Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/387

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313
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA

clean and sanitary and safe in spite of ourselves are simply non-existent. No one inspects the Chinese garbage pail except the pig, or sniffs about for defective drains, or insists upon a man's keeping the roadway in front of his house in order, or compels him to have his children vaccinated. The tyranny of the majority may exist in China, but it is not exercised through the Government. The Chinese as he is today has been fashioned and shaped by long-inherited custom, and the dead hand rests heavily upon him, but he is not a government product, nor is he likely to be just yet.

And the Chinese is democratic in very much the same way that the American is. If there has been an aristocracy at all, it has been essentially one of race, the conqueror and the conquered, and hereditary distinctions have played a very small part in the past outside Peking and the Manchu circle. An official career is, in theory, and in good measure in practice, open to the man who is fit, no matter what his antecedents; and the poor boy has quite as good a chance to make himself fit for all save the highest posts as in America. Nor is there always much to choose between the American and Chinese standard of fitness. To regard success as commander in a small war as qualifying a man for the civil headship of a great industrial state does not seem much more reasonable than to make skill in writing a literary essay the test