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Appendix I: Men of Shanghai
Hereunder are Men of Shanghai whose portraits appear also on page 40.
Fifty year ago in America, life insurance was a fat-profit business, that is, net income per dollar of assets was big. And this because advancing hygiene and medication enbled policyholders to outlive actuarial estimates. One who insured himself at the age of thirty, with a life expectation of sixty, found, upon reaching sixty, that he might expect to live to (say) sixty-five. Consequently, in the reverse bet that every insurance policy is, he lost and the company won.
And so it is today in China. Were the total assets of Mr. Sarr's companies to be tabulated they would seem midgetlike beside those of Metropolitan Life. But Mr. Starr's income is fat-perhaps as big today as any U. S. insurance income. This money is earned upon a sociological premise, that the standards of living and hygiene of the Chinese middle classes are improving, with a consequent decline in the death rate. Indeed, since Chinese statistics are all but nonexistent, the success of Mr. Starr's American Asiatic Underwriters, and of its various subsidiaries, is perhaps the best available proof that the death-rate decline in China is a reality.
C. V. Starr has never bothered to become proficient in Chinese. But his knowledge of China is encyclopedic, and he is famed in the foreign community for his uncanny ability to work with and through the natives. Yet here too hes success is basically sociological, Before his gusty arrival in Shanghai, Western insurance men had feared Chinese fraud. Mr. Starr clearheadedly laid it down as an axiom that Chinese fraud was no more to be feared than Western fraud, and proceeded to build up a big native business on minor variations of the practice he had learned in California. Today his insurance agents travel throughout Asia.
Though the Rotary Club has expelled him for speaking his mind, he is Shanghai's most bullish taipan. But like many of his modern associates, he is bullish in finance rather than in goods. His operations form a vast and intricate web, the outer limits of which no one knows. Typical shanghailander, he has a passion for speculation in land, owns the Metropolitan Land Co. outright, together with a big chunk of F. J. Raven's Asia Realty Co. Atypical, he believes in the Chinese, believes that Shanghai, foreign concessions and all, will eventually revert to the Chinese. He follows Chinese housing sharply. He publishes the Shanghai Evening Post & Mercury, the one American daily in Shanghai, together with the Chinese version of it, and a news magazine called East, patterned after U. S. S TIME.
His is a machine-gun mind, tactful at times, but often tough. At the psychological moment he will thrust out his jaw, which, with his glasses, is the most prominent feaure of his face. He is forever on the go-Shanghai to New York, New York to London, London to Singapore. He goes with, and in quest of, ideas, talks insurance everywhere, spreads his interests out through Asia, has just purchased the United States Life Insurance Co. in the U. S. (assets, $6,000,000). In his rare periods of quiescence he lives with a maiden aunt on the eighth floor of the North-China Building, 17 the Bund, where Asia Life and American Asiatic are also housed. He belongs to the usual Shanghai clubs, dines out, drinks sherry flips solemnly in corners of hilarious night clubs. He is not really social. And he has never married.
Usually elected as one of the two American members of the Shanghai Municipal Council, Mr. Raven is a pollar of the American community. Having married Elsie Sites, daughter of a missionary and a fervent dry, no liquor is served at his estate on Hungjao Road. Though extensive, his entertaining is austere; and he is one of the few Shanghailanders whom the Reverend Emory W. Luccock sees regularly in a front pew of the American Community Church on Sunday mornings. Mr. Raven's principal diversion is tennis, which he plays on his own estate or at the Columbia Country Club or at the French Club. A fervid Rotarian, he too is a bull on Shanghai; but, though President of the Board of the American School, his three daughters are being educated in Heidelberg.
Yu is a capitalist. But he is not really rich, for he spends all his income in a magnificent Chinese way that Westerners never quite succeed in emulating. His dozen or so concubines are kept in luxury; his entertain-ments are big shows; andhis dependents and salellites are without number. The sources of his income are obscure, and perhaps better left unchronicled; but his official business is with the San Peh Steam Navigation Co., second largest native shipping concern, operating coolie boats to Vladivostok and small steamers to Ningpo, Hankow, and other ports. He is the Director of the Chinese Cotton Goods Exchange. He sits on the Municipal Council. He is Shanghai politician No. I. In fact, he is Big Boss of Shanghai.
As Boss, he is invaluable as a mediator between foreign and Chinese interests. But he is rumored to have more romantic connections. Shanghailanders whisperingly link him with the notorious Three Musketeers of the French Concession-Smallpox (Million-dollar) Wang. Chang Shig-liang, Doo Yu-sen-gentlemen who have to do with opium, sing-song houses, kidnapping, and other Oriental institutions dear to every Hollywood director's heart. Whether the rumor is true no foreigner really knows. And since Yu is so popular with all nations, no one minds.
Until General Chiang Kai-shek,* financed by Russia, marched into the Chinese quarters of Shanghai at the head of the Kuomintang, few Chinese bankers dared to lend money to their own government. National loans were largely obtained from foreign powers, with customs or post-office receipts as security. But Chiang Kai-ahek turned out not to be a Communist after all, in fact he slew every Communist he could lay his hands on. He then bid for the support of the Chinese bourgeois and the Chinese banker. Goaded by his future brother-in-law, Finance Minister T. V. Soong, frequently reigned and as frequently recalled, the native banks began lending money to Nanking. To the fore in the new, radical policy was Banker Chang Kia-ngau, who saw in Nanking the most stable government that China had had in thirty years, and who rallied a big block of Chinese financiers to the Western notion of putting up money to pay for security. Under Chang's management, 44 per cent of the loans of the Bank of China (about $155,000,000) are now government loans.
To this astute gentleman and his kind must go much of the credit for the present economic awakening of China. In the best banking tradition, Chang seeks solidity and security. Doubtless he will back the present government so long as it provides these sound bourgeois desiderata; doubtless, also, while intensely nationalistic, he holds himself in readiness to play ball with the Japanese. An example of his methods is the new statistical deparment of the Bank of China, which has broken through the conventional Chinese abhorrence of statistics and actually knows more about China, politically and economically, than the Nanking Government itself. With knowledge gleaned from this department, he and the great Li Ming, Chairman of the Bank of China, can pull wires intelligently and constructively. Thus Chang has come to be a political power in the larger sense, much in contrast to Boss Yu.
He lives at 650 Avenue Haig, at the boundary of the French Concession, where many of his kind who desire a foreign atmosphere but do not wish to live under a foreign flag maintain lavish residences. Speaking English and Japanese fluently, his wit enlivens few Shanghai parties beyond the calculated affairs at which he and his wife preside in their quiet but cosmopolitan home.
Between the Commander and Sir Victor there is a profound friend-ship, based not upon likes but upon opposites. Both live in the Cathay Hotel, both are bachelors. The quality of bachelordom, however, is not a constant, and the Commander's is as different from Sir Victor's as day is from night. No doubt he watches over the pranks of his imaginative associate with a somewhat fatherly eye. He seldom goes to clubs, plays no golf, and at the most convivial party (usually one of Sir Victor's) prefers to buttonhole a willing guest and discuss the silver situation in the corner.