A Plea for the Recognition of the Chinese Republic

About a year after the revolutionary overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, Ching Chun Wang, a Chinese railway official and representative of the emergent republic, makes a case for international recognition.

Soldiers with the Xinhai Revolution assault a fort in Nanjing in 1911. (Library of Congress)

The Chinese millions have given the world the greatest revolution of modern times in the most civilized manner known to history. We have emancipated ourselves from the imperial yoke, not by brute force but by sheer reasoning and unparalleled toleration. Within the amazingly short period of four months, and without shedding over one hundredth part of the blood that has been shed in other similar revolutions, we have transformed our immense country from an empire of four thousand years' standing into a modern democracy. After having set this new standard of sanity in revolutions, we have organized ourselves into the newest republic, following up-to-date patterns. Now we come forward with hands and hearts open to join the sisterhood of nations, and all we ask is that the world will permit us to join its company. We are born into the world as a nation, and we wish to be registered as a part of the world. We ask for recognition of our Republic because it is an accomplished fact. Neither our modesty nor our sense of self-respect will ever allow us to make another request if any party can show us that the Chinese Republic is not a fact.

The recognition of a new nation by the family of nations should more or less resemble the announcement or registration of a newly born child. If the baby is actually born with the functions of a human being, it is the duty of the family and the court, if that court is worth having, to acknowledge the fact. So it should be with the recognition of a new government.

If it is born and bona fide in existence, it is incumbent upon the civilized nations to acknowledge and admit its birth. Of course, the family of nations, as the family of some barbarous tribes, can ignore or even nullify the birth of a newly born; but I feel that we have got beyond that stage of barbarity. The law of nations, as in the case of the law of the state, has reached or should reach such a state of perfection that a being should not only have the right to exist after it is born, but also the right to be born when it is bone fide conceived. We are thankful that the United States has taken the initiative from the beginning of our Revolution in preventing foreign powers from interfering, thus enabling us to be properly conceived and born; but since we are born we must now ask for recognition.

Of course there are certain usages to be fulfilled in order to be recognized. But China has fulfilled these requirements long ago. So many undeniable evidences exist, and so many indisputable arguments have already been produced, in respect to international law, that it will be time wasted to emphasize this point here. Suffice it to say, that facts and the concurrence of best opinion testify that China deserves recognition. Indeed, the Chinese people, as well as many others, would be most happy to know in what respect China has not fulfilled the requirements to deserve recognition. The only reason we have heard up to this time is that given by England and Russia, namely, that China must make a new treaty to give practical independence to Tibet and Mongolia before she can expect recognition from these two countries. Now let us ask, how could the making of a new treaty, or the granting of independence to Tibet and Mongolia, better qualify China as a nation? It seems a pity that such a retrogressive step should be taken, and that the recognition of a new government should be made an excuse for fraudulent bargaining.

China to-day is a nation, and the Chinese Republic is a fact. If any nation or individual thinks that China is not a nation and the Chinese Republic is not a fact, it is their duty to give us the evidence. Or, if they do not think that the republican form of government is good enough for recognition, then they must point out that they have something better in mind. As one of the most potent factors to prevent a nation from recognizing a new government is the fear of offending, or the desire to help, the old government, prolonged delay of recognition of the Chinese Republic may mean that the Powers hope, or fear, that the dissolved Manchu Dynasty, with all its corruption, will reappear. But we must see that there is no more dynasty left. Even the Prince Regent and the Dowager Empress have forsaken it. The Emperor himself has retired into private life with satisfaction. In short, the monarchy is dead -absolutely dead. Then they may say that the dead may be raised from the grave, as in the story of Jesus of old; but they must also remember that those who were raised by Jesus were good, and not such obnoxious and decomposed bones as the Manchu Dynasty.

Another reason given in some quarters for withholding recognition of the Chinese Republic, is that the government of the Republic is called 'provisional.' It is really amusing to see how people, or even statesmen, sometimes balk at some single word, which has little or no substantial meaning, sacrificing thereby results of universal benefit. The word 'provisional' was adopted in Nanking really without much consideration. If anything, it was due to the modesty of our leaders, who thought that, during the period of transition from imperialism to democracy, to call the government 'provisional' might be more becoming, if not more expedient. To illustrate further that the word 'provisional' has no substantial significance, we may recall that, during this current year, this word has become so popular that it is indiscriminately prefixed to pretty nearly everything. Thus, people say 'provisional' theatre, 'provisional' restaurant, and even 'provisional' enjoyment. What should be considered is the fact, and not the name. A government, although called 'provisional,' may be fully deserving of recognition, while another government may be called substantial, solid, or whatever else you like, and yet far less deserve the characterization. It certainly seems rather unfortunate that on account of the modesty of our leaders in adopting the word 'provisional' the deserved recognition should be withheld.

As a Chicago paper said, 'For nearly nine months the republican government of China has been uncontested. There is not even a "pretender" to the throne. There is peace and order, broadly speaking, throughout China.' We ask for recognition, because the other nations have hammered at our doors and constantly come in contact with us. We would not object to going on without recognition if the other Powers really wish to sever all relations with us. In so far as our diplomatic and consular officers in foreign countries, as well as those officers of foreign nations accredited to us, are now conducting our international affairs much the same as before, and also in so far as the nations have to transact business, and are doing it now with us, just as if we were recognized, we see no reason why the Powers, especially the United States, which often boasts of being the mother and champion of republicanism, should refrain from simply declaring and acknowledging what is a fact. Indeed, after having known how these Powers endeavored to induce us to admit them, and how eager they apparently were in forcing China to open her doors, we find it hard to understand why the same Powers should remain so indifferent, and even turn a deaf ear to our plea to join their company, when we have at last broken loose from the obstacles which they hated, and opened up not only our doors but our hearts as well.

Moreover, an early recognition will help us a good deal to calm the overcharged suspension of mind, and thus enable the people to forget the Revolution and to settle down to business. Like the cheering from the football bleachers or the applause in the gallery, there is perhaps nothing substantial in the recognition, but it is the only thing that makes a team put in its last ounce of grit and the actor double his spirit. After seeing what China has done, we feel that she deserves at least some such mild sign of appreciation.

An early recognition will also help China in her relations with other nations. The recognition itself may not mean much, but at this critical moment, when China has the remaking of herself in hand, and when not every nation is too glad to see China become strong and peaceful, every little help means a good deal. Indeed, a little help shown us to-day means a thousand times the value of the same help if it is shown us in a year to come. We need help and encouragement. We need help now.

Then the delay of public recognition always casts a baleful influence upon the minds of all concerned, and hence invariably hinders the progress of a new nation. Therefore, by delaying recognition, you are not only refraining from helping us, but you are doing a positive injury to our cause. History tells us that the refusal of recognition has contributed its share in bringing about the failure of former revolutions, and has obstructed progress in China herself. Such delay has since been lamented. In speaking of the refusal of the Powers to recognize the Tai-ping Rebellion, which bears no comparison to our Revolution of last year, Dr. W. A. P. Martin, one of the best American authorities on China, said several years ago, 'Looking back at this distance of time, with the light of all subsequent history upon the events, we are still inclined to ask whether a different policy might not have been better....Had the foreign Powers promptly recognized the Tai-ping chief on the outbreak of the second war, might it not have shortened a chapter of horrors that dragged on for fifteen more years, ending in many other revolts and causing the loss of fifty millions of human lives....More than once, when the insurgents were on the verge of success, the prejudice of short-sighted diplomats decided against them, and an opportunity was lost such as does not occur once in a thousand years.'

We hope that the nations are not so prejudiced as to think that our Revolution is even worse than the Tai-ping Rebellion, and we also hope that the regrettable short sightedness of the diplomats may not obtain in our case, so that posterity may not have to lament our loss of the present opportunity, as we lament the lost opportunity of our forefathers of sixty years ago.

Then again, to give the deserved recognition will be of mutual benefit by preventing many mutual embarrassments. The recent International Congress of Commerce at Boston, and the Panama Exposition, are two instances. In both cases the American people were interested, and, so far as we can see, the American government also, were anxious to have China participate. In return, China was glad also to come. But in the absence of that official recognition, both parties had to go at the matter in the most roundabout way conceivable, so as to make people believe that the one in inviting the other, and the other in accepting the invitation, were, at the same time, having nothing to do with each other.

The round-about red-tape in playing this make-believe is as amusing as it is troublesome. Therefore, as a citizen of a republic, the writer feels we had better stop this make-believe and settle down to business. We sympathize with all nations concerned in their international difficulties, but we also trust that their difficulties will soon be overcome.

During the past seven months China has rushed through her great drama with appalling speed and audacity. She has run the hardest Marathon known in history. After reaching her goal, breathless, she nervously but confidently looks to the world for the recognition due to every such runner. She stretches out her hands to America first, because she prefers to have her best friend be the first in giving her this deserved encouragement. Now, will America understand the truth? Will America listen to her plea?