Apparently our country has a long and not-so-proud history of exploiting cheap Chinese labor. “Sure we could use our loading equipment, but it’s so much easier and cheaper to have the coolies do it by hand!”


American sailors hail with joy the entry of their vessels into Manchurian ports.

There is no work for them at Dairen, the ocean terminus of the South Manchurian Railway, situated 28 miles east of Port Arthur, and full shore leave is allowed. Native coolies, working for 20 cents a day, load and unload the ships. The automatic conveying machinery on hoard the American vessels making this harbor is never uncovered while in port, because coolies perform the labor more cheaply.

There is no mechanical unloading equipment of any sort at the Dairen docks. At the rush time of the year, which is summer, 16,000 coolies are employed in stevedoring pursuits at the busy port. One of the most important articles of export is linseed, which is brought by mule team or train to the docks. One sack or box at a time is carried by each coolie. Checking is done with sticks. When a coolie picks up a parcel and places it on his shoulder, he is given a wooden stick about the size of a lead pencil. At the end of his journey, the coolie deposits his burden and gives the tally stick to another checker. By counting the sticks at the end of the day, the exact number of sacks that have been loaded or unloaded is known.

  1. Blurgle says: July 30, 20078:03 pm

    How do you think they built the railroads?

  2. Andrew L. Ayers says: May 14, 201010:57 am

    So would it have been better to not employ the 16,000 laborers, and save them the work? Maybe that 20 cents a day bought their family enough food for the day? Maybe 20 cents a day, cheap by our standards then, was actually a good sum of money for the day for them?

    Furthermore, if it is cheaper to use local labor rather than the machines and your own labor, that would ultimately translate into cheaper goods for us and larger profits for the company (it could also just translate into larger profits – which would benefit the shareholders).

    You can’t have it both ways, unless you want -everyone- to live at the same level of income and prosperity, etc (which with the world’s population and output at any given time, it wouldn’t be the greatest of lifestyles – though it probably would be of a benefit to the majority of this planet’s population).

    I don’t agree with the racial slur of “coolie”, but that was the slang of the time and there isn’t much we can do about it today except not use the term in that derogatory fashion. As long as the laborers weren’t being beaten or mistreated, and were paid fairly and honestly (and they were voluntarily working for the wage set – so they agreed to it, whether it was fair or not, I suppose), then I don’t see what is wrong with the use of such local labor, even if there are other methods, easier to use (but more costly) available.

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