This article re-examines the role of the comprador through a case study of the Kailan Mining Administration (KMA) in the Lower Yangzi region, 1912-25. It shows that a comprador was important to the foreign firm as he guaranteed business transactions between customers and his principal. In the process, compradorship essentially became a business without defined property rights. For the comprador system to reach a turning point, as the case of KMA shows, required a fundamental institutional change from a position of non-commitment to the Chinese market to a policy of direct investment in terms of marketing structure, personnel and facilities. In the course of these developments, the property rights and liabilities of all parties concerned were to be defined.
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