This book, an in-depth study of Nationalist tariff policy, fundamentally challenges the widely accepted idea that the key to the Communist seizure of power in China lay in the incompetence of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government. It argues instead that during the second Sino-Japanese War, China’s international trade, the Nationalist government’s tariff revenues, and hence its fiscal policy and state-making project all collapsed.
Because tariffs on China’s international trade produced the single greatest share of central government revenue during the Nanjing decade, the political existence of the Nationalist government depended on tariff revenue. Therefore, Chinese economic nationalism, both at the official and popular levels, had to be managed carefully so as not to jeopardize the Nationalist government’s income. Until the outbreak of war in 1937, the Nationalists’ management of international trade and China’s government finances was largely successful in terms of producing increasing and sustainable revenues. Within the first year of war, however, the Nationalists lost territories producing 80 percent of tariff revenue. Hence, government revenue declined just as war-related expenditure increased, and the Nationalist government had to resort to more rapacious forms of revenue extractiona decision that had disastrous consequences for both its finances and its political viability.
About the Author
Felix Boecking is Lecturer in Modern Chinese Economic and Political History at the University of Edinburgh.
Table of Contents
List of Maps, Tables, and Figures ix
Notes on the Text xix
1 Nationalism, Nationalists, and Informal Empire 32
2 Making Nationalist Tariff Policy 64
3 The Maritime Customs as Economic Modernity 92
4 Nationalist Tariff Policy and the Import Trade 118
5 Trade, Tariffs, and Governance 159
6 Trade, Tariffs, and War, 1937-1945 189
Appendix 1 Custom Houses 239
Appendix 2 Chinese and Japanese Names 243