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(See page 98)

THE British Parliament had decided that the Boxer Indemnity should in future be used for the mutual benefit of China and Great Britain. [click] From the date of that decision to 1925 the sum concerned amounted to some eleven million sterling; and then the matter of its allocation was ripening for decision. In a letter to the Morning Post, I had urged that a portion of it be used for Flood preventive measures. In the meantime Hsiung Hsi-lin, the President of the Chihli River Commission, sent Mr. Hussey-Freke to England to press the same proposal. As a result, a meeting in London was arranged for at which Dr. Scott, formerly of the Board of Education, was to present the claim for education and Mr. Hussey-Freke for Flood Prevention; but the latter, very generously, gave up this right to me.

The following are extracts from my speech on that occasion:—

. . . Consider now what is at issue. The educationalist claims not merely a large grant from the indemnity. A large grant, probably not less than £5,000,000, I assume that they will get. And that large grant they will get, I will not say independently of the intrinsic merits of their case, but certainly not merely on those intrinsic merits. They will obtain it largely by reason of the monstrously strong influence which they can bring to bear. Their claim, however, goes much further than this, and, in effect, is that no part of the indemnity which is possibly available for education should be devoted to flood preventive purposes.

To make good that claim they ought to be able to prove not only the importance of education — which is easy enough for them; not only the comparative unimportance of conservancy works — which I am sure they cannot do; to make good their claim they ought to be able to prove that conservancy work was glaringly unimportant compared with education, and that, undoubtedly, is beyond the limits even of their great capacity. On the other side, which is my side, is a request for the use — temporarily only — of about a third of the indemnity, leaving two-thirds for education and ` other purposes.'

There is nothing of the nature of rivalry on our side in this.

We ask for the loan for the amelioration of conditions due to floods, which cause in, say, each decade the death of not less than a million lives and inflicts the most appalling misery and suffering on tens of millions. Realize that a single debacle — and they occur on the average every seven years — may cause a greater loss of life than that which was suffered by Great Britain in the Great War.

But — and please note this fact carefully — money used, temporarily only, for this purpose, will also have an educational effect of a kind which on the one hand is most urgently needed by China, and which on the other hand schools, colleges and universities cannot provide.

How this is so I will now as briefly as possible explain.

The Chihli River Commission — about which more will be said later — is the organization in whose hands the grant, if given, will be placed. It has prepared the way for a great scheme by making the necessary surveys and by the elaboration of plans; but is without funds for their execution. This organization has on its staff about 12 engineers, 100 surveyors, 100 draughtsmen, 40 clerical staff; and under the five years' scheme of work proposed this staff will have to be considerably increased. These men are being trained technically. They are being trained in leadership; in the exercise of independent judgment and in the bearing of responsibility; and perhaps above all, by being units in an absolutely honest administration. Professional self-respect, so hard for them to get elsewhere, is being acquired. It would take too long to explain in detail why this kind of training has so high a value in China. I will only say that no other organization provides it of the same quality and in the same quantity.

The training so given is supplementary to that given by colleges, and it is a supplement which from the true educational point of view is very much needed by China. Of the men trained by the Chihli River Commission the great majority who make good will have found their life work. Of men prepared by colleges, for technical occupations, how many and which of them follow that occupation? It is the general experience of those who like myself have been in touch with the practical results of academic education, that the best men drop their technicality and follow other lines of life which offer better chances to them, and that it is the comparatively inefficient who continue in the careers for which they were trained. I am referring here only to occupations which involve hard physical work such as that of an engineer. It is this condition of affairs that has caused the entirely incorrect idea that Chinese, while they can learn phenomenally quickly, cannot adequately apply their knowledge. This is where the Chihli River Commission functions educationally. It takes these best men and provides them with inducements — more particularly by placing them in self- respecting positions — to continue technical work.

Let it not be thought that this educational effect will be confined to the existing staff or that of the immediate future. It will go on indefinitely under a scheme for indefinite expansion of engineering activities for which the Chihli River Commission will form the fructifying cell.

I suggest that I have made my case that we are not in rivalry with education. Speaking as Mr. Hsiung's representatives we do not grudge the educationalist a penny of a half of the indemnity or of a further one-sixth if he can get it; and the one-third, the loan only of which we ask for, will incidentally be used for a much-needed form of education which the colleges and universities cannot supply.

Thus the opportunity created by the remission of the indemnity forms the one solitary chance for the relief from indescribable misery of tens of millions of people, and the saving of millions from death. It is not that this is the only opportunity that presents itself at the moment. As far as it is possible to foresee, it is the only opportunity that is likely to occur until China as a whole regenerates, and the date for that is one which China's most optimistic friends place at an indefinite distance.

I ask you to give this point your very earnest consideration — the point of a very special and exceptional opportunity which, if you allow it to pass, is unlikely to occur again.

I have learnt of three schools of thought among those who have the welfare of mankind at heart. The one says `Fill the mind.' He disregards — simply disregards — that which it is customary to refer to in this connection as the belly. The second says ` First fill the belly — the mind will then be in a condition to take nourishment.'

The third says ` Give food to the belly and the mind at the same time.' In the first category come the educational opponents to our scheme. The second category includes myself, but that is of no interest. In the third category is Mr. Hsiung.

Here is the respectable sum of £11,000,000 going begging, as it were, for the best purpose it can be put to for the benefit of the Chinese people. We ask for a third of it — as a loan only — leaving a half which I assume will go to education, and a further sixth for the educationalist to strive for. We ask for this for the purpose of a work that will ameliorate a monstrous physical and social evil, and which incidentally will provide a valuable form of education which the colleges cannot supply. We ask for that third not only for the purpose of that particular initiatory work, but also — and this is really the more important — of starting an organization on a career, the beneficent possibilities of which are inestimable.

And what is the attitude towards this of the first category?

Not satisfied with five million pounds, not satisfied with over six and three-quarter millions, they demand the whole eleven millions!

Is that attitude in general reasonable? Is it what one would expect from a class of men who embody, I suppose, a greater erudition than that of any other class. Take that attitude and examine it. Look at it from all possible aspects. Turn it upside down — pull it inside out in an endeavour to find a justification for it. I suggest you will be more likely to find condemnatory terms to apply to it; but I will use no such terms myself. For there can be no question of the sincere conscientiousness of their aims and the excellence of their intentions. I will limit myself to saying that their attitude seems to me to be a manifestation of one of those obsessions which are so apt to swamp the mentalities of those who concentrate too deeply on one engrossing interest — an obsession, in this case, of a philanthropic megalomaniac character.

Please realize this; so far as scholastic education is concerned there is a never-ending and constant supply of funds. Not enough, of course, for the philanthropic insatiability of the educationalist, but still, a good healthy flow. Think, for example, of the American and other millionaires making their wills and considering how they can make some return to humanity for what, in a sense, they have taken from it. In nine cases out of ten it takes the form of some educational endowment, and of these a not inconsiderable proportion goes to China.

Think of all the high intellectuality that is concentrated on the advancement of education — and on the means of acquiring funds for it — and, gentlemen, let me whisper this request. Think not only of the vast good which education does, but also of what education gone rotten does. I do not mean here the provision of a rotten education, but good education gone rotten. Think of Bolshevism; think of the present activities of students in China. I do not want to make all the capital I could of this dangerous exhibition of education gone rotten, but its existence demands attention.

There is one point in the conservancy scheme generally which, while it forms no part of the immediate project, bulks large in my eyes as regards future benefit.

Next to floods the greatest evil is their opposite — droughts.

Engineering works of the future will doubtless combine drainage — to which the immediate scheme is confined — with irrigation and with fertilization by silt deposit, as is done in Egypt with such huge advantage. Further, the northern plain includes vast tracts of at present unfertile alkaline lands which await only the skilled operation of the engineer to convert into highly fertile lands, with their large contribution to the land-tax.

In fact, these plains of ever-impending disaster are readily convertible into areas of unsurpassed fertility and prosperity. As far as can be humanly seen, the materialization of that desideratum rests on the decision about to be made. If our request is granted, the materialization will occur. If it be not, it is postponed to the Greek Calends.

When a bad flood now occurs, the situation defies adequate description by myself. The water will not subside for months.

Homes demolished; crops destroyed; no seeds for a new crop; no adequate communication for relief; dykes — hundreds of miles of them alone — out of water; huddled on these in miserable hovels of reeds and grass live millions of destitute with death stalking in and out among them; boiled willow leaves their only food; naked children with enormous pot-bellies and the skeleton unbifurcated legs of the starved; children sold into slavery and prostitution.

Cannibalism? I do not know. Perhaps. Truly, I think, did I recently state in a letter to the Morning Post that of the sum-total of the world's misery no small fraction is concentrated in the flood-infested plains of China.

Gentlemen, on some of you may depend whether a third of the indemnity will go to form the nucleus of an organization for the amelioration of these terrible conditions, or whether, in addition to the large sum which I assume education will in any case get, that third will also be devoted to the acquirement of scholastic attainments.

Just a few words more and I am finished. The request for a third of the indemnity is Mr. Hsiung's decision. He knew, of course, the strength of the influence of the educationalist, and to make the grant a possibility he asked for a third only.

But now, freeing myself from the restriction of speaking to you on Mr. Hussey-Freke's behalf as the representative of Mr. Hsiung, I venture to add my own personal view, and it is this:- The best benefit to China — incomparably the best — which could be secured by means of the relinquished indemnity, would be to devote the whole of the £11,000,000 to an endowment under suitable guarantees of an organization to undertake flood preventive work in China generally.

If only this matter could be examined and judged solely on its merits; if only what Dr. Scott represents and what I have just represented could be weighed in a balance which indicated true values; if only — and this is the most important ` if ' — if only the heavy finger of vested philanthropic interests could be kept off the weighing pans; I should have no apprehension as to what the results would be.

It may be — I cannot tell — that this is too much a counsel of perfection to render it a practicability, but most earnestly I beg of you to do what you can to make it such.