Hainan-Penang & The British Encounter(2)海南岛-槟榔屿与英国人的机缘

The Four Big Banks 

In a book entitled < About Huiwen > 《会文韵》published in April 2012, the author narrated that there were four big banks namely the Bank of China, the Chartered Bank, the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank and Citibank, existed in Baiyan in the 1930s until they ceased their operation in the 1950s.  

Bank Of China
Bank of China's history went back to 1905, when the Qing government established Daqing Hubu Bank (大清户部銀行) in Beijing.  In 1908 it was renamed Daqing Bank (大清銀行). When the Republic Of China was established in 1912, it was further renamed as Bank of China.  

From its establishment until 1942, Bank of China issued banknotes on behalf of the Government.  From 1928 the Central Bank of China took over the role as China central bank.  Subsequently, it became a purely commercial bank.  It is the oldest bank in China. 

It opened its Hong Kong branch in 1917, in Singapore in 1936 and in Penang in 1939.  Due to historical events it ceased its Penang branch operation in 1959.  Its re-opened the branch 50 years later, in 2009.

Chartered Bank
The Chartered Bank was established in London, United Kingdom in 1853 after Queen Victoria granted the founder a Royal Charter.  It opened the Hong Kong branch in 1858.  The Singapore and Penang branches were opened in 1859 and 1875 respectively.  

Hongkong & Shanghai Bank
After the British secured Hong Kong as a colony in the aftermath of the Opium War (1839 – 1842), foreign and local merchants felt the need for a bank to finance the growing trade between China and EuropeThe Hongkong & Shanghai Bank was then established in Hong Kong in March 1865.  In December 1877 the bank set up a branch in Singapore and in Penang in 1884.   

Citibank, headquartered in the USA, was the first American bank to set up its China operation in May 1902 in Shanghai.  Due to historical reasons all its 14 branches in China ceased to operate after the 1950s.  The bank set up its first branch in Shenzhen after it re-commenced operation in 1983.  

The bank’s Singapore and Hong Kong branches were set up in 1902.  It opened its first branch in Malaya in 1959 

The British Empire

The British Empire comprised the colonies, protectorates and other territories ruled or administered by the British.  It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by the British between the late 16th and early 18th centuries.  In its height, it was the largest empire in history: with one-fifth of the world’s population and covered almost a quarter of the Earth’s land area.  

Its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is very widespread.  Its legal system is well established and adopted even today by those countries after their independence.  The educational standard remains high and widely pursued.  For over a century it was the foremost global power, much ahead of the other colonial masters like Portugal, Spain, France and the Netherlands. 


British Banks In The British Colonies
Penang, Singapore and Hong Kong were the colonies of the British Empire.  
Penang and Singapore were acquired by the British in 1786 and 1819 respectively.  
The strategic position of Penang and Singapore became the important trading posts for the British.  The two colonies were further enhanced under Straits Settlements created by the British in 1826.  Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking, marking the end of the Opium War (1839 - 1842).  The inclusion of this latest colony gave the British the greatest ever power to expand the trading activities under their trading arm, the East Indian Company.

The setting up of the Chartered Banks and the Hongkong & Shanghai Banks in these three British colonies was a natural development and need.   

British Banks In Baiyan
Hainan, like Penang, Singapore and Hong Kong, is an island by nature.  The decision to set up the British banks in Hainan came no surprise: it was not only logistically viable but commercially prudent too.  But why Baiyan, a mere small village,  and not Haikou, the biggest town in Hainan?  That was puzzling.  But the fact remained: the Chartered Bank and the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank did set up their branches in Baiyan in the 1930s until the 1950s.

Baiyan - The Financial Hub of Hainan
Baiyan was considered a fourth level town in Guangdong Province (Hainan was then under its administration).  The first level being Guangzhou (capital of Guangdong); the second level, Haikou (on Hainan Island) and the third level, Wenchang (in Wenchang county). Despite that, it had developed into an important financial centre in this part of China, outshining other towns which were more populous and advance in term of economy, population and locatoin.   That was indeed a miracle.  It was widely believed that the British banks with their connection in Penang, Singapore and Hongkong had played a significant role in making that possible.  The prosperity of Baiyan came about with the inflow of Hainanese financial activities between Baiyan and Southeast Asian region, particularly those Hainanese in Singapore and Penang.  Baiyan in those days was a well known town among the oversea Hainanese community.  Hong Kong was the transit point for the Hainanese travelling between Hainan and the Southeast Asian ports, notably Singapore and Penang.  

Mannerism And Discipline
Under this favourable condition, the Hainanese community in Hainan stood a good chance to sell themselves as an intellectual and disciplined community, with good culture and manner.  During those properous days, many Hainanese were seen travelling regularly between Hainan and Singapore / Penang.  

British Community
Penang was then under the British administration.  It was obvious that many government departments were headed by the British.  Many international trading houses, rubber plantation, tin smelting and shipping agencies owned or managed by the British were located in Penang.  British personnel were also attached to schools, professional firms, churches and various private establishments.  The British also had an Air Force base here.  Under this environment it was obvious that there were many British personnel lived in Penang. 

Monopoly And Domination
British personnel, directly or indirectly, had established a closer personal relationship with the Hainanese community both in Penang and in Singapore.  What might have impressed them probably was the Hainanese community culture and mannerism.  This unique relationship had brought about a sort of  monopoly and domination in certain economic activities such as food, beverage and leisure for the Hainanese comminity within the British community

Penang was under the British Administration from 1786 until 1957, when Malaya gained independence.  During those days, the favorite places where most British people like to frequent were hill resorts, beach hotels, private clubs, west food restaurants, entertainment and leisure outlets.   It was widely believed that most if not all the food and beverage outlets in these places were either owned or managed by the Hainanese.    

Hainanese were suppliiers of uniforms and accessories to the British air force personnel as well as taking charge of supplies of food and beverage in the air force bases.  Hainanese also dominated the jobs on ships owned by British companies. 

Hainanese-British Relation In Penang
We interviewed some Hainanese in their area of specialiteis in Penang.  To our surprise all of them claimed that they themselves or their fathers themselves had contact with the British, one way or another, during  their working career.  That was an enlightening exposure.  We are able to established the fact that the Hainanese community in Penang had successfully built up a name of their own - upholding intellectuall and discipline, promoting the comminity culture and mannerism in a modernized world. 

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