One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In various (former) European colonies in South-East Asia: (a title for) the headman or leader of the Chinese community, who acts as their representative in dealings between the community and the colonial government.
Early 17th century. In some forms from captain + the name of China.
Capitan China/ˌkapɪtan ˈtʃʌɪnə/
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