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of the first-class naval base and torpedo depot of a possible enemy, there would be no strategic error in the pursuance of such a policy. But taking into consideration the geographical situation of the two places, and the steps which Russia has already taken, and is following up with all haste, in the fortification of Port Arthur and Ta-lien-wan, the dredging and improvement of the former, the ordering and rapid construction of a large number of sokols of sokols (ie., the torpedo-boat of the immediate future) specially intended for Port Arthur, and, last but not least, the general drift of her railway policy in Manchuria, taking all these things into consideration, we are unable to see how a secondary naval base, with an inadequately protected harbour at Wei-hai-wei, can prove to be aught but a dangerous trap in which British ships will be caught in case of war with Russia.
It is not a question of command of the sea-we may have a far more absolute command of the sea than we have at present, or are at all likely to have on the outbreak of war: Wei-hai-wei without a defensible harbour (defensible against torpedo attack) will be a veritable trap. A British admiral with a squadron of warships at Weihai wei, caught, without much warning, by a sudden outbreak of war with Russia, would find himself in a very tight place. If his force were equal, or even slightly inferior, to that of his enemy in Northern China, he
would no doubt go out and try to fight a decisive battle in the open sea; but it is extremely unlikely that the wily Russians would accept any such tactics, or fight in the open at all, unless they felt that they had time to concentrate their forces from Vladivostock and Port Arthur at a rendezvous well to the eastward of, and out of sight of, land from the Shantung promontory, and then fall upon the British with overwhelming force before the latter could be reinforced from the south. And in this connection it must not be forgotten that France and Russia are allies (for the present at any rate), and that France has a not inconsiderable force of modern warships in the vicinity of Saigon, which place is directly on our trade route between Singapore and Hong-kong; so that it would be impossible to denude the South China seas of a force at least sufficient to meet the French, and it would take time for reinforcements to arrive from Australia and the Eastern Pacific.
Assuming, however, that the British force in North China is sufficiently powerful to keep the Russians shut up in Port Arthur, and to prevent a junction of the ships from Vladivostock, what, then, is the situation? Still extremely awkward for the British, as the Russians could remain perfectly secure from all attacks either by ships or torpedo-boats in Port Arthur harbour, whilst the British, in their indefensible position at Wei-haiwei, must either put to sea every night, or be subject to
frequent attacks by torpedoboats, some of which must sooner or later prove successful, as the crews of the ships would soon be worn out with anxiety and constant watching-for even at sea they would not be safe. In short, the conditions of the game would be quite unendurable for the British; and they would either have to pack up their traps, embark the rison (which would not be much trouble), haul down the unionjack, and "scuttle" to the south on the first threat of war, or else stay in their exposed position at Wei-hai-wei, with the certainty of losing some, if not many, of their ships, by the repeated attacks of Russian torpedo-boats acting from a secure base.
The question may then be asked, Of what use is Weihai-wei to the British? The
answer is, that it is worse than useless (assuming war with Russia possible) unless a defensible harbour is constructed, at an estimated cost of between one and two millions sterling. The above are plain facts, and it is folly to ignore them. What, then, is the alternative? Can we withdraw? Certainly not. As well talk of withdrawing from Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, and Singapore. Honour and interest alike forbid a cowardly policy. All the world is watching our movements in the Far East; and it is not too much to say that most of the nations will shape their policy by ours. Russia perhaps is the sole exception: she means to go on; whatever happens, she cannot halt. Her destiny-as she
calls it-presses her forward; but unless we mean to recede before the advancing Muscovite wave, we must make a stand at Wei-hai-wei.
It has been more than once proposed that Great Britain should endeavour to come to a friendly agreement with Russia about China. A very excellent proposal, if feasible, as commerce pays better than war; and it is quite certain that if the former Power is firmly established at Wei-hai-wei in a secure and properly protected harbour, she will be able to come to much more advantageous-if not more friendlyterms with Russia than if she remains flitting along the shore like a sea-gull, and alighting temporarily at a "secondary naval base." A bargain is a bargain, which sounds like a truism; but before we begin bargaining, it will be just as well that we have something substantial to show on our side, something done, something besides potentialities and good intentions. If we have this "something" in our hands, we shall be able to strike an advantageous bargain for ourselves and our friends; without it, we shall have to recede, with the subsequent loss of enormous trade interests in Northern China, and to the bitter disappointment of our friends, who are looking to us for a lead, and who, if we "funk" now, will for ever after mistrust us, and will certainly leave us in the lurch when the day of trial comes, as come it must ere long.
Neither "Little Jap' nor
"Uncle Sam" intends to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us; but they will do their fair share of chestnut-pulling, and, if necessary, of bear-baiting, if we give them the lead by making a firm stand in Northern China. This can only be done by constructing a defensible harbour at Wei-hai-wei, and adequately fortifying the island. The command of the sea must also be maintained: that goes without saying, in the case of such an isolated position. Shall we do this? Or shall we let our case go by default?
The main consideration of the problem is that of time. If the breakwater is commenced at once, it is almost certain that a splendid defensible harbour can be completed (and the island can certainly be adequately fortified) before Russia can complete her strategic railways, or be ready for an advance on Peking.
there any political or international reasons for hesitation or delay? We are willing, like Mr Punch's rustic, to admit that Lord Salisbury may have some information that we have not got. We do not profess to be in the secrets of the Cabinets of Europe, and they would not be safe for a moment if we were, for we have no faith in secrecy : but the problem appears to be fairly simple. Either we mean to defend our trade interests in Northern China or we do not. If we do not, the sooner we evacuate Weihai-wei the better, as the game is only one of bluff: but if we do mean to defend those interests, it is essential that the place should
be without delay treated on the lines indicated above, and not held—as it is now-merely at the pleasure of a foreign Power whose interests in North China are not precisely the same as
Russia is our very dear friend at present: she wants peace badly (also "at present"): her strategic railways are not finished, and Port Arthur is dependent for its supplies by sea routes. But is it certain that she will always want peace? And has she not proved herself capable of tearing up treaties when they become inconvenient? Moreover, we know that she respects force. Under these circumstances, it seems to us that if we really mean to defend our trade interests in North China, and not merely play a game of bluff, it will be wise to put Wei-haiwei in such a condition that it can be held in war as well as in peace. Now is the time to act. The course is clear, and delays are dangerous.
Before closing these remarks we desire to say a few words as to the climate of Wei-hai-wei, for that must always be an important point to consider in the establishment of any naval station. Well, to begin with, we should consider it a downright insult to Wei-hai-wei to compare it to Hong-kong, where we have our principal naval, and only military, hospitals. And as to Yokohama, where we now have our auxiliary naval hospital and sanitarium, the climate, though fine on the whole, is very hot and relaxing in summer, and not to be com
pared to that of Wei-hai-wei. In short, we believe the climate of Wei-hai-wei to be the healthiest in the world, and we speak with some experience. It is never too hot in summer; there is always a cool breeze to temper the heat. The spring and autumn are magnificent. There is an adequate rainfall, but it does not go dribbling on for days together as it does in the British Isles; it comes down with a good swish, and then clears up and the sun shines brightly. And as to winter-the dreaded arctic winter of Northern China that one hears so much about, it is undoubtedly cold at Wei-haiwei for about four months in the year, but it is a bright, clear, dry, bracing cold; no fogs, no rain, and very little snow. Europeans living at Chefoo (which is about forty miles from Wei-hai-wei, and in the same latitude) say that the winter of 1898-99 was an exceptionally mild one. That may be so, but even if greater cold is sometimes experienced, all accounts seem to indicate that the general characteristics of the weather are as described above.
During the winter of 189899 there were occasional blizzards—an average perhaps of
one a fortnight. They last generally from one to three days, and sometimes bring a little snow with them: they blow from west round to north, and and they are decidedly unpleasant, the air being keen and cutting, but quite dry. Between these blizzards the weather is simply magnificent
more like the Riviera in winter than any other climate we have ever seen, but superior to the Riviera in that the air is drier and more bracing, and the sunshine, if possible, more brilliant.
The soil of the island at Wei-hai-wei (and also of the mainland) is extremely fertile. The whole southern slope of the island could be turned into a vineyard, or a fruit-garden if preferred. Vineyards have been started at Chefoo on a considerable scale, under both French and German management, and with every prospect of success. The Chefoo pears are famous all over China; the cultivation of them was started about thirty years ago by an American missionary.
To sum up then: Wei-haiwei can be turned into a paradise, a sanitarium, and a fortified harbour; but it cannot be held as a secondary naval base in time of war.
INDEX TO VOL. CLXV.
Abdul-Hamid, Sultan, friendship of,
America, war between Northern and
ANNO DOMINI, 351.
APOLOGY, A BIRTHDAY LETTER OF, 312.
AT THE BACK OF BEYOND, 669.
Bonneville, Captain, adventures of, as a
Borgu, claim of the Royal Niger Com-
BORGU, THE STRUGGLE FOR: AN UN-
Borrow, George, fondness of, for boxing,
"Boston massacre," Sir George Tre-
Boswell, James, the Life of Dr Johnson
Brackenbury, General Sir H., reminis-
Brackenbury, the family of, 376 et seq.
BUCHANAN, Under the Beard of, 264.
Byng, Admiral, the execution of, 466.
California, first discoveries of gold in,
CALIFORNIAN GOLD DISCOVERIES: RO-
'Campaign in the Philippines, the,' by
Canadian bear, shooting a, 796.