At one time the native order had an extremely high value and it was generally accepted that all orders were quite as good as money. The principal reason of the degeneration of these orders was the entrance of banks themselves into actual trading. So long as the banks were only guaranteeing merchants, and so long as the dealers were sound people, there was no trouble whatsoever. But with the increase of foreign trade there was a larger addition to the number of Chinese dealers, as to the number of native banks. Especially in the eighties the profits made in foreign commerce, both among Chinese and foreigners, were considerable; consequently a large number of people were attracted to this trade. Among foreigners, more and more members of new nationalities were rushing into the commerce of China; and a correspondingly large number of Chinese were ready and anxious to take advantage of the competition among foreigners. The position was as follows: The new Chinese dealers were men of little substance quite as much as the new banks that they patronized; the new foreign merchants could not be very scrupulous about the credit and soundness of the native orders that were given them, because of the necessity of selling, as much as possible and competing with the then existing foreign trade. There was a considerable element of risk in this; but the general body of people who enlarged the scope of foreign commerce in China were not attracted to the trade by dishonourable motives. All that the Chinese dealer, who had not sufficient capital to trade with, or the new native bank, that had not sufficient capital to work with, wanted was a little delay in making payments. In other words, they wanted to get goods into their hands for a period which would give them time sufficient to market it and give the cash to the foreigner.
The foreign merchant on the other hand wanted buyers for his goods; and he did not much mind if he received the money a few days later than the usual period.