IN October 1883 a fresh turn seemed to lend colour to Chinese hopes of a successful resistance to France. The French Admiral had to restrict his Annam blockade within narrow limits, finding his resources inadequate. Tricou, who was ill, was leaving Tientsin after fresh debates with Li that led to nothing.1The Vicomte de Semallé was left at Peking as Chargé d'Affaires, without either instructions or information.2 Li was busy making Port Arthur, the harbour which within a few years has sheltered many flags and ambitions, a protected base for his fleet of gunboats.3 "Enormous" purchases of arms were made, as much by local Viceroys as by the Central Government. Arms were being bought chiefly from Germany, as in 1880, and from the United States. Kung was at one with Li in desiring peace, but both were being swept away.
The Shen-pao (wrote Grosvenor at the end of October), a newspaper in the vernacular, of immense circulation in the Chinese Empire, contains, almost daily, some allusion to the impending hostilities between France and China. It appears to me that the present state of affairs is very grave. Should a war between the two countries be the result of the present state of feeling, the losses of British merchants engaged in the Far East will be enormous. The questions to which such a war would give rise will be of so complicated a nature as to require years for their adjustment, and they would probably be of such a nature as to embroil us in disputes with other Western Powers besides France.
France chose a wrong, ignorant man for Tricou's special mission.4____________________