Lawrence John Lumley Dundas Zetland.

An Eastern miscellany online

. (page 21 of 24)
Online LibraryLawrence John Lumley Dundas ZetlandAn Eastern miscellany → online text (page 21 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


knife, wielded by a citizen of the very country
whose best interests he had served so well.

Since the above words were written the inevi-
table has come to pass : Korea has been merged
in the Empire of Japan. Notwithstanding the
laborious efforts made by successive Pesidents-
General, the system of dual control proved un-
equal to the task of preserving public order and

^ Speech to the Seiya-kai, February 5, 1906.



368 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

tranquillity, and impressed with the necessity of
more drastic reform, the Governments of the two
countries agreed to conclude a treaty " providing
for complete annexation of Korea to the Empire
of Japan." 1 Thus August 29, 1910, saw the
final passing of a picturesque but impracticable
Empire.

^ See Appendix IV.



369



CHAPTER XVIII.

COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA.

(A Paper read before the Proprietors of the London Institution,
November 30, 1908.)

When I received an invitation to give a lecture
at the London Institution, it seemed to me that
I could not do better than take as my theme
certain aspects of the many-sided Chinese prob-
lem. If there is one thing which is of para-
mount importance to the manufacturing and
trading classes — and, indeed, to the people as
a whole — of the premier industrial and com-
mercial nation, it is the development of new
markets. The greater the demand for British
manufactures, the greater the prosperity not
only of the manufacturers whose capital and
skill are employed in producing them and of
the middle men who are engaged in distributing
them, but of the working classes also, whose
prime necessity is certain and constant employ-
ment. This is a mere truism. But while it is

2 A



3V0 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

easy enough to indulge in platitudes as to the
necessity of finding new markets, it is not quite
so easy to point out where they are to be found.
China provides us to-day with a market of
no little value. She took from us last year
(1907), for instance, goods to the value of
£15,261,750;^ but the potentialities of the
Chinese market are out of all proportion to its
present capacity. In other words, China's talent
still lies buried in the ground. Some day, when
she learns to appreciate the wisdom of the
diligent servant who made his five talents into
ten and proceeds to emulate his admirable ex-
ample, she will become one of the greatest trad-
ing areas in the world. Let me give point to
this by a comparison. On May 13 of the present
year (1908), President Eoosevelt, speaking at a
Conference of the Governors of the States of
the Union, indulged in some sharp criticisms of
the prodigality with which the mineral wealth
of the United States was being squandered. I
extract a single sentence only : " We began
with coalfields," he declared, "more extensive
than those of any other nation, and with iron
ores regarded as inexhaustible, and many experts
now declare that the end of both iron and coal
is in sight." Contrast with this state of afiairs
the case of China, Here natural resources of

1 Including Hong-Kong, Macao, and Wei-hai-wei.



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 37 1

almost incalculable extent are being sedulously
hoarded up for future generations. Writing
some years ago of the coal deposits in China,
the celebrated German geologist, Baron F. Von
Richthofen, declared that the southern half of
the province of Shan-si constituted " one great
coalfield of incredible wealth," and added that
the quantity of coal available for cheap extrac-
tion was so large that at the then rate of con-
sumption " the world could be supplied from
Shan-si alone for several thousand years." At
Ta Yeh on the Yang-tsze river, to give but one
other example of the enormous mineral wealth
of the empire, stands a mountain of iron ore
three miles long and four hundred feet high,
capable, according to the estimate of a European
engineer, of supplying 700 tons of iron a day
for 1000 years. Yet we find "worn-out London
horse-shoes coming out 12,000 miles by sea, and
then journeying inland within a stone's-throw
of the greatest iron ore deposits in the world,
there to be sold at high prices because a working
plan without restrictions has not yet been found
by which to drive a little way into the bowels
of mother earth." ^

When we begin to sum up the assets of China
— its 400,000,000 of frugal and industrious people,

' ' The Truce in the Far East and its Aftermath,' by Mr Putnam
Weale.



372 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

its incalculable mineral wealth scattered boun-
teously over a compact territory nearly half as
large again as the United States of America,
its variety of soil and climate, its immense rivers
and vast seaboard — we find ample justification
for forming a big estimate of the industrial and
commercial future of that country. But I am
particularly anxious to lay stress upon what
I have said as to buried talents, because, con-
trary to some authorities perhaps, I do not look
for any very great increase in China's foreign
trade under existing conditions. Conditions are
changing in China at the present time, it is true,
more especially in the matter of improved com-
munications, and upon this point I shall have
more to say later on ; but before dwelling upon
this, let me give my reasons for differing with
those who hold that the 400,000,000 consumers of
China must necessarily constitute the stupend-
ous market for British manufactures which figures
of such magnitude not unnaturally suggest.

The conclusions which I have arrived at, and
which I am about to put before you, have been
formed mainly from personal observation while
travelling through two of the largest provinces
in China, the provinces of Ssiich'uan and Ytin-
nan, having between them an area of 300,000
square miles — an area, that is to say, two and a
half times as large as that of Great Britain and



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 373

Ireland — and a population of approximately
50,000,000 in the case of the former and
12,000,000 in the case of the latter. Since my
journey through them was performed chiefly on
foot, I had ample opportunity for leisurely obser-
vation. The first conclusion which I came to was
that the requirements of the Chinese are elemen-
tary in kind. In all the large towns in Ssiich'uan
the shops taught the same lesson. Nearly every
alternate shop was a food shop, and was
engaged in a trade, therefore, in which the
foreigner has little or no concern. After the
food stores the next most numerous were those
supplying cottons, the material with which the
masses of China almost exclusively clothe them-
selves. And after these undoubtedly came shops
which retailed a wonderful miscellany of articles
— clocks, watches, lamps, soaps, crockery ; glass-
ware, china-ware, matches, and a score more.
Opium and accessories for opium smoking were,
needless to say, in evidence as well.

My conclusions, then, were tolerably simple,
and may be summed up under two main heads —
first, that of all foreign manufactured goods the
products of cotton find the largest and readiest
sale, and that for the rest the Chinese distribute
their patronage impartially among the makers of
a variety of goods usually classed as sundries ;
and second, that in the matter of cotton goods



374



AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.



Great Britain enjoys the lion's share of the
trade, while sundries are supplied chiefly by
Germany, Austria, and to an increasing extent
by Japan.

These deductions from my personal observation
are faithfully borne out by trade statistics. In
the reports of the Chinese Imperial Maritime
Customs, her import trade is divided into six
classes, as follows : —



1. Sundries.

2. Cotton goods.

3. Opium.



4. Metals.

5. "Woollen goods.

6. Miscellaneous piece goods.



In 1906, the year during which I was carrying
on my investigations in China, her total import
trade was valued at £67,150,044, and this sum
was divided between the six classes of goods as
follows : —



1. Sundries . . . . .


. X32,628,896


2. Cotton goods . . . .


. 25,163,458


3. Opium


5,313,635


4. Metals


2,845,622


5. Woollen goods


721,362


6. Miscellaneous piece goods


504,071



You will notice that here sundries come first
on the list, whereas I placed cottons above them.
This by no means invalidates my deductions, and
is susceptible of a simple explanation. Under
the heading of "sundries" is included an enor-
mous variety of goods — all those goods, in fact,



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA.



375



which the Chinese buy and which cannot be
included in any of the other five classes. Thus,
in addition to a variety of manufactured goods,
we find under this heading large quantities of
food -stuffs and raw materials the consumption
of which brings no grist to the foreign manu-
facturer's mill. In 1906 the imports comprised
under the heading "sundries" included — to take
some of the most important of the food -stuffs
and raw materials — such articles as follow : —



1. Fish and fishery products


. £1,337,358


2. Flour ....


1,036,176


3. Rice ....


1,933,786


4. Sugar ....


9,936,961


5. Coal ....


1,420,587


6. Timber ....


888,283


Total


. ^£16,553,151



These items alone, therefore, account for more
than half of the £32,628,896 worth of goods
classed as "sundries."

Now let me apply the test of figures to my
second main conclusion — namely, that while the
share of Great Britain in the trade in " sundries "
is comparatively small, her share in the cotton
trade is preponderatingly great. Again, taking
the figures for 1906, we find that of the total
of £32,628,896, which represents the value of
sundries taken by China, Great Britain was



376 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

responsible for the comparatively small share
of £3,232,479, or approximately one - tenth of
the whole. In respect of other two of the six
classes her record is far better, the woollen trade
being almost monopolised by her, and her share
in the metal trade amounting to nearly one-
half. These, however, are, comparatively speak-
ing, small items, and it is in the cotton trade
that her great advantage is to be seen. Of the
£25,136,458, representing the total value of the
cotton import trade from all sources in 1906,
the United Kingdom supplied £9,681,632, or
nearly two-fifths of the whole. Looked at from
another point of view, it will be seen that the
value of the cotton goods which the United
Kingdom sends annually to China amounts
to practically two -thirds of the value of the
whole of her export trade to that country.^
Under existing circumstances, then, it is the
cotton industry that is mainly concerned in
Anglo-Chinese trade, and it is to the cotton
industry, therefore, that my remarks will be
mainly directed.

The value of the trade is considerable, but
large as it is, it is not by any means as large
as a superficial consideration of the potentialities
of the Chinese market would suggest that it
ought to be. It can be, and indeed frequently

^ Cottons in 1906, £9,681,632 ; all other goods, £5,584,415.



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 377

is argued that here are 400,000,000 human
beings who, without exception almost, clothe
themselves wholly or partially in cottons.
Surely, then, here is a demand which should
keep the looms of Lancashire in a state of
perpetual motion in their endeavour to meet
it. Those who argue thus, however, lose sight
of the fact that this predilection of the Chinese
for cotton garments is by no means a new one.
For hundreds of years — perhaps for thousands
— the Chinese have dressed themselves in cotton
clothes, and they have done so without the
smallest dijficulty, and wholly unaided by the
manufacturers of Europe. Indeed I may go
much further, and point out that until the in-
ventions of Richard Arkwright and Eli Whit-
ney revolutionised the cotton industry, the
movement of cotton cloth was not from Europe
to China but from China to Europe, in the
shape of nankeens to provide small-clothes for
our grandfathers. In other words, as in the
matter of food so in the matter of clothing,
the Chinese are to all intents and purposes self-
supporting. It is true that the beautifully
finished products of Lancashire looms have
taken the place to a certain extent of the
coarser Chinese home - made fabric on account
of their superior finish and appearance. The
wealthy man, that is to say, prefers the foreign



378 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

article to the native. But to the teeming millions
appearance is nothing and durability is every-
thing, and the machine-made fabric of Europe
does not compare in durability with the hand-
made cloth of China itself. A hand-to-mouth
existence is the normal condition of the vast
bulk of the population of China, and to people
living under such conditions the purchase of
their clothes is entirely dominated by three
main considerations — durability, warmth, cost.
In all three respects the native home - made
cloth excels the foreign machine-made fabric.

The importance attached to durability and
warmth is illustrated by the method of purchase
which I found in vogue among the poorer classes
in Ssuch'uan. The purchaser weighs instead of
measuring the material, and then proceeds to
bargain as to the price per ounce, instead of per
foot or per yard. This in itself proves that
weight, which represents warmth and strength,
is a matter of supreme importance. The import-
ance of cost to the average Chinese peasant or
coolie may be gauged by the fact that it is no
uncommon sight to see the purchaser of a box of
matches priced at 3 cash or the fourteenth part of
a penny, counting the number of matches to see
that he is obtaining full value for his money,
before concluding his bargain. I found the ruling
price of locally made cloth in Ssuch'uan to be



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 379

about 28 cash per ounce. This worked out at
from 24 to 25 cash, or about three-fifths of a penny
a Chinese foot of 13f inches — a price which may
be still further reduced by patient bargaining. In
the same district the price of Manchester grey
shirting was quoted as ranging from 28 to 36 cash
per Chinese foot, according to quality.

Here, then, you have my reasons for forming a
comparatively moderate estimate of the Chinese
market even for foreign cotton goods, and once
more I find that my deductions from personal
observation are borne out by the statistics of
China's foreign trade. In 1906, for instance,
Ch'ung-K'ing, the port through which passes
practically the whole of the foreign import trade
of Ssuch'uan, took rather less than 13,000,000
yards of foreign grey shirting. Allowing for the
sake of argument six yards per head per annum,
this amount would suffice to clothe rather more
than 2,000,000 people. From this simple calcu-
lation we find that, roughly speaking, 48,000,000
out of the 50,000,000 inhabitants of Ssuch'uan,
or 96 per cent of the population of the province,
are entirely independent of foreign supply. This
calculation is, of course, a very rough one, but it
serves to illustrate my contention — namely, that
to base an estimate of China's demand for foreign
manufactures upon the assumption that the
demand will be proportionate to the size of her



380 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

population, is to base it upon premisses which are,
to say the least of it, fallacious.

Nevertheless the population of China is so vast
that even if only a comparatively small percentage
of her people purchase British-made fabrics, the
matter, as I have already shown by the aid of
figures, is one of no little importance. The im-
ports of cottons have, it is true, been abnormal
during recent years. In 1905, for instance, they
headed the list of foreign imports with a value of
£27,293,548, and in 1906 this item still stood at
the abnormally high figure of £25,136,457. The
result of this over-buying has, of course, been a
glutted market and a drop in the value of cotton
imports in 1907 to £19,323,827 out of a total
import trade of £67,665,223. Such fluctuations,
however, will eventually right themselves, and
must not be taken as signs of any real decline in
the Chinese demand. On the contrary, I look for
expansion in this trade in the future, and venture
to add yet a few further comments upon it which,
in my opinion, its importance demands.

Bearing in mind what T have said as to the
purchasers of foreign cottons being limited to the
middle and upper classes, it may be anticipated
that the demand for such goods will by no means
be restricted to plain goods such as grey shirtings
and sheetings, but will be extended to the higher-
grade Manchester goods. Wherever I made in-



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 381

quiries, I found an increasing demand for fast black
" Italians " and other kindred fabrics. Goods of
this class are undoubtedly meeting with steadily
increasing favour at the hands of the Chinese, and
in the manufacture of this class of article Great
Britain stands pre-eminent. Inherited skill upon
the part of her operatives and a climate peculiarly
suited to the weaving industry have combined to
place Lancashire in a position of undisputed
superiority over all her rivals in this particular
industry, a superiority which is clearly reflected
in the customs statistics, no less than 186,304,000
of the 220,195,000 square yards of fine cottons
imported into China in 1905 having been of Eng-
lish make. All my inquiries lead me to believe
that the demand for fancy cottons is on the
increase and is capable of considerable further ex-
pansion, and the reports which are received from
his Majesty's Commercial Attache in China go to
confirm my belief. In his report on the trade of
China for 1907, for instance. Sir A. Hosie says :
" Of fancy cottons, chintzes, and plain cotton
prints, printed sateens and reps, plain fast black
' Italians,' plain lastings, plain, dyed and figured,
brocaded and spotted shirtings, all showed increases
over 1906, and there appears to be little doubt
that much of the money previously spent on
plainer goods is now being diverted to these fancy
goods which please the eye. Fast black ' Italians,'



382 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

for instance, are great favourites, and the imports
rose from 1,302,906 pieces in 1906 to 1,921,402
pieces in 1907, of the value of £1,527,629."

Let me give in brief my reasons for looking
for expansion in the demand for such goods.
They are as follows. Silk is an indigenous pro-
duct in China. Silk has consequently provided
the material for the garments of the wealthy for
many ages. There are in China large numbers
who would dearly like to dress in the silks affected
by their more wealthy fellows, but who are pre-
cluded from doing so on the ground of expense.
For these people the beautifully finished cotton
fabrics — such, for instance, as are supplied by the
Bradford Dyers' Association — provide a convenient
substitute. The difference in price in Ch'ung-
K'ing between cotton "Italians" and silk was
given me by a Chinese importer as follows : black
" Italians " of the quality most in demand, 2d. a
square foot, silk from 8d. to llj-d. a square foot.
The consequent advantage possessed by the former
over the latter to persons of moderate means is
amply apparent. The importation of this class of
goods has increased from 15,860,000 square yards
in 1867 to 220,195,000 square yards in 1905, and
the great bulk of these 220,195,000 square yards
is made up, as Mr H. B. Morse, the statistical
secretary to the Chinese Imperial Maritime
Customs points out, " by ' imitations,' by cheap



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 383

cotton substitutes for a more expensive woollen
fabric, by an appeal to the eye." I might add
that black "Italians" are not used for making
trousers and jackets only, but also for the outside
covering of shoes and hats.

At the other end of the scale of cotton
products we find a large demand for a semi-
manufactured article, namely, cotton yarn. This
is used by the people in the production of the
home-made cloth of which I have already
spoken, the foreign machine-made yarn pro-
viding the warp for a weft of hand - spun
Chinese cotton. In the most remote corners of
the Empire I found a regular feature of the
village street to consist of long white stretches
of cotton yarn arranged by the women in pre-
paration for their labour at the loom. The
average net import of cotton yarn for the
years 1901-5 was 335,063,872 lb., in addition to
which the mills of Shanghai and other Chinese
ports turn out about 100,000,000 lb., making
the total consumption of machine - spun yarn
about 435,000,000 lb. per annum. The great
bulk of this consists of yarns of Coarse Counts
(12's — 24's), and the supply of this commodity
has passed from Great Britain to India and
Japan, whose cheap labour and geographical
position have enabled them to practically mono-
polise the market. The amount supplied by



384 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

Great Britain in 1905 was only 2,943,333
lb., as against 248,974,333 lb. by India and
91,289,467 lb. by Japan.

I have dwelt at some length upon the cotton
trade because, as I have been at pains to point
out, it overshadows, both in its magnitude and
its importance, the whole of the Chinese import
trade. Let me now sum up in a sentence the
final conclusion which I have derived from my
investigations into the character of the Chinese
market. It amounts to this, that China is in
the main self-supporting, and that "foreign
traders can only hope to dispose of their mer-
chandise there in proportion to the new tastes
they introduce, the new Avants they create, and
the care they take to supply what the demand
really means." These words are not, in point
of fact, my own, they are the ipsissima verha
of no less an authority than Sir Kobert Hart,
but they exactly express my own opinion. If,
then, we desire to increase our trade under
existing conditions, we must endeavour to intro-
duce new tastes, to create new wants, and to
be careful to supply what the demand really
means. How can this best be done ? The
massive conservatism of the Chinese is almost
past belief It is preposterous, but it is also
unyielding and overwhelming, and it cannot
possibly be ignored. It is quite useless trying



COMMERCE AND RAILWAYS IN CHINA. 385

to force upon a Chinese something he does not
want. I remember hearing a story which
may or may not be true, but which is worth
repeating as illustrating my point. The Chinese
in a certain open port wanted red candles to
burn at the shrines of their ancestors. They
applied to the chief British firm trading in the
port. The firm offered white candles of the
usual kind. These were the candles they
supplied, and the Chinese could take them or
leave them as they liked. The Chinese elected
to leave them, and were speedily rewarded for
their decision, for a German, hearing of the
case, cabled to the Fatherland for a large con-
signment of red candles to be sent out with all
speed. Here was a case of a German, at any
rate, taking care to supply what the demand
really meant. For the following case I can
myself vouch. A missionary in the interior
once showed me a magnificent bundle of samples
of cotton goods which he had been asked to
submit to the local Chinese firms. The patterns
on the goods were entirely out of harmony with
Chinese ideas, and no one would look at them.

Obviously, then, it is most important to culti-
vate the tastes of the Chinese, This can only
be done satisfactorily, I believe, by employing
trained Chinese travellers to visit the centres
of distribution all over the country and to make

2 B



386 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

reports as to the nature of the tastes of the
people in the different locaUties, while at the
same time advertising their goods. This system
has been put into practice by the Bradford
Dyers' Association, who were employing twenty
Chinese travellers when I was in China. One
of these men penetrated to Ch'dngtu, the capital
of the province of Sstich'uan, where he secured
a stall at the annual fair held in that city.
Here he exhibited and distributed his samples,
gave descriptions in Chinese of the goods dyed
by his employers, and no doubt collected import-
ant information as to the tastes and wants of the
locality. It is, I believe, by methods of this kind
that the greatest results are likely to be obtained.
Now let me point out the main obstacles
which at present stand in the way of any very
considerable expansion of trade. They are in


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24

Online LibraryLawrence John Lumley Dundas ZetlandAn Eastern miscellany → online text (page 21 of 24)