THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government (1) whether Russians have obtained a concession for a railway guaranteed by the Chinese Government from Ching-ting-fu, on the main line from Peking to Han-kau to Tai-yuen-fu, the capital of Shan-si; (2) whether Germans have been conceded by the Chinese Government two important extensions of railway, namely, first, from Te-chau on the Grand Canal to Ching-ting-fu, this being a continuation of the main line of railway which is being pushed across Shan-tung from Kiao-chau Bay through Tsi-nanfu, the capital, to the Grand Canal; secondly, from Yen-chau in Shan-tung, on the Tien-tsin-Chin-Kiang main line to Kai-fong-fu, the capital of Honan; (3) whether the concession granted to M. Rouffart, a Belgian, who is now at Peking awaiting the Imperial edict sanctioning that concession, is for a railway from Kai-fong-fu, the capital of Honan, to Honan city, and carries with it a Chinese Government guarantee and an option for the railway's extension to Tung-Kuan, the key of Western China, and Si-ngan-fu, the capital of Shen-si. In putting these Questions I would ask the noble Marquess who surveys the foreign affairs of mankind from China to Peru to accompany me in a trip to the Flowery Land, the land of the Mandarin and the pigtail. My reason for this peregrination is this. There appeared in The Times of 10th June last, under the heading "Railway Rivalry," a communication from the able correspondent of that paper at Peking. His statements are always found to be right. When negotiations were being carried on at Peking his statements were not 1044 only found to be right, but what he prophesied came true: and, therefore, this is no canard or mare's nest to which I am directing your Lordships' attention, but a subject well worthy of the attention of the House. If you wonder what I have to do with China I will say at once that three Englishmen, with myself, were the original directors of the Pekin Syndicate, which obtained, in May, 1898, the Shan-si and Honan concessions—For mining purposes, iron works, the transport of all minerals, and also the power to construct branch railways to connect with main lines or with water navigation,which is the old and most important means of carriage and communication in the Chinese Empire. Since that day much water has flowed down the Yang-tsze. The Pekin Syndicate and the British and Chinese Corporation have joined in regard to railway construction, and have thus been strengthened in their common object. The Pekin Syndicate, since obtaining their concession, have carried from England to China some 19,000 tons of railway material, transported it some 500 miles by land and river, and have constructed 75 miles of railway, of which 54 miles are now being run over by locomotives. So that this concession has not been allowed to remain idle, as I am sorry to say others have.
Coming to my questions, I would explain in regard to the first that the line from Ching-Ting-fu to Tai-yuen-fu, originally conceded to the Russo-Chinese Bank in May, 1898, was without a Chinese Imperial Government guarantee, but early in this year the bank obtained a guarantee on all fours with the trunk Peking-Han-kau Railway. This Ching-Ting-fu Tai-yuen-fu line touches some of the coalfields originally conceded to the Pekin Syndicate, and I have reason to believe that it will be capitalised in France. I do not take exception to this move, but I would call attention to its political importance. The railway will undoubtedly strike south-west from Tai-yuen-fu into the centre of China, on to the province of Szu-chuan, the richest and most populous province in the Chinese Empire, and no doubt it will eventually join with the French advancing northwards through Yunnan. We might look with equanimity on this as a development of China by means of railways but for the fact that this province 1045 of Szu-chuan is in the upper waters of the river Yang-tsze, which is most distinctly the British sphere of influence; and the British sphere of influence in the Yang-tsze Valley is another name for the open door in China.
As to the second Question, the fact that the Germans have obtained concessions to extend their railways from Shantung, which will tap the coalfields in Shan-si and Honan, is not disadvantageous to the Pekin Syndicate, which holds these concessions; but it must be remembered that the object is to develop the German port of Kiao-chau to the detriment of Nanking and Shanghai, where British interests predominate, the river Yang-tsze debouching at the former place. All interested in British trade in China must see from what I have stated that foreign Governments are backing up their subjects who are seeking and working for railway concessions. All that is asked of our Government is that they shall afford the same backing to British subjects who are engaged in pushing the interests of British trade in China.
My third Question deals with another line, non-British, ostensibly from Kai-fong-fu to Honan city, and on to Tung-Kuan, the key of Western China. This will, no doubt, form part of the Russo-Chinese Bank extension into Western China mentioned in my first Question. For unless the application which I understand has been made by the Pekin Syndicate and the British and Chinese Corporation, now one, and representing strong British interests, is granted for the railway line from Nanking through Si-ngan-fu into the province of Szu-chuan and strongly supported by His Majesty's Government, this line will in all probability be granted to other than British interests. British railway prospects, even in the Yang-tsze, are no better than they were before; and bearing in mind the telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to Lord Salisbury, dated September 4th, 1898, which stated that the Pekin Syndicate were entitled to construct railways from their mines to the Yang-tsze, and also bearing in mind the valuable Shan-si and Honan mineral concessions obtained by the Pekin Syndicate, it appears that they are denied their natural outlet to the Yang-tsze. I do not put aside the political question to urge the claims of this purely British syndicate, but I 1046 must point out that the political question is wrapped up in the question of the construction of railways by foreigners and therefore affects the economic question of trade and development by British enterprise and British capital. I therefore hope the noble Marquess in his answer will set at rest any misgivings and doubts as to His Majesty's Government giving their strongest support to those interested in, and to those who have put their money into railway enterprise in, and developed the mineral resources of China, and who have shown their earnestness in carrying out the obligations I have set forth. I do not speak in any alarmist sense, being hopeful that the noble Marquess will continue to carry on the work of his predecessor, who was always most anxious to help forward this development policy in any way. But since then foreign Governments have been much more active and China has become more easy of access. For these reasons I have brought the subject before your Lordships' House.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, I am afraid that if I were to follow the noble Earl minutely into the details of the subjects covered by his Questions I should be compelled to make a somewhat lengthy excursion into the regions of Chinese geography—an excursion which, I fear, would be somewhat puzzling to your Lordships. But I think I can give him a comparatively simple answer to the three Questions on the Paper. I will only preface what I have to say by observing that it would perhaps have been well if the noble Earl had drafted his Questions in such a way as to make it evident that he desired to call attention, not only to questions of fact, but to those questions of railway policy upon which he touched during the course of his speech. As to my noble friend's Questions, I have to say that the answer to the first Question is in the affirmative. His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires at Peking reported to us last December that an agreement between the Director-General of Southern Railways and the Russo-Chinese Bank for the financing of a railway from Cheng-Ting-fu, on the Peking-Hankau Railway, to Tai-yuen-fu 1047 had received the Imperial sanction. That is the answer to the first Question. The second Question raises rather more intricate points. The British and Chinese Corporation and the German syndicate are at this moment jointly negotiating with the Chinese Government for a final agreement for a line from Tien-tsin to the Yang-tsze. We are given to understand that the part in which the German syndicate is interested includes the construction of the two branch lines referred to in the noble Earl's question—I mean the line from Techou on the Grand Canal to Chang-ting fu, and the other line from Yen-chau, in Shan-tung, to Kai-fong-fu, and this action on the part of the German syndicate has been taken without any objection on the part of the British and Chinese Corporation. On the other hand, the latter corporation—the British and Chinese Corporation—acting with the Peking syndicate, with which the noble Earl, as I understand, is to some extent connected, are applying for other lines running westwards from the British portion of the Tientsin-Yang-tsze line. I gather that one of these lines will be a line towards Szu-chuan, the importance of which the noble Earl has so correctly pointed out; and I am able to say that those two British associations are applying for those concessions with the fullest and complete support of his Majesty's Government. I now come to the third railway mentioned by the noble Earl. The matter stands as follows—The Peking-Hankau Railway Syndicate, which, I think, is under Franco-Belgian control, are understood to have obtained the Kai-fong-fu-Honan railway concession, but His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires has told us in a recent telegram that the Chinese Government altogether deny having given concessions for the extension of the line to Si-ngan-fu. That, I gather, is a point to which the noble Lord attaches importance. I do not think it would be convenient that I should, on this occasion, enter into the general question of the position of British railway interests in China; but I shall certainly be prepared to show, if necessary, that the representatives of British enterprise in that country have not come away by any means empty-handed. They have secured some extremely important concessions; and I am constrained to confirm an observation made by the noble Earl—namely, that it does 1048 not always follow that because a valuable concession is obtained it is turned to account with as much promptitude and expedition as everyone would desire. But, on the other hand, I freely admit that we have had serious cause for complaint of the manner in which the Chinese Government has dealt with the applications of some of these concessionnaires, and we have found it necessary recently to make a strong remonstrance to the Chinese Government upon the subject. Our Ambassador, Sir Ernest Satow, is about to return, after a well-earned holiday, to Peking. And he will go back fully aware of the views of His Majesty's Government and with instructions to support them energetically. In conclusion, I may say that the noble Earl may depend upon it that the associations which represent British interests in the matter of railway construction in China will certainly receive from His Majesty's Government a backing which I hope will bear comparison with the backing received by the representatives of other countries.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Five o'clock to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.