By Anderson J. M.

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The officials in Peking or any provincial capital always need money, and the inhabitants of Hong Kong know quite well that some of the local wealthy Chinese have been approached by the officials for loans. The silver lining is to be found in the places where the Chinese were brought directly into contact with Europeans. In Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hankow, and other Treaty ports, the worried Chinese do not hesitate to express disgust at the present state of affairs in China. 40 The experiences of Hong Kong merchants with political investments in South China are most likely not isolated phenomena.

As the consortium recognized only the Peking government, Peking held a monopoly on all foreign loans to China. 37 Before a new, and ultimately unsuccessful, foreign consortium was organised in 1920, Japan took the opportunity provided by the Western powers’ preoccupation with the First World War to enter and gain influence in China. This arrangement, however, was upset again in the 1920s when Comintern agents with promises of Soviet aid and loans, were active in China. Until Soviet aid was offered to the Canton government, it was forced to rely on domestic loans.

This process was accelerated by the abolition of foreign concessions in China starting in 1927, and the 1930 termination of the mixed court system. In Bergere’s words, as ‘the refuge that the foreign concessions provided against these encroachments by the Chinese public authorities was becoming increasingly fragile’, the Guomindang bureaucracy expanded its control over China by stripping ‘the bourgeoisie of the political initiative that it had possessed since the 1911 revolution and … the social autonomy that the merchant class had enjoyed in the preceding century ….

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