China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Studies about the Republican period have often been concerned with the centrifugal forces which opposed the successive (Beiyang and Guomindang) central governments and relentlessly challenged the efforts towards recentralization and State building. In that respect, scholarly research about the taxation policies carried out by those central governments has mainly focused on their arduous struggle to levy taxes on the provinces as well as their recurring failure to enforce effective taxation.
Our ambition is to challenge that perspective and to demonstrate that, in the fiscal realm, the Republican era was first and foremost a period of decisive innovation. As regards tax levying, we also hope to show that the central and local (i.e. warlord) governments were not merely rivals but also, to some extent, partners.
Guangdong being a province relatively well endowed in archival and published material pertaining to taxation, it has been chosen to serve as a case study. This should represent an opportunity for panelists to examine a wide variety of taxes: likin, income tax, tobacco & wine tax, opium and gambling taxes. Although power changed hands many times in Guangdong under the Republic, some overall trends nonetheless seem to emerge. Departing from the traditional imperial taxation system, which used to rely overwhelmingly on the land tax, much greater reliance was now being placed on commercial and industrial taxes. The increasing amounts of money that authorities managed to derive from taxes are also remarkable, and this achievement was partly the result of cooperation between the local and central governments.