No Great Wall: Trade, Tariffs, and Nationalism in Republican China, 1927-1945

No Great Wall: Trade, Tariffs, and Nationalism in Republican China, 1927-1945

by Felix Boecking


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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 extraction—a decision that had disastrous consequences for both its finances and its political viability.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674970601
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 07/10/2017
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #397
Pages: 292
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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

Acknowledgments xiii

Notes on the Text xix

Abbreviations xx

Introduction 1

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

Conclusion 232

Appendix 1 Custom Houses 239

Appendix 2 Chinese and Japanese Names 243

Bibliography 247

Index 265

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