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Tea WarA History of Capitalism in China and India$
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Andrew B Liu

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300243734

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300243734.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

No Sympathy for the Merchant?

No Sympathy for the Merchant?

The Crisis of Chinese Tea and Classical Political Economy in Late Qing China

(p.152) 5 No Sympathy for the Merchant?
Tea War

Andrew B. Liu

Yale University Press

This chapter details how, after the rise of Indian tea triggered a collapse of its Chinese rivals, the Chinese trade underwent its own crisis of economic principles in the 1890s. It provides an overview of economic ideas during the high age of the Qing Empire, which entailed a sophisticated grasp of economic growth revolving around the utility of the soil and the importance of trade. The stimulus of competition from South Asian tea, crystallized in the crisis, pushed Qing thinkers to abandon dominant mercantilist notions of wealth as something acquired through overseas trade and instead visualize it as something produced by labor. Indeed, global competition compelled a minority of Qing officials to see wealth as something socially determined, originating from the skill and productivity of human activity, hence capable of infinite expansion through innovation. The economic thinker and Qing bureaucrat Chen Chi was exemplary of this transformation. He penned an influential memorial on reviving the tea trade, with much of his analysis tied to a simultaneous engagement with the translated works of English economist Henry Fawcett, ultimately arriving at the same classical tenets of “value” outlined by W. N. Lees in India.

Keywords:   Chinese tea trade, economic principles, Qing Empire, economic growth, Qing thinkers, wealth, labor, global competition, Qing officials, Chen Chi

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