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By B. Atwood Robinson

The history of trade development is the history of the world. Trade has followed the flag wherever it has gone and all too often it has been the armies of the world that have carried forward the torch of civilization and the banner of commerce. Enlightened and honorable trade relations may prove as great an influence for good as the work of the missionary or educator. From the early dawn of recorded history up to the present time trade has gone hand in hand with the advance of civilization. Beginning in Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, it traveled to Carthage, Greece and Rome. It followed the victorious armies of the South in their conquest of the barbarians of northern Europe, and the great commercial countries of Europe are the result. With Columbus it crossed the Atlantic, and the United States and all the other great countries of North and South America with their teeming trade have grown and flourished.

And now we are face to face with the last of the world's commercial conquests in the development of great and enduring trade relations with the other half of the world's population in the countries forming the western boundary of the great Pacific basin.

The history of trade between America and China has often been written and it is unnecessary to speak in detail of it here. From the time when the American ship Empress of China arrived at Canton from New York in 1784 to the present time, be it said to our credit, these relations have been generally satisfactory to both parties, in contra-distinction to those of China with some other countries.

“Americans are the only people who have treated us according to the Golden Rule and we want to do business with them.” These words were spoken to the writer by the late Viceroy Yang Hsi Hsiang, at Tientsin in 1908.

These words formed part of the admirable address of Judge Kungpah T. King of the Supreme Court of Justice, Peking, at a dinner in his honor in Boston in 1910.

While your complete war equipment and unexcelled facilities for preparing great engines of war are very wonderful, I must say that I am most favorably impressed with your great commercial supremacy, your tremendous natural resources and your great factories which stand as monuments to your national industry. The development of commercial interests between America and China would be mutually beneficial.

America is the natural source of supply in many lines, and proper attention to the development of commercial relations will surely bring about a great increase in trade, to the mutual advantage of both countries.

These quotations may be said to be fairly representative of the sentiment of the leading men of China on this subject.

In view of all our past relations with the Chinese, America may justly claim the title of “China's best friend." American business men have been strangely indifferent to the unparallelled opportunity presented through the gateway of the great Far East. America is the one country from which China does not fear armed invasion, but cordially welcomes invasion of trade and commerce. With this record of fair dealing to our credit, it would seem the height of folly to neglect the great opportunity that confronts us for advantageous occupancy of the field. America, by virtue of her extensive Pacific Coast line is nearest neighbor to the Far East, while the opening of the Panama Canal will afford the manufacturers of the eastern states the opportunity of reaching that part of the world with their products on a very favorable basis.

In considering trade opportunities with a country, many factors must be taken into account. It is as easy to over as to underestimate the extent of these opportunities. Meagerness of information is responsible for false conceptions of conditions. It is, perhaps, not strange that ignorance of true conditions is so prevalent, in view of the vast amount if misinformation and misrepresentation that has been spread broadcast by ill-informed, narrow-minded, incompetent or prejudiced observers. It should be borne in mind that China has been, and is still, exploited by designing men of many lands.

First of all a careful study of the country, its resources, its people and their requirements must be made. China is a country so rich in natural resources that with the opening up of railway and other modern means of communication, the development of these resources will greatly increase the purchasing power of the people by opening up to their products the markets of the world. No one who has traveled at all extensively in China can have failed to be impressed with the tremendous possibilities of development there.

The population of the various provinces, according to the last estimates by the imperial maritime customs is as follows:

Other provinces.

36,000,000 29,400,000 11,800,000 20,000,000 22,000,000 34,000,000 24,534,000 23,980,000 32,000,000

8,000,000 17,000,000 38,000,000 78,711,000

8,000,000 55,000,000



Many have considered the country overcrowded, but it is doubtful if such is the case. Indeed, Dr. Ernst Faber has predicted that this population will ultimately be doubled, without reaching the danger line of supply and demand. Be this as it may, it requires not the wisdom of a Solomon to realize something of the vastness of the opportunity presented by this great multitude of people, now fully awake after centuries of somnolence, to a realization of their needs and a great longing for western culture and mode of living, with all of the best that goes with it.

We hear much of the slowness of the Chinese, but in view of the startling rapidity of development during the past two years, who will be so rash as to say that trade development will be slow? Less than eighteen months ago Mr. C. D. Jameson, than whom few have had better opportunities of studying actual conditions from the inside, in an article published in the Outlook, on “The Future of China,” commenced as follows: "To make clear the utter hopelessness of renaissance in the Chinese as a nation until several generations have passed, I must give a slight sketch of Chinese history.” And, lo, the unexpected has happened, the oldest monarchy of the world has crumbled to dust and a republic has been firmly established, while the whole world looked on amazed.

Now some would-be prophets are predicting slow commercial development. In the light of former mistakes, these prophecies seem rather presumptuous.

The natural resources of a country have a most important bearing on its commercial activity. These resources of China are almost wholly undeveloped. Her vast mineral deposits have scarcely been touched. A single province is estimated to have a world's supply of coal for a thousand years and coal exists in at least fifteen provinces. The present annual output of the mines is upwards of 10,000,000 tons. There is a great abundance of iron, and the manufacture of steel and iron products has already assumed quite large proportions. Pig iron is now being shipped to the United States in considerable quantity. The precious metals are being produced in ever-increasing quantities, adding greatly to the purchasing power of the country.

The agricultural productiveness is large and if proposed plans for a comprehensive system of protective dikes is carried out, will be greatly increased.

A trade that is largely one-sided is not likely to assume large proportions, and nations wishing to transact a large business with each other must each be prepared to give and take. As we increase our purchases of China's products, so will she buy more largely from us. In this connection it is well to point out the fact that a large proportion of the shipments to this country from China are made through foreign firms and nearly all come in foreign ships. This is very detrimental to American prestige. In view of the approaching opening of the Panama Canal, it behooves Americans to awake to the importance of rehabilitating our merchant marine, not simply for the profit arising from the carrying trade, but as a means of building up our foreign commerce, especially in the Far East.

In this connection the following table giving the nationality and tonnage of the various steamers entered and cleared at Shanghai in 1910 and 1911 will prove illuminating, if not pleasing:

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Again, taking the statistics of the great interior port of Hankow, the number of steamers entering the port in 1911 was 1833, with an aggregate tonnage of 2,220,402 tons. British ships led with 959,284 tons, with Japan second with 670,873 tons. German, French, Russian, Danish, American and Norwegian shipping followed in the order named. America's total was 7376 tons!

Those of us who have had the opportunity of studying the situation in European countries are only too well aware of the great preparations that are being made and the extensive work now in progress to secure for them commercial

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