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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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From Cohong to Comprador

From Cohong to Comprador

China’s Tea Industry Revolution and the Critique of Unproductive Labor

(p.230) 7 From Cohong to Comprador
Tea War

Andrew B. Liu

Yale University Press

This chapter analyzes how the Republican economic reformer Wu Juenong, in his attempts to revive the collapsed industry, articulated a criticism of the tea merchants as parasitic. These were the same houses who played a crucial, dynamic role during the nineteenth-century golden years of Chinese tea. What had changed by the 1930s was not the comprador (buyer) and tea warehouse merchants' own behavior but instead the perspectives of Chinese economic thought, now rooted in a division between “productive” labor and “unproductive” finance. The chapter introduces the comprador both as a real, historical institution and as a theoretical category in modern Chinese history. As with free labor in India, the oppositional categories of productive and unproductive labor in China signaled an embrace of the industrial capitalist model by nationalists across Asia, in spite of a dearth of the traditional signs of industrialization in either region.

Keywords:   Wu Juenong, tea merchants, Chinese tea, comprador, Chinese economic thought, productive labor, unproductive labor, industrialization, industrial capitalism, nationalists

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