Moving to China? Here’s some advice…

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While doing some research recently on advice for foreign investors looking to enter the Chinese market, we came upon this letter to an American considering seeking opportunities in Shanghai.

[There is] nothing whatever for you to do in the office in Shanghai, and, as you do not speak Chinese, I cannot put you in charge of a port…There’s not the least use in your trying to learn the language; you must be now fifty years of age, and if a man begins after forty he can never acquire it…My advice to you is not to return to China; you will do best by resigning and asking for your year’s allowance. However, you’re an old servant, and you must think and decide for yourself.

The letter was written in February, 1869 by Robert Hart, the 34-year-old Inspector-General of the Imperial Chinese Customs Service, a post which he had already held for five years. The text comes from the Jonathan Spence book, “To Change China: Western Advisors in China.”