The Early Republic

After the collapse of the Qing Empire in 1912, the IMCS was renamed the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (CMCS) and Sir Francis Aglen (安格聯1869-1932, 3rd IG 1911-1927) became the most powerful man in the Chinese government. Although he was not a top-ranking official, the IG was usually more powerful than the Minister of Finance, or even the Prime Minister. The reason was that the deterioration of all governments’ financial conditions in the Early Republican period were unprecedentedly serious so the surplus of the CMCS’s Customs became the only financial pillar. The stewardship of China’s vault made Aglen ‘China’s Supreme Minister of Finance’. However, this did not mean that Aglen could easily manipulate China’s finance because the Customs revenues were the security for the Boxer Indemnities. He had to take precautions when arranging the Customs revenues the CMCS collected and then he could deliver the Customs surplus to the government. Sometimes, the revenues were not enough to cover the indemnity installments. In Aglen’s reign, the CMCS’s responsibilities became less comprehensive and more focused on revenue collection and on indemnity installments. But this focus made the IG and the CMCS so powerful that the Nationalist and Communist Parties considered them as national humiliation.

In 1927, the Nationalist Party occupied the southern part of China and the military deadlock between the Nationalist Party and the Northern Government would compromise the integrity of the CMCS. Hence, Aglen went to the South to convince the Nationalists not to seize the local Customs stations’ revenues in order for China to pay the indemnities. However, this irritated the North and resulted in his dismissal. Arthur Edwardes was then appointed Officiating IG by the Northern Government, but the Nationalist Government appointed Sir Frederick Maze (梅樂和1871-1959, 4th IG 1929-1941/1943) IG in 1929.

About Hsin-I (Sandy) Chien

Research Assistant at GIS Center, Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica Research Assistant for Research Project on China's Customs Services 1854-Present MA in Renaissance and 18th Century Literature, University of Liverpool BA in Foreign Languages and Literature, Tunghai University
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