By Viceroy Li Hung Chang — August, 1900
From The Chicago American of July 8: The powers regard China as a pie from which they intend to cut themselves slices according to whim and appetite. Big guns give no title for the possession of a country. The will of the people is that title. The Chinese, remember that, want to remain Chinese.
China Hates War
Our views on life differ as much from yours as heaven and earth. In our country the individual man lives and works for his family; in your country he lives and works for the State. Because we are essentially a family-loving people, we detest war, and are frightened at the prospect of any change that may take a man out of his proper sphere, from his home, from the ground he tills. We have troubles of our own. We have an ample sufficiency of them and don’t want any social question in China. Can you blame us for that? In the countries of the great powers, and the small powers, too, the social question is the nucleus of the most far-reaching troubles that confront the governing classes. In all the European empires the social question predominates. I ask you, can you honestly advise us to burden ourselves with such an octopus simply because it is the fashion?
No Foreign Influences for Us
You complain that we are averse to foreign influences, but forget that at the very beginning of our intercourse with civilization twenty thousand Chinese settlers were murdered on the Island of Luzon in one week. The Spaniards did that, and I assure you this massacre encouraged us in no way to open our doors to you “civilizers.”
Why should you regard us as “savages,” anyhow?
You throw to us the murder of white men within our borders. Is murder unknown in Europe and America?
You speak of the persecution of Christians. Well, let us assume that a couple of hundred of our Buddhists went to your country to convert your people, and to preach, for instance, that, unless they want to be eternally damned, they must refuse to submit to compulsory army service—merely because the new religion they have imposed upon them says so.
Your missionaries ask our people every day in the year to break the laws of this country and to refrain from obeying the laws. As to the persecution of Christians, our government has never engaged in any nor encouraged any. Christians have been killed just as Chinese are killed in San Francisco, New York, in the Dutch Indies and where not?
Against the Missionaries
We employ no missionaries, no proselyte makers of any kind. We are not proud, but we are too smart to prescribe to anybody the fashion in which he should pray to his God. We never asked a living being to worship as we do. One of the most pernicious and dangerous of your idiosyncrasies is to ask and force people to subscribe to a certain mode of worship. We never do that.
Double Game in Politics
You charge us with being double-tongues, with playing you false in the matter of politics.
What are you doing? One great nation after the other comes along and, with a knife at our throat, wants to rob us.
As long as we feel the point of the steel we say, of course, what you want us to say, but when the danger is over we conveniently forget all about the incident. That has been the fashion in diplomacy from time immemorial. It’s done in all countries. Here is one example of many: By the Peace of Frankfort the Republic of France ceded Alsace Lorraine to Germany. If she were strong enough to-day to reconquer these provinces, would she respect her contract?
It’s the same thing with the provinces which Europe took away from us. There is only one redeeming thing about it: The envy with which the Powers regard each other saves us from being victimized to a greater extent, for you hate each other more than we hate you.
You criticise our sullen attitude. Do you expect us to make love to you because you robbed us? Ah, We know your programme well enough. The north for Russia, a good part of the south and central China for England, the rest for France and Germany—so it has been planned. We are to retain nothing; everything for the foreigners, nothing for the Chinese.
Can’t Conquer Five Hundred Million People
But one can’t do away with five hundred millions of people by a stroke of sleight of hand. It may not be very difficult to defeat us, but to conquer us will be a hard job, I assure you. It’s like eating a real Chinese meal. A courageous European or American may tackle it, but I doubt that he will digest it.
England Our Ally
Your envy, your rapacity in preying upon each other—we play against you. We disgorge what we have to disgorge, even such things that you promised by treaty never to ask us to give up. We do all this, but at the same time we see to it that Great Britain, which is stronger than all the rest of you, forbids you to go too far.
Fear as a Factor in Politics
International politics are based on fear—fear and the apprehension of threats. Doubtless you know a great deal, but you have no idea of the limitless energy which China, her people, her Empress, and all of us are capable of.