THE foreign commerce of China is carried on through and at twenty-nine Treaty Ports. Previous to 1840 trade with foreigners was much hampered owing to its being subject to local regulations, all of which were annoying, many of them ridiculous, and some actually jeopardizing to both life and property. In 1842 Great Britain, availing herself of the successful outcome of what is known as the Opium War, stipulated that as one of the indemnities, China should declare the ports of Canton, Amoy, Fu-chow, Ning-po and Shanghai to be thrown entirely open to British trade and residence, and that commerce with British subjects should be conducted at these ports under a properly regulated tariff and free from special Chinese restrictions. Although Great Britain nominally secured for herself special considerations, she intended and actually accomplished the establishing of commerce between China and all other nations on a sound and liberal basis. The treaty of Nan-king was immediately followed by similar treaties with other powers, that with the United States being executed in 1844. Additional ports, decreed by treaties or other arrangements by the Chinese Government, have been added from year to year. At the end of the year 1899 the Maritime Customs reported twenty-nine of these ports, with several branch or sub-ports in addition. At nearly all of them there is a special reservation, called the foreign concession, where foreigners are allowed to reside and regulate their method of living in their own way. Although foreigners are permitted to dwell in the Chinese quarter if they so desire, the right to hold property in the concessions is usually denied to Chinese, and they are discriminated against in other ways.
Previous to 1860 the management of foreign commerce had been in the hands of Chinese officials, with the usually unsatisfactory result attending any official department handled by native overseers. In that year the business of the port of Shanghai was placed temporarily in the hands of English, American and French Commissioners, who were able to so improve the receipts by efficient and honest management that the Chinese Government, recognizing the desirability of continuing foreign supervision, organized the Imperial Maritime Customs and placed
- This article will form part of a book entitled 'An American Engineer in China' to be! published shortly by Messrs. McClure, Phillips & Co.