Tuesday, September 30, 2008

National Day

It's National Day again with plenty of flags everywhere as per usual - on my street the local neighbourhood committee of bothersome old ladies have been around instructing each building to make sure their flag is displayed. Of course this year there's a lot of Olympics and space walk stuff around too and you don't see many pictures of old Uncle Joe anymore but of course you would have in 1951 when pictures like these were passed out by a previous generation of neighbourhood committees.

Monday, September 29, 2008

London Junk

I'd long heard about the 1848 visit of a genuine Chinese junk to London. not sure when exactly, probably school and then various books. The junk had actually been sailed from Hong Kong by a largely Chinese crew which was presumably no mean feat. It was moored at Blackfriars Bridge from 1848 attracting crowds of curious visitors including Charles Dickens. Commercially it was apparently a success and made the backers some money with many people repeat visiting. Not sure whatever happened to the junk - presumably it was eventually broken up in London rather than sailed back to China again. Anyway, came across a sketch of it the other day which made me think of it again and Dickens wandering around the junk probably comparing it to the horrendous prison hulks moored a bit further down the Thames.

BTW: if you're in Sydney there's a great little exhibition about the English prison hulks in the UK, West Indies and in Australia which is well worth a visit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Harrison Forman Making Newsreels in Shanghai

My next book is now finished (over to the editor to sort out my appalling grammar) bar sourcing some pictures. It’s a history of the foreign press corps in China from the Opium Wars to the 1949 Revolution called Through the Looking Glass and should be out next March from Hong Kong University Press. Pretty pleased with it – it’s hopefully somewhat of a romp through about 150 years of the foreign press in China from the first English language newspapers in the Canton Factories to after the War. Hopefully it’s not all that heavy either – I’ve focussed on the characters rather than writing a Phd so it should be fun – plenty of drunks, philanderers, spies, fascists, communists and general nerdowells as you’d expect when writing about the press.

Came across this picture of the great Harrison Forman shooting a newsreel in Shanghai in 1937 just after the Japanese attack – he’s on Range Road somewhere.

Forman was an interesting character, a Milwaukee native and graduate of Wisconsin University where he got a degree in Oriental Philosophy and later became known as “a modern Marco Polo” in America for exploring Tibet. He had started out in Shanghai selling planes as well as writing about the developments taking place among the country’s young engineers and industrial designers. He sold articles to trade magazines and wrote a book called So You Want to Fly? He then worked briefly for the Shanghai Times before moving on to more broad based freelance journalism for the likes of the New York Times (basing himself in Chongqing which was rather unfashionable at the time) and the Times who allowed him to travel extensively. In 1932 he organized an expedition by motor caravan to Central Asia and was the first Westerner to drive a car to the shores of Tibet’s Lake Kokonor. His Tibet travels paid of when he was hired as a consultant by the Hollywood movie director Frank Capra who was preparing to make his film version of James Hilton’s 1933 book Lost Horizon about a plane crash in Tibet and the discovery of the magical mythical land of Shanghai-La. Forman drew a salary of US$500 per week for several weeks until his contract ended; Capra never asked him one question during the whole time, so he pocketed the money and went back to his regular work.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chocolate Shanghai

Wandering through the former French Concession these days I seem to keep bumping into chocolate shops, or Chocolatiers as the continentals would have it. The one pictured is on Fuxing Road and looks rather nice and cosy. Chocolate, the real stuff that is, has always been a bit of a mystery to many of us raised in England and addicted to the combination of vegetable fats that are passed of as chocolate. And now we have the corporatisation of chocolate in China with the opening of Hershey World in Raffle Plaza on Xizhang Road.

Still, chocolatiers, the real thing and not Hershey’s, in the French Concession is, you’ve guessed it, nothing new. Helen Foster-Snow, who’s pen name was Nym Wales and was married to Edgar ‘Red Star Over China’ Snow, was also someone who knew how to enjoy life. When the Snows lived in Shanghai she was a habitué of the famous and extremely popular Chocolate Shop on Bubbling Well Road, a home-from-home for Americans in the International Settlement, where she and Edgar would come to enjoy sandwiches, salads and ice cream. The Chocolate Shop pops up in so many memoirs of old Shanghai it must have been good. It was still around in 1945 according to the Flying Tigers Guide to Shanghai. Hopefully these new chocolate shops will last a good long while too – so much nicer than just another bloody Starbucks blanding the neighbourhood.

The Street Signs They Are A Changing

The last few days have seen some odd scenes in Shanghai's former French Concession. Tourists and locals wandering around lost and unable to find any street signs. Shanghai is currently in the midst of changing over its signage. It seems the crew tasked with removing the old signs has been round and uprooted and removed the old style road markers. However, they have not yet been followed by the crew tasked with putting in the new signs. So roads are now mysteries. Frenchtown is a rabbit warren and parts of its still extremely charming. Surprising how even people who know the area well have got lost at night recently. With the long October holiday coming it may be that the new signs don't get put up till mid-October leading to a lot more confused tourists.

As to the design of the signs themselves well take your pick - the new one is blue, the old green. The older ones seem slightly better to me for what it's worth. As to why the old ones needed replacing I have no idea but local government is local government all over the world and ours is never to reason why.

The Deflation of Exoticness Courtesy of the Ad Man

Lunched with a group of American investors and fund managers on their first trip to Shanghai this week who dropped in to ‘kick the tyres’, as they like to say. One very disappointed Connecticut analyst who’d come from Pudong Airport to the Grand Hyatt and then by mini-van to the Bund complained that all he’d seen in Shanghai so far were adverts for western brands – from Motorola to Coke and McDonalds to GE.

I consoled him with the thought that his grandfather would’ve probably experienced the same deflation of ‘exoticness’ upon arrival. The veteran inter-war New York Times China Correspondent Hallett Abend arrived in Shanghai in 1926 for the first time. As his ship sailed towards the Bund he excitedly gawped out of his porthole eager for a glimpse of the Orient and the fabled city of Shanghai. All he could see was a massive billboard for a famous brand of American chewing gum, which rather flattened his mood. He mused dejectedly that he might as well as have been sailing up the Hudson as the Huang Pu. Things got more exciting for Abend, but first glances were disappointing.

I don't know for sure but I suspect the man responsible for the ads that deflated Abend's exotic expectations was my old hero Carl Crow (providing an opportunity for a quick plug - Carl Crow, a Tough Old China Hand still available) so here's a recently unearthed picture of one of his Shanghai advertising billboards from the 1930s.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Talking of the Yongle Emperor

Been looking at the numbers for grain stocks and inflation last few days which brings us back to the yongle Emperor again. The government’s announcement back in April that it would step in to control prices of staples to ensure supply and affordability was meant to reassure consumers. Since then, what with the French, earthquakes and Olympics nonsense dominating the news agenda, food inflation and the possibility of stricter controls slipped down the Zhongnanhai totem pole of importance. Of course when it comes to statements about price controls exciting the people we’ve been here before in 1989 when the government’s handling of price controls was certainly one of the issues that led up to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. But puzzling the problem of subsidies can take you back further.

Back in the 1400s Beijing’s largest rice market was the Dongjiangmishi at East River Alley where the old Legation Quarter (or what’s left of it in between the usual Stalinist monstrosities and now the vandal Handle Lee’s attempts to ruin it with his bonkers ideas of restoration) is now located. The Yongle Emperor created the market and reopened the Grand Canal to supply it. The government back then hoarded rice in massive granaries in the middle of the city and then subsidised prices to keep it low. They also only parcelled it out to needy vassal states and provinces when politically expedient to do so. All of the original warehouses are gone now but subsidies and hoarding remain as does supplying vassal states as when deemed politically necessary – i.e. these days meaning grain supplies to North Korea.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Nice Quote from an Emperor

It occurs to me while reading a biography of the Yongle Emperor (1360 –1424), the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty from 1402 to 1424, that he might have liked this blog. He told his citizens:

‘Whenever I can find the time, I read history books and the classics so as to avoid idle living. I constantly remind myself that the world is so vast and state affairs so important that I cannot succumb to laziness and complacency for even a moment. Once one has succumbed to laziness and complacency, everything will become stagnant.’

Well noted

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Emperor’s Present

Had a drink with a foreign trader with China who passes through Shanghai occasionally. He decided to sound of after a few hard weeks and was bemoaning the slow down in the US and projecting that his business (sourcing a wide variety of products for US retailers) could be halved by year end. His other problem was that he always had difficulty back home in America explaining that business in Canton (Guangzhou if you will and where he does most of his sourcing) invariably involved various ‘off the books’ fees that were unavoidable. His customers back in law- and accountant-fearing America didn’t like these payments.

But thus was it ever I recently reread Paul van Dyke’s excellent The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700-1845 (out in paperback now from Hong Kong University Press). In the 1720s, at the start of the Sino-European China trade, port fees at Canton were assessed by the authorities based on the length and width of the arriving ships – eminently sensible at the time. To this was added a rather more variable fee that changed from season to season known as the ‘Emperor’s Present’ – a separate and fixed amount levied on each ship. The ‘Emperor’s Present’ had no connection to the maths of port fees at Canton and did not fluctuate with inflation – it lasted 140 years…and according to some traders of my acquaintance still does.

Junks That Aren't Junk

The Earnshaw Books reprints series is shaping up into a very nice list. I did a foreword for their first publication – Carl Crow’s Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom and have enjoyed what’s followed – Sapajou’s Shanghai Schemozzle from 1937, Princess Der Ling’s Two Years in the Forbidden City and Isabella Bird’s The Yangtze Valley and Beyond among others. Excellently I know Crow’s Four Hundred Million Customers is in the works and some other true China classics. I’ll try and note them all as they appear – or as I get around to reading them.

I’ve just finished the reprint of Ivon A. Donnelly’s Chinese Junks and Other Native Craft which includes the lavish illustrations and watercolours reproduced in full colour along with an excellent introduction by Gareth Powell. I’ll assume the vast majority of people reading this are, like me, a bit too young to have arrived in China in time to see the last great fleets of junks – you’d have to been here in the 1970s to see that. We have to make do with the few sampans around in Hong Kong and up the Yangtze.

Powell’s introduction educated me in just how advanced many junk designs were as sailing vessels. They’re an impressive size and their sterns rear up gracefully and to great heights. But sadly they’re gone now - at least the working non-engined originals. A few months back I did hop a sampan from Aberdeen in Hong Kong across to Lamma Island and I suppose I’ll have to resign myself that that is probably the nearest I’ll ever get to genuine junk sailing (I naturally do not include those horrific replicas ex-pat bankers get drunk on in Hong Kong).

The picture above is of a Chinese Junk from the Collection of Original Water Colors of Chinese Junks and Other Craft held at the Library of the The Mariners’ Museum.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wood Floors Pre-Date IKEA

I had a long lunch the other day with a European high-end carpet manufacturer who was bemoaning the almost universal vogue for wood flooring in Shanghai. ‘Damn that IKEA’ was his argument believing that the fondness by homeowners in Shanghai for blonde wood floors was all the fault of the eponymous Swedish ‘life in a box’ merchants – probably is.

But perhaps the roots of this wood-flooring fixation go deeper. In her excellent newish book Shanghai Style: Art and Design Between the Wars, Lynn Pan raises the intriguing question of whether the love of wood flooring is not more a question of first mover advantage rather than style.

The American Dollar shipping line (one of his many ships pictured) brought Philippines lauan and Oregon pine to Shanghai in the 1930s, advertised aggressively and became the flooring of choice for many public buildings and private residences. But given that Shanghai is far from a tropical climate why didn’t carpet gain adherents too? As Pan suggests, no reason particularly - had the likes of Axminster or Wilton moved as fast or as aggressively as Robert Dollar did Shanghai homes could look very different (at least if you were looking at your feet).

My frustrated lunch companion may be partially right to blame the horrendously bland current global IKEA fad but the Swedes may be doing no more than building on foundations laid by Dollar in the 30s.

Thomas Lipton and Me

So I'm staying a hotel with nothing much to do and I decide to make myself a cup of tea. Naturally I select the English Breakfast variety (from Indonesia) as I can't stand all those flavoured teas like Earl Gray and certainly am not about to start drinking nonsense like peppermint or blackcurrent tea this late in life. I like builder's tea - strong, a dash of milk and about 3 sugars the way God intended.

I'm about to rip open the pack when I notice that Lipton's are now putting old Thomas Lipton's signature on the packs. That seems new but then as he died in 1931 I'm not sure we can take this as a guarantee of Sir Thomas's personal approval.

I've always liked Lipton - Glaswegian, self-made, cabin-boy to millionaire and the man who eschewed the effete tea drinkers of London and pioneered the concept of the cuppa for the masses which has sustained generations of the French family through several wars, the Blitz, Thatcher and now the credit crunch. Don't you dare suggest a cup of coffee in our households!

I have a few cross reference points with Litpon. He eventually bought a very nice house with large grounds in Southgate, North London and I used to walk past it to Southgate Technical College where I did my A-levels. It was a home for retired NHS nurses when I used to wander past it and later I bought a house in Southgate (somewhat less grand). He died in Southgate but left most of his money to Glasgow and was buried up in Glasgow's fabulously Gothic Necropolis where, incidentally, I used to wander occasionally while a student in Glasgow (but never noticed his grave).

He did come to Shanghai a couple of times and was apparently refused entry to the snobby Shanghai Club on the Bund - and if it was still there I expect I'd be turned away at the door too. Whether this enraged him or not I don't know but he was reputedly personally not a snob so he might not have cared.

In a way he got his revenge on Shanghai long after his death by launching the pathetically weak Lipton's black tea on the market and then introducing green tea bags in a nice example of selling to the Chinese something they themselves are supposed to be famous for.

The only remaining question is whether or not this is really Lipton's signature or just a fancy John Hancock devised in an art department at some ad agency? Given that we've just had hurdler Liu Xiang appearing in an ad with two actors portraying his parents (!!) rather than with his real ones you might well wonder.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sun Kings and Crittall Kings

A while back I spent a few days looking at solar panel manufacturers in China. The most interesting company is Suntech, the creation of China’s ‘Sun King’ Shi Zhengrong and based in Wuxi. At first Shi concentrated on exporting to countries like Germany and Japan where solar panel installation enjoys subsidises. But now this is happening more and more in China and now he rules the growing domestic market too.

His success at developing a domestic production base for what is now an accepted architectural feature in many overseas countries and then grabbing market share from foreign imports by producing more cheaply in China as it adopts the technology is a nice rerun of the success of Tang Jingxian’s Taikang firm in the 1930s who noted the vogue for Crittall windows in Shanghai.

Tang set up a Shanghai factory manufacturing Crittall frames and undercut the foreign imports winning over 70% of the local market before starting to export. Crittall windows were a design feature but also made architectural sense as they were thinner than traditional frames and allowed in more sunlight while giving a more expansive view from the window. Solar panels obviously also have a range of benefits from being environmentally friendly to cutting household fuel bills. A nice tale of two types of excellent mixing of form and function.

Sadly walking on a street just back the Bund last night I noticed one old building constructed around the early 1930s being ‘refurbished’ – the new owners (Chinese property developer, western architects) have completely stripped out the Crittall window frames and dumped them. Tragic – as I know from having gone through the process a few years ago on a house in London Crittall, even when in a poor state of repair, can be restored – you don’t have to succumb to the horrors of UPVC. Sadly the western architects so keen to get a ‘1930s Shanghai’ feel to their new project dumped one of the most intrinsic features without thinking – the barbarian foreign architects of Shanghai strike again!

By the way someone told me that the man who invented the product John Francis Crittall (1860-1935), who’s portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery pictured above, visited Shanghai and actually sketched a portrait of the city – not sure if this is true though, so if anyone knows?

Gordon of China in Melbourne

I'd heard there was a statue to General Charles Gordon in Melbourne - but last time I was in Victoria a long evening gaining acquaintance with the fine wines of the State intervened and I never found the monument. This time I went easy on the fine shirazs and cab saus and did locate the statue. I was intrigued as a) the only other statue to Gordon I know of is in London and b) that one doesn't mention China, only his better known exploits and death in Khartoum.

Of course Gordon (1833-1885), hyper-religious and homosexual, was 'Gordon of China' long before he was 'Gordon of Khartoum'. He was in Peking during the Elgin Mission that sacked and looted the city and though religiously convicted apparently helped himself a bit too. He was a superb cartographer and had mapped most of the surrounding area of Shanghai - which later came in useful. However, he was very pious, very 'churchy' and didn't make many friends in China.
The caption on one side of the monument reads - 'China 1863-4 - He rescued provinces from anarchy, but would accept no reward'

When the first foeigner hired to defeat the Taiping rebellion, Salemite high school drop out Frederick Townsend Ward, was killed on the battlefield leading the Ever Victorious Army against the Taiping rebels Gordon took over (after an ill-fated and short lived interlude of leadership by Ward's drunken second-in-command Burgevine). Gordon led 3,500 EVA troops to finally supress the Taiping around Shanghai - much to the acclaim of the Shanghai merchants (local and foreign) who felt the Taiping were queering their pitch.

When he returned to England he had been dubbed 'Chinese Gordon'. The Brits then packed him of to the Sudan where he was killed in 1885, revolver and sword in hand, reisiting a crowd storming his stairs in the British residence. As a hero of Empire he lost the 'Chinese Gordon' tag and became 'Gordon of Khartoum' being immortalised in many hagiographies and played in a movie by Charlton Heston who negated to play up the two central aspects of Gordon's character - religion and homosexuality.

So it was nice to see that Gordon's statue in Melbourne is prominent and mentions his Chinese escapade. It's right opposite the historic Windsor Hotel (seen behind the statue) where, like Lawrence Olivier before me, I always stay in Melbourne despite the creaking lifts, chintzy furniture and rubbish service.

The only question remaining is - why does Melbourne have a statue of Gordon in the first place - as far as I know he had no particular connection with the place?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Billy Sing at Gallipoli

A couple more posts prompted by my recent trip to Australia.

Everytime I visit Oz a quick trip round the bookshops of Melbourne and Sydney is required. Australia seems to have a thriving publishing industry and I often come across interesting books down under that I've never heard of before. This time was no exception.
For a number of reasons - not least their horrendous losses in total population terms - the Australians have retained a stronger fascination and collective memory of the First World War than Europeans I think. This year has seen a lot of new WW1 books what with it being the 90th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918. Among them is one I had not heard of and haven't seen reviewed anywhere but is well worth a read - John Hamilton's Gallipoli Sniper: The Life of Billy Sing (Macmillan Australia).

The book interested me for a number of reasons - I read a lot on the Gallipoli/Dardanelles campaign as a cousin on my mother's side died fighting with the British infantry there while my Great Grandfather was in the Royal Navy during the evacuation of British and ANZAC troops away from the disaster and nearly lost a foot to a Turkish shell (which I have somewhere - it was his most treasured souveneir and certainly dragged out more often at family parties than his medals!).

But the book is also of interest as Billy Sing, Australia's most notorious sniper at Gallipoli (200 credited kills), was half-Chinese. His father was originally from Shanghai and emigrated to Australia as part of the nineteenth century gold rush ending up a drover in remote Clermont, 800 or so miles north of Brisbane in Queensland, and marrying an English woman in what appears to have a been a socially disliked but internally very happy marriage. Hamilton's book has some interesting asides on the problematic relationship of the Chinese in Australia, racism, the contempt many 'whites' held for inter-racial marriages, the sometimes violent and tragic anti-Chinese reaction of some, the adverse effects on the Chinese of the introduction of the White Australia Policy etc. Technically Billy should not have ended up a Light Horseman or in Gallipoli (he later also fought in the trenches of France) at all - the rules stated that recruits should be of 'majority European heritage' and many other Chinese-Australians who tried to enlist were rejected purely because of their heritage.

Billy became notorious turning his bushman skills to sniping. He returned to Australia sick and wounded but notorious - his horrific expriences at Gallipoli and in France as well as his notoriety did not help his post-war adjustment and the book ends on a rather sorry but poignant note.

Hamilton had to work from scant sources - Billy didn't exactly leave copious notes on his experiences - but manages to pull his life together into a coherent narrative. Billy Sing's was hardly the typical Chinese-Australian experience - his mixed ancestry allowed him more fluidity in turn of the century Queensland and beyond than most, he never evinced much interest in the Chinese part of his background and was, if anything, the archetype of the Ozzie cobber valuing mateship higher than anything else in the outback while at the time he achieved a level of fame across Australia few if any other Chinese in the country did. But his extraordinary story is as much a part of the experience of those Chinese that went to Australia in the nineteenth century and their offspring as any other.

China Today…It’s All About Selenium, or the lack of it

Stuck on planes all weekend getting back to Shanghai from Australia I tried to pass the time and educate myself a bit reading a magazine about commodities (which was actually not that relaxing). However, I was fascinated to read that China’s imports of selenium were growing by 38% year-on-year. Selenium, a chemical that is used a lot in fertiliser, wasn’t even officially discovered until the early 1800s but its role in China is pivotal to the country’s history. Indeed if China’s soil had had deposits of selenium we would all be in a very different country. Why?

Simple actually, as Chinese soil largely lacks deposits of selenium it is virtually impossible to breed horses – you can now of course add it to the soil or import horses. However, this meant China could never build an effective horse-based cavalry and when the Mongol tribes swept down from the selenium-rich Mongol grasslands they routed the Chinese. This of course meant the Chinese had to import horses and they pretty much had to buy them from the Mongolians which meant that the Mongols could control the number of horses the Chinese had, their quality and the price as well as knowing that, being unable to successfully breed them, the Chinese would have to come back for more. It also meant that a small army of horseback cavalry could overwhelm a much larger foot-based Chinese force and so we got the Yuan Dynasty and Kublai Khan (above - who was grossly overweight and sent more than one knackered horse to an early retirement) who had the horses and so got the dynasty

In his excellent new book City of Heavenly Tranquillity: Beijing in the History of China, Jasper Becker makes the point that, ‘It was as if, during the twentieth century, one side always had a monopoly of tanks.

Clavell on my Mind

I did warn you that this blog would fulfil the apparently major criteria of a self-indulgent blog - i.e. being largely pointless. Spent Friday wandering around Sydney enjoying the city's emergent spring and listening to my iPod. Suddenly along came an interview I'd downloaded with the crime writer James Lee Burke who mentioned that James Clavell was one of his favourite authors and that King Rat (Clavell's stark rendering of allied POW camps in Singapore in WW2) one of his favoruite novels.

That reminded me I'm visiting Singapore in a couple of weeks and made me think I might take some old Clavell papebacks along with me including King Rat and the two great novelisations of the Jardine Matheson/Hong Kong story Taipan and Noble House.

And then I strolled past the Chinese restaurant pictured on Bent Street in Sydney's CBD...

Celebrity Endorsement - Hu Die was Classier

Trundled rather reluctantly along to the rather dreary launch of a new skin cream that involved a celebrity actress/singer sitting on a stage in Shanghai touting the virtues of the product as if she hadn’t been gifted rather good skin originally in her genes. The local media were all paid to attend and I did at least get a free goody bag.

Celebrity endorsement is still a default position of many advertisers and brands in China and does seem to work still. The interesting thing is the range of products a given celebrity will take on. The skin cream endorser is also to be seen around town selling everything from cameras to shampoo to diamond necklaces while others move apparently seamlessly from crackers to acne cream to gold without the blink of an eye. This combination of both horizontal and vertical product endorsement is avoided by celebrities in the West but Chinese stars don’t seem to mind and their audiences don’t seem to get too confused by it all.

Perhaps that’s due to tradition. Perhaps the most stylish of all the old Shanghai movie stars Chen Yunshang was happy to advertise cosmetics one minute and German chemicals the next – always stylishly – while screen legend Hu Die (above), ‘Butterfly’, advertised cars, soap, perfume, face powder and had a brand of cigarettes named after her. Celebrity sells and it doesn’t seem to matter what, though how many celebrities these days would like a packet of fags named after them might be fewer.

Tiers or hinterlands?

The other day I attended a conference where a range of foreign companies considered the question of stepping up sales of goods inland in what these days are referred to as the tier 2 and 3 cities - some people, like Adidas, now talk about anything up to tier 7. This ‘tier’ business is relatively new - if you read pre-Revoltution business guides people used to speak of ‘hinterland’, or ‘interior’ cities.

That the conference took place in Shanghai was apt as it shows that what Captain Balfour intended for Shanghai in 1843 – that it should be a giant emporium for the foreign (actually then just British really) China trade to the inland provinces to which Shanghai would act as a gateway. And for over 70 years that’s what Shanghai was – until the post World War 1 boom created a consumer market of size in the city itself. Still, Shanghai never stopped being the entrepot for the hinterland primarily and continues to be - just as Balfour wanted.
Don't have a portrait of Balfour - but the British did name a rather grand steel schooner after him in the 1880s (pictured above)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something of a Start

Apologies - I am technically illiterate and this will show frequently and repeatedly on this blog. Please bear with me.

Also the content will appear random to say the least to anyone not inhabitating my head but it's interesting stuff to me and as far as I can gather that is the sole point of blogging - to force your own marginal interests and small sum of knowledge on others.

The only thing that should really link the following posts is that they are all to do with China in some way and hopefully are historical anecdotes or observations that in some way perhaps relate to today, or maybe not, we'll see.

Anyway here goes...