17 MAY 1884, Page 5


THE French Premier has won his game in China, and is entitled to all the credit which keen insight and extreme audacity deserve. He discerned from the first, what all the rest of Europe failed to perceive, that the Government of Pekin, in spite of its bold diplomacy and of its recent successes, was still afraid of open war with a European Power, and when compelled to make its choice would concede anything not directly visible to its people. He treated the menaces of the Marquis Tseng with a contempt which violated diplomatic forms ; he pushed on his forces in Tonquin as if China had no existence ; and at the last moment he offered the Chinese Government terms which left the Empress no alternatives but open war or submission. It is probable that in arriving at his conclusion, M. Jules Ferry had the benefit of assistance rarely extended to any Power in such a struggle. The Catholic Church was ardently desirous that the enterprise should succeed. That Church claims half- a-million of converts in Anam ; they have suffered indescribable horrors from the Mandarins and the mob, and they have been menaced within the last few months with total extirpation. Thousands have been put to death, hundreds have been tor- tured, and the Catholic Bishops in China have been roused to representations such as have rarely reached Europe. The Pope himself interfered, recommended to all French Clericals strict abstention from resistance to the expe- dition, and, we have little doubt, placed at M. Ferry's disposal that minute and accurate information as to the state of parties in Pekin which the Jesuit Fathers there have such exceptional means of collecting. Be that as it may, M. Ferry was sure that in the last resort the Right would support his Government and the Chinese leaders would quail, and he moved forward with a decision which, if we approved his object, it would be impossible not to respect. When told that an attack on Sontay would mean war, he stormed Sontay. When informed that Bacninh was garrisoned by Chinese Regulars who would fight to the death, he invested Bacninh, and the Chinese Regulars retreated without firing a shot. And when at last he was assured that the Peace Party had fallen in Pekin, that new statesmen had taken the helm. and that Tonquin would be defended for years without open war, he demanded an indemnity which left the Chinese no alternatives except to fight, to pay the indemnity, or, by ceding Anam, to escape all further demands. To push the Chinese so hard was most audacious. France was entirely

without desire for a great war. It is more than doubtful whether, if China had resisted, the Opportunists and Clericals together could have sustained M. Ferry,—whether the peasants, once aware that 50,000 men of the Line must be sent to the other side of the earth, would not have dismissed the Govern- ment, and insisted on a compromise. Moreover, up to the last moment there must have been serious risk of a popular movement in Pekin, and of a demand for war which could not be resisted, and which would have been fatal alike to Prince Chun and to M. Jules Ferry. Success, however, in Asia usually belongs to the audacious. The Chinese Ministry shrank at the last moment from the terrible consequences which might have followed defeat ; full powers were conceded to Li Hung Chang, the true head of the Peace Party and of the native Chinese ; and in three days a treaty was arranged granting to France all, and more than all, she had ever de- manded.

In consideration of the withdrawal of the demand for an indemnity, China cedes to France the protectorate—that is, the ultimate sovereignty—over the whole Empire of Anam, in- cluding Tonquin, with its original boundaries. The effort, several times repeated, to divide Tonquin, or to draw a dis- tinction between the hill country and the Delta, is abandoned, and the new French frontier is made conterminous with that of China. Moreover, three great provinces—those of Yunnan, Kwangsi, and Kwangtung, covering the whole of South-Western China—are thrown open to French trade exclusively. This does not mean, we imagine, that the rest of the world are shut out, fort,by the Treaty of Tientsin all foreign nations must be treated alike ; but it does mean that only French merchants will be allowed to travel in the three provinces, that China will not levy transit duties as against French goods, and that the French may levy the duties on the Songkoi, from which they hope ultimately to extract a solid revenue. That concession, in fact, follows on the concession of sovereignty, and it is sove- reignty which is conceded. The original treaty between France and Anam, which is as strong as any treaty between England and a subordinate Native State, is expressly recognised, and no future treaty will require any recognition. France hence- forward can do as she pleases, and will undoubtedly please before long to dispense with native authority altogether. She has never been able to work with one yet ; and, indeed, divided responsibility is contrary to her whole system of government. The substitution of a Governor-General for the native Emperor will not be difficult, and then Anam will be organised on the regular system of a French tropical colony, with endless officials, heavy taxes, and a certain number of successful planters, mine-agents,and managers of State Banks.

M. Jules Ferry stated publicly that this was his hope, and the new Colony is one which admits of its realisation. The territory covers 125,000 square miles, is full of forests, mines, and cultivated plains, and is inhabited by eleven millions of quiet and industrious people, who, if decently treated, will devote themselves to the effort to grow rich. They grow everything grown in the tropics, and they are for the most part peasants, who will yield to taxation, and obey any orders the Prefects may issue for their guidance. The only unruly tract is Northern Tonquin, and this is so pierced with deep rivers that resistance to the French garrison will speedily become impossible. The Chinese cannot aid the insurgents in the face of the treaty—and indeed, to do them justice, never threaten dis- tricts they have ceded—and the bravest of the Black Flags will soon be driven to take service in the Sepoy Army which, within forty-eight hours of the terms of the treaty be- coming known in Paris, the President had decreed to the extent of 6,000 men. What with the French severity of re- pression, the hopelessness of resistance, and the advantage possessed by the French in the innumerable waterways, which, to Generals accustomed to use steam, serve all the purposes of roads, even Tonquin must in a few months sink back into quiet. So certain of this is M. Ferry himself that he is already withdrawing troops, and proposes to reduce the permanent garrison as speedily as possible to less than ten thousand men.

We cannot say we are wholly content with M. Ferry's suc- cess. There is no reason to shed tears over the Anamese, who will be better governed by French Prefects than by the Mandarins ; and no excuse for feeling any commercial jealousy. The British will take possession of the trade of Haiphong, as they have done of the trade of Saigon ; and will very soon be found exporting all that is exported to Yunnan and the Kwangs. Nor need we grieve greatly over the exposure of the weakness of the Chinese Government. That Government is still too hostile to Europeans to obtain their hearty sympathy, and might, had it been successful, have ventured on measures which would speedily produce a war. But we own we do dread the effect of the success upon the policy of the French Government and its head. That Government has adopted to the full the Gambettist policy of "developing Colonial France" by seizing undefended terri- tories, and the conquest of Anam after so trifling an effort will not only make it ravenous for more, but will induce it to believe that audacity is the only condition of success. We shall be greatly surprised if M. Ferry remains contented with Anam, and if Frenchmen do not begin to dream of an empire in Indo-China which shall rival, perhaps over-shadow, the British Empire in the East. Siam, with its quiet people, would be a very tempting prize ; and Siam, as against any European Power, is undefended even by the shadow of the Chinese Empire. There is no one to defend Siam ; it cannot defend itself ; and it lies a huge rich mass side by side with the new French colony, and pierced by the great river upon which the capital to that colony is seated. Siam will, we venture to say, within the next five years attract many covetous French glances,—unless, indeed, they are directed towards territories nearer home. The French Government appear disposed to carry matters in Morocco with a very high hand. There is no resisting power in the monarchy to con- tend with a European army, and we do not know that France would dread Spanish hostility any more than she

dreaded Italian in the case of Tunis. We may be doing her rulers an injustice, but they seem to be given over for the moment to a policy of adventure ; and if they are so given, their hands as well as their appetites will be strengthened by their cheap success in Tonquin. The peasant voters are in this matter the ultimate conservative force ; and we cannot expect the peasantry to refuse possessions which, as they will be told, are obtainable without much out- lay, without great risks, and without sending their children in any numbers permanently abroad. They will think that M. Ferry succeeds, and will follow him until he attempts some enterprise from which he cannot recede.