Most of us first heard this Wall Street term with the Big Bang (1986). Banks and brokers were suddenly allowed to trade for their own profit as well as that of their clients: 'Chinese walls' prevented conflict of interest, keeping the two functions apart. The metaphor first appeared before WW1 - not some flimsy ethical construction but the Great Wall itself: dependable, strong, permanent. As Nixon famously said: 'This is a great wall.' Hard to imagine such enthusiasm for Britain's financial services industry.
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