CHAPTER XXII. THE REIGN OF KWANGSU
The rapid adoption of steamers along the coast and on the Yangtse has paved the way for railways. Shallow steamers have yet to traverse the Poyang and the Tungting Lakes, which lie near the Yangtse, and Peiho and Canton Rivers, as well as many minor streams. It is the railway, however, that is the supreme necessity. Mr. Colquhoun has pointed out that, except along the Yangtse for the thousand-odd miles now covered by steamers, there is not a single trade route of importance in China where a railway would not pay. Especially would a line from Pekin carried through the heart of China to the extreme south, along the existing trade routes, be advantageous and remunerative. The enormous traffic carried on throughout the Celestial Empire in the face of appalling difficulties, on men's backs, or by caravans of mules or ponies, or by the rudest of carts and wheelbarrows, must be, some day, undertaken by railways. In the judgment of careful observers, too much stress should not be laid on the introduction of the locomotive for strategic purposes. The capital aim of railway construction should be, they think, the development of the interprovincial trade of China, the interchange of the varied products of a country which boasts so many climates and soils. This would bring prosperity to the people, render administrative reforms possible, and open China for the Chinese quite as much as for the European merchant or manufacturer. From the viewpoint of Chinese interests, the most useful lines would be two that should connect Pekin, Tientsin and all the northern part of the country with central and southern China. Trunk lines could be constructed for this purpose without any difficulty. They would pass along the old trade tracks, and would encounter populous cities the whole way. Through eastern Shansi and Honan, for example, to Hangchow on the Yangtse; thence to the Si Kiang and Canton; such lines would be shafts driven through the heart of the Middle Kingdom, connecting the North and the South. For the entire distance, some 1,300 or 1,400 miles, the extent, fertility and variety of the soil are described as remarkable. From the North, abounding in cotton and varieties of grain and pulse, to the South, where many vegetable products of the Orient are met, the redundancy of the population is a striking feature. A constant succession of villages, towns and cities would be transformed into a picture of bustle and business.
The internal economical conditions of China to-day are very much the same as were those of India when railways were introduced. The only difference is that the Chinese people are better off per man, and that the Chinese and Indo-Chinese, unlike the natives of India, are born travelers and traders. Yet, even in India, contrary to expectation, the passenger traffic on the railways has, from the first, exceeded the goods traffic. In 1857, the number of passengers carried by railway in India was 2,000,000; in 1896, it had risen to 160,000,000. In the first named year, the quantity of goods transported was 253,000 tons; in 1896, it was 32,500,000 tons. There has been witnessed in India during those forty years an expansion of commerce which, at the outset of the period, would have been deemed incredible. The imports and exports rose in that time from 400,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 rupees. Forty years ago, India was merely a dealer in drugs, dyes and luxuries; now she is one of the largest purveyors of food grains, fibers, and many other staples. Few persons are aware how favorably the earnings of Indian railways compare with those of other countries. The average earnings of railways in the United States are 3 per cent; in Great Britain, 3.60 per cent; in India, 5.46 per cent. This in spite of the fact that, in India, a man can travel 400 miles within twenty-four hours for the sum of $2.08. The policy of low charges has answered well, the people, on its adoption, at once having begun to travel and to send their produce by rail. In China, also, low rates will be a necessity. Another fact of importance to China is that, out of the 260,000 people employed on Indian railways, 95.66 per cent are natives. Only the higher posts are held by Europeans. In China, the proportions would probably be even more in favor of the native element.