Manchuria’s War Lord

An intimate sketch of the youthful despot who has made his country the goal of one of the greatest migrations the world has ever seen

JOHN NELSON July 15 1930

Manchuria’s War Lord

An intimate sketch of the youthful despot who has made his country the goal of one of the greatest migrations the world has ever seen

JOHN NELSON July 15 1930

Manchuria’s War Lord

An intimate sketch of the youthful despot who has made his country the goal of one of the greatest migrations the world has ever seen

JOHN NELSON

A LITTLE steamer warped slowly into the wharf at Dairen-that seaward thrust of Manchurian headland which

the Japanese wrenched from the Bear when Port Arthur fell.

Her decks were black with Chinese peasants, 1,700 of them. Fifteen minutes after the gang plank had been thrown out, they were all ashore. “I would rather carry coolies than cocoanuts,” explained the smart young Japanese skipper. “It takes a long while to load and to discharge dead freight, but these fellows—see—they come on and go off on the hoof.”

So the shipping company handles them on a tonnage basis—thirteen coolies to the ton—and carries them for twenty-eight hours across rather rough water in the Yellow Sea, from Taku to Dairen, for $1,50 a head, or $20 per ton, The ship provides drinking water and standing, or squatting, room only.

that from Toronto to Chicago And this trek goes on in increasing volume year by year.

For anything else the coolie must depend on his own resources.

Spared all service costs—dining room, cabin, lavatories—the shipping company makes money on the basis mentioned. The voyage over, the Japanese sailors flush the decks with the wharf hose. They wear gas masks. Cleansed, the boat returns for more.

So, week by week, proceeds the great Manchurian trek—the largest emigration in the world today. It is, doubtless, the greatest the world has ever seen, for last year, between one and two millions of people poured into this northern empire. To reach shipboard many of them walk the entire distance, currying all their worldly goods, and often their children, on their backs. After a twenty-eight hour sea voyage under the conditions just mentioned, they push northward again. Some, with no money, walk the rest of the way to Harbin. To comprehend such a migration one must picture the whole population of the Maritime Provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island— emigrating en mame during a single year, trudging from Toronto to Detroit, then enduring a day and a half of almost intolerable conditions on shipboard, and resuming their weary pilgrimage for another distance equal to

A Pathetic Pilgrimage

CHINA is a land of illiterate people, lacking a press and telegraphic and telephonic facilities,

sparingly served by railways, almost devoid of roads, and therefore barren of those advantages which in other lands make each part of the country almost instantly aware of what is happening in the rest. But, by a strange invisible “telegraph” the news has spread to the war-torn, war-worn, war-weary peasants of the other provinces that in Manchuria there is comparative peace. As a result millions of them are migrating.

For these immigrants there is no color test. There is no educational test. There is no money test. But stretching far northward from Mukden to, and beyond, Harbin, lie millions of virgin acres, much of it formerly withheld from settlement, where the incoming farmer can obtain land, seed, and the loan of cattle to plant his first crop.

Kaoliang, a kind of sorghum, and the soya bean provide food for man and beast and fertilizer for the soil, for they furnish soup, flour, meal, cake—-indeed everything needed for human and

animal sustenance. A peasant can live off one or two acres.

It is a pathetic pilgrimage. Footbound women hobble their painful way, dragging their children with them. Families are often separated, some managing to find enough to pay the fare of the man to precede the others who follow on foot. Babies are born, and the aged and the ill die on the trail. Halffamished mothers nourish equally famished

infants from bodies so badly nourished that they stagger under their own burden. Yet the tide rolls on—inarticulate, uncomplaining, but almost terrible in its irresistibility. This capacity for patient endurance helps to explain why of all those empires of antiquity, of which she was one, including Assyria, Egypt, and Babylonia, China alone has not only survived but has persisted with an increase, and not a loss, of territory. And she has done it, not by invasion and conquest but by migration and penetration. It helps to explain, and perhaps to justify, much that may seem harsh in the Oriental immigration restrictions of this continent.

This migration is as elemental and resistless as the marching of an African ant column. But its special significance lies in the fact that, contrary to all western conceptions, these millions of people are fleeing for freedom and peace from a war-harassed, official-plundered democracy to the security of a despot-ruled land.

A Youthful Despot

T WANTED to see this despot and to discover the secret of his power and his efficiency; to learn how he could keep his realm free from internal war, when the rest of China was rent with strife; to fathom, if I might, this great anomaly of the oppressed finding under tyranny that sanctuary which had been denied them in a so-called republic. And I found a slight, modest young man, only twenty-eight years of age, whose shy and self-deprecatory manner failed to suggest a powerful and ruthless war lord, the most interesting figure in all China, and potentially one of the greatest in the world today.

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Manchuria’s W a r Lord

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Mukden is the capital of this empire of Manchuria, whose three provinces of Heilungkiang, Kirin, and Fengtien Jeol, comprise an area twice that of Germany. And on the outskirts of Mukden I found Chang Hsiao Liang, or the Young Marshal as he is generally called, in the North Palace, his favorite seat. It is a large park, enclosed by a high, electrically charged fence. The house itself is modest and built to disturb as little as possible the tree life of the place. “Leave everything natural” was Chang’s order to his landscape gardener.

The court was full of motor cars and soldiers, for a bodyguard of from forty to fifty are charged with protecting the Marshal wherever he goes. Therefore, when Chang plays tennis or golf—which he does almost daily— he is always assured of a gallery of half a hundred.

Brisk attendants quickly dispose of coats and hats and usher the visitor into a cosy sitting room which might be that of a prosperous Toronto business man with literary tastes. A few large easy chairs, a centre table with half a dozen books, a shaded library lamp, a few knickknacks—that was all, save one thing, and it dominati« the room. There on the mantel is the bust, in bronze, of the ruthless old bandit king, the Marshal’s father, Chang Tso-Lin himself, as though casting a watchful and none too indulgent eye on surrounding evidences of modern comfort. He disapproved of the North Palace, as he did of co-education. It helps to an appreciation of the personality of the son that in both matters his wishes prevailed even during the lifetime of his grim and headstrong father.

Presently, without any announcement, there slipped into the room from a side entrance a slight, youthful figure who advanced with a most engaging smile and extended hand. One had, somehow, expected a swaggering swashbuckler in uniform instead of this modest youngster in his blue mandarin gown.

His policies and purposes, disclosed in the conversation in which he at once engaged, were as arresting as his appearance. When asked regarding the future of his country, in crisp, rapid phrases which indicated that they were the outcome of mature consideration, he outlined plans which revealed his military activities only as a means to a deeply desired end.

"I am too young and too modest,” he said, “to outline a policy for China.” But, regarding Manchuria, he knew and accepted his responsibility. “It is first,” he declared with emphasis, “to provide protection for my people, and then to ensure their prosperity.”

He was clear-eyed as to methods. “What Manchuria needs yes, what

after that, what I am concerned in, is the education of my people.

“The urgent and fundamental need for China at the present time is education. This is why I am contributing funds for both primary and higher education.

“I always take the friendly and amicable attitude toward the great powers in international relations. But if the integrity and order of my country should be endangered or disturbed, I will take the supreme duty and responsibility to safeguard and protect its people.”

Asked if he had any specific message for the people of Canada, the young Marshal promptly replied: “Yes. Please tell the people of Canada that I am very anxious for closer relations with them. Our climates are similar. We have countries of equal fertility and we are similar in other respects. I want to see a larger trade built up between the two countries.”

The Road to Power

CHANG is one of the most interesting, but least known and least appreciated figures in the Far East. He was not born to the purple. His father was one of two predatory chiefs who first terrorized and then ruled the great North. The bandit father became the war lord and governor of Manchuria and later exercised sway as generalissimo from his base at Peking far to the south as well as to the north of the old capital. The Japanese, because of their operation of the South Manchurian railway, their lease of the Dairen peninsula and their economic dependence upon Manchuria, have a special concern in the peace and prosperity of that region. They found in Chang Tso-Lin a strong ruler, and backed him and consolidated his power. The alliance weakened when, with the advance of the southern forces, old Chang Tso-Lin made peace with the Nationalists. There is reason to believe that this displeased the Japanese authorities, for the Tanaka Government, then in power at Tokyo, believed in a foreign policy of “Thorough.” A bomb, dropped on the old Marshal’s train as it passed under a bridge, ended his career and started a controversy regarding the identity of his assassins which rages to this day. The Tanaka Government appointed a commission to ascertain the facts, but it never published the commission’s report, although it discharged some of the Japanese officers under suspicion. The domestic criticism which followed was largely responsible for the fall of the Ministry in question.

For a year or two before his death, the old Marshal leaned much on his son. The boy had learned the rudiments of warfare at the military academy of Mukden, graduating at the age of sixteen. But he learned much more in the field

under his grim, red-handed old sire. At eighteen he was a colonel and in command of his father’s bodyguard. At twenty he was a brigadier general. Four years later he commanded an army corps. When his father was killed he seized the despot’s throne. Two famous generals of his father’s staff, Yang Yu Tin, in charge of his arsenal, and Chang Yui Luai, civil governor of one of the Manchurian provinces, possibly remembering the boy principally as a tireless dancer in the gay cabarets of Tientsin, made the mistake of challenging the succession. Power in the Far East imposes one penalty. You must kill or be killed. The young Marshal decided he would like to live, so the two generals died—some say at the hands of the new potentate himself.

Ask in Japan or in southern China about the young Marshal and you will get the same answer—a weakling, a neurotic, a drug addict, a harem keeper, the temporary inheritor of a great name and a great responsibility. But China is a good place to doubt much that you hear and even some of what you see. Get aboard the filthy train which wends its malodorous way from Peking to Mukden, or go from Japan across the Straits where Togo demolished the Russian fleet, to Korea, and come by the Japanese-administered railway through Seoul to Mukden. This is the young Marshal’s seat of government. Here is no ancient and dying capital like Peiping; no crude and ugly rival of it like Nanking. Here is a great cosmopolitan city throbbing with vitality in the midst of a prairie land, with all the marks and instinct with the spirit of the frontier. Streets crowded with Russian, Mongol, Manchu, Japanese, Chinese, foreigners; traffic congested with motor cars and rickshaws, old wooden-wheeled carts drawn by shaggy Manchurian ponies, crazy looking droskies, bullock carts, camel and donkey, in delightful and novel confusion. But all is not confusion. Smart Chinese policemen, white-gloved, direct the traffic which surges in a semicircle through the old Drum Tower. The congestion of the principal street is being relieved by a ruthless widening which cuts the fronts off buildings and properties without any recompense to the owners.

A night’s run farther north lies Harbin — the hot spot of the world’s cities today, and the one place in all the world where the white man has come under the municipal rule of the yellow. This city of hundreds of thousands was once marked by a solitary Chinese hut. Here, more lawlessness, a mad night life, the degradation of 80,000 white Russians of the intelligentsia by sheer want to the most menial labor in the case of the men, and to a worse fate for cultured and refined women of the old Czarist regime. Some

of these commit suicide. More would do so if the Red invading army on the northern frontier ever penetrated to Harbin, for those who remain would all be put to the sword.

A Supporter of Education

"V\ THAT sort of a man is it who holds * * sway over all this realm? One starts asking it at the Great Wall where it comes down to the sea. There he will see, just inside the wall which defines his southern boundary, an encampment of the young Marshal’s troops—well equipped, well mounted, smartly officered— and learn that he has 200,000 of such men, with fifty airplanes and his own arsenal a mile long. One again asks it when he notes the lure that Manchuria holds for the people of the other Chinese provinces. One asks with even greater insistence when he sees a great modern university at Mukden, only five years old, the special pride of the war lord;well policed streets, and all the evidences of firm and enlightened rule. “He is a bigger man than his father,” declared Dr. Liu, president of the Northeastern University. That is why I asked Marshal Chang to tell Canada what his policies and his ambitions were and what lay ahead for China.

The young Marshal has two major concerns. He wants his people educated but he wants them to abide in peace. So he is spending millions on military prowess and on education. One brother is attending the military school in Japan, the other goes to Oxford to study political economy. For education in general he has set aside ten million dollars. A large part of this goes to the Northeastern University as an endowment fund for salaries and retiring allowances for the faculty, and allied interests. A big portion of it is spent on primary education. A considerable sum is for the education of illiterate adults. He himself has founded six primary schools—five for boys and one for girls. Contrary to the will of his father, in these schools as well as in the Northeastern University he is introducing co-education. President Liu showed me over the plant of this university. It is a great modern structure with spacious accommodation, built on an eminence overlooking the city. Its equipment is up to the minute. It has 2,000 students in residence, 100 of whom are girls, all but one of whom are training for teachers. This one is taking geology and mining. Most of them are studying political economy. All speak English or are learning it, and their technical textbooks are, generally speaking, in that language. Tuition is free, with a charge of about twenty dollars (Mexican) monthly for board. We walked in the moonlight to

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where, by the munificence of the young Marshal, a great steel and concrete stadium has been erected, which seats 15,000 people. It is used as a gallery for the baseball and football games of the university. Underneath, it is enclosed for winter sports, for Manchuria’s wdnter weather is much like that of Manitoba. Scores of blue-robed students were pacing to and fro under the stars, and the big structure of the textile building bulked large against the sky.

A True Native Son

"VY^HENCE did this young tyrant get r V his vision? He is a real native son. He w'as born in Mukden. He has not been abroad. At fifteen he married a Mukden girl, Miss Yu Feng-tse, three years his I senior. They have several children. At sixteen he was commanding a regiment in the battle-line. His education has been but rudimentary, being limited to the military academy of the city of Mukden w'here he w'as born; to the tutors whose instruction he still takes; to the professors at the university. These men and his foreign-trained secretaries are his associates. His Northwest board of counsellors are of an older and more reactionary school w’hom he has to persuade rather than convince.

But Mukden itself is not devoid of inspiration. In the heart of the city are two palaces—the erstwhile homes of a couple of the greatest of Manchurian emperors. One of them was a distinguished scholar, the other a famous administrator. Their names do not matter. During his lifetime, the scholar collected thousands of rare books and greatly stimulated learning and research. His six thousand volume library, a complete encyclopedia of the art, literature, history and philosophy of his realm, stands today as one of the world’s largest repositories of Chinese and Manchurian learning. This Emperor was a fine penman, as well as a great scholar, and in the last years of his life he left a testament expressing his ambition to make Mukden a city of learning, and the wish that this library might become the centre of scholarly activities. The beautiful products of his pen and brush have been carved into a shaft of stone at the entrance to his palace. With a fine sense of the fitness of things the young Marshal has turned over this palace to the Educational Association of Manchuria, an organization of over one thousand teachers, and here they conduct the affairs of the Association. The outdoor theatre, the stage of which faces the King’s throne room, has been converted into an auditorium for lectures for the teachers mentioned. Here, doubtless, the young Marshal gained much of his enthusiasm for education.

But there is another palace, the home of another type of Manchurian ruler—a strong-handed administrator who looked well to his frontiers and who gave his people peace. Over his throne room there is a lengthy inscription which the Emperor must needs see as he ascended the steps of his throne. It was put there by his own direction. It w'as phrased in his own words. I asked the guide to tell me what it said. Roughly interpreted, it reminded the ruler that his realm had come to him through the wisdom and courage of his predecessors; that it was a trust to be administered by him for his people; and that he could discharge that trust only by zeal, energy, industry and devotion to the needs of his subjects.

Both of these old rulers were despots. They knew nothing of so-called popular rights, but they had a clear conception of the principle of noblesse oblige. I thought, as I came aw-ay from these two old palaces, that I had found at least two principal inspirations for the vision of the young war lord. The Marshal does not have to go abroad for either precept or example in the duties of his office, or

for enthusiasm for the defense and education of his people.

But he has laid other sources under tribute. In the physical classes of Mukden’s Young Men’s Christian Association he learned something of the care of the body. So when, through the thoughtlessness of a physician who gave him opiates to quiet the pangs of asthma, he fell under the drug habit, he jailed the doctor and took up as an antidote subcutaneous injections and strenuous hours at golf and tennis. His friends say he has triumphed and his whole appearance bears out that contention. He is an omnivorous reader of history. He is a great admirer and student of Western civilization. In Napoleon he finds his martial inspiration. It was a little disquieting to democratic ears to learn that he profoundly admires Mussolini, until one w'as told that it was the superb courage of the man rather than his political practices which commanded his admiration.

He keeps vigilant eyes on his domain. Battle he will not shirk, hut he sees to it that the battleground lies outside his own territory and that his goods and his people abide in peace. And the result is seen in the Great Migration referred to in the opening paragraph.

Democracy vs. Despotism

ONE cannot fail to note that this young ruler seems too engrossed in plans for the betterment of his subjects to have time to complain of grievances against the foreigner. Indeed, like his father, he has welcomed and profited by the assistance of the Japanese. The attitude of the authorities at Nanking is in marked contrast. Doctor C. T Wang, the Foreign Minister, in a lonj. conversation I had with him, harped consistently on one string: he must unify China. To unify China he must first pacify China, and he could not pacify China until a lot of grievances against the foreigners, such as extraterritoriality, foreign concessions and settlements and tariff autonomy, had been adjusted. But where there is so little progress in domestic reform, one wonders how far some Nationalist leaders in China are employing the old kingly trick of inflaming and leading their people against the foreigner when their subjects become too restless at home.

The Federal Government of the Chinese Republic, headed by Marshal Chang Kai Shek, is not chosen by people or parliament. It is selected by a committee of the party—the Kuomintang. It is still in the first of the three stages of evolution forecast by Doctor Sun Yat Sen; namely, militarism, tutelage, constitutional government. Its severest critics are the most ardent and impatient disciples of the great reformer, led by his widow Madam Sun, its scholar-philosopher Dr. Hu Shik, and its peasant-soldier the Christian general, Marshal Feng. Its administration has sought to bind governors of outlying provinces to it by liberal subventions in cash. Two of its ministers told me that, prior to his rebellion a few months ago, they were paying Marshal Feng $1,600,000 monthly to maintain his army. They subdue rebellion not by military campaigns, but by payments in cash. Their territories are groaning under the horrors of international war and the exactions accompanying it. Hence the great exodus to a land beyond the Great Wall.

On the other hand, the government of Manchuria, in the control of Marshal Chang Hsiao Liang, is an admitted despotism. But the young Marshal has a Council whom he consults, and foreign trained advisers with whom he confers. Nominally a governor under the Nanking government, he negotiated and made his owm peace with Russia, after Nanking had failed either to send him aid or conduct a parley with Moscow. The Nanking ministers admitted to me that they could

! send no troops to Manchuria as long as Feng in the west and the leader of the Ironsides in the south remained unsubdued. It seems fairly obvious that China is still powerless to express herself as a nation or to make of democracy a real political experience.

Meanwhile western powers, led by the United States and Great Britain, arc ; loaning advisers and counsellors to the pseudo-republic. No such interest is manifest in the autocracy of the young Marshal because western yardsticks are marked only for popular forms of government and western training seems incapable of conceiving any other kind. But, comparing the results and the men, the visitor is led to speculate whether Chinese digestion is yet equal to the strong meat of democracy, and whether or not the path of most rapid progress may not be through forms of government more suited to Chinese culture, traditions and history. Certainly in all the vexed land of China no portion is more peaceful than Manchuria. And of all the figures that are working for order and progress in China, most of them mumbling the shibboleths of democracy and liberty, none is making a more uncomplaining, practical, modest or effective attempt than this engaging young son of a bandit chief.

Chang Kai Shek or Chang Hsiao Liang —Nanking or Mukden—which?