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Emergence of new classes.docx

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Nhung Tuyet Tran

Treaty Port Chinese and the Emergence of New Classes 1. Treaty Ports: a) Under the unequal treaties signed in the wake of the Opium Wars, China was obliged to open various ports to Western trade. b) Within these ports Westerners leased areas of land (known as ‘concessions’) which they then controlled. Because of extra territoriality, Westerners also needed their own courts and police forces. They also needed to levy taxes to pay for municipal services. Certain parts of some Chinese coastal cities thus became effectively Western controlled. (The largest example of this was Shanghai. In 1863 the Shanghai International Settlement was created, which included “two thousand or more” foreigners. Those foreigners who rented land in the Settlement were entitled to vote for the Shanghai Municipal Council which gradually developed all the functions of a city government. Chinese residents were taxed but not allowed representation.) 2.Compradors a) This new class emerged in the wake of Western economic penetration and hence were largely based in the treaty ports. b) The key difference between the compradors and traditional Chinese merchants is that the compradors were employed by the Western companies to look after the Chinese side of the enterprise. In time, some compradors set up as independent entrepreneurs. c) Even with independent traders, however, there remained a close connection with the West. For example, Chinese merchants trading between one treaty port and another preferred to use foreign shipping, which was more reliable than Chinese shipping. In 1865 the HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was founded and it and other foreign banks financed Chinese merchants and Chinese banks. There were many examples of co-operative enterprise. For example, the “great era of steamboating on the Yangzi” was started by an American firm – Russell and Company. But the capital to finance the venture was obtained from – in roughly equal proportions: i. US investors ii. Foreigners in China iii. Chinese merchants and compradors. d) The significance of the compradors is the potential they held for China. Fairbank and Reischauer say, “After 1870, economic growth in the treaty ports was creating resources of investment capital and entrepreneurial skill which, in favourable circumstances and in due time, might have been used to bring China through that critical phase of industrialization”. But it did not happen because of all the problems associated with Self- Strengthening. e) Hsu puts the emergence of the compradors in the context of the changing nature of Chinese society in the late nineteenth century. He describes them as the “new rich” and says, “Their association with influential foreign firms, their power to manipulate, their connections and new wealth made them a new social force compelling recognition.” f) In Chinese historiography there has been much criticism of the compradors because they worked for the foreigners and so could be seen as helping to exploit China or as adopting a humiliating subservience to their employers. The contrary view is that the compradors did much to help develop the Chinese economy. g) Jack Gray, looking at the later period of 1912-38, says modern research suggests that coastal China had a very impressive growth rate in this period and that a key group were the compradors. “…it is the case that the de
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