- British Raj: Expansion In India was Swift and Easy says British-American Historian (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- A French colony that fought the British (thehindu.com)
- India Ink: A Recent History of India Through Western Magazine Covers (india.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Immortalising the Bengali ‘voice’ of Bose’s Azad Hind Radio in Tokyo (dailymail.co.uk)
Modern economic research estimates that through most of last 1000 years, China and India have accounted for about 50% of the world economy. 20th century was different for both. While Indian gold based systems are better known, Chinese gold story is very different.
1. China & Neighbours – Gold Producers
India was always an importer of gold. Domestic gold production in India’s core geography has historically been negligible – or low.
China, on the other is different. Mongolia and China have been significant gold producers in history. Estimated gold reserves from current ore mining in China exceed 600 tons – and exploration efforts are expected to increase this to 3000-3500 tons. China is the world’s 4th largest producer of gold – ahead of USA and behind Australia, and expected to overtake South Africa soon.
2. Chinese – Great believers in silver
Chinese common coin was a silver coin – the tael (which came from the Malay word tahil; which came from Indian word tol; meaning ‘measure’). There were 2 taels – one was commercially pure silver ingot of one Chinese ounce called a liang. The other was a kuping tael - which was coin. Bulk silver was used as currency and called sycee. There were many other taels like Tsaoping, Peking, Tientsin, Hankow, Canton. Chinese also use silver jewellery - against gold preferred by Indian women
Chinese rulers circulated paper money for longer (from 6th century onwards) and greater area than any country in the world. The first paper currency jiaozi was issued in 6th century – which collapsed very soon. The Song dynasty re-introduced paper currency in 9th century due to copper shortage. Probably, some Jewish merchants were also involved in the jiaozi manufacture.
Kublai Khan’s (a descendant of Genghis Khan) paper money management meant that all Chinese had to deposit all gold (or be prepared to die) with the Khan’s treasury and they got a currency note which was trade-able. This ‘system’ received wide publicity in Europe (thanks to Marco Polo). 600 years later, Roosevelt did the same with the Americans – and collected 8000 tons of gold.
Western consumers bought tea, silks and other Chinese commodities for which they paid in silver. The Chinese did not need much of Western goods – like India. To correct this negative balance of trade, Europeans promoted opium in China. When Chinese resisted the Opium trade, wars followed.
In early 19th century AD, Opium imports into China by British, French, American, Dutch, Spanish traders, sourced from India led to an outflow of silver from China – and a currency crisis. The ruling Qing state went into a downward spiral- culminating in the Chinese Civil War and rise of Communism. The Kuomintang (supported by Chinese underworld, The Green Gang, The Red Gang and The Blue Gang) was pitted against the Mao Ze Dong’s Communist Party – and both were armed and supported by Western powers.
Opium for China was produced by indebted Indian farmers and a few Parsi traders set up their offices in Hong Kong. However, the Parsi role diminished after the advent of steamships, their big losses during the Opium Wars and the rise of the cotton trade. Other Indian traders, possibly restricted by ‘shubh labh’ compunctions played a lesser role (compared to the European traders) in this Opium trade.
Major opium trading companies like Jardine Matheson, David Sasoon & Company and sundry traders set up The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation for facilitating this misery. The Chinese Opium problem was finally solved by several draconian measures during Communist rule.
5. Wars In China
When Chinese resisted the Opium flood, Western traders resorted to war. The Japanese emboldened by new found wealth and military technology, joined Western powers. The Sino Japanese Wars, The Opium Wars with Europeans and The Boxer Uprising before WW1 imposed large war reparations on the Chinese. The Civil War in China between the world wars destroyed Chinese commerce systems. The Cultural Revolution has left the Chinese commercially backward.
6. How did the Chinese preference for silver affect them?
In 1500, the approximate exchange ratio between gold liang and and silver liang was 1:4. Today it is 1:50. Silver mineral deposits, mining and availability is more elastic than gold. Elasticity of gold production is very low. Secondly, above ground supplies of gold are far higher than known below the ground estimates. Hence, manipulation of gold prices over a period of time is difficult.
7. Current Status
China, as the world’s largest holder of US dollar debt is constrained in its move to increasing gold reserves through market operations. A dollar sell off by China could collapse the world’s currency system – and the biggest loser would be the Chinese! But a negotiated conversion of some dollar reserves to gold is eminently possible.
Between 2000-2007, the Chinese Government increased their monetary gold reserves from more than 300 tons, to more than 600 tons. Official Gold Reserves of Chinese Central Bank Gold reserves are about 600 tons of gold.
China has become the world’s 3rd largest consumer of gold – up from a 100 tons to 350 tons. The Shanghai Gold Exchange has made it easier for individuals to invest in gold. They have reduced the transaction size from 1 kg to 100 gm.
8. Possible Chinese Strategy
China’s investment in US$3 billion in Blackstone Private Equity /hedge fund, was the first by any country. This gives China an inside track to the world’s largest hedge fund and private equity player. The Blackstone Fund on the other, gets access to the world’s largest liquid reserve – more than 1 trillion dollars of the Chinese Government’s monetary reserves.
China is setting up a US$200 billion sovereign fund that will invest in range of markets and instruments. With this institutional framework, for China to increase their monetary reserves by a 1000-2000 tonnes is well within realm of possibility.
9. The 2ndlook alternative (Oct.3, 2008, update)
In any new world financial reform proposal, the Chinese voice will be very important. After all they are the world’s largest creditor nation! They have US$2 trillion worth of IOUs with them. Of course, the composition of these US$2 trillion Chinese reserves is a state secret.
The Chinese will not agree to any ‘hare-brained’ scheme by ‘tin-pot’ dictators, who are sitting on some raw materials – and think that the future belongs to them. The world has so many of this variety, that it does not require me to be specific.
The Chinese need to acquire some big ticket assets – maybe, some big US companies, for about US$1.5 trillion and bring down their reserves to US$0.5 trillion. This will reduce US outstanding debt, create demand for US stocks, lift the Dow Jones, and create value for the dollar. As I see it this is the only way that the Chinese can cash in their chips. The House will not let them take it away any other way.
10. What does this mean for others
China, the largest creditor nation in the world, carries a big stick. They are not democratically accountable and transparency is not required from them. Hence, a significant conversion from dollar holdings to gold is feasible, can be done quietly (hence, at an economic price) and with trade power they have, a strong negotiating position is a given.
And that is an opportunity others may not get!
In the last 150 years, strong monetary gold reserves have been a feature of Western monetary systems (acquired mostly, by dubious means like slavery, genocide). China’s moves, if any, will diversify global monetary reserve systems away from the dollar and the West and spread the weightage in a more equitable manner – giving rise to speculation about a renminbi bloc.
And that is something that is good for global monetary system.
What should India do …
Two years ago …
its (gold) reserves by 454 tons to 1,054 tons through domestic purchases and refining scrap metal, Hu Xiaolian, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency today. China, the world’s biggest gold producer, has increased its holdings before, Hu said in the interview carried on the administration Web Site. They rose from 394 tons to 500 tons in 2001 and to 600 tons in 2003. The U.S. has the world’s biggest gold holdings at 8,134 tons, followed by Germany with 3,413 tons, World Gold Council data show. France has 2,487 tons and Italy 2,452 tons, while the IMF has 3,217 tons, according to the council.
Another report, from Market Watch, a WSJ web publication added,
The increase makes China the world’s fifth-largest holder of gold, just ahead of Switzerland, and among the six nations plus the International Monetary Fund that have reserves of more than 1,000 metric tons. Although Hu did not elaborate on where China had sourced the additional bullion, her comments were interpreted as meaning they came from domestic sources and may included refining of scrap metal. Traders also say the gold was accumulated systematically over a number of years. Last year China ranked as the world’s largest gold producer with 12.2% of world output, equivalent to 288 metric tons. The U.S. ranked second with a 9.9% share, or 234 metric tons.
What are the future plans of the Chinese? A report quotes an analyst
China should increase its gold reserve from 600 tons to about 2,500 tons in a short term and to 3,000 tons in a long term to cope with the versatile exchange rate risks, said Teng Tai, an economist of China Galaxy Securities Company.
Of course, this really does not mean much – except that it may keep gold prices on boil. Whether a currency is backed by a 5% or a 10% gold reserve may not mean much, in this era of rampant use of “a technology, called a printing press” as an economic tool – not just by the US of A. For long term economic stability, gold needs to be in the hands of individuals – and not Governments.
How safe are the world’s largest reserves of gold?
India, with the largest (private and government) reserves of gold in world, needs to examine the safety question. While, there have been many advocates and supporters for many European claims, I am yet to see any support for reclaim of any of loot from weaker nations by some of the temporarily dominant powers.
In spite of close cultural and economic relations, WW2 was started by countries of Western world for gold, oil and access to markets. With excess of printing capacity, any country in world can print notes. During any period of turmoil, what matters is gold. After all, even India with the largest gold reserves in the world, needed to pledge gold in 1991 for small loan from IMF and World Bank.
Is our gold safe? Look at the experience of some of these countries.
Anticipating German invasion of the Netherlands, the National Bank of Belgium moved some part of its gold reserves to Bank of France, for safe keeping. However, after France itself came under attack, Belgium instructed the French to transfer Belgian gold to London.
The French instead, moved that gold to Dakar, Africa, to a French bank. After the fall of France, Pierre Laval, Foreign Minister in the French Vichy government of Marshal Petain, handed over the gold to Hitler’s Germany – which reportedly, recast this gold, put pre-war stampings and sold it to the Swiss. What happened after that. Well, the Belgians lost it all, I presume.
Britain itself found that the they could buy anything only with gold. A staunch ally like the USA, demanded payments in gold. Britain sold the Viscose Company, receiving a paltry amount. British investments in Canada were disposed to pay US for for raw materials.
A significant part of British gold reserves, were safely moved to Canada on board the battleship Revenge and HMS Emerald to the vaults of Bank Of Canada (which still acknowledges the British crown) banks. American warship, Louisville was sent to Simonstown South Africa to take delivery of British gold.
Czech Gold Diversion
After Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, under the British-Czech treaty, Britain was enjoined to join the war on the Czech side. Instead, Montagu Norman, the head of Bank Of England, under a technicality, handed over Czech Gold to the Germans – in spite of the British Parliamentary restrictions; a supposedly secret transaction, blown open by a connected reporter.
After many enquiries, investigations, Montagu Norman, (yes, the same racist who collaborated with Churchill to loot the Indian peasantry) was let off without even a rap on his knuckles. After the war, Montagu Norman set up an institute to do research (like Joseph Mengele) in eugenics. His former boss, another racist, Churchill, set his armies on the Mau Mau, fighting for Kenya’s independence, and hundreds of thousands black Kenyans disappeared. Did the Czechs get their gold back? I doubt!
Central Banks – Portugal, Spain
From the 1980s, it became fashionable to hedge, trade, create derivatives, get into junk bonds. And the King Of Junk was Michael Milliken. His company Drexel, Burnham and Lambert.
A subsidiary of Drexel, Burnham and Lambert, used borrowed gold from Central Bank of Philippines, Pitcairn Island, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico – all lost money. Further investigations show that more central banks lost more money – which were finally shown as “gold sales” by many European banks – and there this where things get murky.
Friday. December 3rd, 1999. TV channels (in India too) announced that Edmond Safra died in mysterious circumstances. Based out of Monaco, a known off shore finance centre, he is believed to have been in the know and arranged numerous gold dealings. He was supposed to be behind the George Soros run-in with the Bank Of England gold sale and physical delivery.
At the time of his death, he was negotiating the sale of his bank to The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation – set up with opium earnings by Jardine Matheson and David Sassoon and sundry others.
Secret of Japan‘s rise
Year 1542. The Sado gold mines were discovered. In 16th-17th century, Japan became the second largest producer of gold in the world. Rapid rise of Japan after that and the rest of story is known to the world.
Korea claims that Japan plundered Korea of hundreds of tons of gold from 1937-1944. Philipines, Indonesia have all raised claims against Japan for war time gold loot.
Regardless, one American writer had definitely hit a jackpot – Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (By Sterling Seagrave, Peggy Seagrave). Ian Fleming is supposed to have based his story on the Yamashita chapter of WW2.
Japan’s top underworld crime boss, Taisho (Admiral) Yoshio Kodama, (ranked as an admiral at 34 years) a major figure in the Japanese underworld was in charge of Project “Golden Lilly” – after one of Hirohito’s poems! Objective – looting gangsters in Japanese occupied territories. Supervising the operations was Emperor’s Hirohito’s brother, Prince Chicubi. Management – Japan’s top financial figures.
Subsequently, allegedly, a lot of this gold landed with Ferdinand Marcos; the Filipino dictator. Swiss banks, Macao criminals, American generals and politicians – all involved.
Glen Yeadon, writer of “The Nazi Hydra in America: Suppressed History of a Century” writes how Presscott Bush (grand-father of George Bush), Douglas MacArthur were involved in various launderings, diversions and subterfuge involving Nazi gold and Japanese gold after WW2.
After WW2, and fall of Germany, at the Mercker mines, occupying armies found Nazi treasures.
And details of a bank account.
The bank account held in the name of Bruno Melmer, a SS captain. Further investigations revealed that this account received various looted material of the German Army – and gold recovered from Jews killed in concentration camps. After due investigations these files were returned to the the concerned German bank. In 1975, a journalist Peter Bild discovered that all these files had disappeared.
So had the gold.
Spain and Gold
For nearly 10 years, the Spanish Civil War raged – a proxy war between the Germans and Russians. The target, Spanish gold. In the see-saw of the civil war, entire Spanish gold disappeared – between the maws of the French and the Russians. Reputedly, Stalin boasted that Spain will never see their gold again.
I am sure the ghost of Incas were at peace after 400 years.
During WW2, after Hitler’s sweep across the Balkans, a Nazi puppet government of Ante (Anton) Pavelic, headed the “Catholic State of Croatia.” Archbishop A. Stepanic established a Croat Separatist Movement and seized power with Ante Pavelic. The Pavelic regime supported “Clerical Fascism” – a mix of Catholic religion, Anti-Semitism and authoritarian politics. Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany’s “Ausland” department assisted Ante Pavelic and his Catholic terrorists to set up a dictatorship. Ante Pavelic was declared Poglavnik – or what we better know as Fuhrer.
Under the Ustashi, a reign of terror descended upon Jews, Gypsies and political dissidents. The Ustashi extorted a fortune in gold and other valuables from Jews and Gypsies and thereafter shipped them to work in concentration camps. The Jews have a well-organised lobby, an organisation and a nation which has pursued banks, criminals, countries for recovery of their property.
What happened to the Roma Gypsies (claim they are of Indian descent). Nothing. Sweet nothing at all.
Quantity Of Gold – 2400 kgs atleast.
Nazi gold was found by various armies and individuals all over Europe. In Lake Toplitz and in the Thuringien salt mines. Finally,a coordinating agency was set up by Americans for gold recovered by American Armies to account, re-distribute and reconcile claims. The European banking system, especially the Swiss and the Vatican have been subject to various claims, allegations and conspiracy theories.