The progress of the foreign trade of China is set out in the following table. The values are given both in currency and sterling, but it is to be remarked that during the period when silver was falling, that is, from 1875 to 1893, the silver valuation represents much more accurately variations in the volume of trade than does the gold valuation. Gold prices fell continuously during this period, while silver prices were nearly constant. Since 1893 silver prices have tended to rise, and the gold valuation is then more accurate. The conversion from silver to gold is made at the rate of exchange of the day, and therefore varies from year to year.
Table of Imports and Exports, exclusive of Bullion.
| Equivalent in
| Equivalent in |
* This marked increase is partly owing to a more complete presentation of statistics; in 1903 an additional number of vessels were placed under the control of the imperial maritime customs.
In 1907 the net imports were valued at £67,664,222 and the exports at £42,961,863. In 1908 China suffered from the general depression in trade. In that year the imports were valued at £52,600,730, the exports at £36,888,050. The distribution of the trade among the various countries of the world is shown in the table which is given below. Hong-Kong is a port for trans-shipment. The imports into China from it come originally from Great Britain, India, Germany, France, America, Australia, the Straits Settlements, &c., and the exports from China to it go ultimately to the same countries.
Imports into China. (000’s omitted.)
|Other British possessions||396||346||542||571||732||963||. .|
|Continent of Europe (except Russia)||230||671||671||638||1,227||4,295||†3,332|
|Russian Empire||. .||. .||. .||231||309||302||422|
Exports from China. (000’s omitted.)
|Other British possessions||948||874||818||886||586||647||. .|
|Continent of Europe (except Russia)||2524||3760||1948||3004||3440||4,697||†7,128|
† Germany, France, Belgium and Italy only.
The chief imports are cotton goods, opium, rice and sugar, metals, oil, coal and coke, woollen goods and raw cotton, and fish. Cotton goods are by far the most important of the imports. They come chiefly from the United Kingdom, which also exports to China woollen manufactures, metals and machinery. China is next to India the greatest consumer of Manchester goods. The export of plain cotton cloths to China and Hong-Kong has for some years averaged 500,000,000 yds. per annum. The only competitor which Great Britain has in this particular branch of trade is the United States of America, which has been supplying China with increasing quantities of cotton goods. The value in sterling of the total imports into China from the United Kingdom long remained nearly constant, but inasmuch as the gold prices were falling the volume of the export was in reality steadily growing. The imports into England, however, of Chinese produce have fallen off, mainly because China tea has been driven out of the English market by the growth of the India and Ceylon tea trade, and also because the bulk of the China silk is now shipped directly to Lyons and other continental ports instead of to London, as formerly was the rule. The growth of the import of Indian yarn into China has been very rapid. In 1884 the import was 35,000,000 ℔ and in 1904 it reached 217,171,066 ℔. The imports into China from all countries for 1908 were as follows:—
|Coal and coke||1,124,000|
The principal exports from China are silk and tea. These two articles, indeed, up to 1880 constituted more than 80% of the whole export. Owing, however, mainly to the fall in silver, and partly also to cheap ocean freights, it has become profitable to place on the European market a vast number of miscellaneous articles of Chinese produce which formerly found no place in the returns of trade. The silver prices in China did not change materially with the fall in silver, and Chinese produce was thus able to compete favourably with the produce of other countries. The following table shows the relative condition of the export trade in 1880 and 1908:—
In the miscellaneous class the chief items of exports in 1908 were beans and beancake, £3,142,000; raw cotton, £1,379,000; hides, £1,028,000; straw braid, £1,002,000; furs and skin rugs, £760,000; paper, £458,000; and clothing, £177,000. Sugar, tobacco, mats and matting are also exported. The export of all cereals except pulse is forbidden. Of the tea exported in 1908 the greater part went to Russia and Siberia, the United States and Great Britain. There is a regular export of gold amounting on an average to about a million sterling per annum. A part of it would seem to be the hoardings of the nation brought out by the high price of gold in terms of silver, but a part is virgin gold derived from gold workings in Manchuria on the upper waters of the Amur river.
Customs duty is levied on exports as well as imports, both being assessed at rates based on a nominal 5% ad val.
Shipping and Navigation.—Besides the over-sea trade China has a large coasting and river trade which is largely carried on by British and other foreign vessels. During the year 1908, 207,605 vessels, of 83,991,289 tons (86,600 being steamers of 77,955,525 tons), entered and cleared Chinese ports. Of these 28,445 vessels of 34,405,761 tons were British; 33,539 of 11,998,588 tons, Chinese vessels of foreign type; 103,124 of 4,947,272 tons, Chinese junks; 5496 vessels of 6,585,671 tons, German; 30,708 of 18,055,138 tons, Japanese; 653 of 998,775 tons, American; 3901 of 5,071,689 tons, French; 1033 of 980,635 tons, Norwegian.
Of vessels engaged in the foreign trade only the entrances during the year numbered 38,556 of 12,187,140 tons, and the clearances 36,602 of 12,057,126 tons. The nationality of the vessels (direct foreign trade) was mainly as follows:—
The tonnage of the Dutch, Austrian and Russian vessels cleared and entered was in each case between 102,000 and 127,000.
External communication is carried on by ancient caravan routes crossing Central Asia, by the trans-Siberian railway, which is
- From The Statesman’s Year Book, 1910 edition.