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Our Cotton For Asia

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Shrewd Observations of A. H. Butler Regarding the Future of Manufacturing In the Orient--Story of a Japanese Watch Factory.

[Special Correspondence.]

SAN DIEGO, Cal., Sept. 6--A. H. Butler, the president of the new steamship line between this city and the orient, is one of the best posted commercial men on the coast. He is largely interested in the cotton business and has been to China and Japan more than a dozen times. He established a watch and clock factory in a nearby town, and later a Japanese company purchased the entire plant and exported the machinery and supplies to the land of the mikado. Speaking of manufacturing in the far east, Mr. Butler told of the success of the watch industry in Japan.

"When our American watch factory was moved to Japan," said he, "we took 12 workmen. One was a superintendent, seven were foremen and the remaining four were skilled workmen. In less than a year all of these men had returned to the United States. Their services were no longer needed, as the Japanese workmen had learned the trade so thoroughly that they were able to run the factory without any outside assistance. This single case shows the ability of this imitative race to learn in a short time what it has taken us years to acquire.

"The product turned out by this factory is equal in nearly every way to our ordinary grade of watches, and the Japs have not as yet attempted to make any of the superior lines of watches for which our nation is famous.

"As a shipper of cotton to China and Japan I am much interested in the progress of the textile industries in those countries. It seems to me that these eastern markets offer the only relief in sight for our impoverished cotton growers. When cotton sells as low as it has for the past few years, it is a great problem how the planters of the south can subsist. Now, if the awakened peoples of China and Japan can be induced to draw on us for their increasingly large demand for raw cotton, it seems to me that for a time at least our country cannot but be very materially benefited.

"Both China and Japan are now manufacturing cotton cloth. In 1894 Japan had about 500,000 spindles. Then the war broke out with China, and a great manufacturing impulse followed its termination. Since that year the number of spindles has increased so that now they have 1,500,000. While there has been an overproduction of cotton mills the industry is on a stable basis. Some of these mills merely produce cotton yarn, which is exported to China, where it is woven by cheap labor into the lower grades of cloth.

"China is somewhat behind her Japanese neighbor and appears to make slower progress. Yet China has between 450,000 and 500,000 spindles. She, too, makes only the lower grades of cloth. In 1894 China had 14 cotton factories, and has augmented that number to 20. The merchants of this country I have always found honorable and progressive.

"There is a fierce war going on between the sugar magnates of the Pacific coast. On the one side are the Spreckels' interests, with their immense estates on the Hawaiian Islands. On the other side are the Brandensteins. They import their sugar from China. Their raw sugar is grown on the island of Java and in the Philippine group. This product is shipped to China, where in Hongkong there are two refineries. The refined sugar is then exported to the United States, and after coming that long distance is able to compete with the Hawaiian product. This is mentioned to show what cheap Asiatic labor can accomplish.

"Living as I do in this part of the country, I am much interested in the welfare, progress and future of the Pacific coast states. We are bound to increase our manufacturing.

"In regard to the competition of China and Japan against civilized countries, I do not entertain any fears for the present. They will for many years to come be a good market for our raw materials. The opening of the Nicaragua canal will be a good thing for the whole country. But for such cities as New Orleans and Houston the completion of this great enterprise will be a godsend. It will enable cotton bales to be shipped from gulf ports direct to China and Japan. The ships carrying these cargoes will have to stop at San Diego and San Francisco on their way across the sea. Thus we will all be the gainers."