Overall Conclusions

Preliminary Report on the Trip Undertaken by Imperial Order Across Chinese Turkestan and the Northern Provinces of China to Peking in 1906–07 and 1908 by Col. Baron Mannerheim

Pages 170-171

As can be seen from the above, the reforms have not only been planned but they are being implemented everywhere; sometimes they are carried out slowly but in almost all localities. Their degree of implementation is not consistent and firm everywhere. One administrator gives preference to reorganization of the armed forces, another one takes care of development of mining riches of a province ignoring completely other reforms, a third one specializes in pursuing local policies on his own. All that is a natural consequence of the great independence enjoyed by Chinese authorities of provinces while executing various instructions.

Now when most provincial administrators are still indifferent to the reform work, their uncontrolled independence is harmful for the course of reorganization. Their activities are often just paper work, their reports are not always truthful, the reforms and novelties begun by one administrator are neglected by his successor, etc. But each day enhances a group of progressively minded actors. The time is not far off when representatives of progress will occupy most of the important posts in provinces and then the original structure of the Chinese administration will promote activities giving an administrator the opportunity to show his own initiative fearlessly, proceeding from local circumstances and guided by his own views.

Even now one can safely say that the reforms have put down roots so deeply that the roots cannot be taken out any longer. The China of today is not an ardent dream which cannot be realized but a fact manifesting itself clearly and which cannot be ignored.

Considering its role in the world one should not but pay attention to those serious obstacles which have already manifested themselves and impede and can even compromise completely the movement of China on its road to progress. Leaving aside thousands of years of traditions of rigidity and routine as well as possible internal disturbances which are considered as an inevitable forthcoming event by a majority of experts of China, there are two major obstacles at present to the reform work, viz. a lack of human resources and shortage of finance. A school reform planned as an extensive program and being implemented quite actively now should fix the first gap. The main prerequisite here is that they should not be satisfied with the half results but continue sending hundreds of students abroad for study annually who in addition to knowledge gained would also bring deep-rooted western principles of incorruptibility and awareness of officials to stick to their responsibilities. A second obstacle is that the central government does not have sufficient funds which are the vital nerves of any reform as well as any other state activity and without which no reform can be developed in practice. Their removal is equivalent to a death sentence for the former administrative system and hence it is difficult to implement.

China’s riches are so great that as long as the financial management of the country doesn’t disintegrate and get used for enrichment of innumerable greedy administrative officials, rather than meeting the needs of the Empire centralized in Peking, despite the current disorder of the country, poverty and ignorance of population, the influx of money to the central government treasury would undoubtedly be enough to breathe a new accelerated tempo into implementation of the reforms. The vital need of financial reform is clearly recognized in Peking where attempts, sometimes successful, are being undertaken more and more often to reduce traditional embezzlement by provincial authorities and direct at least a part of local income to the capital to meet needs of the Empire.

It is understandable that officials as part of the old order manifest vigorous resistance, and at the moment the central government does not want to turn the entire administration of the Empire against itself and hence does not dare to launch drastic reforms in the field of finance.

It is not only the speed of implementation of the reforms planned but their practicability in general that are at issue and are dependent on the centralized financial management. In spite of the growth of a progressive movement in China and its eagerness to be part of European culture, in spite of the awakening of the national consciousness, the reforms planned and implemented across the huge space of the Empire could give the Empire new life and turn it to a powerful state only if financial reform is given first priority. Will Chinese reformers inspired by true patriotism and supported by the sympathy of people be able to break the resistance of grasping mandarins clinging to the current system of financial management which enriches them and which has led China to the verge of collapse, or will adherents to the old regime celebrate their victory?

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CITATION: Mannerheim, Col. C.G.E. (transl. Eric Walberg and Anatoli Koroteyev, and ed. Eric Enno Tamm) “Preliminary Report on the Trip Undertaken by Imperial Order Across Chinese Turkestan and the Northern Provinces of China to Peking in 1906–07 and 1908.” In Collection of Geographical, Topographical and Statistical Materials for Asia 81. St. Petersburg: Military Publishing House, 1909. http://horsethatleaps.com/report.