The Transition of a Rural Marketing System in Northern China: a Case Study of Hebei Province (1736-1937)

Apr 9, 2014 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Zhang Wei (Assistant Professor, Institute of Economics, Nankai University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair and Discussant: Elisabeth Köll (Associate Professor, Harvard Business School; Visiting Professor of History, Department of History, Harvard University)

This talk is the first part of Prof. Zhang’s ongoing project, Diversity in Regional Development: Research on Market Towns in Northern China (1736-1937). Previous research on trade and economy in preindustrial China has found that the domestic market network was shaped by the market and the state, forming a macro-regional division of labor. Even after China’s involvement in the new international trade order since 1850, the domestic market was not destroyed but rather altered and used by the emerging capitalist economy. Some scholars have argued that high integration with the world economy has led to the integration of China’s peripheral provinces, and have wondered whether this kind of order brought a new logic to economic development. While an open port marketing system was a central endeavor in China’s economic history, the transition of rural marketing systems is still obscure, especially in Northern China. This talk argues that the index of dynamic spatial distribution of the density of market towns, combined with the ratio of market town to standard town, is useful to understand this transition.