One of Gustaf Öberg’s letters to Axel Boström in 1899 describes the protracted and circuitous procedures required when doing business in China:

“Politeness requires the exchange of countless courteous letters to arrange the time, place and circumstances of the meeting. Once this is done, the individual you are to meet arrives by litter, on horseback or on foot, attended by a horde of retainers in a manner appropriate to his rank. Then when all the ceremonial greetings have been completed, each attempts to outdo the other in courtesy so that some time will elapse before the subject of the meeting can be broached.”

Öberg pointed out that this complicated procedure cost time and money. Time was not in itself of great concern to the Chinese, but money, on the other hand, was. If Chinese businessmen realized how much they could save by replacing these costly meetings with one single telephone call, the future for telephones was a bright one.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn