By Roberta Allbert Dayer (auth.)
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Extra info for FINANCE AND EMPIRE, SIR CHARLES ADDIS, 1861- 1945
The article on railways discussed the reasons why Viceroy Chang Chih-tung's proposal for a railway from Peking to Hankow had been stillborn, pointing out the great difficulties in the construction of such a line, while predicting that eventually "'the iron horse" will run all the way between Peking and Canton'. Thus Addis drew his contemporaries' attention to two of the chief issues which would dominate East Asian affairs over the next half-century - international exchange and railways. 122 Michie's and Dr Williamson's liberal approach towards religious questions expanded Addis's horizons, helped him to escape the prejudice of the merchant or the narrowness of the Calvinist tradition.
As the Acting Agent of the HSBC in Peking, Addis fulfilled several functions. By establishing good personal relations with Ch'ing officials, he was encouraging them to borrow through his bank. These loans were exceedingly profitable because they were heavily discounted. By buying gold Addis was obtaining the metal which was used as a basis for British currency. Most important, he was learning the great profits to be made in the field of international exchange. Since trade in China was largely done in silver, those who knew the relations between the various types of taels, as well as the relationship between gold and silver on the world market, could be very useful to both banks and governments.
Unlike many of his contemporaries the young banker interested himself in Chinese culture and beliefs. Part of his sensitivity to the Chinese may have been produced by his Chinese teacher, An Yeungwai, whom he deeply revered. He described An Yeung-wai: For two years morning after morning we have sat together teacher and scholar. An old man with huge goggle spectacles but as keen in his wits as many a younger . . He always spends the whole of Sunday forenoon with me. He comes after breakfast and with tobacco and those little Chinese covered cups of tea we talk over our different customs or he tells me story after story of China's old heroes and I sometimes tell him a story of our Land - he listens rather incredulously, though too polite to express his incredulity and somehow I think we always finish up with the belief strengthened that folks with [pig] tails are very like those without and that a strong chain of human sympathy binds together the children of one father.