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Frontiers of Economics in China

Front. Econ. China    2018, Vol. 13 Issue (3) : 436-457
Orginal Article |
A Multi-Layer System and Its Features: Reconceptualizing the Monetary Regime of Late Qing and Modern China
Hongzhong Yan1(), Zhijian Qiao2, Chen Xu3
1. School of Economics, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai 200433, China
2. Department of History, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA
3. School of Economics, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081, China
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This essay aims to reconceptualize the monetary regime of late Qing and modern China as a multilayer system of currencies and examine the features and logics of its operation from the 16th century to early 20th century. We argue that this system consists of a variety of silver and copper currencies, each occupying a particular layer in the structure and each satisfying a specific market demand. Analyzing the production and circulation of copper and silver currencies, we first trace their evolution from the Qing to the Republican era and demonstrate the multi-layer currency structure persisted in China across the modernizing changes that took place at the end of the 19th century. Second, using data drawn from gazetteers, this essay adopts a quantitative approach to empirically examine the mechanism and speed of interactions between the different layers of the monetary market and reveal the operational mechanism of the multi-layer system. We suggest that this multi-layer system, while bringing some efficiency loss, also constituted an effective institutional arrangement that helped to ensure the stability of the Chinese economy in tumultuous times.

Keywords late Qing China      modern China      monetary system      market hierarchy      exchange rate      silver coins      copper dollars     
Issue Date: 30 September 2018
 Cite this article:   
Hongzhong Yan,Zhijian Qiao,Chen Xu. A Multi-Layer System and Its Features: Reconceptualizing the Monetary Regime of Late Qing and Modern China[J]. Front. Econ. China, 2018, 13(3): 436-457.
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