Qing Dynasty - Economy

Economy

This section requires expansion.
See also: Economic history of China until 1912

By the end of the 17th century, the Chinese economy had recovered from the devastation caused by the wars in which the Ming Dynasty were overthrown, and the resulting breakdown of order. In the following century, markets continued to expand as in the late Ming period, but with more trade between regions, a greater dependence on overseas markets and a greatly increased population. After the re-opening of the southeast coast, which had been closed in the late 17th century, foreign trade was quickly re-established, and was expanding at 4% per annum throughout the latter part of the 18th century. China continued to export tea, silk and manufactures, creating a large, favorable trade balance with the West. The resulting inflow of silver expanded the money supply, facilitating the growth of competitive and stable markets.

The government broadened land ownership by returning land that had been sold to large landowners in the late Ming period by families unable to pay the land tax. To give people more incentives to participate in the market, they reduced the tax burden in comparison with the late Ming, and replaced the corvée system with a head tax used to hire labourers. The administration of the Grand Canal was made more efficient, and transport opened to private merchants. A system of monitoring grain prices eliminated severe shortages, and enabled the price of rice to rise slowly and smoothly through the 18th century. Wary of the power of wealthy merchants, Qing rulers limited their trading licences and usually refused them permission to open new mines, except in poor areas.

By the end of the 18th century the population had risen to 300 million from approximately 150 million during the late Ming Dynasty. The drastic rise in population was due to several reasons, including the long period of peace and stability in the 18th century and the import of new crops China received from the Americas, including peanuts, sweet potatoes and maize. New species of rice from Southeast Asia led to a huge increase in production. Merchant guilds proliferated in all of the growing Chinese cities and often acquired great social and even political influence. Rich merchants with official connections built up huge fortunes and patronized literature, theater and the arts. Cloth and handicraft production boomed.

Read more about this topic:  Qing Dynasty

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