This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
His Excellency Tsao Ju-ling, a native of Shanghai, was born in 1876. While very young, he passed the Imperial Examinations. He did not approve of the old system of education; and therefore entered the Hupeh Railway School, where he studied mathematics and French. After a time, he concluded that these studies would not be much value to him, so he went to Japan, where he studied politics and law, at the Central University, completing the course after five consecutive years. Immediately after his graduation, he returned to China, where he joined the Board of Commerce and Board of Foreign Affairs. Later he was made Vice-Minister of the Board of Foreign Affairs.
With several of his colleagues, he published “The Political Review,” which was designed to promote constitutional law in China. He served for some time in the Law Revision Office. Believing that, should the constitutional form of government fail to be put into effect, he established the Tsz Tseng-yuan (political bureau), in Peking, and the Tsz I-chuh (advisory bureau), with branch offices in the various provinces. He also established self-governing societies at various important cities. Unfortunately, the revolution, began when his work was only half finished. After the revolution, he retired from the government service and engaged in the practice of law. President Yuan Shih-kai several times requested Mr. Tsao to accept the office of Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs; and he finally consented.
At the outbreak of the European War, when Japan attempted to take over Tsingtao, Mr. Tsao proposed that China join the Allies. The suggestion was accepted by President Yuan Shih-kai who despatched a large number of soldiers to Shantung, anticipating the arrival of an enormous number of soldiers at Tsingtao. Following the example of Russia’s occupation of the Three Eastern Provinces, Japan proposed to invade Shantung herself. Mr. Tsao took up the matter with Japanese officials, and it was eventually concluded that she would only use the port for commercial purposes. The question was brought up again when Japan presented the famous Twenty-one Demands, among which were: the engagement of Japanese High Political Advisors and Japanese Instructors in the Police Administration; and the privilege of broadcasting religion in China, and working co-operatively in the Chinese Arsenals. Hoping to minimize the demands, Mr. Tsao engaged in several diplomatic conferences with Japan, which resulted in the withdrawal of three articles in their ultimatum.
When, in 1917, General Chang Hsun attempted to restore the monarchy, Mr. Tsao assisted Marshal Tuan Chi-jui in his fight to recover the Chinese Republic. He was awarded the First Class Wenhu decoration, and served as Minister of Communications in Marshal Tuan’s Cabinet. Mr. Tsao was one of those who proposed joining the Allies in the European War, which suggestion, although opposed by many political adherents, was eventually carried out. At the end of the European War, Mr. Tsao was awarded the Third Order of Merit and First Class Chiaho with Sash.
In 1918, while holding the post of Minister of Finance, Mr. Tsao negotiated a loan of Yen 100,000,000. with Japanese bankers, which was used to settle the outstanding debts of the government. In 1921, he was offered the post of High Commissioner to promote the development of industries. This he refused preferring to devote his energy to private enterprises. He is a director in many mining companies.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 39.