1902 Encyclopedia > China > Railways and Telegraph Lines in China

(Part 63)


Railways and Telegraph Lines in China

Since the conclusion of the treaty in 1860 numerous attempts have been made to induce the Chinese Government to permit the introduction of railways and telegraphs into China, but to all such counsel the emperor’s advisers have turned a deaf ear. Not that they are ignorant of the advantages to be derived from these weapons of progress, but they consider that these advantages would be dearly bought if the price to be paid is to be that admittance of foreigners into the interior of the country, coupled with the hold on the soil which these would acquire were they allowed to construct lines of railway and telegraphs through the provinces. It is difficult, however, even for so autocratic a Government as that of China, to carry out such a curbing policy, and in one or two instances lately, events have forced an advance beyond the hard and fast line laid down by the Peking mandarins. The first step in this direction was taken during the war in Formosa, when the viceroy of the province of Fuh-keen ordered the construction of a line of telegraph from Pagoda Island to his Yamun at Fuh-chow Foo. His action was disapproved by the Government, and several attempts were made to frustrate the undertaking, but, mainly through the influence of the foreign ministers, who insisted on the fulfilment of the contract with the telegraph company, the line was finished. The introduction of railways is, however, considered to be a more serious matter, and though at several of the arsenals tramsways have for some time been employed, no mandarin has, until quite lately, been bold enough to sanction the use of a locomotive. Quite recently the idea was originated of quietly buying up a strip of land between Shanghai and Woo-sung, and of using it for the construction of a railway. The local mandarins and the Peking Government met the projected line with decided opposition ; but here again the arguments brought to bear by the resident foreign ministers were sufficiently cogent to induce it to withdraw all actively obstructive measures, and the first railway in China was opened to traffic under the negative approval of the rulers of the soil. Much importance has been attached to this introduction of railways into China, and the crowded trains which daily travel between two termini are considered to point to the probable speedy extension of railways throughout the country. But the approval given to the Shanghai railway is merely that of the people ; and its completion has at present only intensified the determination of the Government to withstand the adoption of the iron road.

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