The Crisis in the International Trading System
Chapter 2: Taming the Dragon: The WTO after the Accession of China co-authored with A.L. Hobbs
The principal feature of the year has been the eagerness of foreign capitalists to place their services at the disposal of the Chinese Government. After the termination of hostilities with France the idea got abroad that China was about to take a great step in advance, and the Viceroy who is regarded by foreigners as the leader of the party of progress, has had submitted to him schemes and projects without number. The competition was so keen among the rival bidders that it was even said that one would-be concessionaire had offered to construct 80 miles of railway for nothing. Since Syndicate after Syndicate has been arriving, China’s attitude has been that of a rich heiress, who, with self-complacent smile, sees suitor after suitor come to bend the knee. To disinterested lookers-on the performance has been equally amusing. What is passing through the mind of Chinese statesmen may be imagined from the remark made to me by an intelligent Chinese official, who said that if the Chinese would only wait a little, foreign capitalists would not only offer to lend capital for nothing but to pay interest into the bargain. Her Britannic Majesty’s Consul in Tientsin Foreign Office report on trade with Tientsin, 1886, p. 4 China’s huge potential market has long had a mesmerising effect on western businessmen.1 They are often blinded to the difficulties of doing business in China by the sheer numbers involved – if each potential Chinese customer would buy one widget per year we would have...
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