Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/466

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A brief survey of China's economic condition will be of service. In former times China was like a "balance-tank" in an aquarium, self-supporting. As Boss has recently accurately remarked, the nation is an exemplification of the law of Malthus, the balance between population and means of existence. To us of America a true mental picture of the economic status of the Chinese is almost an impossibility. A comparison may serve, and by pointing out that the present degree of comfort and convenience enjoyed by the average Chinese demands a coal production 1/175 of that in the United States, and until recently an iron and steel production only 1/1,200 that of the United States, it may be more clear that the Chinese nation as a whole is close to the margin of mere existence. The problem with the average Chinese is an elemental one; enough food to preserve life and enough clothes to keep warm and subserve modesty. China's present unenviable position is not unlikely largely due to the fact that when international trade developed and the export of tea began to meet the import of the ubiquitious blue cotton cloth that forms the Chinese national dress, the acreage formerly devoted to the cultivation of cotton was sown to the opium poppy and the national wealth vanished in curls of smoke that wafted away at once the substance and virility of the people.

Now the use of opium is almost suppressed, soon will be completely so, and the land devoted to its cultivation, will be sown to grain, sugar beets and other crops of real value. The problem is still an elemental one, however. It is idle to simply point out that by opening mines, building railways and developing manufacturing industries, the scale of living of the Chinese citizen can be raised to approximately as luxurious a plane as in the United States. The real question is—will the increase in the wage of the average citizen bring him increased comfort and convenience, or will it bring a few more mouths to feed and another approximation to the margin of existence? If the latter, the Chinese expression for the management of a household—"Kuo jih-tze" to get over the day—will remain always, as now, the index of national economy. Upon the answer to this question hangs China's future.

The further elaboration of this topic would take me into a field in which I scarcely dare venture. It is still a subject of discussion in this country whether the restriction of the size of families is compatible with good morals and good economics. Apparently the pragmatic answer is in the affirmative. The great desire of the Chinese parent for offspring to maintain the rites of ancestral worship further complicates an already complex problem and I will leave it in abeyance, in order to discuss the problem of securing national prosperity from the standpoint of the scanty facts available.

Of China's present foreign indebtedness nearly $350,000,000 represents indemnities, largely the outcome of the outbreak of 1900. The