“No Great Wall: Trade, Tariffs, and Nationalism in Republican China, 1927–1945” (Harvard Asia Center, 2017), 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. Drawing on the historical lessons of my research, in this talk, I will also discuss the unintended consequences of protectionism, the difficulties of strategising trade wars, and the differences between trade wars and real wars.
Felix Boecking is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Chinese Economic and Political History at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and currently a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. Among his research interests are China’s political economy, the history of economics in the People’s Republic of China, and the history of China’s foreign relations. His current project at the Wilson Center is “Economics on the Edge: An Intellectual History of Economists in the PRC since 1949.”
The “Harvard on China” podcast is hosted by James Evans at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University.
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