China and the Western World

Though China’s political fate seems uncertain and its people set in traditional ways, Lafcadio Hearn—a Japan-based journalist known for his writings on East Asian culture—predicts that China will one day pose a formidable economic threat to the West.
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I.

While crossing any of the great oceans by steamer, and watching the dance of the waves that lift and swing the vessel, you sometimes become conscious of under movements much larger than those of the visible swells, — motion of surgings too broad to be perceived from deck. Over these unseen billowings the ship advances by long ascents and descents. If you carefully watch the visible waves, you will find that each one repeats the same phenomenon upon a very small scale. The smooth flanks of every swell are being rapidly traversed by currents of little waves, or ripples, running up and down. This surface-rippling is complicated to such a degree that it can be accurately noted only by the help of instantaneous photography. But it is so interesting to watch that if you once begin to observe it, you will presently forget all about the dimension and power of the real wave, the huge underswell over which the foaming and the rippling play.

In the study of those great events which are the surges of contemporaneous history, that which corresponds to the currents and countercurrents on the wave surface is apt to occupy public attention much more than the deeper under motion. All the confusion of details and theories furnished by official reports, by local observation and feeling, by the enterprise of trained newspaper correspondents, may have special value for some future historian; but, like the ripples and the foam on the flanks of a wave, it covers from ordinary view that mightier motion which really made the event. Surges which break thrones or wreck civilizations are seldom considered in themselves at the moment of their passing. The sociologist may divine; but the average reader will overlook the profounder meaning of the movement, because his attention is occupied with surface aspects.

The foreign press-comments upon the war between Japan and China have furnished many illustrations of this tendency to study the ripples of an event. Probably no good history of that war — no history based upon familiarity with complete records, and upon a thorough knowledge of the social and political conditions of the Far East anterior to 1893 — can be written for at least another fifty years. Even the causes of the war have not yet been made fully known; we have only official declarations (which leave immense scope for imagination) and a host of conflicting theories. One theory is that Japan, feeling the necessity of opening her territories to foreign trade, and fearing that China might take advantage of the revision of the treaties to flood the country with Chinese emigrants, declared war for the purpose of being able to exclude China from the privileges to be accorded to Western nations. Another theory is that war was declared because ever since 1882, when Li-Hung-Chang presented his Emperor with a memorial about plans for the “invasion of Japan,” China had been preparing for an attack upon her progressive neighbor. A third theory is that Japan declared war in order to divert national feeling into less dangerous channels than those along which it had begun to flow. A fourth is that the declaration of war was designed to strengthen the hands of certain statesmen by creating a military revival. A fifth is that Japan planned the conquest of China merely to display her own military force. And there have been multitudes of other theories, some of them astonishingly ingenious and incredible; but it is safe to say that no single theory yet offered contains the truth. Nevertheless, it has been altogether on the strength of such theories that Japan’s action in declaring war has been criticized; and many of the criticisms have been characterized by extraordinary injustice.1

Now, the critics of Japanese motives and morals have been in the position of persons studying only the currents and cross-currents upon the surface of a swell. For the ideas of statesmen, the diplomacy of ministers, the vague rumors suffered to escape from cabinet councils, the official utterances, the official correspondence, the preparations, the proclamations,—all were but the superficial manifestations of the fact. The fact itself was that the vast tidal wave of Occidental civilization, rolling round the world, had lifted Japan and hurled her against China, with the result that the Chinese Empire is now a hopeless wreck. The deep, irresistible, underlying forces that set the war in motion were from the Occident; and this unquestionable fact once recognized, all criticism of Japan from the moral standpoint become absurdly hypocritical. Another indubitable fact worth considering is that only by doing what no Western power would have liked to attemp single-handed has Japan obtained the recognition of her rights and of her place among nations. She tore away that military scarecrow of Western manufacture which China had purchased at so great a cost, and exposed the enormous impotence which it had so long shielded.

II.

The spectacle of the power of Japan and the helplessness of China startled the Western world like the discovery of a danger. It was evident that the Japan of 1894 could execute without difficulty the famous menace uttered by Hideyoshi in the fourteenth century “I will assemble a mighty host, and, invading the country of the great Ming, I will fill with the hoar frost from my sword the whole sky over the four hundred provinces.” The idea of a China dominated by Japan at once presented itself to English journalists. It would be quite possible, they declared, for Japan to annex China, since the subjugation of the country would require little more than the overthrow of an effete dynasty and the suppression of a few feeble revolts. Thus China had been conquered by a Tartar tribe; she could be subdued much more quickly by the perfectly disciplined armies of Japan. The people would soon submit to any rulers able to enforce law and order, while not interfering too much in matters of ancient custom and belief. Understanding the Chinese better than any Aryan conquerors could do, the Japanese would be able to make China the most formidable of military empires; and they might even undertake to realize the ancient Japanese prediction that the Sun’s Succession was destined to rule the earth. On this subject the St. James Gazette was particularly eloquent; and a few of its observations are worth quoting, as showing the fancies excited in some English minds by the first news of the Japanese triumphs:—

“The Japanese dynasty would make no startling changes; China would still be China, but it would be ‘Japanned China.’ An army and a navy, an organization by land and sea, would grow up under the hand of the Mikado. In ten or fifteen years’ time a Chino-Japanese government would have an army of two millions of men armed with European weapons. In the twenty-five years the available force might be five times as great, and the first couple of millions could be mobilized as quickly, let us say, as the armies of Russia. If such a power chose to start on a career of conquest, what could resist? Nothing at present in Asia, not even Russia, could stand against it, and it might knock at the door of Europe. The combined Western powers might resist the first shock,—might overcome the first five millions of Chinese riflemen and Tartar cavalry; but behind that would come other five millions, army after army, until Europe itself was exhausted and its resources drained. If this seems a wild dream, consider what a Japan-governed China would be. Think what the Chinese are; think of their powers of silent endurance under suffering and cruelty; think of their frugality; think of their patient perseverance, their slow, dogged persistence, their recklessness of life. Fancy this people ruled by a nation of born organizers, who, half allied to them, would understand their temperament and their habits. The Oriental, with his power of retaining health under conditions under which no European could live, with his savage daring when roused, with his inborn cunning, lacks only the superior knowledge of civilization to be the equal of the European in warfare as well as in industry. In England we do not realize that in a Japanese dynasty such a civilization would exist: we have not yet learned to look upon the Mikado as a civilized monarch, as we look upon the Czar. Yet such he is, undoubtedly. And under him the dream of the supremacy of the yellow race in Europe, Asia, and even Africa, to which Dr. Pearson and others have given expression, would be no longer mere nightmares. Instead of speculating as to whether England or Germany or Russia is to be the next world's ruler, we might have to learn that Japan was on its way to that position.”

The reference to Dr. Pearson shows, as we shall see hereafter, that his views had not been carefully studied by the writer. But the possibilities suggested by the Gazette may be said to have really existed, presupposing non-interference by Western powers. Interference was, of course, inevitable; but the danger imagined from Japan reappears in another form as a result of the interference. China under a Russian domination would be quite as dangerous to the Occident as under a Japanese domination. Russia is probably a better military organizer than Japan, and would scarcely be more scrupulous in the exploitation of Chinese military resources. If the Japanese believe that their dynasty will yet hold universal sway, not less do Russians believe that the dominion of their Czar is to spread over the whole world. For the ‘Western powers to allow Russia to subjugate China would be even more dangerous than to suffer Japan to rule it. But while it would have been easy to prevent the annexation of China by Japan, it will not be easy to prevent the same thing from being done by Russia. A host of unpleasant political problems have thus been brought into existence by the late war. What is to be done with China, now practically at the mercy of Russia? Is her vast territory to be divided among several Western powers, as Russia desires ? Is her empire to be repropped and maintained, like that of Turkey, so as to preserve peace? No body can answer such questions just now. Nothing is even tolerably certain except that China must yield to Western pressure, and that she will be industrially exploited to the uttermost, sooner or later. Meanwhile, she remains a source of peril,—the possible cause of a tremendous conflict.

Momentous as all this may seem, the new political questions stirred up by the fall of China from her position as the greatest of Far-Eastern nations are really surface questions. The most serious problem created by the late war is much broader and deeper. No international war or any other possible happening is likely to prevent the domination of China by some form of Occidental civilization; and when this becomes an accomplished fact we shall be face to face with the real danger of which Dr. Pearson’s book was the prediction. All future civilization may be affected by such domination; and even the fate of the Western races may be decided by it. The great Chinese puzzle to come is neither political nor military; it cannot be solved either by statecraft or by armies; it can be decided only by the operation of natural laws, among which that of physiological economy will probably be the chief. But just as English critics of the late war ignored the real cause of that war, the huge westward surge of forces that compelled it, so do they now ignore the fact that the same war has set in motion forces of another order which may change the whole future history of mankind.

III.

The Far-Eastern question of most importance was first offered for English sociological consideration in Dr. Pearson’s wonderful volume, National Life and Character, published about three years ago.2 While reading a number of criticisms upon it, I was struck by the fact that a majority of the reviewers had failed to notice the most important portions of the argument. The rude shock given by the book to the Western pride of race, to the English sense of stability in especial, to that absolute self-confidence which constantly impels us to the extension of territory, the creation of new colonies, the development of new resources reached by force, without any suspicion that all this aggrandizement may bring its own penalty, provoked a state of mind unfavorable to impartial reflection. The idea that the white races and their civilization might perish, in competition with a race and a civilization long regarded as semi-barbarous, needed in England some philosophical patience to examine. Abroad the conditions were otherwise. Far-seeing men, who had passed the better part of their lives in China, found nothing atrocious in Dr. Pearson’s book. It only expressed, with uncommon vigor and breadth of argument, ideas which their own long experience in the Far East had slowly forced upon them. But of such ideas, it was the one that most impressed the Englishman in China which least impressed the Englishman in London. A partial reason may have been that Dr. Pearson’s arguments in 1893 appeared to deal with contingencies incalculably remote. But what seemed extremely remote in 1893 has ceased to seem remote since the victories of Japan. The fate of China as an empire can scarcely now be called a matter of doubt, although the methods by which it is to be decided will continue to afford food for political speculation. China must pass under the domination of Western civilization; and this simple fact will create the danger to which Dr. Pearson called attention.

It is true that the author of National Life and Character did consider the possibility of a military awakening of China; but he also expressed his belief that it was the least likely of events, and could hardly be brought about except through the prior conversion of all China to th warrior-creed of Islam. Recent events have proved the soundness of this belief; for the war exposed a condition of official cowardice and corruption worse than had ever been imagined,—a condition which could not fail to paralyze any attempt to rouse the race out of lethargy. With the close of the campaign the world felt convinced that no military regeneration of China was possible under the present dynasty. Spasmodic attempts at revolution followed; but some of dices exhausted themselves in the murder of a few foreign missionaries and in foolish attacks open mission statements, with the usual consequences of Christian retaliation,—executions and big indemnities; and ether uprisings, even in the Mohammedan districts, have failed to accomplish anything beyond local disorder. Nothing like a general revolution now appears possible. Without it the reigning dynasty cannot be overthrown except by foreign power; and under that dynasty there is not even the ghost of a chance for military reforms. Indeed, it is doubtful if this Western powers would now permit China to make herself as strong as she was imagined to be only two years ago. In her present state she will have to obey these powers. She will have to submit to their discipline within her own borders, but not to such discipline as would enable her to create formidable armies. Nevertheless, it is just that kind of discipline which she will have to learn that is most likely to make her dangerous. “The future danger from China will be industrial, and will begin with the time that she passes under Occidental domination.

IV.

For the benefit of those who have not read his book, it may be well to reproduce some of Dr. Pearson’s opinions about this peril, and also to say a few words about the delusion, or superstition, which opposes them. This delusion is that all weaker peoples are destined to make way for the great colonizing white races, leaving the latter sole masters of the habitable world. This flattering belief is without any better foundation in fact than the extermination of some nomadic and some savage peoples of a very low order of capacity. Such extinctions have been comparatively recent, and for that reason undue importance may have been attached to them. Older history presents us with facts of a totally different character, with numerous instances of this subjugation of the civilized by the savage, and of the destruction of a civilization by barbarian force. It would also be well to remember that the most advanced of existing races is very far from being the highest race that has ever existed. One race, at least, has disappeared which was immensely superior, both physically and morally, to the English people of to-day. I quote from Francis Galton; “The average ability of the Athenian race was, on the lowest possible estimate, nearly two grades higher than our own,—that is, about as much as the ability of our race is above that of the African sieges. This estimate, which may seen; prodigious to some, is confirmed by the quick intelligence and high culture of the Athenian commonalty, before whom literary works were recited, and works of art exhibited, of a far more severe character than could possibly be appreciated by the average age,—the calibre of whose intellect is easily gauged by a glance at the contents of a railway bookstall . . . . If we could raise the average standard of our own race only one grade, what vast changes would be produced! . . . The number of men of natural gifts equal to those of the eminent men of the present day would be increased tenfold [2433 to a million, instead of 233]." Mr. Galton goes on to prove that, could we raise the average ability to the Athenian level, or two grades higher, the result would be that for every six men of extraordinary ability whom England can now produce, she would then produce thirteen hundred and fifty-five.3 Perhaps so gifted a race will never again appear upon earth. Yet it has utterly disappeared. Probably the remark will be made that its disappearance was due chiefly, as Mr. Galton seems to believe, to moral laxity. Well, the very title of Dr. Pearson’s book ought to have indicated to these who reviewed it superficially that he was considering the probable results of moral laxity upon modern civilization. One of our dangers is to be sought in the ever-increasing greed of pleasure and the decay of character. The mental and the moral capacities of so-called higher races are showing, Dr. Pearson believed, those signs of exhaustion which would indicate that the maximum development of our civilization has almost been reached. The fact is certainly significant that the most naturally gifted of all European races, the French, is showing itself, like the Athenian race, relatively though not normally infertile. There are doubtless other causes for this, such as those considered by Mr. Spencer 4 but the decay of character can scarcely be the least. For all Occidental civilization this will be one of the perils from within. The peril from without will be the industrial competition of the Far East.

Before we consider Dr. Pearson's views, another remark may be offered about the exaggerated belief of the Western races in their own unparalleled superiority. Monstrous as may seem to some the fancy the non-Christian Oriental race may be able to dominate Christendom in the future, we have to face the fact thanon-Christian and an Oriental people financially rule Western civilization to-day. The world’s finances are practically in the hands of a race persecuted by Christianity for thirteen centuries,—a race undoubtedly modified in the Occident by large interfusion of Western blood, but nevertheless markedly preserving its Oriental and unmistakable characteristics. And the recent anti-Semitic manifestations in Europe represent the modern acknowledgment of Aryan inability to cope with particular powers possessed by that race. I might even cite from a remarkable German study, published about ten years ago, and written to prove that whenever the percentage of Hebrews in a Gentile population begins to exceed a certain small figure, then "life becomes intolerable for the Gentiles." But I wish to call attention to general rather than to special superiority. The intellectual power of the Jew is by no means limited to business. The average of Jewish ability surpasses that of the so-termed Aryan in a far greater variety of directions than is commonly known. Out of 100,000 Western celebrities, the proportion of Jews to Europeans in philology, for example, is 123 to 13; in music, it is 71 to 11, in medicine, it is 49 to 31 in natural science, it is 25 to 22.5 In departments of genius as diverse as those of chess-playing and acting, the Jewish, superiority is also powerfully marked. It has been said that the Jewish capacity was developed by Christian persecution, but, not to mention the fact that such persecution selected its victims rather from the best than from the worst of a Jewish population, this explanation would place within comparatively recent times the evolution of mental powers which have distinguished the race from the most ancient times. Jewish capacity was rather the cause than the consequence of persecution. Ages before Christianity (as might be inferred even from Genesis and from Exodus, or from the book of Esther) the race had been hated and persecuted because of its capacity. That capacity was restrained by special legal disabilities in Rome. It provoked murder and pillage even under the tolerant role of the Arabs in Spain;' and the attitude of Mohammedan races toward the Jews in Africa and in Asia has been, on the whole, scarcely more tolerant than that of Christian nations.

So much for the fancied mental supremacy of the Western nations. The delusion that other races are providentially destined to disappear before the so-called Aryan has been attacked by Dr. Pearson with a vast array of systematized facts and observations, including the results of studies made by himself in many parts of the world. Although it is true that some races, enable to bear the discipline of our civilization, have already disappeared, or are quickly disappearing,—such as the Tasmanian and Australian aborigines, certain Mann peoples, and North American Indian tribes,—Dr. Pearson has shown that these accomplished or threatened extinctions illustrate only the exceptions to the general rule of the effect of Western expansion upon alien races. Under our social system the condition of being able to live is to work hard, to work steadily, and to work intelligently. Those unable to do thus either perish at once. or sink into the slough of vice and crime which underlies all our civilization, or else find themselves reduced to a condition of misery worse than any normal experiences of savage life. But there are many inferior races, both savage and semi-savage, which thrive under the discipline of the higher races, and so multiply after the introduction of Occidental order into their territory that their multiplication itself becomes on effective check upon the further growth of the dominating race. Thus the Kaffir has multiplied under British protection, and the Javanese under Dutch. Thus the populations of the Straits Settlements and of British India steadily increase. The history of the various English, French, and Dutch colonies yields wide evidence that many weaker races, far from vanishing before the white, greatly increase in number. Such increase necessarily sets a limit to white multiplication in these regions, seeing that all labor needed can be supplied by natives at rates for which no white men, would work, even supposing the climate were in all cases favorable to Europeans.

Climate, however, is another question in this relation. Climate also sets a limit—probably a perpetual limit—to the expansion of the higher races. The tropics, apparently, can never become their habitat. In what has been termed the "pyrogenic region" the white races cannot maintain themselves without the aid of other races. Their domination now, as in the past, we find to depend upon constant supplies of fresh strengths from a colder region, and their numbers have never increased beyond an insignificant figure. The West Indies, from which the white race is slowly but surely vanishing, furnish a strong example: the estates are passing into the hands of the former slave race. Tropical Africa may be held, but never can be peopled by Europeans. Left to themselves for a few generations. the English in Hindustan would vanish, utterly, like those Greek conquerors who, after Alexander, rushed Indian kingdoms. The state of Spanish and Portuguese tropical colonies in both hemispheres tells eloquently the story of the limits set by nature to white expansion. 6

In the temperate zone, where the Western races come into contact with races indubitably civilized, though in some respects less highly organized, the former can only temporarily gain ground, for the white races can be most effectually underlived by peoples of nearly equal intelligence in production and its commerce. The Occidentals may conquer and rule, but they have even less chance of multiplying at the expense of Chinese than of multiplying at the expense of Hindus. All the great Oriental races have proved themselves able to learn enough of the wisdom of the West to more than hold their own in matters, of manufacture and trade. Under Occidental government a civilized Oriental race not only grows, but grows rich. In the matter of labor, whether common or skilled, the white artisan has no chance to compete with Orientals upon their own soil, or—except in the manufactures wholly depending upon the applied sciences—upon any other soil. White labor has never been able to compete on equal terms with Oriental labor.

V.

Those confessions, which all European nations have made at various epochs of their history,—and which some have made in our own time,—of inability to cope with the Jewish people upon equal terms have other sociological meanings than such, as might be implied by difference in average mental ability. They must also be considered as suggestive of the incapacity of societies not yet emerged from the militant stage to compete with a people essentially commercial from an epoch long anterior to the foundation of those societies. It is noteworthy that just in proportion as the militant form of society has changed toward the industrial, anti-Semitic feeling has diminished, whereas it is strengthened again by any reverse social tendency. The most essentially industrial nations, America and England, to-day give no exhibitions of anti-Semitic feeling; but with the military expansion of other societies or the marked return to military forms we find the sentiment reviving. Russia, Germany, and even republican France have given manifestations of it; those of Russia proving absolutely medieval and ferocious.

Now, we must remember, while considering the question of future race competition in the Far East, that the evolution of Occidental civilization from the militant toward the industrial state is yet far from complete, as its propensities to aggression bear witness; while the Chinese, however much below our level in certain phases of development, are a people that reached the industrial type of society thousands of years ago.

In Dr. Pearson’s book it is plainly stated that the industrial competition of China would be incomparably more dangerous to Western civilization than that of any other nation, not only because of its multiformity, but also because it is a competition to which nature has set no climatic limits. Thrifty and patient and cunning as Jews, the Chinese can accommodate themselves to any climate and to any environment. They can live in Java or in Siberia, in Borneo or in Thibet. Unlike the modern Jews, however, they are more to be feared in industry than in commerce; for there is scarcely any form of manual skilled labor at which they are not capable of killing white competition. Their history in Australia has proved this fact. But in commerce also they are able to hold their own against the cleverest merchants of other races. They are adepts at combination, excellent financiers, shrewd and daring speculators. Though not yet rivals of Europeans in that class of production dependent upon the application of modern science to manufacture, they have given proof of ability to master that science whenever the study can profit them. They are learning thoroughly the commercial conditions of every country which they visit; and though the history of their emigration began within recent times, they are already to be found in almost every part of the world. They have swarmed along the coasts of North and South America, and found their way to the West Indies. Every part of the East knows them. They do business in the cities of India; they created Singapore. They have multiplied in the Malay peninsula, in Sumatra, in Hawaii, in numbers of islands. They are said to have provoked, by threatening the existence of Dutch rule in Java, the massacre in which nine thousand of their race perished. Both Australia and the United States have found it necessary to legislate against their immigration and the Chinese ability to supplant the Malay races in the Eastern tropics has produced astonishing results within the memory of men now living.

What America and Australia have been obliged to protect themselves from, all Europe may have cause to fear before the close of the next century. Once China has been penetrated by the forces of Western civilization, her population will begin to display new activities, and to expand in all possible directions. Chinese competition will have to be faced, probably, very much sooner than had been expected.

VI.

A very significant fact bearing upon this problem has been furnished by the influence of Occidental civilization in Japan.

Although the author who declared the Western type of society to be, in many respects, "one of the most horrible that has ever existed in the world’s history" was certainly more than half right; although it is true that we see “boundless luxury and self-indulgence at one end of the scale, and at the other a condition of life as cruel as that of a Roman slave, and more degraded than that of a South Sea islander;" although our civilization be one which opens the gate of fortune to aggressive cunning, and closes it as long as possible against the highest qualities of character and of intellect, nevertheless that civilization enormously multiplies the chances for energy, for talent, for practical abilities of almost every description. While crushing and destroying in one direction, it opens a hundred ways for escape in another. Though the feeble, the stupid, and the vicious are brayed alive, the strong, the clever, an self-controlled are not only aided, but are compelled to better themselves. The condition of success is not merely that effort shall be constant, but also that the force of the effort itself shall be constantly increased; and those able to fulfill that condition without a mental or a physica break-down are tolerably certain to win at last what they wish,—perhaps even more than they wish. While the effort exacted is large, the return is, in the majority of normal cases, more than proportional. Life must be lived upon a bigger scale than in the past; but the means so to live can be earned by the more vigorous. Although, by the law of antagonism between individuation and genesis, the higher raves ought to be the less fertile races, other conditions being equal, they are not so, having been able to create for themselves conditions unknown in previous eras, and opportunities still undreamed of by races accustomed to simple natural living. Hence the phenomenon that a non-Aryan race, able and willing to adopt Western civilization, or even to submit contentedly to its discipline, will begin to multiply more rapidly under the new conditions, even while those conditions entail forms of suffering previously unknown. Upon certain stages of development the opportunities of life will be increased even more than the difficulties; for previous resources will be enlarged, and new area found and developed, while countless means of conquering natural obstacles will be furnished by scientific knowledge to those capable of using them.

Penetrated by the influences of Western civilization, the population of Japan began almost simultaneously to expand. Within twenty-two years it has increased more than twenty-five per cent. In the year 1872 it was 33,110,825. In 1892 it was 41,388,313. It is now over 42,000,000. And this increase has been in despite of repeated epidemics, and great losses of life due to floods and earthquakes. Improved sanitation, enforcement of hygienic laws, attention given to drainage and to systems of water supply have certainly helped the increase, but could not alone explain it. The explanation is to be sought rather in the greatly widened opportunities of life furnished by the sudden development of the country. During the same period the increase in the total volume of the expert and import trade has been 534 per cent. The total of customs duties has more than quadrupled. Wages are said to have risen 37 per cent.7 Among facts showing agricultural development is the increase in the area of cultivated land. That of land under wheat and bailey is put at 58.5 per cent, and of land under rice at 8.4. Improved methods of agriculture may help to account for the increase of rice production by 25.5 per cent during the last fifteen years alone. In the same period of fifteen years, the increase in silk production has been 300.2 per cent, and in that of tea 240.3. In the year 1883 there were 84 manufactories using steam or hydraulic power. In the year 1893 there were 1163; in cotton-spinning the development has been enormous,—1014 per cent in a single decade.

I think that the myriad new opportunities to earn a little more than a good living which this immense expansion implies should suffice at themselves to account for that increase of population which is even now offering a new problem to the Japanese government, and which has been only temporarily met by the acquisition of Formosa and the Pescadores, by the project for a Japanese Mexican colony, by the shipment of laborers to Hawaii and to other places, and by the overflow into Australia, where the Japanese labor question threatens to become as unpleasant as was the Chinese question in Dr. Pearson’s time. The whole meaning of this increase of population will best appear when I remind the reader that, in one sense of the term the Japanese are by no means a fertile race. Large families are comparatively rare,—a family of nine or ten children being quite uncommon, and the birth of twins so rare as to be considered an anomaly. Nevertheless, the Japanese population has increased over 25 per cent, while that of England has increased only about 7 per cent. This, of course, is temporary, and a check must eventually come; but the period of that check is apparently still far off.

Imagine, then, the consequence of a corresponding commercial and industrial development upon a Chinese population of four or five hundred millions,—probably more fertile than the Japanese, declared by the Japanese themselves superior in all the craft of commerce and the secrets of finance, matchless as mere mechanical workers, and capable of living and multiplying under conditions according to which the Japanese artisan would refuse to live! Compel China to do what Japan has voluntarily done, and the increase of her population within one century will probably be a phenomenon without parallel in the past history of the world.

VII.

Here, however, there come up some doubts to be considered. Can China be forced to develop herself as Japan has done ? And is not Western industrialism likely to be protected from Chinese competition by the irreducible character of Chinese conservatism? Japanese development has been voluntary, patriotic, eager, earnest, unselfish. But will not the Chinaman of the year 2000 resemble in all things the familiar China to-day?

I must presume to express a conviction that the character of Chinese conservatism has never been fully understood in the West, and that it is just in the peculione-sidedness of that conservatism that the peril reveals itself. Japan has certainly been more thoroughly studied than China; yet even the character of Japan was so little understood two years ago that her defeat by China was predicted as a matter of course. Japan was imagined to be a sort of miniature of China,—probably because of superficial resemblances by her adoption of Chinese civilization. It often occurs to me that the old Jesuit missionaries understood the difference of the races infinitely better than even our diplomats do to-day. When, after having studied the wonderful quaint letters of these ecclesiastics, one reads the judgments uttered about the Far East by modern journalists, and the absurdly untruthful reports sent home by our English and American missionaries, it is difficult to believe that we have not actually retrograded, either in common honesty or in knowledge of the Orient. I tried to make plain in a former paper8 that a characteristic of Japanese life was its fluidity; and also that this characteristic was not of yesterday. All the modern tales about the former rigidity of Japanese society—about the conservation of habits and customs unchanged through centuries—are mostly pure fiction. The assimilative genius of the race is the proof. Assimilative genius is not the characteristic of a people whose customs and habits have been conservatively fixed beyond the reach of change. “A mind that would grow,'' said Clifford, "must let no ideas became permanent except such as homed to action. Towards all others it must maintain an attitude of absolute receptivity,—admitting all, being modified by all, but permanently biased by none. To become crystallized, fixed, in opinion and mode of thought is to lose that great characteristic of life by which it is distinguished from inanimate nature,—the power of adapting itself to circumstances. This is true even of the race . . . And if we consider that a race, in proportion as it is plastic and capable of change, may be considered as young and vigorous, . . . we shall see the immense importance of checking the growth of conventionalities."9 The relation between the essentially mobile and plastic diameter of Japanese society and that assimilative genius which could successively adopt and remodel for its own peculiar needs two utterly different forms of civilization should certainly be obvious. But according to the same sociological law expressed by Professor Clifford, the Chinese race would be doomed to disappear, or at least to shrink up into same narrow area,—supposing it really incapable of modification. In Europe the generally received opinion about China seems to be that line conservatism is like the conservation of the ancient Egyptians, and must eventually leave her people in a state of changeless subservience like that of the modern fellaheen. But is this opinion true?

Perhaps we should look in vain through the literature of any other equally civilized people for a record like that in the Li-Ki, which tells us that anciently, in China, persons” guilty of changing what had been definitely settled,” and of using or making “ strange garments, wonderful contrivances, and extraordinary implements,” were put to death! But modern China is not to be judged by her ancient literature, but by her present life. Men who know China also know that Chinese conservatism does not extend to those activities which belong to trade, to industry, to commerce or speculation. It is a conservatism in beliefs, ethics, and customs, and has nothing to do with business. A conservatism of this sort may be a source of power; it is not likely to be a source of weakness. Whether in Japan or in India, Canada or Australia, Cuba or Chili, Siberia or Burmah, the Chinaman remains a Chinaman. But while so remaining he knows how to utilize the modern inventions of industry, the modern facilities of communication, the new resources of commerce. He knows the value of cable codes, he charters steamers, builds factories, manages banks, profits by the depreciation or the rise of exchange, makes “corners.” organizes stock companies, hires steam or electricity to aid him in his manufacturing or speculating.10 As a merchant his commercial integrity is recognized by the foreign merchants, of every nation, who deal with him. He keeps his costume and his creed, observes his national rules of propriety, maintains his peculiar cult at home; but the home may be a granite front in America, a bungalow in India, a bamboo hut in Sumatra, a brick cottage in New Zealand, a fireproof two-story in Japan. He avails himself of the best he can afford abroad when the use of the best is connected with a commercial advantage; and when this is not the case he can put up with much worse than the worst. His conservatism never interferes with his business: it is a domestic matter, a personal matter, affecting only his intimate life, his private expenditure. His pleasures and even his vices—provided he be not a gambler—are comparatively inexpensive and he clings to the simplicity of his ancestral habits even while controlling—like the Chinese merchant at the next carrier of the street in which I live—a capital of hundreds of thousands. This is his strength and in our own West, through centuries, it has been the strength of the Jews.

Perhaps China can never be made to do all that Japan has done; but she will certainly be made to do what has given Japan her industrial and commercial importance. She is hemmed in by a steadily closing ring of foreign enemies: Russia north and west, France and England south, and all the sea power of the world threatening her coast. That she will be dominated is practically certain; the doubt is, how and by whom. Russia cannot be trusted with the control of those hundreds of millions and a partition of Chinese territory would present many difficult problems. Very possibly she will be long allowed to retain her independence in name, after having lost it in fact. She will not be permitted to exclude foreigners from her interior during any great length of time. If she will not build railroads and establish telegraph lines, the work will be done by foreign capital, and she will have to pay for it in the end. She will be exploited as much as possible; and, for the sake of the exploiters, foreign military power will force order, sanitary law compel cleanliness, engineering provide against catastrophes. She cannot be compelled to change her creeds or to study Western science in all her schools; but she will have to work very herd, and to keep her cities free from plague. By remaining otherwise unchanged, she will become, not less dangerous, but more dangerous.

From the most ancient times Chinese multiplication has been checked at intervals by calamities of such magnitude that, to find any parallel for them in Western history, we must recall the slaughters of the Crusades and the ravages of the Black Death. Enormous famines, enormous inundations, frightful revolutions provoked by misery, have periodically thinned the number of China’s millions. Even in our own era there have been disasters too large for the imagination to realize without difficulty. Tai-ping rebellion cost twenty millions of lives, the later Mohammedan revolt in the West more than two million five hundred thousand; and comparatively recent famines and floods have also swept millions out of existence. But whatever Western power rule China hereafter, that power will have to oppose and to overcome, for reasons of self-interest, all those natural or unnatural checks span multiplication which have hitherto kept the population at a relatively constant figure. The cholera and the plague most be conquered, the inundations must be prevented, the famines must be provided against, and infanticide must be prohibited.

As for the new political situation in the East, the guarantee of the Chinese indemnity to Japan by Russia, the rumors of a European combination to offset Russia’s financial diplomacy, the possibilities Anglo-Japanese alliance, the supposed project for a Russian railway through Manchuria, the story of a secret Russo-Chinese compact, the state of anarchy in Korea following upon the brutal murder of this queen, the tangle of interests and the confusion of perils,—all this I confess myself utterly unable to express any opinion about. At this writing nothing appears clear except that China will be controlled, and that Japan has became a new and important factor in all international adjustments or readjustments of the balance of power in the Pacific.

VIII.

No successful attempt has yet been made, by any one familiar with the Far East, to controvert the views of Dr. Pearson. Not one of the many antagonistic reviews of his work has even yielded proof of knowledge competent to deal with his facts. Professor Huxley indeed suggested—in a short appreciative note appended to his essay, Methods and Results of Ethnology11—that future therapeutic science might find ways to render the tropics less uninhabitable for white races than Dr. Pearson believed. But this suggestion does not touch the question of obstacles, more serious than fever, which a tropical climate offers to intellectual development, nor the question of race competition in temperate climates, nor any of the important social problems to which Dr. Pearson called attention. Religions criticisms of the book have been numerous and hostile; but they have contained nothing more noteworthy than the assertion that Dr. Pearson’s opinions were due to his want of faith in Providence. Such a statement amounts only to the alarming admission that we should hope for some miracle to save us from extermination. Various journalists on this side of the world have ventured the supposition that a Western domination of China might gradually force up the standard of Chinese living to such a degree as would leave Oriental competition no more to be dreaded than international competition at home; and they have cited the steady increase of the cost of life in Japan as a proof of the possibility. But even could it be shown that the cost of living in Japan is likely, say at the close of the twentieth century, to equal the average cost of life in Europe, it were still poor reasoning to argue that the influence of Occidental civilization most necessarily produce similar results in China, under absolutely different conditions and among a people of totally opposite character. What distinguishes the Chinese race from every other civilized race is their inherent power to resist, under all imaginable circumstances, every influence calculated to raise their standard of living. The men who best know China are just the men who cannot conceive the possibility of raising the standard of Chinese living to the Western level. Eventually, under foreign domination, the social conditions would certainly be modified, but never so modified as to render Chinese competition less dangerous, because the standard of living would not be very materially affected by any social reforms. On the other hand, it is not difficult to imagine conditions at home which would rapidly force down the living-standard, and manifest themselves later in a shrinkage of population. That the future industrial competition between Occident and Orient must be largely decided by physiological economy is not to be doubled, and the period of the greatest possible amount of human suffering is visibly approaching. The great cause of human suffering, and therefore of all progress in civilization, has been pressure of population but the worst, as Herbert Spencer long since pointed out, has yet to come: “Though by the emigration that takes place when the pressure arrives at a certain intensity temporary relief is from time to time obtained, yet as by this process all habitable countries must become peopled, it follows that in the end the pressure, whatever it may then be, must be borne in full.”12 In such an epoch the races of the Occident can only maintain their standard of living by forcing other races out of existence; and in the mere ability to live they will probably find themselves overmatched.

What Chinese competition would then mean cannot be imagined without a clear understanding of one ugly fact which distinguishes modern civilization in the West from ancient civilization in the Far East,—its monstrous egotism. As Professor Huxley has shown, the so-called “struggle for existence” in Western society is not really a struggle to live, but a struggle to enjoy, and therefore something far more cruel than a contest for the right to exist.13 According to Far-Eastern philosophy, any society founded upon such a system of selfish and sensual intercompetition is doomed to perish; and Far-Eastern philosophy maybe right. At all events, the struggle to come will be one between luxurious races, accustomed to regard pleasure, at any cost, so the object of existence, and a people of hundreds of millions disciplined for thousands of years to the most untiring industry and the self-denying thrift, under conditions which would mean worse than death for our working masses,—a people, in short, quite content to strive to the uttermost in exchange for the simple privilege of life.

Pessimistic as Dr. Pearson’s views seemed to most readers at the time when his husk was first published, they now command more attention than was accorded to them before the late war between China and Japan. They are forcing new convictions and new apprehensions. It is certain that the conditions of society in Western countries are not now ameliorating; and it is not difficult to believe that this decay of faith, the substitution of conventionalism for true religion, the ever-growing hunger of pleasure, the constant aggravation of suffering, only the signs of that senescence which precedes the death of a civilization. It is possible that the races of the Occident have almost exhausted their capacity for further development, and even that, as distinct races, they are doomed to disappear. Nor is it unnatural to suppose that the future will belong to the races of the Far East.

But a more optimistic view of the future is also possible. Though there be signs in Western civilization of the disintegration of existing social structures, there are signs also of new latent forces that will recreate society upon another and a more normal plan. There are unmistakable growing tendencies to international union, to the most complete industrial and commercial federation. International necessities are rapidly breaking down old prejudices and conservatisms, while developing cosmopolite feeling. The great fraternities of science and of art have declared themselves country of class or creed, and recognize only the aristocracy of intellect. Few thinkers would now smile at the prediction that international war will be made impossible, or doubt the coming realization of Victor Hugo’s dream of the “United States of Europe.” And this would signify nothing less than the filial obliteration of national frontiers, the removal of all barriers between European peoples, the ultimate fusion of Western races into one vast social organism. Such fusion is even now visibly beginning. The tendency of Western civilization in its present form is to unite the strong while crushing the weak, and individual superiority seeks its affiliations irrespective of nationality.

But the promise of international coalescence in the West suggests the probability of far larger tendencies to unification in the remoter future,—to unification not of nations only, but of widely divergent races. The evolutional trend would seem to be toward universal brotherhood, without distinctions of country, creed, or blood. It is neither unscientific nor unreasonable to suppose the world eventually peopled by a race different from any now existing, yet created by the blending of the best types of all races uniting Western energy Far-Eastern patience, northern vigor with southern sensibility, the highest ethical feelings developed by all great religions with the largest mental faculties evolved by all civilizations; speaking a single tongue composed from the richest and strongest elements of all preexisting human speech; and forming a society unimaginably unlike, yet also unimaginably superior to, anything which now is or has ever been.

To many the mere thought of a fusion of races will be repellent, because of ancient and powerful prejudices once essential to national self-preservation. But as a matter of scientific fact we know that none of the present higher races is really a pure race, but represents the blending, in prehistoric times, of races that have individually disappeared from the earth. All our prejudices of nationality and race and creed have doubtless had their usefulness, and some will probably continue to have usefulness for ages to be; but the way to the highest progress can be reached only through the final extinction of all prejudice,—through this annihilation of every form of selfishness, whether individual or national or racial, that opposes itself to the evolution of the feeling of universal brotherhood. The great Harvey said, “Our progress is from self-interest to self-annihilation.” Modern thought endorses the truth of that utterance. But this truth itself is older by thousands of years than Harvey; for it was spoken, long before the age of Christ, by this lips of the Buddha.


Those made by a portion of the London press. How little the real condition of Japan was known up to the time of the war may be inferred from the fact that a leading English journal declared ten thousand Chinese troops could easily conquer Japan because of the absence of national feeling in the latter country!

& Co. In the Revue Bleue and other French periodicals some phases of the question had been previously treated by able writers, but in so different a manner that the whole of Dr. Pearson’s wok appears as a totally original presentation of the subject.

3 Hereditary Genies, “On the Comparative Worth of Different Bores,” pages 329-332, edition of 1892. Concerning the physical development of the Greek race, I would recommend the reader to glance at Taine’s extraordinary grouping of evidence bearing on the question, in his Philosophic de l’Art and in L’Ideal dans l’Art.

Mr. Mahaffy has written a book to prove the English boy superior to the Greek boy; but his argument involves the denial of facts accepted by equally good authority.

4 Principles of Biology, vol. ii. chap xii.

5 I take the figures accepted by Lombroso. See his Man of Genius.

6 Long before Dr. Pearson. Herbert Spencer had noticed these limits, He had also observed, “With serial organisms, so with individual organism, the evolution of superior types does not entail the extinction of all inferior uses.” Sociology, vol. ii. But Mr. Spencer has never girdle detailed attention to the special problems first studied in detail by the author of National Life and Character.

7 Probably at the open ports only. I take these figures from the Japan Daily Mail, which republished them from the Kokuminno-Tomo. I personally know, however, that in some provinces there has been yet practically no rise in wages worth mentioning. The cost of skilled labor in the open ports has increased greatly.

8 See the Atlantic Monthly for October, 1905.

9 Lectures and Essays, “Some Conditions of Mental Development.”

10 At the time of the great silver depreciation a clever trick was reported from one of the Chinese open ports. Some Chinese forgers were able to put into circulation a considerable quantity of unlawful coin; but when the coin was examined it proved to be true metal! Nevertheless, a handsome profit must have been made, because of the temporary difference between the market price of silver and the value of the money.

11 Collected Essays, 1894.

12 Principles of Biology, “Human Population in the Future,” vol. ii. chap. xiii.

13 Evolution of Ethics, Prolegomena. xiv.

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