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Up To Date Business By Various Characters: 12983

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


China, to the student of commerce, is the most interesting country on the globe. The reason for this is that its area is so large, its population so vast, and its chances for development so magnificent. The total area of the empire, according to late estimates, is 4,218,401 square miles. Other estimates make it 4,468,470 square miles. The greatness of this area may be understood from a few comparisons. It is about one twelfth of the total land surface of the globe. It is two and one fourth times the size of European Russia. It is almost one and one half times the total area of the United States, exclusive of Alaska. But all of this territory is not of equal commercial interest. The Chinese Empire consists of six parts: China Proper, Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, Jungaria, and Eastern Turkestan. Because of recent treaties, which give to Russia the right to build and "control" railways in Manchuria-ostensibly for the purpose of securing for the great Russian Trans-Siberian Railway a shorter route to Vladivostok, its Pacific terminus-Manchuria becomes practically a Russian possession. Turkestan, Jungaria, Tibet, and Mongolia are thinly inhabited countries, scarcely semi-civilised. But the part which remains when these "dependencies" are left out of consideration-China Proper-is at once one of the largest, most thickly populated, and most fertile countries on the face of the globe, and one also of the most richly endowed in mineral products. Its area is 1,336,841 square miles. Its population is 386,000,000. Its population per square mile is not far short of 300. That is to say, its area is more than eleven times that of Great Britain and Ireland, and almost one half that of the United States, exclusive of Alaska; its population is ten times that of Great Britain and Ireland, and more than six times that of the United States; while its population per square mile is greater than that of any European or American country except Great Britain (which, however, it nearly equals), Holland, and Belgium. In fact, more than one fourth of the total population of the globe is concentrated within the boundaries of China Proper.


The great commercial nations of the world are now all trying to get shares of the trade of this vast and populous country. For not only is China (Proper) large and populous, but it is also wealthy, for its inhabitants are both industrious and frugal, and, besides, as compared with the people of European countries they have been greatly spared the disastrous commerce-destroying effects of war, both foreign and internecine. Centuries ago the Chinese had made great progress toward civilisation. Their skill in the manufacturing arts, and in agriculture and horticulture, was for ages superior to that of Western nations. But, unfortunately for their advancement, they are conservative, self-conceited, and averse to improvement, especially if they have to learn improvement of others. As yet they have almost wholly ignored the ideas and methods of modern Western civilisation. They have scarcely any railways, but few steamships, almost no steam-power manufactories, and no telephones. The only modern improvement which they have made much use of is the telegraph. Some years ago (in 1876) a European company secured the privilege of building a short railway from Shanghai, but it was scarcely built before the government got fearful of its influence and bought it up and stopped its running. But the Chinese people are not averse to foreign trade; on the contrary, they are rather fond of it. If only the thing could happen in China that happened in Japan-that is to say, if only the government could fall into the hands of rulers who were open-minded to improvement and inclined to be progressive-the rush that China would make toward civilisation and the adoption of modern trade methods and modern processes of manufacture would be startling.


At present the foreign trade of China is largely in the hands of the English. In the year 1896 the foreign export trade of China amounted to $167,000,000. Of this amount $132,500,000 was with Great Britain and her dependencies; $10,000,000 with the United States; something over $8,000,000 with the continent of Europe exclusive of Russia, and less than $2,000,000 with Russia. In the same year the foreign import trade of China was $102,500,000, of which $56,000,000 was with Great Britain and her dependencies; a little over $9,000,000 with the United States; $15,000,000 with the continent of Europe exclusive of Russia, and $12,500,000 with Russia. (The rest of her trade was principally with Japan.) The policy of the government of China has always been to prevent or restrict foreign trade; and even to-day foreign trade can be carried on in only twenty-six Chinese ports-the so-called "treaty ports." The policy of Great Britain has been to secure by treaty as large a privilege of trading with China as possible; then to throw open the privilege to the world, but to follow it up with such commercial activity on her own part as would secure to her the lion's share of the resulting trade. Of the twenty-six ports now by treaty open to the world for trade, twenty-three have been secured by Great Britain and three by Japan.


China's principal exports are tea and silk, tea constituting about one third and silk (principally raw silk) fully one half of her total export trade. Other principal exports are sugar, straw braid (one twentieth of her total exportation), hides, paper, chinaware, and pottery. Her principal imports are opium and cotton goods, opium constituting a fifth, and cotton goods considerably more than a half, of her total import trade. Other principal imports are woollen goods, metal goods and machinery, coal, and kerosene oil. A considerable importation is also made of raw cotton. But if China only had the blessing of an enlightened and progressive government this disposition of exports and imports would not long continue. China's resources of coal are among the finest and certainly among the largest in the whole world. Her coal-fields, indeed, are estimated to be twenty times as great as those of all Europe combined. Much of this coal, too, is of the purest quality, and much of it very accessible to the miner. And near her coal-fields are vast deposits of some of the richest iron o

res in the world. Again, a great portion of the soil of China is extremely fertile. There are indeed two regions, one of "red soil" and another, much vaster, of "yellow soil," that are among the most fertile in the world. It is because of the extent and fertility of the yellow soil of China that "yellow" is the imperial colour, and the emperor called the "yellow lord." The climate, too, of China permits almost the whole range of useful vegetable products to be raised. The growth of cotton is already very great, because for seven centuries cotton has been the staple cloth for the clothing of the people. And already it is being manufactured by modern machinery. But both the growth of cotton and its manufacture by modern methods would be enormously increased if only facilities for internal transportation existed, and freedom from unjust taxation could be secured. If, in short, China only had railways and a good and enlightened system of government her progress and prosperity would soon make the Western world envious. But her government is not only stupidly unprogressive, it is also disastrously wasteful. About seventy per cent. of the whole revenue of the country is lost to the public use through the malfeasance of officials. And only about 85 miles of railway have as yet been opened, although it must be said that 200 or 250 miles more are under construction.


There are, however, even now several ways in which foreign trade with China may be increased. Two of these are the supplying her people with woollen goods, and the supplying them with wheat and flour. The winters of a great part of China are so cool that warm garments are necessary. At present these are made principally of padded cotton. Owing to the density of the population pasturage is scarce, and sheep are almost unknown. For an indefinite time, therefore, there will be a demand for woollen goods in China, a demand that will constantly increase as the superior convenience of woollen garments over garments of padded cotton becomes more and more known to the people. And though rice is now the staple food of the people even of all classes, the wealthy classes are fond of wheat bread and obtain it when possible. But the agriculture of the country does not permit of the profitable growth of wheat and flour, and wheat if used must be imported.


The cities of China are large and numerous. Peking (1,500,000?), the capital, is not open to foreign trade. In fact, it has no trade of any sort, and derives its whole importance from being the seat of government. But Tientsin (750,000), the port of Peking, and an important "treaty port," has a large trade, both foreign and local. Tientsin and Peking are connected by rail, and since the Russian government has obtained the right of connecting Peking with the Trans-Siberian Railway, it is more than likely that in time Tientsin will become a terminus of that railway. Of "treaty ports" other than Tientsin the principal are Shanghai, Hankow, Foochow, Hangchow, Amoy, and Canton. Shanghai (405,000) exceeds all other ports of China put together in the amount of its foreign trade. Its foreign trade is, indeed, almost three fifths of that of the whole empire. And of the total number of foreigners residing in China (in 1896 said to be 10,855, of whom 4362 were British subjects and 1439 Americans) about one half reside in Shanghai. Shanghai is, indeed, the New York of China, and if railways were only built from it (as has been proposed) to the capital, Peking, and up the Yang-tse-kiang to Hankow, and by way of the coast cities to Canton, China would begin a new era in her career. Hankow (800,000), on the Yang-tse-kiang, about 700 miles from its mouth, is the chief emporium of the tea-producing area of China. Ocean-going steamships ascend the river to Hankow for their cargoes. Foochow (650,900) also has a great tea export trade. Hangchow (700,000), one of the most beautiful cities in China, is also the chief city for the manufacture of silks, and of gold and silver ware, lacquered ware, and fans. Amoy (100,000) has the best harbour in China and an immense import trade, ranking in that respect next after Shanghai. Canton (2,000,000?) is the largest city in the Chinese Empire. A considerable portion of its inhabitants live in boats. Of these "house-boats" there are said to be 40,000. The foreign trade of Canton is next to that of Shanghai. Once it was superior, now it is much inferior. Its manufactures, however, are still important and include silk, cotton, glass, porcelain, paper, sugar, lacquered ware, and ivory goods and metal goods. Nanking (150,000), once the capital of China and once the largest city in the world, is now comparatively a small city. Although a treaty port, its commerce is not important. It was once famous for its beautiful tower of porcelain, 200 feet high, but that is now destroyed. There are many other large cities in China.

China and its chief trade centres.


Hongkong (245,000) is a small island belonging to Great Britain situated in the mouth of the Canton River, seventy-five miles from the city of Canton. Its population is made up principally of Chinese, who have been attracted there by its trade privileges. The British population is only 13,000, even including the garrison of 2800. Almost the whole population reside in the capital, Victoria, for the island itself is a barren rock. Forty-four per cent. of the total foreign trade of China passes through Hongkong. Its harbour is one of the finest in the world. It has magnificent docks. Its port is entirely free, and there is even no custom-house. It is calculated that the foreign trade transacted by its merchants amounts to $100,000,000 a year, exclusive of what passes through its port without breaking bulk. The whole of the vast export trade of China in silk and tea is largely handled by Hongkong firms. Other commodities of which Hongkong is the chief trade centre for China are opium, flour, salt, earthenware, oil, cotton, and cotton goods and woollen goods, which it imports from other countries and exports to China; and sugar, rice, amber, sandal-wood, ivory, and betel, which it imports from China and exports to other countries. Its trade is not confined to Great Britain, but includes France, Germany, the United States, and all other trading nations. But of course Great Britain has the greatest share.

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