[FOUNTAIN]When history is the best coachCaravans traveling the Silk Road established commercial links between Asia and Europe. Later in the late 16th century, Dutch vessels plied the waters around the two continents. The country entered commerce with the Orient through the East India Company established in 1602, which opened the route to the "Spice Islands," which are now called the Indonesian Moluka islands, and to Japan. In 1619, it established a colony centered around Jakarta. In 1621, it established the West India Company and settled New Amsterdam, which is now New York City.
The Dutch East India Company was founded on capital of a massive scale for that time, 500,000 pounds, which was about 10 times the capital on which the English East India Company was built. The Dutch company also surpassed its English rival in scope and success. In the early 17th century, for example, the Netherlands imported 200,000 kilograms of silver a year from Japan, which was approximately equivalent to the entire amount Europe imported from the Americas.
The Netherlands became the center of the European financial community, with merchants and traders congregating at the foreign exchange banks in Amsterdam. Europe could hardly disagree with the characterization that the 17th century was the century of the Netherlands.
In 1581, the Netherlands became a nation after the independence of seven provinces, including Holland, from Spanish colonial rule. So the commercial success of the Netherlands came just two decades after its freedom, which helps to explain the surprise of the Europeans at the Dutch surge. It is interesting to look at the circumstances surrounding the newly independent nation's ascent as a major power.
Much of the growth of the Netherlands is attributed to Calvinism and a strategic investment in shipbuilding.
Strategic investment in shipbuilding put the Netherlands far ahead of other commercial nations in cutting costs, to about half the English production expense, and in capacity. The Dutch turned out about 2,000 vessels a year. By 1670, the Netherlands owned more ships than England, France and Portugal combined, enabling it to control merchant trading.
Interest in the Netherlands has grown recently largely because of the success of Guus Hiddink, the Dutch soccer coach who piloted the Korean national team. It would be a shame if the interest were based merely on one person's success. There may be much to learn from the Dutch strategy and success as a world financial and trading power.
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.
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