PART IV - Proposals for an Endowment Fund (b)

AuthorChamberlam, Austen


(IV) RAILWAY CONSTBRCTIO It cannot be said that the delegation started its work with any prejudice m favour of railway buildng On the part of the British delegates, indeed, the prejudice, if it existed, lay rather in the opposite direction, for in England there was a very general implession that Chmese public opinion was strongly opposed to the application of the funds to anything but education, and whatever doubts may have existed m England as to the wisdom of this policy it was generally held by Chma's English friends that the question was one which in the last resort must be decded by Chinese rather than by British conceptions of China's greatest needs Moreover, English academic opinion was overwhelmingly on the side of what was believed to be educated opinion m China In 1925 a memorial was forwarded to the Foreign Office by a number of Cambridge University graduates, expressing the opinion that the Indemnity fund ought to be devoted exclusively to educational or medical purposes, and a similar memorial reached the Secretary of State from over 400 resident graduate members of the University of Oxford, mcluding the Vice-Chancellor, the proctors, twenty-three heads of colleges and halls, and thirty-three professors and readers The action taken by the great universities was endorsed by a large seetion of the British press ' The Times,' for example, declared that if used industrially or commercially the money would merely strengthen in China the impression that the British were but a commercial people intent only on gain No sooner had the delegates begun their work in China than some of them were surprised to find that there was a very strong public feelng m favour of the view that China needed railways as least as much as education Reference has already been made (in Part I (i)) to a Peking society (composed largely of Western-educated students) which had beefi brought mto existence for the express purpose of advocating the application of the Indemnity funds to raiway eonstruction This society issued a 'Declaration,' together with detailed proposals for the admnistration of the fund by a board of directors Similar m tenor is the short memorandum sent m by Mr K L Kwan, Aettg Presideat of the Chinese Bailway Association. On the 16th May a public meeting was held by this association in the Central Park tn Pingfor the purpose of arouing the interest of the people and w1inm the support of the Chinese press m s campaign in favour of rways.

In Hanktow this belef utnd even louer earassaon than in Pekng, probably because thieralwy advocates knew that they had

the fullest sympathy and support of Marshal Wu Pei-fu E-en the local Educational Association pressed for railway construction Certainly it was made abundantly clear to the delegation that the Chinese attitude towards railways had undergone a remarkable transformation since the days when the Viceroy Li Hung-chang refused the petition of Shanghai merchants to be allowed to build a railway from that port to Soochow Even fourteen years later the official attitude had hardly begun to change, for it was in 1877 that the rails of China's first railway-that from Shanghai to Woosung-were taken up by the Chinese authorities, shipped to Formosa, and there dumped ingloriously upon the beach In spite of all the active propaganda of the railway advocates, the delegates were not unmindful of the terms of the Act of 1925, under which precedence was given to the claims of education They therefore unhesitatingly adopted the geneial principle-which was accepted, indeed, perhaps a little grudging in some cases by most of those who had railway proposals to put forward-that the interests of education must be regarded as paramount, and that railway construction must be considered only from the point of view of a useful productive undertaking of national importance, which, besides conferring direct benefits on a large proportion of the population of China, could also be made to yield a permanent income for the educational and other work for which it was the primary duty of the statutory committee to provide The following memorandum bN one of the Chinese members of the delegation-Dr C C Wang-may be found useful for its convenient summing-up of the principal arguments that have been put forward for and against the proposal to invest a portion of the Indemnity money in railwaN construction 'Report on the 'Construction Work' to be selected ' (Presented by Dr C C Wang, April 27, 1926 ) 'In selecting any 'construction work' for investing the Indemnity funds as a permanent foundation, we must constantly bear in mind the four conditions governing the investment which we have adopted, namely (1) it must be some new work in China, (2) it must be of national significance so as to serve as a permanent monument, (8) it must do the most good for the largest number of people, and (4) it must give the best return under similar conditions The most conspicuous ' construction works' which have been suggested by various persons are railways, river conservancy, dyke building and road building After exammmg all the evidence laid before us and considering the whole question from every point of view, I have come to the conclusion that railways in China fulfil these four conditions more satisfactorily than all the other 'construceton works' named above ' As a standing monument, a well-selected railway attracts more attention and appeals more vividly to the imagination of

roads It is more tangible, more sohd and has more ' ehef' against the background of the country than all other 'construction works' A wisely located railway has more national significanee ' In point of service, a railway can outclass the motor roid Experience m China shows that people of all classes and all parts of the country may enjoy the railway, whereas the motor road is more of a local character and largely for the rch with motor cars while the mule carts of the farmer are generally forbidden to spoil the modern motor road The additional seivice which may result from deepened rivers does not seem to approach the service of a well-selected railway Moreover, the service rendered by both the river and the road is we may say, indirect and cannot be felt so intimately as that rendered by the railway, for the motor cars and boats will have to belong to private individuals, a ride in which can hardly impress or remind the rder of their relation to the goodwill of Great Britam which made the road and dug the river, whereas the steel road, the majestic bridges, the handsome station buildings and the comfortable coaches in which the passenger rdes can be easily and unostensibly decorated m a way that he may always know and remember the gift ' From the point of view of return, there can hardly be, under similar conditions, any comparison between a wellselected railway and the other 'construction works ' This point has never been demed One of the strongest arguments against railways put before us is that under normal conditions railways can easily find all the capital needed, while roads and river conservancy cannot Of the various reclamation schemes which have been tried, none has been successful financially It is reported that those banks which undertook to finance some of the schemes are not very happy about their investment As the superiority of the earning power of well-selected railways n China is so clear and self-evident, further emphasis seems needless 'In the following pages some of the important arguments.

both for and against the railway, are examined 'Ralways mutually beneficial to Great Bntatn and China 'The construction of a well-located railway in China will be of mutual benefit to both peoples, not only immediately but also permanently Speaking generally of Chinese railways, about one-half of the cost of construction is local and the other half represents money spent for materals purchased abroad, such as rails, cars, wagons, locomotives, machinery, steel bridge-works, &c, &c Roling-stock alone represents about 21 per cent of the total cost of construion, while rails, brdges, signals, &c., represent another 21 per cent. A great part, d not all, of such materials may be purchased from Great

Britain buch purchases will prove benehilal to British industry and British labour The other half of the cost of a railway repiesents work done locally, such as making the load bed, drlling tunnels, construction of buildings, & These works m turn, will immediately give employment to large numbers of Chinese labourers 'What It means to the modern-educated men is even of greater significance, for it at once gives a larger number of them a chance to acquire practical experience and to make an honest living at the same time We cannot but be impressed by the repeated remarks of so many of those who gave evidence before us at different places, laying unanimous emphasis on the fact that one of the serious evils of modern education is that so many of the highly educated young men are unable to find suitable employment along the various lines of their education of which fact the net result is discontent and the rusting away, m a few years, of their modern education acquired at high cost Modern education seems meaningless so long as there is no room for putting it into practice or for its employment Therefore, any 'construction work' which gives a chance to these young men for practice is really putting modern education into proper use It is generally recognised m China that the undertaking which gives the greatest emplo3ment and most varied experience for the educated men at least cost is unquestionably railways for m the construction of a railroad there is a chance to learn everything, including geology...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT