and Siberia, where the mean annual temperature is thirty-two degrees (Fahrenheit) and where the mercury sinks, every winter, to sixty degrees below zero. Whate\-er may be the future of China Proper, it is perhaps not too much to foresee in the mutual adaptation which exists between tropical regions and Chinese colonization, the germ oj a growth in which the best elements of their own and the Western civilizations will blend to raise the offshoots of China to the rank of great Powers in the councils of the world. But it is in their own home and in the record of their national growth that we must seek the most important data for estimating the Chinese character. The necessary brevity of a magazine article admits of only a superficial glance at the outlines of this record, and the principles on which the social and political organization rests. For the practical worth and working of these principles, we have a measure in the present social and political condition of the Empire. The most striking features in the history of China, are the persistency of its civilization, and its national vitality which seems still undiminished, notwithstanding the great age of the Empire. This civilization is native to the soil. At every step we find unmistakable proofs that in remote times the ancestors of the race lived under a patriarchal government. The earliest records describe them as entering China from the north-west, and we know that in that direction, upon the high table lands of Central Asia, between Thibet and the Tienslian, there View page 28
28 THE GALAXY. [JULY,
existed a civilization which was partly pastoral, but acquainted also with many arts, and in which the use of iron was known at the remote period preceding the separation of the earlier branches of the Arian race. Our own ancestors, and those of the Chinese, were perhaps near neighbors, at that epoch. In entering China, the latter found it occupied by an aboriginal race, of which remnants live to this day unconquered, in the southern and western mountains. The earliest records and traditions carrying us back far into the uncertain period of history, show us the founders of the empire gradually forming colonies through the land, and carrying on defensive wars against the northern hordes, at the same time that they conquered both the natives of the soil and the natural obstacles in the way of their expansion. Already in the dawn of their written history, we find them carrying out a great enterprise, building works to control the waters of the Yellow Riverone of the most ungovernable streams of the earthby confining it between dykes several hundred miles in length, to prevent its destructive inundations; at undertaking, the maintenance of which even at the present day, forms a heavy tax on the whole Empire. Thus, in the infancy of the nation, there existed the germs that were necessary to its wonderful growth., Every essential feature of their civilization, moral, social, political, industrial, is the offspring of their own minds. More than this, from China there have radiated many of the fundamental features of Asiatic and even of European civilization. The mariners compass, printing, and gunpowder, were early inventions of that country, and there is little doubt that they were directly or indirectly introduced into the West during the reign of the Mongol dynasty, when so many Europeans wandered freely through all Asia. It has been claimed that the first printed copy of the Bible was made in China. The observing traveller in that country will see at every step the prototypes of familiar objects in common use with us and in Europe. It has often been made a reproach to the Chinese, that their inventions have remained unperfected. This is certainly a remarkable fact, when we consider the fertility of mind necessary to have originated, throughout, such a civilization; but it would seem that the perfecting of the results of thought and labor is, to a certain extent, dependent on their transplantation into other countries, and on the reaction upon each other of different kinds of civilizations. China has ever been too isolated to enjoy the benefits of this interchange, although there is. reason to hope that such an era is now dawning. It must also be remembered that China has ever been a world within itself; sufficient to itself. Having no competitors, their inventions stopped at the point where the desired end was attained; they were intended to be labor-aiding rather than labor-saving. It would seem that with this isolation, the very fact that the Chinese civilization is indigenous would go far toward explaining the persistency of its type. The principles upon which the whole social and political fabric of the Empire is based had already been established, and had taken a firm root in the national mind in early historical times; and so firmly were they fixed that every attempt to overthrow them has ended in the extinction of the aggressive dynasties. These principles are, paternal and filial duty, and individual resj5onsibillty for the public welfare. As the Emperor is the son of Heaven and the father of the people, he is responsible to heaven for the ~vell-being of the nation; a portion only of his power is delegated to the officers of the government. So also, in the family, the parent is supreme, but also responsible for the conduct of the children. The entire population of a city is responsible for the View page 29
1869.] OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM. 29
citizens; each ward, for its families; each family, for its members. No crime is greater than the violation of filial duty in the family relation, and all crimes acting against the public good, are brought to the doors of the public sponsors. But the Chinese, always too material and practical a people to vest the control of the imperial will in heaven alone, established, so far as we know, first among mankind, the principle that the will of the people and the will of heaven are synonymous. In the Shu-King, compiled by Confucius, 500 B. C., from authorities much more ancient, we find the following axiom: That which heaven sees and hears, manifests itself in that which the people see and hear. That which the people judge worthy of reward and of punishment indicates what heaven desires to reward and to punish. Again it is said in the Chung-King, The wise Emperors of ancient times used the eyes and ears of the Empire to see and hear, for the wishes of the people were their wishes, since it is in the wishes of the people that the intentions of heaven are manifested. Believing thus firmly that ~ the voice of the people is the voice of God, a council of the wisest men of the Empire, themselves raised from the people, has ever surrounded the throne, holding the position of censors, memorializing the Emperor on the state of the country, and generally not hesitating to risk their lives in criticising a wrong policy. As the people are the children of the Emperor, they are all equal, as members of one family. There is no distinction of class. The descendants ofCon~ fucius have indeed by that title certain privileges of nobility, and the members of the Imperial family form, during the existence of a dynasty, a class of nobles but they enjoy only a few slight prerogatives, which end with the ninth remove. Whenever a citizen has rendered some signal service to the State, advancing the public good, he is ennobled, receiving certain titles and privileges, but these cease at his death, his descendants having no further share in them, than the honor of being his offspring. As no man can be greater than his father, the whole line of ancestors is ennobled. Thus, an aristocracy is formed, indeed, but it is wisely perpetuated backward into the other world. All being equal, competition for office is open for all. Education is universal, and proficiency in scholarship forms the basis of this competition. The government, it is true, appoints most of the officials, but they are chosen from those who, in the successive competitive examinations, take the highest honors. That these principles have not merely been acknowledged, but that they have been the true mainspring, acting weakly at times it is true, the Chinese nation at this day is a standing proof. Among them alone, of all peoples, has the principle that forms the basis of our own government, the equality of man, existed through all history. The early philosophers of China taught these doctrines, as a moral and political code, and as the only just basis of government. At that time, the country was split up into numerous feudal kingdoms, but when, some time after the death of Confucius, the Empire was consolidated, the doctrines of the great teacher became gradually the rule of action, and until the present time, they have never lost ground in their hold upon the national mind. As a code of morals, it is not venturing too far to say, that the writings of Confucius have been and still are as much respected, as is the creed of any other people. The universal esteem in which scholarship has ever been held, has made education one of the chief aims of life, to a greater degree in China than in most other nations. An aristocracy of intellect assumes here the position which in other countries is assigned to birth or wealth; schools are universal, View page 30
30 THE GALAXY. and the proportion of the inhabitants who are unable to read and write is very small. The classics and history of their own country are very generally studied. That their ability to learn is not confined to the groove of their own system of study is shown by the instances of Chinese educated in the West. About twenty years ago, two b oxs, children of very poor families, were sent to America to be instructed. After leaving the school at Munson, one xvent through Yale, and in graduating took the highest place in English composition ; the other carried off the highest honors in Surgery and Botany in the University of Edinburgh. Since that time the first has carried the experience gained in the West into the conduct of his business in China, and the other is esteemed by the European residents of the English Colony of Hong-Kong, as one of the best surgeons in the East. The science of war is considered inferior to scholarship, and the Chinese are essentially a peaceable people, although they have carried on great wars during different periods of their history. The power of the central government is felt but lightly throughout the Empire. There is a practical decentralization which leaves a wide scope for free action to the provinces and their subdivisions ; this is exemplified in the application of the revenues, excepting maritime customs, to the use of the districts in which they are raised. The government of China is really one type of democracy, as that of Japan is of despotism. In China the people are represented in the government, in that, though all the principal offices are filled by the Emperor, they are filled from the people by competitive examination. This is the theory; practically many offices are sold to raise money, as during the wars with England, and the rebellion. The Central government is felt chiefly when its appointees are corrupt; but the power of the people is generally great enough to cause removals in such cases. Their faculty of organization and self-government showed itself repeAtedly during the late rebellion. The British Consul at Ning-Po paid them a high tribute in this respect, in praising the perfect order and self-government which was shown for a long time at that place, when its ~population, greatly increased by the crowds fleeing from the rebels, was abandoned by its officials and left to take care of itself. Having no fear of the future world, they meet death with great courage, dreading it less than continued pain. The family ties are very close, and family honor is the strongest check on their actions. Their sense of commercial honor is deep, and my own experience, in Central and Northern China, leads me to think that honesty is quite as general there as in other countries. The existence of hospitals, founded by private charity for the sick and for foundlings, and for other purposes, proves that the Chinese are not negligent of social responsibilities. Theyare proverbially industrious, and could we measure the amount of productive manual labor performed throughout the world, without the aid of modern labor-saving machinery, we should l)robably find that this third of the human race accomplishes not less than from six-tenths to seven-tenths of the whole. It is no slight tribute to say that during nearly 5,000 miles of travel in this closely peopled land, the writer never saw a drunken Chinaman. The Chinese have been charged with being, as a people, corrupt beyond measure, given over to every abomination, and practisin~ infanticide to the extent of destroying one quarter of the female children. But it is the opinion of Dr. Lockhart, an eminent medical missionary who has studied the question many years in different parts of the Empire, that the latter crime is (in proportion to the population) no more frequent, or perhaps less common, than it is in its View page 31
1869.] OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM. 3
various forms, in England and America. And it should seem that the healthy and moral condition of society is proved by the vitality of the nation, the overflowing population, and the rapidity with which gigantic wounds in the national body are healed. Of course the aggregate of crime must be very large, especially in the great cities ; but it is doubtful whether it is greater, in proportion to the population, than among the nations of the West. \Vith all the admiration a careful observer must have for China, it is certainly not a pleasant country for a foreigner to live in, unless he recognize and keep always before him the fact that organic matter in decaying and giving nutriment to plants loses every vestige of its former character. There is too much of the human element; go where you will, look where you will, it is there. In the more closely peopled parts the traveller is surrounded by a turbid stream of life, while he treads a soil, almost human, the ashes of the unnumbered millions of the past; the very dust which he breathes and swallows is that of a charnel house. The water of wells is everywhere impregnated with the products of organic decay, and the rivers are the sewers of countless cities. On the densely-peopled plain all the organic and much of the mineral ingredients of the soil must have made many times the circuit of plant and animal life: in other words, every thing that goes to make and maintain the human body has formed part of human bodies which have passed away. Few foreigners have the courage to enter the larger southern towns in summer, so horrible is the air. In the neighborhood of great cities on the delta plain, where water is found just below the surface, one may ride for miles, always in sight of coffins bursting in the scorching heat of the sun, and breeding the pestilence that yearly sweeps off the surplus population. What I have attempted to make conspicuous is the fact that the spirit of the Chinese, as shown in their enterprise and energy as colonizers, in their commercial character and faculty of organization, in the democratic idea of the political equality of man, in the practical decentralization of their government, and in the universality of education and the making of education a necessary qualification for office, is in harmony with the spirit of the present age. This is the strong armor of the race, its safeguard in the future struggle for existence, by which it is clearly distinguished from those inferior races whose social and political systems belong to periods long past, and differ so much from our own that they fall at the first contact with us.
We have seen that there exists in China a boundless source of emigration, and the necessity for emigration; that the capacity of America for receiving this emigration is comparatively unlimited ; that the emigration will be at least proportionate to the encouragement offered; that the encouragement is springing into existence through the recognition of the Chinese as a necessary element for the development of the resources of the Far West; that the immense influx of these people will constitute a possible political power which cannot remain latent and that the attainment of the privileges of citizenship will make of them a fixed instead of a floating population, which, so far as anything we know to the contrary, may at no distant date largely outnumber the European element. The first question which naturally rises, is, in what can this people contribute to our material prosperity? It is not difficult to answer to this that by reason of their many sidedness, their adaptability to all branches of industry, they can contribute more than other foreign element in the first generation. They can supply labor for the house and field, for building railroads, for working in mines and factories, for every need on sea and land. Within the really impassable limits set View page 32
32 THE GALAXY. [JULY,
by nature, they alone can render productive vast tracts of land, the cultivation of which is essential to the prosperity of our mountain territories. They can contribute largely to our wealth and that of the world by their saving of material and by forcing us, through competition, to become more economical in this respect. They can advance greatly our material prosperity, not only by the product of their labor in working for Americans, but by their independent enterprise as capitalists. Indeed, the lowering of the price of labor in America, through Chinese immigration, taken in connection with the ahnost certain rise in price in Europe, appears to offer the best solution of the vexed question of free trade, by placing us on an equal or superior footing with Europe, in the manufacture of those things ~vhich now require protection. It should seem that Chinese mmigration, organized on the most liberal plan, in conformity with the emigration laws of China and under the responsible guidance of Chinese contractors, would rapidly raise our Southern States to a height of prosperity never yet reached by them, and render possible the completion and maintenance of great works, necessary to control the overflow of the Mississippi, and to drain unproductive and malarious regions. Will the price, at which these benefits shall be gained, be too high ? Every one will answer this according to his ow n ~vay of measuring the future by the past. But he who sees in events the resultants of social and physical forces, the operation of great laws, progressive in their action and tending toward that millennium when every part of the earth, according to its natural endowment, shall justify its existence, by contributing its full share, as a part, to the welfare of the whole; toward the unification of mankind by the assimilation of the best parts of its different races into a new typewho believes that Through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
will feel the least anxiety in contemplating the future. To the charge that they will largely outnumber the Americans, absorbing many branches of industry and competing in all, he will answer that they can do so only by being able to compete with the European element; in other words, by being really equally efficient and thus justifying their right to citizenship. To the assertion that their use of opium threatens the addition of another national vice to those we have already, he will reply that the rapid spread of the use of this drug, a use of only some sixty years standing in China, was induced by natural causes, acting in a country which had reached an abnormal condition, and that it can exist as a national habit only where it is a natural necessity. The long-continued generations of temperance of this people show their normal condition, and we have little reason to fear that half a century of opium smoking can destroy the deepseated, inherited vitality of the race, or have fixed it as a constitutional vice upon those who will emigrate hither. The political aspect of the question is that of the most immediate importance, for many obvious reasons. Nothing is more certain than the impossibility of a foreign race continuing to live and increase, in America, in other than two conditions, viz., either under the animal-breeding system of slavery, or (and probably only) by being equally strong with the European element, in the average of all things ~vhich constitute strength in this age. The ability of any people to prosper, multiply and co-exist among us, proves them to possess an average equality with us when measured by our standard, deficiencies in some points being compensated in othersthese differences being desirable in the same degree that individuality is desirable. If an inferior race, or large bodies of vicious and criminal people, prosper and multiply, it does not invalidate this rule, but rather View page 33
1869.] OUR IMPENDING CHINESE PROBLEM. 33 shows that our actual measure, on certain points, is far below our theoretical standard. If the Chinese, having the exercise of equal rights in a fair field, should prove themselves undesirable citizens, it would be proof of inferiority, of inability to contribute their full share to the general good, and the inability to compete with their neighbors would inevitably result in their disappearance from the arena as important rivals. In view of all the possibilities of the case before us, it becomes evident no~v, more than ever before, how important it is that we should turn our energies toward Americanizing the foreign elements of our population. A large Chinese emigration is the strongest argument against immediate and unqualified suffrage. With the prospect of an unparalleled influx of Chinese, it is of immediate importance that ~ve insist upon their understanding our social and political organization before giving them a voice, and this can be done only by insisting upon a residence of several years in the country, and by an educational test, which should not be less than the ability to read and speak the English language. Indeed, this is only an additional illustration of the necessity for an educational qualification, in the matter of citizenship in general, and it should seem sufficiently clear to convince even the most confirmed advocates of universal suffrage. The danger most to be guarded against, is the enactment or continuance of special legislation with regard to Mong~lian& Everything which tends to exclude them from the rest of the community, and, in a greater degree, everything which denies to themas do practically the laws of Californiathe common rights of humanity, not only affects seriously the character of the aliens and retards the growth of the region in question, but reacts most injuriously on the European element, producing those moral evils which were the worst results of slavery with usa reaction which is Ihe curse following everywhere intercourse between the European and non-European races. To suppose that a whole state or nation is able to rise above all prejudice of race, to look upon such a question from a cosmopolitan standpoint, is almost the same as supposing the average intellectual level of the people to be on an equality with that of its most liberal minds; but it should not be demanding too much to expect to find this quality in the lawgivers of a land which claims that all men are created equal; especially should we look for it in the consderation of a question which presupposes an influx of Chinese by millions.
I’ve gone into an external exile. I don’t follow the news anymore, don’t read things on-line and I don’t watch TV. It was Trump and Brexit that did it. I guess I’m in denial. I just don’t want to hear about any of it, I don’t want to follow the ins and outs of what someone said; who was appointed to what job; what some report is saying. Even the very intelligently argued and perfectly convincing critique is like poison. Even the jokes are concessions. I don’t want any of this in my head. This is no longer my world.
I’m reminded of the way some scholars and artists survived in Germany during the Nazis or in China during the Cultural Revolution. Disgusted with the turn events had taken, yet utterly powerless, they decided that the best thing they could do under the circumstances was to focus on maintaining their humanity. When the world is going crazy, maintaining your humanity is the ultimate act of defiance. There were for example these Chinese artists who took to the forest, far away from the Red Guards. To mimic the official art was of course unthinkable, but so was lampooning it. Instead they spent their time painting beautiful things, landscapes, city streets and flowers. See above.
This is of course not good for me professionally. I teach political science at a university after all; I’m supposed to know what’s in the news. The time has already come when my students refer to things I know nothing about. What did I make of Trump’s inauguration? “What inauguration?”
Basically I feel like it’s 1913 all over again. There is a hard rain a-gonna fall. Btw, the works of some of those Chinese artists was recently exhibited at the Asia Society in Hong Kong — “Light before Dawn.”
“As long as we are loyal to our communities …”
“As long as we are loyal to our communities and identify ourselves in relation to them, we may have no other choice and very little bargaining power vis-à-vis our political and military authorities. We act, not in defense of our interests, but in defence of our identity.”
“Games do not generally concern utility payoffs …”
“Games do not generally concern utility payoffs, but instead questions of identities, and people do not generally engage in them because of what they can win, but instead because of who or what the game allows them to be.”
“Actions undertaken in order to establish …”
“Actions undertaken in order to establish this someone are thus the more basic and they cannot be redescribed in rationalistic terms calculations of utility gains and utility losses can make no sense until they can be attached to a certain person.”
“At the core of this alternative theory …”
“At the core of this alternative theory stands the suggestion that people act not only in order to win things, but also in order to defend a certain conception of who they are. We act, that is, not only because there are things we want to have, but also because there are persons we want to be. In fact, this latter kind of actions must be the more fundamental since it only is as some–one that we can have an interest in some–thing.“
“The fact that wars appear as irrational …”
“The fact that wars appear as irrational may in fact tell us very little about the stupidity or unreasonableness of human beings and very much about the limits of our contemporary explanatory accounts. The deficiency, in other words, may rest not with the soldiers or with those who order them into battle, but rather with the scholars who attempt to explain these actions.”
My web pages are back up again
These web pages have existed in various incarnations for some 15 years. During the last two years, however, they have been down more than up. I switched from WordPress to Joomla and it first it was a great choice. Joomla is powerful and I could do a lot of things that weren’t possible on WordPress. But increasingly Joomla became vulnerable to attacks by spammers and in the end it was too time consuming to defend the site. I just took it down. This past Christmas, however, I’ve moved all the material back to WordPress again. Coming back has been great. WordPress is in wonderful shape with lots of excellent features. And most important of all: it seems very secure against spammers.
I will not be blogging like I did in the heady days of 2006, but the pages are indispensable for the various projects I’m working on — I use them to collect primary sources, gather links, and develop textbook chapters. There is, and there will continue to be, a lot to read. Enjoy!