Kang Jin A, Hanyang University
View Working Paper (Japanese translation) [PDF]: 世界史の視座から見た中国近現代租税構造の転換
Abstract: This paper summarizes the historical structural changes of the Chinese tax system and revenue and compares them to those of contemporary countries that were regarded as models for Chinese fiscal reform. The Chinese Empire depended on land taxes for more than 70 percent of its tax revenues, but the British Empire had already established a flexible taxation system that could easily finance war expenses by enacting indirect tax into a fiscal workhorse at that time. The shift of center in social production from agriculture to industry and commerce made it possible. The late Qing and Meiji Japan started to develop fiscal expansion and the introduction of new indirect taxes based on the British model. Unlike the successful case of Japan, whose fiscal reform synchronized with the transformation of production, the Qing Empire remained an agricultural economy but increased commercial and industrial tax revenues. During the Republican era, the Peking government and Nanjing Nationalist government tried to escape the indirect tax-dependent tax system by introducing direct taxation, including income tax in consideration of global trends. However, the dependency on indirect tax was deepened without fundamental change in production. After launching its policy of reform and opening, the CCP successfully implemented a series of tax reforms which resembled the unfinished tax reform under the Nationalist regime: the division of national tax and local tax, the introduction of direct taxes, and the abolition of agricultural taxes and salt taxes as a residue of imperial tax system. This success was underpinned by unprecedented economic growth and transition into a highly industrialized economy. However, from the 1980s the U.S. tax system shifted its focus to boosting the economy rather than eliminating social inequality, and consequently China’s tax policy, which has referred to the US model as a global standard, has played a limited role in terms of reducing social inequalities.
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