Another important reform is that relating to irrigation and conservancy. For centuries this country has been suffering from the wayward courses of its rivers. The Yellow River, which is aptly known as China's sorrow, has changed its course at least a dozen times during the past 300 years and even to-day the farmer who holds land anywhere near its course is not sure at what moment he will be thoroughly pauperised. Almost every year this river floods thousands of square miles and brings devastation to the homes of hundreds of thousands. Modern advancement has shown that a river like this could be controlled and the volume of water flowing through the river could be utilized to bring plenty and prosperity instead of ruin and devastation as at present.
The regulation of industry needs also quite as much attention as agriculture and aids to it. China has raw materials of all kinds in abundance; it has extremely cheap labour and a market that is capable of very large expansion. Under the existing conditions in other parts of the world, it is almost impossible to conceive of China as a manufacturing country competing with England, Germany or the United States. But there is certainly no reason why the ambition of the Chinese of becoming a manufacturing nation and supplying their own markets with the outputs of the factories in Shanghai, Canton or Hankow should not be fulfilled. But there are many obstacles in the path of progress in this respect. The Chinese are handicapped in the want of capital, brains, initative, training and want of sufficient help from the Government. Up till recently they had the additional disability of having to cope with the obstructive tactics of the Government which, in the mistaken idea of putting down foreign influence, was opposed to the industrial advances with the aid of foreign capital, men, or machinery. A further handicap to industry is the attitude of the foreign nations trading with this country. While Germany, France, Japan or the United States are intensely protectionist, and tax heavily all imports of foreign manufactures, they would by no means allow China to do so; and this country is to obtain the unanimous approval of all the countries having diplomatic relations with her before she could raise taxation on foreign trade even by a cent. At present the trade is all one-sided and this country is becoming the dumping ground for the surplus production of the manufactories in all parts of the world - even in commodities that do not need any skill in the process of its manufacture. So long as China is kept up as a dumping ground it is simply impossible that new industries could be successfully started or maintained.
Nor has the finance of the Government contributed any help towards instituting the needed reforms. With the perpetual antagonism between the central and provincial governments, with the want of system and control throughout officialdom, the Government treasury does not receive even a moiety of the taxes paid by the people. The system under which the Government has been worked in this country for the past three or four centuries has led to a growth of an unexampled measure of peculation - inevitable in such circumstances. Such a situation has also reacted on the capacity of the revenue. Year after year the total collectable revenue got reduced so much so that in spite of all the "squeeze" the taxpayers hardly pay even as much as they paid half a century ago, i.e., during the closing years of the Manchu regime. With everything at a standstill it was futile to expect revenue to improve; as a matter of fact the contrary situation has eventuated. And to crown all, special circumstances prevailing in China helped the growth of innumerable currencies, circulating in every province and dependency of this country - the existence of which has given rise to still further complications.