China and the World Have Some Interesting History — In the Game of Negotiations, Trade or Otherwise, It Helps to Know the Players

Dorothea Mordan
5 min readMay 14, 2019
Street scene of daily life in China, by Eva Dunlap. Undated circa 1920s. Digital file ©2019 All rights reserved.

China and the Unites States are in the midst of trade negotiations. There are China-Europe and China-Everywhere-else-in-the-world negotiations going on as well. There is a long and complex history which illuminates the differences, striking or nuanced, between the players.

Here is one small piece of that history.

In 1911 Eva and Albert Dunlap*, just married, left America for Shanghai, China. Albert a doctor of otolaryngology, and recent graduate of Harvard medical school was part of a group of fellow graduates and others who were on an adventure to establish a medical college in China**. In their 40 plus years in China he and Eva, (an accomplished classical vocalist, artist and teacher who managed the household and raised six children), established a great social and cultural network of friends, professional associates, active politicians and military personnel. They were prolific writers, Eva left dozens of diaries and thousands of letters with details of daily life, including the world events that often engulfed their lives.

Throughout their years in China the Dunlaps saw many armed conflicts and invasions. In the early years, 1911–1916, factions fought near the western compound where they lived. Eva wrote to her family back in America that she could hear the gunfire out in the street, but not to worry, we have protection, and after-all it’s not aimed at us.

In 1908, 3 years before the Dunlaps arrived, the Empress Dowager Cixi died. This ended one era of Chinese-Western world interaction and began a new one. One of the lessons of this history is that the old era never really had closure. Several European governments and to some extent America and Japan made investments in China’s infrastructure (e.g., railroads) during the1800s. This sort of investment in technology was often imposed on Cixi, the de facto power of China. It was a way of offering a benefit to China, some cash or a convenience. But it came at the cost of being more to the benefit of the foreign investor. This is not unusual for any investor, it’s why people invest in things, but it did not please Cixi.

Dorothea Mordan

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