Montesquieu

It is a thing pecu­liar to fis­cal penal­ties that, contrary to the gene­ral prac­tice, they are stif­fer in Europe than in Asia. In Europe, mer­chan­dise is confis­ca­ted, some­ti­mes even ves­sels and vehi­cles ; in Asia, nei­ther of these things occurs. That is because in Europe the mer­chant has jud­ges who can pro­tect him from oppres­sion ; in Asia, des­po­tic jud­ges would them­sel­ves be the oppres­sors. What would the mer­chant do against the pasha who had deci­ded to confis­cate his mer­chan­dise ?

It is extor­tion that controls itself, and finds itself cons­trai­ned to a cer­tain leniency. In Turkey, only one entry duty is col­lec­ted, after which the whole coun­try is open to mer­chants. False decla­ra­tions entail nei­ther confis­ca­tion nor an increase in duties. In China they do not open the bund­les of peo­ple who are not mer­chants.1 Fraud among the Mogols is not puni­shed by confis­ca­tion, but by dou­bling the duty. The Tartar prin­ces2 who live in cities in Asia levy almost nothing on mer­chan­dise pas­sing through. And if in Japan the crime of fraud in trade is a capi­tal crime, that is because they have rea­sons for for­bid­ding all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with forei­gners, and fraud3 is less a vio­la­tion of the trade laws than of the laws made for the secu­rity of the state.

Du Halde, vol. II, p. 37.

History of the Tatares, part III, p. 290.

Wishing to trade with foreigners without communicating with them, they have chosen two nations : the Dutch for trade with Europe, and the Chinese for Asia ; they keep commissioners and sailors in a sort of prison, and try their patience with obstacles.