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THE RELATION OF THE RETURNED STUDENTS

TO THE CHINESE REVOLUTION

By Y. S. Tsao, Secretary of the Chinese Students' Alliance in

America

It is not without a considerable amount of misgiving that the writer ventures to trace the relation between the returned students and the recent revolution, as his residence in America might lead him into partial statements in favor of the returned students from this country or the underestimation of the rôle played by those from Europe or Japan. Moreover the topic called for specific treatment to the exclusion of generalizations, so it is the aim of this paper to study the returned students from a subjective standpoint at the outset, to be followed by concrete and typical illustrations of the part played by the returned students from the several countries.

It might be well, at the beginning, to divide the returned students into two main groups, namely those from Europe and America and those from Japan. It must be admitted that by far the largest part of the recent revolution, was accomplished by the returned students from Japan by virtue of their numerical strength and for other reasons to be accounted for later on. On the whole, all the returned students, wherever they hail from and whatever political views they hold are destined to play the part of leaders on account of their superior training and breadth of vision. It has been estimated that America has 5 per cent college men and they will eventually become the leaders of the nation for even if they do not all become men of great influence, they will always be looked up to in every community as leaders of public opinion for the same reasons. Only in the case of the Chinese students they have better opportunities of duplicating themselves in this rapid transitory period of China's history.

INFLUENCE OF WESTERN EDUCATION FOR REFORMATION

AND REVOLUTION

A recent writer has observed pithily that if you change the ideas of the Chinese their policy will change, which is no more and no less than granting our people with the credit for being rational. Of the many factors leading to the modification or reversal of ideas the influence of western education has achieved the most far-reaching results. The contrast between the social, economic, political and religious institutions of the West and those of the East is too obvious to escape the attention of even the most unobserving student. While much of the good in the old institutions should be conserved, every student cannot but desire to see the adoption of many modern ideas that have been slowly developed in the west. This is strictly true to the students who have left China for a stay of from five to eight years of study in a foreign land during the formative period of their lives. The experience of living in a different atmosphere is interesting and the impression correspondingly deep. In a word, they form a bridge across the broad expanse of seas, , on which new learning, new ideals and new institutions are constantly conveyed to China. Fully saturated with new ideas and ideals, filled with the zeal of new ambitions and aspirations and kindled by a new sense of patriotism as a result of travel, these liberated individuals return to do and dare. From this very spirit the seed of revolution is bound to germinate. In the early seventies, some one hundred and twenty students were brought over to America by Dr. Yung Wing of Yale for a course of twelve years' training but they were recalled in 1881 being accused for harbouring revolutionary ambitions. The apprehensive Manchu government was not far from the truth.

Another important factor which helped immensely to develop the revolutionary spirit was the recent political history of China, both nationally and internationally. Ever since the China Japan war, the country has been in a state of unrest. The reverses of that war caused a rude awakening and the late Emperor Kwang-Hsu with the assistance of the reform party headed by Kwang Yu Wei and Liang Chi Chao decreed such a series of ultra-radical reforms that it soon resulted in the famous coup d'état. This reaction blindly led to the painful experience of 1900 but when the Manchurian leaders of the Boxers were banished from the court, the pendulum began to sweep back and the cause of reform again developed a brighter prospect. The late Empress Dowager was convinced of the necessity of reform and she had the direction of Yuan Shih Kai who as the Viceroy of Chili carried out a very successful series of reform measures. However, the pendulum reached the limit at the deaths of the Empress Dowager and the Emperor when Yuan Shih Kai and Tuan Fang, the two most promising statesmen of the day, fell. Since then, the retrogression was rapid. The people agitated for an immediate parliament but the government resisted the demand stubbornly. With this public disappointment, with the vacillating and insincere policy of the government, with the ever present economic factor of industrial revolution and non-employment, plague, famine and financial stringency, all the symptoms of a revolution were present. Added to all these, internationally, there were the constant acts of aggression in the form of wanton grabbing of territory and provoked and unprovoked military demonstrations on our frontiers. So since 1910, the bubbling cauldron of discontent and impatience was ready to boil over at any moment. Under such conditions, the returned students as representatives of advanced thought could not but ascribe such consequences to the existing political corruptions and diplomatic blunders and wishing sincerely for a better state of affairs, not a few of them raised the cry, “On to Peking!”

When the students returned from America in the early eighties, they were despised, suspected and watched by the officers of the Manchu government. For the first few years, they were given a thorough drilling in Chinese literature so as to win them over to the conservative attitude of looking at things and when sufficiently purged of their revolutionary ideas, they were left to shift for themselves for the government had no use for such “semi-foreigners.” But beginning with the reformation after the China-Japan war, a number of reformers from the old school went to court as advisers and not a few returned students from America were given appointments by high officials. However, it was not until after the Boxer uprising that a number of them through the recommendation of Yuan Shih Kai were given responsible positions in the government. Among them were the ex-secretary of state, Liang Tung Yen, the ex-premier, Tang Shao Yi, Admiral San Chen Ping, ex-minister Wu Ting Fang, Sir Liang Cheng, Railroad Director Liang Mun Ting, Chief Engineer Jeme Tien Yu, etc.

The prospect of a successful reformation was quite evident while Yuan Shih Kai remained in power with the students giving suggestions and rendering very creditable service. Modern systems of police, of popular education, of judiciary and army were organized; railway management was systematized, foreign relations improved and a constitution recommended. Several military maneuvers were held and foreign critics were actually discussing the ever-recurrent bug-bear of “Yellow-Peril.” This state of affairs was too good for the Manchus for they could not follow the course of development intelligently, so ere long “the strong man of China” was degraded and with him a number of painstaking returned students. Once placed in responsible positions, they saw the hopeless way the insincere government had been hood-winking the whole nation and at once entertained revolutionary ideas to upset the whole government and build a new structure in its place.

THE EDUCATIONAL REVOLUTION

The abolition of the old imperial literary examinations was succeeded by the new educational system based upon the Japanese and American institutions. It emphasized a liberal scientific education. When the many forms of schools sprang up throughout the nation like mushrooms, there was a great dearth of modern teachers. For a time the scholars of the old school attempted to supply the demand but as the curriculum was so up-to-date, they found the desires of the students to be above their ability to satisfy. Indeed, many of these teachers devoured all forms of modern text-books and translated literature so that for the primary and middle grades they taught with fair success, but the more advanced students became uncontrollable which accounted for the innumerable strikes and lock-outs. This unsatisfactory state of affairs together with the recent successes of Japan in her war with Russia, induced the government to send thousands of students to Japan. At one time, the exodus reached 15,000 and Japan had to open special institutions to accommodate them.

In the meantime, the government demanded more upto-date officials and following the traditional method of testing them, competitive examinations were held for the returned students. The successful candidates were conferred the same honorary degrees according to the old nomenclature of “Hanlin” (doctor of philosophy), “Chin-shih” and “Juren.” This recognition of the returned students on the part of the government increased their influence and prestige throughout the whole educational world. While large numbers of the students in schools aspired to be educated abroad, the greater part had to be satisfied by being taught by the returned students whose direct influence upon this new student class proved to be a very potent factor for the revolution.

While the handful of returned students from Europe and J

America were busy occupying themselves with official life, teaching and engineering, a few of them translated the works of John Stuart Mill, Huxley, Spencer, Darwin, Henry George and other modern writers. "The doctrine of the survival of the fittest has been on the lips of every thinking Chinese, and its grim significance is not lost on a nation that seems to be the center of struggle in the Far East.” However, the greater part of the modern ideas came from Japan through the students there who after a few months of training could easily transcribe Japanese translations of western books into Chinese. The rapid multiplication of patriotic newspapers and magazines helped immensely to disseminate modern political ideas along with scientific knowledge

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